Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Sky and Earth and Water, All Together

The beaver pond is still, reeds and cedars along the far shore cloaked in drifting fog that billows and swirls as though stirred by a vast, benign and blessing hand. Ducks are swimming about among the reeds, and they can be heard quaking now and then, but they cannot be seen.  Mallards perhaps?

Earth and water are warmer than the air this morning, and the meeting of the three elements spins a pearly veil over everything in sight. Either sunlight or autumn rain would disperse the fog, but there is rain in the cards for today, and it will most likely be rain that lifts the gossamer veil.

The eastern Ontario highlands are taking deep breaths and shifting into their early winter configuration, trees bare and whiskery on their slopes, fallen leaves ankle deep in the woods and windblown fields arrayed in grey and taupe. On the other side of the pond, the hawthorns and mountain ashes have lost their leaves entirely and wear only a few withered and frost touched berries.

Just out of sight, the scribe is wearing wellies (the left boot has a hole in it) and oilskins, and she is carrying a camera, lenses, pen and field notebook. Caught up in the fey ambiance, she thinks the day would be even more magical with a single beam of sunlight coming through the trees beyond the pond and shining through the fog to generate voluminous shadows in three dimensions. She was feeling rather lost when she got here, and in truth, she is still feeling a little lost, but paradoxically, she is also feeling at home.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Sunday - Saying Yes to the World

. . . I don't know what gladness is or where it comes from, this splitting open of the self. It takes me by surprise. Not an awareness of beauty and mystery, but beauty and mystery themselves, flooding into a mind suddenly without boundaries. Can this be gladness, to be lifted by that flood?

This is something that needs explaining, how light emerges from darkness, how comfort wells up from sorrow. The Earth holds every possibility inside it, and the mystery of transformation, one thing into another. This is the wildest comfort.

Kathleen Dean Moore, Wild Comfort: The Solace of Nature

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Friday, October 13, 2017

Friday Ramble - Between Here and There

Here we are on the cusp between autumn and winter. There is an element of impatience in the voices of Canada geese as they fly over the house, and the other migratory beings who are still here seem agitated and anxious to be off on their adventures.

I'm restless too, and words alone don't quite "do it" for me; nor do images, at least most of the time. Morning after morning, I scribble a few words and regard them with mild disdain. I prowl through old photos, looking for an image that adequately describes the dark foggy daybreak beyond the windows, the frosted garden grasses and wilting shrubbery, the bare and eloquent trees. Archive prowling at the break of day is a perilous undertaking through volume after volume of photo archives and disk after disk of stored images, all leaving something to be desired. At times, I consider tossing everything out, flogging the cameras to a pawn shop and taking up soap operas or macrame.

What I need at such times is sunlight and clear skies, a fine crunchy frost and an hour or two of wandering around the woods, camera around my neck, vest pockets crammed with filters, lenses and other photographic trappings, seed for the birds and Beau's homemade doggy biscuits. For various reasons, my ramblings are brief this fall, but I often journey into the eastern Ontario highlands in my thoughts. There are years of autumn rambles to revisit when I can't get out to the woods, and every step I take is a step through treasure.

Sometimes, what we need is already here and has simply been waiting for us to acknowledge it. When we wake up and notice, we are stopped right in our tracks, so taken by the breathtaking wonders before us that we can hardly draw in air. Old barns and whiskery trees, towering crags and limpid streams, sandhill cranes serenading each other and slow dancing in frosted farm fields at sunrise, herons and loons calling goodbye as they rise from their summer haunts and head south. Timeless, enchanted and liminal, all of it, and if we are lucky, from time to time, elemental magics rub off on us as we wander about in wild places.

