Saturday, November 26, 2022

Friday, November 25, 2022

Friday Ramble - Winter

This week's word hails from the Old English *wintru and Proto-Germanic *wintruz, (also the source of Old Frisian, Old Saxon, Old High German, Scandinavian, Gothic and Old Norse forms). All probably mean "the wet season" since winter is usually the wettest season of the year. There are several different proposals as to the word's Proto-Indo-European (PIE) origins but the most common is that it is connected to *wed- or *wend- meaning "wet". There is also the hypothetical PIE form *gheim-" to consider.

Most cultures on this island earth have a word for winter, and it has a singular place in our thoughts, dancing dramatically in a stronger light than its other, more moderate kin. Those of us who live in the north tend to predicate our agricultural and culinary activities during spring, summer and autumn on making ready for the long white season.

Early Anglo-Saxons measured their calendar years from one winter to the next because of winter's ferocity. In Old Norse, the word etrardag was used to designate the first day of winter in the old calendar, usually the Saturday which fell between Oct. 10 and 16. Northern ancients were sure that the world as they knew it would come to an end after the most savage winter in history. In the Edda of Norse mythology, the fimbulvetr (mighty winter) precedes the twilight of the gods, their last battle with the frost giants (led by Loki) and the destruction of the earth.

For the Celts, winter began at Samhain (October 31) or All Hallows (November 1) and ended on Imbolc or Candlemas (February 1 or 2) when springtime arrived. The Winter Solstice on or about December 21 marked the longest night of the year, and it was a rowdy celebration. From that day onward, the light of the sun would return, a little more every day until the Summer Solstice in June. The legendary King Arthur was believed to have been born on the Winter Solstice in Castle Tintagel in Cornwall, and Druids sometimes refer to the Winter Solstice as Alban Arthuan ("The Light of Arthur").

It all comes down to cosmic balance. We owe the lineaments of our existence in the Great Round to a tilt in the earth's axis as it spins merrily in space. When winter reigns here in the north, the happy lands south of the equator are cavorting in summer, and I cling tenaciously to that thought in the depths of frozen January. Somewhere in the world, it is warm and sunny and sentient creatures are kicking up their heels in the light.

Winter is a time of darkness, rest and rebirth, but it gifts us with the most brilliantly blue skies of the calendar year by day, and the most spectacular stellar expanses by night. There is nothing to compare with the sun shining through frosted trees on a cold morning, with the sound of falling snow in the woods, with darknesses when the stars seem so close one can almost reach up and touch them. Winter star gazing is a chilly business, but one I would not miss for anything in the great wide world.

When winter begins, I think about moving further south, but it isn't going to happen. Instead, I pile up books and music for the long nights and accumulate tea. I stir curries, make bread and ponder the rows of jams and pickles in the household larder. I ready skis, snowshoes and boots for treks in the woods. My rambles will be brief again this winter, but I will still be taking them, and Beau will be with me every step of the way.

To know the north woods, one has to wander through them in winter, spend hours tracing the shapes of sleeping trees with eyes and lens. She has to listen to snow falling among them and perhaps become a tree herself.

Friday Ramble - Welcoming the Sun Home

Herons, geese and loons have departed, and waterways in the eastern Ontario highlands are freezing over. Temperatures are below freezing, and skies are grey and cloudy. On early morning rambles, puddles along the trail are iced over, 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, I pull draperies closed and shut out the gloom beyond the windows, taking refuge, comfort and great pleasure in small seasonal rites. I light scented candles, brew pots of tea, knead bread dough 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 every Sunday night 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 eighteenth 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 has been carried on, first by Waverly Fitzgerald and since 2004 by my friend, Beth Owl's Daughter. Waverly passed beyond the fields we know in December 2019, but I am sure she will be with us in spirit as we light our candles. She always is.

In touching match to candlewick, I join a circle of wise women and kindred spirits in far flung places, bright spirits 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 24, 2022

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 23, 2022

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

A Yule Reading List

This morning's post is a personal tradition of sorts, a list of written materials about the winter holiday season and the return of the light to our world. Many of these books are out of print, but they can sometimes be found in used book shops, and they are often happy campers in your local library. May they be a light in your window, a fire on your hearth conveying warmth, comfort and festive spirit this holiday season.

