#166 Change

#166  Change

Change.

Although the days may still have warmth the sunset brings a sharp cool presence that wasn’t with us just a few short weeks ago. So many name Fall as their favorite season and I can understand that in light of the particular madness that seems to overtake the last few weeks of August. The plants in pots which looked so pristine in mid-July have turned into overgrown tangles. Dying yellow starts to be the color of choice for the leaves on the plants left growing in the garden. After the tomato harvest explosion the stragglers look exactly like stragglers, more suitable for sauce than for slicing to make a luscious tomato sandwich which no longer seems quite as appealing as the go-to breakfast of choice.  Summer’s crazy excesses start to feel like—well, excesses—and a longing for order and calm seeps in.

There’s a price to be paid for these changes. Darkness comes abruptly and too early even though it’s been creeping in steadily since June’s solstice. Windows stay closed more often now, quick thunderstorms come through while you’re out and water on the floor greets you on your return. Leaving windows open at night requires an extra blanket close at hand if the wind turns in the wee hours of the morning. It’s hard enough rising in the dim morning light without sleep disturbance caused by being chilled.

The current commercialization on the pumpkin spice bandwagon has totally gotten out of hand and is especially noticed by the few of us not fond of cinnamon. Let’s face it: pumpkin spice mainly means that cinnamon is a major ingredient in nearly everything marked “pumpkin spice” but really, just how much cinnamon can even that spice lover tolerate?

It’s again time to face the changeover in clothing for those in the northern parts of the world—or in the Southern Hemisphere as well. There may be those who have sufficient closet space so as flipping nearly everything you wear isn’t necessary but many of us lug clothing to and from storage spaces grumbling “Didn’t we just do this a couple of weeks ago?”

You may be thinking of adding to your stash of tea or you may be ruffling through your favorite soup recipes. That’s because you are now getting cold.

Here’s my attitude concerning moving from Summer into Fall–I see this time of change in a very simple way. I’d much rather be eating fresh peaches than apples.

 

 

# 162 Tough Summer

Tough Summer.

We all had such hopes after a year of isolation, fear, and worry. Late winter brought the first mass vaccinations and so much hope. By July the vaccine promise of seeing our loved ones safely began to melt away as case numbers including vaccinated breakthroughs began to melt in the variant surge moving throughout the world but particularly and sorrowfully in our communities. Still trying to do the right thing the information about staying safe was, and is, mixed with local decisions being made over national ones. Masks began to reappear and mask mandates and concerns for those under twelve were building with good reason. Your geographic location and your destination location could have remarkable differences along with the journey from one to the other.

It wasn’t only the virus that made this summer so hard. The weather patterns seemed as variable as virus outbreaks: massive flooding, massive fires and drought, and see-saw New England weather conditions bouncing from the 40’’s to the 90’s, especially in July. The initial June drought was followed by July’s deluge and to top it all off then came the August threat of a New England hurricane, the first in 30 years.

And there was politics, the endlessly awful divisions, hatred, and violence, with the media cranking out daily hype or truth depending on your perspective, but mostly all bad news one way or another.

What became apparent to me, unfolding over weeks of zoom conversation, was just how much we needed connection. We needed to hug loved ones. We needed to share meals and talk and we needed to be together. Every one of us who got to be with friends or family faced tough decisions about our safety and their safety, about vaccines, about being tested before, during, or after being together. Most of us got together figuring out the safest way we thought could do that. Most of us realized how critically important it is/was to reconnect. Many of us lost people, not always via the virus but for other reasons, yet the virus was forever in the background affecting everything. We don’t know when or if there is an ending to this story. What we do know is how precious the people in our lives are, how that has always been the case even when we were freely running busy, harried lives in which our priorities did not have the clarity they do now.

If you are one of those lucky people that got a friend or family visit I know you are feeling blessed. I finally got to do that and now, back on my own again, I’m tired. Sad. Joyous. Thankful. Most of all I am keenly aware of what counts most. Maybe that is the message tough times has always carried.



Note: This time the photo was not taken by me but by my beloved Cousin Debbie. Sometimes one picture really is worth a thousand words.

#161 Yesterday, Today, ?

Yesterday, Today, ?

We began sliding into summer with a sense of relief and hope, eager for optimism’s return, wanting-needing-sunshine to warm our bodies and ease our exhausted, isolated, battered psyches. There were a few weeks of smiles and the beginnings of breathing into our lives before hints of darkness crept up to the edges of things. There’s no need to name the elements of this darkness but only to acknowledge our awareness of its presence. When or if was Pandora’s Box opened and, if it was, will it ever be possible to retract the darkness released? 

