Tuesday, December 05, 2023

Monday, December 04, 2023

Sunday, December 03, 2023

Sunday, Saying Yes to the World

Tonight, I walk. I am watching the sky. I think of the people who came before me and how they knew the placement of the stars in the sky, watching the moving sun long and hard enough to witness how a certain angle of light touched a stone only once a year. Without written records, they knew the gods of every night, the small, fine details of the world around them and the immensity above them.

Walking, I can almost hear the redwoods beating... It is a world of elemental attention, of all things working together, listening to what speaks in the blood. Whichever road I follow, I walk in the land of many gods, and they love and eat one another. Walking, I am listening to a deeper way. Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me. Be still, they say. Watch and listen. You are the result of the love of thousands.

Linda Hogan, Dwellings: A Spiritual History of the Living World

Saturday, December 02, 2023

Friday, December 01, 2023

Friday Ramble - Tea and Redemption

The world outside the windows is dark, and the village is a collection of indistinct shapes and muffled sounds. When I look at the digital clock on the De'Longhi espresso machine, it proclaims the time as 3:10 AM.  It is cold and damp, and my bones, sinews and joints are shrieking in protest. What on earth am I doing up at this hour?

On winter mornings like this one, summer seems like a lovely dream from long ago and far away, and I thank Herself for this dear little kitchen. Always a sanctuary, it is a haven of warmth and peace and quiet shadows in the wee hours of the morning. The only sounds are the burblings of the tea kettle, and the rattle and hum of the refrigerator in the corner. This is where the magic happens around here, and no mistake. 

How does one banish winter for a while? Looking for something comforting to start the day and hopefully lull me back to sleep, I rattle around in the larder, opening canisters and sniffing them appreciatively. Royal Earl Grey? Constant Comment? Irish Breakfast? Yorkshire Gold? Cloudberry (Arpiqutik)? Crowberry (Paurngaqutik)? Rooibos? Ginseng? Japanese popcorn tea? Perhaps a simple Orange Pekoe? As much as I would like one,  putting a London Fog together at this hour is beyond my foggy sconce. I just want to pour boiling water over a handful of tea leaves and be done with it.

The last container is away in the back of the tea cupboard, and it holds tiny dried chrysanthemum buds, rustling gently and murmuring softly to each other. When I open it, the dry golden fragrance of last summer wafts out, and for a moment, I hear tinkling bells and exotic music, feel the warm August sun on my face. No doubt about it, this is the ambrosial stuff we will partake of this morning.

Waiting for the kettle to do its thing and whistle, I do a little whistling of my own and glance at the shadows falling across my mug, at the aromatic flower buds sitting on the counter. The shadows contrast wonderfully with the porcelain bowl, and its contents. The faint light coming through the kitchen window paints its verges pale gold. Forget the cold weather and short days, this morning scene is perfect just as it is. Tea anyone? There may be a few biscotti around here somewhere. 

Happy December, friends and fellow wanderers.

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Two on Earth, Five Together

This morning marks the fourth anniversary of my husband's passing from pancreatic cancer. Irv took his last breath at 9:23 AM on November 30, 2019, and it feels like only yesterday that he left us and went on ahead. To say that life without my soulmate is difficult is understating things and then some. I loved Irv more than life itself, and it is difficult to wrap my mind around the idea of years of life without him. Surviving without him is still hard work, and flourishing is probably not in the cards.

For many years, I was married to a guy with a razor-sharp mind, a dry wit, a fine sense of irony and a great laugh. The natural world was an endless source of delight to him, and he never wearied of its grandeur and its beauty. He was passionate about trees, rocks and rivers, fields and fens, birds, bugs and woodland critters, sunrises and sunsets, full moons and starry nights. He loved his tribe fiercely and unconditionally.

He loved rambling, and ramble we did by golly, hand in hand and all over the place, packs on our backs, notebooks in our pockets, a camera around my neck and our beloved doggy sidekicks trotting along with us. I could not have had a more wonderful companion if I had written him into being myself, and I simply could not believe my good fortune. I look back on our life together with amazement and gratitude and so much love.

