Sunday, June 04, 2023

Sunday - Saying Yes to the World

Stars, too, were time travelers. How many of those ancient points of light were the last echoes of suns now dead? How many had been born but their light not yet come this far? If all the suns but ours collapsed tonight, how many lifetimes would it take us to realize we were alone? I had always known the sky was full of mysteries—but not until now had I realized how full of them the earth was.

Ransom Riggs, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Saturday, June 03, 2023

Seeing Red

Oriental Poppy (Papaver orientale)

Friday, June 02, 2023

Friday Ramble - Golden

Large Yellow Lady Slipper
(Cypripedium parviflorum var pubescens)

I sign on here in the morning, survey my photographic (and wordy) efforts, utter a silent "meh" and decide to say (or write) as little as possible. That seems to be happening more often than it used to. When I plunk myself down in front of the computer and skim the early news, I cringe. How can we be doing this to each other? I can't find words for what is going on, or at least not the right words.

Then I think of my wild orchids. In the eastern Ontario highlands, lady slippers are blooming as they have for time out of mind. In their flickering, sunlit alcoves, the orchids sway and sing a capella in their own lilting voices, a testament to wildness and belonging and community. Whole hillsides of nodding golden beauty express the indwelling incandescent spirit of the living earth without any help at all from This Old Thing. Wild orchids are a balm to this world weary spirit.

My departed soulmate and I loved our wild orchid colony and watched over them for years, protecting them from being eaten by deer and trampled by bears. Every year, I reclined in the grass nearby and marveled at their perfection, had long conversations with them and captured them with my lens whenever I visited. In the midst of global disease and rampant human brutality, here they are again in all their golden perfection.

Events on the world stage are breaking us wide open, and they compel us to confront aspects of our humanity that we would rather not acknowledge, let alone address. The orchids are a powerful reminder of what it means to be a sentient being on this dear little planet, and I am grateful for their counsel. Time for us to get to work.

Thursday, June 01, 2023

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

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Jacks Are Dancing

Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum)
(also called Bog onion, Brown dragon, Indian turnip)

The quiet alcoves down near the creek on the Two Hundred Acre Wood are one of my favorite places in the great wide world, and in any season.

In autumn, the ground is carpeted in fallen beech and maple leaves, a few vibrant ferns still waving their fronds in sunlit recesses. Light flicker flickers through the old trees, and every sunbeam is filled with madcap motes of leaf dust and pollen tripping the light fantastic. Meadowsweet and cohosh have gone to seed, and their heady aroma fills the air. Is there magic in the air too? Yes, there is, heaps and cauldrons of it.

In winter, snow and ice cover the ground for months at a time, and creek's voice is muffled under its frigid blanket. The sheltering trees on the hillside above are bare and silent, and only the north wind comes to call.

In springtime, the fragrant, crumbly earth near the stream emerges from the snow, and woodcocks (sometimes called timberdoodles or night partridges) probe the soft ground for worms and grubs. On spring nights, male woodcocks perform astonishing courtship flights (sky dances) overhead, providing their own music of twitters and liquid warbles. Below, the creek sings a raucous ditty as it gambols downhill with its tumbling freight of broken twigs, pebbles and desiccated leaves, and the trees that were silent all winter are filled with jubilant, returning birds. There is music everywhere.

Hallelujah, summer has arrived, and down by the creek, "jacks" are dancing in all their stripey magnificence. Wood ducks are nesting on a pond nearby, and the forest is green again. Trees sigh overhead, and whole chorales of robins and grosbeaks hop from branch to branch in the overstory and sing their hearts out. If Beau and I could do better than croaking and rumbling, we would do a little singing ourselves.

We got through winter without serious tumbles this time around, and with our wits (mostly) intact. We even managed to do a little inward blooming of our own now and then. Spring was brief and glorious and we reveled in its return, but hallelujah, summer has arrived. We can do this. Verily, merrily, we can do this.

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Sunday - Saying Yes to the World

Once upon a time, when women were birds, there was the simple understanding that to sing at dawn and to sing at dusk was to heal the world through joy. The birds still remember what we have forgotten, that the world is meant to be celebrated.

Terry Tempest Williams, When Women Were Birds

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Lily of the Woods

Trout Lily, Adder's tongue or Dogtooth violet
(Erythronium americanum)

Friday, May 26, 2023

Friday Ramble - Catching the Sun

Oh, how they capture and hold the sun within, these buttery yellow gerbera blooms. 

Kin to daisies, marigolds, calendulas, coneflowers, zinnias, and the great towering sunflowers, they drink in light and store it within the frilly tutus of their lavish petals. The capitulums (flower heads) appear to be single entities, but each is a community made up of hundreds of tiny individual blooms, a wee village teeming with life.

Little earthbound suns, gerbera dish out abundance like honey, and other garden flowers behind them are uplifted by their frothy golden magnificence, by their almost imperceptible swaying movement, by the soft, sighing music of their duet with the wind.

Now and then, I falter as all living creatures must from time to time. Out in the great wide world, there is war and hunger, suffering and rapacious self interest. Some days, winds from out west carry the smoke of forest fires eastward, and I am sad about the paucity of light beyond my windows too. How can we be doing this to each other? 

