Friday, April 03, 2020

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 is the fundamental element of creation. Named after a word coined by James Joyce in Finnegan's Wake, quarks come in six eccentric flavors: up, down, charm, strange, bottom and top. Up and down quarks are the most common, coming together to form composite particles like the protons and neutrons in the heart of atoms. Surprise, surprise, everything happens in threes. A proton is composed of two up quarks and one down quark, a neutron one up quark and two down quarks. Other quarks (charm/strange, top/bottom) have no function in the universe as we know it, but they played an important role as it was coming into being. These other quarks become up and down quarks as they decay and take their rightful place within atoms.
Atomies come to mind when I awaken, as I have this morning, to leaden skies and 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.

Every raindrop (or dewdrop) out in the garden is an atomy, a minute complete world teeming with vibrant life, and within each is a whole magical universe looking up and smiling at this ungainly creature bent over in wonder with a camera in her hand. Either that or recoiling in dismay. I don't think I will ever get a handle on using my macro lens to its full potential, but its loving eye is teaching me how to look at the world in new ways, and that is a fine old thing.

Thursday, April 02, 2020

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, March 31, 2020

Homecoming

Jubilant skeins of of geese fly in from the south, and they sing their return in noisy unison. The congregations headed further north are so high they are almost invisible among the clouds, and their voices are only faint honkings on the wind.  Flocks of mallard ducks splash about in the open coves of local rivers and quack happily in roadside puddles.

A solitary heron perches on the shore at the lake and wonders why on earth she has come home so early in the season. Trumpeter swans and loons have more sense, and they return later, waiting until there is enough open water to accommodate their outsize landing gear.

A little later, there are larks and killdeer, beaky snipe and woodcock, plucky robins and sparrows, the graceful "v" shapes (dihedrals) of turkey vultures soaring majestically over the countryside 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, ardently scanning the ground 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 rainy darkness. Even the weather foretold for this day will be a friend.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Sunday - Saying Yes to the World

I build a platform, and live upon it, and think my thoughts, and aim high. To rise, I must have a field to rise from. To deepen, I must have bedrock from which to descend. The constancy of the physical world, under its green and blue dyes, draws me toward a better, richer self, call it elevation (there is hardly an adequate word), where I might ascend a little -- where a gloss of spirit would mirror itself in worldly action. I don't mean just mild goodness. I mean feistiness too, the fires of human energy stoked; I mean a gladness vivacious enough to disarrange the sorrows of the world into something better.

It is one of the great perils of our so-called civilized age that we do not acknowledge enough, or cherish enough, this connection between soul and landscape—between our own best possibilities, and the view from our own windows. We need the world as much as it needs us, and we need it in privacy, intimacy, and surety.

Mary Oliver, Long Life: Essays and Other Writings

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Friday, March 27, 2020

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. Springtime is late this year, and the tree people have a long way to go before leafing out, but they are working on it. The first flocks of Canada geese are returning, and it is good to hear their happy honking as they fly overhead.

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 magical. Somewhere in the early murk, a few robins sing their pleasure, and a woodpecker (probably a pileated from the volume of its hammering) is driving 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 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, yellow crocus are blooming in the protected alcove of a neighbor's garden. The little dears are lit from within, and I swear, they could light up the whole village.

At the end of last year, I thought my photographing days were over, that I would never again feel like peering through a viewfinder or framing a scene with my eyes. Now it appears that photography not given up on me.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Poem With an Embedded Line By Susan Cohen

When the evening newscast leads to despair,
when my Facebook feed raises my blood pressure,
when I can’t listen to NPR anymore,
I turn to the sky, blooming like chicory,
its dearth of clouds, its vast blue endlessness.
The trees are turning copper, gold, bronze,
fired by the October sun, and the bees
are going for broke, drunk on fermenting
apples. I turn to my skillet, cast iron
you can count on, glug some olive oil,
sizzle some onions, adding garlic at the end
to prevent bitterness. My husband,
that sweet man, enters the room, asks
what’s for dinner, says it smells good.
He could live on garlic and onions
slowly turning to gold. The water
is boiling, so I throw in some peppers,
halved, cored, and seeded, let them bob
in the salty water until they’re soft.
To the soffrito, I add ground beef, chili
powder, cumin, dried oregano, tomato sauce,
mashed cannellinis; simmer for a while.
Then I stir in more white beans, stuff the hearts
of the peppers, drape them with cheese and tuck
the pan in the oven’s mouth. Let the terrible
politicians practice / their terrible politics.
At my kitchen table, all will be fed. I turn
the radio to a classical station, maybe Vivaldi.
All we have are these moments: the golden trees,
the industrious bees, the falling light. Darkness
will not overtake us.