What happens to us when our hopes are counter balanced in equal measure with our worries? I don’t believe nature intended that we should shoulder such burdens, despite having my own fairly pessimistic psyche or, as the saying goes “if you’re not depressed your not paying attention”? This is when our concepts of time, our personal and collective knowledge of History, and our sense of memory begin to converge as we attempt to feel our way into the darkness we see as a potential future. Who wants to look ahead through that prism? Is this what is widely being reported has a collective dire view of a the living, breathing future elements of our planet?  

I am no seer nor have I had a conversation with one yet my instincts feel the need to gather together to give aid and comfort to each other in all the blessed ways possible. Convene family, friends, and actively court and encourage contact with those you’d now call strangers. This is the time to encourage and nurture our finest instincts. What we explore together and share with each other may be just what is necessary to face the ? which lies ahead. 

#160 Background

Background.

Lately I’ve been aware of the constant sound of the ocean waves rolling in to meet the rocky shore and wondering if or how that rhythm affects the human body or the psyche. You and I have read that the ocean represents the Earth’s breath, or its lungs, or it is like the womb out of which all Placental mammals are born.

This concept of “Mother Ocean” is not exactly what I am trying to uncover. I am interested in the constancy of the repetitive sound of waves just as if I lived in a city and my background sound of was the repetitive sound of traffic.

Interesting to me, I moved here as winter was setting in so I had to wait until the next summer before I could listen to the ocean without the muffled effect of the closed windows. I craved hearing wave sounds directly that first winter. This summer has had prolonged periods of cold and wet so that the windows have often been shut at night. It is amazing how the clammy chill seeps into the house if windows are left open when the temperatures drop. However, in a heat wave the windows are open and the breeze off the water acts like air conditioning and the sound at high tide is not something that you can ignore despite the hour.

My suspicion is that anyone in close proximity to the sound of a body of water at night experiences changes to our breath, our heart rate, perhaps even our blood pressure. The blood pressure might lower most nights unless there’s a storm which can really alter the background sounds., sometimes sending a heart racing.

I don’t have answers to my questions but I am nonetheless grateful for being this close, this intimate, with the sounds of such a major planetary force field. I suspect it has changed me in many ways. perhaps as kind of external background meditation of sorts, happening even when the routines of life progress.

#158 Soundbites

Soundbites.

A soundbite is a snippet of a media report or conversation or interview, as if an entire interview purporting coverage of an  important issue would be long enough to describe the complexity contained within it. If the reportage failed to include a scholar or scholars who’ve spent their entire careers on that subject a snippet could not possibly give anyone enough information to be informed.

Life is complex, multiple faceted, often holding—at the same time—two or more truths that are seemingly opposed. Where is our ability to see through the ruse of the soundbite for what is behind it—an attempt to snatch your attention to then sell a product?

Did your formal education include media literacy? Mine didn’t. I grew up in the era of Walter Cronkite and Father Knows Best, a simplistic, patriarchal world that left out all kinds of things like women’s history, genocide perpetrated by our forefathers, racism, imperialism, sexism, and classism just to touch the top of the neglected pile. We were trained with purposeful, guided focus and our world is in deep doodoo because of it. Our economies, our “prosperities”, were built and measured by the manufacture of goods that are now filling landfills, dumped in our oceans, dumped in unsuspecting countries, but the economic accounting always had the false finger of deceit on the scale because the extraction of natural and man-made materials and the eventual disposing of these goods was not included in the cost. Only the profits were measured. The bill has come due from this deceit, but really, hasn’t there always been an alarm bell ringing somewhere in your psyche?

The real question is: “What’s going on with us that we turned over our individual worlds to such a flimsy fantasy?” Were we lazy? Did we not care? Or did we succumb to feeling overwhelmed, feeling our stake in what happens couldn’t possibly be successful in “Turing This Around”?

The time for self deception and pretense is long gone. So too may be real solutions. Ditch the soundbites, dig deep, and do what you can.

#157 Now I Know Something That I Didn’t

Now I know something that I didn’t.

I used to argue that it was a mistake to ask elders about their lives in times past. I was insistent that what was needed when talking to older people was a discussion about their lives in the present moment, what did they think, what was happening in their lives; what interested them., now and not in their past. Then Covid-19 came along and altered everyone’s life.

How many times have you heard stories from friends or stories happening within your families where those dear ones who had entered the path of dementia or Alzheimer’s rapidly lost ground as they were denied the ability for visits with loved ones or being able to see those whose relationships provide daily comfort? If they were in any kind of assisted living or nursing home the restrictions were magnified. What could a disconnected mind make of masks or loved ones on the other side of window glass? What did it mean to them that there were no longer hugs, those physical, human connections that carry so much acceptance, safety, warmth, and love? 

