Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Hallelujah, spring has sprung

One day there is snow, and one is going around in boots and parka.  The next day, we are in short sleeves and sandals. Temperatures are well above freezing, skies are blue, and dazzling sunlight turns everything in sight golden.

Starlings are donning their warm weather plumage and putting on bright yellow beaks, and a pair of crows is building a nest in the big pine behind the little blue house. At intervals, they take a break from flying in and out of the old tree with nesting materials, sing their pleasure in the season, preen each other, do a little dancing and execute brief "flurry flights" over their territory.

When the first dwarf iris lifted its purple head out of the earth in a protected garden alcove a few days ago, I felt like kneeling down and kissing it.

Hallelujah, spring has sprung.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Sunday, April 22, 2018

A Mandala For Earth Day

Gaia deserves better from us than to be regarded simply as a trash heap, and we should all be ashamed of ourselves for the way we are treating her.  We should all reduce our footprint and walk more lightly on the little blue planet we call home.

Clean up after ourselves as we go along,
Eliminate (or at least cut down) on plastics in home and workplace,
Go for organic and biodegradable whenever possible,
Embrace a diet that is more plant based, avoid factory farmed meat and poultry,
Consider a hybrid (or more fuel efficient) vehicle,
Support sustainable forestry practices and plant trees,
Vote for political candidates who are pro-earth, write letters, sign petitions and vigorously lobby those who are not,
Support environmental literacy in our homes and schools
Reuse, recycle, rethink,
Make a joyful pro-earth noise.

There are more ideas here.

Sunday - Saying Yes to the World

How is one to live a moral and compassionate existence when one is fully aware of the blood, the horror inherent in life, when one finds darkness not only in one’s culture but within oneself? If there is a stage at which an individual life becomes truly adult, it must be when one grasps the irony in its unfolding and accepts responsibility for a life lived in the midst of such paradox. One must live in the middle of contradiction, because if all contradiction were eliminated at once life would collapse. There are simply no answers to some of the great pressing questions. You continue to live them out, making your life a worthy expression of leaning into the light.
Barry Lopez, Arctic Dreams

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Friday, April 20, 2018

Friday Ramble - Patience

As I started off on the Friday ramble this week, the word that came to mind was patience, although I have already written a ramble on that word.

This week's offering has its roots in the Middle English pacient, the Middle French patient and the Latin word pati, all meaning to undergo something, to suffer through, get through, or put up with something and do it with grace and dignity - no whining, screaming or going completely off one's nut. It's a fine old word for someone who aspires to authenticity or enlightenment, but it's not a word for wimps and sissies, and true patience is anything but limp, indecisive or docile. Sometimes, it requires bags of forbearance and not a little cussing.

By now, winter snows should have disappeared from the Lanark highlands, and the Two Hundred Acre Wood should be carpeted with northern wildflowers. Alas, recent storms have gifted us with subzero temperatures, a foot or two of new snow (as if we needed that) and bitterly cold winds. We are back in the land of winter, and there will be no wildflowers in our forest for several weeks.  There are times when I think springtime will never come.

What is one to do??? I pick up my camera or paint brush, brew a pot of tea, pummel bread, stir up a fiery curry, go walkabout with Beau, curl up in my favorite chair with a good book. I just breathe, in and out, in and out, in and out.

For some reason, the elegant keyboard sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti (Mikhail Pletnev's recordings) and the Bach preludes (Glenn Gould) tuck everything back into place, and so does the magnificent voice of Dechen Shak-Dagsay, especially her soaring, sung rendition of the Om mantra. Listening to Mozart's Eine kleine Nachtmusik or Die Zauberflöte is always a joy. Wagner's Tristan and Isolde, and Grieg's Holberg Suite work wonders too, and in recent weeks I have also been listening to the creations of Sibelius.
Snow or no snow, we head into the highlands and watch the sun rise or set somewhere, frozen cattails swaying along the shore of our favorite lake.  We listen to the north wind in the bare trees, lean against the old rail fence and watch last autumn's desiccated leaves whirl through the air like confetti. We feast our eyes on a radiant crescent of waxing moon in the purple western sky at nightfall.

I am learning that patience is a truly wild and fierce emotion, and that sometimes, being patient with one's self is the hardest thing of all.  Spirit Rock's Jack Kornfield says, “If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.”  I may get there one of these lifetimes, but I have a very long way to go.

This morning's image is a bloodroot bloom from last year's wanderings around this time. In early spring, the wildflowers emerge from the earth and dead leaves of my favorite place in the whole wide world, and they glow like little suns in the woods.  Absolute perfection, and they leave me breathless when I encounter them.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Thursday Poem - You Can't Be Too Careful

Spring storm and hail of ice cubes
pummels my town and no other.
There was a time when townspeople
would call this fall the wrath of God
or work of witches.  A lower profile
may have saved some crones
renowned for bitter herbs, odd dames
you went to in the woods for troubles.
But some would go on being busybodies
and scolds dragged out, dunked, drowned
or hung like limp, forgotten fruit
from gallows trees. Scarecrows and
cautionary tales. And truly the crows
flee from our town screaming
blue murder, scarier than a siren.
Even in these enlightened times,
some of us still go warily,
keeping secret our wild simples,
asking nothing for our quirky blessings.

Dolores Stewart Riccio
from The Nature of Things)

My friend was both a gifted novelist and a fine poet. I miss her.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Ice, Wind, Rain and a Little Bokeh

and they were all on the same day......

