Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Long shadows

What do you look toward, when you are fearful, sad or anxious?

On days when you have to make yourself do too many tedious things that you do not want to do, but since you are an adult, you are expected to do them anyway?

On days when you fear your life is going to waste, or your path has disappeared, or that this is all there is and it is not enough?

The only thing I can think of to do right now is to look outside of myself and into the garden.

Nokomis Naturescape, Minneapolis

That's it. My one answer. I feel a little dose of joy each day when I see the first butterflies and bees of the day nourishing themselves on flowers I planted there, for the express purpose of feeding them.

In my very mundane life, that feels like a gift and a wonder to me. To look up and catch a glimpse of an orange-winged treasure flashing in the golden light, gliding down from that vast summer sky to circle, climb, circle again to finally land on the perfect flower from which to drink, on this infinitesimally small bit of planet earth.

All the more precious since their population is threatened by humans, as everything on this earth is threatened by humans, except for the very occasional things that are helped by humans.

Like the butterflies who visit my tiny waystation, and I hope many many other waystations as they make their way to Mexico.

So heartfelt thanks to the butterflies for bringing a smile to my lips and un-furrowing my furrowed brow for a moment each day during the many weeks of summer. They feel like companions to me.

Gratitude to the goldfinches, who now hide in the tall serviceberry next to the house and make speedy garden forays, gripping with their feet the seedheads of hyssop, coneflowers and bergamot as they eat one tiny, pointed seed at a time.

[no photo, but they are a darting bright yellow and olive yellow, with handsome black and white stripes]

Oh bringing love love love to drive off despair and violence of every sort, disrespect and destruction, leaf blowers and the weeping of the world. I am far too small to feel all that love...but the right size for the timely presence of a butterfly to still fill me with joy.

And there are lakes, and clouds, and wind-blown blue days that smell like the wildness of creation.

Earthly gifts are the ones that have weight and substance. That feel real. That feed us, the people.

(Not humans—the people. Humans are biological constructs, the people are body-and-spirit. This is what I've just decided.)

Earthly gifts are sacred gifts, and oh how this world needs more protectors of the sacred.

What if I pared away all the parts of my life that feel like junk food.

That deplete rather than replenish life and health. Would it help?

What would be left?

I don't know. Where is the center? What holds it all together?

I read about Hope Bourne, a wild soul of a writer who moved to Exmoor at the age of 52 to live off the land in an old caravan. She wrote:

“For money, you sell the hours and the days of your life, which are the only true wealth you have. You sell the sunshine, the dawn and the dusk, the moon and the stars, the wind and the rain, the green fields and the flowers, the rivers and the sweet fresh air. You sell health and joy and freedom.” 
Everything in me responds to this. It is what I most fear! My heart nearly breaks just to see it put into words, the commodification of our lives and the great loss of our birthright: the light of day, freedom to move, to experience the life of the planet.

But I almost feel crazy sometimes, because I do not know anyone else who feels this way, and our society does not support feeling this way either—far, far from it.

What this society supports is work and work and work, and feel grateful that you have a job, don't expect more than work, and you are of no value and irrelevant as an individual unless you are working.

And even THAT doesn't make you of value, unless you are rich. Because those are the people a money society values.

I feel the grief of this so keenly at this moment. Our lives are commodities that only we can value at their true worth. But once we know their true value, how do we live as if we honor that?

How do we get our lives back?

What—or who—do we have to leave behind in order to do it?

Sunday, July 31, 2016

On Lughnasadh

Today I found the feather of a wild turkey.

Broken-stemmed—as if after falling to the ground, it had been chewed. Maybe by the orange-eyed black cat that prowls our yard after darkness falls, sending Stazi and Juni intently scurrying from window to window to exchange stares with the interloper.

What does a broken feather mean today, on the eve of the festival of Lugh, sun god?

I'm not one for signs and portents. But we curate our own lives, don't we? Especially for blog posts. We choose what is meaningful and why.

On the one hand, there is a quite sensible reason for a wild turkey feather to be in my back yard...which is that a whole flock of them paid us a visit on Thursday. Two hens and fifteen young wild turklings.

They perched atop the fence, the garage and up in the tree outside our window like an invading force. First: scoping out the yard for food and/or threats. Then: they judged it safe and one by one, fluttered down to peck at the fallen seed under the bird feeder.

After they'd eaten what was there, they wandered off to another yard, on a progressive dinner party.

Lughnasadh is a first fruits harvest festival, a time to partake of the bounty.

A banquet of milkweed and blazingstar for the monarchs.

A feast of nectar for bees and hummingbirds.

A feast of wild and winsome beauty for our eyes.