Those of us living alone who were older made it through did so by deliveries and curbside, contactless pickup of groceries or needed household supplies. We made our connections via screens. We Zoomed our connectedness. More than a year later we may still be connected by this medium even though we are trying to understand new rules, new guidelines, hoping to remain safe and healthy. But all of our lives have changed.

Many of us tackled “projects”, some creative and some utilitarian. I dragged the storage containers of unmarked family photos up from the houses storage area. I am the last of this line of family and my memory has not held the names and relationships of all those in some of the unidentified pictures. At first it felt like a useful project but soon the memories of times past and loved ones long gone overtook the lonely spaces in my current life and there I was now left seeing the other side of my vehemence about the aging needing to be addressed in the present tense. There was but a shadow “present” left in my life and in that void the photo project brought sorrow and longing and deep regret as I learned the irony I’d unknowingly carried most of my life.

My cruel teenage self had long ago lofted a cutting remark to my mother: “What is family? Family doesn’t mean anything.” This cruel intended remark was hurled with only the destruction a teenager can summon. Now I look at the photos of my mother and her siblings, who lost their mother when she—the eldest—was thirteen and then lost their father four years later when she was seventeen. The siblings were separated as best the uncles and aunts could do, but the scars remained permanent. I have poured through the photo album my mother made the year her father died, the year she graduated from high school, the year she lost her family. What did she carry all those years? In my only child lack of understanding the gap between us grew until at last, at nearly seventy five, four years more than she lived I began to piece together hints of the magnitude of what she bore. I take back those cavalier comments about the importance of present-tense aging. The past has caught up with my being. Apparently we live until we finally learn what we came here to learn. It took the magnitude of a pandemic to even begin to see it.

#154  One Size Fits All

DSC_0118 copyOne Size Fits All.

Like so many of the vaccinated, fully sprung from the pandemic, folk I’ve added excursions to shopping places I felt were off limits for a long stretch. After more than a year I’m sure you’ve had a number of things wear out, break, or problems of storage or organization that longed for a solution. I’m reasonably sure you went online looking for answers in the form of products you usually purchased locally. 

Take nail brushes, the kind that sit near your bathroom or kitchen sink that you use to get the dirt out from around your fingertips after repotting a plant. I searched for months for a plain, straightforward brush I’d used for years but this product seemed to have disappeared from the world. What was offered in place were silly designs that clearly were not going to do the job. As gardening season approached I chose the best thing I could find and ordered that. Yesterday, while on my first trip back to the very store I’d heard my first COVID coughing (in February 2020 and I got out of there quickly), going through the checkout line there were those basic nailbrushes I’d looked so hard online to find. No longer particularly needing them (the inferior ones I’d purchased online only came in multiples of four), I put them in my cart anyway, longing for that “fix” that had seemed such an impossible quest a few months ago.

Amazon.com, the gargantuan endless supplier of everything is, of course, not that at all. It is algorithms and pushed products paid to get in front of the line. Under lockdown it seemed like (and perhaps was) a lifeline but it is not going to substitute for the hardware store down the street when you need a specific screw–not a package of 100 different varieties you’ll never use– or a lightbulb. But our precious local businesses did not all survive those months of lockdown. Now what?

On another shopping excursion I was in one of those places that seem to sell lots of “overstocks”– clothes, bedding, shoes, etc.– at discounted prices. My rotund, shrunken to 4’11” self swiveled my cart into a clothing isle just as an extremely tall, thin women turned into the same isle from the opposite direction. Giggling to myself, not daring to say out loud, were the words “one size fits all” bubbling up in my brain wanting to spill over into actual communication. I stayed silent but the juxtaposition of our physical selves searching the same clothing racks was absurdly, laugh out loud, funny.

This is the world where we have landed. For the convenience of making money and more money and even more money we marvelous, many layered, many colored, many sized, many cultures, many kinds of thoughts peoples, are seen by corporations as one thing: consumers! We are compressed by media, politics, religion, education and business into narrower and narrower confines with increasingly narrowing choices. At the same time the varieties of our beings are expanding everywhere: gender fluidity, multicultural and ethnically rich, our souls longing for expression and explorations of our true selves, our diversity joyously exuberant. 

Can we be convinced that “one size fits all”? That’s a version of trying to get the toothpaste back into the tube. 

 
 
 
 
 
 

#150 June

June.

Each year I approach the arrival of June as if I’ve never experienced it before. June is fickle and feckless, it’s weather moves from cloudy, dark, and cold to sparkling warmth and graciousness, then back to cold again.

