Monday, July 22, 2024

Sunday, July 21, 2024

Sunday, Saying Yes to the World

The earth offers gift after gift—life and the living of it, light and the return of it, the growing things, the roaring things, fire and nightmares, falling water and the wisdom of friends, forgiveness. My god, the forgiveness, time, and the scouring tides. How does one accept gifts as great as these and hold them in the mind?

Failing to notice a gift dishonors it, and deflects the love of the giver. That's what is wrong with living a careless life, storing up sorrow, waking up regretful, walking unaware. To turn the gift in your hand, to say, this is wonderful and beautiful, this is a great gift—this honors the gift and the giver of it. Maybe this is what [my friend] Hank has been trying to make me understand: Notice the gift. Be astonished at it. Be glad for it, care about it. Keep it in mind. This is the greatest gift a person can give in return.

Kathleen Deane Moore, from Wild Comfort: The Solace of Nature

Saturday, July 20, 2024

On the Edge of the Pond

Swamp Milkweed or Butterfly Weed (Asclepias incarnata)

Friday, July 19, 2024

Friday Ramble - Monarchs and Summer Musics

There have not been many Monarch butterflies about this year so far, and I did a spirited, wobbly dance a day or two ago when a single glorious specimen flew past my freckled nose and alighted in a clump of purple echinacea nearby - in my excitement, I almost forgot to capture a photo. One would have to go a long way to top the brilliant colors of the palette that was on display. Red, purple, orange and gold go perfectly together at any time of the year, but especially in shaggy, flowering July. 

A few minutes later, a single cicada started to broadcast its call for a mate from somewhere high in the trees, then came another and another and another. Again and again, their tymbal muscles contracted and relaxed, the sonorous vibrations resulting in what is, for me anyway, summer's most resonant and engaging musical score. Time stood still as Beau and I listened to that poignant and hopeful chorus.

There are moments one remembers in winter, and this was one of those moments. It was wonderful (in the original sense of that word) to watch small wonders flutter and swoop through the garden on stained glass wings, to listen to the annual cicadas rasp and chirr their ardent mating ballads in the trees over our heads.

Life doesn't get any better than this, and it doesn't get any wilder. For a moment I wished my departed soulmate was here with us, and then I remembered that he is. His spirit is tucked in my pocket, and he can see and hear everything we see and hear as we go along. The three of us, together as always.

Thursday, July 18, 2024

Thursday Poem - Aunt Leaf

Needing one, I invented her—
the great-great-aunt dark as hickory
called Shining-Leaf, or Drifting-Cloud
or The-Beauty-of-the-Night.

Dear aunt, I'd call into the leaves,
and she'd rise up, like an old log in a pool,
and whisper in a language only the two of us knew
the word that meant follow,
and we'd travel
cheerful as birds

out of the dusty town and into the trees
where she would change us into something quicker—
two foxes with black feet,
two snakes green as ribbons,
two shimmering fish—and all day we'd travel.

At day's end she'd leave me back at my own door
with the rest of my family,
who were kind, but solid as wood
and rarely wandered. While she,
old twist of feathers and birch bark,
would walk in circles wide as rain and then
float back

scattering the rags of twilight
on fluttering moth wings;

or she'd slouch from the barn like a gray opossum;
or she'd hang in the milky moonlight
burning like a medallion,

this bone dream, this friend I had to have,
this old woman made out of leaves.

Mary Oliver, (from Twelve Moons)

Tuesday, July 16, 2024

How the Trees Love Summer LIght

It was the first thing Beau and I noticed as we set off on a long walk this morning before the heat and humidity drove us indoors. Early light beamed through the high, gossamer heat haze as though old Helios was a lighthouse lamp broadcasting caution on a foggy autumn morning. The trees along our way looked as though they were lifting their branches in greeting to the rising sun, and perhaps they were.

Mourning doves cooed softly on the roof peak, a mid-to-late summer happening. Somewhere in the overstory, grosbeaks lifted their voices in song, and there was no mistaking it - the song was one of praise. The chorale rose into the sky and drifted back down again. A single cicada, the first of the season, primed his tymbals for a day of courting ballads from a perch in the oak tree in the front yard.

