Sunday, March 26, 2023

Sunday, Saying Yes to the World

Whatever has happened, whatever is going to happen in the world, it is the living moment that contains the sum of the excitement, this moment in which we touch life and all the energy of the past and future. Here is all the developing greatness of the dream of the world, the pure flash of momentary imagination, the vision of life lived outside of triumph or defeat, in continual triumph and defeat, in the present, alive. All the crafts of subtlety, all the effort, all the loneliness and death, the thin and blazing threads of reason, the spill of blessing, the passion behind these silences — all the invention turns to one end: the fertilizing of the moment, so that there may be more life.

Muriel Rukeyser 

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Friday, March 24, 2023

Friday Ramble - On Our Way

Beyond our windows this morning are clouds, drifting fog and a forlorn copse of skeletal maples and ashes doing their best to put out leaves, catkins and flowers. Alas, springtime is late this year, and the tree people have a long way to go before they leaf out, but stouthearted wights that they are, they are working on it.

In the street, a west wind cavorts in gutters, ruffles dead leaves and other detritus like playing cards. It eases around the corner of the little blue house in the village and sets the copper wind bells on the deck in exuberant motion. So ardent is the wind's caress that sometimes the bells are almost parallel to the ground.

The air is warmer than the ground below, and the meeting of the two elements stirs up something cobwebby, diaphanous and magical. Somewhere in the early murk, a few robins sing their pleasure, and a woodpecker (probably a pileated from the volume of its hammering) drives its formidable beak into an old birch. Now and again, he (or possibly she) pauses, takes a few deep breaths and gives an unfettered laugh that carries for quite a distance. Even a bird in the fog, it seems, knows the value of taking a break from its work now and again, just breathing in and out for a minute or two and giving voice to a cackle of pleasure and raucous amusement.

I can't see either the caroling robins or my whomping woodpecker, but that is all right. Their voices are welcome musical elements in a morning that is all about the nebulous, the wondrous, the mysterious and unseen.

In the kitchen, coffee is in progress and and a little Mozart (The Magic Flute) fills the air, but something more is needed. Miracle of miracles, the first crocus are up in the protected south corner of a neighbor's garden. The little dears are lit from within, and I swear, they could light up the whole village.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Thursday Poem - Become Becoming

Wait for evening.
Then you'll be alone.

Wait for the playground to empty.
Then call out those companions from childhood:

The one who closed his eyes
and pretended to be invisible.
The one to whom you told every secret.
The one who made a world of any hiding place.

And don't forget the one who listened in silence
while you wondered out loud:

Is the universe an empty mirror? A flowering tree?
Is the universe the sleep of a woman?

Wait for the sky's last blue
(the color of your homesickness).

Then you'll know the answer.

Wait for the air's first gold (that color of Amen).
Then you'll spy the wind's barefoot steps.

Then you'll recall that story beginning
with a child who strays in the woods.

The search for him goes on in the growing
shadow of the clock.

And the face behind the clock's face
is not his father's face.

And the hands behind the clock's hands
are not his mother's hands.

All of Time began when you first answered
to the names your mother and father gave you.

Soon, those names will travel with the leaves.
Then, you can trade places with the wind.

Then you'll remember your life
as a book of candles,
each page read by the light of its own burning.

Li-Young Lee
(from Behind My Eyes)

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Pussy Willow Time Again

Pussy Willow (Salix discolor)

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Sunday, Saying Yes to the World

We have been carrying on two parallel conversations, one about respecting human diversity, the other about preserving natural diversity. Unless we merge those conversations, both will be futile. Our efforts to honor human differences cannot succeed apart from our effort to honor the buzzing, blooming, bewildering variety of life of earth. All life rises from the same source, and so does all fellow feeling, whether the fellow moves on two legs or four, on scaly bellies or feathered wings. If we care only for human needs, we betray the land; if we care only for the earth and its wild offspring, we betray our own kind. The profusion of creatures and cultures is the most remarkable fact about our planet, and the study and stewardship of that profusion seems to me our fundamental task.

Scott Russell Sanders

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Friday, March 17, 2023

Friday Ramble Before Ostara

Next Monday marks the Vernal Equinox or Ostara, one of two times in the calendar year (the other being the Autumn Equinox or Mabon) when the Earth and her unruly children hover in perfect balance for a brief interval. Humans had nothing to do with this day - it's a pivotal astronomic point ordained by the heavens, by the natural order of things in this magnificent cosmos where we live out our days, spinning like tops in the Great Round of space and time.

