Saturday, August 29, 2015

A Fragrant Later Blooming

David Austin Rose - Heritage (Ausblush)

Friday, August 28, 2015

Friday Ramble - Collision

"If you surrender to the wind, you can ride it."
Toni Morrison
The word collision comes from the Latin collisio, collidere meaning "to dash or strike together, a compound of com meaning together and lædere meaning to "to strike". For some reason, my mind connects the unrelated but similar sounding Latin laetare, the singular imperative form of laetari meaning "to be joyful".

One thinks of collision as violent interaction, but it is not always so. The striking of a clapper against the inner wall of its bell, the creak of an old mill wheel as water, wood and stone converse within its slow, ceaseless and seemingly effortless rounding, the joyous meeting of rocks and falling water in rapids or a waterfall, willows on the ridge bending in flowing Tai Chi movement as they talk with the wind on a late summer day - all are collisions of a sort, but interactions (or contentions) without violence for the most part.

I can hear wind horses fluttering in the garden as I tap away here this morning.  It is most likely the lingering legacy (or residue, another fine word) of many years spent toiling away in the entrails of large urban corporations, but I sometimes have to remind myself to treat life's encounters as opportunities for listening, flowing and peaceful connection rather than endless tourneys of collision, contention and at times, blazing fireworks. The prayer flags are excellent reminders.

The task is one of surrendering to life and the wind and learning how to ride them, how to bend and flow like wind horses or bamboo rather than treating everything as an occasion for shouting, head banging and collision. Bamboo doesn't grow this far north, but my short mantra for the ongoing exercise is "bamboo". Between health issues and computer gremlins, there have been many times in recent months when I trotted out the mantra and used it - ardently.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Thursday Poem - Evening

The sky puts on the darkening blue coat
held for it by a row of ancient trees;
you watch: and the lands grow distant in your sight,
one journeying to heaven and one that falls;

and leave you not at home in either one,
not quite so still and dark as the darkened houses,
not calling to eternity with the passion
of what becomes a star each night, and rises;

and leave you (inexpressibly to unravel)
your life, with its immensity and fear,
so that, now bounded, now immeasurable,
it is alternately stone in you and star.

Evening, Rainer Maria Rilke
(translation by Stephen Mitchell)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Wordless Wednesday - First Aster and Little Sister

New England Aster (or Michaelmas Daisy)
and Bumble

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

All the World in My Cup

A pure wind envelops my body.
The whole world seen in a single cup.
Kokan Shiren
Some mornings, my cup seems to hold the whole world in its depths.  I fall in love with the fragrant tea and its earthenware vessel, with the table on which they rest, with the whole wide world and the deep blue space in which it floats, with my kitchen window and this tattered old life, all over again. 

Then 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.


Monday, August 24, 2015

On the Edge of the Woods

Damselfly, Female Eastern Forktail
(Ischnura verticalis)

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sunday - Saying Yes to the World

Humans are tuned for relationship. The eyes, the skin, the tongue, ears and nostrils—all are gates where our body receives the  nourishment of otherness.  This landscape of shadowed voices, these feathered bodies and antlers  and tumbling streams—these breathing shapes are our family, the beings with whom we are  engaged, with whom we struggle and suffer and celebrate.
David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Cooler in the Shade

Red-legged Grasshopper (Female)
(Melanoplus femurrubrum)

Friday, August 21, 2015

Friday Ramble - Tattered

Tattered comes to us from the Middle English tater and the old Norse tǫturr meaning rag or shred, and both words are cognate with the old English tætteca meaning more or less the same. Almost every culture on the planet possesses something like it - Low German has its tater, Old High German has zaeter, and the Icelandic form is töturr.  Originally, the word was a noun, but tatter seldom makes an appearance in modern parlance, and we cling to 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 and attenuated from long and honorable use in the service of life. That makes this week's word conceptual kin to wabi sabi (侘寂), the timeless Japanese aesthetic centered around notions of simplicity, transience and impermanence or mujo (無常).

Wabi-sabi nurtures all that is authentic in embracing three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is ever finished, and nothing is perfect. Paradoxically, that which is tattered, transient, imperfect and incomplete is beautiful in its own way, resting easy in its natural state and suchness or tathātā.  There's the old koan of life popping up again and insisting that we work out its elemental truth. If I ever needed reminders, I have been on the receiving end of many in recent months as we work our way through endless visits to doctors, cancer clinics and hospitals. We are walking, talking, breathing haiku, here only for seventeen syllables, three lines.

It would be difficult to imagine anything lovelier than the White Admiral who came into our garden a few days ago. She danced and fluttered her way around in the sunlight, and there was joy in every movement of her faded and tattered wings. How can one fly in such a dilapidated state, let alone dance? She did, and when she came lightly to rest among the pines, she was perfect in every way. If I could have held the lady in my arms, I would have done just that - this tired, frayed and emotionally tattered female was very glad to see her.