Monday, May 27, 2019

White Empress in Bloom

Great White Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum)

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Sunday - Saying Yes to the World

The truest and deepest way to weave ourselves back into the web of life on this planet, and the truest and deepest way to court the world soul which permeates it (and us), is to forge the truest and deepest relationship we can with the places where our feet are planted. Here and now. Today. Maybe not forever who knows but today. Where our feet are planted right now, in this place, in this moment, the only place and moment in which we're alive. To love the places we're in, whether we think this love will be forever or whether we imagine we're just passing through. Because those places are open to us, reaching for us. Relationship is at the heart of what the land longs for the land is no different from the humans that walk in it and on it, looking always for meaningful connections. It goes both ways, what we feel for the land. It's a relationship. A two-way conversation. It’s not all about us. What WE feel. What WE need. The love goes both ways and so does the pain. This land is alive. That has consequences. It changes everything.
Sharon Blackie

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Lilies of the Woodland

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

Friday, May 24, 2019

Friday Ramble - Aestival

This week's word is one of my favorites, hailing from Middle English, Middle and Old 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 rather 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 a week or so 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.

After an unusually long, cold winter, things are just beginning to warm up. There are not many nectar gathering insects about, but ornamental trees in the village (almond, cherry, crabapple and mock orange) are flowering, and the air is full of fluttering petals and sweet fragrance. Beau and I stop to look at them, and it is a wonder we ever make it home. One of these fine mornings, the objects of our rapt attention will be chock full of ecstatic bees and bumbles.

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 golden, and it's all good. Here comes June in all her glory, and I am ready.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

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

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Monday, May 20, 2019

Sunday, May 19, 2019

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, 2019

Friday, May 17, 2019

Frtiday Ramble - Enough

This week's word dates from before the year 900, having its origin in the Middle English enogh, and Old English genōh; both are cognate with the German genug, Gothic ganohs and  Old Norse nōgr.  The Old English geneah (it suffices) and Sanskrit naśati (reaches or reaching) are kindred words.

Roget gives us the following synonyms: abundant, adequate, ample, full, sufficient, suitable, acceptable, bountiful, comfortable, competent, complete, copious, decent, enough already, plentiful and satisfying.  Frugal and its noun form frugality are modern kindred and words I occasionally use in conversation.

Lewis Hyde's The Gift, Trickster Makes This World or Common As Air, are fine reading, and he makes good arguments for appreciating what we already have, embracing the non-commercial (or commonwealth) aspects of the creativity that is our birthright, and sharing it.

Have a look too at the works of Barry Lopez, particularly Arctic Dreams, also About This Life: Journeys on the Threshold of Memory and Horizon.

In cultivating the power of enough, we use what we have been given with grace and respect. We partake of a wild and earthy fruitfulness, a careful abundance and an ethic of universal stewardship. We walk through this world rooted and knowing our place in it - we live as the good stewards, artists and creators we were meant to be. Lewis Hyde and Barry Lopez say it a lot better than I ever could.

I say it often. We have to tread lightly on the earth and reduce our ecological footprint.  We need to whittle down our demands on a world strained almost beyond its regenerative powers by human excess, greed, cruelty and contempt.

Is the cup of our earthly days half empty or half full? It's up to us.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

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, from Red Bird

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Magnolias in Bloom

It is still very cool here in the north, and springtime is well behind in the village this time around. We have a very long way to get to spring, never mind summer. I can't bring myself to even think about the word aestival.

At this time last year, crabapple trees were full of frantically buzzing bumbles, bees and wasps. Days were warm and sunny, and nights were balmy contraptions. Daylilies were in bloom, and garden roses were well on their way.  This year (sigh) the crabapples and hawthorns are just starting to put out leaves, and it will be at least a week before we see lilies. No bumbles or wasps have put in an appearance so far, and I haven't seen beetles either. How on earth will fruit trees and wildflowers get pollinated this year?

