Category Archives: nature

Down to the lake to be alone.

THE COUNTRY WIFE

She makes her way through the dark trees
Down to the lake to be alone.
Following their voices on the breeze,
She makes her way. Through the dark trees
The distant stars are all she sees.
They cannot light the way she’s gone.
She makes her way through the dark trees
Down to the lake to be alone.

The night reflected on the lake,
The fire of stars changed into water.
She cannot see the winds that break
The night reflected on the lake
But knows they motion for her sake.
These are the choices they have brought her:
The night reflected on the lake,
The fire of stars changed into water.

-Dana Gioia

I spent quite a while looking for a nice piece of art, or one of my photos, to accompany the story of this woman’s walk. The trying had the effect of making me love the poem even more; I began to think that only Gioia himself might be capable of creating a visual graphic that wouldn’t actually detract from what he’s already given us in words. There are voices and movement and one thing changing to another….

All the pictures I looked at were still pictures, of course. And none of them could carry half of the feeling of even one material element as expressed by these lines, such as the woods in the dark, or the stars, the water. When there is a stop in the middle of the fourth line, I see her pausing to push aside fir branches. The whole is an elegant interplay of the forces of beings.

Those beings are not only material. For example, the heart and mind of the woman any of us might imagine. It’s a wondrous thing to be able to go with her down to the lake, and yet, not invade her privacy. To have the vicarious experience of being her.  I follow the music, arrive at the lake, and find a solitude as full as the universe.

Bird tracks on the sand.

The coastal skies were either foggy or smoky or both, my last few outings to the beach. Today the sun shone bright and early on the shore, and during my entire drive over there.

Fishermen were wearing their scarves and layers against the usual morning fog, but they didn’t need that sort of attire.

Yesterday morning I’d wakened with body and mind rested in such fullness, that before I even got out of bed the idea of a beach trip proposed itself. When I saw the weather forecast, I knew in peace that I would go.

Trails of big and little bird tracks ran back and forth, and other mysterious patterns.

Many of the footprints surely were made by more than a dozen turkey vultures that I encountered by the shore, tearing at a dead seal. I ran up to provoke them into flying, so I could film them, and they obliged by flapping over to a driftwood structure nearby. Some of their group hung out in and around the lagoon.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the fall season, and October, the dying of the year, and how my garden has looked more depressing than I ever remember. It could just be because I am home and in the garden more than usual for October….

Other ideas swirl around in my head, stimulated by the books I’ve been reading, the high school church school class I help teach, and national and personal current events. Every thing is so connected to every other thing… Do I really need to write to process it, as I normally feel the need to do — or just to pray?

It was splendid to get the fresh but warm air at the coast. The year is on its way out for good, but the earth is merely settling down to rest, and to be renewed. I want to make my outing to the ocean more regularly in the future, God willing, and see the waves still crashing on the sand, and the various birds — though I’d prefer they not be buzzards — and the driftwood architecture humans are always creating. My feet will sink into the sand and feel earthy. I will be renewed, too.

 

Hiding under their feathers.

THE BIRDS OF PASSAGE

You are the one who made us
You silver all the minnows in all rivers
You wait in the deep woods
To find the newborn fox cubs
And unseal their eyes
You shower the sky with stars

You walk alone
In the wild royal darkness
Of the heavens above the heavens
Where no one else can go.

When the fragile swallows assemble
For their pilgrimages
When the hummingbirds
Who are scarcely more
Than a glittering breath
Set out for the rain forest
To drink from the scarlet flowers
On the other side of the world
With only now and then
The mast of a passing ship
For a resting place and an inn

When the Canada geese
Are coming down from the north
When the storks of Europe
Stretch out their necks toward Egypt
From their nests on the chimney tops
When shaking their big wings open
And trailing their long legs after them
They rise up heavily
To begin their autumn flight

You who speak without words
To your creatures who live without words
Are hiding under their feathers

To give them a delicate certainty
On the long dangerous night journey.

-Anne Porter

Cake and flowers for the inconvenienced.

In the midst of destruction, smoke, fear, and drama of the worst sorts, I rested for most of last week as though at a peaceful (indoor) oasis, with my dear friends. First it was the two evacuees, and then a third who was merely on her way home to Ohio. After all were gone, I hurried to prepare my part of a church school lesson, attended Liturgy…

…and a new week had begun. Whoa! While I had my head turned, a new season had suddenly arrived. The nights are cooler again, the sun is slant. When the wildfire smoke thinned out a bit, I could notice the fall feel of the air, and skies turning from orange to blue. It made me weep with relief.

The butternuts needed to be brought in, the zucchini yanked out, and a general clean-up begun. I had planned to plant peas in September; now I hope to do it before the first week of October is gone.

The zucchini plants were disgusting; for many weeks the white flies have flown up in a cloud every time I rummage around to pick the perfect fruits; those insects are still present, and now ashes blow and drift down wherever I move a stem of salvia, or a fig branch.

I try not to keep talking about cinders, but they have gone from being an unusual element of the weather to being constant, and hard to ignore. When it doesn’t include smoke and ashes I find the weather to be always interesting, but in a more satisfying way. Of course, I am merely inconvenienced; those of you who experience tornadoes, hurricanes and floods have your own reasons to not be exactly “satisfied” even with more natural weather made up of rain and wind.

When the zucchini was gone this flower was revealed, its bloom pristine though its leaves are sooty. My Seek app can’t identify it, and I don’t recall seeing such a plant here before.

The two 4-inch zinnia starts I planted in June have grown gloriously bushy. It took me months to get around to deadheading them; this week was only the second time. A few flowers had formed seeds, which I scattered in hopes of finding some sprouts next spring. But they are likely hybrids, so who knows?

The figs keep coming, and I plan to make this autumn cake again. But I can’t eat the whole thing… who is in my “bubble” that I might invite to share with me? I could give the whole cake to a neighbor! Actually, I had thought to make two, and already planned to give one to a neighbor…. I don’t have my thinking cap on right now to work out this problem.

Because while I was typing, the smoke thickened. I have shut the windows, taken the laundry off the clothesline, and turned on the air purifiers again. Since I did make a little start in the garden, and brought in a few of the red zinnias, I am content. If no new fires start, we can expect the skies to clear more and more, just in time for cold weather and wood fires in the house. I hope.

I know that many of you pray for us who live in wildfire country, for the firefighters, for rain. Thank you!