June is the sound of the fog horn and seeing approaching gray swirls that turn into gray walls that hide that which, only moments ago, was visible. Sometimes the gray creeps in from the sea, the silent lowering mass decreasing visibility of the water. Fog enshrouds everything bringing a particular kind of quiet but one with a dank chill that penetrates to your bones.

This year the fringe of rose bushes that marks the transition between “lawn” into rocks seems to be thriving. These roses were nearly wiped out by onrushing ocean in storms these past two years. Perhaps unaware of dire climate change predictions they are full of bright pink blossoms hopeful and cheery.

When the nose-tingling scent of the briny sea mixes with the sweet smell of the roses it’s possible to close your eyes and get lost in the contrasting scents. A waft of brine sharpens everything, the life and death of the sea in your nostrils, your senses reminding you to pay attention. There is more going on here than you let yourself know.

June is sight and sound and smells changing moment to moment, endless and unexpected and, sometimes, uninvited. Nothing puts a damper on a June party faster than a thick fog. But when the skies are bright and the rose bushes vibrate with pink life June is pure promise.

And only in June do the spikes of lupine shoot up from the green tangle of the fields. Their predominant purple with occasional pinks rise and sway in the onshore breeze. Beware of lupine fields massed along roadsides. Cars stop abruptly leaving little room to pass as their occupants spill out of the doors camera phones armed and ready. Lupines are an iconic image. Who doesn’t want to share their beauty?

June is when the sea is dark blue with white spray joyously flying upward from the rocks. June is the roller coaster, the seesaw balance of heartbreak and joy and you are along for nature’s ride. June teaches us to be flexible and to temper our desires as it holds hints both of the winter’s passing and of the coming summer joy.

I am unexpectedly still by the sea grateful for the extraordinary beauty surrounding me and all who travel here, each of us feeling the particular aliveness this turbulent transition from cold to warm allows, perhaps one last chance or maybe more, we look for promise and hope the hallmarks of June.

#147 Distractions

another soft waveDistractions.

Pablum. Milquetoast. Bland. Insipid. Banal. Spineless. Blah. Vanilla. Disney-version. Sanitized. Romanticized. Wish-washy. 

This territory has never been the least bit interesting to me. I once listened to a young woman, glowing, describing her honeymoon on a Disneyland cruise ship and I had all I could do to politely stay in the room. Good grief. Her honeymoon? 

It strikes me, after experiencing the political upheavals of these past number of years, there are legions of Americans whose imaginations are drawn to a very “mild” version of life. No wonder they are wanting white picket fences bordering lawns that sit behind gates  locked to all but those in their communities. 

I do not mean offense if your taste runs to the tame but what would be the point of life without ethnic foods, hot chilies and curries, stream and spice for as long as your gut holds out? How would you find rhythms to move your body with no raging percussion or ragas or tangos? I can still remember the colors of the houses, outrageous blues and reds and the brightest of greens along the nature bleak Gaspé Peninsula and the way the people used their boldly painted houses to shout their existence—in balance, defiance, and joy? 

Having obtained the status of “old” will not stop me from delighting in those blistering scenes in Outlander or the more recent Bridgerton. Yes, I am old but I am not yet not dead. Life has fluids: sweat, tears, and all the rest of it. Life can be full of dirt digging, sky leaping, water diving and interacting with one another in a huge varieties of ways. Give me life filled with passions, shouts of righteous angers and raging joys. Or so I thought. But this pandemic has brought out curious behaviors and I am now streaming my second round of wishy-washy, juvenile fodder, serial TV. I have binged watched one and am nearly finished another, one as bland and meaningless as the other. In this genre of media sexual attraction seems satisfied by dry cheek pecks or tight, dry lips touching for mere seconds. Hands do not wander. Watching in vain, hour after hour of such wuss, creates a longing for someone to cut loose and let ‘er rip but that is not going to happen. This is prescription entertainment aimed at some kind of world in which I don’t want to live. And yet I watch. 

In the last couple of years of her life my Mom took to reading Harlequin Romances, those formulaic paperbacks that pop up at yard sales and thrift shops. Mom, who throughout her lifetime did not like either gossip or trash, piled those Harlequins on her chairs like stale half-bags of discarded potato chips. Now I’m watching Hallmark channel blah? Am I retreating from the challenges of the world that seems to have turned too rough, too real, too scary? 

The world of politics seems to be attempting to mirror a parallel false version of the realities of life. While reports of darkness in the lives of political leaders pop up regularly so many turn their backs ignoring the obvious in favor of La La Land versions that seemed to fit with some fairy tale way of being. Why would any of us consciously choose to believe in a version of life that strips out all of the nitty gritty realities which make our lives meaningful? Isn’t this messy? Of course. But also real and honest and worthwhile. What lies behind this desire for a cotton candy diet that cannot sustain a body or a soul? 

