Monday, May 29, 2017

Jack-in-the-Woods

Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum)
(also called Bog onion, Brown dragon, Indian turnip)
In winter, snow covers the shady ground down by the creek for months at a time, and the little tributary's voice is silent under its blanket of ice. The sheltering trees on the hillside above are bare and silent.

In springtime, the lovely, crumbly, dark earth is revealed in all its elemental fragrance, and the water sings a raucous ditty as it gambols downhill with its tumbling freight of winter detritus, broken twigs and and dessicated leaves.

Hallelujah, now the "jacks" are dancing there in all their stripey magnificence. Wood ducks are nesting on a pond nearby, and the forest is a towering green cathedral again. Sunlight flickers through the leaves, and choirs of grosbeaks hop from branch to branch in the overstory, singing their hearts out.

Winter was all right, and we got through it, even managed to do a little inward blooming now and then.  Spring was late, brief and rather wet, but summer has returned to the Two Hundred Acre Wood.  We can do this, verily, merrily, we can do this, oh yes,we can.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Sunday - Saying Yes to the World

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it is over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

Mary Oliver
(Excerpt from When Death Comes)

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Let There Be Purple

Dear me, what can one say about such a sumptuous shade? Call it purple, amethyst, periwinkle, ultraviolet or anything else for that matter, it's my favorite color and perfectly expressed in the irises of early summer with their golden streaks, artfully frilled edges and gracefully arching leaves.

In Greek, the word iris means "eye of heaven", and it is the name of a goddess - our sumptuous early summer blooms take their name from Iris, goddess of the rainbow. She carried messages between heaven and earth along the rainbow, and another of her sacred tasks was escorting souls to the Elysian fields, the final resting place of those who were heroic and virtuous in life.

In many cultures, the iris represents life, virtue and resurrection. For us, the bloom is emblematic of summer, and when it comes to purple, the irises have it all.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Friday Ramble - Serendipity

We use the word serendipity to describe situations in which we discover something wonderful by accident - often when we are searching for something else entirely. In other words, we stumble upon wonders when we are least expecting them, tripping right over things before realizing that we have found something astonishing.

The root form is Serendip, an old name for Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) hailing from the Arabic Sarandib, then the Tamil Seren deevu or Sanskrit  Suvarnadweepa meaning "golden island", possibly related to Simhaladvipa meaning, "Dwelling-Place-of-Lions Island". If so, the origins of serendipity go back a very long way indeed, for the only lions on the island were extinct long before modern man arrived, and little evidence of them ever been found.

The adjective form has been around since 1754 when Horace Walpole used it in a letter to a friend, explaining that he had derived it from an old Persian fairytale called "The Three Princes of Serendip". The three royal gentlemen in that tale were on a quest and always finding things they were not looking for and had no need of.  Walpole was making an important point in his letter - that a fey and subtle wisdom is often at work in serendipitous situations, a canny ability to see relationships between ostensibly irrelevant facts and come to important conclusions from them.

Serendipity seemed like the perfect word for this week. Sighting a Great Egret (Ardea alba) standing up to its knees in the Carp river was a local first (for me anyway). I have seen these magnificent birds further south, but they are summer casuals this far north, and I had never seen one this close to home.  I wasn't looking for an egret, but I so needed to see one, and there it was.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Thursday Poem - At the road's turning, a sign

Stranger, you have reached a fabulous land—
in winter, the abode of swans,
magnolia buds and black leaves
secretly feeding the earth—
memory snaked into tree roots.

In spring, you will feel life changes
bubble up in your blood like early wine,
and your heart will be lighter than
the flight of gossamer pollen.

Stranger, in summer, you will drink deeply
of a curious local wine,
fortified with herbs cut with a silver knife
when the moon was new.
Who knows what freedoms
will dazzle your path like fireflies?

And I promise you, in the fall
you will give up the search and know peace
in the fragrance of apple wood burning.
You will learn how to accept love
in all its masks, and the universe
will sing here more sweetly than any other place.

Dolores Stewart Riccio
(from The Nature of Things)

My friend Dolores passed away unexpectedly last weekend.  and I am still trying to wrap my mind around her departure. A gifted author and a fine poet, she walked through this world cherishing its innate abundance and wildness, and she loved it fiercely. Lit from within, she blazed with life and passion, and somewhere beyond the here and the now, she is still alight.  I have to remember that.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Wordless Wednesday - The Red Empress

Red Trillium (Trillium erectum)

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

On the Edge, Precariously

Hoping for a little sunlight and thinking wistfully about blooming waterlilies, she lays hands on her hip waders and her canvas helmet with its arty mosquito netting, then dons her tatty old photographer's vest.

Feeling (albeit briefly) like a hero in an old African movie, perhaps Katherine Hepburn in The African Queen, she potters hopefully off to the beaver pond with a camera slung around her neck and her pockets full of lenses and filters.  Spencer, ever a fan of ponds, shorelines, reeds and lovely, dark, squishy mud, potters along at her side.  Did I mention that one pocket in the vest is full of doggy biscuits? Shhhhhhhh, she is not supposed to be wobbling precariously about on such an uneven shoreline.  She is not supposed to be carrying a camera. Come to think of it, she is not supposed to be here at all. Losing her balance and falling (most inelegantly) right into the pond is a definite possibility.

There is no sunshine in her favorite place, just veils of drifting fog, a web of dreaming trees on the far shore, gently rustling reeds and quiet ripples around the toes of my rubber footwear. A single heron stands at the far end of the pond like a statue, and we can see it vaguely, but the great bird declines to be recorded on a memory card and floats majestically off into the mist.  Occasionally, there is the quacking of unseen ducks, the slow lap of beavers swimming somewhere nearby, a sonorous chorus of horn-throated frogs improvising melodies among the reeds, bulrushes, and other watery grasses.

The place is nebulous and ethereal and perfect in every way.  Who needs sunlight and waterlilies on such a morning as this? Ponderings about health issues, the meaning of life and my relevance in the greater scheme of things simply seem to fall away.  Weeks or months or years from now, I will look at the morning's photos and (hopefully) remember how magical this soggy, foggy May morning was.

quiet pond
dog jumps in
splash

(with apologies to Matsuo Basho)

Monday, May 22, 2017

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Sunday - Saying Yes to the World

Ten times a day something happens to me like this - some strengthening throb of amazement - some good empathic ping and swell.

This is the first, the wildest and wisest thing I know: that the soul exists and is built entirely out of attentiveness.

Mary Oliver