Sunday, June 16, 2024

Sunday, Saying Yes to the World

There is no mystery in this association of woods and other worlds, for as anyone who has walked the woods knows, they are places of correspondence, of call and answer. Visual affinities of color, relief and texture abound. A fallen branch echoes the deltoid form of a stream bed into which it has come to rest. Chrome yellow autumn elm leaves find their color rhyme in the eye-ring of the blackbird. Different aspects of the forest link unexpectedly with each other, and so it is that within the stories, different times and worlds can be joined.

Robert Macfarlane, The Wild Places

Friday, June 14, 2024

Friday Ramble - Kingfisher Days

In summer, I spend much time photographing butterflies, moths and dragonflies, bumbles and wasps, puddles, trees and weeds, orchids and wildflowers, poppies and lupins gone wild and doing their own untrammeled thing in roadside ditches.

The eastern Ontario highlands are a treasure trove of earthy abundance in all seasons, and I feel very fortunate to be here and taking it all in, but summer is short this far north, and it is poignant. I drink in the wonders around me, knowing their presence in my life is a fleeting thing. Everything seems to be taking in light and giving it back again, and such boundless gifts are not to be squandered.

Happy hours are spent crawling about in the woods on all fours with a macro lens on the camera “doing” ferns, mosses, lichens and little green frogs. Every tump, stump, leafy alcove, creek and stone has wonders to share. Is it difficult to lurch back to a standing position afterward? Oh yes, but it is worth it.

Other time is spent hanging out on the shore at the lake, capturing loons floating on its calm waters as the sun goes down, great herons standing erect and still in the shallows, kingfishers hunting the last small meal of the day. Once in a while, an otter cruises by and perches on a rock, yawning and displaying the bright red inside of its mouth and a set of wicked teeth.

Otters are making a comeback in the Lanark highlands, and it is common to see them swimming along the lake and in nearby rivers. They are fabulous creatures, and I greet them all as "Portly", after the wandering otter child in chapter seven of Kenneth Graham's incandescent creation, The Wind in the WillowsThe Piper at the Gates of Dawn has to be one of my favorite chapters in anything ever written. Period.

Loons, herons, kingfishers and otters - there is always something to see, and it's all good. These are kingfisher days, times out of time, full of magic and an elusive something else, something I am always reaching toward and can't quite find a word for. When I arrive home, grubby, sweaty and speckled with leaf dust, the day’s images are uploaded and archived. I look at everything, of course, but at first glance, the images make me groan, so I file the DVD and think no more of it.

Years later while searching for an image, I pull out a DVD from long ago and discover it contains treasures. Wonder of wonders, I have already taken the swallowtail, loon or heron, the wildflower or rain dappled moss shot I need. Looking at the image, I remember when and where it was taken, my departed soulmate and Beau (or Cassie or Spencer) and I out in the woods together, chewed by bugs and as happy as clams.

Apologies to Canadian actress, writer, and playwright Susan Coyne for borrowing the title of her delightful childhood memoir (Kingfisher Days) for this morning's post. I have always loved the book, and I will be reading it again this summer.

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Thursday Poem - How the Trees On Summer Nights

How the trees on summer nights turn into
a dark river, how you can never reach it,
no matter how hard you try, walking as fast
as you can, but getting nowhere, arms and
legs pumping, sweat drizzling in rivulets;
each year, a little slower, more creaks
and aches, less breath. Ah, but these soft
nights, air like a warm bath, the dusky wings
of bats careening crazily overhead, and
you’d think the road goes on forever.
Apollinaire wrote, “What isn’t given to love
is so much wasted,” and I wonder what
I haven’t given yet. A thin comma moon
rises orange, a skinny slice of melon, so
delicious I could drown in its sweetness.
Or eat the whole thing, down to the rind.
Always, this hunger for more.

Barbara Crooker, (from More)

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

In My Cups and Loving It

Rain on the windows etches linenfold panels on the glass panes and splatter paints the umbrella out on the deck. The garden and old trees beyond are barely visible in the downpour and the murk. Water hitting the roof tiles, running through the eaves and downspout and gushing into the rain barrel at the corner of the house is a pleasing sound. We are a long way from the Bay of Bengal for such seasonal weather phenomena, but this day has a monsoon vibe, and no mistake.