Now it is Beau and I who wander through the great wide world together, in the flesh anyway. Cassie and Spencer, his older sister and brother, traveled beyond the fields we know long ago, but they are right here with Irv, and all three are walking along in the woods with us. There will be five of us on the snowbound trail this winter, but three of us will not need parkas and snowshoes or leave paw prints in the white stuff. There is a small measure of comfort in knowing that we will walk these hallowed hills together forever. A fine untrammeled wildness dwells in our blood and bones, all of us.

Journey well, my love. Beau and I miss you so much. 

Thursday Poem - Praise Song

Praise the light of late November,
the thin sunlight that goes deep in the bones.
Praise the crows chattering in the oak trees;
though they are clothed in night, they do not
despair. Praise what little there's left:
the small boats of milkweed pods, husks, hulls,
shells, the architecture of trees. Praise the meadow
of dried weeds: yarrow, goldenrod, chicory,
the remains of summer. Praise the blue sky
that hasn't cracked. Praise the sun slipping down
behind the beechnuts, praise the quilt of leaves
that covers the grass: Scarlet Oak, Sweet Gum,
Sugar Maple. Though darkness gathers,
praise our crazy fallen world; it's all we
have, and it's never enough.

Barbara Crooker, from Radiance

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Pale Gold and Pewter Sky

The morning sun sparks pale gold in the pewter sky, slanting through the grove where I stand and shiver. There is frost on the bare trees overhead, and there is a skim of glassy ice on the puddle below my booted feet. Sunlight claims the pine needles and ice crystals suspended in the water, making them twinkle and glitter and flash by turns. The chancy meeting of the elements forges a pleasing abstract image, but almost everything else is muted and hazy this morning. The damp cold penetrates right through to the bones.

Late November finds northern dwellers perched between Samhain (or Halloween) festivities and the frantic scurryings of Yuletide. Migratory species like loons and herons have been gone for weeks, and only few small flocks of Canada geese remain in local farm fields. Nights are below zero, and many geese have already flown south.

The rural landscape always seems empty at this time of the year, a pallid sepia study carpeted with crunchy field grasses and crowned from here to there with skeletal, whiskery trees. It is beautiful for all that. Never mind shopping malls with their towering gift displays and trite holiday carols, this is where it is at.

A north wind whips through the hollow, scouring the earth and driving fallen leaves, pebbles and twigs before it. A few miles up the road, a favorite gorge is lashed with torrents of water a few degrees above freezing. The rocks glisten, and they wear the season's first slick shards of lacy ice. Winter weather is wild "stuff", absolutely exhilarating when one is in the right frame of mind and wearing the proper gear for rambling.

Here we go again, another long white season in which the doddering scribe/artist wraps up in every warm garment she possesses, slings a camera around her neck, crams her pockets with peripherals and doggie biscuits and goes off to plumb the mysteries of winter. She can do this, and really, she is looking forward to it, at least for now. When she returns home later, she will move autumn's vibrant images from her computer to an archival DVD, and she will create a new folder called "Winter".

Monday, November 27, 2023

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Sunday, Saying Yes to the World

Rootedness is a way of being in concert with the wilderness -- and wildness -- that sustains humans and all of life. The rooted pathways offered here are not meant as a definitive list but as way markers and fortifications for all of us seeking our unique, bewildering, awkward way through the essential question of how to live on our broken, imperiled, beloved earth. It is the question Thoreau asked. The one that Mary Oliver, who passed just before I wrote these words, has perhaps framed most beautifully: Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

Lyanda Lynn Haupt, Rooted: Life at the Crossroads of Science, Nature, and Spirit

Saturday, November 25, 2023

A Yuletide Reading List

Here is one of my holiday traditions, a list of written materials about the winter holiday season and the return of the light to the north. Many of these books are out of print, but they can sometimes be found in used book shops, and they are often happy campers in your local library. May they be a light in your window, a fire on your hearth conveying warmth, comfort and festive spirit this holiday season.

No Yule interval would be complete without reading Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising sequence again. The five books in the series are: Over Sea, Under Stone, The Dark is Rising, Greenwitch, The Grey King and Silver on the Tree. I will also be reading John Masefield's Box of Delights, a childhood favorite, and at least four of my late friend Dolores Stewart Riccio's delightful Circle novels take place at (or near) Yule. I will be reading them again this year too.