No Yule interval would be complete without reading Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising sequence again. The five books in the series are: Over Sea, Under Stone, The Dark is Rising, Greenwitch, The Grey King and Silver on the Tree. I usually reread John Masefield's Box of Delights, a favorite from my long ago childhood days, and at least four of my late friend Dolores Stewart Riccio's delightful Circle novels take place at (or near) Yule. I will be reading them again this year too. 

Christmas Folklore and Superstitions, A.R. Bane

The Oxford Book of Days, Bonnie Blackburn and Leofranc Holford-Strevens

Echoes of Magic: A Study of Seasonal Festivals through the Ages,
C.A. Burland

The Book of Christmas Folklore, Tristram Potter Coffin

Lights of Winter: Winter Celebrations Around the World,
Heather Conrad and DeForest Walker

Medieval Holidays and Festivals: A Calendar of Celebrations,
Madeleine Pelner Cosman

Christmas and Christmas Lore, T.G. Crippen

The Return of the Light: Twelve Tales from Around the World,
for the Winter Solstice, Carolyn McVickar Edwards

Christmas, A Biography, Cynthia Flanders

The Magic of the Winter Solstice: Seasonal Celebrations to Honour
Nature's Ever-turning Wheel, Danu Forest

A Calendar of Festivals: Traditional Celebrations, Songs,
Seasonal Recipes and Things to Make, Marian Green

The Sun in the Church: Cathedrals As Solar Observatories,
John L. Heilbron

Celebrate the Solstice: Honoring the Earth's Seasonal Rhythms
Through Festival and Ceremony, Richard Heinberg

Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain, Ronald Hutton

The Winter Solstice, Ellen Jackson

The Dance of Time: The Origins of the Calendar:A Miscellany of History and Myth, Religion and Astronomy, Festivals and Feast Days, Michael Judge

The Solstice Evergreen: History, Folklore and Origins of the Christmas Tree,
Sheryl Karas

Perpetual Almanack of Folklore, Charles Kightly

Sacred Celebrations: A Sourcebook, Glennie Kindred

Beyond the Blue Horizon: Myths and Legends of the Sun, Moon
Stars, and Planets, E.C. Krupp

The Ancient Celtic Festivals: and How We Celebrate Them Today,
Clare Walker Leslie and Frank E. Gerace

Celebrations Of Light : A Year of Holidays Around the World,
Nancy Luenn and Mark Bender (Illustrator)

Llewellyn's Little Book of Yule, Jason Mankey 

The Winter Solstice: The Sacred Traditions of Christmas,
John Matthews and Caitlin Matthews

Rituals of Celebration: Honoring the Seasons of Life Through the Wheel of the Year,
Jane Meredith

Christmas in Ritual and Tradition, Clement A. Miles

The Hedgewitch Book of Days, Spells Rituals and Recipes for the Magical Year,
Mandy Mitchell

Yule: A Celebration of Light and Warmth, Dorothy Morrison

The Provenance Press Guide to the Wiccan Year: A Year Round Guide to
Spells, Rituals, and Holiday Celebrations, Judy Ann Nock

The Modern Witchcraft Guide to the Wheel of the Year: From Samhain to Yule, Your Guide to the Wiccan Holidays, Judy Ann Nock

Sacred Origins of Profound Things: The Stories Behind the Rites and Rituals of the World's Religions, Charles Panati

Yule: Rituals, Recipes and Lore for the Winter Solstice, Susan Pesznecker

The Shortest Day: Celebrating the Winter Solstice, Wendy Pfeffer 

Christmas Folklore, Cory Nelson and Kyle Pressly
Celebrating the Winter Solstice, Theresa Reel

The Shortest Day: Celebrating the Winter Solstice,
Wendy Pfeffer and Jesse Reisch

The Old Magic of Christmas: Yuletide Traditions for
the Darkest Days of the Year, Linda Raedisch

Pagan Christmas: The Plants, Spirits, and Rituals at the Origins of Yuletide,
Christian Rätsch and Claudia Müller-Ebeling

Keeping Christmas: Yuletide Traditions In Norway And The New Land,
Kathleen Stokker

When Santa Was A Shaman: Ancient Origins of Santa Claus and the Christmas Tree, Tony van Renterghem

How To Celebrate Winter Solstice, Teresa Villegas

The Fires of Yule: A Keltelven Guide for Celebrating the Winter Solstice,
Montague Whitsel

The Wicca Cookbook: Recipes, Ritual and Lore, Jamie Wood

Monday, November 21, 2022

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Sunday, Saying Yes to the World

I would say that there exist a thousand unbreakable links between each of us and everything else, and that our dignity and our chances are one. The farthest star and the mud at our feet are a family; and there is no decency or sense in honoring one thing, or a few things, and then closing the list. The pine tree, the leopard, the Platte River, and ourselves - we are at risk together, or we are on our way to a sustainable world together. We are each other's destiny.