The fields along our way were tenanted by waving fronds of bugloss, buttercups, chicory, clover, hedge bindweed, goldenrod, meadow salsify, orange and yellow hawkweed, Queen Anne's lace, toadflax and vervain, to name just a few. There were young cottontail rabbits everywhere, and Beau pointed every one he saw.

Vines in the hedgerows are now sporting tiny, green grapes, and the two black walnut trees nearby are bending over under their abundant fruiting. I gathered three nuts and brought them home in my pocket, sniffing their fragrance all the way back. With a little luck, their perfume will linger in the house for a day or two. 

And so begins the crafting of our summer litany. As we go along, we gather birdsong and raspy insect ballads. We collect fruiting trees and vines, weeds and wildflowers, all the small, radiant happenings of a quiet summer morning, We thank Herself (the Old Wild Mother) for another fine season of light and wonder and rambling.

Tonight there will be fireflies. What a trip!

Sunday, July 14, 2024

Sunday, Saying Yes to the World

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, July 13, 2024

The Stained Glass Guest

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
(Papilio glaucus)

Friday, July 12, 2024

Friday Ramble - Abundance

I awaken early and trot out to the garden wearing a faded cotton caftan, straw hat and sandals, and carrying a mug of Earl Grey. It's already wickedly hot out there, and the sky is obscured by a high gossamer heat haze.

The only sentient beings happy about this July heat are the blissfully foraging bees, flowering herbs and the ripening vegetables in village veggie patches: beans, peppers, tomatoes, garlic, chards and emerging gourds. Most vegetables show a little restraint, but the zucchini vines (as always) are on the march and threatening to take over entire gardens, if not the whole wide world. Are veggies sentient, and do they have Buddha nature? You bet they do, and I suspect they have long mindful conversations when we are not listening.

Villagers are an eccentric bunch when it comes to gardening. One neighbor is growing squash on her veranda, and another has planted cabbages and corn in her flower beds. A guy around the corner is cultivating every known variety of hot pepper in reclaimed plastic storage bins. The tubs are lined up along the sidewalk and driveway in front of his house, and the place looks like a jungle. He is not growing anything else, and his enthusiasm for hot peppers is admirable; he plans to pickle each and every one.

Tomatoes are a marvel when they ripen. Scarlet or gold, occasionally purpled or striped, they come in all sizes and some surprising shapes. The first juicy heirloom "toms" of the season are the essence of feasting and celebration as they rest on the sideboard: fresh-from-the-garden jewels, rosy and flushed and beaded with early morning dew. A wedge of Brie or Camembert, gluten-free crackers, a sprinkling of sea salt and a few fresh basil leaves from the garden are all that is needed to complete both the scene and today's lunch.

Oh honey sweet and hazy summer abundance....... That luscious word made its first appearance in the fourteenth century, coming down the years to us through Middle English and Old French from the Latin abundāns, meaning overflowing. The adjective form is abundant, and synonyms for it include:ample, generous, lavish, plentiful; copious; plenteous; exuberant; overflowing; rich; teeming; profuse; prolific, replete, teeming, bountiful and liberal.

Abundant is the exactly the right word for these days of ripeness and plenty, as we weed and water and gather in, chuck things in jars, pickle up a storm and store summer's bounty to consume somewhere way up the road. Like bees and squirrels, we scurry about, preserving the contents of our gardens to nourish body and soul when temperatures fall and nights grow long. For all the sweetness and abundance held out in offering, there is a subtle ache to such times with their dews and hazes and ripening vegetables. These days are all too fleeting.

Thursday, July 11, 2024

Thursday Poem - Daily

These shriveled seeds we plant,
corn kernel, dried bean,
poke into loosened soil,
cover over with measured fingertips

These T-shirts we fold into
perfect white squares

These tortillas we slice and fry to crisp strips
This rich egg scrambled in a gray clay bowl

This bed whose covers I straighten
smoothing edges till blue quilt fits brown
blanket and nothing hangs out

This envelope I address
so the name balances like a cloud
in the center of sky

This page I type and retype
This table I dust till the scarred wood shines
This bundle of clothes I wash and hang
and wash again like flags we share, a
a country so close no one needs to name it

The days are nouns: touch them
The hands are churches that
worship the world.

Naomi Shihab Nye,
(from The Words Under the Words: Selected Poems)

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Tuesday, July 09, 2024

Summer, Elemental

Almost all the elements of a fine summer afternoon are in place, wide fields, wooden fences and blue skies that seem to go on and on forever, waving meadow grasses and buttery wildflowers, whirring grasshoppers and chirping crickets.

