July 29, 2014

By the Lake, Sometimes Just Thinking of It

The air outside is still, and the lake below our wandering feet is as still as glass.  A creaking wooden jetty nearby seems to float in twilight.  The water reflects trees and stones and swimming birds and all the happenings along its shores like a mirror - this summer for sure and perhaps all the summers that have come and gone in this liminal and enchanting place since it came to be in the great wide world.

We spend as many hours as we can near the lake, but what does one do on summer evenings when the air outside is shimmery with heat, and the lake is far away, but lapping gently at our thoughts?

Hoping to see summer stars, we leave draperies open to let in the night, and we light a beeswax candle (just a small votive because of the heat) to the gods and goddesses of this golden interval - they are harvest deities one and all.  We make a pot of Darjeeling or Assam and put on a little night music (Mozart of course), then pull out a good book and revisit the sunny seasons of other times and other places.

I have been reading (again and for the nth time) Michael Chabon's enchanting Summerland and Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) fills the air with music that is airy and graceful.  Roger Norrington's recording is the perfect music for summer nights, and Chabon stirs up a heady magical brew in which baseball, fairies, Old Man Coyote and mythology go together perfectly. Tofu hot dog anyone, iced tea, lemonade, cotton candy? A trip to the ball park or an outdoor concert? Calliope?

July 28, 2014

The World in My Cup

Some mornings, my cup seems to hold the whole world in its depths, and I fall in love with the tea and its cup, with this whole wide world and the deep blue space in which it floats, with the kitchen window and this tattered old life, all over again. 

I sit down in front of the computer to write about the experience, and I simply can't get the words together to describe it, can manage a single inadequate paragraph, and that is all - a rapt little bowl of words to describe something vast and beautiful, something sentient and breathing and boundless and inexpressible. 


July 27, 2014

Sunday - Saying Yes to the World

This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never dried all at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls.

The sun shines not on us but in us. The rivers flow not past, but through us. Thrilling, tingling, vibrating every fiber and cell of the substance of our bodies, making them glide and sing. The trees wave and the flowers bloom in our bodies as well as our souls, and every bird song, wind song, and tremendous storm song of the rocks in the heart of the mountains is our song, our very own...
John Muir

July 26, 2014

Three Susans

Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta)

July 25, 2014

Friday Ramble - Tattered

Tattered hails from the Middle English tater and old Norse tǫturr meaning rag or shred, and both forms are cognate with the old English tætteca meaning more or less the same thing.  Almost every culture on the planet lays claim to something like this week's word - Low German has its tater, Old High German has zaeter, and the Icelandic form is töturr.  Once a noun, tatter seldom makes an appearance in present day parlance as such, and we prefer to use the past participle form with its implied verb.

To be tattered is to be frayed, shabby and dilapidated, threadbare, all patches and blowing scraps, worn from long and honorable use in the service of life.  That makes the word conceptual kin to wabi sabi, the timeless Japanese aesthetic centered around notions of simplicity, transience and impermanence or mujo (無常).

As Richard Powell of Still in the Stream puts it: "[Wabi-sabi] nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is ever finished, and nothing is perfect."  The subtitle for his book Wabi Sabi Simple is Create Beauty, Value Imperfection, Live Deeply, and they're good words to live by.  Paradoxically, that which is tattered, transient and  ostensibly unfinished or lacking is beautiful in its natural state and complete in its suchness or tathātā. Here's the elemental koan of life popping up again and insisting that we pay attention and think about it.  We are all perfectly enough, just as we are.  Here today and gone tomorrow, we blaze with life during our scant handful of days on the earth, and oh, how we flutter and sing while we are here. On summer's middling pages, there are reminders everywhere one looks.

It would be difficult to imagine a reminder more poignant than the Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) who came into the garden a few days ago.  She fluttered from flower to flower in the sunlight, and when she came to rest on a black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta), there was joy in every vibration of her faded and battered wings.   How can one dance or fly ecstatically in such a state?  Well, she did, and she was beautiful, absolutely beautiful.  If I could have held the lady in my arms that day, I would have done just that - I was feeling frayed too, and it was comforting to meet a kindred spirit in the garden.

July 24, 2014

Thursday Poem - Atavism

Sometimes in the open you look up
where birds go by, or just nothing,
and wait. A dim feeling comes
you were like this once, there was air,
and quiet; it was by a lake, or
maybe a river you were alert
as an otter and were suddenly born
like the evening star into wide
still worlds like this one you have found
again, for a moment, in the open.

Something is being told in the woods: aisles of
shadow lead away; a branch waves;
a pencil of sunlight slowly travels its
path. A withheld presence almost
speaks, but then retreats, rustles
a patch of brush. You can feel
the centuries ripple generations
of wandering, discovering, being lost
and found, eating, dying, being born.
A walk through the forest strokes your fur,
the fur you no longer have. And your gaze
down a forest aisle is a strange, long
plunge, dark eyes looking for home.
For delicious minutes you can feel your whiskers
wider than your mind, away out over everything.
 William Stafford

July 22, 2014

Spencer is Eight

Happy eighth birthday to the beautiful little guy (shown in the first photo with his favorite stuffed toy, a plushy moose) who has been our constant companion since he came to us as a two year old in late August, 2008.

Like most German shorthaired pointers (GSPs), Spencer is intelligent and very athletic.  He is a strong swimmer and runs like the wind, has oodles of endurance and is a perfect sidekick in the woods. He likes to run off with socks, and he excavates phenomenal holes in the garden when the spirit moves him.  Having an impressive vocabulary, he understands almost everything that is said around here, and it is almost impossible to put anything over on him.  (We're learning sign language at the moment, but he will probably figure that out in short order too.)

Our sweet laddie loves his tribe (us) with every particle of his being, and we love him back with every particle of ours. Happy birthday, Spencer................