April 24, 2014

Thursday Poem - Earth Song

Listen to things more often than beings.
Hear the voice of the fire, hear the voice of the water,
Listen in the wind to the sighing of the bush:
This is the ancestors breathing.
Those who are dead are never gone;
The dead are not down in the earth:
They are in the trembling of the trees,
In the groaning of the woods,
In the water that runs, in the water that sleeps,
They are in the hut, they are in the crowd.
Those who are dead are not ever gone;
They are in the woman's breast, they are in the wailing of a child,
They are in the burning log and in the moaning rock.
They are in the weeping grasses, in the forest and the home.
Listen to things more often than beings.
Hear the voice of fire, hear the voice of water.
Listen in the wind to the sighing of the bush.
This is the ancestors breathing.

(Traditional from Senegal, translator unknown)

April 22, 2014

Out in the Floating Fog

On the other side of the windows is rain and fog and graceful skeletal trees doing their best to put out leaves, catkins and flowers... 

There was rain in the village overnight, but somewhere in the morning fog is a robin calling for more rain, a woodpecker (probably a pileated from the volume of the hammering) driving his beak into one of the old maples with enthusiasm.  Now again, he (or possibly she) pauses, takes a few deep breaths and gives a wild unfettered laugh that carries for quite  distance.  Even a bird in the fog, it seems, knows the value of taking a break now and again and just breathing in and out.

I can't see either bird for the floating veil of mist over and around everything, but the sounds they are making are welcome musical elements in a springtime morning that is all about the nebulous, the wondrous and unseen.

April 21, 2014

Farewell to Gabo

Before reaching the final line, however, he had already understood that he would never leave that room, for it was foreseen that the city of mirrors (or mirages) would be wiped out by the wind and exiled from the memory of men at the precise moment when Aureliano Babilonia would finish deciphering the parchments, and that everything written on them was unrepeatable since time immemorial and forever more, because races condemned to one hundred years of solitude did not have a second opportunity on earth.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

I read Gabo's mythic novel for the first time as a university student, and it took my breath away, left me wandering around wide-eyed, stupid, over-the-moon and ecstatic for days afterwards — I have no idea how many times I have returned to the town of Macondo since my first reading, to the most beautiful work of magical realism ever written, the finest novel of them all in my book {period}.

A cloud of yellow butterflies follows a character wherever he goes in life.  A plague of sleeplessness keeps Macondo awake for an age, and the town's residents descend into the "quicksand of forgetfulness" as a result of unrelenting insomnia.  They post labels everywhere so they will not forget what mundane things are named, and they dread the day when they will no longer remember how to read what they have written.  Having lost their memories of the past, they invent new ones for themselves by reading decks of cards.  Visitations from ghosts are common occurrences in Macondo.  One character ascends into the sky as she is folding a white sheet, others move from life into death and then back into life again — there is magic everywhere.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez passed away last week in his late eighties, and this world and everyone in it is poorer for his passing.  Wherever Gabo is now, I would like to think he is still writing, even if we unascended mortals are somewhere else entirely and unable to read his new "stuff".  If you have not already read One Hundred Years of Solitude, find a copy of the book, park yourself in a quiet out-of-the-way corner and get ready to be amazed and enchanted.  If you are reading the novel for the first time, I envy you.

April 20, 2014

Happy Easter, happy springtime!

Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus)

April 19, 2014

April 18, 2014

Friday Ramble - Trailing Light

She opens her eyes, the trailing edges of dreams in the woodland and by winding rivers brushing against her still foggy mind – impressions of roots, warm earth and mossy stones, waving ferns and wildflowers in shady places, flickering sunlight and clear blue sky seen through old trees, the songs of rivers in their blithe becoming.

There was melancholy in her dreams, and an element of panic too – the night's apprehensions linger as she emerges with of tea in hand after rambling for hours in the darkness.  Has she accomplished anything at all in this old life?  What if she is just floundering through her existence this time around and not accomplishing anything at all.  What if she is unable to express in any meaningful way how rare and precious and fleeting are all beings and this earthy realm we are treading together?

