May I?

May I tell you how beautiful is the silence of this night? How grateful I am to be in a place of peace? Oh, so many are not, for causes huge and causes incomprehensible.

I would like to take you on a delightful small journey I get to make numerous times each year for the past, I think, five years, now. For six weeks, spanning parts of May and June I go, usually by bicycle, usually in the morning, although sometimes late in the afternoon, to count how many herrings course a fish ladder in the Concord River. I do this for 10 minutes of an hour. Sometimes I do one stint in a day, sometimes, like Saturday past, I do three consecutive stints, 10 minutes per hour. Today it was two consecutive watches. It is peaceful. It is noisy with water rushing and falling, redwing blackbirds calling and grackles grackling and song sparrows and warblers of all colors and voices and robins and cardinals and finches all singing and talking and whispering, phoebes shouting, and breezes shushing through the tops of cottonwoods, aspens, silver maples, ashes, white oaks, lindens, tulip poplars rippling their new and vibrantly green late spring leaves. And it is pure pleasure.

To reach this spot I bicycle a route that climbs and descends four hills. I am proud to say I do not huff and I do not puff, just pedal steadily up one asphalt ascent and whistle down its other side, and another, and another and a fourth, mindful of grit and glass (causing, respectively, slips and slits). And cresting that fourth hill, surrounded by concrete and asphalt passageways, and brick, concrete, steel, and sawn and planed lumber structures, I imagine this hilltop down from which I will fly to the riverbank, as it once was, river water alternately resting and rushing by the foot of this hill, that holds, as I imagine it, hundreds of centuries-old trees–red and black and white oaks, red, sugar, striped and silver maples, white and green ashes, towering tulip poplars, towering aspens, towering cottonwoods, taut and touchable beeches, locusts, elms, quivering willows, and swaying birches, pines and firs and spruces nudging in where windsweep has conquered aged hardwoods. Underbrush of past years’ leaves and berry bushes and shrubs tangling with tree roots and the myriad small mammals who scurry through, and wrangling with larger mammals who skirt them or lumber among them, who rest beneath their arbors in the heat of day in the depth of night. Rich earth formed with the help of thousands maybe millions of insects and tiny creatures whose life work is to compost the largess of the land. And through and under all this the mycellum (sp?) the fungi who support and are supported by these wonders.

I imagine and I wish.

Life is precious. Life is short. Life can be so beautiful.

life ebbing, giving life
ahh
a newly venturing baby rabbit
Close to the rocks can you see the newly venturing young snapping turtle?
This insect sat beside me at the side of the fish ladder. I don’t know what it is. I will try to discover.

And then I return home, each time, to my pals, Maria and Stella. Even in loss there is light.

Maria
Stella

This is my promise in affliction, your promise that gives me life.
Psalm 119:50

We Have Achieved April

This is the month of awakening. And of watching what is tired, rest.

I raked out the oak leaves from the vegetable garden beds, and from the beds wherein slept the hyacinths, tulips, jonquils, which are now standing tall (jonquils), stretching tall and beginning to be the flower they are, every year meant to be (tulips), standing, some, and leaning on each other as they become too heavy for their legs (hyacinths), and wherein just rolling over and thinking of rising, sending out arms to check the air, irises awaken. And from the grasses that comprise my back and front yards, a couple of rogue crocuses have emerged and past their time, and dandelions pop up willy nilly, and violets are beginning their spawn, across free spaces, and all manner of wildflower is pushing upward at their various paces to show face tomorrow, next week, next month, three months from now. The dirt under the grasses is so busy.

Tulips in various stages of emergence.

The hostas under the dogwood tree are standing tall already. I am never sure when they will begin to take precedence over the dirt under that dogwood. Some years it seems like they sleep late, this year I think they were up before dawn. I would say the same about the jonquils, except my phone gave me one of those unbidden memories from previous years “on this date” and last year, 2021, they were up in great number by April 12th, and this year only began to pop out of their green top-of-stem cocoons six days ago, April 16th.

