Tag Archives: nature

Immaculate Capitulation

partially burned clover

I could linger here for hours, sinking deeper into the
busy stillness, that unwinds when I bed down
in the sweet grasses, and watch the world work.

Beetles, blossoms, birdsong.

The swollen heat of high summer has come.
It tugs, and thrums and meters out the breath of life.
I consider the sticky, happy, bleed
of pressing sunshine.

The Earth’s gentle turning yields generosity
from a relentless sun.
This critical act of immaculate capitulation
allows us to rest in darkness and gather strength to
create again.

I am feeling to find these threads,
sensitizing myself to touch the cords with confidence,
and know which action is needed.
I am thinking about how to honor the lineage of this
relationship, of knowing when enough has come. Of
knowing what to turn away from, and what to turn into.

I trust the material I am made from, yet know so little
of its working. This wisdom murmurs late at night as
the narrator of my dreams, and in the daylight hum of
the cicada.

Our distance from our native knowledge of how to be,
is perhaps the greatest consequence of our
advancement. I have seen nothing else in nature that
extrapolates its expectations beyond the boundaries of
sensation.

The Offering

Snowdrops, crocuses, daffodils

The snowdrops bow their delicate, white heads, and shine their light back to the earth.
The first offering of spring is to the source.
The crocuses salute the sun, all eagerness and stretching, in noble robes of purple and gold.
The second offering of spring is to the source.
The daffodils are standing now, but still tightly bound. When they open, they will gaze out upon the land.
The third offering of spring is to the world.

Sweet Weeping

For Keri

Maple branch leaking sap

One hundred yards back, looking towards the clearing,
I see the drops gleaming. Shining all the way down.

It is dry.
My coat rubs electricity out of the air
and sends it snapping out my fingertips.
I am a good and unhappy conduit.

Closer, I hear the tap of liquid on leaves, slow and irregular.
I break a swelling drop across my finger.
I taste wood, dry air, and faint, sweet maple.
I taste my childhood.

Dark branches leak the surging sweetness. Climbing and awake,
in a race of a different pace,
spilling now in the slow tip of craftsmanship.

It is in the jointed places, that life runs out.
In the broken places, life pools. The bark shines,
the wound glistens, calling attention to the bounty that springs from there.

The Immaculate Deaths of Trees

The grass bends easily in the wind. The great oak stands unmoved. A strong wind can uproot the oak, but no wind, however strong, can uproot the grass that bends flat before it.

-Chin-Ning Chu, Thick Face, Black Heart

Fallen oak tree
I am walking on the estate again. I reach the boundary gate at the river, and turn to look at the water. To my amazement, the stone mansion I have been glimpsing, straining to see from the road a quarter mile down river, is directly in front of me across the bank. It is only now that the leaves have died and fallen away, that I can see what’s been nearer than near, all along. Only now, that they have honored their totality of purpose, and completely released, is the sought object revealed to be already present. It is as if God has sighed tenderly and said, Clear enough, baby? I begin to cry, and I pray that I may die all my deaths with the grace and dignity of a leaf.

I am walking on the estate again. It’s been very windy and very few leaves remain above, but there are many below. It’s cold and bright, and I look at the mansion for a long time. I turn, and walk the other direction. In front of me is a fallen giant. I massive tree has shattered at its base and stretches across the lawn, all the way to the edge of the brook. Its size and its majesty are awe inspiring – and in its death, accessible for the first time. Dying changes the perspective of those who have only ever experienced us as living. Huge swaths of earth are torn up from the impact of the fall. Broken branches rest a foot into the ground.

There is an odd smell in the air. I weave under and around the limbs, touching the bark, marveling at the life of this creature. I decide to bring the boys back here later, so they might see something this rare for themselves – a body that’s been in the sky for hundreds of years, laid now at our feet. I look up at a branch still clutching leaves. It is an oak. They are always among the last to let go, holding their curling, russet leaves well past the first snow. I think about the cheerful, sugary maples, naked for weeks now. They helicopter down their soft seeds in the height of summer. A party. A ticker tape parade. Not like acorns at all, who hold their dense energy easily, stoically, all winter long. I feel a chilly sadness for the oak, for the vulnerability of staunchness.