Seasons and holy days should be felt in their time, don't you think? The exact time is important. Their beats fall regularly throughout the year, marking a particular angle in the sun's journey across the sky, a quality of light falling upon the beloved earth; marking the cycle of growth and decline of mortal creatures of every kind. Anchoring us to this place, this time, singing nownownow every moment.

Centuries, millennia of humans marked the journey of sun and moon, marked them with fire and festival, ritual and thanks.

Sometimes I wish I lived among those peoples, in those times, if only for that. For a celebration with a center to it, one that makes sense to people who love the earth and the sky, sun moon stars.

No leaping over fires on hilltops, I'll shape my own kind of broken-feathered observance, based on what speaks to me.

As I write, I wonder, as I usually do: does this all sound self-indulgent? I understand if you think it does, because on some level I do, too. Compared with many people in this world, I am privileged, and have no real reason to complain of anything.

Is it a luxury to be able to feel emptiness, sadness or loneliness rather than hunger? Is it a luxury to long for a sense of belonging to this earth, when so many have no place to sleep, no safety, no kindness, no justice?

Yes. But maybe it's not an either/or, maybe we are less separate than we think. Maybe that's why many of us feel so lost. Maybe that is why we search and search for something with even a chance of healing what is being broken—and when we find it, we need to recognize and take hold of it.

There is so much in this society and the world that is destructive and cruel and callous, and it is nearly all human. We are the ugliest thing on earth, I think. So much of that is on display right now. It is so stark, so frightening, it demands our attention...and maybe we feel it is shallow or indulgent or selfish to care so much about what is beautiful.

But what if beauty is necessary, too? In spite of everything, we need to love what we love, or what is the point? This world's beauty is breathtaking still, the things that pass unnoticed under our eyes, the gifts of even one single day: the silent rising of the sun. The dawn chorus. The blue hours of a summer afternoon. The cool scent of a lake at dusk, magicked by the small singing of frogs and crickets. The bright stars we can barely see anymore, always above us, and a thousand thousand other wonders right here, every day.

If we could only see them. Honor them. With a holy day.

Monday, July 25, 2016


Be crumbled.

So wild flowers will come up where you are. 

You have been stony for too many years. Try something different. 


                                                                                          ~ Rumi

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The closed sign

AND WHEN I thought about it (you probably saw it right off), a knitting circle of mythic bawdy wise women is no less romantic an idea than the young knight in the meadow, is it?

Though a friend of mine asked to join the circle, so I am glad I wrote about it, even if it exposes me as still starry-eyed after all these years. 

Today I read a line about a fictional character who was drifting through life, "lacking ambition but full of expectation." 

It caught my attention. Is that me? I wondered. Or feared. Because I sometimes I have a sinking realization that I have spent too much time drifting, waiting for things to happen, instead of deciding what I want and exerting myself.  

Avoiding setting challenges for myself, in the mistaken belief that I am being kind to myself. Like, no challenges, no stress. 

I dislike stress. People say there is good stress and bad stress, but honestly? I've never learned to like any type. 

Some people thrive on it, like another of my friends. She is diligent, highly goal-oriented. Sets herself daily, monthly and yearly challenges, and is very accountable to herself. She cultivates the habits she needs in order to meet the challenges, and she DOES meet them. It's admirable and probably quite satisfying for her. 

Alas, her way is not my way. 

Screw it. What I said about stress? I don't like it... but so what? I do want to risk something. I want to throw myself in the middle of something uncomfortable. I want to grow bigger. I want to take down the "closed" sign. 

What? How? Where? 

The only question I don't have is why. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

A knitting circle

I was thinking of my mythical community.

"When I'm old, I want to be part of a knitting circle," I announced to my husband. (I don't really knit, but not the point.)

I imagined them, the wise and earthy women in this knitting circle.

Quirky, kind. Strong, sharp. Full of thoughts.

Playful and fond of the absurd, because laughing together is good medicine.

I said, "They'll like reading. And growing herbs...or wildlife habitat. But they're a little dangerous, somehow...like, they're witches."

I looked over at him. He nodded.

(He's heard me dreaming aloud about other hypothetical communities that we could somehow be part of. Maybe a permaculture-green-sustainable community in the Pacific Northwest? A pagan-artist-village community in Devonshire? The oddball, charming fictional communities of Bluebell, Alabama, or Stars Hollow, Connecticut...surely they must be based on real places. Etcetera.)

The next day, musing on the ways of my mind, it struck me—I had been describing the person who I want to be when I grow old.

The ongoing sense of community with other women that I sometimes long for, especially now that my mother and grandmother are gone, my aunties dispersed.

