Sunday, July 22, 2018

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 21, 2018

Friday, July 20, 2018

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. Then there is the guy around the corner who 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 always a marvel.  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 19, 2018

Thursday Poem - Flying at Night

Above us, stars. Beneath us, constellations.
Five billion miles away, a galaxy dies
like a snowflake falling on water. Below us,
some farmer, feeling the chill of that distant death,
snaps on his yard light, drawing his sheds and barn
back into the little system of his care.
All night, the cities, like shimmering novas,
tug with bright streets at lonely lights like his.

Ted Kooser,
(From Flying at Night)

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

By Brush and Lens, We Become

A few thoughts from one of my favorite artists this morning. Robert Genn captured the essence of Canadian wild places so beautifully that I often thought I might be able to walk right into one of his paintings.  The thoughtful newsletters he sent out from The Painters Keys are still being sent out by his daughter, Sara Genn, also a fine artist, and I am always happy when one arrives in my inbox. I miss Bob, and these are fine words to live by.

. . . creative evils are beaten with the power of knowledge and understanding. By taking pains. By not tolerating mediocrity and mediocre thinking in ourselves. By treating ourselves to the exhilaration of our honest and elevated desires. By honoring craftsmanship and attention to detail. By patience and perseverance. By appreciating the prior and current light of others. By the realization of the responsibility of it all. And the epiphany that even through the act of art we can be our brother’s keepers.

There is always something eating away at what we could be. But the real termites of our studios are the ones that eat away at the clarity of our love.

Robert Genn
(1936 - 2014)

Monday, July 16, 2018

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Sunday - Saying Yes to the World

Magic doesn't sweep you away; it gathers you up into the body of the present moment so thoroughly that all your explanations fall away: the ordinary, in all its plain and simple outrageousness, begins to shine -- to become luminously, impossibly so. Every facet of the world is awake, and you within it.

David Abram, Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Friday, July 13, 2018

Friday Ramble - Sticky

Sticky is a fine word for late July and early August, for summer's puckish "toing and froing" between sunshine and rain, steamy heat and pleasantly cool temperatures, weather moderate and weather extreme. This summer is turning out to be a glue pot or "sticky wicket" at the best of times.

This week’s mucilaginous word offering hails from the Old English stician  meaning “to pierce, stab, transfix”" as well as “to adhere, be embedded, stay fixed or be fastened”. Then there are the Proto-Germanic stik, Old Saxon stekan, Dutch stecken, Old High German stehhan and German stechen all meaning much the same thing.  Most of this week's word kin are rooted in the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) form steig meaning "to affix, point or be pointed".  The Latin instigare (to goad) and stinguere (to incite or impel), the Greek stizein (to prick or puncture) and Old Persian tigra (sharp or pointed) are cognates, and for some strange reason, so is the Russian stegati (to quilt).

Early mornings here are lovely times for walks or hanging out in the garden.  By ten, we three (Himself, Beau and I) are happy to be indoors and looking out, rather than actually being out. At twilight, off we go again, and we potter around the village, peering into trees for little green acorns, ripening plums and flowers blooming unseen in leafy depths like late summer jewels.

On early walks, hedgerows are festooned with spider webs, and the strands of silk are strung with beads of pearly dew, looking for all the world like fabulous neck ornaments. The webs are, for the most part, the work of an orb weaver known as the writing spider, corn spider or common garden spider (Argiope aurantia). Artfully spun from twig to twig, the spider's creations are sublime.  No two are the same, and they are often several feet from one edge to the other.

Peering at a web one morning this week, I remembered the friend (now moved away) who used to "do" web walks with me and occasionally rang the doorbell at sunrise when she discovered a real whopper and just had to share it. I thought too of the metaphor of Indra's jeweled web and how we are all connected in the greater scheme of things. Emaho! Sticky or not, it's all good.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Thursday Poem - 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)

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Stained Glass Wings and Summer Musics

Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus)
There have not been many Monarch butterflies about this year so far, and I did a spirited, wobbly dance a few days ago when a single glorious specimen flew past my freckled nose and alighted in a stand of milkweed along the trail into the woods - in my excitement, I almost dropped the camera.