If I lived further south, Monday might be a time of greening and enchantment, a day when Eostre, the old Teutonic goddess of greening and fertility, wanders wild places with her arms full of spring blooms. Flowers would spring up in her footsteps as she passed, and she would be attended by hares, her special animal. The air would be filled with birdsong, the heady fragrance of rich dark earth and wild springtime herbs.

Alas, the only snowdrops blooming here at the moment are in a glass jar in my study. It will be several weeks until Lady Spring makes an appearance in the northern landscape, but rumors of her imminent presence and the arrival of the greening season persist. It has been a long winter this time around, and Eostre can't show up too soon for me. Our winter birds feel the same and are proclaiming their craving for warmth and light. Every feathered visitor to our sleeping garden seems to be declaring its lofty status as a messenger from the sacred, a harbinger of abundance and new life.

Early this morning, Beau and I went outside into the garden for a few minutes, and a cold going it was. As we shivered in the star spangled darkness and looked up, it seemed to us that March's full moon (now a waning scrap) bears more than a passing resemblance to a great cosmic egg, a perfect expression of this turning of the wheel with its verdant motifs of warmth, light and new life coming into being.

There will be blooming in our thoughts on Monday, but it will be too cold for outdoor celebrations, and it will be very dark - the moon will be only a day past new on Tuesday. We will spend a few minutes outside looking at the stars, and perhaps we will light a celebratory candle on the deck, but the festivities will be indoors for the most part.  All are welcome at the table, and there are enough chairs and mugs to go around. See you there.

Happy St. Patrick's Day, Irish or not! 

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Tobar Phadric (for St. Patrick's Day)

Turn sideways into the light as they say
the old ones did and disappear
into the originality of it all.

Be impatient with easy explanations
and teach that part of the mind
that wants to know everything
not to begin questions it cannot answer.

Walk the green road above the bay
and the low glinting fields
toward the evening sun, let that Atlantic
gleam be ahead of you and the gray light
of the bay below you, until you catch,
down on your left, the break in the wall,
for just above in the shadows
you’ll find it hidden, a curved arm
of rock holding the water close to the mountain,
a just-lit surface smoothing a scattering of coins,
and in the niche above, notes to the dead
and supplications for those who still live.

But for now, you are alone with the transfiguration
and ask no healing for your own
but look down as if looking through time,
as if through a rent veil from the other
side of the question you’ve refused to ask.

And you remember now, that clear stream
of generosity from which you drank,
how as a child your arms could rise and your palms
turn out to take the blessing of the world.

David Whyte (from River Flow)

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Crocus Thoughts

Winter's continued presence in the village and the woods of the eastern Ontario highlands is not entirely unforeseen — one can reasonably expect the long white season to lurk in the shadows and make surprise appearances until late April at the earliest, sometimes well into May. I remember a not so long ago year when a killing frost wiped out our newborn veggie patch on the first day of June. 

When winter finally retreats, the woods green up rapidly, and within a short time the whole forest is carpeted in bloodroot, trilliums, trout lilies and Dutchman's breeches, the tiny blooms of spring beauty and wood violets. No quiet and subtle entrance here for Lady Spring, but a triumphant fanfare, running footsteps, an explosion of shaggy green leafage and a riotous profusion of blooms bursting forth, almost within minutes.

Last night in my sleep I wandered along in a cloud of wildflowers and lacy green ferns, listened to a throng of rose-breasted grosbeaks singing in the overstory, watched an osprey hunting over the Clyde river. (Sigh) early days yet. My dreams will have to sustain me for another several weeks—at present the woods are a realm of deep snow and inky blue shadows, and so they will remain for quite a while.

There are gardening catalogues all over the house, and I dream of putting my hands in the good dark earth of the garden again, but the place is still three (four in places) feet deep in snow. For now, potted tulips and crocus thoughts will have to do.

Monday, March 13, 2023

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Sunday, Saying Yes to the World

One human life is deeper than the ocean. Strange fishes and sea-monsters and mighty plants live in the rock-bed of our spirits. The whole of human history is an undiscovered continent deep in our souls. There are dolphins, plants that dream, magic birds inside us. The sky is inside us. The earth is in us.