Sometimes technology, which flourishes on so many “precious” metals and perilous labor to come to being, offers the unexpected that can send one’s mind wondering. There is, I guess, nothing on this earth that is purely anything. Every item alive has a dark side.

Even glorious, many-hued, lovely to touch skunk cabbage. Oh how smelly.

This picture I am sneaking in, but it is two weeks old, from April 9th

And the trees. Ah the trees. The weeping birches are greening.

The weeping birch out front yesterday, April 20th.

What will spring out today? Tomorrow? The dirt is so busy!

I wanted to go somewhere else with this post. But I could not.

I will stay here, remembering a poem I have quoted in a previous blog, e.e. cummings: the first lines:

in Just-

spring          when the world is mud

luscious 

I wish you delight.

March

So many meanings to and from this word. March. And so many are contextually driven. I will not list. I will let you follow the associative wonderings of your mind. I believe I may have subjected you to this mind game in a previous March (march), and will not continue.

But there are days, and they are readily identifiable, and they are more frequent, are they not, when we shrug? Where I wonder and why? is my guiding principle as I compose these posts. These days often I wonder, why do I wonder? I will leave you to ponder wonder and to wonder if pondering wondering is worth.. or, on a more hopeful note, why do I wonder, why do I wonder where and why do I wonder why? There is something somewhere the exploration of which does not bring regret. I trust this.

The tulip poplar that I love in its March garb. We are, are we not, raw in March, march?

Although beauty that preceded human bodily existence remains despite human bodily imposition through the access of human mind on this beauty; this beauty that enables us to breathe, to swallow, to grow, to wander, to, well, inspires us to sing, to dance, to float, to dream, to wonder. And I have faith that this beauty can outlast our imprint, it will not be, as it has not been without pain and great diminishment.

Why do we not see that when we reach beyond the delightful stretch of ourself, when we stretch to exceed ourself, as if we had created ourself and are responsible to our self alone, and are the only authority over our self alone, and ourself is free by dint of being to be wherever we choose, whenever, mindless of the diminishment by some acts by, by many thoughts held by, our self to any and all that is not our self, that we are the damage we intend to protect our self against.

The very word, against, makes me tremble. I feel remorse.

It assumes and thus, empowers, enmity. Can there be something better? Can there be something appearing once again, that is better?

___________________

Here is a poem I would like to share

Thunder

It is the animals beginning to return
over the soft belly of the earth.

They have walked a long time
under the same sky with no country,

the dark stream of their bodies rising
into the wind. And they remember

exactly the way, their long shadows
stretching now into the fields,

into the rivers while we watch all day
from our windows, what we thought

was weather or the world in her fever
shaking up on the cleared hill,

a certain thunder gathering underfoot.
Do you not hear it yet?

Look at that man listening.
Something in him is waking up.

This poem is from A Quarter of an Hour which is a book of poems by Leanne O’Sullivan published in 2018

One Would Say I am Weather Written

Or, at least, I would say it. You may have noticed this as well, when the weather interferes with stepping outside for a walk or bicycle ride, I seem to either read a book, write a blog post, or clean house. As it doesn’t happen all that often, you might conclude that my house is in dire need of cleaning, and that my pile of books to read is never shrinking. However, I have made a specious connection at the outset of this paragraph, because inclement weather is not the only cause nor inspiration for me to read, nor (but less frequently than reading!) for me to clean my house, though it is for me to write a blog post.

So, yes, my house is moderately clean–it is a challenge to accomplish that when (1) you don’t get excited by the act of cleaning the house, although you enjoy the results, and (2) it is a very old house, 106 or 109 years old and like any entity as it ages, sheds a lot just standing in place. And, yes, I read a lot. It is a favorite of mine along with walking, bicycling, thinking, and being with friends–all of which, I must admit, take precedence over vacuuming and dusting.

