Thursday, August 22, 2019

Thursday Poem - Become Becoming

Wait for evening.
Then you'll be alone.

Wait for the playground to empty.
Then call out those companions from childhood:

The one who closed his eyes
and pretended to be invisible.
The one to whom you told every secret.
The one who made a world of any hiding place.

And don't forget the one who listened in silence
while you wondered out loud:

Is the universe an empty mirror? A flowering tree?
Is the universe the sleep of a woman?

Wait for the sky's last blue
(the color of your homesickness).

Then you'll know the answer.

Wait for the air's first gold (that color of Amen).
Then you'll spy the wind's barefoot steps.

Then you'll recall that story beginning
with a child who strays in the woods.

The search for him goes on in the growing
shadow of the clock.

And the face behind the clock's face
is not his father's face.

And the hands behind the clock's hands
are not his mother's hands.

All of Time began when you first answered
to the names your mother and father gave you.

Soon, those names will travel with the leaves.
Then, you can trade places with the wind.

Then you'll remember your life
as a book of candles,
each page read by the light of its own burning.

Li-Young Lee
(from Behind My Eyes)

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Small Wonders and Worlds Within

On a fine morning in late August, a weathered cedar stump along the trail into the deep woods wears a carpet of haircap moss (Polytrichum commune).  The delicate wonders emerging from the thatch are dancing sporophytes, fragile strands topped by seed capsules wearing raindrops and filaments of spider silk. Just beyond the photo, a crab spider waits for a fly to put in an appearance, one fraught with peril.

How often does one wander along a trail and not notice such wonders? I suspect the answer is, most of the time, for this old hen anyway.

My moss colony was a miniature jeweled world, complete within itself, its glistening raindrops holding the whole sunlit forest in their depths, upside down of course. For the life of me, I can't come up with the right words to describe it. A tiny cosmos, teeming with life. Its own history. Its own traditions. Its own stories. Astonishing. Breathtaking. Radiant. Perfect.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Sunday - Saying Yes to the World

You really don't have to lose everything and travel to a remote valley to discover that the world is always rushing forward to teach us, and that the greatest thing we can do is stand there, open and available, and be taught by it. There is no limit to what this cracked and broken and achingly beautiful world can offer, and there is equally no limit to our ability to meet it.

Each day, the sun rises and we get out of bed. Another day has begun and bravely, almost recklessly, we stagger into it not knowing what it will bring to us. How will we meet this unpredictable, untamable human life? How will we answer its many questions and challenges and delights? What will we do when we find ourselves, stumble over ourselves, encounter ourselves, once again, in the kitchen?

Dana Velden, Finding Yourself in the Kitchen: Kitchen Meditations
and Inspired Recipes from a Mindful Cook

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Friday, August 16, 2019

The Barley Moon of August

Oh, for a perfect, burnished full moon on an evening in late summer... After many years, the longing remains in all its foolish intensity - a yearning to be enfolded in something grand and gilded and luminous.

The late French conductor Pierre Boulez once said: Just listen with the vastness of the world in mind; you can't fail to get the message. Whatever happens to my gnarly old self and its molecules (starstuff) this time around, I like to think that a tiny scrap of the world's grace and grandeur and vastness will remain in my consciousness as I billow off into the great beyond like a scrap of linen liberated from the clothesline.  Let there be that and a few scattered images of the moon surrounded by stars and looking down on the earth, lustrous and blithe of countenance. Every night is a jeweled tapestry, and every lunar round is a wonder to the eyes and lens tracing her contours, mapping her mountains and valleys, wide mesas and dry seas, lingering on her glossy light.

Under the August moon, geese move back and forth between rivers and fields.  Deer and wild turkeys graze along farm fences, and coyote clans call across the hills in voices hinting at autumn. Moonlight turns trees in the woodland into throngs of interlaced fingers and their dancing leaves into flocks of nocturnal butterflies - it touches grasses with silver, transforms sleeping fields into rippling dunes and rolling oceans.  In its light, farm buildings, fences and windmills are stark shapes silhouetted against the darkness and far-flung stars.  There is something mysterious and bewitching about this month's moon, and for all the activity down here on earth, there is something plaintive and rather haunting too.  The barley harvest is about to begin in the highlands of eastern Ontario, and "Barley Moon" is the perfect name for the lady shining down on us all this month.

