On This March Day

Hmmm. I began a sentence first about how all are talking about soon returning to places of employment. The whens; the wheres; the circumstances of which. And immediately I groaned. So not where I want to tread today!

Instead, I have just been eating my lunch sitting in front of the kitchen window that looks out back at the bird feeders, and the birds that feed at them. And the whole time, was serenaded by a titmouse who between tugging sunflower seeds out of the feeder, and poking at the dogwood branches to place them within, sang out her whole range of mezzo-soprano melodies, unconcerned by the 20 degrees farenheit chill, that “feels like” 9 degrees farenheit due to wind chill, unconcerned by that very active wind that is making that chill and shoving me indoors all day, because I, as noted in a previous post or two, do not enjoy how much work it is for me to walk against chilly winds, nevermind pedal my bicycle into their press.

So, the titmouse (family paridae) and her considerably larger, similar in so many ways except size, blue jay (family corvidae) compatriots: They, both species, stay put year round, have attentive crests that rise and fall, hang out in mixed crowds, are not shy about grabbing their desired portion of the food, are also of prominent voice providing a mix of songs and calls that carry over most any intervening noises, are delightful to watch, and seem to stare back at me almost as one of us looks at ourself in the mirror, open-eyed and objectively.

I am grateful for the signs of spring, one being that a day this cold has quickly become an oddity, not the norm. But I miss the private silence that a new snowfall imposes, such that the titmouse, the blue jay, even the constantly background chattering house sparrows, are hushed, just briefly. And then, when they do call out, it is as if a forest surrounds me, as if nothing but the forest and its free, safe dwellers is surrounding me and there is no strong sugar maple felled for aesthetic nor for fear reasons, no hefty red oak having only car hoods and roofs as a destination for its generously shed acorns, no beeches scratched along their bodies with initials and arrow-pierced hearts, no big-tooth aspens rising without community, solo, like power poles strung with cable, no tulip poplars flowering for none but those power lines, the windows of houses almost larger than their property dimensions, the chainlink fences against which they have rubbed for decades. I miss that mystery of new snow cover.

But I am grateful that the presently relatively barren signs of spring, portend leafing–yellow, lime green, deep green, swarthy red, striped, speckled; and fruiting–especially berries the size of a comma to berries that fill my palm, and drupes (fruits with stone centers) of so many colors and textures. These will cover, will disguise, will make disappear if I half close my eyes, the structures we have designed and constructed beneath our feet, beside us, and over us, crowding, crowding. A stand of beeches, maples, ashes, oaks, pines and firs beckons me. A stand of architecturally significant homes, or office compounds unnerves me.

Well, just walked back into the kitchen, and then out to the back porch briefly. Simultaneously, a white breasted nuthatch was honking from the dogwood, and a downy woodpecker was hammering at the pin oak in the yard behind ours, while a crowd of house sparrows hovered around and crowded each other away from the “song bird mix” seed feeder. Petey had placed himself on the kitchen floor inside the bounds of the bright, sunlit spot provided through the west window. He is not interested in watching birds.

And now back at my desk, Maria napping beside me, has been known, frequently, to leap from a deep, snoring sleep to pointer position in front of a window across the house outside of which one of the re-emerging chipmunks may be passing. What is within her awareness center that captures that whispering footfall 35 feet and several walls and doorways away? A mystery to unravel another time. For now:

“No one can measure the depth of God’s understanding.” Isaiah 40:28c

Truth

I just walked outside for a bit. Only around the backyard. Filling bird feeders. Peering at squirrel and rabbit prints crisscrossing under the dogwood, alongside the house, then up the fence (squirrel) and under the mulch pile behind the shed (rabbit). I chose, today, to not go out anywhere–no walk, and certainly, due to abundant snow on the ground and more or sleet predicted any minute now, no bicycling. I didn’t even feel like walking the .4 miles there and back to the mailbox, which is nicely situated along the perimeter of a greenspace that the city has pretty effectively maintained. It is about 1/4 acre diagonally bisected with a footpath that beginning in autumn is wonderfully carpeted in acorns from three large red oaks and one black oak. There is also a sugar maple, maybe two. There also were two lindens/american basswoods, but they were felled a year or two ago–I wrote a rant about that in a previous post. Three ornamental cherries have since been planted in their stead. I pray for their health and growth. They’ll be far less imposing in 20 years than the lindens were, but if successful, they will provide their own story and feed their own crowd of robins, mourning doves, cardinals, sparrows, mockingbirds, and blue jays, with finches flitting through. By then I’ll be able to do little more than sit on the park bench beneath them and watch, delightedly. If I’m honest, even that is a maybe–me in 20 years.

