October 19, 2014

Sunday - Saying Yes to the World

... the roots of all living things are tied together. Deep in the ground of being, they tangle and embrace. This understanding is expressed in the term nonduality. If we look deeply, we find that we do not have a separate self-identity, a self that does not include sun and wind, earth and water, creatures and plants,and one another. We cannot exist without the presence and support of the interconnecting circles of creation, the geosphere, the biosphere, the hydrosphere, the atmosphere, and the sphere of our sun. All are related to us; we depend on each of these spheres for our very existence.
Joan Halifax, The Fruitful Darkness

October 18, 2014

October 17, 2014

Friday Ramble - Falling Into the Fund of Things

In summer, one can watch adolescent sunflowers turning their brilliant heads to follow old Helios around the sky all day long. Young ones are flexible enough to do so, but mature flower heads face east toward the rising sun and do not move.

What seems to be a single sunflower bloom is actually a composite, a collection of over a thousand tiny florets arranged in a perfect spiraling sequence.  Each floret is inclined toward the next floret by approximately 137.5°,  and in mathematics, this is known as the golden angle.  The arrangement creates a series of interconnecting spirals in which the number of left oriented spirals and the number of right oriented spirals are successive Fibonacci numbers.

A lifelong fan of spirals, golden angles and Fibonacci sequences wherever they turn up, I'm always delighted to encounter another, and meeting a sunflower in any season is a happy thing. In these shortening October days, withered specimens of Helianthus annuus are downright wondrous in their earthy coloration, spikiness and sculptural complexity.  They're forthright in their determination to perpetuate their particular genetic brew and engender legions of progeny, mothering whole dynasties of mile-high stalks, fuzzy leaves and beaming golden faces when springtime rolls around next time.  It's something I try to remember in winter.

In "Enriching the Earth", Wendell Berry describes the earth's late autumn cycling as "slowly falling into the fund of things", and I am fond of the notion.  Going to seed in the last quarter of the year is a good thing, a fine thing, a natural and necessary thing, and every coin in nature's wild banking is kin.

Lacking the delicate coloration, complexity and elegance displayed by sunflowers peering over the fence and dispersing their abundant seed in October, if I can be said to resemble anything at all these days, it's a gnarled and twisty old ironwood tree in the forest.  Gorgeous things they are in their own way, and though I have no beauty of my own, I am happy to stand among them out in the leaf strewn wood.

October 16, 2014

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

October 14, 2014

A Memory of Cormorants

Double-crested cormorant
(Phalacrocorax auritus)
Along with herons, loons and Canada geese, the great northern cormorants are my favorite birds.  They don't form colonies on Lanark lakes as far as I know, and we only see them on local waters when the annual migration is on in October.

The loons and herons have already departed, and now the jewel-eyed cormorants are on their way south. They alight on shorelines, docks and piers, mooring posts, stumps and floating logs, and they clearly own the earth and the sky and the water, wherever they swim and perch and open their embracing wings to the sky.

I remember a colony of cormorants dancing on a rocky outcrop in Lake Nipigon years ago on a trip north.  Then along comes another precious memory, a community of cormorants resting together in a foggy predawn river on their long way south. Such snippets are better than gold.

October 13, 2014

Canadian Thanksgiving Day

This is Thanksgiving weekend in Canada, and preparations for a gathering around the old oak table are in progress.  There are casseroles and pies on every available kitchen surface, pans of bread and biscuits ready to go into the oven, pickles, relishes, sauces and various savories in jars and covered bowls, our own French vanilla ice cream in the freezer. We will ramble in the woods together, then come back to the little blue house for a sumptuous repast as the sun goes down.

The tattered scarecrow lady is much like the Raggedy Anne doll I had as a child, 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 and celebrating it today.  If not, do find something to celebrate. These autumn days are too vibrant and riotously colored for words, and they are far too brief.

October 12, 2014

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.
Joan Halifax Roshi, The Fruitful Darkness