Monday, April 22, 2019

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Friday, April 19, 2019

Friday Ramble - Bloom

Blue skies and fluffy clouds overhead, birdsong, avian courtship rites and birds building nests everywhere - the village is opening out and greening up before our eyes as Beau and I potter about and peer into hedgerows. Spring does not make a quiet entrance this far north - she comes over the hill with an exuberant bound, reaches out with a twiggy hand, and everything bursts into bloom. When we went off to the park a few mornings ago, the first narcissus of the season were blooming in a sheltered, sunny alcove, and we both did a little dance.

How can this week's word be anything except bloom? The word originates in the Middle English blo or blome, meaning to open up and flower lavishly, to glow with health and well-being, to be as sleek and glossy as an otter, as dewy and flushed with sunlight as a garden tulip or an early blooming orchid in a wild and wooded place. There are probable connections (or roots) between bloom and bhel in Proto-Indo-European, the hypothetical common ancestor of all modern European languages - in that ancient, oral and unscribed tongue, bhel means to grow, swell, or unfold, to leaf out or come into flower.

Perhaps a better word for this week would be sex, because that is what springtime's lush colors, alluring fragrances, velvet textures and warbling ballads are about - the Old Wild Mother's madcap dance of exuberance, fertility and fruitfulness. Every species on the planet seems focused on perpetuating its own heady genetic brew, and the collective pleasure in being alive is almost tangible.   

Forsaking appointed chores, we poke around in the garden, lurch about in village thickets, peer into trees and contemplate the blue sky for long intervals.  It's simply a matter of blooming wherever one happens to be planted.  Beau is already a master of that splendid Zen art, and his silly old mum is working on it.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Thursday Poem - Swiftly

Swiftly the years, beyond recall,
Solemn the stillness of this fair morning.
I will clothe myself in spring clothing,
And visit the slopes of the Eastern Hill.
By the mountain stream a mist hovers,
Hovers a moment, then scatters.
There comes a wind blowing from the south
That brushes the fields of new corn.

T'ao Ch'ien (translation by Arthur Waley) 

Reginald H. Blyth thought T'ao Ch'ien's creation was the finest poem ever written. We are still several weeks away from seeing new corn, but for me, the eight lines are the essence of April and springtime.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Reaching for the Light

Wood squill (Scilla siberica)
One day, there are snowdrifts in the yard at least three feet deep. The next day, the snow has disappeared into the good dark earth, and tiny flowers are springing up everywhere, reaching for the light over their fragile heads.

Grasses thrust themselves out of puddles in the park, and a few ducks paddle up and down the little stream among the trees. Everywhere, there is birdsong, every feathered singer in the overstory declaring its delight in the season.

It has been a long cold winter, and we thought it would never end. Now, we can hardly believe our good fortune. Every sunbeam and every tiny bloom is a gift.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Sunday - Saying Yes to the World

I breathe in the soft, saturated exhalations of cedar trees and salmonberry bushes, fireweed and wood fern, marsh hawks and meadow voles, marten and harbor seal and blacktail deer. I breathe in the same particles of air that made songs in the throats of hermit thrushes and gave voices to humpback whales, the same particles of air that lifted the wings of bald eagles and buzzed in the flight of hummingbirds, the same particles of air that rushed over the sea in storms, whirled in high mountain snows, whistled across the poles, and whispered through lush equatorial gardens…air that has passed continually through life on earth. I breathe it in, pass it on, share it in equal measure with billions of other living things, endlessly, infinitely.

Richard Nelson, The Island Within

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Gaudeamus igitur. Verna est!

Let us rejoice. It is spring!

Friday, April 12, 2019

Friday Ramble - Atomy

Atomy comes to us from the Middle English attome, the Latin atomus and the Greek atomos: a- (not) plus -tomos (divided), tomos hailing from the Indo-European temnein meaning to cut. Kindred words (of course) are atom, atomism and atomic, epitome and (not so obviously), tome which now refers to a book or a volume of reading material but once meant simply something cut or carved from a larger entity.  Synonyms include corpuscle, mote, particle, speck, molecule and grain, as in "a grain of sand" or "a grain of sugar".

An atomy is a tiny part of something, a minute particle. Atoms were once held by science to be the smallest possible units of the known physical universe: dense, central, positively charged nuclei circled by electrons whirling around in ecstatic orbit. Complete within themselves, they were thought to be irreducible and indivisible except for constrained processes of removal or transfer or the exchange of component electrons.

Physicists now think the much smaller quark may be the fundamental element of creation.  Named after a nonsense word coined by James Joyce in his novel Finnegan's Wake, quarks come in six eccentric flavors: up, down, charm, strange, bottom and top. Up and down quarks bond together to form composite particles called hadrons, the most stable being the protons and neutrons resting in the heart of atoms. Other quark pairs (charm/strange, top/bottom) have no function in our universe as we know it, but they had an important role to play as it was coming into being. Wonder of wonders, everything is in constant motion, these other quark pairs becoming up and down quarks as they decay and taking their rightful place within atoms.

Atomies come to mind when I awaken to gray skies, to rain on the roof beating staccato time without reference to meter or metronome, to a puckish wind capering in the eaves and ruffling tiny green leaves in the garden like tangy decks of playing cards, to drifting fog wrapping the old trees, rooflines and chimneys in the village.