One of my great aunties, I can't remember which one, used to refer to spells of uncontrolled weeping and wailing as "having monsoons", and the phrase has stayed with me since I heard it years ago. Having monsoons is surely a more graceful way of describing unsightly displays of whining, caterwauling and waterworks.

On this side of the windows is a stack of journals, mostly blank because they are too lovely for my scrawling and hen scratching. There too are pens, a candle in a jar and a beaker holding a fragrant lagoon of Darjeeling, also a couple of tarot/oracle decks. The art glass chandelier above the table turns everything on its surface into tiles and tesserae and little squares of light. Looking at it, I am off and thinking of mosaics.

Gardening in such weather is out of the question, and I have to do something. This is a good day for reorganizing bookshelves, art and stationery cupboards, for reordering the multitudinous folders on this computer. It is also grand day for drinking tea and reading, for rocking gently along with Scarlatti's keyboard sonatas, the Mozart horn concertos, the Bach preludes and  anything at all by Antonio Vivaldi. Also, the Mediaeval Baebes and the Kingsfold Suite.

Tucked somewhere in the midst of such lovely pursuits are bowls of fresh strawberries and peaches, a batch of molasses cookies, scones and a loaf of sourdough. Having a day like this once in a while is no' a bad thing.

Sunday, June 09, 2024

Sunday, Saying Yes to the World

We tend to think of landscapes as affecting us most strongly when we are in them or on them, when they offer us the primary sensations of touch and sight. But there are also the landscapes we bear with us in absentia, those places that live on in memory long after they have withdrawn in actuality, and such places – retreated to most often when we are most remote from them – are among the most important landscapes we possess. Adam Nicolson has written of the ‘powerful absence[s]’ that remembered landscapes exert upon us, but they exist as powerful presences too, with which we maintain deep and abiding attachments. These, perhaps, are the landscapes in which we live the longest, warped though they are by time and abraded though they are by distance. The consolation of recollected places finds its expression frequently in the accounts of those – exiles, prisoners, the ill, the elderly – who can no longer reach the places that sustain them.

Robert Macfarlane, The Old Ways: A Journey On Foot

Saturday, June 08, 2024

Friday, June 07, 2024

Friday Ramble - Golden

Large Yellow Lady Slipper
(Cypripedium parviflorum var pubescens)

I sign on here in the morning, look at my photographic efforts, utter a silent "meh" and decide to say (or write) as little as possible. That is happening more often than it used to, a lot more often. There are times when I post an image or two and don't scribble any words at all, just letting the images speak for themselves.

Plunking myself down in front of the computer with a mug of something or other, I skim the early news, and I cringe. I think about what is happening in the great wide world and am left speechless by the hatred, barbaric acts and deliberate cruelty of recent human doings. 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. I finish my mug of hot stuff and go out to the garden. Luckily, the bee sisters are good listeners. They offer wise words when I need them. They uplift my spirits and gladden my heart.

As I write this, lady slippers are blooming in the Lanark highlands, as they have for time out of mind. In their flickering alcoves on the Two Hundred Acre Wood, they sing a capella in their own lilting voices, a testament to wildness and belonging and community. Whole hillsides of nodding beauty express the indwelling incandescent spirit of the living earth without any help at all from This Old Thing.

My departed soulmate and I watched over our wild orchid colony for years, protecting them from being eaten by deer and trampled by bears. Every year, I stretched out in the grass when they were blooming and marveled at their perfection, captured them with my lens and had long conversations with them. Now it is just Beau and I hanging out with the orchids, and we still do that, every year. In the midst of greed, global disease and human brutality, here they are again. Here too are we.

Events on the world stage are breaking many of us wide open, and we are confronting aspects of our humanity (or inhumanity) that we would rather not acknowledge, let alone address. My wild golden orchids are a powerful reminder of what it means to be alive in this beautiful world, and I am grateful for their counsel. 

Thursday, June 06, 2024

Thursday Poem - The Other Kingdoms

Consider the other kingdoms, The
trees, for example, with their mellow-sounding
titles: oak, aspen, willow.
Or the snow, for which peoples of the north
have dozens of words to describe its
different arrivals. Or the creatures, with their
thick fur, their shy and wordless gaze. Their
infallible sense of what their lives
are meant to be. Thus the world
grows rich, grows wild, and you too,
grow rich, grow sweetly wild, as you too
were born to be.