I am walking on the estate again. The oak has been cleared away, the splintered stump, neatly sawed across the top. Around the edges, the tree rings are clearly marked – a bending topography of time, etched in creams and browns. Towards the middle, the cut surface is ragged and white. I touch the outside rings; the wood is very firm. I touch the inner wood; it is soft and pulpy. I pick up a piece of wood left behind, with the grain clearly showing. It is very hard and heavy. I pick up a pale, ungrained piece. It is light, it crumbles easily between my fingers. This tree died from the inside out. It is how most of us die, but strangely, we rarely think of it that way. We think of it as something that happens to us, rather than something that emerges from within us. There are tiny pine seedlings at the base of the once-here tree. I wonder, do they know the fortune that’s befallen them? Do they feel the light that has always been there, but is newly born to them?

I am walking on the estate again. The oak stump comes into view, a tidy headstone in memorial to itself. Everything about the way trees die and live, is immaculate.

Rainlight, Candlelight

I am walking on the estate again. It is windy and rainy. Everything is saturated. Black bark is blacker. Pale green lichen is brighter. Stones on the path glisten, winking their suddenly lustrous tones into the gray space. Tawny needles below the pines throb on the hillside, slowly casting off the half life of sun light.

It is a dreary, we say. It is dismal. But in the damp, in the grey rainlight, everything is softer and more vivid. It is like looking at the whole world by candlelight. Everything becomes more beautiful, more romantic, more clearly itself, by what’s absent. Beauty shines in the dark, because it is at home there.

Burdocks

Burdock bud
Think not, how many are there?, or will they be hard to pick out?, or well, this is irritating. These are common responses. Think instead, what path was I walking, that I brushed up against something so eager to be with me?

We are the perfect hosts for whatever work we need. It is not something to be sought. Look only for the irritation, poking through the layers you have put on. The work is not to dig out the hooks, or wear a slicker slicker, or to go another way, or to hack down the burdock. These are common solutions. The work is to ask, and then know, what path was I walking, that made me a good host? The work is to make peace with one’s carrier status, and then walk again, eyes open, and heart still.

October Bouquet

Bouquet of burdock, grass, berries and yellow flowers
It is unusual, as a mammal, to experience coolness from the inside out, I say to Linda as she takes the needles out.

Afterwards, I go for a walk. The sun is out. The moon is out. The sun is loud and the moon is quiet, but both are bright. It is cool and very crisp. Something small inside me says, yes, as I cross the road towards the old Governor’s estate.

I walk past the small pond, and pause as I come up towards the large garden plot, plowed and planted with a cover crop for winter. The grass off the path ahead is rustling in the piercing sunlight. I stand and watch the organic shimmer. It is beautifully choreographed – the short grasses flicker in staccato quarter-turns, the long grasses bend sideways, low, and back in slow, sweeping bobs. Movement and stillness ripple through the space.

I am about to set off again, when I notice burdock to my left. I have been thinking about burdock, and decide to take a stem, then two, so I can photograph them later. I walk with the dry, shaggy, husk of a bouquet clasped in my hand, a march of ephemeral conquest. I am carrying it like a bright-eyed suitor, and have the same feeling in my heart. I am struck by how silly this must look.

Suddenly I see there are yellow flowers all across the garden. They are in such contrast to the burdock, I immediately want to put them together. To my left, there are several types of branch berries, and what I think are choke cherries. I take some berries and leave the cherries. I add a stalk, then two, of creamy brown, heavily seeded grass. Now it feels like a proper bouquet. Now it is telling a richer story, of death, and life, and the abundance in between. I walk past a beautiful evergreen with red blossoms that hang like little lantern shades around bright red berries. These flowers are lovely, I want to add them, but I think it will clutter the narrative, so I resist.

I walk along the stream, instead of the drive. A break in the grass invites a pause. Cords of thick pond weed bow to the current, which currently appears quite still. I look for fish or turtles in the clear water, but see none. I wonder if the turtles have gone into the mud for the winter. Oh! there are two on the bank, sitting right together. But they are only rocks, that have camouflaged themselves as turtles.

I follow the stream back up to the big pond where it starts in a slip over the dam. I have never seen the pond from this angle. A lone Canada Goose drifts along, oddly separate from the gaggle I hear over the hill. A large bird glides over the water, in a slow downward arc. It flies too elegantly for a goose, it is too slender to be a hawk or a vulture. It is a heron. It’s flying towards me and I hope it will land where I can watch it. It loops back to the other side and settles in a tree, immediately blending into and extending the branch on which it has landed. If I didn’t know where it was, I would only see a thick gray branch disguising itself as a heron. But then the heron shakes its tail, resettles its wings, and gives the tree away.