Out of the north wind, there's fine blue stillness and pools of articulate silence, long resonant conversations with dreaming trees and old stones. Camus wrote that in the depths of winter, he discovered within himself an invincible summer. I suspect that for this old hen, what lies invincible within is an early highland winter in all its grace and grandeur. The last year's health issues notwithstanding, frosted leaves underfoot, geese overhead and treed hills with morning light shining through them still catch me by the throat and leave me breathless, every single time.  I just wish I could find a way to say it as it ought to be said.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Thursday Poem - This Time of Year

when the light leaves early, sun slipping down
behind the beech trees as easily as a spoon
of cherry cough syrup, four deer step delicately
up our path, just at the moment when the colors
shift, to eat fallen apples in the tall grass.
Great grey ghosts.  If we steal outside in the dark,
we can hear them chew.  A sudden movement,
they're gone, the whiteness of their tails
a burning afterimage.  A hollow pumpkin moon rises,
turns the dried corn to chiaroscuro, shape and shadow;
the breath of the wind draws the leaves and stalks
like melancholy cellos.  These days are songs, noon air
that flows like warm honey, the maple trees' glissando
of fat buttery leaves.  The sun goes straight to the gut
like a slug of brandy, an eau-de-vie.  Ochre October:
the sky, a blue dazzle, the grand finale of trees,
this spontaneous applause; when darkness falls
like a curtain, the last act, the passage of time,
that blue current; October, and the light leaves early,
our radiant hungers, all these golden losses.

Barbara Crooker, from Radiance

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Standing on the Edge

Water and sky, drifting fog, reeds and trees turning red on the far shore...

What more does one need on the trailing edge of a day in October's middling pages?  A heron or three in the shallows would be grand but that is all.

Everything else is already here.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Happy (Canadian) Thanksgiving

This morning's  tattered scarecrow lady is much like the Raggedy Anne doll I once had, and I love seeing her planted under a tree in a neighbor's garden at this time of the year.  She conveys seasonal sentiments perfectly with her round eyes, crooked stitched smile, corn husk hair and hands, red corduroy overalls and flowered shirt, and crowning it all, a fine squashy burlap hat.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving if you are Canadian. If not, find something to celebrate anyway, perhaps get outside for a while. These autumn days are too vibrant and riotously colored for words, and they are far too brief.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Sunday - Saying Yes to the World

When we plant a tree we are planting ourselves. Releasing dolphins back to the wild, we are ourselves returning home. Composting leftovers, we are being reborn as irises and apples. We can "think like a mountain," in Aldo Leopold's words, and we can discover ourselves to be everywhere and in everything, and we can know the activity of the world as not separate from who we are but rather of what we are. The practice of the "nonlocal self" means that when we work for the restoration of the rain forest, we are restoring our"extended self.

Joan Halifax Roshi, The Fruitful Darkness

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Friday, October 06, 2017

The Hunter's Moon of October

In October, Lady Moon is often veiled by drifting clouds, and sometimes we don't see her for several nights in a row. If Luna seems spooky at this time of year, it is not surprising, given the inky darkness into which she rises, and the fact that Samhain (or Halloween) is only three weeks away. Although this month's full moon is no brighter than the other moons in a calendar year, she seems so because of the position of the ecliptic in the sky in late autumn.

This is a splendid month for moonhearts, stargazers and backyard astronomers, for we are entering the fabulous region of the winter stars.  There is more darkness in which to engage in sky watching, and if one doesn't mind staying up all night or rising early, there are wonders to be seen from one horizon to the other. I can't begin to catalogue them all, but I just have to mention the annual Orionid meteor showers.  Throwaway children of Halley's comet, the Orionids are visible all through October, and this year they will peak on October 20-21 when the earth moves directly into the densest region of the comet's ancient particle field. There is time this month to observe the grandest cosmic light show of them all, a shower of falling stars in the dark hours before dawn.

For the ancient Celts, the last day of October signified summer's end and the onset of long nights and deep cold.  As Himself, Spencer and I shivered in the garden last evening there were no two ways about it - summer has crept away, late autumn has settled in, and winter is not far off. Oh, there are splendid sunny days now and then, but nights are cool, and the wind has chilly fingers after dark. Where trees have already lost their leaves, their bare branches form an austere architectural backdrop for the moon in her rising and setting.

