Monday, September 9, 2013


There is a certain softness in slow living. It is as if grains of sand have worn down the edges of the day. I look out into my yard from my recuperation sofa and I see the white pine I planted a few years back...its needles sweeping the breeze, so soft you could use them for bedding. Just imagine the dreams that would come your way, wrapped in that piney fragrance.

Even these spruce cones have a softness to them.

The sedum and the Queen Anne's lace are in full bloom with cottony clouds of pink and white offering good things to the bees. Even the raindrops, which have appeared just as I begin to write, have no urgency.

And who is enjoying these softened days most of all?  My dogs! Curled at my feet and on the sofa next to me, they remind me of a favorite poem Mary Oliver wrote in honor of her pet, Percy. She's written many. This one ends,

"And next to me,
tucked down his curly head
and, sweet as a flower, slept."

Softness is about yielding to whatever harshness or sharpness there might be. It is about giving way so that better things may happen. It is about turning the other cheek. About whispers that speak louder than shouts.

During these days of recovery, I have to constantly remind myself that I chose this. That I knew going in that I'd experience a down time...a period of inactivity and softness so that I may soon be able again walk down to Quarton pond, to ride my bicycle into town. Remember?

Friday, September 6, 2013

Tempo and the Honey Bee

A bumblebee visits the anemones in my front yard.

If there is one thing Nature excels at, it is keeping tempo. Maintaining a rhythm. A steady and predictable beat. The tides, the phases of the moon, the whispers of wind, the cycles of night into day all maintain an ebb and flow that we can count on.

Furthermore, the tempo is sustainable. Nature knows when to exert energy and when to hold off, so that its efforts are efficient.

This bumble bee is beginning the afternoon's forage so his pollen buckets are still empty

Another example so evident in late summer are the bumblebees. This time of year they are almost manic in their search for nectar.  "Busy as bees," you might say. Their hips are so laden with pollen I don't know how they can stay airborne and yet they continue darting from bloom to bloom, as if they will never find another one.

Until the temperature drops. Then they are paralyzed in time, as if some invisible force has pressed them in place. I find them on these cool, late summer mornings still perched on a flower petal, but motionless.

This anemone bud has opened just enough to allow room for a bee to poke inside.
It is difficult for me to stay still, too. Having just had my right hip replaced, I am even more aware of the manic pace I usually keep during the summer months when the long days entice me to add multiple activities to my calendar.

Now it is as if a giant hand has landed on my shoulder and forced me to the sofa where I lay while my hip heals. With my shadow, Maxi, constantly at my side, I try to avoid thinking of what I should be doing.

Because I can't.
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Friday, July 19, 2013

Sometimes You Just Have to Wait

Dreams are a strange phenomenon. The sub-conscious. The mind, released of the substance of daily living, roams freely...deeply...and conjures; unafraid to explore depths we'd never even approach in full consciousness.

So what do they mean? Oh, I won't even go there. Too many volumes have been written already by much more capable authors.
A praying mantis on the side of our house. A baby, I think, that hatched from an egg sac my daughter gave me.

My point here is, do we pursue those thoughts actively when we do awaken? Do we face the fears that found their way to the surface? To that, I say yes. At least to the extent that we are sanely able. So, should a dream release anxieties, we owe it to ourselves to try to soothe those fears. To investigate. Who knows what good might come of it? What distance a relationship might travel, spurred forward by the sub-conscious?

And, what about daytime dreams? A hope that a tidbit from my subconscious might somehow find its way into print? My way of spurring it forward?

It has been a long time since I've done that. Put some thoughts down on cyber-paper. But, for some reason, it is time. Who knows what good might come of it?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

About Squirrels and Napping

I walk on a bright, crackling Fall afternoon with two of my little dogs because the sun is so alive its rays virtually bounce off the vivid leaves of sugar maples, linden and box elder trees. Even the Oaks, so often dressed in drab taupes and greys this time of year, are decked in crimson and gold for this year-end party. The purple and white asters, too, are dancing with life as though summer were just beginning to make its appearance. This is a visual score that gifts my eyes with a most melodic symphony. Playing right along are the bumblebees, with their yellow and black shrugs, and the squirrels whose tails flick frantically as they gather and bury while Nature inMichigan still permits such activiy.

It won't be long now before Nature takes its well-deserved nap. It knows far better than most of us that all work and no rest is bad for the spirit, not to mention the body.

My own tendencies are to let this time of year weigh too heavily on me. I don't like winter. I don't like the restrictions it puts on my walks and bike rides. But, as I age, I have come to appreciate the luxury of rest. Nights of uninterrupted rest are hard to come by. I think part of my problem is that, in looking ahead to Winter --the season of white death and silence--I get impatient. Spring, the time of joyous rebirth, is way too far away to offer me any comfort.

When my daughters were young, bedtime always presented a series of challenges. None of them ever wanted to end the day. It was as if morning was so far away it could never be counted on arriving at all. To ask them to put a book down or a game away of to turn off the television was a request cloaked in meanness. Like many mothers I would bargain to bring the night on more gently with a bedtime story.
Many aspects of life can be improved with just a little rest. Relationships, careers, mealtime to name a few. Even exercise is more effective, I've heard, if we let our muscles rest between vigorous workouts.

