Friday, May 14, 2021

Friday Ramble - Swimming in Light


We awakened to gray skies this week, to rain reveling in its own refrain and beating a staccato rhythm on the roof that shunned meter and metronome. Puckish breezes cavorted in the eaves and ruffled tiny leaves in the garden like tangy 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, its little school of 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 too 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, Beau and I go into the woods, and I lurch up the trail for an hour or two, 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 13, 2021

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 12, 2021

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

White Empress in Bloom

Great white trillium (Trillium grandiflorum)

Monday, May 10, 2021

Sunday, May 09, 2021

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 08, 2021

Small Wonder

Hepatica (Hepatica nobilis)

Friday, May 07, 2021

Friday Ramble - Atomy

There it is, one morning after a rain, the perfect shining drop suspended from a rose cane in the garden. In its glossy depths are clouds, sunlight and blue sky, grass, trees and flocks of birds, mountains and rivers, the whole wide world turned upside down and sparkling. The drop holds everything that matters. It's a tiny cerulean jewel, a veritable cosmos, an atomy.

This week's word comes to us from the Middle English attome, the Latin atomus  and the Greek atomos, thence the Indo-European temnein meaning to cut. Kindred words (of course) are atom, atomism and atomic, epitome and (not so obviously), tome which now refers to a book or a volume of reading material but once meant simply something cut or carved from a larger entity. Synonyms include corpuscle, mote, particle, speck, molecule and grain, as in a grain of sugar.

An atomy is a tiny part of something, a minute particle, and atoms were once thought to be the smallest possible units of the known physical universe,  dense, central, positively charged nuclei circled by electrons whirling around in ecstatic orbit. Complete within themselves, they were thought to be irreducible and indivisible except for constrained processes of removal or transfer, the exchange of component electrons.

Physicists now think the much smaller quark is the fundamental element of creation. Named after a word in James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake, quarks come in six eccentric "flavors": up, down, charm, strange, top and bottom. Up and down quarks are the lightest and most common, bonding together to form subatomic particles like the protons and neutrons in the nuclei of atoms.

Wonder of wonders, everything happens in threes, something that always pleases me. A proton consists of two up quarks and one down quark, a neutron one up quark and two down quarks. The other four quark flavors are heavier, and they are transformed into up and down quarks as they decay, becoming protons and neutrons somewhere up the road. The universe is as complicated as it is exotic, and for every ordinary subatomic particle, there is a corresponding antiparticle with the same mass, opposite charge and magnetic moment.

Atomies come to mind when I awaken to leaden skies and rain on the roof beating staccato time without reference to meter or metronome, to a puckish wind capering in the eaves and ruffling tiny green leaves in the garden like tangy decks of playing cards, to drifting fog wrapping the old trees, rooflines and chimneys in the village.

Every raindrop (or dewdrop) out in the garden is an atomy, a minute complete world teeming with vibrant life, and within each is a whole magical universe looking up and smiling at this ungainly creature bent over in wonder with a camera in her hand. Either that or recoiling in dismay. I don't think I will ever get a handle on using my macro lens to its full potential, but its loving eye is teaching me how to look at the world in new ways, and that is a fine old thing.

Thursday, May 06, 2021

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

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Down to the River and Scarlet

Around the corner, three song sparrows are trilling their hearts out from a rooftop.  Their pleasure in the day and the season is echoed by a construction worker a few doors away belting out Doug Seegers' “Going Down to the River” as he installs drywall in an old Victorian around the corner. The door of the place is wide open, and his rendering of the gospel classic is somewhat off key, but it's a right soulful crafting and fine stuff indeed.

There are tulips everywhere and in every shade of the rainbow, but it is the reds that dazzle truly - the blooms are almost incandescent in the early sunlight and so bright they hurt one's eyes. Frilly daffodils and scarlet fringed narcissus nod here and there, and violets sprinkle the garden in deep purple and creamy white. A neighbor's bleeding heart bush is covered with tiny green buds swaying to and fro on artfully arching stems.  Magnolia trees in the village are coming to the end of their flowering, and they rain fragrant petals like snow. Wonder of wonders, the first few bumble girls of the season have arrived, just in time to partake of the crabapple blossoms that will be out in a day or two.

What a splendid trip springtime is, and how much there is to feast one's eyes on. If we were to stop and take photos of every splendid thing we see on our morning walks (and absolutely everything is splendid at this time of the year), we might not get home again for weeks.

Monday, May 03, 2021

Sunday, May 02, 2021

Sunday, Saying Yes to the World

It is no secret. All power is one in source and end, I think. Years and distances, stars and candles, water and wind and wizardry, the craft in a man's hand and the wisdom in a tree's root: they all arise together. My name, and yours, and the true name of the sun, or a spring of water, or an unborn child, all are syllables of the great word that is very slowly spoken by the shining of the stars. There is no other power. No other name.

