Monday, February 28, 2011

Making an orderly stack of wood from a thrown-off -the-truck jumble is a little like a big game of pick up sticks. Mother taught us kids to make our work into a game every chance we could, and with me Mother's lesson took. I love the outdoors jobs. Fun for more than one day.

Fog gently ensconces the world here this morning, not dense, just a kind moisture, easy breathing after winter dryness. All around the property plants are pushing up new growth: crocus, all variety of daffodil, jonquil, paper white, tulips, even some hints of fern and hosta and greening primrose leaves.

I hope I feel better again soon. Meanwhile, I think I'll go lie down a while, pay attention to letting go of all the pain in my muscles, ask my body to modulate and balance its immune response. :-)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Soon Spring

Yes! It will soon be Spring. Whispers of it are everywhere.

Yet I have never been this old before. This is absolutely true for every body. Every human body. And how do I experience my life except through my body? After all, mind, too, and emotions and that intangible that we call spirit all depend on the carrying vessel of our bodies. We experience nothing in this reality except through our basic physical beings. Thought and vision are not separate from body.

Duality-- and other ways of dividing up-- is useful for our poor, limited ways of noticing and examining and then learning to manipulate our reality. We would not have any of our comforts and our marvelous science and technology without the dividing up of the significant details, separating things in ways that we can really correctly observe, asking questions and discerning true, specific, quantifiable answers. I'm a big fan of science and technology.

If we fail to come back, though, to understanding that we operate in a world that really comes from a place of unity, not division, we fail to complete our work. Our world is ever greater than the marvelous advances in our science and technology branch.

I live with fibromyalgia. Though I function remarkably well, and do not go about my days, in general, proclaiming the ills of illness, still I carry it with me and always there is some degree of pain in my body. It gets heavy, old. One of the things I can clearly see from my specific embodied perspective is that though I will have the joy-- am having the joy-- of approaching spring, still my body is falling toward winter, and my personal body-held life will not return to spring.

Still, I am called on to seek the path from this place of my accumulated experience, my unique being, and continue to ask and answer the question, "What am I for?"

You, too, my friend in beloved community. You, too, might find the will to ask that question. What are you for?

Weird Al Yankovic says, "The best sign of success is to be able to make a living out of what makes you truly happy." The highest standard of success. I'm not sure if it's true, in face. Perhaps the best sign of success is to make a living in an effective way and be truly happy. Have you found how to include in your making of your way of living things that make you truly happy?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Opaque Waters

Yesterday was weather-wild, and I shied away. There had been rain overnight, then fog, and then that predicted wind pruned trees all around the region. One tall, old poplar is down in our back woods, and limbs of varying sizes all over, but there was no damage to our man-made nest. Four horses in the meadow above the pond were racing with the wind and the afternoon sun, manes and tails flying. They'd cross the pasture, turn and slow, look around and at each other, and then be off again. It looks like such a joyful experience they have sometimes in their own skins.

This morning I built the woodstove fire first thing as usual. I sat there until my front was toasted, then turned and knelt with my arms leaning on the kitchen counter. I positioned myself that way primarily to warm my back, but I was reminded of prayer.

Finding my way slowly (the better to savor) through Kathleen Dean Moore's book Wild Comfort: the Solace of Nature, I have been most recently reading in the chapter titled "Winter Prayer," in which she speaks of the snow-filled woods at night, and her sense of stumbling inadequacy when it comes to some effective prayer practice. I remembered her sentence that I start with here, and then reread the follow on: "I remember that the French philosopher Alain wrote that 'prayer is when the night falls over thought.' When the night falls over thought?" she writes. "I have seen snow fall silently from a night sky, blanketing the burrowing weasels and burned spars, burying the world's scurrying under a great hush. Maybe the forest is a prayer tonight, bent under the wieght of all that winter, the whole world on its knees. Or maybe the prayer is the hush." (64)

A few paragraphs later I turned the page to the next chapter, and in the first sentence it was suddenly Memorial Day in the mountains. I put the book down, and went out into my own morning. There is no substitute for ones own life, after all.

Nearly all the snow has melted here, today, but spring is not yet bold and flamboyant. All through my flower beds bulbs are pushing green shoots. The feel both quiet and eager to me, patient in their waiting for exactly the right natural timing to progress.

The vegitation lies flattened, the newly downed limbs like speed bumps on the forest floor, the voices of the resident geese loud and raucus, squawking to be noticed in the still-cold air. I hear them first. As I leave my property I hear some cheeping and chittering of smaller birds in the trees along St. Omer's where it flows between horse meadows. I lbut do not see them.