I wish someone could explain why abandoning principles for a drained and bland version of living is preferred when it seems what we most need is to stand fast and hold true to substance and meaning rather than wander off into idle distraction.

What in hell is going on?

 

OutrageousColor

#141 Bird Report

Bird Report.

Spring is a man agonizingly slow process in Coastal Maine. It’s a matter of being by a body of water where size really matters. The reasonably large lake on whose shore I spent my childhood had a climate moderation effect but that body pales in comparison to the Atlantic Ocean. The slow spring rollout that means days of biting wind and low temperatures mean I do drive-bys along the nearest marshes looking and listening for early arrivals. Things had been quiet with occasional sightings of Mallard ducks and Canada Geese but this week there was a glorious reward as a lone Great Egret stood fishing in that cold marsh water, ice still edging the shady spots, the marsh grasses still dead and brown, at least on the surface. I rolled down my window and shouted “Welcome Back” as an excited, obnoxious, human might when spotting this beloved creature.. In the months when it is possible I always drive the long way round when I’m running errands to take in as much marsh peeping as I can. It’s the egrets, the Greats and the Snowys, that my eyes seek wanting to soak in the grace and beauty of their being.

The week provided another bird sighting treat when I spotted a Killdeer in a bare dirt field. I’d not seen a Killdeer since I lived in northern Vermont so many years ago. I loved watching their fakey broken wing ruse used to divert any potential threat away from their ground nests. Looking like it’s a shore bird, instead you mostly find it in unplowed fields in early spring. They nest in precarious places as farmers and gardeners begin Turing over soil to begin planting. Be careful dear Killdeer.

I also heard the twrrr of newly arrived Red Wings Blackbirds coming from the marsh as I approached with car windows open. Alas, I didn’t get sight of them and had only the joy of their song, a harbinger of spring arrival to so many who love their bright wing flashes.

As I  retrieved a package delivered to the porch, I startled aTom and his eleven hens who were foraging for leftover bird seed near the porch. They did not like my presence and they immediately began a slow retreat down into the parking lot. How huge and magnificent they are! Just a while later I glanced up to see that these turkeys had migrated to the ocean side lawn, seemingly finding some kind of food in the meager grass that tries to grow in the spot where salt spray often soaks the ground that then gets baked by a relenting sun. The turkeys didn’t seem to mind my presence as I was behind window glass. They seemed aware yet not bothered by how physically close to them I was. The Tom went in and out of full display for his eleven hens and I was able to clearly see the fan and side feathers in detail.

Another sighting came as a Common Flicker was searching the same beaten ground looking deceptively small and nondescript compared to it’s flashing feathers in flight, yellow gold undersides with jaunty black feather patches and a marvelous strip of red.

This must be a time of hunger for the early arrivals as well as for the year rounders as they forage before things have truly thawed or sprouted anew. I feed the little birds in the cold months and it is always challenging trying to decide when the feeders come down for the summer. It seems it should be when the new hatchlings are learning to find food for themselves. I love to cooperate, to see if I can help them get through winter safely, never wanting to feed them so much as to keep them from their natural food sources. There are arguments about feeding any wildlife including the songbirds. Surely there is “an answer” but I’m not sure I have it. I’d not planned on feeding them this winter at all until the pandemic made me critically aware of the precariousness of survival of all living things. I knew I needed the daily joy of watching the little birds visiting the porch, bright and cheery creatures, visitors during a lonely and isolated time. Feeling useful in this small way helped getting through the months of bleak and cold.

If I’m not yet able to swoon over glorious red tulips nor bask in the yellow joy of Forsythia, I can take comfort in the return of the Egrets which will have to hold me until full blown colors sprout everywhere and the sun’s warmth can again directly warm bare skin.

I wonder what sun feels like on a feathered body.

#138 What Is Asked of Us

What Is Asked of Us?

We know that other generations in past times and places in the history of our world have endured pandemics. We may know that these periods in history took massive tolls on human lives, as a quarter, or a third, or perhaps up to ninety percent of populations in specific places and times perished. The awareness of this history was primarily the territory of historians or epidemiologists; the rest of us did not feel it was necessary to pay attention. In this last year we have  stayed focused at tasks at hand. As we plow on our sense is that we are still facing much that still is speculation. This year of worldwide struggle, has left many of us feeling exhausted, despite our hopes the vaccines may be enough to give us a sense of safety that’s been absent and that loved ones, friends and family alike, may turn once again into sources of solace and strength.

These have been the “piling-on” times. Our political divisions have been entwined with the virus, some directly hardwired in terms of public behaviors such as masking as well as administrative incompetence on local, regional, and national levels, while much is obscured still waiting until “later” when we have the perspective of distance for understanding. We’ve been asked to hunker down and persevere. We are struggling to still do so. Our patience and fortitude growing slim.