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

There are moments one remembers in the depths of winter, and this was one of them.  How sweet it was to listen to cicadas rumble and rasp in the trees over my head, to watch a small, wonder flutter and swoop through fields of waving milkweed on stained glass wings. Life simply doesn't get any better than this, and it doesn't get any wilder either.

Monday, July 09, 2018

Pennant in the Wind

Halloween Pennant (Celithemis eponina)

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Sunday - Saying Yes to the World

It is our task to imprint this temporary, perishable earth into ourselves so deeply, so painfully and passionately, that its essence can rise again, invisibly, inside us. We are the bees of the invisible. We wildly collect the honey of the visible, to store it in the great golden hive of the invisible.
Rainer Maria Rilke

Friday, July 06, 2018

Friday Ramble - Earth

Earth is a good word for pondering in this shaggy season as we toil in our gardens and tend the sweet beginnings of the harvest to come.  All things, or at least most things, arise from the earth and return to it in time, us included.

The word dates from before 950 CE, and it comes to us through the good offices of the Middle English erthe, the Old English eorthe; the Germanic Erde, Old Norse jǫrth, Danosh jord and the Gothic airtha, all springing from the Ancient Saxon eard meaning soil,home, or dwelling. All forms are likely related to the Latin aro, meaning to plough or turn over.

When we say "earth", are we thinking simply of the ground under our feet, of garden plots, orchards, wooded hills, city parks, farm fields and shadowed arroyos?  Are we thinking of wild plums, oak leaves, weeping willows, seeds and sleeping roots below our feet, the granite bones of our little blue planet and its fiery heart beating way down deep in the molten core of the earth?

Skin and blood, bones and hair, the red rivers of our veins, the sinews of the planet, the air we are breathing in and out - they are all connected and part of a vast elemental process, a web. Thoughtless strands in the web that we are, we often forget that we are part of anything at all. 

Once in a while, the simple truth that we are NOT separate shows up and insists we pay attention. It can happen while we are dangling half way up a rock face or seated in a pool of sunlight under a tree in the woods, on a hill somewhere under the summer stars, or on the shore of a favorite lake at sunset. A good sunset or a starry, starry night does it for me every time, and sometimes it even happens while I am parked in the waiting room of my local cancer clinic.

There we are with our feet planted in the dirt and heads in the clouds, not a lofty thought in sight, and out of the blue a scrap of elemental knowing puts in an appearance. Suddenly we know beyond a doubt that we are part of all this and right where we should be. We belong here, our roots, branches, star stuff and every dancing particle - we belong here as much as rivers, mountains, acorns, wild salmon and sandpipers do. Dirt, clouds and stardust, it's all good.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Thursday Poem - At Dawn

a waning moon floats high in the cloudless
blue and blesses a perfect summer day,
one that will never come again in all
its sweetness and its fey perfume.

slow walkers in the early hours, we go along
together, paw and paw, through fragrant
summer yieldings of clover, grass and golden
daisies, accompanied by rhyming crickets,
by humming bees and dancing leaves

while around us, unseen but deeply felt
and loved, the world is breathing in and
out, all our voices falling together into
seamless light and tune and time.

Cate (me)

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Lilies of the Day

 Orange Daylily (Hemerocallis fulva)
Why give such glorious creatures other names like ditch lily, railroad lily, roadside lily, outhouse lily, and wash-house lily? Such wonders deserve better monikers, names redolent of summer and warmth, sweetness and vibrant color.

Sun worshippers of the highest order, daylilies don't open at all in cloudy weather. The flowers last for only a day, but what a show they put on in the garden, their spires rising from cool spinneys of arching green leaves, each crowned by gracefully swaying blooms with expansive golden hearts.

Dragonflies love daylilies, and at first light, it is not uncommon to see every lily in our garden wearing a dragonfly -  the little dears are waiting for the sun to warm their wings and grant them the power of unfettered flight. Could there be there a better place to do such a thing than a daylily in bloom?


Monday, July 02, 2018

The Stained Glass Guest

White Admiral (Limenitis arthemis)