Christmas Folklore and Superstitions, A.R. Bane

The Oxford Book of Days, Bonnie Blackburn and
Leofranc Holford-Strevens

Echoes of Magic: A Study of Seasonal Festivals
through the Ages, C.A. Burland

The Book of Christmas Folklore,
Tristram Potter Coffin

Lights of Winter: Winter Celebrations Around
the World, Heather Conrad and DeForest Walker

Medieval Holidays and Festivals: A Calendar of
Celebrations, Madeleine Pelner Cosman

Christmas and Christmas Lore, T.G. Crippen

The Return of the Light: Twelve Tales from Around
the World, for the Winter Solstice,
Carolyn McVickar Edwards

Christmas, A Biography, Cynthia Flanders

The Magic of the Winter Solstice: Seasonal
Celebrations to Honour Nature's Ever-turning Wheel,
Danu Forest

Yule: History, Lore and Celebration, Anna Franklin

A Calendar of Festivals: Traditional Celebrations,
Songs, Seasonal Recipes and Things to Make,
Marian Green

The Sun in the Church: Cathedrals As Solar
Observatories, John L. Heilbron

Celebrate the Solstice: Honoring the Earth's Seasonal 
Rhythms Through Festival and Ceremony,
Richard Heinberg

 Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual
Year in Britain, Britain, Ronald Hutton

The Winter Solstice, Ellen Jackson

The Dance of Time: The Origins of the Calendar:
A Miscellany of History and Myth, Religion and
Festivals and Feast Days, Michael Judge 

The Solstice Evergreen: History, Folklore and Origins
of the Christmas Tree, Sheryl Karas

Perpetual Almanack of Folklore, Charles Kightly

Sacred Celebrations: A Sourcebook, Glennie Kindred

Beyond the Blue Horizon: Myths and Legends of
the Sun, Moon Stars, and Planets, E.C. Krupp

The Ancient Celtic Festivals: and How We Celebrate
Them Today, Clare Walker Leslie and Frank E. Gerace

Celebrations Of Light : A Year of Holidays Around
the World, Nancy Luenn and Mark Bender

Llewellyn's Little Book of Yule, Jason Mankey

The Winter Solstice: The Sacred Traditions
Christmas, John Matthews and Caitlin Matthews

Rituals of Celebration: Honoring the Seasons of Life
Through the Wheel of the Year, Jane Meredith

Christmas in Ritual and Tradition, Clement A. Miles

The Hedgewitch Book of Days, Spells Rituals and
Recipes for the Magical Year, Mandy Mitchell

Yule: A Celebration of Light and Warmth,
Dorothy Morrison

The Provenance Press Guide to the Wiccan Year:
A Year Round Guide to Spells, Rituals, and Holiday Celebrations, Judy Ann Nock

The Modern Witchcraft Guide to the Wheel of the Year:
From Samhain to Yule, Your Guide to the Wiccan Holidays, Judy Ann Nock

Sacred Origins of Profound Things: The Stories
Behind the Rites and Rituals of the World's Religions, Charles Panati

Yule: Rituals, Recipes and Lore for the Winter Solstice,
Susan Pesznecker

The Shortest Day: Celebrating the Winter Solstice, Wendy Pfeffer

Christmas Folklore, Cory Nelson and Kyle Pressly

Celebrating the Winter Solstice, Theresa Reel

The Shortest Day: Celebrating the Winter Solstice,
Wendy Pfeffer and Jesse Reisch

The Old Magic of Christmas: Yuletide Traditions for
the Darkest Days of the Year, Linda Raedisch

Pagan Christmas: The Plants, Spirits, and Rituals at
the Origins of Yuletide, Christian Rätsch, Claudia

Keeping Christmas: Yuletide Traditions In Norway and
the New Land, Kathleen Stokker

When Santa Was A Shaman: Ancient Origins of Santa
Claus and the Christmas Tree, Tony van Renterghem

How To Celebrate Winter Solstice, Teresa Villegas

The Fires of Yule: A Keltelven Guide for Celebrating
the Winter Solstice, Montague Whitsel

The Wicca Cookbook: Recipes, Ritual and Lore,
Jamie Wood

Friday, November 24, 2023

Friday Ramble - Calling the Sun Home

Herons, geese and loons have departed, and waterways in the eastern Ontario highlands are freezing over. Temperatures are below freezing, and skies are grey and cloudy. On early morning rambles, puddles along the trail are iced over, and fallen leaves crunch pleasingly under our feet. Near home, a north wind rattles the eaves of the little blue house in the village, setting the whiskery trees nearby in raspy motion too.