This morning as snow falls I watched a hairy woodpecker as he consumed thistle seed, then suet, then thistle seed, then suet, and then sit absolutely still and shoulder hunched against the thistle seed feeder and under the shelter of the suet feeder house avoiding the fast falling snow. His stillness lasted three minutes, absolutely. Then, as if an alarm sounded, he began nibbling at the thistle, then the suet, thistle, suet…. again. After awhile a house sparrow came along and gripped to the thistle feeder beside the woodpecker. Woodpecker was having none of that!! He pressed against that sparrow, shoving him aside, and then pecking at him, until they both tumbled to the ground, squawking. I waited for an eternity–5 seconds–and then up returned the woodpecker to the feeder and into the azalea bushes escaped the sparrow. I will go out later to see if any feathers were dropped into the snow below the feeders (although I am not likely to find any as the snowfall is immediately and thoroughly covering all). I had never seen that activity before. Usually it is sparrow vs. sparrow. They are scrappy! But this woodpecker had more than food to protect this time, he was in shelter against the storm. That mattered more.

This is the guy of whom I write, but, you can be sure, on a different day than today! However, you can see the proximity of thistle feeder to suet feeder-house, thus the easy shelter for him. And I say him, because the red spot on his head says male. Ahh, those men, they need to gussy up to attract us women.

Now here is an ongoing challenge — just what is my neighbor building in his backyard? It is not a “shed” as the door is not large enough to enable entry of a lawn mower, never mind a snow blower, etc. And so I wonder, a dwelling? A hideaway? A workout room? Whatever, I am unhappy with its encroachment, but that is the plight of a semi-urban homestead. I pray daily that he does not tire of the magnificent oak that stands in the back corner and supports so many of the birds that grace us daily with their visual and audible presence, and that provides me with the leaves that cover my gardens all winter and enable the dogwood, birch, maple, cherry, and plum leaves to heat and become dirt over the winter, enriching my soil daily.

Hopefully, come spring warmth, the neighbor’s construction savvy friends will return and the building will receive a cover over that paper. And then they will neither build nor deconstruct anymore. Grouse, grouse, grouse.

But today. The snow! Yesterday, pre-snow day, I walked through one of my favorite “wild” corridors and came upon a dozen or 18 red wing blackbirds, and a dozen grackles. They peppered the tops of a stand of trees — oaks, maples, aspens, and a couple of beeches — and they just talked, and talked, and talked. They could care less that I stood there binoculars to eyes watching, watching, watching and listening, listening to their crowd conversation uncomprehendingly but with such joy. Closer, at foot and knee level among the ample brush were countless juncos flitting and flicking their grey with startling white stripes tails, and sparrows ranging the grasses and reeds pulling seeds and weeds, chuckling between tugs.

I also crossed paths with a fallen tree, supported for I don’t know how long by a second tree, and surrounded by young and middle-age trees. The heartwood of the fallen tree is beautiful!! See here.

In front is an aging black cherry, and beside it a younger but ailing other black cherry. Supporting the fallen tree is? By the lenticels I think it may be a young black cherry. The supported, fallen tree with the beautiful heartwood is a poplar. In its demise it is house, food, shelter for how many living, breathing other types of creation, and is supported as it saves.

Would that the world could enjoy such peace, always, everywhere.

Remember

Today is February 5th, 2022. Do you remember February 5th, 2021? Do you remember February 5th, 2020? If you do, what do you remember? Why do you remember what you remember? Do you remember February 5th, 2010? Is there any February 5th in any year that you particularly remember?

How do you remember? Do you sit and conjure up a time and then begin picturing it, and hearing from it, and establishing its date? Are you walking down the street and a sound, or you open a door and a scent brings to mind another place, another time and reverie begins? (or desire to block that which was brought to mind?) Do you read your diary and review the source of an entry, see/hear/feel/smell the aspects of that entry all over again? Do you smile? Do you cringe? Do you find you don’t remember at all why you wrote that entry? But do you like it, anyway?

I have a friend, a very good, life-long friend who, I believe, remembers every detail of her life, and every detail of my life whenever we are together or, even something I may have told her once, or something about my life or me that I didn’t share and that didn’t occur when we were with each other, but she learned by a random means. She is just as thorough in her detail about any and every friend she has, no matter how intimate or longstanding; no matter if the friendship is comfortable or not. It is intriguing. She also until fairly recently could report on events of the day anywhere in the world that media touched and shared.