We also know the August moon as the: Acorns Ripening Moon, Berry Moon, Big Harvest Moon, Big Ripening Moon, Blackberry Moon, Blueberry Moon, Centáwen Moon, Claiming Moon, Coho Salmon Return Moon, Corn Is In Silk Moon, Corn Moon, Crest of the Hill Moon, Cutter Moon, Dahlia Moon, Dispute Moon, Dog Days Moon, Drying up Moon, Eighth Moon, Elembivos Moon, Feather Shedding Moon, Flying Moon, Fruit Moon, Gathering Rice Moon, Geese Shedding Feathers Moon, Gladiolus Moon, Grain Moon, Green Corn Moon, Harvest Moon, Hazel Moon, Joyful Moon, Lammas Moon, Leaves Moon, Lightning Moon, Moon After Lugnasadh, Middle Moon, Moon of First Harvest, Moon of Freshness, Moon of Life at It's Height, Moon When Young Ducks Begin to Fly, Moon When All Things Ripen, Moon When Cherries Are Ripe, Moon When Elk Bellow, Moon When Indian Corn Is Edible, Much Heat Moon, Much Ripeness Moon, Mulberries Moon, Paper Bark Moon, Pear Blossom Moon, Plum Moon, Ripe Berries Moon, Ripe Corn Moon, Rising Moon, Starts to Fly Moon, Still Green Moon, Sturgeon Moon, Tall Grass Moon, Thumb Moon, Vegetation Moon, Wode Moon, Wheat Cut Moon, Wild Rice Moon, Women's Moon, Wood Cutter’s Moon or Wort Moon.

My own favorite names for this month's moon are Ripening Moon, Blackberry Moon, Corn Moon and Women's Moon.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Thursday Poem - From Blossoms

From blossoms comes this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward
signs painted Peaches.

From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.

O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach.

There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.

Li-Young Lee

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Will you step in to my parlor?

Female goldenrod spider (Misumena vatia)
Lovely things, these middling pages in August, the cooler mornings with their high, clear light and gossamer clouds from here to there.

There are a few cicadas singing in the garden, but not as many as a week or two ago. I collect the mortal husks of those who have expired and inter them in a corner of the garden. It is something I do every year, saying thanks as I tuck them lovingly into the good dark earth with an old teaspoon.

August brings heavy dews, and a little after dawn, our roses are dappled with moisture and glistening. Several blooms are being used by spiders like this female goldenrod spider to hide and pounce on unsuspecting beetles and flies. The little dears can have all the Japanese beetles they want.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Sunday - Saying Yes to the World

I have always loved the gaps, the spaces between things, as much as the things. I love staring, pondering, mulling, puttering. I love the times when someone or something is late—there’s that rich possibility of noticing more, in the meantime … Poetry calls us to pause. There is so much we overlook, while the abundance around us continues to shimmer, on its own.
Naomi Shihab Nye

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Catching the Sun

Male Swift River Cruiser (Macromia illinoiensis

Friday, August 09, 2019

In the Great Blue Bowl of Morning

I awaken to skies that would make an impressionist painter feel like dancing, to Canada geese singing in unison as they fly up from the river and out into farm fields to feed. This year's progeny sing loudest up there in the great blue bowl of morning. Their pleasure in being alive and aloft mirrors my own as I watch them with a mug of tea, eyes shielded from the rising sun with a sleepy hand.

Below the sweeping strokes of vibrant color painted across the eastern sky are trees, hydro poles, rooflines and village streets, trucks and cars in rumbling motion, early runners in the park, commuters with lunch bags, bento boxes, newspapers and briefcases headed downtown to another day at their desks.

On a recent early morning walk, Beau and I paused together by a neighbor's fish pond to watch the white and scarlet koi finning their way around in circles, and we noticed that the first fallen maple leaves of the season had already drifted into the pool, making eddies and swirls and perfect round spirals on the glossy surface. No need to panic, it's not an early autumn, just the dry heat of August setting the leaf people free to ramble.

If only I could actually paint skies as magnificent as these. I can't, and the camera will have to do, but what my lens "sees" is absolutely sumptuous, and I am content with my morning opus. Sky blue, rose, gold, violet and scarlet lodge in my wandering thoughts, and on the way home, I think about throwing a whole bunch of clay bowls and glazing them in perfect sunrise colors. Emaho!

Thursday, August 08, 2019

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, August 07, 2019

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Little Singers in the Trees

An annual cicada's song is the quintessential music of August, a sonorous vocal offering from jeweled beings who emerge from the ground, shed their nymph skins, climb high into the light-filled trees and sing for a handful of days before expiring and returning to earth. It's a joyful and ecstatic element in the slow irrevocable turning of one season into another.

Only male cicadas sing but oh how they do sing, vibrating the complex abdominal membranes called tymbals over and over again to generate a raspy tune that will attract a mate. I have a lot to learn about identifying cicadas, but I think this one may be the bigger Linne's cicada rather than a Dog-day cicada. Whichever one it was, my little visitor was absolutely gorgeous.

