Sunday, April 20, 2014

Frosts are slain and flowers begotten

This morning, the cottontails didn't want to leave the backyard. Two of them nosed among the dead leaves that I never raked last fall. One stayed, nibbling at the young dandelions, until mid-morning, while resting in the branch-shadows of the silver maple. A visit from the Easter bunny, and at my age!

And while I wasn't blogging, the spring happened. 

Of course, she's been happening for weeks behind a very convincing facade of winter...getting dressed in early green behind the standing screen of unrelenting grayness, trying the patience of even the most philosophical among us. (Except the Robins--rolls right off their feathery backs.)

Right now, the cardinals whistle many and madly, the goldfinch sings its long, busy song brimming with questions, buzzes and peeps, a nuthatch grunts at my unwelcome presence and between games of chase the squirrels eye my newly planted pansies. 

Far, far up in the sky over the river today I saw a Great Blue Heron flying to some secret wetland home. I spotted red-winged blackbirds perched atop winter-bleached marsh grass, trilling to brown-speckled females of their kind to witness their splendor. I saw a hawk speed by burdened with a stick for nest building. 

Now Lady Cardinal flutters in the lilac bush at my back, sometimes sounding the alarm and other times just alighting on a branch then flying off in disgust, as if to say, Still here, are you? Right then, I'm off. (Unaccountably, she's got a British-bird accent.)

It's a rare Easter Sunday here that children's floppy-brimmed hats don't get traded for woolen ones after setting foot outside the front door, but here it is. A gift. Finally we have our second nice-nice day of the spring. Nice-nice meaning 60+ degrees + blue sky + mild zephyrs + NO SNOW. 

And oh, how much sweeter it is for being so long in coming, so wistfully anticipated. This is something the folks in California will never, ever know. (We tell ourselves, in consolation.)

Trying to buy off the squirrel with nuts. It worked.

Our old desktop PC gave up the ghost of Internet access, so I write to you with gratitude from the first laptop of my very own, fresh out of the box and smelling of Appley goodness. The keys feel silky to the touch, the softly-silvered metal caresses the undersides of my paraphrase one of my favorite bloggers, it's Sunday and I'm in love. 

Now I see from my chair in the backyard that Ms. Cardinal has landed in the wild-leaved Witch Hazel shrub I brought home from the garden store yesterday, an impulse purchase after reading a chapter about this November-blooming native full of medicine in Robin Wall Kimmerer's amazing book, Braiding Sweetgrass

More on the wonders of this book in another post, but suffice it to say if you feel any glimmer of interest in 1. plants 2. women's ways of experiencing the world 3. indigenous peoples in relation to the land 4. taking personal care of the earth 5. the relationship between human people and the rest of the natural world's peoples 6. poetic, luminous prose (an overused phrase but so well-deserved in this case) 7. motherhood in the broad sense, then YOU MUST READ IT.

How blessed we are by spring. The soft and humid air feels as if it is healing us of winter inside and out, and all the world gets busy again, going about its important work of building a home, finding a mate, raising a family...bursting from the seed, sharing one's gifts with the air and the earth and all that move upon it. Inspiring even for this woman, who has somehow made it through to many, many Blossom Moons in her life. 

For winter's rains and ruins are over,
And all the season of snows and sins;
The days dividing lover and lover,
The light that loses, the night that wins;
And time remembered is grief forgotten,
And frosts are slain and flowers begotten,
And in green underwood and cover
Blossom by blossom the spring begins.

—Algernon Charles Swinburne

Sunday, April 13, 2014


I haven't had words to say lately. Not that I wanted to release to the world. Just uncertainties and a heavy inertia. Layers of cloud now and then lit up by chasing beams of light that fade as quickly as they come. 

Sun Kil Moon's music puts sound to this clouded and cold Midwestern sky. The dull light, empty fields, crumbling roads, broken glass underfoot become beautiful in their emptiness. Heart-hypnotizing Great Lake hymns like the sound of silent sunlight flickering on a wall. Sadness enveloping joy, bare branches trying to flower. 

Like something inside of me right now.   

Graving dreams
A million miles ago you seem
A star that I just don't see

Words long gone
Lost on journeys we walked on
Lost are voices heard 
Along the way

- Mark Kozelek

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Walking with the green man

In London, they call this "the green man."

"Wait for the green man," the walking tour guides would say as they shepherded us through busy intersections. "We'll wait for you on the other side if the signal changes, so don't do anything dangerous."

Painted at each pedestrian crossing are helpful reminders to look right before crossing. With arrows to tell you which way "right" is. Especially useful for all of the Americans, Germans, French and Netherlanders who are conditioned to look for traffic coming from the left.

Once I got home it took a couple of weeks before I was solid on looking left again instead of right. I still tend to walk on the left side of the sidewalk, though...possibly my only behavioral legacy of living in London.

Here in the U.S., as you see, things are slightly different. While I was in London, and the green man was called to my attention, I was all, like, wait--has the man always been green, and I just never noticed? No. The man here is white. But no one ever refers to this as "the white man"--it's just called a "walk signal." Which is a bit dull, don't you think? Why don't we have a green man?

Of course, when I hear "green man," I think of the Green Man, not the green man, so those first couple of references confused me a little. (I am easily confused.) I didn't see many representations of the Green Man in London, aside from public houses named after him. I counted three or four without even trying to find them.

Below are the homely sights I captured today on my walk to/from my favorite cafe and bakery in Minneapolis, a town bereft of Green and green men.

But we do have Million Dollar Bars for $2.39. Top that, Kensington.

Don't ask why the "Y" is bigger than all the other letters...nobody knows.

My doughnut, latte, beans and book (Wilco on the sound system) kept me content for an hour, then I hit the sidewalks of Minneapolis again. Which are still a puddly mess in places, but that's what spring is all about.

Delicate-blue spring sky with biscuit-like clouds--a sky cobbler!--as the cardinal sang from this treetop:

Ducks paddled on the open water, dogs gallumphed over the soggy turf, and all the city's winter weary were out in force. Including a friend from my last job, who I met by chance on the creekside path. We caught up on life as the bicycle wheels whirred by.

Note Golden Retriever taking a dip among the ducks....

Happy spring to all!
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