Sometimes, something wonderful happens, and just when one needs it most. It was lovely to round a corner yesterday morning and discover that a neighbor's magnificent, gnarly old magnolia was ignoring the unseasonal weather and was absolutely covered in fragrant blooms. It looked like a whole tree of lighted candles, and the sight was breathtaking.

Beau and I could hardly believe our eyes and our good fortune. We stood and stared at the magnolia with our mouths open.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Sunday - Saying Yes to the World

There is a fundamental reason why we look at the sky with wonder and longing—for the same reason that we stand, hour after hour, gazing at the distant swell of the open ocean. There is something like an ancient wisdom, encoded and tucked away in our DNA, that knows its point of origin as surely as a salmon knows its creek. Intellectually, we may not want to return there, but the genes know, and long for their origins—their home in the salty depths. But if the seas are our immediate source, the penultimate source is certainly the heavens… The spectacular truth is—and this is something that your DNA has known all along—the very atoms of your body—the iron, calcium, phosphorus, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and on and on—were initially forged in long-dead stars. This is why, when you stand outside under a moonless, country sky, you feel some ineffable tugging at your innards. We are star stuff. Keep looking up.
Neil deGrasse Tyson

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Friday, May 10, 2019

Friday Ramble - Swimming in Light

We awakened to gray skies and rain beating a staccato rhythm that shunned meter and metronome. Puckish breezes cavorted in the eaves and ruffled tiny leaves in the garden like decks of playing cards. A thousand and one little waterfalls appeared out of nowhere, and impromptu streams danced their way through village gutters carrying twigs, oak leaves, pine needles and catkins.

Here and there were precious islands of stillness. Sheltered by overhanging trees, the ornamental pond in a friend's garden was like glass, white and scarlet koi hovering almost motionless in the early light, their open mouths like tiny perfect "o"s. Sometimes, the jeweled carp seemed to be swimming in sky.

Once in a  while, there was water in the garage, and the Passat rested easy in a shallow lagoon until the wet stuff gurgled its way down through frantically working drains. When the tide receded, I scraped rust into glass jars and tucked them away on a shelf - iron oxide pigments produce lovely ochre hues, and my gleanings will be used in projects somewhere up the trail, possibly on other rainy days. It will probably be a while until I can actually do anything with a paintbrush, but that doesn't stop me from thinking up neat "stuff" to try out.

While claiming my rusty bounty, I thought about the fact that humans have been using iron oxides in artistic undertakings as far back as the prehistoric caves of Lascaux - I would be a happy camper indeed if I ever managed to produce something a scrap as vibrant as the magnificent Chinese horse. I remembered that a heady brew of rust (iron oxides), carbon dioxide and water is where all sentient life begins, and that the Japanese word for rust is sabi (錆) as in wabi sabi (侘寂). That enfolding aesthetic or world view is centered on notions of transience, simplicity and naturalness or imperfection. 

Clouds and rain, then sunshine and blue sky, then back to clouds and rain again, who knows what spring days will hold? When good weather prevails, we go off to the woods, and I lurch up the trail a few hundred feet, a long way from the miles of rugged terrain I was once able to cover, but there is gratitude in every step.

On wet days, we listen to a little Bach or Rameau on the sound system, read and drink tea. We watch raindrops dappling the windows, the painterly way in which trees, little rivers and old wood fences are beaded with moisture and shining in the grey. Each and every raindrop is a minuscule world teeming with exuberant life, whole universes looking up at us, great and bumbling creatures that we are. Rain or shine, up and down, in and out, them and us, it's all good.

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Thursday Poem - Come to Dust

Spirit, rehearse the journeys of the body
that are to come, the motions
of the matter that held you.

Rise up in the smoke of palo santo.
Fall to the earth in the falling rain.
Sink in, sink down to the farthest roots.
Mount slowly in the rising sap
to the branches, the crown, the leaf-tips.
Come down to earth as leaves in autumn
to lie in the patient rot of winter.
Rise again in spring’s green fountains.
Drift in sunlight with the sacred pollen
to fall in blessing.
                                    All earth’s dust
has been life, held soul, is holy.

Ursula K. Leguin

Tuesday, May 07, 2019