Deer Creek is rushing and opaque, its voice insistent, telling of the speed and rocks and depth of the moment. At its mouth, St. Omer's has already begun to regain clarity, slowed as it waits for its turn to enter the rushing crowd with which it joins. Isn't that how it goes? In the rush and swirl and speed of dramatic change it's hard to manage clarity, all becomes murky and discernment becomes all the more challenging. Slowing down allows some clarity to emerge.

Almost home, I notice that the neighbors had one of their big trees at the edge of their woods come down. It even partly blocked the drive. I didn't notice, going out, I was so busy looking the other way trying to notice the small birds I was hearing. How blind we can be to the most obvious things, how we cannot begin to notice all in the chaos of the wide world. Without the shade of that tall, branching elder, the forsythia planted by the road will get much more sun this year.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


A flock of bluebirds has been clustered in the trees near Deer Creek this winter, sometimes along one road, sometimes around the corner on another. Seeing them makes me happy, the males so blue-backed and rosy breasted, the females so subtle and all of them seeming so competent in their environment. They seem so unconcerned by my presence, and they bless me with their beauty and certainty. I always pray them a blessing in return. I wonder, does such a heartfelt wish matter when I find so few additional ways to act on my desire for their well being?

This morning when I visited the creek the sun was still bright and warm on my face. That whispery promise of spring. I was bundled up, though, with my flannel lined jeans and wool socks, turtle neck shirt, sweatshirt, winter coat, scarf and double layer of stocking hats, for the air still carries a bite, and the earth is snow covered in spite of the melting since Tuesday morning. There is even still snow in the trees. Now the clouds have moved in, and the forecast is for rain, rain, rain.

I walked slowly because my energy is low. There is a gift in every burden (as well as a burden in every gift) and the gift of slowness is more opportunity to notice what is in any particular place. I stopped a while by the rapids and rested against the trunk and roots of the familiar maple that leans out over the water there.

That tree has grown there as long as I've lived here, and has accepted my presence without complaints that I can hear. It goes through its cycle year after year, bud to full leaf and seeds, to summer breath, to fall golden and back to winter bare like now. It may be swept down one of these years, as so many trees are that lean over the currents of that creek.

There are some large rocks newly shifted into position in the rapids, one washed clean and speckled in its newness. Just in that little section, the water looks blue in some places, green in others, and tawny clear brown in others where it is shallow and running over variegated brown pebbles.

I know the tree, the rocks, the birds. Is there a consciousness that knows me in turn? I've read that crows can tell individual humans apart from each other, and perhaps it's true, for even the crows seem to accept me as a familiar, non-threatening element in their environment. But perhaps the consciousness that knows me in this place is that of the homo sapien sapien, the one who knows she knows, the one who walks in my shoes.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Today I will run all about the local roads doing errands, for I have a list. Without a list I know how to have lunch, do laundry, run the vacuum and dust, go for my walk, find something interesting to read, take a nap. Anything else is likely to be forgotten.

I worried, when I became a grandmother, that I did not know how, and I had no list. But as it's going forward just now, my kids are fully responsible for their little girl, and all I am called on to do is to notice her, and admire her, and attend to her fresh way of responding to this world we call home. What a privilege. I believe I can do this after all!

The sky is sunny, and the snow is steadily melting. And I have this list...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

More Snow

We had enough to just fill the rise between step treads on the deck, so that would be 8" here. Yes, it's gorgeous. One must have thankfulness and joy behind the eyes to see the beauty of snow, I suspect, and the willingness to be contented in place. And the comfort of enough.

Today I lack only the mindset (maybe it's a belly-felt sense?) of thankfulness. It is for this restless feeling, though, that I have been practicing sitting in meditation, that intentional, practical way of reaching for calm in a stormy interior. Or for calm in a stormy exterior, of course. Most of my storms, real and troubling storms, are interior ones, though. I admit this.

Every year I notice a clear dawn after a February storm that coats branches with slick, wet, heavy snow. Morning washes upward in rainbow colors. From petal-plush black, like the darkest tulip, to wood sorrel mauve, to a fuchsia blush, to the wide variety of azalea pinks. Then palest apple blossom heart, and a touch of summer tan and sand tinged with orange and yellow streaks, pale as thin-mixed watercolors. I am reminded of seasons gone, and of a painted prelude for the seasons to come. Even the snowy earth reflects the pastels in the sky, and the world glows.