Lady Moon is a prominent motif in Halloween folklore, and I'm always on the lookout for new appearances.  Witches on broomsticks, bats, dancing skeletons, jack-o'-lanterns, ghosts, spectral owls and crooked trees - all make their appearances silhouetted against ghostly moons and deep darkness. The queen of night will be waxing when Halloween arrives this year and journeying toward radiant completeness in the great cauldron of night.

We also know this moon as the: Acorns Cached Moon, Banksia Moon, Bare Branches Moon, Big Chestnut Moon, Big Wind Moon, Blackberry Moon, Blood Moon, Chrysanthemum Moon, Corn Ripening Moon, Drying Grass Moon, Falling Leaves Moon, Frosty Moon, Hallows Moon, Joins Both Sides Moon, Kantlos Moon, Kindly Moon, Leaf Falling Moon, Leaf Dance Moon, Leaves Change Color Moon, Maple Moon, Michaelmas Daisy Moon, Middle-finger Moon, Migration Moon, Moon When Birds Fly South, Moon of Poverty, Moon When Geese Leave, Moon of Changing Seasons, Moon of Harvesting, Moon When Deer Rut, Moon of Acorn Gathering, Moon When Corn Is Taken In, Moon of Falling Leaves, Moon That Turns the Leaves White, Moon of First Frost, Moon When They Store Food in Caches, Moon of Long Hair, Moon When Quilling and Beading Are Done, Moon When the Water Begins to Freeze on the Edge of Streams, Nut Moon, Pekelanew Moon, Raking Moon, Samhain Moon, Shedding Moon, Small Trees Freeze Moon, Song Moon, Striped Gopher Looks Back Moon, Strong Moon, Ten Colds Moon, Travel in Canoes Moon, Trees Felled by Fire at Butt Moon, Trout Moon, Turkey Moon, Vintage Moon, White Frost on Grass Ground Moon, Wild Turkeys Moon, Wilted Moon, Wine Moon, Winter Coming Moon.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Thursday Poem - Outside

October.  Its brilliant festival of dry
and moist decay.  Its spicy, musky scent.
The church's parking lot deserted
except for this one witness,
myself, just resting there.

Somewhere a radio plays Flamenco.
A spotlight of sunshine falls on the scattered debris.
Blood-red and gold, a perfect circle of leaves
begins to whirl,
slowly at first, keeping the pattern,
clicking against the blacktop
like heels and  castanets,
then faster, faster, faster. . .
round as a ruffle, as the swirling
skirts of an invisible dancer.
Swept off into the tangled woods
by the muscular breeze.
The hoarse cheering of crows.

Inside the dark empty church,
long cool shadows, white-painted wood,
austere Protestant candles thriftily snuffed,
Perhaps a note on the altar,
Gone dancing. Back on Sunday

Dolores Stewart, from The Nature of Things

My friend Dolores passed out of this world a few months ago, and I still miss her.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Autumn Scarlet and Bokeh

In the eastern Ontario highlands, scarlets, plums and deep inky blues are creeping into view, their emergence out of late summer's dusty greens motivated by cooler evenings and gently ruffling winds at nightfall. As often as I witness the turning of the seasons and such vivid entities coming into being, the morphing into deeper and more intense hues is always enchanting.  It takes us (and the camera too) by surprise each and every year.

Earth waves her elemental wand, and autumnal changes are set in motion, the anthocyanins and carotenoids in plant tissues coming into brilliance as chlorophyll production slows down and plant sugar levels surge.  Leaves bearing abundant anthocyanins dazzle in scarlet and carmine, and those containing concentrations of both anthocyanins and carotenoids flash bright orange.  Leaves with lavish measures of carotenoids and scant levels of anthosyanins do a sky dance in honeyed golds and yellows.  Absent both anthocyanins and carotenoids, the native tannins rule, giving us the burnished russets, ochres, umbers and bronzey browns of the great oaks, hickories and beeches.

