Thursday, September 20, 2018

Thursday Poem - Mabon, the Autumn Equinox

Ephemeral truce.
The dark begins
its long winning streak.
But for now
in this disheveled garden
a riot of blowsy flowers
hangs on like a chorus
of aging show girls
still with a few good kicks.
The air is ripe
with seedy perfume
and pleasant lies,
the pomegranate shared
between two mouths.
This is our second harvest,
the corn, the squash,
the reconstructed
memories of summer.
Ceres, comfort us with apples,
with grapes and the wine of grapes.
Wheaten breads are baked
in the shape of the sun.
We savor them
with honey.
It will be a long time
before this golden
moment comes again.

Dolores Stewart Riccio

Happy Mabon, Autumn Equinox and Harvest Home to you and your tribe.
May all good things come to you!

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

For every mighty oak...

There was once an acorn that held its ground.
It's autumn, and every jacket, vest, sweater and pair of trousers in my wardrobe has acorns in its pockets, offerings from red and white oaks, pin oaks and bur oaks. The towering mother trees are magnificent beings, much loved sisters and old friends after many years of rambling the Two Hundred Acre Wood. On sunny days, I find a comfortable seat among my tree sisters, and we have some of the most comforting, thoughtful and enlightening conversations ever.

Pockets without acorns rattling around in their depths enshrine other offerings, pine and spruce cones, black walnuts, butternuts, beech nuts, bitternut and shagbark hickory nuts. I can never resist gathering acorns, seeds, cones and nuts when I am in the woods, adore their shapes, their colors, their textures, their fragrance, the season of their fruiting. The season is one of entelechy, of becoming, of once and future trees. In the words of Robert Bringhurst,

"Seeds and seed capsules, in nature, are unfailingly elegant. Form not only follows function in these structures; it chases it around, like a mouse with a moth or a cat with a mouse. Immense amounts of information and nutrition are routinely housed in spaces handsome far beyond necessity and compact beyond belief."
Robert Bringhurst, The Tree of Meaning, Language Mind and Ecology

Turning pockets inside out this week before chucking everything into the washing machine, I realized that there has been a whole forest riding around with me, and it made me grin from ear to ear. No need to pine for my tree sisters when I am away from the woods - they are right here with me.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Sunday - Saying Yes to the World

One human life is deeper than the ocean. Strange fishes and sea-monsters and mighty plants live in the rock-bed of our spirits. The whole of human history is an undiscovered continent deep in our souls. There are dolphins, plants that dream, magic birds inside us. The sky is inside us. The earth is in us.
Ben Okri, The Famished Road

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Friday, September 14, 2018

Friday Ramble - Autumn

This week's word comes to us through the Middle English autumpne and the Old French autompne, thence the Latin autumnus, and the Latin likely derives from even older Etruscan forms.  The first part of autumnus (autu) probably comes from the Etruscan autu, related to avil, or year. The second part of autumnus (mnus) comes from menos meaning loss, minus, or passing. There we have it. At the end of our etymological adventures is the burnished but wistful thought that another year is ebbing, another circling in what I like to call simply, "the Great Round," the natural cycle of our existence.

September is about harvest and abundance, but it is about balance too. The Autumn Equinox on September 21 is one of the two times in the  year when day and night are balanced in length, the other time being the Vernal Equinox on March 21. On that day, (also called known as Mabon or "Harvest Home"), the sun seems to pass over the equator on a journey southward, moving steadily away from us.  Things are actually the other way around of course, and it is the earth and her unruly children who are in motion. Between the Midsummer Solstice and the Winter Solstice, our planet's northern hemisphere tilts away from the radiant star at the center of its galaxy.

This week, early evening skies are lit by a waxing moon, and the hours before sunrise are without moonlight.  The magnificent constellations of winter are starting to appear, and the dome of night is a veritable treasure trove of deep sky wonders, a dazzling gift for ardent stargazey types like me. Beau and I stood in the garden this morning long before sunrise and watched Orion climb into the southeastern sky, Aldebaran high above the giant's right shoulder, Sirius to the east and dancing just above the horizon. A tapestry of stars covered the sky from here to there, and when the sun rose, the stars vanished and every roof in the village was sewn with sequins of dew. With mornings like this, can one feel anything except rich as Croesus and jubilant in spirit?