Be a good parent to yourself, a wise woman told me. Be both the daughter and mother.

To that, I'll add...also be the grandmother-crone to yourself.

I'm reminded that as a girl, I had a habit of buying highly impractical clothing for imaginary scenarios.

Floaty, gauzy gown with a long sash and ruffles? Of course. Because I was hopeful that one day very soon, I would be walking in a sunny meadow and come across a princely young man who would promptly fall in love with me and my lovely dress.

"Wear it and he will come."

It didn't seem unlikely, then.

(The meadow never actually happened. Eventually there was indeed a princely young man, but he's never cared for meadows. Or walks.)

I'm poking fun at my younger self, but that imagining came from the same mind that today muses on knitting circles and community. Still trying on possibilities of the person I want to be and the life I want for myself.

When I was a young woman with a head stuffed full of romantic novels, my longings were different than they are now. The knitting circle suits me better these days.

So it appears I have a sketchy map, and a place to get to...but which paths will take me there?

I have to get on with it. I'm already oldish, with no community in sight. Or else I'm overlooking something right under my nose, which is a possibility.

But it all began with the girl that I once was, let's not forget her. I love her once-upon-a-time longing for the mythic that played out in dresses.

And I am glad she lives on as again I try to envision a life that fits who I'm longing to be now.

Sunday, March 27, 2016


On the day I took this photo, I was using my new smartphone. Taking it on a test run before a big trip coming up. 
As you see, the sun was bright (unlike today, which began with rain and then stopped raining and began to sullenly "gray" at us instead).  

But the screen was so reflective and dark that I couldn't even see the image in it. I just hoped I was framing this sole oak leaf caught in a net of pale grass. 

That's what much of life is like—like those blind photos I was taking, I mean—you can't see ahead of time what the outcome will be. You just line up your shot, click the shutter and hope for the best. 

Look at that moss growing greenly! It does my curmudgeon heart good to consider it today, even at a remove, through such a poor simulacrum of life as a digital image. 

As usual, the spring rode in on the wings of red-winged blackbirds, and is unfolding in the woodlands, where bloodroot and skunk cabbage now grow. I know because I see others' photos and posts in my Facebook stream, tracing their botanical wanderings. 

I, however, have been indoors all week. Struggling with technology, glued to screens following primaries and caucuses, Netflixing, reading The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin (a novel that's especially interesting now, in light of the stark competition for the soul of America playing out in our national campaigns and among Americans overall). 

This is how I'm feeling: Unsettled, fragmented, restless, dull. Discontented, bored, exasperated, excited, intermittently hopeful; ready to surprise myself. 

Magic's happening somewhere. Maybe like those bloodroots, buried deep beneath the soil, only shyly and slowly emerging into this inhospitable grayness. 

Why do I suddenly have the image of a mushroom in my head? 

I feel more a sort of humble fungi than that invisible leaf caught in grasses. 

Sunday, March 20, 2016

So early in the spring

Early in the springtime, my lungs need oceans of air. [an everlasting wash of air.]

A huge expanse of sky, where eagles circle...where human eyes can rest on a vast vault of wind-washed blue softened by cloud.

(Do you see her up there, the glorious winged one? Did she hear me speak to her in praise as I moved below, so small and large-hearted through the wildlands?)

Trammeled by months of dimness, small screens, small rooms, small gaze—so close to warmth of hearth, breathing the small air of home—my mind rests on these broad sweeps of land.

The particular beauty of trees on a rise that I have loved for my whole life without ever tiring of their speaking branches, of their shapes curving against the sky, so individual in their ways, complete in themselves.

Before I am ready, I come up against a boundary. [Then the good minute goes.]

It sends my thoughts racing ahead, worrying against peace's edge. Once the boundary-less becomes bound, my large breath begins to shrink...until the wind rattles the grasses, the red-winged blackbirds chirr, and there I am again, back to where I stand.

If you live in a place where the ground does not freeze, then you miss the pleasure of the thaw—that receptive, bodily feel of the earth under your foot yielding once more to your weight, a sensation you may not have even realized you had lost until it is restored to you. It reminds you that the earth is your beloved.

How fair you are, young birch sisters, I think.

Red-osier dogwood, bright kinnikinnick, you that the native peoples honored, I send you good greetings.

O oak-crowned hill, do you feel the reverence with which I approach you? Maybe the rustle of your leaves as I pass is for me.  

On this day, you feel once again in conversation with this earth, like catching up with a relative you have not spoken with for many months, though you were sometimes lonely.

It is more than walking on. Together you walk, reunited.

[Two in the campagna.]

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