Sunday, May 27, 2018

Sunday - Saying Yes to the World

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it is over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

Mary Oliver
Excerpt from When Death Comes

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Friday, May 25, 2018

Friday Ramble - Reflect

Feeling vaguely restless and in need of something or other, I went for a walk along the lake at twilight this week. I didn't know what the something might be, but I hoped I would have the wits to recognize it when I found it.

When I paused on a favorite ribbon of beach near the bridge, the setting sun was painting a trail across the water, and the ripples at my feet offered up a dazzling reflection in return, islands and magical archipelagos floating in the seemingly boundless sky as Helios dropped out of sight for another day. Bulrushes and fronds of pickerel weed fringed the lake, every stem swaying and sighing and casting a fey reflection. Loons drifted on the current like little boats, and herons haunted the shallows nearby. The scene was one of joyous untrammeled reciprocity - no reservations, no limitations and no holding back, just exquisite buttery light and deep shadow, inky shapes across the water, the cadence of the waves as they greeted the shore.

The word reflect has been with us since the fourteenth century, coming from the Old French reflecter and the Middle English reflecten, thence the Latin reflectere, all meaning to bend or bend down. Until the fifteenth century, the common usage had to do with diverting things, with turning things aside or deflecting that which is undesirable. Some time around 1600 CE, we began to use the word to describe processes of thought and quiet contemplation. When we use the word in conversation today, we are usually musing about deep thought processes, about light and mirrors - anything and everything except bending.

There were no deep musings by the lake, and my thoughts were closer to the original meaning of the word reflect than they were to anything else. Seeing the fiery sundown light in all its perfection, I felt like bending in a deep reverential bow or gassho.  I could manage a shallow movement of sorts that evening, but anything deeper was out of the question. So be it. It's always about the light.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Thursday Poem - Bio

I am a leaf-dance in the woods.
I am the green gaze of the ocean.
I am a cloud-splitter in the sky.
I arrived robed in red
out of nowhere and nothing.
I whisper between pages.
I disappear in the painting.
I rest between musical notes.
I awake among strangers
in a country I never imagined.
I am timbales and bells,
a parade under your window.
I am the riddle I cannot solve,
hands on the clock's face,
seven crows on a branch.
I am the one whose footfall
changes the pattern of stars.

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

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Golden Lily of the Woods

Trout lily or Dogtooth violet 
(Erythronium americanum)

Monday, May 21, 2018

The Dutchman's Trousers

Dutchman's breeches or Kingcup 
(Dicentra cucullaria)

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Sunday - Saying Yes to the World

Looking at the heavens places me in time and space - and beyond them. Gazing at the stars, I look through heaven’s wrinkle; the light I see now represents their past, having traveled many years across space to reach my eyes here on earth; the light they are emitting now will be visible only in some future, years away.

I and all the other lives on Earth are connected to the stars, held together by  gravity, the invisible glue that defines our universe, and bound elementally by a common material: stardust.  This atomic grit of interstellar space paints dark clouds on the Milky Way, condenses itself into swirls of gravity-bound suns and planets, and provides the minerals bonded by the push and pull of electrical charges into the molecules that form our cells. Like stardust and the other materials of life itself, we are in constant motion, changing shape as we pass through our lives, and after the makings of our bodies break down and are recycled, rearranged into other forms of life.

The stars remind me of where I come from and who I am.

Susan J. Tweit, Walking Nature Home

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Just Passing Through

Sandhill Crane (Antigone canadensis)
Lanark Highlands, May 16, 2018

Friday, May 18, 2018

Friday Ramble - Aestival

Can there be anything sweet than magenta crabapple blossoms and foraging bumble girls? The crabapple tree in the front yard is in full, riotous, fragrant bloom, and every single flower wears an intoxicated bumble lassie.

This week's word is one of my favorites, hailing from French, thence the Late Latin aestīvālis and earlier Latin aestās meaning summer or summery.  Both forms are cognate with the Sanskrit इन्द्धे (inddhé) meaning to light or set on fire. At the root of our wordy explorations  is the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) form h₂eydʰ- meaning heat, fire or to burn.

In the science of zoology, aestival refers to the tendency of all living creatures to be somewhat sleepy and slow moving in the heat of summer, and botanists use the word to describe the arrangement of organs or components in a flower bud.

I once thought that the word siesta (referring to a leisurely nap after lunch) was related, but I discovered a year or two ago that its roots are in the Latin sexta meaning the sixth hour of the day (midday).  The two words sound similar, but as far as I know, they are not related.

June is only a week or two away, and this week's word is one of my favorites for the brief greening season at the heart of the calendar year.  Of course, summer is a fine word too, but somehow or other, it doesn't hold a candle or even a tiny wooden match to the frothy perfumed magnificence of the golden season that reigns so briefly here in the sub-Arctic climes of Canada. Aestival says it all, and I love the shape of the word on my tongue.

I say "aestival" and its sibilance summons up images of outdoor festivals and al fresco celebrations, shaggy gardens of scarlet poppies and towering purple lupins, trees filled with singing birds, bees in the orchard, roses sweeter than any vineyard potion, perfect sunsets across the lake shared with stately herons.  It's all gold, and it's all good. Here comes June in all her glory, and I am ready.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Thursday Poem - Mornings at Blackwater Pond

For years, every morning, I drank
from Blackwater Pond.
It was flavored with oak leaves and also, no doubt,
the feet of ducks.

And always it assuaged me
from the dry bowl of the very far past.

What I want to say is
that the past is the past,
and the present is what your life is,
and you are capable
of choosing what that will be,
darling citizen.

So come to the pond,
or the river of your imagination,
or the harbor of your longing,

and put your lips to the world.
And live
your life.

