Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Sun in Splendour

So it is the solstice nears, the land and the people rejoice. 

It is true that for many months in the Northern Hemisphere, light has been flooding into the hours long ruled by darkness...yet only recently here in Minnesota has the air gentled enough against the skin to suggest that fickle summer might finally decide to make herself at home for a while.

As mentioned in my last post, our long spring and my jobless (but not project-less) status has given me time, between rain showers, to enbiggen my garden and plant native perennials that are the beloved of bees, butterflies and other hungry pollinators.

Digging up sod in May...

The rainy chill has kept them in skinny and slightly floppy estate for now, busily establishing their root systems--and, I suspect, occasionally being nibbled on by the neighboring cottontails, for whom Stazi watches out the porch window.

For now it appears to be more maple seeds than flowers, but just you wait.

Established plants (catnip, daylily, rudbeckia, sedum and artemisa) alongside newcomers (nasturtium, Virgin's Bower clematis, butterfly weed, prairie clover and yellow coneflower) in the fluffing-out process.

Stazi Lu at twilight, on the lookout for garden-eating rabbits. She is not grainy in person.

Wafts of peony*, iris, shrub rose, coralbell, columbine, apple blossom, late lilac and lily-of-the-valley float on the soft air as I pedal through my neighborhood, braking to sniff blossoms that my neighbors have planted on the boulevards for all to enjoy. Since there isn't much going on at the moment, flower-wise, in my garden, you won't mind if I share a few pics of theirs, will you?

A phenomenon known as "flower-sparkle."

My trusty Schwinn Blue Breeze carried me along the banks of Minnehaha Creek, where the waters burbled and chuckled, stirred by swizzle-sticks of dangling branches, brewing a kind of sun tea for fishes and ducks and arching river-water grasses. All seeding, fruiting, burgeoning and almost shivering with the life singing within.

Minnehaha Creek, looking west...

...and east.

Cottonwood seeds

I plopped down on a wooden bench, tuned my ear to wind-chime calls of cardinals and liquid spin of quick water, and wrote, "gallon pail floats by, just out of reach/ripple-shake, shining lake/mosquito bites/human writes/sniffs air, smiles/scratches leg."

The litter-picker in me wishes I could've nabbed that floating pail....

Also it is written: Now is the time for fairs and celebrations of all kinds!

Dear friends invited us to join them at the Mississippi River for Solstice River & Global Water Dances. Sixty cities around the world (was yours one of them?) joined in this choreographed participatory art event to call attention to the global water crisis. Hundreds of people hung over the railings of the Stone Arch Bridge, watching the dancers spin and whirl their bright sun banners, holding in our thoughts the intention of clean water for everyone. The celebration culminated in all of us "holding the river," represented by a blue swath of fabric stretching 1,200 feet down the center of the bridge.

No kayaks on the water this year. The river roared, huge, lunging and surging with its mighty waters fattened by months of snowmelt and rainstorms.

Dancing the water cycles together.

Honoring the solstice and the river at the same time felt right, as if we were speaking with the waves, casting blessings upon the waters, renewing our commitment to protect and care for them. Joining with our community in celebration was healing, too, and not only for the river. Humans need to dance and laugh and celebrate...Jamie Sams, creator of the wisdom-questing Medicine Cards, says:

When we remember to make Ceremony, blessing every rock and flower on Earth’s surface assists in reconnecting us to our Mother. The connection process must be done with joy and celebration. When we do ceremony, we have not forgotten to dance our joy of unity and harmony, thus healing ourselves. As we heal, the Earth Mother feels our joy. We are like cells in and on her body. The power of love, the power of healing, the power of compassion, the power of unity, and the power of knowing are our abilities.

I love the thought that our joys are interwoven with those of the earth, that we heal as we are healed. Through writing this blog, I try to call, receive and send along the blessings and healing and beauty that I find, and I give thanks for others who do the same. We are all one, all healing each other, yes?

Beauty, abundance, color and--after the flowering earth and old Sol himself, perhaps the brightest star in the summer firmament: art fairs. :)

Browsing the wares at Edina Art Fair.

A weaver from Peru demo-ing the skill that goes into weaving his handspun, hand-dyed woolen art hangings.

(I am trying to look at the misspelling of Thich Nhat Hanh with compassion.)

Delightful urban folk art created by Anthony Pack, an artist living in Kansas.

Long have I coveted the exquisite etchings of Michael Bond, a British artist living in Wisconsin. I am in no position to purchase one at the moment; but one fine day, I vow that I SHALL give one of his landscapes or cityviews the place of honor in our home.