Beau and I lean against the fence and remember other visits here, the dry fragrance of the old cedar posts and rails and the way they creaked when air currents passed through them, the sharp cry of hawks hunting overhead, the soft susurrus of rustling field grasses, how the voice of the creek in the woods behind us softened as the season flowed ever onward.

We remember trips to the lake up the road to listen to loons calling across the water at sunset and watch herons hunting the shallows, our stops for ice cream at the general store on the way home. There were three of us then, and there are three of us now, but one of us is silent and leaves no footprints along the trail. We miss his steady, loving presence more than words can say. 

A little wind ruffles the trees on the hill puckishly. Off in the distance, a red-winged blackbird is trilling its pleasure in the day, a song of praise if I ever heard one. Everything we need is here. All that is missing are cicadas and their raspy ballads, but it will not be long until they put in their annual appearance and grace our rambles for a few weeks. It is certainly hot enough for them!

Monday, July 08, 2024

Sunday, July 07, 2024

Sunday, Saying Yes to the World

We come spinning out of nothingness, scattering
stars like dust. The stars form a circle, 
and in the center we dance.


Saturday, July 06, 2024

Friday, July 05, 2024

Friday Ramble - Summer's Ticking Clock

Somewhere in the dusty recesses of my noggin, the passage of these sultry summer days is being marked, and ever so wistfully. The clock of the seasons is ticking away in the background, and hearing it, I find myself pondering the lessons held out by this golden interval that is passing away all too swiftly. The other three seasons of a northern calendar year are splendid of course, and there are surely other fine summers ahead, but this summer is waning, and its days are numbered. The summer solstice has come and gone, and we are sliding gently down the hill toward autumn, shorter days and longer nights.

Thoughts of coming and going are ever inscribed on summer's middling pages, and they're unsettling notions, making for restlessness and vague discontent, a gentle melancholy concerning the nature of time, a wistful sense of what is falling away and the transience of all earthly things. A heightened awareness of suchness (or tathata) is a middle-of-the-summer thing for sure. For the most part, one goes gently along with the flow of the season, breathing in and out, trying to rest in the moment and do the gardeny things that need doing.

Old garden roses are a perfect metaphor for the season. Most bloom once in a calendar year, but what a show they put on when they do. Their unruly tangles of wickedly thorny canes and blue-green leaves wear delicate pink (for the most part) blooms with crinkled petals and golden hearts. Each rose is unique, and each is exquisite from budding until its faded petals flutter to earth like snowflakes. For several weeks after Midsummer, fragrance lingers in every corner of the garden, and every year I fall in love with old roses all over again. It is nothing short of a miracle that creatures so beautiful and fragile thrive this far north.

Once in a while, I catch a glimpse of the Great Mystery while I am hanging out in the garden, and that is surely what this old life is all about. Sometimes, I wish I did a better job of remembering and keeping everything in perspective, but forgetting now and then is quite all right - I have my roses to remind me.

Thursday, July 04, 2024

Thursday Poem - Epiphany

Lynn Schmidt says
        she saw You once as prairie grass,
        Nebraska prairie grass,

she climbed out of her car on a hot highway,
leaned her butt on the nose of her car,
looked out over one great flowing field,
stretching beyond her sight until the horizon came:
vastness, she says,
responsive to the slightest shift of wind,
        full of infinite change,
        all One.

She says when she can't pray
She calls up Prairie Grass.

Pem Kremer

Wednesday, July 03, 2024

Tuesday, July 02, 2024

Lilies of the Sun

Daylily (Hemerocallis fulva)

Why give such gorgeous creatures names like ditch lily, railroad lily, roadside lily, outhouse lily, and wash-house lily? Outhouse lily? Such sumptuous blooms deserve better, more elegant monikers. They should have names redolent of summer, sunlight and warmth, sweetness and vibrant color.

Sun worshipers of the highest order, daylilies don't bother to open in cloudy weather, and they remain tightly furled until the clouds roll away, and the sun comes out. The flowers last for only a day or two, but what a show they put on in the garden when they bloom, their spires rising from cool spinneys of arching green leaves, each stem crowned by gracefully swaying blooms with expansive golden hearts.