Beauty, Out and About, October

Some images today from my walk at Sheep Pasture and the community garden. Lovely fall day in Southern New England.

Woolly bear caterpillar, grass seed, grass seed, corn.

Woolly bear caterpillar, unknown, unknown, corn.

Milkweed silk, blond baby hair.

Milkweed silk, Jonah’s hair.

red berries, red vine climbing tree.

Unknown, unknown.

tomatoes

Tomatoes.

blue flower, marigold, pink flower with butterfly, black-eyed Susan, nasturtium.

Unknown, marigold, unknown, black-eyed Susan, nasturtium.

seed pods on baby sweater

Hitch hikers.

Dead Frogs Still Say I Love You

IMG_9127
Yesterday, we were drawing with chalk in the driveway and the kids got very excited to show me something.

Mummy, Mummy! Jack takes me by the hand and walks me towards the basketball hoop.
Oh no, it’s a frog. It’s mushed. I ran it over with the car.
Like the bat, Colin says.
Yes, like the bat. I also just backed over a wiffle ball bat, mushing it into a very suitable cricket bat. Apparently the concentration and clarity developed by my meditation practice have not permeated my skill of backing the car out of the garage.
Look! Look! says Jack.
I know, the yellow jackets and the ants are eating it. Two yellow jackets and a collection of ants are feasting on the carcass. I had no idea that yellow jackets were omnivores. Oh. I’m so sad I killed this poor frog. I did not mean to do that. Do you want to say a little prayer with me?
I kneel down. Jack kneels down. Colin kneels down.
Little frog, I’m so sorry I ran you over you and killed you.
I’m sorry we killed you frog, Colin repeats.
Sorry frog, says Jack.
I feel really sad. I love frogs. I think about our frog from the garden. I hope this is not the same frog. It’s too mushed and dried out to tell what kind it was. Its entrails are still moist, but its back feet are leathery and curling up from the blacktop.
But look, do you see what the bugs are doing? They’re eating its body.
Yeah! Jack is full of earnest enthusiasm.
Even though the frog is dead, its body will still help these bugs. They will eat it and have energy to be healthy and strong, and they will take some of the food back to their nests, and feed the other bugs. Isn’t that cool?
Colin looks up at me.
It’s like saying I love you.
Yes. Yes honey, that’s exactly right. It’s just like saying I love you.

Goldenrod

IMG_9000
I recently sat and watched a patch of goldenrod.

Goldenrod is a succulent firework, each spiraling arm a tumble-out explosion of itty, bitty buds. Its color, the bright, white light of sunshine, layered over and over, until it becomes the dark, golden quiver of yolk. It was crawling with bees, honeys and bumbles. They would land and pick their way over the blossoms, trolling their faces through the bloom. Lift off, repeat. Sometimes they bumped each other out of the way. One bee would land on another, but there was no conflict, the first bee just moved on. It’s very random, it looks…inefficient, but it’s a pattern that ensures ample pollination. How sterile a planning matrix would make it.

A breeze gently bumped one set of flowers into another. More pollination. I felt a swell of emotion rise in my heart, and in my throat. What was I feeling? It was like when you are walking next to a good friend, someone you love. You walk slowly and close, like there is a little secret between you, perhaps just the pleasure of walking this way. And one of you leans in, on the rise of the step and touches the shoulder of the other – the gesture that is balanced precisely between a press and a bump – held for a beat until the foot touches down, and then you draw apart again, smiling. It was like that. I felt love. I felt pride at being the living compatriot these flowers, these bees, this breeze. Of being part of this system that was so beautiful, so prosperous, and so unmanaged. I felt humility for how much I construct in the name of making things better than they already are.

I sat. I watched. I sighed. The breeze sighed. The flowers sighed. Jonah, strapped to my chest, shifted and sighed. There were aphids. There was a pair of lady bugs were locked in a carnal crawl, dragging pollen behind them, their red shells winking in and out of the gold. I sat. I watched. I marveled. The humble golden rod, passive master of its own success by sweet invitation, and by simply allowing the world around it to act according to its own nature. It was such a gentle resiliency, it was stunningly beautiful.