Mary Oliver

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Wordless Wednesday - Woodland White

Great White Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum)

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Froth and Fragrance

One day there are no leaves on trees in the village at all, and the next day the same trees are fully leafed out, their voluptuous canopies alive with birds who dish out madrigals at sunrise and trip the light fantastic from branch to branch until the sun goes down. Their pleasure in the day and the season is obvious.

Crabapple trees, flowering almonds and plums seem to leaf out and flower overnight, and wonder of wonder, they are alive with madly buzzing bumbles, honey bees and wasps.  Dusted with pollen from stem to stern, the little dears are in constant motion, ecstatic to be feeling sunlight on their wings and foraging for nectar on a balmy morning in May.

Here comes another fine summer of prowling about in gardens wild and domestic with camera and macro lens, drinking in light and gathering nectars of my own. Now and then, I will put down my gear and dance with the joyous bumble girls. Ungainly creature that I am, I hope no one is watching.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Sunday - Saying Yes to the World

There is a fundamental reason why we look at the sky with wonder and longing—for the same reason that we stand, hour after hour, gazing at the distant swell of the open ocean. There is something like an ancient wisdom, encoded and tucked away in our DNA, that knows its point of origin as surely as a salmon knows its creek. Intellectually, we may not want to return there, but the genes know, and long for their origins—their home in the salty depths. But if the seas are our immediate source, the penultimate source is certainly the heavens… The spectacular truth is—and this is something that your DNA has known all along—the very atoms of your body—the iron, calcium, phosphorus, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and on and on—were initially forged in long-dead stars. This is why, when you stand outside under a moonless, country sky, you feel some ineffable tugging at your innards. We are star stuff. Keep looking up.
Neil deGrasse Tyson

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Friday, May 11, 2018

Friday Ramble - Radical

This week's word is radical, a natural choice for this madcap season when wildflowers are popping up all over the place, when we are planting (or considering planting) packets of seeds and flats of flowers, herbs and veggies into our gardens.  It comes to us through the late Latin rādīcālis meaning having roots, and the Old English wrotan meaning to root, gnaw or dig up, both entities originating in the early Indo-European wrad meaning branch or root.

Synonyms include: fundamental, basic, basal, bottom, cardinal, constitutional, deep-seated, essential, foundational, inherent, innate, intrinsic, native, natural, organic, original, primal, primary, primitive, profound, thoroughgoing, underlying, vital. They also include pejorative words such as anarchistic, chaotic, excessive, extremist, fanatical, far-out, freethinking, iconoclastic, immoderate, insubordinate, insurgent, insurrectionary, intransigent, lawless, left wing, militant, mutinous, nihilistic, rabid, rebellious, recalcitrant, recusant, refractory, restive, revolutionary, riotous, seditious, severe, sweeping, uncompromising and violent.

In common parlance, a person who cultivates dissident political beliefs is "radical".  Ditto those who dwell outside the mainstream, who have departed from accepted social standards or do their very own thing rather than just following the herd. The word has been so used since the sixties, and being called "radical" may be a compliment, but it is usually pejorative. It always intrigues me that a word used to describe the unconventional, independent, mildly eccentric and downright peculiar actually means something as lovely, organic and simple as "rooted". Do I consider myself radical? Anyone who writes, paints, sketches, takes heaps and heaps of photos, rambles in the woods in all sorts of weather and talks to trees is radical, so I suppose I am.

Our word simply means being connected, and it is one of my favorites in the English language. It signifies (for me anyway) a bone deep connection with everything that matters, the earth under my feet, the sky and the sun and the moon and stars over my head - with timeless notions of rebirth, transformation and non-duality. Roots down, branches up and away we go...

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Thursday Poem - Come to Dust

Spirit, rehearse the journeys of the body
that are to come, the motions
of the matter that held you.

Rise up in the smoke of palo santo.
Fall to the earth in the falling rain.
Sink in, sink down to the farthest roots.
Mount slowly in the rising sap
to the branches, the crown, the leaf-tips.
Come down to earth as leaves in autumn
to lie in the patient rot of winter.
Rise again in spring’s green fountains.
Drift in sunlight with the sacred pollen
to fall in blessing.
                                    All earth’s dust
has been life, held soul, is holy.

Ursula K. Leguin

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Fey Steeds and Tiny Riders

Dryad's Saddle or Pheasant Back Mushroom 
(Polyporus squamosus or Cerioporus squamosus)
One goes off to the forest in May in search of wildflowers and sometimes encounters these fetching fungi instead.  It's always a treat to discover such arty structures, and they pop out of the woodwork around the same time as morels do, sometimes growing quite large - well over a foot across.  This one was growing out of an elm stump along the trail into the deep woods, and it could be seen from quite a distance because of its tawny ochre coloring.

The growths are a species of bracket fungus, and their common name derives from a Greek myth that the fey woodland beings called dryads found them comfortable to sit on and liked to use them on their steeds. Do manes, legs and hooves appear when nobody is watching, then canter off with tiny riders? As for the second common name, patterns on the fungi do resemble the lovely mottled feathering on a pheasant's back.

Tough in their maturity (like me, I suppose), the "saddles" are edible and delicious when they are young and tender, and they smell like watermelons, apparently taste like them too when raw.  I haven't tried it, but one can make a lovely, stiff, creamy, thick paper out of the fibers.  All the specimens I have located so far are old and stringy so I haven't tried eating them - I simply like them for their shape (kind of like the starship Enterprise), their vivid earthy hues, and the fact that they show up unexpectedly on stumps and fallen trees, no two the same.

Monday, May 07, 2018

Coming Into the Light

Siberian squill (Scilla siberica)