Lately I have found myself thinking about truth, and finding references to truth, and to truths, in just about everything I pick up to read, from newspapers, to mystery novel, to a collection of environmental observances and commentaries, to the Bible, to articles on the histories of several countries, including this one in which I was born and live, to poems of the day, to friends’ electronic communication sites.

I have been finding myself uncomfortable with the range of pronouncements/opinions/theories on what is truth. Is truth so malleable? Does one ever speak it? What is more stable a measure–fact or truth? What do I mean, a measure? What is measuring, by what means, and what is being measured? Is truth measurable? Against what standards? Say the word ‘truth’. What are your expectations when you hear it said? Is truth a concept or an object?

Then I listened to a conversation, presented on February 20th, 2021, on On Being, hosted by Krista Tippett. She was talking with Rabbi Ariel Burger, who was a student of, and continues to study Elie Wiesel. Rabbi Burger said this: “…truth is really the search for truth. It’s not primarily about facts and data. We needs facts & data, & that’s been an endangered specie, in many ways, for awhile too. But there’s a certain way of opening up to a larger perspective and saying, “I need to reflect, & I need to challenge my assumptions. I need to become aware of my assumptions.” And this is a big part of my own experience as a student. The best things I’ve ever learned were not content. They were some sort of contrast with someone else’s way of thinking that at first seemed really strange to me, that I allowed in that I allowed to question me. And I, through that process, became aware of my own assumptions and the lens through which I was looking.”

Perhaps consider, truth is the way we live in, it is not in us, it is never confined by us, thus not defined by us, we are within it, or not.

Nearly mid-February

I realize as I place fingers to keyboard that this, February 12th, 2021, is the 212th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln. I am a deep admirer of Abraham Lincoln, the man about whom I have read myriad biographies and histories and critical pieces. His life, and his time as President of this country, as depicted by so many writers–historians, biographers, civilization studiers, sociologists, psychologists, novelists, political pundits, students, honorers, dishonorers, reporters, probably gossip columnists, maybe congregation leaders–has uncountable versions. Which are accurate? Which are true? Is there a difference between accurate and true?

What comes through as I read the variety of accounts, is that he kept learning, and kept applying what he learned to his life and to his responsibilities. Sometimes the lessons he latched onto may have been ones to not have taken, and sometimes he reversed a stand he had held, and sometimes he dug in his heels, and maybe that was good, and other times, maybe it was not the right choice. Me too.

You too?

We have had an abundance of opportunities to make impactful decisions in the way we pursue even our thoughts, as well as our words and our acts, in our lives, and especially in our recent pasts and in our present. Decisions that affect ourselves, our neighbors (by that I mean all creation, down to the diatom, down to the nanobe, down to the nucleic acid) , our relations, and a future. May we pause, often, and listen, feel, see, smell, taste, cry, smile, consider the paying forward of our way of being and having our life, consider the wake that we follow and how it has or could or will or won’t direct the shape of our own way, consider the wake beside the one we follow, the wake that someone else or something else is following and how each impacts the other.

The number of times that I think I am absolutely right but am shown otherwise in toto or in part, or discover myself the flaw in Kate’s rightness, the number of times is embarrassing. The number of those times that I am ready to curl up and not acknowledge, I don’t want to count. The number of opportunities not to curl up and not to not acknowledge, thankfully, are at least as many.