When night falls, I pull draperies closed and shut out the gloom beyond the windows, taking refuge, comfort and great pleasure in small seasonal rites. I light scented candles, brew pots of tea, knead bread dough and stir mugs of hot chocolate, experiment with recipes for curries and paellas, sketch and read. I plot gardens for next year (more roses and herbs, perhaps a Medicine Wheel garden), craft grand and fabulous schemes which will probably never see the light of day. I do a little dancing from time to time, but my efforts are closer to lurching than they are to anything else.

Hallelujah, we are nearing the end of November, and in a few weeks, days will begin to lengthen again. It will be some time until we notice a real difference, but at least we will be on our way, and for that reason, Yule just may be my favorite day in the whole turning year. When the winter solstice arrives, there will be celebrations and silliness, candles, music and mulled cider to drive away the darkness and welcome old Helios back to the world. He is still here of course - it's the earth's seasonal wobble that makes him seem more distant than he actually is at this time of the year. We and our planet are the ones in motion, not the magnificent star at the center of our universe.

Beginning Sunday night and continuing until Yule, I will light a candle at dusk every Sunday night in a practice called the Advent Sun Wheel Circle, four weeks and four candles, a fifth festive candle to be lit on the eve of the Winter Solstice. Now in its eighteenth year, the observance was crafted by the late Helen Farias, founder of the Beltane Papers. Helen passed beyond the fields we know in 1994, and her creation has been carried on, first by Waverly Fitzgerald and since 2004 by my friend, Beth Owl's Daughter. Waverly passed beyond the fields we know in December 2019, but she will be with us in spirit as we light our candles. She always is.

In touching match to candlewick, I join a circle of wise women and kindred spirits in far flung places, bright spirits like Beth, Joanna Powell Colbert, and many others. I am not so wise myself, but that is quite all right. Together we will honor the earth and her fruitful darkness, and we will welcome the sun home with warm thoughts and healing energies. This has been a difficult year. May there be light ahead for all of us.

One needs only a wreath and five candles to participate in this observance. At sunset this coming Sunday, light the first candle in your wreath and spend a little time in quiet reflection, then blow out the candle when you are done. On the following Sunday at sunset, light the first candle and a second candle too... and so on and so on until the Winter Solstice when the fifth and last candle of the ritual is lit.

Magpie creature that I am and ever a passionate collector of seasonal lore, I am very interested in your own "before Yule" practices.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Thursday Poem - Instructions in Magick

You don’t need candles,
only the small slim flame in yourself,
the unrevealed passion
that drives you to rise on winter mornings
remembering summer nights.

You don’t need incense,
only the lingering fragrance
of the life that has gone before,
stew cooking on an open fire,
the good stars, the clean breeze,
the warmth of animals breathing in the dark.

You don’t need a cauldron,
only your woman’s body,
where so many of men’s fine ideas
are translated into life.

You don’t need a wand, hazelwood or oak,
only to follow the subtle and impish
leafy green fellow
who beckons you into the forest,
the one who goes dancing
and playing his flute
through imperial trees.

And you don’t need the salt of earth.
You will taste that soon enough.

These things are the trappings,
the tortoise shell, the wolf skin, the blazoned shield.
It’s what’s inside, the star of becoming.
With that ablaze, you have everything you need
to conjure up new worlds.

Dolores Stewart, from The Nature of Things
(reprinted with the late poet's kind permission)

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Frosted and Then Some

On a cold morning in November, there is hoarfrost and plain old frost. There is ice. There is snow, and there is lovely granular hail punctuating the equation. The view from the fence is wonderful when all the white stuff comes together, but this time around, the scene was breathtaking. It was enough to stop an old hen right in her tracks, and it did.

I stood there wide eyed until my fingers started to tingle, and I had to get moving or turn into an icicle myself. In the light of everything going on in the world, I am heartsick, and this is where I needed to be. How can we be doing this to each other? 

That dazzling blue . . . Sky, clouds, fields and trees, all are rendered in exquisite shades of blue, and when the sun touches them, they sparkle like a dragon's hoard. A dragon's hoard composed only of blue stones that is: topaz, sapphire, tourmaline, turquoise, tanzanite, labradorite and lapis lazuli, amethyst too.

