Sunday, November 28, 2021

Sunday, Saying Yes to the World

The great affair, the love affair with life, is to live as variously as possible, to groom one's curiosity like a high-spirited thoroughbred, climb aboard, and gallop over the thick, sun-struck hills every day. Where there is no risk, the emotional terrain is flat and unyielding, and, despite all its dimensions, valleys, pinnacles, and detours, life will seem to have none of its magnificent geography, only a length. It began in mystery, and it will end in mystery, but what a savage and beautiful country lies in between.
Diane Ackerman, A Natural History of the Senses

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Friday, November 26, 2021

Welcoming the Sun Home

Herons, geese and loons have departed for warmer climes, and waterways in the eastern Ontario highlands are slowly freezing over. Temperatures hover a little below freezing, and skies are grey and cloudy for the most part. On our early morning rambles, puddles along the trail are rimed with ice, and fallen leaves crunch pleasingly under our feet. Near home, a north wind rattles the eaves of the little blue house in the village, setting the whiskery trees nearby in raspy motion too.

When night falls and skies are cloudy, I pull draperies closed and shut out the gloom beyond the windows, taking refuge and much pleasure in small seasonal rites. I light scented candles, brew pots of tea and stir mugs of hot chocolate, experiment with recipes for curries and paellas, sketch and read. I plot gardens for next year (more roses and herbs, perhaps a Medicine Wheel garden), craft grand and fabulous schemes which will probably never see the light of day. I do a little dancing from time to time, but my efforts are closer to lurching than they are to anything else.

Hallelujah, we are nearing the end of November, and in a few weeks, days will begin to lengthen again. It will be some time until we notice a real difference, but at least we will be on our way, and for that reason, Yule just may be my favorite day in the whole turning year. When the winter solstice arrives, there will be celebrations and silliness, candles, music and mulled cider to drive away the darkness and welcome old Helios back to the world. He is still here of course - it's the earth's seasonal wobble that makes him seem more distant than he actually is at this time of the year.  We and our planet are the ones in motion, not the magnificent star at the center of our universe.

Beginning Sunday night and continuing until Yule, I will light a candle at dusk in a practice called the Advent Sun Wheel Circle, four weeks and four candles, a fifth festive candle to be lit on the eve of the Winter Solstice. Now in its seventeenth year, the observance was crafted by the late Helen Farias, founder of the Beltane Papers. Helen passed beyond the fields we know in 1994, and her creation was carried on, first by Waverly Fitzgerald and since 2004 by Beth Owl's Daughter. Waverly passed away in December 2019, but I think she will be with us in spirit. She always is.

On Sunday night, I will join a circle of wise women and kindred spirits in far flung places in doing this thing, companions like Beth, Joanna Powell Colbert and many others. I am not so wise myself, but that is quite all right. Together we will honor the earth and her fruitful darkness, and we will welcome the sun home with warm thoughts and healing energies. This has been a difficult year. May there be light ahead for all of us.

One needs only a wreath and five candles to participate in this observance. At sunset on Sunday, light the first candle in your wreath and spend a little time in quiet reflection, then blow out the candle when you are done. On the following Sunday at sunset, light the first candle and a second candle too... and so on and so on until the Winter Solstice when the fifth and last candle of the ritual is lit. 

Magpie creature that I am and ever a passionate collector of seasonal lore, I am very interested in your own "before Yule" practices.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Thursday Poem - Thanksgiving

I have been trying to read
the script cut in these hills—
a language carved in the shimmer of stubble
and the solid lines of soil, spoken
in the thud of apples falling
and the rasp of corn stalks finally bare.
The pheasants shout it with a rusty creak
as they gather in the fallen grain,
the blackbirds sing it
over their shoulders in parting,
and gold leaf illuminates the manuscript
where it is written in the trees.
Transcribed onto my human tongue
I believe it might sound like a lullaby,
or the simplest grace at table.
Across the gathering stillness
simply this: “For all that we have received,
dear God, make us truly grateful.”

Lynn Ungar from Blessing the Bread

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Monday, November 22, 2021

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Sunday, Saying Yes to the World

Once there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains. You could see them standing in the amber current where the white edges of their fins wimpled softly in the flow. They smelled of moss in your hand. Polished and muscular and torsional. On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again. In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery.

Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Friday, November 19, 2021

Friday Ramble - Morning in Bloom

Skies are leaden, and a fine murk wraps the village in its embrace. This is one of those November mornings when the village seems to be dancing (or skating) on the edge of the world and the weather and is not quite sure which season it belongs to.
Adjectives like dark and sunless are evocative, but there are better words for and about such intervals: bosky, caliginous, cloudy, crepuscular, dark, dim, drab, dusky, gloomy, murky, nebulous, obfuscous, obscure, opaque, overcast, shadowy, somber, stygian, sunless, tenebrous, twilighted, umbral, vague, wintry.

What to do? With no light to speak of, this is not a good morning for wandering about with camera and peripherals, so far anyway. When Beau and I went out a few minutes ago, a cold raw wind teased the backs of our necks, and the matter of a longer morning walk was put aside for now. My furry son trotted back into the bedroom and curled up on the quilt in my warm spot.

