Saturday, June 24, 2017

At Ease in the Green

Common baskettail (female)
(Epitheca cynosura)

Friday, June 23, 2017

Friday Ramble - Summer's Sweetly Ticking Clock

Somewhere in the dusty recesses of my noggin, the passage of these sultry summer days is being marked, and ever so wistfully.  There's a cosmic clock ticking away in the background, and I find myself pondering the lessons held out by this golden interval that is passing away all too swiftly.  The other three seasons of a northern calendar year are splendid of course, and there are surely other fine summers ahead, but this summer is waning, and its days are numbered. The summer solstice has just come and gone, and we are sliding gently down the hill toward autumn, shorter days and longer nights.

Thoughts of coming and going are ever inscribed on summer's middling pages, and they're unsettling notions, making for restlessness and vague discontent, a gentle melancholy concerning the transience of all earthly things.  A heightened awareness of suchness (or tathata) is a midsummer thing for sure, and for the most part, one goes gently along with the flow, breathing in and out, trying to rest in the moment and do the gardeny things that need doing.

Old garden roses are a perfect metaphor for the season and most bloom once in a calendar year, but what a show they put on when they do.  Their unruly tangles of wickedly thorny canes and blue-green leaves wear delicate pink (for the most part) blooms with crinkled petals and golden hearts.  Each rose is unique, and each is exquisite from budding until its faded petals flutter to earth like snowflakes. Around midsummer, fragrance lingers in every corner of the garden, and every year I fall in love with old roses all over again. It is nothing short of a miracle that creatures so beautiful and fragile thrive this far north.

Once in a while, I catch a glimpse of the Great Mystery while hanging out in the garden, and that is surely what this old life is all about.  I wish I didn't have to keep reminding myself of that, but then, there are my roses to remind me.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Thursday Poem - Directions

The best time is late afternoon
when the sun strobes through
the columns of trees as you are hiking up,
and when you find an agreeable rock
to sit on, you will be able to see
the light pouring down into the woods
and breaking into the shapes and tones
of things and you will hear nothing
but a sprig of birdsong or the leafy
falling of a cone or nut through the trees,
and if this is your day you might even
spot a hare or feel the wing-beats of geese
driving overhead toward some destination.

But it is hard to speak of these things
how the voices of light enter the body
and begin to recite their stories
how the earth holds us painfully against
its breast made of humus and brambles
how we who will soon be gone regard
the entities that continue to return
greener than ever, spring water flowing
through a meadow and the shadows of clouds
passing over the hills and the ground
where we stand in the tremble of thought
taking the vast outside into ourselves.

Billy Collins,
(from The Art of Drowning)

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday - Child of the Sun

Happy, happy Midsummer!
Bright blessings at this turning of the Wheel.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

For Midsummer (Litha)

Here we are on the eve of Midsummer, also called the Summer Solstice or Litha. Tomorrow is the longest day of the calendar year, the Sun poised at its zenith or highest point and seeming to stand still for a fleeting interval before starting down the long slope toward autumn, and beyond to winter. This morning's image was taken near the gate of our Two Hundred Acre Wood in the Lanark highlands some time ago, and it is one of my favorites, capturing the essence of midsummer beautifully with tall trees and hazy sky in the background, golden daisies, purple bugloss and silvery meadow grasses dancing front and center.

Whither has the year flown? Summer has just arrived, but it's all downhill from here, at least for six months or so. After tomorrow, daylight hours will wane until Yule (or the Winter Solstice) around December 21 when they begin to stretch out again. Longer nights go along on the cosmic ride during the latter half of the calendar year, and that is something to celebrate for those of us who are moonhearts and ardent backyard astronomers. The Old Wild Mother (Mother Nature) strews celestial wonders by generous handfuls as the year wanes, spinning spectacular star spangled tapestries in the velvety darkness that grows deeper and longer with every twenty-four hour interval. Night skies are a vast cauldron filled with brightly twinkling stars in the last half of the calendar year, and they are absolutely magical. 