When I come here, I let the wind and the light and the stillness enfold me, and I just breathe in and out for a while. The place is an old friend, and it quiets a weary, aching heart. It is magical in every season, but particularly in winter.

There, I actually said the word, WINTER. 

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Sunday, Saying Yes to the World

The true language of these worlds opens from the heart of a story that is being shared between species. For us to be restored to the fabric of this Earth, we are bidden to enter this tale once again through its many modes of telling, to listen through the ears of others to the mystery of creation, with its continually changing patterns, and to take part once again in the integral weave of the narrative. Might we not hear our true names if we learn to listen through the ears of Others? Through language, one can exchange one's self with other beings and in this way establish an ever-widening circle of existence.

Joan Halifax, The Fruitful Darkness

Saturday, November 18, 2023

A Bowl of Sweetness

 A bowl of Moroccan clementines. Yum!

Friday, November 17, 2023

Friday Ramble - Winter

This week's word hails from the Old English winter (plural wintru) meaning "the wet season". At first glance, it seems odd, but winter is usually the wettest season of the year. There are a few contenders for the word's Proto-Indo-European origins, the most popular being the PIE root forms *wend- and *wed- meaning "wet". Other possibilities include the PIE roots *wind- meaning "white", and *gheim-. The latter also means "winter" and forms part of chimera, hibernate, and the mightiest mountain range of them all, Himalaya.

Whether or not the season involves snow and icy temperatures or just a hatful of rain, most cultures on island earth have a word for it, and it has a singular place in our thoughts, dancing in a stronger light than its other, more moderate kin. Those of us who live in the north tend to predicate our agricultural and culinary activities in spring, summer and autumn on making ready for the long white season.

For the Celts, winter began at Samhain (October 31) and ended on Imbolc (February 1) when springtime arrived. The Winter Solstice on or about December 21 marked the shortest day and longest night of the year, and it was a rowdy celebration of the highest order. From that day onward, the light of the sun would return, a little more every day until the Summer Solstice in June. The legendary King Arthur was believed to have been born on the Winter Solstice, and Druids sometimes refer to the Winter Solstice as Alban Arthuan ("The Light of Arthur").

Rugged northerners that they were, the Norse knew all about winter. They counted their years in winters and thought the world would end after the mightiest winter (the fimbulvetr) of them all. Their beliefs, compiled in the 13th century Icelandic Edda, contain a wealth of oral material from much earlier sources, and the collection is the main source of everything we know about Norse literature, beliefs, customs, deities and creation mythologies. One of these days, I will work my way through the Edda again, and the idea of doing it in winter seems appropriate.

It all comes down to cosmic balance. We owe the lineaments of our existence in the Great Round to a tilt in the earth's axis as it spins merrily in space. When winter reigns here in the north, the happy lands south of the equator are cavorting in summer, and I cling tenaciously to that thought in the depths of frozen January. Somewhere in the world, it is warm and sunny, and sentient creatures are kicking up their heels in the light.

Winter gifts us with the most brilliantly blue skies of the calendar year by day, and the most spectacular stellar expanses by night. There is nothing to compare with the sun shining through frosted trees on a cold morning, with the sound of falling snow in the woods, with darknesses when the stars seem so close one can almost reach up and touch them. Winter star gazing is a chilly business, but one I would not miss for anything in the great wide world.

When winter beckons, I think about moving further south, but it isn't going to happen. Instead, I pile up books and music for the long nights and accumulate tea. I stir curries, make bread and stews, ponder the ranks of jams and pickles in the household larder. I make skis, snowshoes and boots ready for treks in the woods. Rambles will be brief again this winter, but I will be taking them, and Beau will be with me every step of the way.

There is clarity and a measure of comfort in knowing that long after I am gone, the winter fields and forests of the eastern Ontario highlands will remain, their snows unmarred by the clumsy foorprints of this old hen. To know the north woods, one has to wander through them in winter, spend hours tracing the shapes of sleeping trees with eyes and lens, listen to snow falling among them, perhaps become a tree herself.

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Thursday Poem - Thanksgiving

I have been trying to read
the script cut in these hills—
a language carved in the shimmer of stubble
and the solid lines of soil, spoken
in the thud of apples falling
and the rasp of corn stalks finally bare.

