Sunday, May 20, 2018

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 19, 2018

Just Passing Through

Sandhill Crane (Antigone canadensis)
Lanark Highlands, May 16, 2018

Friday, May 18, 2018

Friday Ramble - Aestival

Can there be anything sweet than magenta crabapple blossoms and foraging bumble girls? The crabapple tree in the front yard is in full, riotous, fragrant bloom, and every single flower wears an intoxicated bumble lassie.

This week's word is one of my favorites, hailing from 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 somewhat 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 two 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.

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

Thursday, May 17, 2018

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

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Wordless Wednesday - Woodland White

Great White Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum)

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Froth and Fragrance

One day there are no leaves on trees in the village at all, and the next day the same trees are fully leafed out, their voluptuous canopies alive with birds who dish out madrigals at sunrise and trip the light fantastic from branch to branch until the sun goes down. Their pleasure in the day and the season is obvious.

Crabapple trees, flowering almonds and plums seem to leaf out and flower overnight, and wonder of wonder, they are alive with madly buzzing bumbles, honey bees and wasps.  Dusted with pollen from stem to stern, the little dears are in constant motion, ecstatic to be feeling sunlight on their wings and foraging for nectar on a balmy morning in May.

Here comes another fine summer of prowling about in gardens wild and domestic with camera and macro lens, drinking in light and gathering nectars of my own. Now and then, I will put down my gear and dance with the joyous bumble girls. Ungainly creature that I am, I hope no one is watching.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Sunday, May 13, 2018

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 12, 2018

Friday, May 11, 2018

Friday Ramble - Radical

This week's word is radical, a natural choice for this madcap season when wildflowers are popping up all over the place, when we are planting (or considering planting) packets of seeds and flats of flowers, herbs and veggies into our gardens.  It comes to us through the late Latin rādīcālis meaning having roots, and the Old English wrotan meaning to root, gnaw or dig up, both entities originating in the early Indo-European wrad meaning branch or root.

Synonyms include: fundamental, basic, basal, bottom, cardinal, constitutional, deep-seated, essential, foundational, inherent, innate, intrinsic, native, natural, organic, original, primal, primary, primitive, profound, thoroughgoing, underlying, vital. They also include pejorative words such as anarchistic, chaotic, excessive, extremist, fanatical, far-out, freethinking, iconoclastic, immoderate, insubordinate, insurgent, insurrectionary, intransigent, lawless, left wing, militant, mutinous, nihilistic, rabid, rebellious, recalcitrant, recusant, refractory, restive, revolutionary, riotous, seditious, severe, sweeping, uncompromising and violent.

In common parlance, a person who cultivates dissident political beliefs is "radical".  Ditto those who dwell outside the mainstream, who have departed from accepted social standards or do their very own thing rather than just following the herd. The word has been so used since the sixties, and being called "radical" may be a compliment, but it is usually pejorative. It always intrigues me that a word used to describe the unconventional, independent, mildly eccentric and downright peculiar actually means something as lovely, organic and simple as "rooted". Do I consider myself radical? Anyone who writes, paints, sketches, takes heaps and heaps of photos, rambles in the woods in all sorts of weather and talks to trees is radical, so I suppose I am.

Our word simply means being connected, and it is one of my favorites in the English language. It signifies (for me anyway) a bone deep connection with everything that matters, the earth under my feet, the sky and the sun and the moon and stars over my head - with timeless notions of rebirth, transformation and non-duality. Roots down, branches up and away we go...

Thursday, May 10, 2018

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 08, 2018

Fey Steeds and Tiny Riders

Dryad's Saddle or Pheasant Back Mushroom 
(Polyporus squamosus or Cerioporus squamosus)
One goes off to the forest in May in search of wildflowers and sometimes encounters these fetching fungi instead.  It's always a treat to discover such arty structures, and they pop out of the woodwork around the same time as morels do, sometimes growing quite large - well over a foot across.  This one was growing out of an elm stump along the trail into the deep woods, and it could be seen from quite a distance because of its tawny ochre coloring.

The growths are a species of bracket fungus, and their common name derives from a Greek myth that the fey woodland beings called dryads found them comfortable to sit on and liked to use them on their steeds. Do manes, legs and hooves appear when nobody is watching, then canter off with tiny riders? As for the second common name, patterns on the fungi do resemble the lovely mottled feathering on a pheasant's back.