I often find abandoned cicada shells on poplar trees in the Two Hundred Acre Wood but always feel fortunate when I encounter a newborn in all its pastel green splendor, sometimes still clinging to its discarded self. Imagos (adults) darken as their new exoskeletons harden and wings expand, but there is a fair bit of variation in coloration. Some will retain greenish wings all the days of their lives.

There has been a remarkable hatch of cicadas in the village this summer. For the last week or two, we have been rescuing them from sidewalks, driveways and roadways and moving them to safe perches in mature trees where they will not be trampled by pedestrians or moving cars. On early walks, Beau and I keep a eye out and we always encounter at least two or three before we arrive home again. Evenings, I take my mug of tea out to the garden and listen to cicada serenades before the sun goes down, and I shall be sad when I go outside one night, and there are no cicada songs to be heard.

Call it "cicada mind" and cherish the notion. Our task is one of cultivating just this kind of patience, acceptance, rapt attention and unfettered Zen sensibility, of embracing our allotted days fully and singing wherever we happen to be, then dissolving effortlessly back into the fabric of the world when the time comes.

Monday, August 05, 2019

Sunday, August 04, 2019

Sunday - Saying Yes to the World

When I was young, and even more foolish than I am today, I believed that one had to travel far and wide in order to seek truth, divine reality, or whatever you call it. I believed that truth would most likely be found in the world’s so-called sacred places. Yet the fact is that truth is everywhere; it knows no religious, cultural, temporal, or ethnic bounds. Truth is the perfect circle. Its center is everywhere; its circumference stretches into infinite space. The land on which we stand is sacred, no matter where we stand.
Lama Surya Das, Awakening to the Sacred

Saturday, August 03, 2019

Kindred Spirits

Monarch and Purple Coneflower

Friday, August 02, 2019

Friday Ramble - Following the Sun

In summer, young sunflowers follow the sun around the sky all day long. When they grow up, the blooms face the rising sun, and they no longer move in what is, to me anyway, summer's most engaging dance. When I drove by a field of sunflowers a few days ago and found they had turned their backs and were all facing east, I tried not to take it personally, but part of me was wistful.  The kids were all grown up and ready to leave home.

It's all a matter of circadian rhythms (or the circadian clock), the internal 24 hour cycle that regulates our gnarly metabolisms and keeps us tune with the natural world according to the hours of light and darkness in our environment. The word circadian comes from the Latin circa (about) plus diem (a day), and most living things have circadian clocks of some kind. Circadian protocols tell us when we should sleep, prompt bears, bats and squirrels to go into hibernation, advise trees to lose their leaves and withdraw into themselves for the winter, let birds and butterflies know it is time to migrate. The science of circadian rhythms is called chronobiology, and it is lovely stuff indeed.

Fledgling sunflowers drink the sun's warmth to fuel their journey to maturity and turn their heads to follow it. As they mature, they take in more light, heating up early in the day and releasing a heady fragrance that attracts legions of pollinating insects like butterflies and bees and ensures future generations of sunflowers.  Grownups have fulfilled their prime motivation (dynamic purpose) and attained their highest and most complete expression. They have done what they were put here on earth to do, and they no longer need to follow the sun.

Members of the helianthus family are amazing. What seems at first glance to be a single sunflower is actually a whole community of flowers, more than a thousand tiny florets arranged in a perfect spiraling sequence. Each floret is inclined toward the next floret by approximately 137.5°, a measurement known in mathematics as the golden angle. The arrangement creates an elegant series of interconnecting spirals in which the number of left oriented spirals and the number of right oriented spirals are successive Fibonacci numbers. It's arty, scientific and just plain beautiful, stunning in fact.

A lifelong admirer of spirals, golden angles and Fibonacci sequences whenever and wherever they turn up, I'm always delighted to come across another one in my rambles.  Finding a few sunflowers in someone's garden is always a happy thing, and discovering a whole field along a quiet country road is dazzling. It boggles my mind to think that such glorious creatures are blooming without anyone around to admire them.

In autumn, faded sunflowers are wondrous in their imposing stature, earthy coloration, spikiness and sculptural complexity. Determined to engender legions of progeny and perpetuate their particular genetic brew, they birth thousands of seeds every autumn, mothering whole dynasties of towering stalks, fuzzy leaves and beaming golden faces that will appear when springtime rolls around next time. In the depths of winter I try to remember that somewhere, legions of tiny, unborn sunflowers are sleeping and dreaming under Himalayan heaps of snow.

In "Enriching the Earth", Wendell Berry describes the earth's cycling as "slowly falling into the fund of things", and I am fond of the notion. Going to seed is a good thing, a fine thing, a natural and necessary thing. Every coin in nature's wild unruly banking is kin, whatever its size, shape or denomination.