In shadowy alcoves in the woods there is snow, but warmed by the springtime sun, greenery is appearing out of the leaves and mosses in nooks here and there.  The tender ferns springing from the granite in her favorite gorge are content just to be there and basking in the sunlight of their native place.  Perhaps, like them she gets to come back and leaf out over and over again until she gets things right.  She remembers Joanna Macy's words, and she is comforted:

It is my experience that the world itself has a role to play in our liberation. Its very pressures, pains, and risks can wake us up -- release us from the bonds of ego and guide us home to our vast, true nature. For some of us, our love of the world is so passionate that we cannot ask it to wait until we are enlightened.
Joanna Macy, World as Lover, World as Self

Somehow or other, she will be here among these hills forever and drinking in the wild light.  Her molecules will disperse and reassemble and cavort in many other life forms, but they may remember in some small measure or scrap of their being what it was like to be here this time around.  That is quite enough.

April 17, 2014

Thursday Poem - For the Children

The rising hills, the slopes,
of statistics
lie before us.
the steep climb
of everything, going up,
up, as we all
go down.

In the next century
or the one beyond that,
they say,
are valleys, pastures,
we can meet there in peace
if we make it.

To climb these coming crests
one word to you, to
you and your children:

stay together
learn the flowers

go light
 Gary Snyder (fromTurtle Island)
April is national poetry month, and this is one of my favorites.

April 16, 2014

The Full Egg Moon of April

When April's full moon comes calling and lights up the night, there is (or ought to be) tiny new grasses underfoot, the astringent scent of life-giving sap flowing through twigs and branches as the earth undertakes her reckless prodigal flaring into spring.  This northern part of the world awakens slowly, and in April we northerners tend to go a little mad, cavorting like perfect ecstatic fools on the cusp between winter and spring as we wait for temperatures to rise and the landscape to come to life.  In her resemblance to a great cosmic egg or seed, this month's full moon expresses the greening to come and the  new life quickening in the earth far below her light.

A puckish and unpredictable thing is life in the great round and what I like to call "the matter of moons". One goes out faithfully with tripod and camera month after month, and she is always hoping to see the moon on her special night but can never really be sure - especially in springtime when the lady is concealed by rain clouds for days at a time.  Last evening, Spencer and I were fortunate, and skies were clear for a brief interval - a little before nine, Luna rose over the bare trees, and we were both there to watch her climb.  We had not been so fortunate in the wee hours of the morning.  Before two o'clock, we wrapped up warmly and went outside to observe the lunar eclipse, but the skies were covered from horizon to horizon with storm clouds, and there was no moon to be seen, no spangly stars and no sign of the eclipse at all.

Around this moon time every year, I find myself all wrapped up in vague longings that evade description, wandering for hours in the woods and by local waters and reaching for something that can't be articulated in words or captured on a memory card. Some of the restlessness can be attributed to my being here all winter while family members, neighbors and friends rambled away to warmer climes, but the simple truth is that I too long to sprout leaves and burst into shaggy riotous bloom. The moon in her radiant fullness has a way of quieting my nebulous springtime longings, and sometimes old stones lull them too, as do little garden jungles of rain dappled leaves and flocks of Canada geese passing overhead on their way to the river. There's a gentle kind of wabi sabi melancholy in such yearnings that becomes stronger and more compelling with every passing year.

We also know this restless yearning moon as the: Ashes Moon, Big Spring Moon, Broken Snowshoe Moon, Budding Trees Moon, Bullhead Moon, Cherry Blossom Moon, Daisy Moon, Moon, Egg Moon, Fish Moon, Flower Moon, Fourth Moon, Frog Moon, Glittering Snow on Lake Moon, Grass Moon, Gray Goose Moon, Great Sand Storm Moon, Green Grass Moon, Growing Moon, Half Spring Moon, Hare Moon, Ice Breaking in the River Moon, Leaf Split Moon, Loon Moon, Maple Sap Boiling Moon, Moon of Greening Grass, Moon of Red Grass Appearing, Moon of the Big Leaves, Moon of the Red Grass Appearing, Moon of Windbreak, Moon When Geese Return in Scattered Formation, Moon When Nothing Happens, Moon When the Geese Lay Eggs, Moon When They Set Indian Corn, Moon, Pink Moon, Planter's Moon, Planting Corn Moon, Planting Moon, Poinciana Moon, Red Grass Appearing Moon, Ring Finger Moon, Snowdrop Moon, Snowshoe Breaking Moon, Spring Moon, Sprouting Grass Moon, Strawberry Moon, Strong Moon, Sugar Moon

As names go, I am rather fond of "Cherry Blossom Moon" and "Sugar Moon".