There’s a parable told in the Bible by Jesus, in the book of Luke, about a widow who had a request of a judge, who would not listen to her. I’m not too happy with her request, she is seeking revenge. But to this part of the story–She persisted and finally he listened and acted on her request. Her persistence had worn him down. Lots of interpretations are presented for this parable. Today, at this moment I see from it that persistence. In the face of–in the face of odds placed before me by my gender, my faith, my age, my place of dwelling, my previous choices–individually and in accumulation, my attitudes, my inabilities, my self, my conformance, my nonconformance, my neighbors, my fears–I can persist in seeing where I am wrong, again, and then seeking advice, example, help, attention, patience, so that I might, this time, get it right.

That’s it for today. Thank you for reading all the way through.

I am adding this photograph because in my previous post, I mentioned Maria, but had no photo to show. Here she is.

“Th’ abuse of greatness is when it disjoins remorse from power.”

Brutus in Julius Caesar (2.1.19-20)

Well it is January, After All

And I was insistent, at least in my head, that I was going to take a walk, albeit a vigorous walk, today, despite the analog thermometer suspended at our back kitchen window showing 4 degrees farenheit, and the branches of the dogwood, the entire 30′ heighted arborvitae, and the dangling bird feeders all frequently flinging practically horizontal in the gusts. I mean, after all, the feeders were a place of feasts today–chickadees, titmice, juncos, cardinals, goldfinches, house sparrows, blue jays, a nuthatch, and a starling all consumed their shares between 7:15AM and 8:00AM. It was as busy as the supermarket the day before a forecast snowstorm! As busy as the drive up windows to any eatery I pass by! So if they are fine, should I not be as well?

And then I stepped outside onto the back porch. Oh my. I get it why down is said to be so effective a heat holder. I am in double socks, jeans and a thick wool turtlenecked sweater over long johns, a crocheted wool scarf wrapped twice around my neck, a second sweater, knee length over these layers, a wool winter coat that reaches down to mid-calf, waterproof, windproof, filled tuck-innable gloves, a wool felt cloche, a second scarf, mid-height insulated winter boots, and I am immediately shivering and rethinking any plans to roam the local roads a pied.

Down as soft as spring sun; as gentle as summer breeze; as enveloping as leaves piled and leapt into. So why did we bipeds make choices over the eons that resulted in our keeping barely a skim coat of that miracle enveloper? What a species we are, we shed all that protects us from the elements, and then use plants, other animals, and then chemical compositions, to reintroduce the protection the elements require of us. I wonder at us.

left to right: chickadee, four sparrows (two on sunflower feeder, two on tube feeder), goldfinch
left to right: sparrow, sparrow blue jay (sparrow on the tube feeder, blue jay on sunflower seed feeder), sparrow on the thistle feeder

I just took the above pictures, now approximately noon on Friday, January 29th, 2021. Would that I had thought to bring my phone/camera to breakfast to capture images of the avian community gathered earlier and named at the top of this post. I would say that noon must be house sparrow hour. But every hour is house sparrow hour. And I will not complain about their ubiquity, because I have learned that their populations are collapsing. So I root for them to return, and return, and return. Along with all their friends and neighbors. FYI: The temperature has risen to 10 degrees. The gusts have not lessened. And these down enveloped birds are undeterred.

However, the cats, domesticated over the centuries, to a less dense fur, appreciate the presence of our clanking, steam radiators as much as do I.

Petey napping
Stella graces me with a yawn.

I couldn’t find Maria. I checked all the radiators. Nope. I checked her hot spot and there she was, bedroom closet, nestled on a sweatshirt that she likes to pull off the shelf.

I have no profundities to add. I believe I shall bid you adieu. May you be well, still, and continue so.

We Enter Trembling

It seems, what, inappropriate to enter a room and talk of anything inconsequential during these days of such consequence. So much of the events of our current days are being deemed unprecedented. But, what of the act of living, the fact of being is precedented? Just as each hexagonal snowflake is different from each other hexagonal snowflake, each moment we live and breathe and think and talk and hope and be is like no other. It can’t be helped. And thank God. There are so many moments that should not be spent again.

