Friday, April 27, 2012

Followed by a Jackson Pollock Morning

A few evenings ago, I was taken by surprise at the sound of seagulls flying overhead. I've seen them congregating in parking lots where they expect to find fast food flung out of car windows, and they're usually found on larger lakes in the area throughout the summer, but I wasn't expecting to see flocks of them flying over Lonewolf in late April.

To enhance the scene, they were flying against the backdrop of a waxing crescent moon, lit by the sun still sinking in the west. Off the moon's shoulder sat Venus, like a lantern suspended by thick twilight. The sound and the scene kept me standing there for several minutes. It was a really beautiful sight. I thought about my favorite seagull of all, Jonathan Livingston. He taught me valuable lessons way back in the '70's, lessons that have stayed with me and continue to serve me well.

The next morning, as I was leaving to have lunch with a friend, I found my blue car covered in white splotches of seagull poop. It looked like Jackson Pollock had paid a visit. I almost felt avant garde as I drove the ten miles to the nearest car wash. Almost.

Images: Jackson Pollock's 1 - 4

Monday, April 23, 2012

A Maxfield Parrish Evening

It doesn't take much to make me happy. For instance, the sunset this evening ...

"You Reading This, Be Ready"

Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?

Will you ever bring a greater gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?

When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life.

What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?

~ William Stafford

The photograph is mine.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Moving Brush Piles in the Rain

Before turning in last night, I stepped outside to listen to the river churning as it made its way around the bend and under the bridge. It's running high and fast this spring and I love the sound it makes in the dark. However. As I looked down in the hollow I could make out the silhouette of a brush pile I had spontaneously created when I first moved in here two summers ago and to which I have recently been adding. I could see, even in the dark, that the pile will be hiding the many irises that are getting ready to bloom. A couple of days ago I cleaned out a tire full of them that Otis had created nearby. Yes, a tire full of irises. There was a time when I might have blushed at that revelation, but now I view it as a fine form of recycling.

I actually have a few old tires in the back part of the yard that have been used for flowers in the past, before I arrived, that I'm cleaning out and planning to care for, as well as ten very large tractor tires that were used in creating another vegetable garden out near the road. I went by it two evenings ago on a walk with Buddy and thought again of reworking it, cleaning out the tires and planting potatoes in them. I've read where big tires are good for planting several things, potatoes first and foremost. Talk about a nice raised bed. Plus, when spring is in full bloom I will be working next to the lilac bushes which form that corner of my property, another nice bonus. We shall see ...

Back to the brush pile.

When I woke early this morning to the sound of rain and leftover feelings from some unsettling dreams, I thought again of that poorly placed brush pile and decided I should move it as soon as possible. I didn't want anything obstructing my view of the flowers. And as much as I actually like brush piles and the notion that they can be habitat for a variety of creatures, I knew this one needed moving.

So, while Buddy was still sleeping I quietly left the house, went into the rain and did just that. I can't remember feeling this happy about outside work. It was so peaceful and satisfying. As I worked, I thought about a Robert Morgan poem I had read many months ago. It's been waiting in the wings for the perfect morning to be shared. And this is the perfect morning.

"Working in the Rain"

My father loved more than anything to
work outside in wet weather. Beginning
at daylight he'd go out in dripping brush
to mow or pull weeds for hogs and chickens.
First his shoulders got damp and the drops from
his hat ran down his back. When even his
armpits were soaked he came in to dry out
by the fire, make coffee, read a little.
But if the rain continued he'd soon be
restless, and go out to sharpen tools in
the shed or carry wood in from the pile,
then open up a puddle to the drain,
working by steps back into the downpour.
I thought he sought the privacy of rain,
the one time no one was likely to be
out and he was left to the intimacy
of drops touching every leaf and tree in
the woods and the easy muttering of
drip and runoff, the shine of pools behind
grass dams. He could not resist the long
ritual, the companionship and freedom
of falling weather, or even the cold
drenching, the heavy soak and chill of clothes
and sobbing of fingers and sacrifice
of shoes that earned a baking by the fire
and washed fatigue after the wandering
and loneliness in the country of rain.

~ Robert Morgan

P.S. Robert Morgan is the same poet who wrote "White Autumn." Remember the woman in the rocking chair with clay pipe hidden in the cabinet?  Same poet.  Here it is if you'd like a reminder:

The images were taken last year, later in the spring, when the irises were blooming and things had greened up considerably.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Blackbirds in the Snow

After several weeks of spring yard work and cleaning out the gardens to reveal the tiny shoots of greenery just peeking through the damp earth, I woke up to several inches of snow this morning. I knew it was coming, had read the news the evening before, and when I finally went to bed shortly before midnight the snow was already starting to come down. I have to say, I not only don't mind, but I'm feeling quite peaceful about it. There's something very calming about a late snow, as though the momentum we had been riding requires a hiatus, a breather, a reminder to Be Here Now,* to be a part of the great I Am.


Everywhere, everywhere, snow sifting down,
a world becoming white, no more sounds,
no longer possible to find the heart of the day,
the sun is gone, the sky is nowhere, and of all
I wanted in life -- so be it -- whatever it is
that brought me here, chance, fortune, whatever
blessing each flake of snow is the hint of, I am
grateful, I bear witness, I hold out my arms,
palms up, I know it is impossible to hold
for long what we love of the world, but look
at me, is it foolish, shameful, arrogant to say this,
see how the snow drifts down, look how happy
I am.