Mary Oliver, Upstream: Selected Essays

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Friday, November 18, 2022

Friday Ramble - Shelter

Shelter's a word dear to a cronish heart when winter arrives, and arrive it has, no mistake. As daylight hours grow shorter, I retreat to tottering stacks of books, lighted candles, mugs of hot stuff and a comfy chair. At dusk, I pull the draperies closed and tune out the cold and the darkness. Hours are spent posing teapots and mugs on the sideboard, and everything brewed up seems to contain little moons of fragrant orange, clove nubbins, cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods or anise stars, sometimes all at once.

One does whatever she has to do to drive the dark away, or at least hold it at bay for an hour or two. I season my potions with abandon and stir them deosil (clockwise) with a wand of fragrant evergreen, pretending the vibrant sprig of green is rosemary from my herb garden, now sleeping under fresh snow. I sometimes wish I lived a little further south and my salvia rosmarinus survived through winter, but it does not, and the aromatic herb will have to be planted again in the spring.

In the dusky weeks between now and Yule, I turn ever inward and find myself thinking about the tiny flame at the heart of things, its tender bloom promising warmth, sunlight and longer days somewhere up the trail, if we can only hang on. Alas, there are many weeks to go before the light returns, at least noticeably so. 

In its present form, this week's word has been with us since the late sixteenth century at least, hailing from the Old English scield, meaning “shield, protector, defender, board”. Further back is the Proto-Germanic *skelduz (also source of the Old Norse skjöldr, Old Saxon skild, Middle Dutch scilt, Dutch schild, German schild and Gothic skildus), from skel meaning to "divide, split or separate”. At the end of this week's wordy rambling is the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) form skel meaning “to cut or split”. The earliest shelters were probably assembled from defensive shields joined together, and such devices were rounded plates of wood constructed from cut logs.

A shelter is an enclosure of some sort, a cabin, a cave or a hollow, an embracing tree or thicket, a harbor shielded by guardian hills and out of the sea wind. We all have our shelters and sanctuaries, and their shapes and trappings are highly personal. For deer and wild turkeys, it's the protection and nourishment afforded by woodland cedar groves in winter. For hibernating bears, it's the secluded leaf-strewn dens where they can sleep away winter. For rabbits and hares, it's snug burrows in the earth and the overhanging branches of evergreens shielding them from icy temperatures and the rapt attention of predators. For me, it's a fire in the fireplace downstairs, a mug of Earl Grey or chai, a big fat book (better still a stack) and a comfortable chair.

For local bison herds, shelter is a movable feast, and they create their own wherever they happen to be, bracing themselves against the wind, lowering their lavishly maned heads into the white stuff and standing fast. They think nothing of nodding off in a snowdrift, and when they move through a storm, they move together, facing directly into the elements.

I could learn a thing or three from the bison, and I will be working on that this winter, facing into the elements myself and trying to stand as firmly and mindfully as the bison do. That will require (of course) many layers of warm clothing, a camera or two and a notebook, also a thermos of tea and Beau's biscuits.

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Thursday Poem - Praise Song

Praise the light of late November,
the thin sunlight that goes deep in the bones.
Praise the crows chattering in the oak trees;
though they are clothed in night, they do not
despair. Praise what little there's left:
the small boats of milkweed pods, husks, hulls,
shells, the architecture of trees. Praise the meadow
of dried weeds: yarrow, goldenrod, chicory,
the remains of summer. Praise the blue sky
that hasn't cracked. Praise the sun slipping down
behind the beechnuts, praise the quilt of leaves
that covers the grass: Scarlet Oak, Sweet Gum,
Sugar Maple. Though darkness gathers,
praise our crazy fallen world; it's all we
have, and it's never enough.

Barbara Crooker

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Shining Through

Is this place an ocean or a desert in winter? I am never sure which, but either way, there is always something to feast one's eyes on and capture with the lens. Old window panes, heaps of books, bowls of fruit and cups of tea, it's all good. Isn't a little uncertainty a good thing, every now and then?