Mary Oliver

Wednesday, June 05, 2024

Tuesday, June 04, 2024

Let There Be Red

June would not be June without clay pots and cauldrons and planters of red geraniums (cranesbills) blooming on the thresholds of houses in the village, and today is the fourth day of the quintessential summer month. How can it be? The season has just arrived, but the midsummer solstice is only three weeks away.

Beau and I have noticed on early morning walks that many of this year's geranium offerings are accompanied by purple petunias and marigolds. There are also some splendid coleuses in rainbow shades, and sometimes all four dwell comfortably in the same pot, geraniums, petunias, marigold and coleus. What a riot of aestival color!

My gypsy soul craves spectacular coleus strains like "Dragon Heart, "Rainbow Dragon", "Kingswood Torch" and "Chocolate Covered Cherry", and I am looking for other places in the garden to plant them this year. Ditto some of the more arty amaranth varieties in local nurseries like "Joseph's Coat", "Molten Fire" and "Early Splendor". Whatever I add this time around, it has to be something the little bee sisters will love. 

A big pot of geraniums on our threshold is a long standing summer tradition. Every year I think of their ancestors, the jubilant foremothers who graced our threshold for decades and welcomed everyone who came to the red (Benjamin Moore 2080-10 Raspberry Truffle) front door. I remember their shape, their color, their texture, their green and rather peppery fragrance, their unfettered, ecstatic flowering. They were perfect expressions of summer, and I always thanked them, each and every one. 

Happy June! May there be joyous blooming in your own precious life.

Monday, June 03, 2024

Sunday, June 02, 2024

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 01, 2024

The Jester's Cap and Bells

Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)

Friday, May 31, 2024

Friday Ramble - Clouds in My Cuppa

Clouds, cooler mornings, rain and fog were our lot this week. Oilskins and rubber boots waited by the door for soggy excursions to the park, and a towel dangled from a nearby newel post, ready to dry Beau's fingers and toes when he came in from the garden.

Through the kitchen window comes the smell of rain and wet earth as I sip my mug of tea, the sound of branches in the garden shedding their cloaks of wetness, jubilant robins in the overstory singing down more life giving precipitation. There is never enough rain for them, and they are singing up a fine, drenching drizzle. 

In the darkling street, umbrellas bloom like peonies, carried by village children off to school with their parents, older siblings, and occasionally the family dog. There is the swish of early commuters splashing through lovely deep puddles when they think nobody is looking, the resonant grumble of village buses, the soft growl of motor vehicles heading uptown for the day's roiling and toiling. 

On our early morning walks in the park, trees float into view like the masts of wooden sailing ships and then disappear again in the mist. Somewhere in the murk, blackbirds and song sparrows are exercising their vocal cords, and an unseen woodpecker (probably a pileated from the volume of its exuberant hammering) is mining a tattered birch for breakfast bugs.

My umbrella has sprung a leak or two, and sometimes we are wet when we arrive home after rainy rambles. I am hoping to find a large green cotton one to replace it, but it has to be something substantial, NOT one of those folding contraptions that succumbs to a good blow at the drop of a hat. If I had a penny for every brolly I have ever owned that preferred spending most of its time inside out, I would be rich.

Leaky umbrellas and wet collars notwithstanding, there is something restful and very soothing about rainy days. If I could climb the old maple in the garden, I would perch right up there with the thrushes, trilling for more days like these fine soggy hours just unfolding. Getting up there in oilskins and wellies might be difficult though, and what would I do with my tea and the umbrella?

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Thursday Poem - When I Am Wise

When I am wise in the speech of grass,
I forget the sound of words
and walk into the bottomland
and lie with my head on the ground
and listen to what grass tells me
about small places for wind to sing,
about the labor of insects,
about shadows dank with spice,
and the friendliness of weeds.

When I am wise in the dance of grass,
I forget the name and run
into the rippling bottomland
and lean against the silence which flows
out of the crumpled mountains
and rises through slick blades, pods,
wheat stems, and curly shoots,
and is carried by wind for miles
from my outstretched hands.

Mary Gray
from Wild Song: Poems of the Natural World

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Catching the Sun

Oh, how they capture and hold the sun within, these buttery yellow gerbera blooms. Kin to dahlias, daisies, marigolds, calendulas, coneflowers, chrysanthemums, zinnias, and the great towering sunflowers, they drink in morning light and store it within the frilly tutus of their lavish petals. Like sunflowers, their capitulum appears to be a single flower, but each is a community made up of hundreds of tiny individual blooms.

