Thursday, September 21, 2023

Thursday Poem - Mabon

Ephemeral truce.
The dark begins
its long winning streak.
But for now
in this disheveled garden
a riot of blowsy flowers
hangs on like a chorus
of aging show girls
still with a few good kicks.
The air is ripe
with seedy perfume
and pleasant lies,
the pomegranate shared
between two mouths.
This is our second harvest,
the corn, the squash,
the reconstructed
memories of summer.
Ceres, comfort us with apples,
with grapes and the wine of grapes.
Wheaten breads are baked
in the shape of the sun.
We savor them
with honey.
It will be a long time
before this golden
moment comes again.

Dolores Stewart Riccio

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Taking the Sky Road Home

Only in September and October do sunsets like this come along, ground mist creeping through fields and around trees, light and sky and clouds like something out of a Maxfield Parrish painting. The clouds look like trails one could walk along, and they remind me of the title I gave to a photo a few years ago, "Taking the Sky Road Home".

Fog and ground mist are common entities at sunrise and nightfall here in autumn, clouds of condensed moisture generated by the earth's slow breathing and drifting along above the surface. Humans are cloud-breathing dragons - we generate our own mists and fogs as we take air into our lungs and expel it again; trees and forests breathe in and out too. As above so below, sky, humans, trees and the earth all breathing in and out together, the rosy streaks in the sky above our heads kin to the nebulous veil floating below. 

We call visible murky stuff "fog" when it reduces visibility to less than 1,000 metres, and we call it "mist" when we can see further than 1,000 meters through it. One can just make out farm buildings way in the distance in the second photo, so this is mist rather than fog, and a right fine mist it is, all gauzy and ethereal and slightly spooky.

We might be anywhere in the world, but we (Beau and I) are leaning against an old rail fence in the eastern Ontario highlands on a cool night in late September. My collar is turned up against the wind, and we watch as another day fades. I take photo after photo, hoping just one or two turn out. The clouds, the setting sun and the veils of gossamer condensation floating above the earth are beyond words, so why am I trying to describe them in an utterly graceless and oh-so-inadequate net of words?

The sun slides below the horizon, another autumn day folds up like an umbrella, and the stars come out. A brief interval this, but perfect in every way.

Monday, September 18, 2023

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Sunday - Saying Yes to the World

The roots of all living things are tied together. Deep in the ground of being, they tangle and embrace. This understanding is expressed in the term nonduality. If we look deeply, we find that we do not have a separate self-identity, a self that does not include sun and wind, earth and water, creatures and plants, and one another. We cannot exist without the presence and support of the interconnecting circles of creation, the geosphere, the biosphere, the hydrosphere, the atmosphere, and the sphere of our sun. All are related to us; we depend on each of these spheres for our very existence.

Joan Halifax, The Fruitful Darkness

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Friday, September 15, 2023

Friday Ramble - Autumn

This week's word comes to us through the Middle English autumpne and the Old French autompne, thence the Latin autumnus. The Latin form may hail from even older Etruscan forms, the first part of autumnus (autu) originating in the Etruscan root autu or avil meaning year, and the second part (mnus) from menos meaning loss, minus, or passing. There we have it. At the end of our wordy adventure is the burnished but wistful thought that another year is ebbing. Another circling in what I like to call simply, "the Great Round," the natural cycle of our existence, is drawing to a close.

September is about harvest and abundance, but it is about balance too. The Autumn Equinox in late September is one of the two times in a calendar year when day and night are balanced in length. The day is most often celebrated on September 21st, but this year the astronomical coordinate for the event falls on September 23rd. At that time, (also called Mabon or "Harvest Home"), the sun seems to pass over the equator on a journey southward, moving steadily away from us who live above the 49th parallel. Things are actually the other way around of course, and it is the earth and her unruly children who are in motion. Between the Midsummer Solstice and the Winter Solstice, our planet's northern hemisphere tilts away from the radiant star at its center, and we, hardy and indomitable northerners that we are, go along for the ride.

The magnificent constellations of winter are starting to appear, and the dome of night is a treasure trove of deep sky wonders, a gift for stargazey types like this Old Thing. Late last night, a tapestry of stars covered the sky from here to there, and Jupiter and Saturn dazzled in the velvety southern sky, borrowing light from the sun and acting for all the world as if they were stars, not planets. Perhaps I should do the same thing?