On early walks, falling leaves drift around our ankles and make a fine rustling music.  Earthbound foliage on the trail is going transparent and turning into stained glass in splendid buttery colors.  We pause to look at all the wonders around our feet, and it's a wonder we ever get anywhere at all. When I stop to look at a leaf in our path, Beau looks up at me curiously. I start to tell him that I am looking for the perfect leaf, then stop and start the sentence over again.  Every single leaf is perfect, just as it is.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Thursday Poem - Assurance

You will never be alone, you hear so deep
a sound when autumn comes. Yellow
pulls across the hills and thrums,
or the silence after lightening before it says
its names—and then the clouds' wide-mouthed
apologies. You were aimed from birth:
you will never be alone. Rain
will come, a gutter filled, an Amazon,
long aisles—you never heard so deep a sound,
moss on rock, and years. You turn your head—
that’s what the silence meant: you’re not alone.
The whole wide world pours down.

William Stafford,
from Smoke’s Way, 1983

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Drifting Along in the Fog

On September mornings, the village can be a mysterious place, the earth often warmer than the air above, and the meeting of the two elements turning otherwise mundane landscape features into entities fey and luminous. Autumn is properly upon us, and she is comfortable in her tenure of mist, rain, wind and madcap tumbling leaves.

There is nothing like a good fog, and September dishes up some splendid atmospheric murks. Mist swirls around everything, draping the whiskery trees, smoothing hard edges and rounding the contours of house and street. The north wind scours leaves from the old trees near home, and they rustle underfoot as Beau and I go along on our early walks. If we listen carefully, we can sometimes hear Cassie and Spencer pottering along beside us, their happy feet doing a kind of scuffling dance through the fallen treasure.

Out of the pearly gray and sepia come sounds now and again. Birds converse in hedgerows and geese move unseen among the clouds, singing as they pass over our heads. Doors open and close as sleepy residents collect their morning papers. There is the soft growling of automobiles and the rumble of buses, the muffled cadence of joggers gliding through the park, children chattering on their way to school, commuters heading downtown to work. Once in a while, we hear the whistle of a faraway train, usually only a faint echoing in the air. Close to home this morning, raindrops beat a staccato rhythm on our roof, and little rivers are singing through the eaves. All together, it is symphonic.

On such mornings, the world seems boundless, brimming with luminous floating Zen possibility, soil and trees and sky and mist giving tongue in a language that is wild and compelling.  Part of me is curled up and engaged in a slow breathing meditation, counting my breaths, in and out, in and out. Other parts are out there drifting along with the fog and happy to be doing it.  Emaho!

Monday, September 10, 2018

Creeping Into Autumn

Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Sunday - Saying Yes to the World

When the journey you are presently on seems to be over, remember that there is no real end. There may be new journeys ahead; there may be journeys-within-journeys.  There is always something new to learn, always another gift to be be brought out into the world. Embrace each new cycle; welcome every twist and turn. It is how we know we are alive.
Sharon Blackie, If Women Rose Rooted

Saturday, September 08, 2018

September, Corn as High as an Oliphant's Eye

Somewhere in the heart of it is a maze.

Friday, September 07, 2018

Friday Ramble - Demeter at the Gate

A single burnished leaf from the bur oak in the front yard floats down and comes to rest in a pot of bronzey chrysanthemums on the cobblestones in front of the little blue house in the village. Days are still steamy here for the most part, but nights are starting to cool down, and it won't be long until we have to carry the pot indoors every evening as darkness falls and the wind comes out of the river.

As the oak leaf makes itself comfortable among the potted “mums", a long v-shaped skein of geese passes overhead. Above the wedge of high-flying geese and slightly to their right, a scrap of waning moon is translucent in the morning sky. For obvious reasons, September's moon is often called the "Harvest Moon", and it will be brand new on Sunday.  Here comes the first full moon of autumn (September 24th) in all its auriferous splendor. Am I going to be out in the garden with camera and tripod? You bet. Please mama, no clouds that night.

Closer to the earth, the swallows of summer are packing their flight bags and making ready to depart, their places on local telephone wires to be taken by flutters of sparrows and constellations of noisy starlings who are putting on winter stars and flashy yellow beaks.

There are frantic squirrels everywhere filling their larders, and I have surrendered to the little blighters in the matter of geraniums - there does not seem to be much I can do to prevent my flowers being tossed out of their pots and replaced with buried acorns, berries, crabapples and walnuts. For some reason, the squirrels leave our chrysanthemums alone.