She still remembers, and raises episodes and observations from our lives over the years, and events from other of her friends’ lives as pertinent to our conversation of the moment. And she is present to recently occurred events, and to current events she hears about–but the numbers of events, and the timeliness of her information (which, the timeliness, if spoken of in recall is not so much of import) is greatly reduced. She has placed herself in the background of life, lived and mediated. We talk regularly, and enjoyably. I love her, this friend of mine, and wonder what corners I have turned over the past decades I would not have had we not been friends, sharing lives, thoughts, friends (some), a history worthy of a very thick diary or maybe six.

In fact, how much did we each contribute to the fashioning of who each of us is, and who we are as friends? And it’s not only remembering who, what, why, when, where about one another (good thing! since my remembering is gap-filled), it’s how our presence and our essence informs, actually, seeps into each other purely by sharing space, air, ideas, moods, surprises, dislikes, disagreements, and time.

And so, am I writing here about what one remembers, how much one remembers–and recalls–or about the gift of good friends?

Here is a kind of answer: This morning I woke up thinking about remembering and that led to thoughts about my friend. Then, by happenstance, I was reading an article an hour or so ago Jennifer Croft, who translated a novel by Olga Tokarczuk. Jennifer Croft was talking about the art/act of translating. She spoke of words viz self: “A self is narrative because it must see itself in terms of a life story. It finds those terms in conceptual apparatuses such as language and time. It conceives of the former by way of the latter and expresses the latter by way of the former. Each self’s story contains causes and effects arising from a beginning and leading to an end.”

“A self is intersubjective ….. because it cannot achieve its telos (ultimate end, i.e., purpose) without the collaboration of other selves, …”1

I am also reading a novel by an author who earned his PhD. in Identity and Ethics. The other day, when I first read that about him, I asked myself, ‘what is that? identity and ethics? how does one develop that specific study?’ Well, what do you think? Have we just figured out the answer?

Remember–for yourself and with others. Start with love, and base everyone every thought from there.

A photograph I took on February 5th, 2020.

1Literary Hub, February 1, 2022.

I Mean, Really, What Else To Do When It Is Blizzarding Outside?

For awhile earlier this morning I watched the juncos and a male cardinal raiding the feeders, although, the juncos spent more time sitting on the roof of the suet feeder than bothering to tug seeds out of the mixed seed feeder or the sunflower seed feeder; they didn’t even look at the thistle seed feeder. The cardinal steadily tugged at the sunflower seed feeder, sitting comfortably (?) on the horizontal rim that surrounds the feeder under cover of the clear plastic “umbrella” suspended over this feeder. Why do I not have protective covers over the thistle feeder and the mixed seed feeder as well? I don’t know. Perhaps soon I will.

We also have, I am sure I have mentioned, a resident cooper’s hawk. I will not detail his successes, only tell you, that he is persistent.

He sits patiently in the azalea bush, a favorite haunt of the sparrows, cardinals, juncos (when he is not there!)

The other day I had occasion to wander the banks of the Muddy River again. It was late in the afternoon. I caught sight of 7, yes SEVEN, great blue herons napping in the half frozen waters and among the reeds. I reported it on my e-bird daily sighting, and the algorithms that run that program immediately bounced back–“huh? (my rephrase of their automatic doubting response) Can’t be!” So I proved it!!

The actual photograph of the seven herons and some mallards and at the bottom of the picture some of the diverse footprints I also spied
The same photograph cropped to bring into clearer view the herons
And here’s a cropped photograph to show the range of bird prints –shape and size

Further along the river ten canada geese, four hooded mergansers, and four mallards were sharing one length of the water–the geese were drifting forward in a meticulous parade, the mergansers were diving and emerging diving and emerging around the geese and the mallards, the mallards were paddling in place–absolutely none of them was disturbed by the presence of the other in their space. Imagine.