This morning, Beau and I were out in the garden before sunrise, and it was cool. Orion, our favorite autumn constellation, was clearly visible in the south. Sirius, brightest of all stars, twinkled below and slightly beyond the hunter's right foot, and the red giant Alderbaran danced over his left shoulder. When the sun rose, the stars vanished and every roof in the village was sewn with sequins of dew. With mornings like this, can one feel anything except rich as Croesus and jubilant in spirit?

On early walks, falling leaves drift around our ankles and make a fine rustling music. Earthbound foliage on the trail is going transparent and turning into stained glass in splendid buttery colors. We pause to look at all the wonders around our feet, and it's a wonder to the heavens we ever get anywhere at all. When I stopped to look at a leaf in our path this morning, Beau looked up at me curiously. I started to say that I was looking for a perfect leaf, then stopped and started the sentence over again. Pristine, unblemished and golden, or faded, tattered and torn, every single autumn leaf is perfect, just as it is.

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Thursday Poem - Fall Song

Another year gone, leaving everywhere
its rich spiced residues: vines, leaves,

the uneaten fruits crumbling damply
in the shadows, unmattering back

from the particular island
of this summer, this NOW, that now is nowhere

except underfoot, moldering
in that black subterranean castle

of unobservable mysteries - roots and sealed seeds
and the wanderings of water. This

I try to remember when time's measure
painfully chafes, for instance when autumn

flares out at the last, boisterous and like us longing
to stay - how everything lives, shifting

from one bright vision to another, forever
in these momentary pastures.

Mary Oliver, from American Primitive

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

For the Oaks

In September, every garment in my wardrobe seems to have acorns in its pockets, offerings from the red, white and bur oaks of the eastern Ontario highlands. After years of rambling its hills and valleys, I have come to think of the towering woodland quercus people as beloved sisters and old friends.

On sunny autumn days, I find a comfortable seat among my kin, and we have long conversations, some of the most thoughtful and enlightening discussions ever. I have no leaves, and I don't bear acorns, but the great oaks welcome me nevertheless.

Pockets without acorns rattling around in their depths enfold other offerings, pine and spruce cones, walnuts, butternuts, beech nuts, shagbark hickory nuts and conkers (horse chestnuts). I adore their shapes, their colors, their textures, their fragrance, the whole season of their fruiting, and I can never resist gathering them out in the woods. Autumn is a season of entelechy, a time of becoming, a time of of once and future trees.

Turning my pockets out this weekend before chucking everything into the washing machine, I realized that there has been a whole forest riding around with me for several days, and it made me smile. No need to pine for my tree sisters when I am away from the woods - they are right here with me.

Monday, September 11, 2023

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Sunday, Saying Yes to the World

A runner's every step is a leap, so that for a moment he or she is entirely off the ground. For those brief instants, shadows no longer spill out from their feet, like leaks, but hover below them like doubles, as they do with birds, whose shadows crawl below them, caressing the surface of the earth, growing and shrinking as their makers move nearer or farther from that surface. For my friends who run long distances, these tiny fragments of levitation add up to something considerable; by their own power they hover above the earth for many minutes, perhaps some significant portion of an hour or perhaps far more for the hundred-mile races. We fly; we dream in darkness; we devour heaven in bites too small to be measured.

Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost

Saturday, September 09, 2023

Friday, September 08, 2023

Friday Ramble - Taking Wing

Village children were off to school this week, and I watched them go, walked all the way there (or just to the bus stop at the corner) by proud parents, grannies, nannies, big brothers and sisters and family pets. I have known many of the school-bound kids since they traveled about in prams, and here they are going off to school on their own dear little sneakered feet. Dear me, how time flies...

The youngsters wear garments in confetti colors, carry backpacks and lunch boxes in pink, turquoise and lime green, sometimes tote pint-sized umbrellas patterned in flowers or bunnies or butterflies or polka dots. They bloom like pint-sized peonies out in the street, and watching from the windows, I feel like doing a little blooming too.

Only a short distance away, other brightly arrayed offspring are hatching out in village hedgerows, and they are strengthening their wings for the long journey south to begin in a week or two. When monarch butterflies alight on Michaelmas daisies in bloom, the combination of orange, purple and gold is dazzling. Every butterfly is a stained glass jewel, a wild, vivid and breathtaking wonder. Because of air pollution from forest fires in northern Ontario and Quebec, there have not been many Monarchs in the garden this summer, and I am "over the moon" whenever I see one. Why the passion for butterflies, you ask? They are beautiful, and they are the Old Wild Mother's proof of reincarnation.