Ben Okri, The Famished Road

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Friday, March 10, 2023

Friday Ramble - Melt

This week's word has been around since before 900, coming to us through the Middle English melten, Old English meltan, mealt and gemæltan all meaning to liquify and (or) digest. It is cognate with the Old Norse melta and Greek méldein meaning the same thing, then the Proto Germanic meltanan and West Saxon gemyltan meaning "to make liquid". At the end of our wordy explorations is the Proto Indo-European (PIE) root meld meaning "softness" or "to render soft". The study of word origins is a fine thing.

Strange as it may seem, the word malt is also kin to this week’s ramble offering. In the malting process, barley is soaked, softened and drained to release enzymes used in brewing beer, and the result is called malt (or wort). The curious relation between melt and malt can be explained simply by the fact that both involve softening. On the other hand, the verb meld "to dissolve, blend or mingle" originates in the Old High German melden, "to announce" and the Old English meldian, "to make known", and it is not kin. The term is used mainly in card games, particularly canasta.

In recent days, we have watched hopefully as icicles dangling from the eaves of the little blue house in the village melted away, little by little, jewel by glittering jewel. We grow some fabulous icicles up here, and a favorite springtime exercise is wandering about with the camera and photographing them as they dwindle at their lofty moorings, become skinny and then disappear into the earth, drop by shining drop.

In the icy wands dangling over my head and suspended in the melting streams below my restless feet are worlds great and small and too numerous to imagine. The world around us and its multitudes of microscopic universes are complete within themselves and teeming with life, science and enchantment, all wrapped up together and happy with the arrangement.

Sometimes melting ice holds the doddering photographer and her camera. At other times, it is filled with sky, clouds, bare trees and tiny sprigs of emerging green, all expressions of this incandescently changing season. The Old Wild Mother (Earth)'s creations are finer "stuff" than I shall ever be able to dream up. I just wander around and chronicle her doings with lens and notebook.

Thursday, March 09, 2023

Thursday Poem - Another Spring

The seasons revolve and the years change
With no assistance or supervision.
The moon, without taking thought,
Moves in its cycle, full, crescent, and full.

The white moon enters the heart of the river;
The air is drugged with azalea blossoms;
Deep in the night a pine cone falls;
Our campfire dies out in the empty mountains.

The sharp stars flicker in the tremulous branches;
The lake is black, bottomless in the crystalline night;
High in the sky the Northern Crown
Is cut in half by the dim summit of a snow peak.

O heart, heart, so singularly
Intransigent and corruptible,
Here we lie entranced by the starlit water,
And moments that should each last forever

Slide unconsciously by us like water.

Kenneth Rexroth

Wednesday, March 08, 2023

Tuesday, March 07, 2023

Monday, March 06, 2023

Sunday, March 05, 2023

Sunday, Saying Yes to the World

.. an artist has to remind herself or himself, in other words, that when you write or paint or compose music, you draw in mysterious ways on the courtesy and genius of the community. It is this sensitivity to gifts welling up unbidden, this awareness of the fate of the community, no matter how ego-driven or self-absorbed a writer or artist might become, and no matter how singular the work, that divides art from commerce.

In traditional communities all over the world, this ethic of communal reciprocity, in my experience, is what separates acts of selfishness from the work of leadership. The role of the artist, in part, is to develop the conversations, the stories, the drawings, the films, the music—the expressions of awe and wonder and mystery—that remind us, especially in our worst times, of what is still possible, of what we haven't yet imagined. And it is by looking to one another, by attending to the responsibilities of maintaining good relations in whatever we do, that communities turn a gathering darkness into light.

Barry Lopez

Saturday, March 04, 2023

Friday, March 03, 2023

Friday Rambles - Stirring Things Up

A cold morning, motes of sunlight scattering like stars in the cold air, an icy wind that goes right to the bones and makes a valiant effort to flash freeze one's whole metabolism. Underwhelming to say the least, and I am not alone in my disgruntlement. When I tried to entice Beau into going outside a few minutes ago, he peered out into the garden, gave me a filthy look, turned his back on the door and trotted back to bed.