Early Macintosh apples are starting to appear at farm markets, and several “Macs” rest flushed and rosy in a bowl on the kitchen counter.  We carried a lovely big brown paper bag of apples home from a local orchard a few days ago, along with the first cider of the season.  Most of the apples are destined for eating, but there will be applesauce and pies, perhaps a few jars of apple butter. A mug of Yorkshire tea with pumpernickel toast and apple butter for breakfast, yum...

Corn, squash, apples and hay, there is no doubt about it—Lady Harvest is at the gate and rattling its rusty latch with vigor. She knows the cantrip that grants her entrance to these hills, and she knows the key in which it is to be sung.

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Thursday Poem - Everything Is Waiting For You

Your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone. As if life
were a progressive and cunning crime
with no witness to the tiny hidden
transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny
the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,
even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
out your solo voice. You must note
the way the soap dish enables you,
or the window latch grants you freedom.
Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
The stairs are your mentor of things
to come, the doors have always been there
to frighten you and invite you,
and the tiny speaker in the phone
is your dream-ladder to divinity.

Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into
the conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.

David Whyte
from River Flow: New and Collected Poems

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

September, Taking Wing

It's the first Tuesday in September, and village children are off to school, walked all the way there (or just to the bus stop) by proud parents, big sisters and brothers and family pets. I have known many of the kids since they traveled about in prams, and here they are going off to school.  Dear me, how time flies...

The youngsters wear jackets in confetti colors, carry backpacks and lunch boxes in pink, turquoise and lime green, tote pint-sized umbrellas patterned in flowers or bunnies or polka dots. They bloom like pint-sized peonies out in the street, and watching from the windows, I feel like doing a little blooming too.

Only a short distance away, other brightly arrayed offspring have hatched out in village hedgerows, and they are strengthening their wings for the long journey south to begin in a week or two. When monarch butterflies alight on Michaelmas daisies, the combination of orange, purple and gold is dazzling. Every butterfly is a stained glass jewel, a wild, vivid and breathtaking wonder.

There are vibrant colors everywhere I look in early September, and they are a sumptuous treat for these old eyes. It doesn't matter whether the riotous tints are on Virginia creepers, monarch butterflies, coneflowers or tiny raincoats - they invite me to kick up my heels and dance.

Monday, September 03, 2018

Sunday, September 02, 2018

Sunday - Saying Yes to the World

To live an enchanted life is to be challenged, to be awakened, to be gripped and shaken to the core by the extraordinary which lies at the heart of the ordinary. Above all, to live an enchanted life is to fall in love with the world all over again.
Sharon Blackie from The Enchanted Life

Saturday, September 01, 2018

Friday, August 31, 2018

Friday Ramble - Little Ordinaries of the Season

It's small things that engage one's attention at this time of year: fallen leaves like confetti on the old wooden dock at the lake, woodland maples turning red and gold, sunflowers inclining their heads and dropping thousands and thousands of seed children, damp furrows where a garden once bloomed and fruited.

Bronzey oak leaves on the trail have been touched by cold fingers overnight, and they crackle wonderfully underfoot in their earthy sepias and rosy creams. The magnificent beech trees in our woods are turning, and their coppery leaves fall in burnished, windblown showers. Autumnal sun streams through the flickering overstory as if through clerestory windows, and the forest feels like a cathedral that goes on and on forever. Our little seasonal ordinaries in its myriad chapels conjure a litany that is poignant and spicy on the tongue, touched with a dry and leaf-dusty fragrance that follows us all the way home.

Lines of swallows congregate on rural telephone lines before flying south.  Skeins of geese move to and fro between rivers and farm fields, and there are the steady wing beats and plaintive calls of loons saying goodbye as they head for warmer moorings. Great herons still haunt local waters here and there, but they will not be far behind the loons in departing.  Is it just me, or is there a restless melancholy spirit loose in the village and haunting the countryside?

It is much cooler here this morning, and far from recent thoughts of salads and cold drinks, I find myself pondering soups and stews, corn fritters and gingerbread, the first McIntosh apples lovingly folded into a baked crumble with oatmeal, maple syrup and cinnamon. Thoughts about comfort food and culinary undertakings are a sure indication of autumn, all by themselves.

Life becomes quieter as daylight hours wane in the last months of the calendar year. Temperatures tumble, migratory kin leave, and light changes - we drink every blessed thing in like wine.  Gloves on gnarly paws, and collars turned up against the wind, we ramble and ponder and feast our senses on the colors, sounds and spicy fragrances of autumn.  Then we come home to tea and toast and molasses cookies at nightfall.  It's all good.

Happy September, everyone!