And robins!! There were a couple dozen robins very busily nosing under the abundant leaf cover (mostly oak, which have such staying power that when I “mulch” my flower beds and shrub beds and vegetable garden in the fall, I first layer in birch and plum tree leaves, then dogwood leaves, and finally the oak leaves–the first three leaf types breakdown over the winter and become more of the dirt, while the oak leaves stay and are a cover all winter, which I rake up in very early spring so that the tiny buds can emerge and delight), nosing and chattering all along the sloped banks that rise on either side of the river. It was a sweet evening sound accompanying the setting sun.

So here we go. As I have typed this, this morning the snow has added probably another two inches to its depth; the weeping birch branches are swinging side to side under the winds and gusts; the sunflower bird feeder has become nearly inaccessible without pushing one’s beak through snowdrifts (despite the protective “umbrella!”); and I am second-guessing my original plan to go out and shovel periodically to make the final shoveling effort less. It is 16 degrees farenheit, the wind is wilding, the snow is so fluffy, why not wait? I think I’ll brew myself another coffee.

What, I wonder, would the best me of each of us be? Why is that so hard to achieve? Why do I find thoughts, actions, responses to regret each and every day? Then again, may I never not regret missteps.

Peace. I pray. Peace to you to all.

You May Wonder Why I am so focused on Raptors

Well, they are about in great number this winter, both in 2021 and 2022. I could, today, project from there, but instead, I will talk about my day, two weeks ago, when I was walking along the Muddy River in Boston and while pausing to escape a light rain that had started by standing underneath a beautiful, arched, stone pedestrian bridge I looked in the near distance and saw:

A Great Blue Heron watching over the Muddy River
A second, low-sitter referenced below. See if you can find it. (p.s., I wish I knew what the red flower? or leaf is in the foreground)

And this was not all! There were two others within eye contact of each, one standing on a long downed tree nearly invisible among reeds, and the third across and slightly upriver of the low-sitting one, who was perched in a tree and, while I watched, swooped towards the low sitting one and ousted it from the roost, then took over the spot. The routed out one simply flew up to the tree the third one had deserted.

Once I started walking again (the rain was not letting up, but I tired of stopping, so moved on) I saw dozing on thin ice or crystalized tufts of river grasses, or grazing within the flowing waters they paddled mallards–male and female, canada geese, and hooded mergansers–male and female. Overhead landing on and departing the multiple berry trees were abundant cardinals, blue jays, starlings, robins, nuthatches, hairy woodpeckers, and titmice (and probably chickadees, but they can really be quicker than the eye). Among the shrubs and skimming the ground were dozens of juncos. Pigeons wheeled territorially overhead.

I was entranced but my stomach was growling so I left the walk for a bit, bought a pumpernickel bagel with chive cream cheese, and returned to the walkway, but did not walk, rather sat on a bench and enjoyed my bagel (and, of course, a coffee). During this time I was given introduction to a flock of house sparrows, and a passing grey squirrel or three :-). Lunch in the urban wilds.

Today, early in this year 2022, I will finish this early afternoon delight with a picture of a tiny birthday gift from Mark.

My resident titmouse, whose tuft is disguised under a red-knit cap. (p.s., scratches on the desk top are cat created; Maria likes to view inaccessible prey from the window before the desk and me)

May our new year contain peace, love, and kindness.

Good Winter Afternoon

In this still, chill morning I chose to walk a few miles through the streets of this city. The stillness made it most easy, and brings to mind the sensory truth of the weather forecasters’ talk of windchill factors. My oh my what a difference is made when no winds oppose you, no winds toss icicly cold air particles at you, and still it is a timely winter day. I could walk forever in it. But I stopped at six miles.

Along a short portion of my route I encountered three large hawks, a confluence I have not ever seen before, except for seeing about 12-15 turkey vultures convening in the sand dunes of Provincetown one time that I was there, and six turkey vultures on a roof in Westport, and several bald eagles convening across the Wachusett Reservoir from where a bicycling friend and I stood on some country road. But here I was in the city, on a major thoroughfare and watched a red tail hawk swoop into the top branches of a maple tree above a local pocket park and a second hawk, could have been another red tail, I couldn’t catch his tail shape and color too well, fly just above the newly perched one and dipped briefly then continued on to the northwest, then two blocks on, a northern harrier whooshed behind me and rose up from almost eyelevel with me on into an oak tree above a corner location where met four homes, and sat back to the clucking blue jays and starlings and unflustered by the mockingbird that tailed him face to butt until he turned left to the corner tree and the mockingbird propelled in its forward thrust.