Dragonflies love daylilies, and at first light, it is not uncommon for the daylilies in our garden to be wearing dragonflies - the little dears are waiting for the rising sun to warm their wings and grant them the power of unfettered, swooping flight.

Could there a better way to begin a summer morning than to partake of early sunlight and warm one's wings on a lily in bloom? I think not. 

Monday, July 01, 2024

Sequestered, Week 219 (CCXIX)

Happy July, everyone, happy Canada Day!

Sunday, June 30, 2024

Sunday, Saying Yes to the World

Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and being alone won't either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You have to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes too near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself that you tasted as many as you could.

Louise Erdrich, The Painted Drum

Saturday, June 29, 2024

Friday, June 28, 2024

Friday Ramble - The Measure of Our Days

Nearing the end of June, trees on the Two Hundred Acre Wood are gloriously leafed out, and vast swaths of woodland are as dark as night - the shadowed alcoves are several degrees cooler than the sunlit fields skirting them. Winding strands of wild clematis wrap around the old cedar rail fence by the main gate, and the silvery posts and rails give off a fine dry perfume.

The fields are wonders: orange and yellow hawkweeds, buttercups and clovers, daisies, tall rosy grasses and ripening milkweed, several species of goldenrod, trefoils and prickly violet bugloss - everything is moved by the arid summer wind and swaying in place. The open areas of waving greenery have an oceanic aspect, and I wouldn't be surprised to see the masts of tall ships poking up here and there.

And oh, the birds . . . red-tailed hawks circling overhead, swallows and kingfishers over the river, bluebirds on the fence, grosbeaks dancing from branch to branch in the overstory and caroling their pleasure in the day and the season. I can't see them for the trees, but mourning doves are cooing somewhere nearby.

Fritillaries and swallowtails flutter among the cottonwoods, never pausing in their exuberant flight or coming down to have their pictures taken. Dragonflies (mostly skimmers, clubtails and darners) spiral and swoop through the air, a few corporals among them for good measure.

I began this morning's post with the words "It is high summer". Then I remembered that the solstice has passed, and I went back and started again. And so it goes in the great round of time and the seasons. Many golden days are still to come, but we have stepped into the the languid waters that flow downhill to autumn.

Thursday, June 27, 2024

Thursday Evening - Evening

The sky puts on the darkening blue coat
held for it by a row of ancient trees;
you watch: and the lands grow distant
in your sight, one journeying to
heaven and one that falls;

and leave you not at home in either one,
not quite so still and dark as the darkened
houses, not calling to eternity with
the passion of what becomes a star
each night, and rises;

and leave you (inexpressibly to unravel)
your life, with its immensity and fear,
so that, now bounded, now immeasurable,
it is alternately stone in you and star.

Rainer Maria Rilke
(translation by Stephen Mitchell)

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Flaming Amazement

Ah, these burnished summer days! In the eastern Ontario highlands, the rolling fields are studded with great round bales of hay. Shadows stretch long skinny fingers across cropped acreages at dusk, and deer and wild turkeys feed under the trees.

The evening sun flames amazement as it drops below the horizon. I've always loved the words "I flamed amazement", spoken by Ariel in William Shakespeare's The Tempest, (Act I, Scene 2). They seem just right for a balmy summer evening when the setting sun is putting on a blazing show, and there is magic in the air.

Shadows slanting across the landscape lengthen, grow sharper and deeper as days grow shorter. As if to compensate for waning daylight hours, northern sunsets light up the horizon in gold, inky blue and purple, perfect molten light and technicolor clouds. 

Beau and I lean against a fence at sunset, and my camera and lens can scarcely take in all the riches on offer. The setting sun dazzles our eyes, and the moon is as lustrous as a great cosmic pearl; she seems lit from within. I know the moon has no light of her own and borrows it from the sun, but it always seems otherwise at this time of the year. The fabulous sundown light is enough to make one swoon in delight.

Monday, June 24, 2024

Sunday, June 23, 2024

Sunday, Saying Yes to the World

Touch is a reciprocal action, a gesture of exchange with the world. To make an impression is also to receive one, and the soles of our feet, shaped by the surfaces they press upon, are landscapes themselves with their own worn channels and roving lines. They perhaps most closely resemble the patterns of ridge and swirl revealed when a tide has ebbed over flat sand.

Robert Macfarlane, The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot