Wednesday, November 29, 2006
green grass & berries
in the "millionaire row" neighbourhood on Sturgeon Point, a perfectly manicured lawn which has had maintenance crews by with leaf blowers
the berries of a ?cotoneaster, which make me think of clusters of beads suitable for marvelous earrings
the pearly berries of ?dogwood
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
mists & fog
our need for poetry
I have often pondered how the arts, including poetry, seem to have little value in our free market driven world. The Arts departments of universities seem to be shrinking, yielding to the pressure from business groups to produce students educated to be skilled 'technocrats'. Business and applied science programs are expanding as fast as the funding allows. To me, something seems to be missing. while multinational corporations seem to grabbing up all of the market share, exploiting more and more of all the world's resources, and exerting nearly total control over law and politics, true visionary leadership and values that would be for the greater good are sacrificed for profit, to fatten the value for stock holders.
In the face of all that, poetry is not a profitable and marketable product. In fact, poetry has been accused of being ineffective and useless in the dealing with so much of the misery and corruption in this world. Often, it has been a part of the problem, a part of the collective psyche of a disturbed culture.
Adrienne Rich argues that "yet in fact, throughout the world, transfusions of poetic language can and do quite literally keep bodies and souls together - and more", that "we can also define the 'aesthetic', not as a privileged and sequestered rendering of human suffering, but as news of an awareness, a resistance, which totalising systems want to quell: art reaching into us for what's still passionate, still unintimidated, still unquenched."
Perhaps, exactly because it is not marketable, perceived as "soft" and volatile, poetry, as much of the other arts, will continue to be a thorn in the side of those totalising systems, the anarchy that will serve to balance the current regimes of power, keep them in check, and more importantly, keep us sane.
Monday, November 27, 2006
Reading his Daily Muse from the month of November, his thoughts on gratitude seemed particularly relevant, even though here in Canada, the holiday is long past.
It saddens me to realize how vulnerable we are to advertizers who target our longing for connection with each other and the natural world, and seek to convince us that buying some material things will be a satisfactory substitute. How odd it is that those of our deepest longings can only be satisfied by simplifying our lives, slowing down enough to look and truly see, being still enough to listen and truly hear, being open enough to feel and to be touched. It takes just a little time to savor life, but it requires paying attention.
But too many of us are wildly distracted, stressed out, overscheduled to the point we scarcely have time to breathe.
Tom says "the din that has pervaded every corner of our lives is so loud that some of us have forgotten what our own voices sound like." He quotes Barbara Kingsolver, from her book Small Wonder, "We see so much, understand so little, and are simultaneously told so much about What We Think, as a populace polled minute by minute, that it begins to feel like an extraneous effort to listen at all to our hearts."
My own heart is filled with gratitude when I stop to contemplate the people whose lives touch mine, those people who love me and whom I love.
In anticipation of the Christmas season, I am determined that in reaching out in love to embrace and be embraced by my family and beloved friends, I will not be seduced into thinking that participating in the frenzy of consumerism will demonstrate to those I love what I truly feel about them.
That's not an easy thing. There are insecurities in me that are trying to shout louder than my new resolve to just be, that doing something bigger and grander, buying "just the right thing" will express the right idea best. It is a radical move for me to attempt to just be for and with the people I love. It's the fear that I am not enough.
As promised, I'm giving an update here on how my non-consumer Christmas ideas are progressing. Well, I've discussed the idea with each of the kids. Reactions: #1. "But I want lots of presents! No, you know I'm only joking." #2. "...except for Kaylee. S. already told me they got X for Kaylee, and also Y and Z for Kaylee. I just got rid of a Y she already had and no longer plays with...she has so much stuff and she doesn't want me to throw anything out...She is so suspicious now that if she can't find something, she says accusingly, 'did you throw it out??'" #3. (silence)
The topic came up at work with one of my peers. Brenda wisely suggested that it might take 2 or 3 seasons. The idea will percolate about and then as happened in her family, a season or two later, a more forceful person will institute a new family tradition as if it were a new brilliant idea of their own :)
“The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope.” ~~Barbara Kingsolver
Sunday, November 26, 2006
mono no aware
It's a Japanese phrase I may have read before, but it had slipped beneath my awareness until Annie at The Transplantable Rose in Austin commented on my previous post about the ephemeral nature of everything and how sad that is.
Googling the phrase yielded all kinds of interesting reading, amongst them all, this.
My memory tends to be more allusive than precise, so off I went on a tangent to remember a collection of essays by Jane Hirshfield, Nine Gates, Entering the mind of Poetry. Returning to it, I realized then that I had read the term aware before in the essay entitled The Myriad Leaves of Words. In it, Hirshfield explains that aware is an adjective "whose meaning can range from 'sad' to 'delicious,' depending on context, " that aware "signifies the beauty of the fleeting world and also the presence of the human heart that feels it," and might be "translated by a sigh as much as a word."
So excuse me as I go off to re-read Hirshfield with new insights and new perspectives.
Together, we went to the Fenelon Falls Santa Claus Parade. Unsure of how the crowds would be, I decided against taking my tri-pod. Bad decision. As a result, the best I could do was get a few video clips.
Anyhow, Granddaughter got hugs from Sponge Bob and Elmo. She got suckers (what we call hard candy on a stick, ie lollypops) from clowns and fairies and snowmen. There were lots of Famous Princesses and other characters we all know. (Gramma admits she tends to forget who they all are.)
I loved the marching bands the best.
The weather was wonderful. During the day, it had been as warm as 11 degrees Celsius, I was told, so it didn't get chilly for the parade until well after the sun had gone down. By then, Santa had arrived and the parade was over.
The indefinable qualities of time, the indistinct edges of it, those subjective aspects that we forget as adults accustomed as we become to concrete, defined beliefs about time, were demonstrated by Kaylee's questions when we got caught in the "traffic jam" leaving town after the parade: "Are we there yet? How long until we get to your house, Gramma?" I'm sure she was asking the same question of her Mom in the car on the way up here, a much longer drive of about an hour and a half. And yet, "time" felt the same way to her in each instance, loose, unformed, stuck.
Kaylee is a chatterbox. (She gets that from her Mom. I have no idea where her Mom gets it from.) She is in her first year of French Immersion. When I said a couple of things to her 'en francais', her response was SILENCE. But behind her eyes, I can see the wheels of her mind whirring. She's taking it all in. Soon she'll be speaking French spontaneously and easily, much more fluently than Gramma will ever hope to speak it.
Thought you might enjoy seeing Gramma, (the pockets of her jacket stuffed with batteries, extra gloves, etc.) from Granddaughter's point of view.
Saturday, November 25, 2006
Looking across Sturgeon Lake, southward from Sturgeon Point towards Lindsay.
In the shade where the sun has not reached yet to melt the frost, the remnants of a crystal-embroidered brocade carpets the forest floor. I am very susceptible to this momentary, tiny, aching beauty. Not remembering the beauty frost can create, I was not anticipating these small moments of delight. They are a gift, reminding me of the changing seasons, the cycles of life and death. It is time for frosts, but I had forgotten how it can sparkle on the edges of grass and leaves, or later, in the dead of winter, paint my window panes.
I have to stop and literally crawl around on my hands and knees, trying to get a decent photo or two. I have ideas running around in my head for doing watercolours of this...
What did I read recently about that heart-breaking aspect of intensely beautiful moments, especially long-anticipated moments? Here it is, a quote from Karen Armstrong's A History of God, about the consciousness of the ephemeral nature of everything, the ineffable that always remains unseen beyond what we see:
post coitum omne animal tristis est
p.s. The red-tailed hawk just rose up from behind the cedar-rail fence at the edge of the yard and flew westward, where the mists are being burned off by the morning sun.
Friday, November 24, 2006
sunshine & frosty mornings
I do try not to stop every second as a thousand pretty things demand to be captured on camera, but as you can see, I haven't completely succeeded. Still, I did manage to ignore weird droppings/spoor that seemed to contain a lot of bark or ?pine cones, more mushrooms that piqued my curiosity, the tracks of deer in the sand, pretty white seeds on pink stems, or clusters of orange tear-drop seeds hanging like jewelry from tall thorny shrubs...