Climatic changes are becoming more obvious via extremes in whacko weather situations that are, again, entwined with politically expedient and shortsighted determiners. We first saw this during Hurricane Katrina and now incompetence and corruption become exposed once again on all of our various screens in our living spaces or wherever we happened to be. Extremes of fire, of cold and heat, of drought and flood, are imploding place to place event after event. We want to continue with what we knew as normal and want that back despite all evidence that normal was only and ever a tiny, very particular, window of existence. What made us feel we were ever okay? What led us to hold onto beliefs that were being countered by information from science sources, those eyes and ears and voices of those who have been watching and seeing the encroaching damage happening everywhere on the globe?

We now know we are living in topsy-turvy times, where all futures are unknown and absolutely nothing can be taken for granted. Are we prepared? The young feel betrayed by the generations before them who did not act on the science of what was revealed. The old just wanted to keep doing as they had always done. Those in the middle, who were well off “enough” just wanted to keep going with their comfortable lives. We have collectively and individually been stopped in our tracks. Inequalities and injustices, now stand together as overwhelming forces demanding attention affecting all life on our planet.

Did we know we’d come here at this time to be part of this struggle? Did we get caught in events not of our own making and are we resentful that these “interruptions” have permanently shown up in our lives? Do we want to engage fully to find solutions? Do we want to cling to a feeling of being victimized because the life we loved was hijacked? What’s left of this pandemic time-out may be what we need to search for and find new ground for ourselves and those we love. The only certainty is we cannot go back which may be the reason there has been so much grieving during this time.

What is asked of us and what do we ask of ourselves? The answers we find will make a very real difference in what comes out of this time.

#109 Wet or Dry?


  • Wet or Dry?

Another set of thunderstorms rolled through late in the afternoon and, as has happened so many times in this dry summer, there was rain both north and south leaving us sandwiched in the middle with the barest trace of rain. I gathered the hose to water the now late summer hodgepodge of overgrown perennials and the too densely packed herbs I’d transplanted into the closest ground I could reach. The only stars of this jumble of what once must have been a landscape of joy are the older established hydrangea and the brand new one planted by a friend at the beginning of the summer. The newest one, plopped under tree cover for hydrangea loving shade, had barely received a drop of precipitation.

Meanwhile, the western states are in the midst of an unnaturally early fire season. Colorado, Montana, and especially beleaguered California, are in the midst of raging infernos. In coastal California a mass of dry thunderstorms (different from this hit or miss business on the northeast Atlantic coast) set off more that 500 blazes at a time of pandemic shortage of firefighting personnel. Homeowners have ignored mandatory evacuations, staying put in hopes of saving their homes and communities from ember-caused losses. There are many sleepless nights in near and far away geographies where loved ones worry as friends and relatives are putting themselves in potential danger—in August—when fire season usually starts in October.

At this same time hurricanes move into the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico dropping more rain than can possibly be absorbed by saturated soils (souls?). These opposite forces of nature seem oddly parallel with the divisive people politics raging at the same time. For years I have linked dire external weather and internal emotional upheavals (both individual and societal). In this time of changing climates this observation seems more accurate than ever but what I lack is the “why” so, like everyone else caught in these storms, I spin and stew looking for answers and solutions, and I come up baffled.

 

 

Continue reading “#109 Wet or Dry?”

#100 Consider the Roses

Rugosa Branch Bird2

Consider the Roses.

June loveliness

the beach roses

in full scent

the large pink clumps

and green leaves

dotting the landscape

clustered on the seashore

dead branches always

poking above the roses.

The conditions for

rugosas

four season harsh

growing on the edges of

a rough and often cold

Atlantic.

The fierce winds coming

off the ocean creates

harsh bare stalks

with sharp

protruding thorns

good perches for

little birds who

stop and sing

surveying their territory

sounding

like joy.

 

Mid-summer blossoms

start to form hips

the seed pods which

form in clusters

begin as orange

but by late fall

turn a

deep red hue

eventually looking like the

dried fruit

they become

a nutrient packed

food source for the birds

and small creatures that

scurry around the shore

finding safety among rocks.

 

I’ve shooed away

blossom pickers

who arrive in June

plucking the blossoms for

whatever purpose

informing them their harvesting

robs the critters who live here

of an important food

for their survival.

The pickers fail to notice and

are annoyed at my interference

in their quest.

 

Foraging humans

are not my cup of tea

the animals and birds have

no grocery stores.

Humans who are fond of

harvesting wild foods rarely

seem to consider the effect

of their actions.