How does one go about marking this sunlit moment between the lighter and darker halves of the year? The eight festive spokes on the old Wheel of the Year are all associated with fire, but the summer solstice more than any other observance. Not so long ago, all Europe was alight on Midsummer eve, and bonfires climbed high into the night from every village green. Midsummer festivities included morris dancing, games of chance and storytelling, feasting and candlelight processions after dark.  Prosperity and abundance could be ensured by jumping over Midsummer fires, and its embers were charms against injury and bad weather at harvest time.  Embers were placed on the edges of orchards and fields to ensure good harvests, and they were carried home to family hearths for protection.  Village doorways were decorated with swags and wreaths of birch, fennel, St. John's Wort and white lilies. Summer arrived late this year, and our St. John's Wort will not bloom for a few weeks.

Midsummer observances here are simple. I make it a point to be outside or near a window with a mug of Jerusalem Artichoke (or Earth Apple as it is sometimes called) tea and watch the sun rise.  There's a candle on the old oak table and a lighted wand of summery incense in a pottery bowl nearby. The afternoon holds an hour or so of pottering in local flea markets, a quiet meal as the sun goes down and night falls, a little stargazing and moon watching later. We cherish the simplicity of such small doings, and the quiet pleasure of being surrounded by kith and kin. This year, our sweet Spencer will not be physically present, but he is here with us in spirit, and so is his big sister Cassie.

Happy Midsummer to you and your clan this year, however you choose to celebrate (or not celebrate) the occasion.  May the sun light up your day from sunrise to sunset, and your night be filled with stars from here to there.  May all good things come to you.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Green and the Gold

Large Yellow Lady's Slipper
(Cypripedium parviflorum var pubescens)

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Sunday - Saying Yes to the World

Looking at the heavens places me in time and space - and beyond them. Gazing at the stars, I look through heaven’s wrinkle; the light I see now represents their past, having traveled many years across space to reach my eyes here on earth; the light they are emitting now will be visible only in some future, years away.

I and all the other lives on Earth are connected to the stars, held together by  gravity, the invisible glue that defines our universe, and bound elementally by a common material: stardust.  This atomic grit of interstellar space paints dark clouds on the Milky Way, condenses itself into swirls of gravity-bound suns and planets, and provides the minerals bonded by the push and pull of electrical charges into the molecules that form our cells. Like stardust and the other materials of life itself, we are in constant motion, changing shape as we pass through our lives, and after the makings of our bodies break down and are recycled, rearranged into other forms of life.

The stars remind me of where I come from and who I am.

Susan J. Tweit, Walking Nature Home

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Wings for a Mourning Heart

Canadian Tiger Swallowtail
(Papilio canadensis)

Friday, June 16, 2017

Almost Eleven

Spencer would have been eleven next month, and he was our much loved companion from August 2008 until this week when he passed beyond the fields we know. He had been diagnosed with osteosarcoma in early May, and the disease rampaged through his system like wildfire.

Opiates were no longer holding our sweet boy's pain at bay, and we made the heartbreaking decision to send him off across the rainbow bridge a few days ago. He undertook his last journey on Wednesday with the gentle assistance of his veterinarian, Himself and I holding him close and crying. I hated leaving his dear little body behind for cremation, and I felt like a murderer that day. I still do.

Like most German shorthaired pointers (GSPs), our little guy was highly intelligent, and he was very athletic.  He was a strong swimmer, and he ran like the wind, had oodles of endurance and was a perfect sidekick in the woods. On woodland rambles, he was always at my side, and he defended me fiercely against moths, bumbles, dragonflies and grasshoppers, convinced that they were up to no good, and his mum was in grave danger.

He liked to run off with socks and slippers, and he excavated gargantuan holes in the garden when the spirit moved him. He understood almost everything that was said around here, and it was difficult to put anything over on him.  His elegant nose could sniff out cookies, homemade gelato, bison burgers and Brie at a distance of several kilometers. As a senior citizen, he developed an expressive grumble and wandered around the house commenting resonantly on just about everything he saw. We gave up chocolate because he couldn't have it too.

Spence had a heart as wide as the world.  He loved us with every particle of his being, and we loved him back with every particle of ours. The house is empty without him, and we can't believe he is gone. His bed, bowls, blankets and toys are where they have always been and where they will stay.  There is a hole in our hearts, and a raw wind is blowing through it, but we know his big sister Cassie was waiting for him in the sunny fields beyond the bridge.  Please let it be so.