Unlike snowflakes, though, our moments, our selves, are sentient, and we can learn and we can teach, and we can understand, and we can try to understand, and we can help to understand, and we can shape-change, of our own volition, not just because, like for snowflakes, of temperature or touchdown. Perhaps because of touch, because by being we are touching others — physically, emotionally, intellectually, sensibly and insensibly, sensitively and insensitively, wisely and unwisely, honestly and dishonestly…. Never think you don’t matter. You do. But also, never think you don’t have impact. You do. We are each responsible for our acts, and for our responses–their tone, their direction, their intensity, their intent. You can hurt me, but I am not yours. I can hurt you, but you are not mine. Ever.

Shift in gears.

Yesterday I took a long walk, passing along the shores of two rivers that bisect this city, and intersect with each other within this city’s limits. The Concord River flows north into the south and east flowing Merrimack River here. Along the Concord River, which is of a higher water level than it was a couple of months ago, but still low, I saw no birds, not even a stray mallard. Along the Merrimack River I saw a community of mallards! I also saw a glaucous gull (one of the definitions of glaucous is “of a light bluish-grey or bluish-white color”. I find it an unpleasant word to fit my tongue around, and wonder at its choice, its origins*), which, I was told by a birder who was photographing as I passed, is uncommon here. And I saw a community of common golden-eyed ducks-males sharply black and white, females sharply deep brown and white. Both with golden eyes, and quite attractive. They winter here, and summer further north.

Unlike mallards, the golden-eyed dive underwater as they fish for food. The mallards only “dabble” — they stick their faces in the water, and their butts glow above.

*Glaucous came to English—by way of Latin glaucus—from Greek glaukos, meaning “gleaming” or “gray,” and has been used to describe a range of pale colors from a yellow-green to a bluish-gray. The word is often found in horticultural writing describing the pale color of the leaves of various plants as well as the powdery bloom that can be found on some fruits and leaves. The stem glauc- appears in some other English words, the most familiar of which is glaucoma, referring to a disease of the eye that can result in gradual loss of vision. So here it is defined, but it still tastes unpleasant to me to say. This leads to another subject, which I venture to sometimes but will not pursue today, why languages range so widely in their component sounds and in their incidence of sibilance and of clicking or tapping when spoken. And why some languages pile on the consonants, and some roll out the vowels. Ponder if you wish.

A final brief entry. The other day I was walking in the neighborhood and was stopped by this waltzing pair. In my mind I alliterate and call them waltzing willows. But must acknowledge that accuracy requires me to let you know that they are maples. Nevertheless, they are dancing, don’t you think?

May you find promise where you look, and fulfillment where you are.

And So This is December 24th 2020

For many of us it is celebrated as Christmas Eve. For many of us it is not a celebratory eve. But here is what it is, a day, 24 hours, winter in the northern hemisphere, summer in the southern hemisphere the third shortest day in the northern and the third longest day in the southern. Imagine if the earth suddenly upended. You’d think that we’d all be suddenly standing on our heads. But! But no one is right now, and half the globe is upside down from the other half, no? Yet we are all standing feet to the ground heads to the air. Here is the mystery of gravity.

How many mysteries are there in life? This pleases me. I like the freedom to explore that not-knowing gives. And I like this about mysteries, they are greater than us. And I hold to that this season while I celebrate Christmas.

And every place on earth has its own sources of things to wonder about, many of them to celebrate. Every square inch does. And somebody has figured out one thing, say-why there are pines with three needles per bunch and pines with five needles per bunch and pines with shorter or longer needles; even, say-the molecular content of a grain of dirt, and somebody else who doesn’t get it about pines or dirt or even care, has figured out how to look at another person’s facial expression and know just the right way to respond, and someone else knows why a rosemary plant can be stored all winter either in the ground or a cool place (depending on what planting zone you live in–another wonder!) while a basil plant cannot overwinter. Why do some birds nest in treetops and some in brush?

And why am I curious about this nest and not the mechanics of an automobile engine?

Can someone tell me how Stella, who was napping upstairs, knew that the squirrel was caching nuts in the window box outside my window, and came down here to sit on my desk and see? (This was a few days ago, pre-current snowfall, all 12 inches of which, by the way is melting right now as I type. Why?)

I finish today’s post with this poem by James Joyce. Written in 1932, and is said to celebrate the birth of his grandson and to mourn the death of his father.