Misty sees no point in going the whole loop around the point with me. She opts to head back home on her own via the cornfield-shortcut again, abandoning me to run on alone. She flies down the laneway on tiptoes to meet me a half-hour later when I sprint past the barn on the last leg of my run to the house! She bounces around in a celebratory, waggy-tail dance, as if I've been away for years.
I feel like celebrating myself perhaps due to the endorphins released by my run. But I have read the negative ions in the atmosphere outdoors also promote the production of endorphins. I run more for the cardio-benefits, but have always loved the outdoors, whether or not I'm 'getting exercise', because it never, ever fails to boost my spirits! Negative ions, endorphins, whatever. All that matters very little to me. I get a high, rain or shine, when outdoors, just by being immersed in the endless, varied, beautiful, living and breathing natural world.
How can it not make you feel better? Just look around you and breathe it in!
As I run down the back end of the laneway towards the lake, I pass a cedar rail fence draped with bittersweet vine and wild grapes.
Monday, November 20, 2006
black & white
Let us walk in the white snow
In a soundless space;
With footsteps quiet and slow,
At a tranquil pace,
Under veils of white lace.
I shall go shod in silk,
And you in wool,
White as white cow's milk,
Than breast of gull.
We shall walk through the still town
In a windless peace;
We shall step upon white down,
Upon silver fleece,
Upon softer than these.
We shall walk in velvet shoes:
Wherever we go
Silence will fall like dews
On white silence below.
We shall walk in the snow.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
And now, she is back to her bouncy old self. She runs about in the yard, nose to ground following the scent of squirrels, tail held high like a little white flag. When she's ready to come back in, she goes to the pile of wood stacked under my office window and peers in, her eyes big. "Aren't you going to let me in? I'm freezing out here, see? I'm shivering!"
Once inside, she either runs up to my bed or onto her favorite cushion on the couch and curls up for a hard life of snoozing.
you don't have to be crazy...
That's what is often said at my paying job about what it takes to work there. And indeed, I do find myself surrounded by some very interesting peers. The most colourful of them manage to make us laugh every day. And in a job -- or a world -- where there is so much sadness, misery and suffering, so much that it downright frightening, laughter is often a blessed relief.
This story was told by one of those characters with whom I have the privilige to work. It is making the rounds locally and may be on its way to becoming an urban/rural legend. Recounting the story last night at the end of our shift had a group of us crying with laughter. I may have even told this story here before. If I have, forgive me.
It all started with Michelle's neighbour who had a rabbit. Now Michelle describes her neighbours as being the kind of neighbours whose lawn is always mowed and neatly edged, precise flower beds, perfectly weeded and mulched, fallen leaves promptly raked up and bagged. And their rabbit lived in a cage at the edge of the property, adjoining Michelle's yard.
Unfortunately, Michelle always feared her large and rambunctious dog had too great an interest in that rabbit belonging to the neighbours. One rainy day, her fears were realized.
The dog had come home, proudly bearing a dirty, wet rabbit in his jaws. Oh yes, the rabbit was also very dead.
Poor Michele was fit to be tied. She didn't relish the prospects of confessing to her sort of uppity neighbour that her dog had killed their rabbit. What to do?
Finally she hit upon a plan. She washed the dead rabbit carefully, removing any evidence of mud and dog saliva. She blow-dried it and she fluffed up the fur. It looked pretty good again, other than the fact that it remained quite dead.
Then, when she thought the neighbours were out, she slipped the dead rabbit into its cage. Her hope was that the neighbours might find the dead rabbit, all clean and fluffy in the cage, and come to the conclusion that the rabbit had died of natural causes. Leaving Michelle's dog in the clear. Anyway, that was the plan.
A few days later, the neighbours were chatting with her over the back fence the way people do on a nice day when people are drawn out into their yards to work in the gardens.