Then I remember how my garden loves the light in summer, and I am moved by the thought to do a little blooming of my own within. If I could only take in light and store it as flowers do in their season, send a little light back into the world...

Thursday, May 25, 2023

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 24, 2023

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

The Jester's Cap 'n' Bells

Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)

Monday, May 22, 2023

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Sunday, Saying Yes to the World

As the pen rises from the page between words, so the walker's feet rise and fall between paces, and as the deer continues to run as it bounds from the earth and the dolphin continues to swim even as it leaps again and again from the sea, so writing and wayfaring are continuous activities, a running stitch, a persistence of the same seam or stream.

Robert Macfarlane, The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot

Saturday, May 20, 2023

The White Empress in Bloom

Great White Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum)

Friday, May 19, 2023

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 almost every 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 two weeks 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 18, 2023

Thursday Poem - This

This is what was bequeathed us:
This earth the beloved left
And, leaving,
Left to us.

No other world
But this one:
Willows and the river
And the factory
With its black smokestacks.

No other shore, only this bank
On which the living gather.

No meaning but what we find here.
No purpose but what we make.

That, and the beloved's clear instructions:
Turn me into song; sing me awake.

Gregory Orr
(from How Beautiful the Beloved)

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

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 photography gear and dance with the joyous bumble girls. Ungainly creature that I am, I hope no one is watching, at least no humans. The bee sisters are tolerant and don't mind my lurching about at all.

Sunday, May 14, 2023

Sunday, Saying Yes to the World

Our songs travel the earth. We sing to one another. Not a single note is ever lost and no song is original. They all come from the same place and go back to a time when only the stones howled.

Louise Erdrich, from The Master Butcher's Singing Club

Saturday, May 13, 2023

Friday, May 12, 2023

Friday Ramble - Spring Flowers and Village Musics

Around the corner, three sparrows are trilling their hearts out from a rooftop. A few doors away, a construction worker is belting out Doug Seeger's “Going Down to the River” as he installs drywall in the old Victorian house on the corner. The door of the place is wide open, and his rendering of the gospel classic is anything but tuneful, but it's a soulful crafting and fine stuff indeed.

There are tulips everywhere and in every shade of the rainbow, but on our rambles, it is the reds that grab our attention every time. The blooms are so bright they dazzle the eyes,  almost incandescent. I often think some of the most beautiful words in the English language are synonyms for the color red: cardinal, carmine, cerise, claret, crimson, flame, garnet, geranium, incarnidine, ruby, scarlet, vermilion, to name just a few.

Frilly golden daffodils and scarlet fringed poet's narcissus nod here and there, and violets sprinkle the garden in deep purple and creamy white. A neighbor's bleeding heart bush is covered with tiny green buds swaying to and fro on artfully arching stems. Magnolia trees in the village are coming to the end of their flowering, and they rain fragrant petals like snow. Wonder of wonders, the first bumble girls of the season have arrived, just in time to partake of the fragrant crabapple blossoms that are unfolding now.

What an exuberant trip springtime is! If I paused to take photos of every splendid thing we  encounter on our morning walks (and absolutely everything in the great wide world is splendid at this time of the year), we might not get home again for weeks.

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Thursday Poem - For the Children

The rising hills, 
the slopes,
of statistics
lie before us.
The steep climb
of everything, going up,
up, as we all
go down.

In the next century
or the one beyond that
they say,
are valleys, pastures,
we can meet there in peace
if we make it.

To climb these coming crests
one word to you, to
you and your children:

stay together,
learn the flowers,
go light.

Gary Snyder, from Turtle Island

Tuesday, May 09, 2023

For the Violets

My departed soulmate's favorite spring flowers were the violets in our garden, and they were his mother Nan's favorite too. Every year, he waited patiently for the little dears to flower and feasted his eyes on them for hours when they did. He would bend and inhale their delicate fragrance, then look up at me and say that violets are for love.

When I discovered the violets were blooming this week, I plunked myself down on the steps nearby and had a good cry. I don't weep gracefully, and I probably looked like Hades as I sat there, blubbering and sniffling and wailing and sore of heart. Beau curled against me as closely as he could, trying to comfort me as he always does at such times.

And so it goes... the violets are just being violets and doing what violets are meant to do on this earth, but they feel like a message from my soulmate, and I miss the man so. The days of the wee purples are fleeting, but oh, how they dazzle in their appointed time, spring in and spring out. Violets are for love, and love goes on

Sunday, May 07, 2023

Sunday, Saying Yes to the World

As time went by, I realized that the particular place I'd chosen was less important than the fact that I'd chosen a place and focused my life around it. Although the island has taken on great significance for me, it's no more inherently beautiful or meaningful than any other place on earth. What makes a place special is the way it buries itself inside the heart, not whether it's flat or rugged, rich or austere. wet or arid, gentle or harsh, warm or cold, wild or tame. Every place, like every person, is elevated by the love and respect shown toward it, and by the way in which its bounty is received.

Richard Nelson, The Island Within

Saturday, May 06, 2023