There are vibrant colors everywhere we (Beau and I) look in September, and they are a sumptuous treat for these old eyes. It doesn't matter whether the riotous tints are on Virginia creepers, monarch butterflies, coneflowers or tiny raincoats - they invite me to kick up my heels and dance.  The truth of the matter is that I can only flounder and flail and lurch about, but that is quite all right.

Thursday, September 07, 2023

Thursday Poem - September Mosaic

Before we come with rakes and crackling
energy to clean it up,
the backyard is precisely
as the dog prefers it -- left alone,
a natural selection
of leaf, stick, bone, pod, seed, and stone.

But we are cosmic instruments
of music and disturbance, only
animals by half,
and will not let the season bleed
its shifting earth designs
of stone, bone, leaf, stick, pod, and seed.

Some earthscapes rearranged
are gardens, or hillsides
shorn to make a path for wired poles
or graveyards stiff with grief
or clearcut forests. Let me take care
of seed, stone, pod, bone, stick, and leaf.

Let me recall the universe
is breathing in my breath, it plays
its tune in me, it dreams my being --
an unnamed, unrecorded god
becoming conscious as I am
of leaf, seed, stick, stone, bone, and pod.

I am a painting made of sand and pollen.
Structure and spirit
are my codes. Nothing of life
is random or a trick
I draw myself a part of all
with pod, leaf, bone, seed, stone, and stick.

The circle of the seasons turns
and never comes back quite the same.
Fertile impulses in time
will overgrow the patterns I have sown,
return to animal wilderness
of stick, pod, stone, leaf, seed and bone.

Let me be glad
new seasons bud from stick and leaf,
new forces split a pod and spill the seed,
new rhythms rise from stone and bone.

Dolores Stewart, (from Doors to the Universe)

Wednesday, September 06, 2023

Tuesday, September 05, 2023

Monday, September 04, 2023

Sunday, September 03, 2023

Sunday, Saying Yes to the World

I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.

Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.

 Oliver Sacks, Gratitude

Saturday, September 02, 2023

Friday, September 01, 2023

Friday Ramble - Drifting

On early September mornings, the village can be a mysterious place. The earth is often warmer than the air above, and the chance meeting of the two elements wraps everything in a diaphanous veil, turns otherwise mundane landscape features into entities fey and luminous. Autumn is upon us, and the lady is comfortable in her tenure of mist, rain, wind and madcap tumbling leaves.

There is nothing like a good fog, and this time of the year dishes up some splendid atmospheric murks. Mist swirls around everything, draping the whiskery trees, smoothing hard edges and rounding the contours of house and street. The north wind scours leaves from the old trees near home, and they rustle underfoot as Beau and I go along on our early walks. Irv is always with us, and if we listen carefully, we can sometimes hear Cassie and Spencer pottering along beside us too, their doggy feet doing a kind of scuffling dance through the fallen treasure.

Out of the pearly gray and sepia come sounds now and again. Birds converse in hedgerows and geese move unseen among the clouds, singing as they pass over our heads. Doors open and close as sleepy residents collect their morning papers. There is the soft growling of automobiles and the rumble of buses, the muffled cadence of joggers gliding through the park, children chattering on their way to school, commuters heading downtown to work. Once in a while, there is the whistle of a faraway train, usually only a faint echoing in the air. Closer to home, raindrops beat a staccato rhythm on roofs, and little rivers sing through the eaves. All together, it is symphonic.

On such mornings, the world seems boundless, brimming with luminous floating Zen possibility, soil and trees and sky and mist giving tongue in a language that is wild and compelling. Part of me is curled up and engaged in a slow breathing meditation, counting my breaths, in and out, in and out. Other parts are out there drifting along with the fog and happy to be doing it. Happy September, everyone!

Thursday, August 31, 2023

Thursday Poem - Unchurched

It’s Earth that breathes around us,
so perilous in its comforts,
so perfect in impermanence.
Autumnal sun streams through
these yellow maple leaves
translucent as stained glass.

The ground beneath my feet
is strewn with pine cones, acorns.
The random pattern of continuance.

Etched columns of pine and oak.
Incense of resin and fungi.
Great glacial stones for altars.

High winds and choirs of
minor breezes, the whispering hush.
It is the Sabbath. It is enough.

Dolores Stewart (Riccio), from The Nature of Things

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Creepers, Clouds and Early Light

No doubt about it, colors in the landscape are turning toward autumn. Where vibrant greens reigned in the hedgerows and woods only a few days ago, tattered beiges, creams and greys are coming into view. Here and there are swaths of gold, crimson, rust and copper, alluring splashes of purple, indigo and burgundy.