"The strangest things happen," the neighbour remarked. Michelle thought: oh-oh!
"Yes," the neighbour continued. "Our rabbit died a couple of days ago."
Michelle thought, here it comes, here it comes.
"But what was so strange," the neighbour said,"Was that we buried it. Only the very next day, there it was, back in it's cage!"
Huh? Michelle was stunned. Her dog had not killed the rabbit after all! He had dug up a dead rabbit...
any pretty blooms at this dark time of year keep this gardener happy
Friday, November 17, 2006
It was very tempting yesterday on my run through the woods, to stop. The lure were many different kinds of mushrooms, on tree stumps, peeking out through the dead leaves on the ground. But I kept on.
Then I spotted the red-tailed hawk, circling over the meadow. I stopped. The hawk was already flying beyond the meadow, northwards over the woods.
Now that the cattle are gone, I had decided to circle the pond. The earth-dam was churned up with the hoof-marks of cattle. Large cow-pies dotted the fields where the cattle so recently grazed.
Water has found a wide low channel across a meadow and around the pond. I got my left foot wet, not very successful in my attempts to stay to the higher tussocks between the cow-paths.
I hopped a fence, last hurdle on the home-stretch. I was way too hot, over-dressed. I unzipped my jacket and sprinted towards home.
Late last night when I got home from my job in the city, Misty had no appetite. Her stomach was growling non-stop, painfully. She wanted out and in and out and in, again and again.
Persuaded by stinky flatulence from Misty, I finally decided she was sleeping in the laundry room. She was pretty unhappy about that, accustomed as she is to sleeping snuggled against me in my bed. But, hey, even my love for my doggies has it's limits. I really did fear she might have an accident.
When I got to bed, I pondered for a while what she might have gotten into that got her intestines into such a knot. Then I remembered the cattle, all the cow patties and the churned banks around the pond. Of course!
Misty probably indulged in a drink from the pond or the slow streams across the low spots in the fields . Any of that water would have been poluted by raw "cow sewage"!
Now my revised plan includes avoiding the pond and the fields the cattle were in, maybe until we get lots of snow, some hard frosts and ice covers the pond. In the meantime, I have endless other paths to run along.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
The forecast is calling for a lot of rain, but seeing the juncos has me wondering, if it won't be snow instead.
It's a miserable day and I confess I'm not looking forward to my run. It's getting dressed that is such a chore, choosing something that will keep me warm, but not too warm, something that will keep me dry without interfering with my movement. Besides, my pajamas and favorite yellow bathrobe are so comfortable and cozy right now, that the thought of stripping them off, even for a few seconds, in this drafty old house is something I could put off forever, if life were like that.
Despite all that, I know, when I actually get outdoors, I'll revel in it. A fine misty rain is being swept before a wind which is picking up strength. The wind was only ruffling the tops of the corn earlier this morning. Now, the wind is making waves across the corn. Who knows which creatures I might meet out there today?
The other day in the woods I was so close I could have touched the tail feathers of a red-tailed hawk perched in a dead tree beside the laneway. When I stopped to pull out my camera, it sailed serenely away through the trees.
The turkeys are congregating into larger flocks now. They stroll across the meadows and through the woods in disorganized lines, a straggler sometimes running madly to catch up with the flock. They are fun to watch.
Oh yeah, I was supposed to be running wasn't I. Better get out there. But I can't resist taking the camera with me anyway.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
trying to understand
I'm listening to a mother and son being interviewed on the CBC radio this morning. The son is with a unit of reserves and has volunteered to be deployed to Afghanistan.
As a mother myself, listening, I seem to be hearing a bit of my own son. While I easily resonate with the mother's thoughts, I'm stretching to try to put myself within this young man's reasoning, trying to see it through his eyes. I'm not succeeding.
In a desire to do something, a desire to accept the challenges of the very hard job of a Canadian soldier in Afghanistan, what is unsaid, I think, is that he also feels compelled to make this decision as a sort of rite of passage. With the weight of the challenge of this rite of passage perhaps overriding everything else, he has made the decision to sweep aside any questions of "why" Canadian soldiers are there at all.