Before the first snow of the season falls, I always wonder how I am going to survive without autumn's shapes and fiery colors, and I feel a vague anxiety contemplating the monochromatic weeks and months to come. Shame on me for harboring such morose and mutinous thoughts. I should know better.

There are patterns here everywhere, all related to liquid turnings and sparkling transformations: feathery patterns in river ice as it forms, glossy icicles suspended from trees along the shore, frosty field grasses waving their silvery heads, beads of water falling in the garden and freezing in midair, fallen leaves channeling light and frozen crystals shining through them. Everything my cronish eye alights on is food for eyes and lens and thought, a good thing since I am still not able to wander as far as I would like to.

Absent the vibrant and earthy colors dancing on my palette at other times of the year, winter's offerings are a commonwealth of swirling shapes and motifs, each and every one exquisite. Even pale sunlight shining through the kitchen window in a friend's farmhouse beguiles and enchants.

Monday, November 14, 2022

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Sunday, Saying Yes to the World

What is real to me is the power of our awareness when we are focused on something beyond ourselves. It is a shaft of light shining in a dark corner. Our ability to shift our perceptions and seek creative alternatives to the conondrums of modernity is in direct proportion to our empathy. Can we imagine, witness, and ultimately feel the suffering of another?”

Terry Tempest Williams, Finding Beauty in a Broken World

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Friday, November 11, 2022

Friday Ramble - Edgy and Chthonic

A strange, liminal time of the year is this, for the old Celtic year has passed away, and we stand on the forward edge of a brand new year, in the north a chilling contraption of fallen leaves and frozen earth, short days, darkness, frost and and wind.

The first of this week's words (edge) has been around for some time, dating in its present form from the tenth century at the very latest. We have it through the Middle English egge, the Old English ecg and the Old Germanic ecke, all meaning "corner". It is kin to the Latin acer meaning "sharp", and the Greek akmē meaning "point". Way back there in the beginning times (or at least a few thousand years before the common era commenced) is the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) form ak- meaning "sharp".

The storm tossed eastern Ontario highlands seem empty in November. Migratory birds have (for the most part) departed for warmer climes. Most of our wild and furry "year round" residents are in deep hibernation now. The fertile earth is falling asleep, and her life giving waters are freezing up, even as we watch with our collars turned up.

On trips into the woods, long shadows fall across our trail, and their edges are as sharp as the finest examples of a blade smith's art. For all the early winter emptiness, frost and morning sunlight change the landscape into something rich and elegant and inviting: glittering fronds artfully curved and waving in the fields, milkweed sculpted into pleasing shapes, bare trees on the hills twinkling like stars, the edges of blackberry leaves rosy and sparkling with frost crystals.

November always seems chthonic to me. That engaging adjective with its bewildering arrangement of vowels and consonants springs from the Greek khthonios, meaning "of the earth", and it is usually used to describe subterranean matters and deities of the underworld. I like to think that when we use it, we are focusing on what is deeper or within, rather than on that which is apparent at first glance or resting on the surface. Implicit in our second word are notions of rest, sleep, fertility and rebirth - mortality and abundance coexisting and enfolding each other in a deep embrace.

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Thursday Poem - Everything Is Waiting For You

Your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone. As if life
were a progressive and cunning crime
with no witness to the tiny hidden
transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny
the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,
even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
out your solo voice. You must note
the way the soap dish enables you,
or the window latch grants you freedom.
Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
The stairs are your mentor of things
to come, the doors have always been there
to frighten you and invite you,
and the tiny speaker in the phone
is your dream-ladder to divinity.

Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into
the conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.

David Whyte, from River Flow: New and Collected Poems

Wednesday, November 09, 2022

Tuesday, November 08, 2022

Seventeen 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. Its departure marked the end of gardening and gathering, but it also marked seventeen years of blogging, and I like the fact that the two events are aligned.

For seventeen years, I have logged on here every morning and posted an image or two. Sometimes I managed to put together a few paragraphs to go along with the visual "stuff", and occasionally I spilled my cuppa on the keyboard. 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 seventeen years in a row. Once in a while, I am OK with my efforts, but mostly I am not. When I look at stuff I posted here years ago, I 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.

In late November of 2019, my soulmate passed away after a fierce and "no holds barred" battle with pancreatic cancer, and life without him is rough going. I can't even begin to express how much I loved the man (and still do), how much I miss his steady presence in my life, every single day. Within a few months of Irv's passing, other dear friends also passed away from cancer, and I miss them too.