Tough in their maturity (like me, I suppose), the "saddles" are edible and delicious when they are young and tender, and they smell like watermelons, apparently taste like them too when raw.  I haven't tried it, but one can make a lovely, stiff, creamy, thick paper out of the fibers.  All the specimens I have located so far are old and stringy so I haven't tried eating them - I simply like them for their shape (kind of like the starship Enterprise), their vivid earthy hues, and the fact that they show up unexpectedly on stumps and fallen trees, no two the same.

Monday, May 07, 2018

Coming Into the Light

Siberian squill (Scilla siberica)

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Sunday - Saying Yes to the World

I breathe in the soft, saturated exhalations of cedar trees and salmonberry bushes, fireweed and wood fern, marsh hawks and meadow voles, marten and harbor seal and blacktail deer. I breathe in the same particles of air that made songs in the throats of hermit thrushes and gave voices to humpback whales, the same particles of air that lifted the wings of bald eagles and buzzed in the flight of hummingbirds, the same particles of air that rushed over the sea in storms, whirled in high mountain snows, whistled across the poles, and whispered through lush equatorial gardens…air that has passed continually through life on earth. I breathe it in, pass it on, share it in equal measure with billions of other living things, endlessly, infinitely.
Richard Nelson, The Island Within

Saturday, May 05, 2018

Friday, May 04, 2018

Friday Ramble - Bloom

Blue skies and fluffy clouds overhead, birdsong, avian courtship rites and birds building nests everywhere - the village is opening out and greening up before our eyes as Beau and I potter about and peer into hedgerows. Spring does not make a quiet entrance this far north - she comes over the hill with an exuberant bound, reaches out with a twiggy hand, and everything bursts into bloom. When we went off to the park a few mornings ago, the first narcissus of the season were blooming in a sheltered, sunny alcove, and we both did a little dance.

How can this week's word be anything except bloom? The word originates in the Middle English blo or blome, meaning to open up and flower lavishly, to glow with health and well-being, to be as sleek and glossy as an otter, as dewy and flushed with sunlight as a garden tulip or an early blooming orchid in a wild and wooded place. There are probable connections (or roots) between bloom and bhel in Proto-Indo-European, the hypothetical common ancestor of all modern European languages - in that ancient, oral and unscribed tongue, bhel means to grow, swell, or unfold, to leaf out or come into flower.

Perhaps a better word for this week would be sex, because that is what springtime's lush colors, alluring fragrances, velvet textures and warbling ballads are about - the Old Wild Mother's madcap dance of exuberance, fertility and fruitfulness. Every species on the planet seems focused on perpetuating its own heady genetic brew, and the collective pleasure in being alive is almost tangible.   

Forsaking appointed chores, we poke around in the garden, lurch about in village thickets, peer into trees and contemplate the blue sky for long intervals.  It's simply a matter of blooming wherever one happens to be planted.  Beau is already a master of that splendid Zen art, and his silly old mum is working on it.

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Thursday Poem - In Passing

How swiftly the strained honey
of afternoon light
flows into darkness

and the closed bud shrugs off
its special mystery
in order to break into blossom:

as if what exists, exists
so that it can be lost
and become precious

Lisel Mueller, from Alive Together

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Happy Beltane (May Day)

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)
This is Beltane (or May Day) in the northern hemisphere, Samhain in lands below the equator. As we in northern lands drift from winter into springtime, our kindred in the south are moving from summer into autumn..

It was a long winter here in the eastern Ontario highlands, and nights are still cool so it will be another week or so until colonies of bloodroot are well and truly up and blooming in our forest, but early specimens lift their gold and white heads in protected nooks here and there in the woods.

The shy white bloomers with their golden centers are dear to my heart, and they are something of a seasonal marker. Encountering this one glowing softly in its flickering, stone-warmed alcove last weekend, I was overcome, and I felt like kneeling and kissing the good dark earth where the flower made its home—it was that perfect. Ignoring my painful and protesting knees, down I went on the dead leaves, and I stayed there for quite a while, nose to nose with the little wonder and as happy as a clam.  In feasting my eyes on the little flower and focusing my attention on the moment, I discovered another fragile blooming within. Getting up again was quite another story.

The experience was one of the wild epiphanies I love so much, especially in springtime when the north woods are just coming to life, a moment of kensho, one of those fleeting intervals of quiet knowing and connection that I like to call "aha" moments.  Forget the fancy stuff - this right here is the ground of my being.

Happy Beltane (or May Day), everyone. May there be light and blooming and fragrance in your own precious life, in your own part of the great wide world. Wherever you make your home on the hallowed earth, may all good things come to you and your clan at this turning of the wheel in the Great Round of Time.