So, instead of looking into the future and becoming depressed because it is too far off, I need to remind myself to enjoy the present for the good things it offers. I need to be more like a squirrel. Pack up some nourishment to carry my soul through the dark months...I have shelves loaded with good stuff I've yet to read; and, when Spring does finally arrive, know that enjoying it will be that much more refreshing and wonderful.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Fitting Finish to Summer

Yes, four months since my last post. A very long span of time in some respects but really just a flash. Time comes and goes in flashes now and if I've learned anything over the years it is that the period between the flashes is what is important. So I meandered around the pond on a stellar Fall afternoon and allowed what I could see, smell and hear to take over the moment. To comfort me as my thoughts could not.
A maple tree as majestic as any at its most glorious moment. A gilded robe that it would soon let go. The flash at sunset.

A Red Squrrek and an Eastern Fox Squirrel are more worried about us than each other.

Ah! The beauty of a long camera lens. Neither the painted turtles nor the Wood Duck had any concerns about our presence.

I love these ducks!

How could this setting not bring comfort to a soul?

A box elder (I believe) on fire!

Can you spot the pair of female wood ducks in this lily pad flotsam?

So majestic.

And so proud...he's literally beating his chest! I don't think the turtles give a hoot.

Taking a regal bath.

These guys really do blend in with their backgrounds.

Our resident Blue Heron on the lookout from his favorite perch

A Grey Squirrel...yes grey...the result of melanistic genes. He's certain my dogs and I are going to steal his nut.

Female Wood Duck with her pretty white eyes.

Lily pads in the clouds.

And he's still bathing!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Bird Nests and other Spring Musings

Spring arrived here in March. Then, with a vengeance, Winter came back as if admonishing Spring for daring to tread on its sacred ground. My apple tree never blossomed this spring. It's quite probable my cherry never will again. My plum, it appears, is just patiently waiting for next year. And, my wisteria nearly gave up but is nosing its way through the tangle of my arbor with fragile, grey-green leaves. On the other hand, my peach tree blessed me with so many baby peaches it couldn't hold on to them all. Go figure.

But, beyond these discoveries of new life thwarted are two that have warmed my heart for the past month. A pair of cardinals built a nest in the vine that shades my dog run--before the vine even sprouted leaves which meant their little home was in full view of anyone with even minimal vision. I chuckled as I watched the mother sit on her eggs, face into the corner of our chimney, and wondered whether she felt safe because she couldn't see me even though I could see her.

Two weeks ago a fledgling appeared at the top of the trellis that supports this vine.  All afternoon both parents would stop by with food for the baby and in between visits he (or her) would sit patiently waiting. Trusting that they were not far away.

We have cats in our neighborhood. Lots of cats. And a hawk. I wanted to move the fledgeling to a safer place. One not quite so visible. But had to trust that nature has its own way of doing these things. Then, for a week I did not see the fledgeling again. Ach! I forced myself not to consider what might have happened. Then, sitting at my writing desk which faces the dog run I saw a brown bird perched on its picket fence. It was the baby, again taking food from its parents. Happy day for me! He's big enough now and strong enough to dodge those pesky cats and possibly even the hawk.

The other discovery came yesterday. I noticed a robin pecking away at the debris in our gutter. I thought maybe it was foraging for a tasty tidbit but actually it was finding just the perfect twig or two for a nest. The nest, I soon discovered, is wedged in the revitalized tendrils of my wisteria.

Spring and Winter can fight amongst themselves for supremacy of the seasons but guess what? The cycle of life is stronger then them both.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Unfinished Desires by Gail Godwin

There is a lot to absorb, even in the first few pages, of Unfinished Desires by Gail Godwin. Set ultimately in 2007, it tells the story of several women whose lives first connect at Mount St. Gabriel's, a Catholic boarding school for Girls in the mountains of South Carolina.

The novel opens with some women who graduated from the school in the 1960's as they surround their beloved (and now nearly blind) headmistress, Mother Suzanne Ravenal The women have convinced Mother to write her memoir about the school which closed in 1972 and which was Mother's home for over sixty years.  This is the last we hear of those women, which confused me, as the story then twists around a series of unfortunate memories of 1952 that preclude Mother Ravenal's one-year leave of absence from the school. Memories which creep towards, then retreat from, this year of the so-called disaster.

When Mother Ravenal is finally able to bring herself to face the pain of that year, she comes to a kind of peace with herself and with a much earlier pain that, like some festering thorn under her skin, she'd never fully understood.

I grew up in the Catholic "school system." I attended a private Catholic high school for girls run by nuns, so I get that part of the story. Of course I was a teenager as well so I get that. And I get a passionate attraction to a best friend. I just don't think these elements were put together in the most efficient manner. Too many side trips and side characters to step over along the way.

The story is well-written and does a sensitive and insightful treatment of adolescence--its clumsiness, its passions and its cruelties--as well as the origins of these frailities. But it requires so much focus to keep tabs of the dozens of characters, the multiple points of views and the revolving time frames. It ends, not with Mother Ravenal but with the three ninth grade students who were at the eye of the storm that led to Mother's abrupt leave from the school. I can't say the ending totally satisfied me. Not that I think a novel necessarily must adhere to a single character's story but that it needs to leave me with a sense that the characters have all reached a point of closure with each other. Too many of them did not.