One human meal may

be many days of

sustenance

food for families

of many small beings

who make these spaces

home.

 

 

 

# 41 The Memory of Color

The Memory of Color.

Skybluepink. That’s a color my Dad taught me when I was a little girl. You know this color too, just probably not by this name. Skybluepink fills late afternoon skies or, sometimes like this morning, it shows up at sunrise. When those particular colors fill the sky I hear “skybluepink ” in my mind and I smile in immediate response, the very non-nostalgic me remembering my Dad. Every time.

I’m thinking that you, too, have color memories, secret joys attached to cherished moments. I can picture in my mind’s eye, my first awareness of pink light at sunset bathing a usually very green Vermont hillside with intense rose-colored light which felt like fairies were remaking the world. And surely you have stood on dew-wet morning grass as the sun rose after a night rainfall, the rays of yellow light streaming, outlining each leaf with golden edges, the moment so beautiful nothing else need be asked of the coming day which had already made it to spectacular.

Some days color is the  highlight, and some days the lack of color is what is most remarkable For some of us, the awareness of color is reward enough for simply being.

#37 Astronomical High Tide

Astronomical High Tide.

The first questions to ask:  How big is the passing storm system?  What is its timing in relationship to the full moon?

Follow with: Checking the National Weather Service / NOAA forecasting website which provides detailed information on predicted wind direction and speed (in knots), and sea heights.

Followed by: Tide/Tidal search for the closest coastal near your location. (a few miles of coast line can make a difference) giving high/low tide times.

To complete the picture: The National Data Center Buoy App, real time measurements from instruments on that buoy you can see from shore giving exact wind speed and direction, wave height, wave  frequency and more.

Living on the edge of open ocean the dangers are obvious.  But the loveliness of marsh, the serene grasses and placid waters, can become swollen masses altering contours of wildlife refuges, tidal rivers, house distances from rising waters along marsh roadways. Serious business all.

Mostly, day-to-day life goes on. But ears or eyes stay alert for two phrases in proximity: “Astronomical High Tide” and the dreaded “Nor’easter”.

Together they scream “Watch Out!”. That’s when specific information becomes critical.

Note. For more information on astronomical high tides: https://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/restles4.html

# 36 / # 37 Star Shine / Lemonade Out of Lemons.

Star Shine.

Four a.m. Both the sky and the water are black. Venus and Jupiter are hanging low in the east just above the water. Their light is a shimmering path: star shine. Being awake to see this is a privilege, a joy, a revelation.

I once read that for human life to function at its optimum the ideal would be two periods of sleep separated, three or four hours long in each segment. The idea behind the theory is that eight hours of sleep at one time divides the waking/conscious mind and the sleeping body/unconscious mind for too long, a disconnect where flow is interrupted. My thought on this theory is that such a wake/sleep pattern would require true darkness, darkness without streetlights or floodlights illuminating the driveway but being up and active at night would require artificial light or not much would get accomplished. In any case the ideal behind the theory and the demands of modern life seem mismatched, even if the principle has merit. It might however, be a soothing thought for those with insomnia, those who feel out of step with those who profess to sleep deeply, while it offers hints of other possibile alternatives and a way to change perspective.

And star shine might not be missed.

 

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Lemonade Out of Lemons.

Awake once again at 4 a.m., apparently a magic hour. Hanging in the sky just a bit above the water’s horizon is a threesomed beauty: Venus to the left and down a bit from a glowing crescent moon and hanging a bit further to the right and upward,  a bit fainter Jupiter. The diagonally close line of brilliance pulls me out of bed, gaping at the sight. Other points of light dot this totally clear black sky, planets, stars, satellites, and whatevers shining into the winter’s night cold.

The blessedly calm ocean can be seen by the light of these shining bodies. A quick check tells me it’s three degrees with a ten mph wind out there but, while the heat is still blowing out of the ductwork, I can sit in the window and marvel that I am not sleeping through this gift of nature.

 

 

#34 First Light

First light.

Six a.m. First light this morning is a steak of graywhite along the horizon line separating sky from water, merely a slight promise another day will come forth. The ocean’s background sound is a low rumble, the sound of a jet engine distantly high above flying in cloud cover, registered as “up-there-somewhere”.

Every day’s beginning, planned or widely wildly open, dreaded or ripely anticipated, special or ordinary, lonely or too crammed, once all these string of days were taken for granted (and maybe some still are) but the accumulated lot now carry the heft of underlying awareness. These days, each day actually is precious, holding the possibility of ordinary, or not, and either is welcomed.

Didn’t we, as children, understand this? The bookends of old and young, the balance we did not see although in all those busybusybusy in-between years we surely noticed the magnetic attraction of the bond between grandparents and their separated-by-one-generation children, each feeling altered time of the day’s beginning.

