Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Tuesday, February 21, 2017
A vaguely restless time, these last weeks of February. At night, there are dreams of wild orchids, trout lilies and columbines, sunlight filtering through the trees and songbirds caroling in the leafy canopy. In the wee hours of the morning, I wander the leafy understory, follow clouds across the western field, harken to bullfrogs in the beaver pond, bees in the wild apple trees by the fence.
By day, I measure icicles dangling from the roof, assess the strength of returning sunlight and the length of shadows in the landscape, watch as snowdrifts recede from favorite trails through the woods, leaving puffs of snow like cotton wool and a fine lacy fretwork behind as they go. Moving along, I find myself listening for the telltale sound of maple sap dripping sotto voce down tree trunks.
... and the birds. That gentle hoot is the unforgettable call of a Great Horned Owl (bubo virginianis) communicating with her mate - he is sitting on their nest in the old oak as she hunts nearby. Other monotonous (and repetitive) notes are the swooping courtship ballad of the Saw-Whet Owl (aegolius acadicus), that fierce little harbinger of the approaching maple sugaring season.
It is a few minutes before two in the morning as I tap this paragraph out. The waning crescent moon will not make its appearance for another hour or so, but there are other wonders to be viewed through the kitchen window as I hang out there with a mug of herbal tea. Planet Jupiter is high in the inkiness of the southern sky, and Spica, the brightest star in the constellation Virgo, dances almost directly below it along the ecliptic. The panorama is dazzling, and I forget the pain that woke me up an hour ago. The thought makes me smile.
Rambles are brief by necessity this winter, but I take them whenever I can. Snowy trees, tiny red buds and artfully frosted grasses beckon as I lurch about with field notebook and camera; light flickers through the bare trees and slants across my path. All my restlessness vanishes like smoke, and I rest easy in the moment, content just to be here and watching the day unfold. The particular feeling is a late winter Zen thing, and it is always an honored guest on the threshold.
Sunday, February 19, 2017
We are of the animal world. We are part of the cycles of growth and decay. Even having tried so hard to see ourselves apart, and so often without a love for even our own biology, we are in relationship with the rest of the planet, and that connectedness tells us we must reconsider the way we see ourselves and the rest of nature.
A change is required of us, a healing of the betrayed trust between humans and earth. Caretaking is the utmost spiritual and physical responsibility of our time, and perhaps that stewardship is finally our place in the web of life, our work, our solution to the mystery of what we are.
Linda Hogan, from Dwelling: A Spiritual History of the Living World
Friday, February 17, 2017
Beyond the window is an ocean of deep, pillowy white that goes on forever and ever. Weary of ice and snow, she longs to have her morning tea on the veranda, but she knows that she will not be doing that for months. Given the snowfall this winter, we may not see the garden until the end of April. A little bright color right about now would be grand, and it would vastly appreciated too.
While pottering about in a local organic market, a tin bucket of tulips catches her eye, and she scoops up a large bunch in assorted colors, carrying them home in her arthritic paws as tenderly as if they were fledgling birds. The pinks, purples and yellows are fine stuff, but the scarlets are nothing short of amazing - they are attention grabbers of the first order.
Arrayed in an old glass vase (a flea market find from last summer), the glossy blooms and bright green leaves don't just light up the day - they light up just about everything else too. A single bloom would be enough, but a whole bouquet is almost indecently sumptuous.
She resolves to keep a cauldron, a pot, a tin, a bucket, a tankard or a vase of something flowering near the southern window. She thinks about how beautiful a single rose will look there come summer, and it seems to her that this is not just about a vase of tulips or a single rose, but about all the boundless gardens of the earth coming into riotous intoxicating bloom.
Thursday, February 16, 2017
The rising hills, the slopes,
lie before us.
The steep climb
of everything, going up,
up, as we all
In the next century
or the one beyond that
are valleys, pastures,
we can meet there in peace
if we make it.
To climb these coming crests
one word to you, to
you and your children:
learn the flowers,
Gary Snyder, from Turtle Island
Wednesday, February 15, 2017
Tuesday, February 14, 2017
"In our life there is a single color, as on an artist's palette, which provides the meaning of life and art. It is the color of love."
Morning light comes slowly on these middling pages in February days, beginning with a diffused blush on the horizon, then an intensely magenta sky and rosy clouds high over the bare trees. Flamboyant coppery gold dances through everything, the burnished glow flowing like honey over the village. Frosted trees, chimneys and snowy rooflines are silhouetted against the early radiance, and they contribute their own, more rooted glow to the day that is just coming into being.
These are my "stained glass hours", and they have illustrious crafted kindred; the rose window of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, the panels of Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris, the work of Louis Comfort Tiffany. Then there are the glorious creations of Marc Chagall: his paintings of the biblical Song of Songs, the windows (especially the Reuben window) depicting the Twelve Tribes of Israel he designed for the synagogue of Jerusalem's Hadassah Medical Centre, the commemorative windows he created as a memorial for young Sarah d'Avigdor-Goldsmith in tiny All Saints Church, Tudeley, Kent.
Compelled for some reason to be up and about before the light show starts, I find a seat by the window and partake of the abundance. I bring a mug of tea, a heavy shawl and the camera. Chagall often seemed to be seeing the beauty of the earth through stained glass, and wrapped up in morning's jeweled colors, I seem to be doing something similar. Mother Nature and Chagall are true artists though - I am just a doddering observer, training my lens on the high perfect light of morning and floundering for words to describe it all. How many lifetimes does it take to get this "stuph" right?
Happy Valentine's Day everyone!