Each and every drop beyond my windows is an atomy,  a minute, complete world teeming with vibrant life, a whole magical universe looking up and smiling at this ungainly creature bent over in wonder with a camera in her hand.  I don't think I will ever get a handle on using my macro lens to its full potential, but it is teaching me how to look at the world in new ways, and that is a fine old thing.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Thursday Poem - East of Broken Top

Sunset reaches out, earth rolls free
yet clings hard to what passes.
Light pours unstinting, though darkness
cuts the horizon and leaps for the sky.
Beyond, in a shadow vast as the world,
a silent upland springs blue where it stands
morning and evening. Its own being,
it never changes while the light plays over it.

We could go there and live, have a place,
a shoulder of earth, watch days
find their way onward in their serious march
where nothing happens but each one is gone.
Some people build cities and live there;
they hurry and shout. We lie on the earth;
to keep from falling into the stars we reach
as wide as we can and hold onto the grass.

William Stafford

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Sunday - Saying Yes to the World

Ultimately, to live an enchanted life is to pick up the pieces of our bruised and battered psyches, and to offer them the nourishment they long for. It is to be challenged, to be awakened, to be gripped and shaken to the core by the extraordinary which lies at the heart of the ordinary. Above all, to live an enchanted life is to fall in love with the world all over again. This is an active choice, a leap of faith which is necessary not just for our own sakes, but for the sake of the wide, wild Earth in whose being and becoming we are so profoundly and beautifully entangled.
Sharon Blackie, The Enchanted Life, Unlocking the Magic of the Everyday

Saturday, April 06, 2019

Coming to Light

Yellow Crocus (Crocus x luteus)

Friday, April 05, 2019

Friday Ramble - Patience

As I started off on the Friday ramble this week, the word that came to mind was patience, although I have already written a ramble on that word.

This week's offering has its roots in the Middle English pacient, the Middle French patient and the Latin word pati, all meaning to undergo something, to suffer through, get through, or put up with something and do it with grace and dignity - no whining, screaming or going completely off one's nut. It's a fine old word for someone who aspires to authenticity or enlightenment, but it's not a word for wimps and sissies, and true patience is anything but limp, indecisive or docile. Sometimes, it requires bags of forbearance and not a little cussing.

By now, winter snows should have disappeared from the Lanark highlands, and the Two Hundred Acre Wood should be carpeted with northern wildflowers. Alas, recent storms brought subzero temperatures, snow and bitterly cold winds. There will be  no wildflowers in our forest for several weeks, and there are times when I think springtime will never come.

What is one to do??? I pick up my camera or paint brush, brew a pot of tea, pummel bread, stir up a fiery curry, go walkabout with Beau, curl up in my favorite chair with a good book. I just breathe, in and out, in and out, in and out.

For some reason, the elegant keyboard sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti (Mikhail Pletnev's recordings) and the Bach preludes (Glenn Gould) tuck everything back into place, and so does listening to Mozart's Eine kleine Nachtmusik or Die Zauberflöte. Grieg's Holberg Suite work wonders too, and in recent weeks I have also been listening to the creations of Sibelius.
Snow or no snow, we head into the highlands and look at the sun rising or setting somewhere, watch frozen cattails rattling their bones along the shore of our favorite lake.  We listen to the wind in the bare trees, lean against the old rail fence and watch last autumn's desiccated leaves whirl through the air like confetti. We cling to the fragile hope that springtime will show up any day now.

I am learning that patience is a wild and fierce emotion, and that being patient with one's own self is the hardest thing of all.  Spirit Rock's Jack Kornfield says, “If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.”  I may get there one of these lifetimes, but I have a very long way to go.

This morning's image is a bloodroot bloom from last year's wanderings around this time. In early spring, the wildflowers emerge from the earth and dead leaves of my favorite place in the whole wide world, and they glow like little suns in the woods.  Colonies of sanguinaria canadensis are absolute perfection, and they leave me breathless when I encounter them. Spring is slow in arriving this year, and it will be weeks until the snow is gone, and I see them again.

Thursday, April 04, 2019

Thursday Poem - An April Night

The moon comes up o'er the deeps of the woods,
And the long, low dingles that hide in the hills,
Where the ancient beeches are moist with buds
Over the pools and the whimpering rills;

And with her the mists, like dryads that creep
From their oaks, or the spirits of pine-hid springs,
Who hold, while the eyes of the world are asleep,
With the wind on the hills their gay revellings.

Down on the marshlands with flicker and glow
Wanders Will-o'-the-Wisp through the night,
Seeking for witch-gold lost long ago
By the glimmer of goblin lantern-light.

The night is a sorceress, dusk-eyed and dear,
Akin to all eerie and elfin things,
Who weaves about us in meadow and mere
The spell of a hundred vanished Springs.

Lucy Maud Montgomery

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

The Homecoming

First come jubilant skeins of of geese flying in from the south and singing their return, ducks splashing about in the melted alcoves of local rivers, much quacking in roadside puddles. A single heron perches on the frozen shore of Dalhousie Lake and wonders why on earth she has come home so early in the season. Trumpeter swans and loons have more sense, and they will not return for several weeks, until there is much more open water.

Then, there are larks and killdeer, beaky snipe and woodcock, a handful of plucky robins, the graceful "v" shapes (dihedrals) of turkey vultures soaring majestically over the Two Hundred Acre Wood and rocking effortlessly back and forth in their flight. From below, the light catches their silvery flight feathers and dark wing linings, and the great birds are as magnificent as any eagle.

A solitary goshawk perches in a bare tree on the hill, and a male harrier describes perfect, languid circles over the western field. Both birds are hungry after their long journey north, and they train their fierce yellow eyes on the field below, always on the lookout for a good meal.

This morning, a male cardinal is singing his heart out in the ash tree in the garden, and an unidentified warbler lifts its voice somewhere in the darkness.

Even the weather foretold for this day will be a friend.