Monday, April 16, 2018

Sunday, April 15, 2018

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, Soul of the Night: An Astronomical Pilgrimage

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Friday, April 13, 2018

Friday Ramble - Fog and Wondrous Things Unseen

Beyond our windows is rain, drifting fog and a forlorn copse of skeletal maples and ashes doing their best to put out leaves, catkins and flowers. Alas, springtime is late this year, and the tree people have a very long way to go.

In the street, a west wind cavorts in gutters, ruffles dead leaves and other detritus like playing cards. It eases around the corner of the little blue house in the village and sets the copper wind bells on the deck in exuberant motion.  So ardent is the wind's caress that sometimes the bells are almost parallel to the ground.

The air is warmer than the ground below today, and the meeting of the two elements is stirring up something magical. Somewhere in the murk, robins sing their pleasure in the rain, and a woodpecker (probably a pileated from the volume of its hammering) is driving its formidable beak into an old birch. Now and again, he (or possibly she) pauses, takes a few deep breaths and gives a wild unfettered laugh that carries for quite a distance. Even a bird in the fog, it seems, knows the value of taking a break from its work now and again, just breathing in and out for a minute or two and giving voice to a cackle of wild amusement.

I can't see either the caroling robins or my whomping woodpecker, but that is all right. Their voices are welcome musical elements in a morning that is all about the nebulous, the wondrous and unseen.

In the kitchen, coffee is in progress and and a little Mozart (The Magic Flute) fills the air, but something more is needed. Miracle of miracles, a small cluster of purple crocus is blooming in a protected corner of the garden, and I can see them from the window over the sink. The little dears are lit from within, and I swear, they could light up the whole village.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Thursday Poem - An April Night

The moon comes up o'er the deeps of the woods,
And the long, low dingles that hide in the hills,
Where the ancient beeches are moist with buds
Over the pools and the whimpering rills;

And with her the mists, like dryads that creep
From their oaks, or the spirits of pine-hid springs,
Who hold, while the eyes of the world are asleep,
With the wind on the hills their gay revellings.

Down on the marshlands with flicker and glow
Wanders Will-o'-the-Wisp through the night,
Seeking for witch-gold lost long ago
By the glimmer of goblin lantern-light.

The night is a sorceress, dusk-eyed and dear,
Akin to all eerie and elfin things,
Who weaves about us in meadow and mere
The spell of a hundred vanished Springs.

Lucy Maud Montgomery

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

To Everything There is a Season

It began with jubilant skeins of of geese flying in from the south and singing their return, with ducks splashing in local rivers and much quacking in roadside puddles, with a single heron perched on the frozen shore of Dalhousie Lake and wondering why on earth she had come home so early in the season.

It continued with larks and killdeer, beaky snipe and woodcock, with a handful of plucky robins, the graceful "v" shapes (dihedrals) of five turkey vultures soaring majestically over the Two Hundred Acre Wood and rocking effortlessly back and forth in their flight. From below, the light caught their silvery flight feathers and dark wing linings, and the great birds were as magnificent as any eagle.

A solitary goshawk perched in a tree on the hill, and a male harrier described circles over the western field. Both birds were hungry after their long journey north, and they trained their fierce yellow eyes on the field below, always on the lookout for a good meal.

This morning, a male cardinal is singing his heart out in the ash tree in the garden, and an unidentified warbler lifts its voice somewhere in the darkness.

Even the wet weather foretold for this day will be a friend.

Monday, April 09, 2018

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Sunday - Saying Yes to the World

For the future residents of the earth: may their world still be packed with mysteries.  May they still grow giddy on the eve of a great adventure.  May they become more responsible to one another and the planet.  May they keep their taste for the renegade.  May they never lose their sense of innocence and wonder.  May they live to chase brash and astonishing dreams.  May they return to tell me, if such a thing is possible, so that I can know the answers to a thousand scrupulous puzzles, hear of whole civilizations that bloomed and vanished, learn what travel to other solar systems has revealed and behold the marvels that arose while I was gone.  If that’s not possible, then I will have to make due with the playgrounds of mortality, and hope that at the end of my life I can say simply, wholeheartedly that it was grace enough to be born and live.
Diane Ackerman, Deep Play

Saturday, April 07, 2018

Friday, April 06, 2018

Friday Rambles - Winter Returns

A brilliant cold moon rose around midnight last night and was midheaven around five this morning.  Luna was a radiant, fey and insistent presence through the bedroom draperies, and sleeping was well nigh impossible. Temperatures were several degrees below zero overnight, and as I watched the moon from my pillow, I could hear the north wind dancing along the roof shingles and cantering briskly through the eaves of the little blue house in the village.

There was fresh snow in the garden at sunrise this morning, and there was ice in the heart of the birdbath, the sound of snapping and crackling as winter birds danced from twig to brittle twig among the bare shrubberies and did a little chilled singing to greet the day.

Now and then, there are brilliant blue days in late March and early April, but we are back to winter for the next several days, leaden skies from here to there, bitter winds out of the north, snow and ice pellets, sometimes freezing rain. We wandered in the woods for a few hours this week, but after only a few clicks, my fingers were blue, and back into heavy gloves they went.

Wonder of wonders, the gnarly old willows down by the creek were putting up lovely furry catkins anyway, and the icicles below cradled tiny branches and fragile scraps of green. Snow blanketed everything in my favorite woodland clearing, but water in the little stream at my feet was running free and singing. Song and flow are still percolating in my thoughts this morning, a few days later.  A strange blending of seasonal images and motifs perhaps, but this is what my native place looks like this year, and I am contented with it.

There is rising everywhere as Gaia Sophia awakens and opens her arms.  There is light in the icicles, in thawing streams and fuzzy little willow buds. I cling to the thought and turn my collar up against the gelid wind.

Thursday, April 05, 2018

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)