Ecce Puer
Of the dark past
A child is born;
With joy and grief
My heart is torn.

Calm in his cradle
The living lies.
May love and mercy
Unclose his eyes!

Young life is breathed
On the glass;
The world that was not
Comes to pass.

A child is sleeping:
An old man gone.
O, father forsaken,
Forgive your son!
James Joyce

Ecce Puer is translated as: behold a young boy

And I share a Christmas wrapping picture (and I notice that Stella got into this photograph too!):

It is December and it is snowing

two statements that belong together, this title. It seems it has been awhile since two elements that belong together are. Since any kind of alignment has existed. It is December and it is snowing. It is life and there is hope. It is love and there is life. All good.

At last.

May this continue.

It is a copper beech and it is thriving (photo taken May 2020)
And now, it is December and it is snowing (and I am clearing the snow off my car, for what reason, I don’t know because it is winter, and, happily, I am mostly walking.), and after completing this task, another two inches of snow covered all. It is December in New England after all and it is snowing.

It is air and it is breathable. May this be so as long as there is air may breath be taken. May our respiration be safe.

I find I don’t have many words today after all. But I wanted to put my hand in. Perhaps before December closes, before 2020 is a history, I will find more words and will share them. For now, one final balance:

It is coffee, and I am drinking it.( One of the stablest pairings I can offer.)

REMINDER!! Don’t forget, those who know, and mark it down, those who are just learning this–We are fast approaching the night of December 21st, when in the southwest sky here in the Northeast, two hours after sunset the planets of Jupiter and Saturn will be located so close to each other in the sky that they will seem like a bright star; first time in hundreds of years and last time until 60 years from now. You will be able to see it with your naked eye. Better with binoculars. Even better with a telescope. And December 21st is only the best night, December 18th through December 23rd are all nights on which you can look, and if the sky is clear, see.

I walk and sometimes I am buffeted and sometimes I can fly

My shoulders released a yoke I never knew was burdening them.

These days have been curious.

I have bicycled with gloves, a scarf and a wool jacket one day and a jean jacket thrown open two days later. I have bicycled in stillness and sun and have pedaled with all my might into headwinds, that, no matter which direction I turned from the route I was headed including about face, still seemed to be opposing me. The wind is a trickster. The wind is always ahead of me, and yet I am shoved at from behind, thrust at from the left and from the right, with no object about to accomplish this but the wind, invisible but for the particles it lifts and hefts.

kmmm,/****************************************************************************************************************8

Those are Petey’s comments. I thought I’d keep them in since he seemed quite adamant in his delivery.

In the beginning of this year during which we are spending most of the time physically isolated from the each other, I noticed a proliferation of neighbors walking their dogs. For several months I noticed this. And reports are that, indeed, lots of people went and adopted a pet. That is good! The incidence of neighbors walking their dogs seems to have lessened of late. Why? Too, my neighborhood is largely one of properties that have yards, ranging from postage stamp size to large enough to have a second house constructed on the property. And a substantial number of them have been constructing fences around their lots. So, doing some reasoning, I am thinking that many of us have become enervated by this enforced diminishment of public congeniality (only 10 people allowed at one time in a private house-what happens with my friend, Jack’s family of 14 children(?); no more than 25 persons at a time in a 1000 square foot restaurant; pick up your library books outside the back door during a specified hour call when you get there during your appointed hour and a librarian will bring it out, hang it on the door handle and go back in, then you may collect it, and bring the books home to read; no going to the cafe to have a coffee and baked good and leisurely read because you are allowed 45 minutes-tops! to linger), and dog-people have chosen to open the back door and let the dog run around in the fenced-in outback, rather than bother to rise from before the screen/monitor, clothe themselves in outside-appropriate garb and step out. This is purely my conjecture!! But no one is entering my house to refute me, and neither am I entering theirs to defend my hypothesis.