There is a different slant to light filtering through trees in the park, and on morning walks, their shadows fall across our path, as sharp as knives. Sunbeams spark off wet grasses along the way, and every puddle is a sea of light.

Around the corner, five bright fingers of Virginia creeper rest on the dew-spattered hood of a parked car like a mandala, like an open, beckoning hand. The vehicle's polished surface holds clouds and sky too, and the tableau stops us right in our tracks.

Such fragrances at this time of year, ripening crabapples, aromatic leaves and wild herbs going to seed, nuts, berries, acorns and the occasional chestnut (or conker). On the trail, I pick up a ripe walnut and breathe in its fine, astringent perfume. My little tally of wonders wild and natural grows longer with every passing day, a splendid litany for this precious interval as one season dances into another.

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Sunday, Saying Yes to the World

Not just animals and plants, then, but tumbling waterfalls and dry riverbeds, gusts of wind, compost piles and cumulus clouds, freshly painted houses (as well as houses abandoned and sometimes haunted), rusting automobiles, feathers, granite cliffs and grains of sand, tax forms, dormant volcanoes, bays and bayous made wretched by pollutants, snowdrifts, shed antlers, diamonds, and daikon radishes, all are expressive, sometimes eloquent and hence participant in the mystery of language. Our own chatter erupts in response to the abundant articulations of the world: human speech is simply our part of a much broader conversation.

It follows that the myriad things are also listening, or attending, to various signs and gestures around them. Indeed, when we are at ease in our animal flesh, we will sometimes feel we are being listened to, or sensed, by the earthly surroundings. And so we take deeper care with our speaking, mindful that our sounds may carry more than a merely human meaning and resonance. This care -- this full-bodied alertness -- is the ancient, ancestral source of all word magic. It is the practice of attention to the uncanny power that lives in our spoken phrases to touch and sometimes transform the tenor of the world's unfolding.

David Abram, Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Friday, August 25, 2023

Friday Ramble - Demeter at the Gate

A single burnished leaf from the oak in the front yard floats down and comes to rest in a pot of bronzey chrysanthemums on the threshold. The deep scarlet in the center of the "mums" matches the vibrant color of the front door, a cheerful thing and very welcoming. Days are still very warm here for the most part, but nights are starting to cool down, and it won't be long until we have to carry pots indoors every evening as darkness falls and the wind comes out of the river.

As the oak leaf makes itself comfortable among the blooms, a long v-shaped skein of geese passes overhead, joyously honking on its way out to farm fields to feed. The great Canadas will return at sunset and spend the night on the river.

Closer to the earth, the swallows of summer are packing their flight bags and making ready to depart, their places on telephone wires to be taken by flutters of sparrows and constellations of noisy starlings who are putting on winter stars and flashy yellow beaks.

Frantic squirrels everywhere are filling their larders, and I have surrendered to the little blighters in the matter of geraniums - there does not seem to be much I can do to prevent the flowers from being unceremoniously tossed out of their pots and replaced with buried acorns, berries, crabapples and walnuts. For some reason, the squirrels leave chrysanthemums alone. The scent perhaps?

When I awakened this morning before sunrise, Jupiter was a bright presence in the southern sky, and the constellation Orion was rising in the southeast quadrant, his club held high and sword belt twinkling. The appearance of the giant is one of my seasonal markers. Fall is on its way for sure. 

Above us, autumn stars twinkle in the darkness. Here on earth, apples, corn, pumpkins and hay are ripening and being gathered in. There is no doubt about it—Demeter is at the gate, and she is rattling its rusty latch with enthusiasm. The lady knows the ancient cantrip that grants her entrance to these smoky northern hills, and she knows the key in which it is to be sung. This is my favorite time of the year.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Thursday Poem - Assurance

You will never be alone, you hear so deep
a sound when autumn comes. Yellow
pulls across the hills and thrums,
or the silence after lightening before it says
its names—and then the clouds' wide-mouthed
apologies. You were aimed from birth:
you will never be alone. Rain
will come, a gutter filled, an Amazon,
long aisles—you never heard so deep a sound,
moss on rock, and years. You turn your head—
that’s what the silence meant: you’re not alone.
The whole wide world pours down.

William Stafford, (from The Way It Is)

For my little brother James Brendan Franklin, (March 10, 1960 - August 22, 2023). Rest in peace, Jamie. Journey on without pain and suffering. Go forward knowing you were (are, and always will be) treasured and much loved. I carry you in my heart.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023