Barbara Crooker, from Some Glad Morning

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Monday, March 23, 2020

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Sunday - Saying Yes to the World

Belonging so fully to yourself that you're willing to stand alone is a wilderness—an untamed, unpredictable place of solitude and searching. It is a place as dangerous as it is breathtaking, a place as sought after as it is feared. The wilderness can often feel unholy because we can't control it, or what people think about our choice of whether to venture into that vastness or not. But it turns out to be the place of true belonging, and it's the bravest and most sacred place you will ever stand.

Brené Brown

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Friday, March 20, 2020

Friday Ramble - Entelechy

Snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis)
This week's word is entelechy, and a lovely springtime word it is. Word and concept were coined by Aristotle, springing from the Late Latin entelecheia, thence the Greek entélos meaning "complete, finished, perfect”, and télos meaning end, fruition, accomplishment, plus ékhō meaning simply "to have".

Aristotle defined entelechy as "having one's end within", using the word to describe the conditions and processes by which all things attain their highest and most complete expression. French philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a Jesuit priest, renowned paleontologist, geologist and physicist, described entelechy as "something inside you like a butterfly is inside the caterpillar".

Think of entelechy as the prime motivation or dynamic purpose within something, the potential within a nut or acorn to grow into a tree (have always had a "thing" about acorns and oak trees), the directive within a bulb to sprout after a long cold winter and burst into flower, the desire within a lotus seed sleeping in the silty depths of a pond to awaken and make its way to the surface, blooming when it comes into the presence of light.  It is the possibility encoded in each of us at birth to become fully and completely ourselves and reach enlightenment, whatever form that enlightenment might take for us as individuals. In my own mind, I think of entelechy as the instruction to "go forth and bloom".

OK, the enlightenment may not come in this lifetime, and some of us have a long way to go (thinking of myself here), but we are on our way, and along the winding trail before us are nuggets of wisdom, wild knowing and shy discernment. To use the words of Emily Dickinson, we "dwell in Possibility", although we manage to forget it most of the time. It's another one of those seeds of truth about which I need reminding now and again. My forgetfulness and constant need for reminders makes me crotchety and impatient, but that is part of the process too.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Thursday Poem - Pandemic

What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
Center down.

And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.

Promise this world your love–
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.

Lynn Ungar

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

For the Vernal Equinox (March 19)

Tomorrow 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. Although the spring equinox is often celebrated on March 21st, tomorrow is the actual astronomical date this time around.

If I lived further south, tomorrow might be a day 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, bestowing blessings on everything she sees. 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,  with the heady fragrance of rich dark earth and wild springtime herbs.

Alas, the only snowdrops blooming here at the moment are those in a glass jar here 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 to soon for me. Our winter birds feel the same. 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.

Last night 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 into the cauldron of night, it seemed to us that this month's full moon on March 9th had (as it always does) borne 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 is blooming in our thoughts this day, but it is too cold for outdoor celebrations. I will spend a few minutes outside this evening, perhaps light a celebratory candle on the deck, but the festivities are indoors for the most part.  This will be my first Vernal Equinox in more than forty years without my soulmate, and it will be difficult. There will be no grilled salmon, risotto and Chablis this year, but Beau and I will celebrate his presence in our lives, and we will send him our love, just as we do every day.

Happy Ostara everyone, a very happy Vernal Equinox to you and your tribe.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

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, All rights reserved
(from River Flow: New and Selected Poems)

Monday, March 16, 2020

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Sunday - Saying Yes to the World

Look at your feet. You are standing in the sky. When we think of the sky, we tend to look up, but the sky actually begins at the earth. We walk through it, yell into it, rake leaves, wash the dog, and drive cars in it. We breathe it deep within us. With every breath, we inhale millions of molecules of sky, heat them briefly, and then exhale them back into the world.

Diane Ackerman, A Natural History of the Senses

Saturday, March 14, 2020