I am still coping with the side effects of my own tussle with cancer, and most of the time, I feel I am just clinging to the wreckage and paddling frantically to stay afloat, but I give thanks for my tribe and darling Beau, for wild kin, sisters of the heart, good neighbors and friends. I could not have gotten here without them, without all of you.

Big life stuff notwithstanding, it's all right to be here and wrapped up in the doings of what I like to call "the Great Round". Beau and I stay busy, and we go rambling with a notebook and camera every day and in all weathers. Sometimes, I just tuck the Samsung S21 cell phone in my pocket, and off we go, our collars turned up against the wind.

We wander along at our own pace, conversing with the great maples and beech mothers, watching 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 an achingly 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 said 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 along together. 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.

Monday, November 07, 2022

Sunday, November 06, 2022

Sunday, Saying Yes to the World

Finding beauty in a broken world is acknowledging that beauty leads us to our deepest and highest selves. It inspires us. We have an innate desire for grace. It’s not that all our definitions of beauty are the same, but when you see a particular heron in the bend in the river, day after day, something in your soul stirs. We remember what it means to be human. 

Terry Tempest Williams

Saturday, November 05, 2022

Friday, November 04, 2022

Friday Ramble - Frost

This week's word seems to have been around forever, coming down to us from the Middle and Old English forst meaning "freezing, becoming frozen or extreme cold". There are Old Saxon, High German and Norse variants claiming the same ancestral roots, and there are the Proto Germanic frusta and Old High German vorst, both related to the old verb freosan meaning "to freeze". Somewhere back there are Old Saxon, Frisian and Dutch kindred, and at the root of it all, the PIE (Proto-Indo-European) form preus which seems to have described processes of both freezing and burning. Huh???

PIE is the reconstructed common ancestor of the Indo-European language family, thought to have been spoken from 4500 BC to 2500 BC (from the Late Neolithic to the Early Bronze Age). The Proto-Indo-Europeans were most likely herding tribes who lived in the vast steppes north of the Black Sea., and while they left no written records, their language took root wherever they alighted during their migrations.  A fair bit is known about them from the archeological record, and their genetic markers can be seen in modern Europeans. Whenever I excavate a ramble word, remove its old and middle European trappings and discover its PIE roots, I am wrapped anew in reverence for words and language, for those who came before us and the commonalities of earthly existence going back to the beginning times.

A fine day is coming into being, skies in deep, vibrant shades of lavender, purple and gold. The sun has yet to rise, but geese are already flying up from the river and out to stubbly farm fields to feed. The air is filled with their joyous songs on this brisk morning in early November. There is frost on trees, cobblestones and roof tiles in the village; puddles and fallen leaves in the streets are outlined in ice, ditto the birdbaths in my garden. The Virginia creeper vines in local hedgerows seem undeterred by the night's plummeting temperatures, but they look as though their insouciance and jaunty stance is darned hard work.

The rose leaves in the garden are clad in frost this morning too, the crystals clearly defined and sparkling. Blue sky and silvery frost, russet and gold rose leaves dancing in the wind - who says there is no color about in late autumn and early winter? One has only to look, and the best time for looking is just as the sun is coming up over the trees.

Thursday, November 03, 2022

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 02, 2022

Tuesday, November 01, 2022

A Later Shade of 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 late in November, and we are always happy to see them on our rambles.

Whole hillsides of lacy tamarack are gold, and their foliage dazzles the eyes. When I remember their splendor in the depths of winter, the memory will leave me close to tears and hankering for a long trip on foot into the forests north of Lake Superior. No, not this year, perhaps next year...

Butternut trees on our hills are always 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 maples puts on a magnificent golden performance at this time of the year, and we attend her one woman show with pleasure. While in her clearing, we remember to say thanks for her efforts to brighten a subdued and rather monochromatic interval in the turning of the seasons.

It has been a windy autumn, and we were delighted to discover this week that the north wind has not plucked 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 fast. 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 word for a scrap or fraction of something, scrip also describes a small wallet or pouch once carried by pilgrims and seekers. That seems fitting for this journey into the woods and our breathless standing under Maple in all her glory. Oh, to belong to the sisterhood of tree and leaf...

Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit. Happy November everyone! 

Monday, October 31, 2022

Sequestered, Week 132, (CXXXII)

 Merry Samhain/Halloween!

Sunday, October 30, 2022

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, October 29, 2022