White-tufted dogwoods look frilly and ruffled. Wineberry brambles bend and bow with natural, exquisite grace. A butler to royalty should do so well. Cedars and pines droop as if weighted with jewels: fire opal, rose quartz, amethyst. Every little twig, stalk and seed pod is fancy, decked out in finery fit for a ball. There it is, the February promise, that misty, soft, gentle, passing first light that holds an open-handed, tentative and sky-blue-clear promise of spring.

And so, after some time of intentional noticing and quiet, meditative, breath-focused sitting, I am holding the joy of the February promise found in the sky once again this morning.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Tuesday at Lunch Bunch the conversation centered on haiku. We had in front of us work of the poet Basho and a series of three different translations of each.

Of one haiku, the translation of R. H. Blyth:
It is deep autumn
My neighbor
How does he live, I wonder.

Same haiku, translated by Strych:
Autumns end
how does my
neighbor live?

And translated by Beilenson:
In my dark winter
lying ill, at last I ask
how fares my neighbor

We translate each others' words, even when we are speaking the same basic language. We translate glances and body language. We translate the natural world into words, as I have been doing here.

Today I am going to spend some hours in direct experience of the natural world, scurrying with the little mice and voles, tending the earth, the grasses to come. I'll be back in a few days.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Look! We're more than half way through February. Snow continues to melt, uncovering the ragtag old leaves from last fall, and the down fall twigs and branches. And through the mat the spikes of crocus and daffodil leaves sprout up.

As I expected, Deer Creek ran high yesterday, and muddy, so that even rocks that were near the surface (I knew from the form of the flow, and from knowing the creek so well) were hidden in all that lack of clarity. St. Omer's Creek flowed slowly, blocked from emptying faster by the high water level in Deer Creek. Did St. Omer's push to enter the larger flow, or did it patiently wait its turn? Imagining a human stance to the state of water flow is a long stretch, I suppose. But metaphors from the natural world do guide my thoughts. I recognize that the smaller creek is neither anxious nor patient, it just IS.

Full moon Friday. On clear sky big-moon nights the color of the world shifts to mysterious. The light does not bounce around like the brighter daylight, and shadows are deep and dense beside the pale lit places.

I am ever surprised and delighted by the natural world just as it IS. Let me be more observant and less judgmental toward the ways of being of my human companions on this journey. How shall I do that, and keep my own self balanced?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Yesterday as the day wore on the sun shone high, and the wind poured in warmth accumulated elsewhere, the sky going through many of the permutations between clear and cloud covered . Snow melted to patchy, scraggly-looking patterns, as if the land were a furry animal shedding its winter coat. I am eager to see Deer Creek today, how the water will be rushing and free. I want to go and stand by, to see it in its full setting, to absorb the natural flow of it with all my senses, to experience it. Now the sun opens the day with generosity, pouring out unstintingly into the morning.

A further thought on loving one another, from Jon Kabat-Zinn:

"Generosity, trustworthiness, kindness, empathy, compassion, gratitude, joy in the good fortune of others, inclusiveness, acceptance and equanimity are qualities of mind and heart that further the possibilities of well-being and clarity within oneself, to say nothing of the beneficial effects they have in the world."
Jon Kabat-Zinn, Coming To Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness. Hypernion, New York, 2005. 104.

What a handful of attributes! Let me live by those. Thus the days will be always welcome in my heart.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day

This morning the soptlight of sunshine lit up the trees on the western ridge, and the shadow of our hill was moving steadily, and then it all faded to ordinary light. As I write, the sun just above the treetops at the top of our eastern ridge is like the glint of a bright light on the rounded bottom edge of a scrubbed, brushed aluminum pot. We don't use unlined aluminum anymore for a cook pot because of toxicity. Does this mean this kind or sunshine through some cloud looks different?

How do I love this world, and those with whom I most intimately share it? How do I cope when my emotion of the moment would betray me into drama? When love leaves the hearts and flowers, fluff and flurry stage, I was pointed from childhood to this sturdy (though not easy) description of what love is, of how it behaves:

"Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love." I Corinthians 13: 4-7, 13

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Words Matter

"The past decade has seen a host of ingenious demonstrations establishing that language indeed plays a causal role in shaping cognition. Studies have shown that changing how people talk changes how they think. Teaching new color words, for instance, changes their ability to discriminate colors. And teaching people a new way of talking about time gives them a new way of thinking about it."
Lera Boroditsky. "How Language Shapes Thought: The languages we speak affect our perceptions of the world." Scientific American, February, 2011, 63-65. (65).
(Note: Italics in the quote are mine.)