The pheasants shout it with a rusty creak
as they gather in the fallen grain,
the blackbirds sing it
over their shoulders in parting,
and gold leaf illuminates the manuscript
where it is written in the trees.

Transcribed onto my human tongue
I believe it might sound like a lullaby,
or the simplest grace at table.
Across the gathering stillness
simply this: “For all that we have received,
dear God, make us truly grateful.”

Lynn Ungar from Blessing the Bread

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Shining Through

Is this place an ocean or a desert in winter? I am never sure, but either way, there is always something to feast one's eyes on and capture with the lens. Old windows, heaps of books, lighted candles, bowls of fruit and cups of tea, it's all good. Isn't a little uncertainty a good thing, every now and then?

Before the first snow of falls, I always wonder how I am going to survive without autumn's shapes and fiery colors, feel a vague anxiety contemplating the monochromatic days and weeks and months to come. Shame on me for harboring such morose and mutinous thoughts. I should know better. There is a whole lot to see out there.

There are patterns everywhere, and they all have to do with liquid turnings and sparkling transformation: feathery patterns in river ice as it forms, glossy icicles suspended from trees along the shore, field grasses poking their silvery heads out of drifts, beads of water falling in the garden and freezing in midair, fallen leaves with snow crystals shining through. Everything my cronish eye alights on is food for camera and lens, a good thing on days when I am not able to wander as far as I would like to.

Absent the vibrant and earthy colors cavorting on my palette at other times of the year, winter's offerings are a constellation of swirling shapes and patterns and hues, each and every one exquisite. Shining through a friend's frosted kitchen window, the egg yolk sun sings and dances, beguiles and enchants, hollers for recognition. And all those glorious colors... What on earth was I worried about?

Monday, November 13, 2023

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Sunday, Saying Yes to the World

By telling the holy, we acknowledge that life is a gift. In fact, the whole universe is a gift. From where or what, and why, we cannot know. All we do know is that it issues forth, moment by moment, eon by eon, ever fresh, astounding in its richness and beauty. None of this is to gainsay the pain, the suffering, the eventual death that awaits all created things. But we measure that pain and suffering, we mourn that death, against the sheer exuberant flow of things. We can lose our life only because it has been given to us.

Scott Russell Sanders, from Telling the Holy

Saturday, November 11, 2023

Friday, November 10, 2023

Friday Ramble - A Later Shade of Gold

And so it goes... Most of the trees in the eastern Ontario highlands have lost their leaves and fallen asleep in their leaf-strewn alcoves, but others hold their turning in abeyance until November, and we are always happy to see them on our rambles.

Whole hillsides of lacy tamarack have gone gold, and their foliage dazzles the eyes. From a distance, the trees look as if they are on fire, and the vision lingers. When I remember their splendor in the depths of winter, the memory will leave me close to tears and hankering for a trip on foot into the tamarack stands north of Lake Superior.

Butternut trees are always the first to drop their leaves, but the great oaks along the trail into the deep woods retain their bronzy leaves well into winter, and native beeches are still wearing a delightful coppery hue. One of our favorite old maples puts on a magnificent golden performance in November, and we attend her one woman show with pleasure. While in her clearing, we remember to say thanks to her for brightening a subdued and rather monochromatic interval in the turning of the seasons.

It has been a windy autumn, and we were delighted to discover a few days ago that the north wind has not left Maple standing bare and forlorn in her clearing. It (the wind, that is) has been doing its best to render her leafless, but the tree is standing fast and holding on to her golden leaves. I would be "over the moon" if I could photograph or paint something even the smallest scrip as grand and elemental and graceful as Maple is creating in her alcove. Every curve and branch and burnished dancing leaf is a wonder, and the blue sky is a perfect counterpoint. So is the snow that fell yesterday.

Writing this, I remembered that along with being an archaic name for a scrap or fragment of something, the word scrip also describes a satchel or pouch once carried by pilgrims and seekers, and that seems fitting for ardent wanderers like Beau and I. It is a fine old thing to belong to the fellowship of tree and leaf, particularly in late autumn.