I didn't take any photos of his display, but here are a couple of images from his gallery to give you a small idea of how beautiful they are.

"Somewhere in Brugges"

"River Seine"

I brought home two art tiles from Kirsten Walstead of SoMi Tileworks, now happily decorating the dining room and kitchen. I love their handmade-ness, their subtle natural colors. They are like stones, human-made stones with milagro images that rather than saints invoke the familiar spirits of birds and oak trees.

There were also some stunning woodblock prints made by artists hailing from Duluth, MN, in lake-and-woods country (here is a link to the Northern Prints Gallery where scads of woodcut loveliness is on display). I always head for these beauties because they endlessly interpret my favorite artistic elements: line, composition and strong graphic forms + nature.

Altogether it was lovely to be among all the woven, shaped, sculpted, pressed, pieced, imagined, painted, polished, rubbed and otherwise fashioned objects made with humor, love and often great thought, skill and care. I find that objects or anything else made in this way seem to radiate peace and wholeness, almost a sense of completeness and integrity like a living thing.

~   ~   ~

In case you wonder, I am still riding on an English tide. Rainy days are the perfect time for rewatching the BBC series Sherlock, starring the oh-so-British-witty-and-charming duo of Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.

And my summer reading is Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, gorgeously written historical fiction about the 16th-century Thomas Cromwell that I and about 800 gazillion other people highly recommend.

Lest you think my life is all lounging about, trailing clouds of glory, know 1) our ancient secondhand washing machine is suddenly leaving random smears of motor oil on our unfortunate linens, 2) I had a cavity at my recent dental check-up, 3) that I am dutifully calling in morning and night to learn whether I must sit in a county courtroom to render judgement on my peers (aka "jury duty"), and 4) I am dragging my feet a bit as far as job-hunting is concerned, and the State is sort of Breathing Down the Neck of my Career Break at the moment.

The blessing of numbers 3 & 4 is that I find it needful to focus and prioritize, not my natural talent or tendency. See? Looking for the blessing, that's me.

As for you...may the sun shine upon you. Solstice blessings and river songs to all, and as always, thank you for your company along the way.

Public house, Notting Hill, London

*Phenological note: Blooming three weeks later than usual!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Putting down roots

I hear leaves drinking rain;
I hear rich leaves on top
Giving the poor beneath
Drop after drop;
'Tis a sweet noise to hear
These green leaves drinking near.

W.H. Davies, The Rain

So the rain falls and falls in this late Spring, feeding the amber waters of the rushing Minnehaha Creek, running high in its banks and carrying paddling ducks downstream on a much wilder ride than usual.

Between rain showers, I've cleared a bit more space on the south side of our house and tucked in clumps of native flowering plants dear to bees and butterflies: Hoary Vervain, Aromatic Aster, Yellow and Long-Headed Coneflowers, Butterfly Weed (for the monarch butterfly caterpillars, which feed only on milkweed), Prairie Phlox, Anise Hyssop, White and Purple Prairie Clover, Elm-Leaved Goldenrod, Virgin's Bower.

All perennials, so it will take a while for them to get established and begin to flower, especially with the cloudy, cool weather. I feel a bit like a just-planted bit of flora myself, feeling my way back into my native soil, spreading my root system, deciding which direction to grow.

Kew Gardens in May

Though it is nine days into June, the maple seeds still hang in clumps, helicoptering down and sprouting at will. The peony buds still swell slowly, ready to burst into bloom with a week of sun. The brief flowering of crabapples and lilacs petals all washed away in spills and squalls of raindrops.

Prairifire Crabapple we planted last spring

My young north boulevard tree, a Prairie Gem Pear that replaced an ailing Ash, just welcomed two vigorous  new Ussurian Pear cousins, courtesy of the City of Minneapolis Forestry Division. Despite its name, this species hails from Asia and is not native to Midwest prairies.

But it does flower in spring, and if can't be local, it is at least ornamental--and small enough to live under the power lines without getting butchered by the utility company.

To further dive more deeply into a Minnesota frame of mind, I just read Letters from Side Lake: A Chronicle of Life in the North Woods by Peter Leschak, who has lived for nearly 40 years in a log house he and his wife built on a parcel of land in Lake Country. (Which is what Minnesotans also call "Up North," to distinguish it from the rest of a very lakey state). 

If I had any romantic illusions about the idea of "living off the land," they have been dismantled. But there is a lot of territory between living off the land and living closer to the land, in search of older traditions made new, and that is the direction in which I am being pulled. Feel free to suggest any readings that may have inspired you on the subject, I am eager to soak up more.
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