Ursula K. Le Guin, A Wizard of Earthsea

Saturday, May 01, 2021

Happy Beltane, Happy May!

Trout Lily or Dogtooth violet (Erythronium americanum)

Friday, April 30, 2021

Friday Ramble - For Beltane


This is the eve of Beltane (or May Day) in the northern hemisphere, of 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 have been cool, so it will be a few days until colonies of bloodroot, the first wildflowers of spring, are up and blooming. A few early specimens lift their gold and white heads in protected nooks in the woods though, and we look for them whenever we are out and about.

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 a few days ago, I felt like kneeling and kissing the good dark earth where the flower made its home—it was that perfect. Ignoring 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 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.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Thursday Poem - Bio

I am a leaf-dance in the woods.
I am the green gaze of the ocean.
I am a cloud-splitter in the sky.
I arrived robed in red
out of nowhere and nothing.
I whisper between pages.
I disappear in the painting.
I rest between musical notes.
I awake among strangers
in a country I never imagined.
I am timbales and bells,
a parade under your window.
I am the riddle I cannot solve,
hands on the clock's face,
seven crows on a branch.
I am the one whose footfall
changes the pattern of stars.

Dolores Stewart
from The Nature of Things
(reprinted here with the late poet's kind permission)

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Rambles at Sunrise

And so they continue... our routines of staying home and doing homely things like gardening, yard work and baking, of taking long rambles with Beau in early morning before our favorite haunts are tenanted by unleashed dogs and their thoughtless owners, by sleepy walkers, bemused gawkers and weekend warriors.

Nights are still cold here, but early mornings are perfect for wandering about, and we seldom encounter anyone else on our rambles. In the overstory, grosbeaks start their day with a song, and woodpeckers tap-tap-tap on nearby trees. Geese fly overhead between the river and local farm fields, now and then, a solitary heron, a bittern or a great northern diver (loon) in graceful flight. This morning, a single cormorant flew over our heads on its way north.

Seen through the trees, the early flickering sunlight is grand “stuff”, and it has a buttery, caressing quality.  Greenery is coming up everywhere through last autumn's fallen leaves, delicate ferns and blooming trout lilies near the creek,  budding trilliums, the leaves of hepatica, wild columbines and tiny wild hyacinths. When we pass through her grove, I greet the Beech Mother and give her a pat. I'd give her a hug, but she is an old tree and my arms are not long enough to do that.

Beau and I go slowly along together, and the light is a shawl on our shoulders, one woven by the Old Wild Mother in shades of green and gold. There so many treasures to be seen in the woods―it is a wonder we ever get anywhere at all.

Monday, April 26, 2021

Sequestered 57 (LVII)

Red Trillium or Wake-robin (Trillium erectum)

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Sunday, Saying Yes to the World

By telling the holy, we acknowledge that life is a gift. In fact, the whole universe is a gift. From where or what, and why, we cannot know. All we do know is that it issues forth, moment by moment, eon by eon, ever fresh, astounding in its richness and beauty. None of this is to gainsay the pain, the suffering, the eventual death that awaits all created things. But we measure that pain and suffering, we mourn that death against the sheer exuberant flow of things.

Scott Russell Sanders

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Friday, April 23, 2021

Friday Ramble - Little Blue

On an overcast morning in late April, I am bending over a cluster of blooming Siberian squill in a corner of the garden when the thought comes to me for the nth time, the nth springtime, the nth calendar year.

The wildflowers coming up in the wooded alcoves of the Lanark highlands and this shaded corner of my garden are perfect, just as they are, and so are my recording lens and camera. Myself, not so much.

I have to cultivate the eyes and attention to see things in all their natural wabi sabi, their suchness. I have to cultivate the patience to wait for the wind to pause in its madcap dance and then click my shutter. Sometimes the exercises turn out, and sometimes I am rewarded by blurring, flickering and dancing coins of bokeh.

Life in the Great Round and the turning of the seasons are works of boundless blooming, of endless radiant becoming. This is the second springtime without my soulmate, and it was his favorite season of the year. On our morning rambles, Beau and I like to think of him as being in our pockets and enjoying the unfolding splendor of the great wide world. We still miss him so much, and we tell him we love him, every single day.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Thursday Poem - Another Spring

The seasons revolve and the years change
With no assistance or supervision.
The moon, without taking thought,
Moves in its cycle, full, crescent, and full.