So the wind. Today I walked 7 miles into its face. It was projected. It is a day that my weather app says, temperature 50 degrees farenheit, feels like 43 degrees farenheit. Weather app. Who’d have thunk? Twenty years ago I laughed behind my hand at a friend’s husband who clicked the remote onto the Weather Channel several times in a day. In those days I would rise in the morning, after listening to the weather report on the radio, promptly forget what I just heard, and dress according to the season. I now do not go out without two or three times rechecking the weather app that comes with my “mobile device”. I tell myself it’s because I am going to be out there for a good length of time. When has that not been the case with me? I’ll tell you — never! So apps; cartoon clouds and raindrops, puffy clouds with or without an arc of sun and three rays poking out; instant temperature reports–you got me. And if I were to adopt a dog, well, the house we bought 14 or so years ago came with a fence around much of the backyard. I’m all set, thank you.

Here’s a poem by Vikram Seth.
With no companion to my mood,
Against the wind as it should be,
I walk, but in my solitude
Bow to the wind that buffets me

And here’s one by A.A. Milne
No one can tell me,
Nobody knows,
Where the wind comes from,
Where the wind goes.

It’s flying from somewhere
As fast as it can,
I couldn’t keep up with it,
Not if I ran.

But if I stopped holding
The string of my kite,
It would blow with the wind
For a day and a night.

And then when I found it,
Wherever it blew,
I should know that the wind
Had been going there too.

So then I could tell them
Where the wind goes…
But where the wind comes from
Nobody knows.

So as not to sit on the blues that I have saddled you with in this particular post, here is a picture from a week ago of predominant yellow. I love yellow.

Emergence

Last week, at the predicted predawn morning of greatest activity for the Orionid meteor showers, a handful of us entered a richly dirted, well treed, five acre place, that includes a spacious “lawn” in which to stand, twirl, and stargaze straight up to the sky with views unhindered, or, if you choose, through the web of nut tree branches — hickory, black walnut, red and white and black oak, as well as sweet gum and black gum — and over a waterway that right now is rife with grasses and muds way more than waterbody, thus not a place to reflect the lights of the heavens.

As it was, this night, this early, early morning, the greatest activity for Orionid meteor showers night/morning, was pasted over in cloud. There was and would be no sky lights to see, even the 7:06AM sunrise occurred unshone. But it did not matter. The peace of darkness lifting into light with no audible nor visual disruption even though on all edges of this land were homes, a supermarket, an urban arterial, and just down from the access road, a major hospital. Even though all these trammels abided adjacent, we were not of them, we were not among them, we were not theirs, if only for these two hours in late October in northeastern Massachusetts.

And at 6:40AM a single mallard called out from the pond, one loud Honk! Two seconds later, maybe three, two warblers began to burble just in front of me, then a robin, and a cardinal over to the left, and redwing blackbird, and then a song sparrow, and then a mockingbird, and a crowd of sparrows all at once talking, clanking their lunch pails, thrashing amid the shrub that surrounds the nut trees in whose presence I then stood. The stillness was history, and to be awaited for its return in, oh, say 17 hours from now. But who can mind such a songfilled replacement to silence? I stood, enchanted, a vine entangled in one lock of my hair, the ground firm, the light soft, the day rising in its own time and at its own pleasure, and to mine.

5:20AM
5:20 AM
5:40AM
5:45AM
6:00AM
6:30AM
6:45AM
7:00AM
7:01AM

I drove home, wishing I were on my bicycle; next time, I promised myself, fed the patiently waiting cats, saw that Mark had slept through my going out and my coming back (good thing, because he had been sleeping poorly for several days), brewed myself a cup of coffee and let rest of the day crowd in.

We were told that the Orionid meteor shower will occur at that predawn hour through November 7th with a little less intensity each day, but motion-filled nonetheless. Perhaps a clear night will occur in these 8 days up to that morning and I will go outside at 5:00 AM and stand on my street and look up with hope, or maybe I will go outside at 4:45 AM and make my way back to that once a upon a time farm, now wildland, and sit on the ground that in places is so dense, prehistorically dense that no tree can inch its roots through, so dense that it is a meadow in a wood, a wood that sways and soughs on the meadow edges, its back to disruption, its back a bulwark for this place.