The white-gray-black palette has been joined by pink and orange that steadfastly turns the gray to blue. The shadows in the cold room begin to lessen. I struggle to keep my mind blank and free for as long as I can because “empty” stretches time and awareness.

It is where peace lives.

# 33 Pitch Black

Pitch Black.

Still a couple of hours before sunrise. The room—cold and very very dark—the near perfect black breached by only the light of a few offshore buoys, dots of a greenish-blue tinge barely enough to interrupt.

I wonder how few of us who love such darkness remain. Even when we work hard at keeping it we now have to contend with the energy vampire lights on so many devices–the smoke detectors, the fridge, even the toothbrush all have annoying darkness intruders, little dots of red or green or blue glowing in the night.

Blackness feels like a health elixir, enveloping my being like a soothing cloak, the perfect balance to sitting in the streaming window sunshine of the morning. The equation of dark with danger, the idea of flooding night spaces with artificial light for safety, baffles me. I came to this over years of camping. Flashlights, considered essential night tools, taught me that our eyes adjust accordingly and using one created a false dependency. Turning it off quickly allows seeing in different ways. Experiment: walk outside on a starry night with a bright flashlight then turn it off and watch how soon you become aware of the brightness of the stars, even being able to see your shadow from starlight.

I’ve read a few articles on light pollution and the possible links to disease. There are dire warnings. How lovely it might be to shut down the lights of buildings when not in use, saving energy and possibly contributing to health at the same time. Could street lights be dimmed or extinguished in the wee morning hours?

How would our lives change if more of us could experience true dark?

#32 Together. Alone.

Together. Alone.

Starlings swoop over the roof of the house, a whirl of wings and motion, coming to the feeders all at once, together, cramming as many bird bodies as possible into the fairly small swinging platform, heads bobbing up and down, emptying it of seed as fast as possible.

Finches arrive in smaller groups, as do the sparrows, lightly perching on the sunflower feeder, taking turns flying to and from the small trees nearby. Other species, Bluejays or Crows, seem to arrive in various small groups or parings. The woodpeckers, Downy or Hairy or Red Bellied, come alone. In summer, Hummingbirds also seem to be solitary as they zoom by.

The Common Eiders have come together, moving in large numbers, the striking black/white males numerous among the brown females, all strongly swimming back and forth in the currents just off shore. They will stay gathered this way until they pair off, then separate, while the young are growing, months of banded mothers minding their ducklings together, males out of sight or watching from afar.

I’ve been a single woman for many years. I often travel alone whether over distance or on daily errands but I see most other women in pairs or groups, with friends or families. I am often aware that my seemingly solitary life is strongly different from others, this awareness both visual and vocal, over a long period of time and circumstance. When times are good, like now, I am privileged to have both single and married women as friends and we share life stories in thoughtful conversations allowing a wider way of understanding both the past and present of our lives.

Long ago, when paired, I took for granted that “paired” was how the world worked best. That was followed by years of seeing myself as an outcast then, at last, coming to feel joyous for the freedom I had with time and space, alone  enough to become an observer and thinker about such things. It is never that being alone, being paired, or tied tightly with others, means one way is preferable to all others but rather, the flow of being or watching is what gives meaning, allows understanding, makes life’s progress rich and deep.

I watch with interest the activity at the feeders or in big box stores. Who shows up and with whom? And why?  Solitary individuals versus those who prefer to move in groups–I wonder if there is a way to see bird or human activity in any kind of comparative way, furthering understanding of either, or both?

#31 Work

Work.

The overnight rain has changed over to snow. Dawn’s light made evident an angry gray chop coming out of the north, an unpleasant morning. Puttering about, engrossed in household routine, I looked out upon hearing a motor. A sit-low-in-the water lobster boat was making its way away from shore, the view of it blurred by the snowfall and gray murk hanging over the water. Soon it would disappear into the “marine layer”, out of hearing and out of sight but not out of mind.

The work done by those who make their living from the sea can be viewed through many prisms and I am not qualified to do anything but observe from my window. I can think of the hard physical toil that must be part of such work but I wonder if it is accompanied also by a sense of freedom, of provenance, or desperation, making a living as one can? At a one point in my life I worked hard via the homestead model, of physical labor that comes with large gardens, putting food by, and tending to pigs and chickens, yet I understand that I know nothing of the magnitude of sea work.

Late in the afternoon as the light began to fail I saw the same lobster boat headed home, still the only boat I saw out there all day. I hoped there was a good catch coming home with it. One intrepid boat moving steadily out then back. May you stay safe today and always. Godspeed.