~ Joseph Stroud

*Be Here Now, by Ram Dass.

Joseph Stroud is an American poet born in 1943.

The photographs are mine.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

To Drink Water from Cupped Hands

A beautiful male cardinal, who appeared to be flying solo, stopped by my yard this morning and sat in the crab apple tree long enough for me to take a few photos. Last year a lone cardinal passed through and I couldn't help but wonder if it's the same one, returning along a traditional route to his summer home.

The trees are budding out despite very cold nighttime temps and several gloomy, not-so-warm days. But today the sun is shining and so I stopped to admire the trees at the far end of the rock garden near the hollow. Their tiny tips of red and green waving in the wind against the blue sky remind me that everything is going according to plan. The world knows what it's doing without me having to do a thing except witness its effortless awakening.

Passing a bird house that had gone unnoticed when I first moved here, I stopped to admire the peeling paint of what must have been a rather colorful little dwelling once upon a time. I thought about Otis, the man who cared for this place so lovingly, noted the date he'd painted on the back of the birdhouse, and renewed my own commitment to the land.

As I walked up the sloping lawn, my father came to mind and I was momentarily filled with a sadness over the fact that he is no longer in this world. This man who loved the world and yet struggled at times to find peace within it, who saw eighty-four springs (it seems like such a paltry number now), is not here to see this spring. And now, I can't seem to shake a Raymond Carver poem I read a few days ago. It speaks to why I returned to this place of my childhood. I thought you might like it, too.

"The Trestle"

I've wasted my time this morning, and I'm deeply ashamed.
I went to bed last night thinking about my dad.
About that little river we used to fish -- Butte Creek --
near Lake Almanor. Water lulled me to sleep.
In my dream, it was all I could do not to get up
and move around. But when I woke early this morning
I went to the telephone instead. Even though
the river was flowing down there in the valley,
in the meadows, moving through ditch clover.
Fir trees stood on both sides of the meadows. And I was there.
A kid sitting on a timber trestle, looking down.
Watching my dad drink from his cupped hands.
Then he said, "This water's so good.
I wish I could give my mother some of this water."
My father still loved her, though she was dead
and he'd been away from her for a long time.
He had to wait some more years
until he could go where she was. But he loved
this country where he found himself. The West.
For thirty years it had him around the heart,
and then it let him go. He went to sleep one night
in a town in northern California
and didn't wake up. What could be simpler?

I wish my own life, and death, could be so simple.
So that when I woke on a fine morning like this,
after being somewhere I wanted to be all night,
somewhere important, I could move most naturally
and without thinking about it, to my desk.

Say I did that, in the simple way I've described.
From bed to desk back to childhood.
From there it's not so far to the trestle.
And from the trestle I could look down
and see my dad when I needed to see him.
My dad drinking that cold water. My sweet father.
The river, its meadows, and firs, and the trestle.
That. Where I once stood.

I wish I could do that
without having to plead with myself for it.
And feel sick of myself
for getting involved in lesser things.
I know it's time I changed my life.
This life -- the one with its complications
and phone calls -- is unbecoming,
and a waste of time.
I want to plunge my hands in clear water. The way
he did. Again and then again.

~ Raymond Carver

The photographs are mine.

Monday, April 2, 2012

So Much is Happening Out There

Early this morning, I mean really early this morning, even before the light was glinting off the metal roof of the old chicken coop, I was sitting here thinking about all that is going on out there, 'there' being the world of nature ... all the creatures sleeping in their burrows or nests, perhaps nestled in among their young ... those sleeping in the meadow and under the pines, or returning to their places of rest after spending several hours roaming the night ... and those who are waking to another day. And, I just read the perfect poem to fit these early morning thoughts ... but first, let me tell you what led to them.

Late yesterday afternoon I stepped outside to take the sheets off the clothesline and a bald eagle was soaring overhead. He visits quite regularly now, often landing on the scraggly pine tree at the end of the driveway. At about the same time Buddy was all excited by the chipmunk that lives under our porch. He followed his scurrying with a great deal of enthusiasm as though expecting any moment the chipmunk would stop and play with him.

Then, later in the evening, an owl was hooting, quite boldly, in the woods just beyond the hollow. I couldn't see him, only hear him, but his call was loud and persistent. Other birds were calling so enthusiastically it was almost a cacophony ... but a rather nice one.

As I stood and listened, all the insects seemed to come to life. So many insects cover even one acre of ground. Millions. Many millions. Really. There's so much going on out there. When I think of all that's happening in the natural world all around this planet at any given moment ... it's mind-boggling. Also, very life-affirming.

Mary Oliver, as always, says it with love:

"It Was Early"

It was early,
  which has always been my hour
    to begin looking
      at the world

and of course,
  even in the darkness,
    to begin
      listening into it,

  under the pines
    where the owl lives
      and sometimes calls out

as I walk by,
  as he did
    on this morning.
      So many gifts!

What do they mean?
  In the marshes
    where the pink light
      was just arriving

the mink
  with his bristle tail
    was stalking
      the soft-eared mice,

and in the pines
  the cones were heavy,
    each one
      ordained to open.

Sometimes I need
  only to stand
    wherever I am
      to be blessed.

Little mink, let me watch you.
  Little mice, run and run.
    Dear pine cone, let me hold you
      as you open.

~ Mary Oliver, from Evidence

For more on just how much life is out there, here's a good page, with fascinating information. I mean it. Fascinating:

The photograph is mine.