_____________________________________

A friend of mine, who never fails to speak of something of interest told me this cosmological information:

Upcoming during December will be a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. This is an event that was known to occur  approximately every 400 years; however it paused or hid and has not occurred visibly since 1226. Yes, the year twelve hundred and twenty six, nearly eight hundred years ago.

The time schedule to watch this phenomenon progress and finally culminate is:

45 minutes after sunset look southwest, and

-on December 4, Jupiter and Saturn will be visibly “close” (2 degrees apart)

-on December 16-18 they are almost touching

-on December 21– they appear to the naked eye to be “one”

My friend tells me that with even a small telescope, (e.g. an 80 mm refractor) you are likely able to see and differentiate them to some degree. I haven’t got a telescope, so I will see what I can see with my trusty binoculars. 

Here is Jupiter on left, courtesy of a Hubble Space Telescope photograph, and Saturn on the right, courtesy of NASA.

__________________________________________

God ever knows what I never
know so, God, I know in you
is all before and after me and all
is near even when far

Venerability

There is so much, there are so many in this world who have merited and achieved venerability.

There are so many who have not, who will not.

I will, on this gratefully rainy day, write of delight in the impomposity (new word?) of older trees, in particular tulip poplars. The one of which I have written before in my town, one that I have been photographing for a number of years now as it has declined in health and robustness, but never in stature, is no more. I bicycled past its spot a few weeks ago and behold! there was nothing but mulch, dust, a few shards of bark, and one flower. All else had been cut, sawn, ripped, and carted away. Here is a late in life photograph of this tree dying from time’s passage, land’s diminishment, man’s malignment, air’s loss of breath.

My old beloved tulip poplar in July 2020. (To say that 2020 is not a good year is to understate)

But about two weeks ago, my sister and I visited an area that is well populated with stands of elderly, stately, venerable trees including scarlet, black, pin, and white oaks, mockernut hickories, shellbark hickories, sweet gums, beeches, some sassafrass, one or two magnolias, two spindly but growing american elms, a few sugar maples and a sycamore or two, and a whole community of tulip poplars, including one estimated to be about 400 years old.

400 year old Tulip Poplar
The bark of an aged Tulip Poplar
In situ
Tulip poplar leaves, trunk, and behind them one of two highways flush against their woods

The home for all these wonderful breathers and givers of life is flush against two major highways and a puzzle of urban streets on which houses are being replaced with HOUSES.

The home for all these wonderful trees is a respite for any one of us who happens by and wittingly or not deep breathes air that has life, even as in our personal and corporate industry we wrest it of its every molecule.

But speaking of homes, a different “tall” tale:

A neighbor of my sister’s gave me a huge baggie of sunflower seeds from I think just one sunflower that grew in front of her house in NYC. Some I will roast and shell and enjoy. Some I have stored in an envelope, named and dated, and stored in a dark space for planting in the deep brown earth outside my shed, a spot that basks in sunlight practically from sunrise to sunset. And it is a space

that is eminently visible to my busy bees, they need make only a slight left in their departure flights to afar, or, even more efficiently, send a contingent from the designated local foragers (those that do not zoom up and over the driveway, but rather spin around in constant infinity loops in the back yard within feet of the hive) Why have I never thought to plant these flowers there before? Oh, I know. There are a passel of raspberry canes there, which I am and have been removing for the past couple of years, as they do not succeed in providing berries, only in procreating their canes and overpowering all in their vicinity. So after 11 years of no luck, I chose to quit, but it is a years and years long effort, as their procreation of canes is prolific and their roots run long and strong under every possible surface. So I will replace removed, perennial raspberry plants with annual sunflowers to accompany the annual wildflowers I already began sowing among the removed and to-be-removed canes two years ago. Assuming success, the bees, the finches, the starlings, the chickadees, the titmice, the cardinals, the white breasted nuthatches, even the sparrows, bluejays and grackles will be happy to feast on those towers of yellow. See me next August, perhaps I, too, will harvest some of those seeds and can share.

I will finish with this from A. A. Milne’s When We Were Very Young

Halfway down the stairs
Is a stair
Where I sit.
There isn’t any
Other stair
Quite like
It.
I’m not at the bottom,
I’m not at the top;
So this is the stair
Where
I always
Stop.