September 2, 2014

What the Day Holds Out

What the day holds out in offering on a morning walk, birch trees and golden beech leaves, flickering slate-blue sky behind the blowing trees.

The wind blows to and fro in fields and hedgerows, and tumbling foliage rains like confetti in the park.

She looks up, and rain clouds are already moving in. There will be a fine pearly first quarter moon rising this evening, and she thinks it will rise unseen, its shy upward journey hidden by deep dark clouds.

September 1, 2014

August 31, 2014

Sunday - Saying Yes to the World

To lose yourself: a voluptuous surrender, lost in your arms, lost to the world, utterly immersed in what is present so that its surroundings fade away...To be lost is to be fully present, and to be fully present is to be capable of being in uncertainty and mystery.  And one does not get lost but loses one's self, with the implication that it is a conscious choice, a chosen surrender,  achievable through geography.  That thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you is usually what you need to find, and finding it is a matter of getting lost.
Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost

August 30, 2014

Ecstatic in Purple

Bumble and Michaelmas Daisy

August 29, 2014

Friday Ramble - Migration

Another September is about to arrive in the world with its changeable skies, autumn rains, and tumbling leaves. At times, the deck behind the little blue house in the village  is ankle deep in rustling oak and maple leaves, some fallen from on high and others blown into the garden before their time.  The driveway, cobblestone walk leading to the front door, and threshold are a sea of twigs, tattered foliage and nibbled acorns, random gifts from the village squirrels.

Nights are becoming longer, and we are on our way to some of the most spectacular skies of the calendar year.  The cosmic dome is chilly and clear before dawn, and Orion dances just above the south horizon, Taurus cavorting above his left shoulder and Gemini over his right, another gorgeous constellation, Auriga, twinkling over the giant's cranium like a wreath of Yule lights or a crown of stars.  Autumn's glorious Orionid meteor showers will begin in just a few weeks, and I will be out in the garden every clear night and gazing up at the show.  Here on earth, throngs of swallows congregate on power lines, geese fatten up in corn fields for the long trip south, and squirrels scurry about with their cheek pouches overflowing.  However one looks at it, this is a time of transcendent change, restless movement, journeying and migration.

A lovely word, migration has its roots in the Latin migratio, migrationem and perhaps the Greek ameibein, all meaning to change or transform.  In chemistry, the word describes the orderly movement of an atom from one place to another within a molecule.  More commonly, we use the word to describe the seasonal movements of birds and animals from one climate zone to another and back again. We will probably never understand the algorithms of migration completely, but it appears that sensitivity to the Earth's magnetic fields, the length of days and nights and the positions of the sun and stars overhead all play their parts in the equation.

I am continuing my journey through David Lewis-Williams' seminal study, The Mind in the Cave: Consciousness and the Origins of Art, and his weighty (and controversial) work is providing me (again) with much food for thought.  It's intriguing to think humans were once migratory animals too - that we were compelled to follow the seasonal movements of the ancient herds that provided our food supply along with materials for our clothing, footwear and tools. Somewhere along the way in our seasonal to-ings and fro-ings, we became conscious of time and started to mark the passing of days and seasons on the walls of our caves. If Dr. Lewis-Williams is correct, and he presents compelling arguments to support his theories, we discovered art, ritual and shamanic transformation around the same time and have never looked back.

After a visit to Lascaux in the forties, the painter Picasso exclaimed that humanity had not learned a thing about art in twelve thousand years. He was wrong about the age of the magnificent paintings in the French caves (they are at least five thousand years older than he thought they were), but his awe and wonder as he stood in front of the Chinese Horse echo down the years.  How far have we come anyway?

The music on the CD player this morning is the original cast recording of Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods, and that seems appropriate.  It's a wonderful offering for the splendid bosky trail between summer and autumn, and I am off to the woods in a few hours.  My migrations are small ones, but no less splendid for that.

August 28, 2014

Thursday Poem - Unchurched

It’s Earth that breathes around us,
so perilous in its comforts,
so perfect in impermanence.

Autumnal sun streams through
these yellow maple leaves
translucent as stained glass.

The ground beneath my feet
is strewn with pine cones, acorns.
The random pattern of continuance.

Etched columns of pine and oak.
Incense of resin and fungi.
Great glacial stones for altars.

High winds and choirs of
minor breezes, the whispering hush.
It is the Sabbath. It is enough.

Dolores Stewart, 
from The Nature of Things
(printed here with the kind permission of the poet)

August 26, 2014

Going, going, gone too soon...

It's the last Tuesday in August, and dismayed, I ask myself where summer has gone, or rather where it is going to so swiftly.  This sweet and shaggy month is almost over, and its last dusty, golden days are something special, something to be cherished and carefully committed to memory.

As in other years, whole forests of frowsy clover are in bloom, and waist high stands of Goldenrod and Queen Anne's Lace buzz with intoxicated bumblebees.  Wildflowers sometimes wear fritillary crowns and most are sporting grasshopper brooches.

We haunt windy fields looking for Monarch butterflies and their offspring, always hoping to find gloriously striped children arrayed like royalty and clinging to the underside of milkweed leaves. There has been only a single Monarch butterfly in the air over the Two Hundred Acre Wood in the last week or two, but we continue to look for them at every opportunity.

In the field below the big hill, last year's milkweed pods drape themselves across their younger kin with insouciance or lean against the old rail fence like weary travelers.  I never tire of looking at their thousand and one textures and the muted variegation of their earthy hues. Who knew that gray and brown came in so many delightful shades?

Yesterday afternoon, two wild turkeys crossed the lane in front of us.  The proud mothers shepherded their unruly offspring before them like little brown sheep, administering a gentle peck here and a nudge there to keep their inquisitive (and garrulous) children moving.  The two families jogged along at a fine rate, and their appearance was so unexpected that I didn't have a chance to snap a photo.