At times like these, culinary offerings from faraway places go dancing through one's sconce, clattering their cymbals and shaking their tambourines in the pantry. The opening gambit is an espresso strong enough to walk on and a lovely stack of cookbooks. This morning's selection includes the works below, but others will be added to the pile before I plunk myself down in the Morris chair to sip and ponder and scheme. 

At times like these, culinary offerings from faraway places go dancing through one's sconce, clattering their cymbals and shaking their tambourines in the pantry. The opening gambit is an espresso strong enough to walk on and a lovely stack of cookbooks. This morning's selection includes the works below, but others will be added to the pile before I plunk myself down in the Morris chair to sip and ponder and scheme. 

1000 Spanish Recipes, Penelope Casas

A Taste of Haid Gwaii: Food Gathering and Feasting at the Edge of the World, Susan Musgrave

Arabesque, Claudia Roden

The New Book of Middle Eastern Food, Claudia Roden

Mediterranean: Treasured Recipes from a Lifetime of Travel, Claudia Roden

Made In India, Meera Sodha

The Food of Morocco, Paula Wolfert

The Breath of a Wok, Grace Young 

Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge, Grace Young

Rebecca Katz's cookbooks are in a stack of their own. Dipping into them, I savor every mouthwatering recipe and vibrant image. All five are a treasure trove of information on using good food to battle cancer and get through chemotherapy, on maintaining a healthy mind and living a long and robust life. They are also a feast for body and soul. On days when I can't stand even looking at food, Rebecca's books delight the eyes and nudge my taste buds back to life.

It will be an Asian concoction this morning, something improvised, serendipity and redolent of aromatic spices. Whatever is stirred up will likely contain saffron or turmeric, perhaps pomegranate seeds, an anise star or two. Just seeing a dish of saffron threads always cheers me up.

The day's culinary adventures will conjure sunlight and warmth and comfort. All three are welcome on a day when one can't wander about with a camera for fear of going base over apex on sneaky ice, and her canine soulmate refuses to go out. There is an element of ritual to this morning's activities - perhaps my saffron threads and wishful stirrings will be noticed by Lady Spring wherever she is hiding. If not, the dazzling reds and oranges and yellows are almost indecently sumptuous, and they make my heart glad.

Happy March everyone!

Thursday, March 02, 2023

Thursday Poem - Return

Through the weeks of deep snow
we walked above the ground
on fallen sky, as though we did
not come of root and leaf, as though
we had only air and weather
for our difficult home.
But now
as March warms, and the rivulets
run like birdsong on the slopes,
and the branches of light sing in the hills,
slowly we return to earth.

Wendell Berry

Wednesday, March 01, 2023

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Small Openings

We have rung every possible seasonal weather change of late, the pendulum oscillating from snow and deep icy cold to rain and temperatures above zero, then back to subzero temperatures, snow and bitter winds. Yesterday there was a little sunlight, and it made my creaking bones and weary heart glad. This morning, it is snowing, and it will snow all day, lucky us. There are several centimetres of white stuff in the offing.

My neighbours have begun to inquire if my canine companion still lives here. Snow in the garden behind the house is so deep that they can't see Beau running around the circular track I keep shoveled out for him there. The walls of his makeshift twitten are almost four feet high, and he disappears from view completely when he is standing in it or galloping round and round in circles. Enough already.

Areas around the creek are sheltered from the north wind and blowing snow by embankments on both sides, by tall old trees in whiskery winter splendor. There are footprints along the creek's verges, the meandering tracks of birds and field mice, cottontail rabbits, now and then a raccoon. On this day, there were also the prints of a weasel, or ermine as it is known in winter when its fur turns white. Not surprising as the little creature is a fierce and very proficient mouser.

The diminutive tributary is blanketed with snow except for an opening near the bend where the water flows a little faster. In that small and hopeful aperture, the icy water sparkles, holding clouds and light and whiskery branches. It sings blithely of springtime and green things emerging from the earth, of wildflowers blooming and geese coming home. It counsels patience. Soon, it says, very, very soon.

Monday, February 27, 2023

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Sunday, Saying Yes to the world

What a wild ride this is. Spinning at six thousand miles per hour on a minuscule ball in a field of stars that stretches into millions of galaxies. Seriously, this is WILD.

Ralph Benmergui, from I Thought He Was Dead
(With thanks to Kate at Stubblejumpers Café)