When, at one point my own son talked of joining the armed forces, all I could think was: mutilation, horrors and death. He talked about cool weapons. One of my brothers, who was in the navy, was excited. I couldn't understand this. Perhaps of all my brothers, this one is the most tender-hearted and peace-loving. But there's the other side of him-- he's a gamer. And he's proud of his time in the navy.
This is often what is so charming and frightening about men in general, this single-minded determination to take action -- almost any action. And I find it bewildering. While on some level perhaps, I understand it (barely), I keep thinking there must be some other physically and mentally challenging way in our culture to encourage young men to undergo that rite of passage, without sending them off to war.
There was a time when I was young when I loved war-games in the woods and I liked to believe that in the rough and tumble with my brothers, I could give as good as I got. I don't think the males on the innate level have the corner on skills of hunting and combat. Mind you, most of the girls I knew back then, were already well on their way be being socialized to be pretty dolls, to follow fashion and develop crushes on Elvis, or the Mod Squad, and listen to 1050 Chum. I was already separating out in my mind with whom I played social games, and with whom I could get dirty and breathless, running, hiding, tumbling about in the woods.
My best friend was the exact opposite. I admired her because she had long brunette hair, always perfectly rolled into ringlets or pulled up into elaborate knots and braids. She always seemed to have pretty dresses that looked exactly like the illustrations out of the Arthur Maxwell Bedtime Stories I grew up on. I wanted to be her best friend so much that I could hardly believe we hit it off when we finally giggled through a lunch together one day at school. We couldn't have been more different.
Her mother didn't let her sit on the grass. There was a long list of things she wasn't allowed to do like that. But her mother always welcomed me at her house. I even enjoyed it when she called me "straggle head". She was itching to get her hands on my stick-straight, sunburnt hair.
For years, we were best friends.
She rebelled against all the "prettiness" when she got to highschool. But while she developed all sorts of luscious curves and flirty ways, I felt like my body would never blossom out into anything like feminine curves and always felt blunt and awkward in conversation. Suddenly everything had double meanings. We talked about boys all the time.
She always hated any physical activity. I never became a great athlete or anything, but never lost my love of running, pushing myself, that sense of a some mastery of a skill-set, like cycling or skating.
I can get obsessed with computer games, but long ago fell behind my son, or his uncles and cousins, in their ability to play the usual "war" games they love. The desire is pretty much gone, on my part. In some dim way, I can understand why it is so engrossing.
I can't criticize what I can't totally understand. I keep worrying that the adrenal rush, the heightened senses focused in such a narrow way, may blur the stuff on the periphery of their attention: the reality of human suffering, the de-humanizing of themselves and 'the enemy', the destruction left in the wake of war, the unrelenting inhumanity of the situation. Is it justified? Is it a just war? Will life be better after?
Because I can't see any sense in the big picture, it would tear me apart to send my boy off to this war. (I realize fully that they are not calling it a war, that they are not there "because of Bush" but because the UN asked, bla bla bla) I know he thinks he would love it. I am often mystified by how often he's ready to fight to protect his sisters, or his friends, or anybody he loves, or on behalf of the little guy! I'm crossing my fingers his desire to join up is not rekindled by the mistaken notion that Canadian soldiers are "helping" anybody over there!
I'm still asking WHY? GOD IN HEAVEN, WHY! But like the mother in the interview, if, god forbid, my son should decide to go, I'd support his decision to do so and let him go.
Monday, November 13, 2006
a non-consumer christmas
"We need to move away from more and global to less and local; from accumulation
of unnecessary clutter to enjoyment of the good things in life like art, music,
friendship and free time. We need to shift from waste to frugality, from
consuming to making, from illusion to imagination, from desire to delight and
from consumption of natural resources to an appreciation of the natural world.
If we do that then Christmas will again be an occasion of great celebration
rather than an excuse for more consumption. And then again the secular and the
sacred, the material and the spiritual will be recognised as being two sides of
the same coin."
Doesn't that sound inspiring? I'm putting on my thinking hat. I'm calling a halt to consumerism in my own family. I'll let you know how that goes ;) !