Language has a causal role in shaping how we think. Can we find the words to help each other turn toward kindness? Like sunshine turns a sunflower, like smiles invite us to come closer. Strong, fierce words of kindness to our friends and to those who are not yet our friends. We're all better off when we are not enemies, when we find ways to be friends.

Cloudy today. Surely a chance of meatballs someplace, though likely not today in the kitchen in this house.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

"Failing to notice a gift dishonors it, and deflects the love of the giver. That's what's wrong with living a careless life, storing up sorrow, waking up regretful, walking unaware. But to turn the gift in your hands, to say, this is wonderful and beautiful, this is a great gift-- this honors the gift and the giver of it."
Kathleen Dean Moore, Wild Comfort: The Solace of Nature, 19.

I wish you a day full of noticing gifts, all sorts of gifts, and of finding a way to honor the gifts you notice. And wisdom says it's all a gift.

Friday, February 11, 2011

February 11, 2011

That would be 02 11 2011. Grin.

The sunrise is bright, and the snow on the hill across the valley is beigy-pink and the weather forecast is for a sunny day, possibly with temperatures up to 40. That will be a relief from single digit nights and all frozen days.

Yesterday I visited the skunk cabbage flowers in the marshy place next to St. Omer's creek. There they were, in the ice-skimmed water, standing so pert and sturdy. Some of them are such a dull mottled puce and chartreuse color. To my eye, just ugly. And then some are like a glass of burgundy wine, and when sunlight catches in them they glow, so beautiful. I didn't see any other movement in the marsh yesterday, yet from other years, I know that inside each of those folded over blossoms there is space for a bee.

Ugly and beautiful, standing together, and the bees and the plants themselves don't seem to make that judgment about good, better, best related to beauty. I have developed a fondness for those chartreuse and puce blossoms. Survival demands of plants another kind of struggle. I stood by the swampy place a while and smiled.

And then, because it was so cold, I hiked back up the hill and home.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

February 10, 2011

Night before last one of those glorious sunsets with decorative clouds, last evening a uniform, dim cover of clouds, this morning new, fresh brilliance. I think I will never tire of observing the edge effect as it appears morning and evening in the sky.

The snow missed us, fell south of us, but the cold is in residence. I'm so thankful for sturdy shelter, and warmth. The stockpile of wood is nearly gone, but for now we use what we have, and it is enough.

The horse shelter across the road in my most direct line of view is full of sunlight, but I can't tell if the hay racks on the back wall are full of hay. When I walked yesterday, though, I noticed the hay racks in the lower meadow shelter were plentifully supplied. The colors varied, through many greens, beigy gold, near-browns. The colors of good hay. I couldn't smell that hay yesterday, but as I walked I remembered from my girlhood how the cold, winter hay mows still held such a dusty, sweet scent from summer. And then I sniffed again and noticed the clear, cold quietness of the air around me that moment, and that was good, too.

This morning, inside, the house smells faintly of wood smoke with an overlay of coffee.

Last week I opened the mailbox one day and on top of the pile was a manila envelope and in the return address place was the name of my poetry teacher and friend. Ah, I felt so happy just seeing that envelope and address! One of the two books inside, Wild Comfort: The Solace of Nature by Kathleen Dean Moore has this frontispiece quote:

"Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts." Rachel Carson, A Sense of Wonder

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

February 9, 2011

This morning the dawn sky was pink-rimmed around the whole circle of horizon, then the spotlight sunshine began to fill the treetops to the west, across the valley, and then suddenly the spotlight effect was gone behind a cloud. Like a switch had been turned off. I was not yet done with looking.

I have been noticing that knowing a concept and applying that concept in one's own specific life are such different things. Just saying.

The fox runs up the hill, panting. About halfway to the crest, behind the house, s/he heads slant-wise across the slope and his/her mouth closes. Was the fox running hard uphill from joy or fear? I'd like to imagine its spur to be a frolic of sheer animal joy, but it's more realistic, in my mind, to imagine it was running from fear. And what might have frightened the fox?

From my bedroom window yesterday I saw a bird tumbling through the windy sky as if it had imagined it might perch on a cloud edge and had instead been betrayed by such a wild hope.