Inside the little blue house, I pull out a canister of Chinese flower tea, then brew up a glass pot full. As the dried blooms take in liquid and open out, the kitchen is filled with floral perfume, and home is summery all over again. The contents of pot and cup are almost too arty to drink, and I take picture after picture.

There is a stack of arty books to prowl through, a little Mozart on the CD player, a candle redolent of spruce trees in the Lanark highlands on winter mornings, a box of art pens in Mediterranean shades to play with. There will be cookies or scones this morning, and for dinner this evening, there will be something that sings and dances on the tongue. There is room at the old oak table for everyone, and there are plenty of chairs. There are enough mugs and cups to go around too. On days like this, one simply does whatever she can do to light things up, and such small rituals are comforting.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Thursday Poem - Sometimes I Am Startled Out of Myself

like this morning, when the wild geese came squawking,
flapping their rusty hinges, and something about their trek
across the sky made me think about my life, the places
of brokenness, the places of sorrow, the places where grief
has strung me out to dry. And then the geese come calling,
the leader falling back when tired, another taking her place.
Hope is borne on wings. Look at the trees. They turn to gold
for a brief while, then lose it all each November.
Through the cold months, they stand, take the worst
weather has to offer. And still, they put out shy green leaves
come April, come May. The geese glide over the cornfields,
land on the pond with its sedges and reeds.
You do not have to be wise. Even a goose knows how to find
shelter, where the corn still lies in the stubble and dried stalks.
All we do is pass through here, the best way we can.
They stitch up the sky, and it is whole again.

Barbara Crooker, from Radiance

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Monday, November 15, 2021

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Sunday - Saying Yes to the World

The true language of these worlds opens from the heart of a story that is being shared between species. For us to be restored to the fabric of this Earth, we are bidden to enter this tale once again through its many modes of telling, to listen through the ears of others to the mystery of creation, with its continually changing patterns, and to take part once again in the integral weave of the narrative. Might we not hear our true names if we learn to listen through the ears of Others? Through language, one can exchange one's self with other beings and in this way establish an ever-widening circle of existence.

Joan Halifax, The Fruitful Darkness

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Friday, November 12, 2021

Friday Ramble - Sixteen Years and Onward

On Sunday morning, clocks in the little blue house in the village turned back an hour, and Daylight Saving Time waved goodbye until next year. The departure of DST also marked sixteen years of pottering about in cyberspace, sixteen long years of logging on in the morning, posting an image or two and sometimes muttering along for a few paragraphs, occasionally spilling coffee on the keyboard. There are times when I can't believe I had the cheek to set this "book of days" up in the first place, let alone do the blogging thing faithfully for sixteen years in a row. There are other times when I look at stuff I posted here years ago and am appalled. Yuck.

However lacking they are, and they are certainly that, these are my morning (or artist) pages, and chances are they will remain pretty much as they are in the coming year. There may be a bit of font and banner tinkering now and again, but that is all. I don't foresee any significant changes to this place, and I expect blogging life will simply go on as it has been doing so far, photos and scribblings and bits of poetry.

To say the last year has been rather difficult is an understatement and then some. In late November of 2019, my soulmate passed away after a ferocious battle with pancreatic cancer, and life without him is still rough going. I can't even begin to express how much I loved the man (and still do), how much I still miss him. Within a few months of Irv's passing, several dear friends also passed away from cancer, and I miss them too. Most of the time, I feel as though I am just clinging to the wreckage and paddling frantically to stay afloat. Thank goodness for family, for sisters of the heart, for cherished friends and darling Beau. I could not have gotten here without them, without all of you.

Big life stuff notwithstanding, it's a fine thing to be here and all wrapped up in what we call simply, "the Great Round". Some times are easier than others, but Beau and I go rambling with a notebook and camera every day. At times, I just tuck the Samsung S21 cell phone in my coat pocket, and off we go, collars turned up against the wind. We wander along at our own pace, conversing with the great maples and the beech mothers, watching their leaves dance in the autumn woods, feasting our eyes on the sun going down like a ball of fire over the river, on skies alight with winter stars and lustrous moons that seem almost close enough to reach up and touch. My departed love is always with us in spirit, resting easy in the pocket of my tatty old jacket - he loved rambling and was usually the first person out the door.

The road goes ever on, and there is magic everywhere if we have the eyes to see it, the wits to acknowledge it, the grace and humility and plain old human decency to show respect and say thank you. The small adventures of our journeying will continue to make their way here and get spilled out on the computer screen mornings with a bad photo or two and a whole rucksack of wonder. The world is a breathtakingly beautiful place, and I am starting to realize that sometimes an image says everything that needs to be said, all by itself, no words needed from this Old Thing. Mary Oliver says it best:

The years to come – this is a promise –
will grant you ample time

to try the difficult steps in the empire of thought
where you seek for the shining proofs you think you must have.

But nothing you ever understand will be sweeter, or more binding,
than this deep affinity between your eyes and the world.