The white moon enters the heart of the river;
The air is drugged with azalea blossoms;
Deep in the night a pine cone falls;
Our campfire dies out in the empty mountains.

The sharp stars flicker in the tremulous branches;
The lake is black, bottomless in the crystalline night;
High in the sky the Northern Crown
Is cut in half by the dim summit of a snow peak.

O heart, heart, so singularly
Intransigent and corruptible,
Here we lie entranced by the starlit water,
And moments that should each last forever

Slide unconsciously by us like water.

Kenneth Rexroth

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Magnolia Lighting the Day


Nights in the village are cool; morning skies are gray and overcast. The forecast for the next few days is for lower temperatures, clouds from here to there and rain. The word for this week ought to be "puddle".

Not a leaf to be seen on her fretwork of arching branches, the magnolia tree around the corner ignores the gloom (both weather and COVID related) and is unfurling a cloud of tulip-shaped blooms. In years past, she gifted her subtle colors and delicate fragrance to commuters running for buses, to children in rainbow boots and slickers wending their way to school and postmen stuffing mailboxes, to rumbling trucks sweeping village streets clean of dust. This morning she offers her grace and silent benediction to one old hen and her canine companion out for an early walk.

By the end of today, the tulip tree will probably be bare, her petals set free by the wind and floating down to carpet the garden like confetti.  This morning, she is a candle, a veritable tree full of candles lighting the murky day.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Sunday, Saying Yes to the World


 ... when we begin to tell stories, our imagination begins to flow out through our eyes and our ears to inhabit the breathing earth once again. Suddenly, the trees along the street are looking at us, and the clouds crouch low over the city as though they are trying to hatch something wondrous. We find ourselves back inside the same world that the squirrels and the spiders inhabit, along with the deer stealthily munching the last plants in our garden, and the wild geese honking overhead as they flap south for the winter. Linear time falls away, and we find ourselves held, once again, in the vast cycles of the cosmos -- the round dance of the seasons, the sun climbing out of the ground each morning and slipping down into the earth every evening, the opening and closing of the lunar eye whose full gaze attracts the tidal waters within and all around us.

David Abram, Storytelling and Wonder

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Friday, April 16, 2021

Friday Ramble - Tea and Redemption

The world outside is still dark, and the village merely a collection of indistinct shapes and muffled sounds. The day is cold and damp, and a light rain is falling on the garden. My kitchen is a place of shadows in the early morning light, and I lean against the counter, bones sinews and joints protesting the weather. Summer seems like just a lovely dream from long ago and very far away.

How does one banish inclement conditions at such times? Looking for a fine hot potion to start the day and drown my doldrums, I rattle around in the larder, opening canister after canister and sniffing them appreciatively. French roast? Earl Grey? Constant Comment? Northern Delights Cloudberry (Arpiqutik) or Crowberry (Paurngaqutik)? Rooibos? Ginseng? Lapsang Souchong? Perhaps a simple Orange Pekoe?

The last container is away in the back of the tea cupboard, and it holds dried chrysanthemum buds, rustling gently.  When I open it, the dry golden fragrance of last summer wafts out, and for a moment, I hear tinkling bells and exotic musics. Ah, this is the tisane (liang cha or 凉茶) we will quaff on this murky morning.

The name "chrysanthemum" derives from the ancient Greek word χρυσός, chrysos meaning gold and anthemon meaning flower. No doubt about it, I will definitely be planting more golden "stuff" in the garden this year. Brewed into tea, chrysanthemum flowers light up a bleak morning wonderfully.

Waiting for the kettle to whistle, I do a little whistling of my own and glance at the long shadows falling across a favorite mug and a little bowl of loose tea on the counter. There is chiaroscuro at work, and the shadows contrast wonderfully with the fragile porcelain and its aromatic holdings; there is light on the verges of their inclination.  Forget cold weather and darkness, this morning scene is perfect just as it is. Tea anyone?

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Thursday Poem - Sometimes I Am Startled Out of Myself

like this morning, when the wild geese came squawking,
flapping their rusty hinges, and something about their trek
across the sky made me think about my life, the places
of brokenness, the places of sorrow, the places where grief
has strung me out to dry. And then the geese come calling,
the leader falling back when tired, another taking her place.
Hope is borne on wings. Look at the trees. They turn to gold
for a brief while, then lose it all each November.
Through the cold months, they stand, take the worst
weather has to offer. And still, they put out shy green leaves
come April, come May. The geese glide over the cornfields,
land on the pond with its sedges and reeds.
You do not have to be wise. Even a goose knows how to find
shelter, where the corn still lies in the stubble and dried stalks.
All we do is pass through here, the best way we can.
They stitch up the sky, and it is whole again.

Barbara Crooker