Saturday, November 11, 2006
fall colour report: grey
I opted to walk/jog through the village of Sturgeon Point this afternoon, along what is locally known as 'Millionaire Row'. When I started out, it took a bit longer than usual to warm up. It was about 3 degrees Celsius and a fine drizzle was falling. The dampness crept up my back under my jacket. Brrrr. The wind was from the east. The splendors of the huge summer homes are largely lost on me. Don't get me wrong. I'd live in one in a heart beat if the opportunity arose.
But here's what really gave me a thrill. When I came around the point to the leeward side, here's what I saw. It paddled quickly further and further out into the lake. I can't be sure what it might be: perhaps a Bufflehead, Bucephela albeola? (photo enlarged and cropped) What do you think?
Misty ran ahead of me. About half way around the point, I lost her. She had taken a shortcut home, probably through the cornfield. When I made my way up the back part of the laneway up from the lake, she was at the house waiting for me.
Friday, November 10, 2006
don't you love the twisting grain of these fence-rails? They are hollow, and when a red squirrel or chipmunk travels along this "highway", they have the choice of "lanes" to take. A chipmunk observing my interruption of traffic along the fence, scolded me in alarm, from hiding places within the cedar rails!
my friend, the "witch"
The berries of European Buckthorn, Rhamnus cathartica. It is an import that escaped from gardens many years ago. It is so widely dispersed now that people might assume it's indigenous. The fruits have a strong laxative effect and have been used to make a syrup for that purpose.
Extremely unpleasant tasting, the berries are also somewhat poisonous to humans.
D. is a fibre-friend of mine, an expert spinner and weaver. She once told me a story about experimenting with the berries of buckthorn for her dye-pot. She was drying some berries in her oven and started to feel overcome, quite unwell. Fortunately for her, her husband happened to come in and realized what was happening. The berries were removed and taken outside, windows opened, and the house aired out, etc. And my friend started to feel better! She believes the fumes from the fruit drying in her oven is what had made her ill.
Many of the kids, and maybe even some adults too, in her neighbourhood suspect my friend is a witch. This is because she can often been found outside on her back deck, standing over a large boiling cauldron/dye pot, experimenting with dyes and fibres.
It doesn't hurt that she strikes a wonderfully imposing image as well: a big mop of long reddish-black curly hair, big earrings, multi-layered clothing that comfortably drapes an ample figure. She also favors black and other dark colours and often wears very dramatic, dark lipstick and nailpolish.
D. is often to be found at country fairs and fibre meets, seated at her spinning wheel, giving demonstrations of the ancient art. As likely as not, she'll be barefoot, wearing a silver toe-ring or two.
She's quite simply, a marvel!
This sight took my breath away on my walk. I find the photo infinitely disappointing. It in no way captures the spark of fire within each blade of the dying grass. I felt like a small part of the sun had fallen to earth here in the midst of a snowy morning, when I came upon this swath of grasses, glowing at the edge of this meadow.
That set my thoughts going around and around about the whole topic. We notice, perhaps, if we are close enough to the natural world to see it, or tuned in just a bit, so that we tend to observe it. But I wondered if, in another time, when their might have been less separation of humans from the natural world around them, if the observations humans made in the patterns of life around them, held more meaning. I mean meaning that was understood.
I don't think the meaning has been lost. It's still there. Have we lost the ability to understand the language in the patterns of nature?
Those who live and/or work in the area of southern Ontario between the lake shore and the Oak Ridges Moraine, understand one pattern. One can safely predict that the weather can change dramatically once you get past "the Ridges", as you drive north away from Lake Ontario.
Lake-effect weather can also be dramatic. I remember a line across the highway where the pavement was bare and the snow began years ago when I accompanied my youngest daughter's class on a field trip to the Midland area, to "Sainte-Marie among the Hurons".
I also wonder how our weather and other natural patterns are changing due to global warming. Oh well, since we've pretty much lost our ability to read nature anyway, what does it matter? We won't see what's coming until it's upon us!