Friday, July 10, 2020

Frtiday 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, 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, 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.  I wish I did a better job of remembering that and keeping everything in perspective, but forgetting now and then is quite all right - the roses remind me.

Thursday, July 09, 2020

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 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 08, 2020

Wordless Wednesday - By the Pond

Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Lilies of the Day

Orange daylily  (Hemerocallis fulva)

Monday, July 06, 2020

Sunday, July 05, 2020

Sunday - Saying Yes to the world

I am a child of the Milky Way. The night is my mother. I am made of the dust of stars. Every atom in my body was forged in a star. When the universe exploded into being, already the bird longed for the wood and the fish for the pool. When the first galaxies fell into luminous clumps, already matter was struggling toward consciousness. The star clouds of Sagittarius are a burning bush. If there is a voice in Sagittarius, I’d be a fool not to listen. If God’s voice in the night is a scrawny cry, then I’ll prick up my ears. If night’s faint lights fail to knock me off my feet, then I’ll sit back on a dark hillside and wait and watch. A hint here and a trait there. Listening and watching. Waiting, always waiting, for the tingle in the spine.

Chet Raymo, The Soul of the Night: An Astronomical Pilgrimage

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Friday, July 03, 2020

Friday Ramble - Abundance

I awaken early and trot out to the garden wearing a 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. Bees are already surfing for nectar in the oregano patch and humming about their appointed work.

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. The 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 but peppers, and his enthusiasm 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 herb patch are all that is needed to complete the arrangement and our lunch. Beau loves cheese, but he is not a fan of green stuff on it. His mantra is "hold the basil".

Thursday, July 02, 2020

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

Pem passed away some time ago, and her poem is reprinted here with her son's permission. I have always loved it.

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

The Old Guy in the Garden

He sits in a sunny alcove in the garden under a canopy of old rose and buckthorn leaves. Birds serenade him in early morning, and rabbits visit him at nightfall. Bumbles and dragonflies buzz around him, spiders knit him into their webs, and sometimes butterflies land on him. There is a steady rain of maple keys, leaf dust and pine needles from the trees over his head.

Our Hotei looks as though he is carved from stone, but he is actually constructed of polyresin and weighs only a pound or so. I discovered him in the window of a thrift shop years ago, purchased him for a dollar and carried him home where he now presides over a leafy enclave in the garden from early April until late October. A bigger Buddha lives in a corner of the sun deck, and he will stay there until I am able to pick him up without dropping him. This Hotei is not alone though - a polyresin crane in a fetching shade of blue lives nearby.

Often called the "Laughing Buddha", the original Hotei was a wandering 10th-century Chinese Buddhist monk thought to be an incarnation of Maitreya, the Buddha still to come. In Asian cultures, he represents abundance and contentment. He is the protector of children, and for some strange reason, also the patron of bartenders. On his back is a bottomless sack of food, drink and coins which he shares with those in need, and his name actually means "Cloth Sack" in Chinese. Sometimes he holds a fan with the power to grant wishes, and he is usually holding a mala (Buddhist rosary). Our Hotei doesn't have a fan, but he is holding a mala in one hand, and he seems to be reciting a mantra. One of these days, I would like to find a statue of Kuan Yin for the garden too.

No matter what kind of day I am having, Hotei's grin makes me smile, and that is something beyond price, thrift shop origins or no.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Sunday - Saying Yes to the World

It is only in the intentional silence of vigil and meditation, or in the quiet places of nature, that we encounter the song of the universe. Like the wind through the telegraph wires, this song echoes along the pathways of the cosmic web: it includes the celestial spinning of the planets, as well as the hum of insects and the dancing song of the grass; it includes the song of all the ancestors and spirits as well as the beating of our own hearts.

Caitlin Matthews, Singing the Soul Back Home

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Friday, June 26, 2020

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.

There are orange and yellow hawkweeds, buttercups and clovers, daisies, tall rosy grasses and ripening milkweed, several species of goldenrod, trefoils and prickly violet bugloss - all are moved by the arid summer wind and swaying in place. 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.

Birds are everywhere, 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, but mourning doves are cooing somewhere nearby.

The air is filled with wings. Fritillaries and swallowtails flutter among the cottonwoods, never pausing in their exuberant flight or alighting 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 with the words "It is high summer". Then I remembered that the solstice has passed by, 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 25, 2020

Thursday Poem - Why We Tell Stories

For Linda Foster

Because we used to have leaves
and on damp days
our muscles feel a tug,
painful now, from when roots
pulled us into the ground

and because our children believe
they can fly, an instinct retained
from when the bones in our arms
were shaped like zithers and broke
neatly under their feathers

and because before we had lungs
we knew how far it was to the bottom
as we floated open-eyed
like painted scarves through the scenery
of dreams, and because we awakened

and learned to speak

We sat by the fire in our caves,
and because we were poor, we made up a tale
about a treasure mountain
that would open only for us

and because we were always defeated,
we invented impossible riddles
only we could solve,
monsters only we could kill,
women who could love no one else
and because we had survived
sisters and brothers, daughters and sons,
we discovered bones that rose
from the dark earth and sang
as white birds in the trees

Because the story of our life
becomes our life

Because each of us tells
the same story
but tells it differently

and none of us tells it
the same way twice

Because grandmothers looking like spiders
want to enchant the children
and grandfathers need to convince us
what happened happened because of them

and though we listen only
haphazardly, with one ear,
we will begin our story
with the word and

Lisel Mueller

Lisel Mueller passed away early this year at the age of ninety-six, and the news of her passing cut like a knife. I have carried her poetry around with me for years and worn out at least three copies of her magnificent Alive Together.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Monday, June 22, 2020

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Sunday - Saying Yes to the World

Turn off the lights. Go outside. Close the door behind you.

Maybe rain has fallen all evening, and the moon, when it emerges between the clouds, glows on the flooded streets and silhouettes leafless maple trees lining the curb. Maybe the tide is low under the docks and warehouses, and the air is briny with kelp. Maybe cold air is sinking off the mountain, following the river wall into town, bringing smells of snow and damp pines. Starlings roost in a row on the rim of the supermarket, their wet backs blinking red and yellow as neon lights flash behind them. In the gutter, the same lights redden small pressure waves that build and break against crescents of fallen leaves.

Let the reliable rhythms of the moon and tides reassure you. Let the smells return memories of other streets and times. Let the reflecting light magnify your perception. Let the rhythm of rushing water flood your spirit. Walk and walk until your heart is full.

Then you will remember why you try so hard to protect this beloved world, and why you  must.

Kathleen Dean Moore, from Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Merry Midsummer/Litha

How to mark such a magical moment in the Great Round...

Be outside in a field at sunrise and watch the sun come up. Capture the moment with your camera or cell phone. Sip a mug of Jerusalem Artichoke (Earth Apple tea) in your garden. Drink in the light of this hallowed day.

Float a candle or a wreath of wildflowers on a pond or a canal or a river and watch the current carry your offering away. Build a fire on your favorite beach after nightfall, and toast sweet "stuff" in the dancing flames.

Merry Midsummer/Litha to you and your clan. May all good things come to you on this longest day of the year!