Little earthbound suns on stems, gerbera dish out light as if it is warm honey. They are the essence of summer, and all the 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. On dreary days, I mourn the paucity of light in the world beyond my windows. I think about the injustice and suffering in the great wide world, and I am sad, very sad. Then I remember how my garden loves the light in early summer, and I resolve do a little inward blooming of my own, to take in light and send a little joy and comfort out to others. 

If only I could take in light and store it as flowers do in summer! I haven't a clue how to go about it, but I am working on it. Perhaps all that is required is to stand in the garden with my face to the sun as the gerbera do, all day long. I could become a garden myself. Now there's a thought.

Monday, May 27, 2024

Sunday, May 26, 2024

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 25, 2024

White Empress in Bloom

Great White Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum)

Friday, May 24, 2024

Friday Ramble - Earth/Earthy

Earth is a good word for pondering in this shaggy season as we cultivate our gardens and tend the sweet beginnings of the harvest to come. All things, or at least most things, arise from the earth and return to it in time, us included.

Our word dates from before 950 CE, and it comes to us through the good offices of the Middle English erthe, the Old English eorthe; the German erde, Old Norse jĒ«rth, and the Gothic airtha, all springing from the Ancient Saxon eard meaning soil, home, or dwelling. All forms are likely related to the Latin aro, meaning to plough or turn over. Way way back is the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) form *h₁er- meaning ground, soil, land or place.

When we say "earth", we are most likely thinking of the ground under our feet, of garden plots, orchards, wooded hills, city parks, farm fields and shadowed arroyos. We may be thinking of wild plums, oak leaves, weeping willows, of the seeds and sleeping roots below our feet, the granite bones of our little blue planet and the fiery heart beating way down deep in its molten core.

We almost never consider ourselves as elements in the same story, but blood and bones, root and branch, rivers and rocks, we are all parts of a vast elemental process, a cosmic web. Endlessly befuddled strands in the web that we are, we humans tend to forget that we are part of anything at all. In fact, we are the earth, and the earth is us.

Once in a while, the simple truth that we are NOT separate shows up and insists we pay attention. It can happen while dangling half way up a rock face or seated in a pool of sunlight under a tree in the woods, on a hill somewhere under the summer stars, or on the shore of a favorite lake at sunset. A good sunset or a starry, starry night does it for me every time, and occasionally it even happens while I am parked in the waiting room of my local cancer clinic. Such moments can't be predicted, and nor should they, but I have noticed that they often show up right when I need them.

There we are with our feet planted in the dirt and our heads in the clouds, not a lofty thought in sight, and out of the blue a scrap of elemental knowing puts in an appearance. In that moment, we know beyond a doubt that we are part of all this and right where we should be. We belong here, our roots, branches, star stuff and every dancing particle - we belong here as much as rivers, mountains, acorns, wild salmon and sandpipers do. Dirt, clouds and stardust, it's all good.

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Thursday Poem - To the Rain

Mother rain, manifold, measureless,
falling on fallow, on field and forest,
on house-roof, low hovel, high tower,
downwelling waters all-washing, wider
than cities, softer than sisterhood, vaster
than countrysides, calming, recalling:
return to us, teaching our troubled
souls in your ceaseless descent
to fall, to be fellow, to feel to the root,
to sink in, to heal, to sweeten the seas.

Ursula K. Le Guin, from So Far So Good

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

How Sweet It Is

And so it goes . . . One day, the old crabapple is bare and forlorn, the next day it wears a multitude of tiny leaves. Almost overnight, the tree is covered with blooms and buzzing with throngs of ecstatic, blissed-out bumbles, bees and wasps.

Along comes a summer breeze, and the crabapple symphony is over, fragile petals drifting through the air like windblown confetti, coming to rest on lawns and hedges and gardens, on fences and birdbaths and pergolas and fountains.

Lilacs in the village are blooming, and when I stepped outside with Beau last evening around ten, the night air was full of their heady fragrance. We leaned against the railing on the veranda and breathed in the glorious perfume.

Suddenly, I remembered a long ago garden I planted with purple heliotrope. The color was gorgeous, and the sweet, cherry-like scent of the blooms pulled in hummingbirds, butterflies, bumbles and bees from miles around. I shall have to plant it again.

 How sweet all this is, how fleeting and poignant, and just a little sad.

Sunday, May 19, 2024

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 18, 2024