Monday, December 15, 2014

On this day

"Some days I felt an urgent responsibility to each change of light outside the sunporch windows. Who would remember any of it, any of this our time, and the wind thrashing the buckeye limbs outside? Somebody had to do it, somebody had to hang on to the days with teeth and fists, or the whole show had been in vain."
An American Childhood, Annie Dillard

Or you can let the days run through your fingers like sweet water, like golden coins, the currency of your time on this earth. It would seem miserly to hoard them, even if we could, when they are given to us so generously, again and again. 

But remembering, yes. Let us remember. When I think of the thousands upon thousands of days I've been given, I feel grateful and almost a little ashamed. Grateful now for all the days I didn't have the grace to appreciate so much then, when I was so young and took for granted a lifetime of golden days in front of me. 

That is a beautiful thing about gaining these years, I think. I begin to see the many, many gifts I've been given, and at last begin to fully recognize their preciousness. I am grown larger, so my gratitude can be larger, too. 

And in recognizing the generosity extended to me, I am moved to offer gifts in reciprocity. To finally see the way of it...a circle.

The earth is so patient, waiting for us to recognize what's been here all along, if only we'd have the eyes (or the years) to see. 

That's how it feels to me today.  

Monday, December 1, 2014

One thing

One thing: October.

Every day a stone of honeyed amber, warmed by a constant sun.

Was it lovely for you? Was it a topaz jewel in your heart's crown?

Grasses, trees, sky, all hopelessly beautiful.

I say "hopeless" because it is now December, and thinking about October feels like coming across a picture of an exquisite dessert made for a king, by a master pastry chef who died before you were born. It is a dessert decorated with gold leaf and sugared violets, thick with cream—so bewitching that your mouth waters just looking at it.

But the receipt is lost, and winter has come. May our memories and a good fire keep us warm, though still we long for that lost taste.

Since I last wrote here, I've been growing flowers. 

Since I last wrote, I've been traveling.

I've gone walking on a floodplain island, where white-tailed deer run on pathways that weave in and out of the Otherworld and cottonwoods...and where two rivers meet.

I came home to watch goldfinches raiding my garden for hyssop seeds. The leaves of snowberry, juneberry and chokeberry glowed brighter and brighter, reflecting back the long hours of sunlight they'd collected all summer. Gladdening my heart.

In my memory, I spent days watching bees drink from asters.

My list of goals shrank. I let a lot of things slide. I had nothing to say.

Under a waxing moon, I wonder. Will a reading of the astrological transits cast some light on this sense of obstacles, unknown thresholds? Sometimes the mystery is too mysterious. Sometimes peace is sought, and sought. It is worth a try.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Windows wide

We beckon summer winds and rain to enter our house through windows that stay open night and day, even when it rains. Not wanting to shut out the cool, fresh air the rainfall brings, I'd rather mop up afterward than close the storm windows.

This small thunderstorm poured down for eight minutes just before sunset, leaving dappled clouds and a neon rainbow in its wake.

Other sunsets sing a softer song, slipping by in a silence broken only by a cardinal calling me to come out and fill the bird feeder, it is dinnertime.

On Independence Day, we biked over to Historic Fort Snelling, only ten minutes from here. The old fort was built high on a bluff over the place where the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers meet. The landscape still is a place sacred to the Dakota Indians.

The Minnesota River has flooded the whole river valley, and is wide as a lake. It laps at the lower branches of full-grown trees. I picture carp and catfish swimming through the branches upon which birds and squirrels usually perch, exploring a strangely leafy new world.

This is one channel of the Mississippi:

Back to the fort. We watched a mock battle between the Americans and British from the War of 1812, climbed the Round Tower, wandered through the store, schoolhouse and smithy, asking questions of the costumed interpreters. (That is my role. I always ask a bunch of questions, whatever the situation. Lee just soaks up the knowledge.)

I tried to capture the feeling of these low-chroma still lifes, lit only by natural light falling through the wavy glass. The simplicity and integrity of the objects and the materials from which they are wrought brought me such a feeling of satisfaction: Iron. Wood. Brick. Ink. Paper. Tin.

I like the variety and shapes of them; each unique, handmade, fashioned for usefulness.

Each also laden with a long story in human history, each given a simple name. (Bowl, from which human persons eat. Bucket, in which we carry water. Barrel, in which food is stored through long winters. Bellows. Chair. Plate. Spoon. Latch.)

After a picnic lunch from the food truck, it was time to bike home, on a path that ran through swaths of waving grasses and wildflowers.

Out there, in this field? This is where the chokecherries are putting down roots.


A monarch butterfly flitted by the porch window yesterday and out I rushed, just in time to see her touch down on one of the butterfly weeds in the butterfly garden. An affirmation, I thought. "Certified Wildlife Habitat" is not very meaningful without the wildlife, after all. But now my humble plot has been awarded the Butterfly Seal of Approval.


There comes a time each July when summer takes a fierce turn, and open windows do more to heat the house than cool it.

So it was today. A hot, humid wind gusted from the south. Overnight the air, heavy with moisture, wilted a couple of greeting cards tucked around a window frame in my room, making them droop upon themselves like plucked daisies.

As the morning progressed, Stazi Lu deserted her window perch and retreated to the basement to find a cooler spot for napping.

Juni trotted over every time I cracked open the refrigerator, poking her head in the door, ready to climb in and take her chances.

And this northern girl, who loves nothing more than a cool, crisp day in the 60s, said UNCLE.

So Lee lugged up the air conditioner from the basement.

(A ritual chore always carried out when temperature plus dewpoint add up to "steambath of the damned." O noble husband, Keeper of the Coolness and Bringer Home of Ice Cream, we thank you.)

Summer, you keep being summer. Keep shining that golden sunset light through my west windows, open or closed. Keep bushing out the butterfly flowers and feeding the meadow grasses.

We shall rest in the shade, stirring only when the sun sinks to the horizon, then take to the streets at dusk like Italians, the better to admire your golden-edged clouds, your gentle evening breezes that ruffle our skirts about our legs softly, like a goodnight caress.

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