My friend who was a storyteller (on stage, for money) and a poet died of kidney failure when she was in her forties, way too young. When she knew she was sick to death she wrote:

What's a storyteller to do
with the bits and pieces
that are left behind
when storytime
is over?
With the rags and tags
of fairy tales
lined up
on a shelf
and beginnings
and ends
in a pile
on the floor?
(excerpt from the unpublished poem "Storytime Is Over" by Martha Spice)

Those lines stay with me as I, too, wonder. What are we to do with all our lonely, silent stories? The words stuck on our tongues, stuck behind our fearsome, fearful teeth. Our longings and ideas, things we notice and would engage. But then, we need community to engage, community within which to listen, to speak and be heard, and instead we so often find ourselves in silence, alone with our rags and tags and fairy tales in a pile on the floor.

I recently came across a wisdom writing that suggested that what we most desire might be the same thing as what we most fear. Do you think that observation carries truth? What do you most fear? Most desire?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

February 8, 2011

This morning the clouds turned from a dusty rose, to scallops of glory, to a sky full of pale salmon that brightened to such paleness to approach white. The sky is full of wind today, and leaves fly now and again. A leaf dances in wild gyrations on the deck, and the fluffy black and white cat crouches inside, stares at that leaf, and occasionally jumps to catch it but finds the door in the way. Isn't that how it goes.

Because the day's high temperature happened this morning, and the forecasters told me the temperatures would drop steadily, as they have, I brought wood from the stockpile to the deck right after the guys left for work. By then the sky had turned to a steel lid, clamped down tight, and the wind continued to blow. I experienced with my whole being that sense of lowering sky.

I walked by Deer Creek, and the sky began to brighten again, blue patches appearing to the west, clouds responsive to the wind. Today there was an eagle out and soaring, a juvenile bald eagle, still in it's dark feather coat. But fierce. I would not want to be a mouse in its sights.

The valley is often host to bald eagles. There is a flock of them that nests by the Conowingo dam on the Susquehanna, and it's not so far as birds fly from there to here. About a year ago, one a late winter Sunday morning, I walked west along Deer Creek, and flying over the road toward me came a juvenile bald eagle. I watch them in awe, always, they're huge, and so perfect in their movement. It approached me on a glide, looking me over as openly as I looked at it, put out it's taloned feet, gripped a branch on a tree perhaps twenty feet from me, folded its wings and studied me. I stopped, lifted my chin high and tilted my head far back to continue to watch. That bird stared at me with such intensity I couldn't help but think of Alfred Hitchcock's movie The Birds. That huge creature sat and stared past its proud beak and down, its gaze clear, unwavering, unblinking. Piercing. In spite of our size differential I felt a little shiver of dread. After what was perhaps fifteen or twenty seconds— a long time— it raised it's shoulders, brought its elbows out from its body, brought its wing tips forward and with an easy, rowing motion lifted from the branch where it had settled, casually releasing its grip and rising away. I knew I had been examined, evaluated as prey, and discarded. Spared.

How often in our lives are we, knowing or unknowing, the ones evaluated as prey?

And if that bird spared my life, what bird-debt do I now carry?

Monday, February 7, 2011

February 7, 2011

When I was a child on the family farm, sometime in late April my sister and I would start begging to be allowed to go outside barefooted. On the early May day Mama deemed the ground warm enough and finally gave her permission (I was such an obedient child I didn't take my shoes off until given permission) I was full of the delight of free feet. The fact that all my calluses had softened over winter so that even fine gravel was hard to walk on did not diminish my joy.

The bare earth that is appearing around the bases of our trees reminds me of that experience of going barefoot. Here are the trees whose feet have been encased in cold, white shoes of snow, and now they are being released. Free feet. I can almost feel their toes wiggle.

February 7, 2011

This morning is bright, the snow-covered land reflecting and the air gently moist to receive all that light. On the south bank by Deer Creek the snow has already melted. The weather forecast calls for temperatures in the mid-forties later. I believe I should go walk before the ice in the dirt road melts and turns the road to a muddy mess. I can bundle up, I know how to do this much.

Later is Now--
Such a disorderly, chaotic mat of flattened dead vegetation has appeared where the snow has melted. It provides the bed from which new life already begins to rise. Some grasses and weeds are greening there along the Deer Creek bank, and on the meadow side of the road where smiles the generous warmth, the sun has brought forth green grass shoots through the snow. There are little melty spots around the blade tips. In the woods trees have melted little tunnels toward bare ground around their roots.

The air has warmed and moisture increased, the sun is hidden, the National Weather Service for my place coordinates predicts rain coming tonight.