Red Tail in maple in park
Northern Harrier? Or have I fooled myself, and it is the same Red Tail Hawk from two blocks ago, following me? Look at the small inset above this photo, for a grainy blow up of the bird on the branch.

You know, the more I watch, the more I see what I don’t know. My days are full of guesses. It’s kind of fun.

And to catch you up on the beaver dam/lodge progress. Here are a couple of pictures taken two or three days ago, which when compared with my previous post’s photographs, show that their work continues….

This one is from reverse direction of the one just above
And some water’s edge work

I dream of peace and of harmony. I dream of health for all, every single participant–primordial to final.

I dream. May you find reason to as well.

Standing in a Slightly Better Place, or am I?

Not necessarily a great one, I am sorry to say. But outside and investigative, and receptive to the good that is.

Recently I took a walk that included wandering the not yet complete, but fully designated, demarcated, and delineated extension of the local rail trail. At one point along it, it is adjacent to a local brook. The path and brook also, at this juncture, are running alongside a parking lot to a small industrial complex on one side, and a parking and holding lot within a car dealership on the other side. Masking these two businesses from the brook are slender stands of trees–beeches, birches, oaks, and maples, an ash or two, and a willow. At one point, shortly off the cross street by which I entered the trail, I chose to clamber down from the trail to the water’s edge. Imagine my surprise when I saw :

These are the work of very busy, but while I was there, very absent beavers. Should I be delighted? They are doing what they do year in year out, preparing for the winter, building a home that will be warm(ish), dry(ish), and safe(ish). I am delighted. Should I be concerned? (1) They are taking down several of the not-very-many trees that stand between asphalt and water, and since the area is so built up the protections are limited and precious. (But in time some of the trees adjacent will grow and the natural cycle continue.) (2)A darker thought is that some public employee or private one may choose to or be ordered to prevent this lodge and dam complex from being built. The possibility is real: https: //www.mass.gov/service-details/prevent-conflicts-with-beavers

Why do we each take up/use up so much space relative to our individual physical size?

I am thankful for the sun that is goldening the birch leaves in front of me right now. May it, may it.

And, oh, may December bring light.

Thank you for reading.

We Try and We Don’t

This morning, late morning, atypical for my lifelong image and sensory memory of November. It is beautiful. It is 53 degrees fahrenheit and it is November.

What will we on earth lean towards? As it warms up steadily. Will we reduce our consumption, slow down the frenzy that is our world’s economies (either actual or dreamed of/sought depending in which place you are on this globe), and slowly, reasonably reduce the emission of carbon and the destruction of natural resources, until one day a future grateful generation will see what generations well before our own saw–a planet that can breathe, that has and can sustain remarkable biodiversity, trees aging gracefully some hundred feet tall some curled in an embrace of hundreds of years of miniscule life forms living within/because of them and delivering sustenance to them, flora–trefoils and queen’s lace and bluebells, remarkably brilliant hues reflecting and floating in free flowing waters and deep blues in the tall ices, sea dwellers finning their routes north to south and back, avians coursing and calling and touching down at will and lifting off in song, human species willing to trust and assist each other?

Or will we try to shoot bullets into clouds to make it rain more in the desert and hoist massive mileswide tarpaulins over rain sinks, tarpaulins somehow treated to bounce the rains back up before the can fall and satellite fans littering the atmosphere to blow them east or west or south toward the bullet laden clouds to “enhance” the cloud shooting activities?

I.e., will we continue to consume massively and meanwhile try to invent our way out of the outcome of our greed? Or will we charge the victims (of all zoological and biological stripe), ultimately pricing everything and everyone to extinction, and then, finally enable the earth to heal in our (at last, it breathes, phew) absence?

I have no photographs for this.

I have no hope.