Thursday, November 09, 2023

Thursday Poem - Sometimes I am startled out of myself

like this morning, when the wild geese came squawking,
flapping their rusty hinges, and something about their trek
across the sky made me think about my life, the places
of brokenness, the places of sorrow, the places where grief
has strung me out to dry. And then the geese come calling,
the leader falling back when tired, another taking her place.
Hope is borne on wings. Look at the trees. They turn to gold
for a brief while, then lose it all each November.
Through the cold months, they stand, take the worst
weather has to offer. And still, they put out shy green leaves
come April, come May. The geese glide over the cornfields,
land on the pond with its sedges and reeds.
You do not have to be wise. Even a goose knows how to find
shelter, where the corn still lies in the stubble and dried stalks.
All we do is pass through here, the best way we can.
They stitch up the sky, and it is whole again.

Barbara Crooker, from Radiance

Wednesday, November 08, 2023

Eighteen Years and Onward

On Sunday morning, clocks in the little blue house in the village turned back an hour, and Daylight Saving Time waved goodbye until next year. Its departure marked the end of gardening and gathering, but it also marked eighteen years of blogging, and I like the fact that the two events are aligned after a fashion.

It seems fitting that the Beech Mother should make an appearance at the top of this morning's post. For many years, we (Beau and I) have passed through her grove on our early morning walks, and we greet her and give her a pat whenever we do. She is beautiful in all seasons but particularly in late autumn and early winter.

For eighteen years, I have been logging on here every morning and posting an image or two. Sometimes I manage a few paragraphs to go along with the visual "stuff", and occasionally I spill my cuppa on the keyboard. I am still astonished that I had the cheek to set this "book of days" up in the first place, let alone do the blogging thing faithfully for eighteen years in a row. Once in a while, I am OK with my efforts, but mostly I am not. When I look at stuff I posted here years ago, I am appalled. Yuck.

However lacking they are (and they are certainly that), these are my morning pages, and chances are they will remain pretty much as they are in the coming year. There may be a bit of font and banner tinkering now and again, but that is all. I don't foresee any significant changes to this place, and I expect blogging life will simply go on as it has been doing so far, photos and scribblings and bits of poetry.

In late November of 2019, my soulmate passed away after a fierce and "no holds barred" battle with pancreatic cancer, and life without him is still rough going. I can't even begin to express how much I loved the man (and still do), how much I miss his loving, steadfast presence in my life. Within a few months of Irv's passing, other dear friends also passed away from cancer, and I miss them too.

I am still coping with the side effects of my own tussle with cancer. Most of the time, I feel as though I am just clinging to the wreckage and paddling frantically to stay afloat, but I keep going. I give thanks for my tribe and Beau, for wild kin and trees, for sisters of the heart, good neighbors and friends. I could not have gotten here without all of you.

Big life stuff notwithstanding, it's all right to be here and wrapped up in the toings and froings of what I call "the Great Round". Beau and I stay busy, and we go rambling every day and in all weathers. Sometimes, I just tuck the cell phone in my pocket, and off we go, our collars turned up against the wind.

We wander along at our own pace, conversing with the great maples and beech mothers, watching leaves dance in the autumn woods, feasting our eyes on the sun going down like a ball of fire over the river, on skies alight with winter stars and moons that seem almost close enough to reach up and touch. My departed love is always with us in spirit, resting warm and easy in the pocket of my tatty old jacket that is closest to my heart - the man loved rambling, and he was usually the first person out the door.

The road goes ever on, and there is magic everywhere if we have the eyes to see it, the wits to acknowledge it, the grace and humility and plain old human decency to show respect and say thank you. The small adventures of our journeying will continue to make their way here every morning and get spilled out on the computer screen with a bad photo or two and a whole rucksack of wonder. The world is an achingly beautiful place, and I am starting to realize that sometimes an image says everything that needs to be said, all by itself, no words needed from this Old Thing. Mary Oliver said it best:

The years to come – this is a promise –
will grant you ample time

to try the difficult steps in the empire of thought
where you seek for the shining proofs
you think you must have.

But nothing you ever understand will be sweeter,
or more binding, than this deep affinity between 
your eyes and the world.

(excerpt from "Terns")

In another poem called "It Was Early", she wrote that sometimes one needs only to stand wherever she is to be blessed, and that is something I keep in mind as Beau and I are tottering along together. Thank you for your kind thoughts and healing energies, your comments and cards and letters, for journeying along with me this year. You are treasured more than you know, and if my fingers were working, I would write each and every one of you. Alas, they are not. Be well, my friends. Be peaceable. Be happy.

Wordless Wednesday - Frosted