(excerpt from Terns)

In another poem called It Was Early, she wrote that sometimes one needs only to stand wherever she is to be blessed, and that is something I keep in mind as Beau and I are tottering about. Thank you for your kind thoughts and healing energies, your comments and cards and letters, for journeying along with me this year. You are treasured more than you know, and if my fingers were working, I would write each and every one of you. Alas, they are not. Be well, my friends. Be peaceable. Be happy.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

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

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Tuesday, November 09, 2021

Monday, November 08, 2021

Sunday, November 07, 2021

Sunday - Saying Yes to the World dreams are essential to the psyche, so wildness is to life.

We are animal in our blood and in our skin. We were not born for pavements and escalators but for thunder and mud. More. We are animal not only in body but in spirit. Our minds are the minds of wild animals. Artists, who remember their wildness better than most, are animal artists, lifting their heads to sniff a quick wild scent in the air, and they know it unmistakably, they know the tug of wildness to be followed through your life is buckled by that strange and absolute obedience. ('You must have chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star,' wrote Nietzsche.) Children know it as magic and timeless play. Shamans of all sorts and inveterate misbehavers know it; those who cannot trammel themselves into a sensible job and life in the suburbs know it.

What is wild cannot be bought or sold, borrowed or copied. It is. Unmistakeable, unforgettable, unshamable, elemental as earth and ice, water, fire and air, a quintessence, pure spirit, resolving into no constituents. Don't waste your wildness: it is precious and necessary.

Jay Griffiths, Wild: An Elemental Journey

Saturday, November 06, 2021

Friday, November 05, 2021

Friday Ramble - Going for Gold

And so it goes... Many trees in the Lanark highlands have already lost their leaves and fallen asleep in their leaf-strewn alcoves, but others are just starting to turn now. Still others hold their turning in abeyance until the end of November, sometimes even later. We are always happy to see such steadfast creatures on our rambles. The same is true in the village where oaks, buckthorns, ashes and gingkos are putting on a splendid show at the moment. There is one red oak tree a few blocks from home that leaves us breathless every time we round a corner and see her dancing with the wind.

Whole hillsides of lacy tamarack in the highlands have gone gold, and their brilliant foliage dazzles the eyes. When I think of their splendor in the depths of winter, the memory will leave me close to tears and hankering for a long November trip on foot into the forests north of Lake Superior. It is a little late for that, but perhaps next year.

Butternut trees in the hills are the first to drop their leaves, but the great oaks along the trail into the deep woods retain their bronzey leaves well into winter, and native beeches are still wearing a delightful coppery hue. One of our favorite old sugar maples puts on a magnificent golden performance at this time of the year, and we attend her one woman show with pleasure. When in her clearing, we thank her for brightening what is often a subdued and rather monochromatic interval in the turning of the seasons.

It has been a windy autumn, and we were delighted to learn this week that the north wind has not stripped Maple's leaves and left her standing bare and forlorn on the hill with her sisters. It (the wind, that is) has been doing its best, but the tree is standing her ground and clinging to her leafy garments. I would be "over the moon" if I could photograph or paint something even the smallest scrip as grand and elemental and graceful as Maple is creating in her alcove. Every curve and branch and burnished dancing leaf is a wonder, and the blue sky is a perfect counterpoint.

Writing this, I remembered that as well as being an archaic term for a miniscule scrap or fraction of something, the word scrip also describes a small wallet or pouch once carried by pilgrims and seekers. That seems fitting for our ramble in the woods and our breathless standing under Maple in all her golden glory. Oh to belong to the woodland sisterhood of tree and leaf...

Thursday, November 04, 2021

Thursday Poem - Treading the Gate

Approach the gate as a pilgrim, a seeker,
wear sturdy boots for the craggy trail beyond.
Go cloaked and hooded against the wind,
blackthorn staff and lantern in your hand,
an abundance of candles in your pack
for the dusky nightfall hours ahead.

Bring gifts and votive offerings for those who
dwell beyond the ancient threshold, bundles of sage,
clear water, kindling, earth and seaborn salt.
Bring flasks of tea, incense and bread,
tales and laughter to share around the fire
with those you meet along the way.

Travel light and make your journey by the moon,
taking the owls, true kindred, as your fierce
and tender companions. Feel their soft breath
along your own wings, share in their dark
and watchful wisdom as you go.

Let the songs you sing as you are questing
be your own sweet music, and the stories
you spin by the fire in the nights ahead be the
narratives of your own wild and shining life,
this journey into an unknown land.

Listen to the night and be content, for you are not alone—
around you is a vast and singing throng.
The very stars are singing with you as you go.

Catherine Kerr (me)

Wednesday, November 03, 2021

Tuesday, November 02, 2021

Monday, November 01, 2021

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Happy Samhain/Halloween

Merry Samhain, Happy Halloween, bright blessings to you and all your clan. Happy New Year, Bliadhna Mhath √ôr, Calan Gaeaf. May your jack-o-lanterns glow brightly tonight, and throngs of tiny costumed guests come to your threshold.
May your home be a place of warmth and light, and your hearth a haven from scary things that go bump in the night. May there be laughter and merriment at your door, music, good cheer and fellowship in abundance.

May all good things come to you at this turning of the Wheel.

Saturday, October 30, 2021