Such transformations are magics of a wilder kind, and I can't imagine living this old life without ever seeing with them or being out among them as they happen.  In October, the north dazzles the eyes, and I always wish I could paint like this.  No wait... My lens is already doing that.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Looking Across the Lake

Happy October, everyone!

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Sunday - Saying Yes to the World

We are all longing to go home to some place we have never been—a place half-remembered and half-envisioned we can only catch glimpses of from time to time. Community. Somewhere, there are people to whom we can speak with passion without having the words catch in our throats. Somewhere a circle of hands will open to receive us, eyes will light up as we enter, voices will celebrate with us whenever we come into our own power. Community means strength that joins our strength to do the work that needs to be done. Arms to hold us when we falter. A circle of healing. A circle of friends. Someplace where we can be free.
Starhawk, Dreaming the Dark

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Friday, September 29, 2017

Friday Ramble - Fleeting

This week's word comes to us from the Middle English flete and Old English flÄ“ot, both meaning to float. In common usage, fleeting describes things that live for a brief time and pass out of the world swiftly, sometimes in twinkling of an eye.  Synonyms for this week's offering are some of my favorites in the English language - cursory, ephemeral, evanescent, impermanent, meteoric, momentary, passing, transitory, vanishing, volatile, elusive, ethereal, gossamer, temporal, transient, transitory, vanishing, vaporous, volatile.

The Two Hundred Acre Wood in Lanark is a different place than it was in early September. Himself and Beau and I wandered about there for a few hours this week, and the windy, sunlit woods seemed to go on and on forever, whole groves of trees changing color together and turning into chambers of stained glass.  Here and there, falling leaves were caught in branches or suspended on strands of spider silk, and a thousand and one others drifted down to rest at our feet like offerings. The woods were one glorious room after another, and I found myself thinking of something John Crowley wrote in his fabulous novel, Little, Big: or, The Fairies' Parliament: "The further in you go, the bigger it gets.
A fey wind ruffled our hair as we walked along, scattered acorns, pods and fluff in all directions. Goldenrod, milkweed and wild carrot (Queen Anne's lace) along our trail were going to seed, and they watched us pass, committing our blundering passage and the season's turning to wild and elemental memory.

There were fine wild musics everywhere. I took my blackthorn walking stick along on our ramble, and it made a pleasant racket as it scuffled through the bounty at our feet.  Wherever we went, we were accompanied by the wing beats of geese flying back and forth between nearby waters and farm fields, by the exultant tumult of the creek in the gorge as it raced toward the beaver pond on the other side of the woods with its precious freight of liberated leaves and whiskery twigs. At times, both creek and pond seem to be made of blue sky.

Stopping for a moment, we drank in the light slanting through the trees, and there was the clear sense that everything around us was fleeting and fragile and precious. It seems as though only yesterday we were rejoicing in the filtered emerald light of summer and contemplating our unruly rural garden. Now here we were in our woods, seeing all around us the clear, irrefutable evidence that another season is on its way.

The passing of the seasons is a powerful reminder that we are here in the Great Round for only a brief time, in our present form anyway. For a scant handful of days, we go walking through this world, and we blaze with life and spirit as we go, lit from within and throwing sparks like the starstuff of which we are made. Life is a glorious, fleeting thing, and autumn says that best.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Thursday Poem - Fall Song

Another year gone, leaving everywhere
its rich spiced residues: vines, leaves,

the uneaten fruits crumbling damply
in the shadows, unmattering back

from the particular island
of this summer, this NOW, that now is nowhere

except underfoot, moldering
in that black subterranean castle

of unobservable mysteries - roots and sealed seeds
and the wanderings of water. This

I try to remember when time's measure
painfully chafes, for instance when autumn

flares out at the last, boisterous and like us longing
to stay - how everything lives, shifting

from one bright vision to another, forever
in these momentary pastures.

Mary Oliver
from American Primitive)

Wednesday, September 27, 2017