More of March, Everyday New, Odd, Present

Today, in the midst, was, nevertheless, utterly beautiful. Sun light clear, a winter clear bouncing off white snow here in Massachusetts, white snow that is melting rather quickly in the sun/40+ degree temperatures, but not disappearing under the tread of multiple feet, multiple vehicles, because they are few, few. I walked from my house to downtown to return two books to the library (into the outside box, of course, untouched for awhile by human hands–gloved or ungloved), and to a coffee shop that I like to sit in, but of course cannot right now, but I could and did buy a dark roast and a freshly baked oatmeal chocolate chip cookie. I walked in the middle of usually busy streets just because I could. I also walked along a couple of the multiple canals that define the city of Lowell, Massachusetts. Spring has begun here.

Red maple budding over the cloud reflecting Hamilton Canal in downtown Lowell.

And like March’s coincident budding trees and melting snow, the waters, too, continue their patterns (and thank God they do!), flowing a steady wash over dams and obstructions. Two days ago I saw a pair of very effective beaver dams making small rapids along the local rail trail, today it was the Western Canal and Upper Pawtucket Street Canal pouring into the Hamilton Canal. I love that you can hear water flow even before you see it, including that of a lazy river, even that — the sound in that case, I find, is an absence of sound, as if the air above the water body holds its breath until it reaches the next shore.

Water rushes whenever it has need. Here at the Pawtucket Locks House. It is good to see it to hear it run. Sometimes it is too good, it floods. But today it is something to enjoy.
And the basin resulting from this three canal confluence, reflecting a brilliant sun and sky as well as a corner of a newly constructed courthouse complex that I must say I find a very attractive building. Maybe I’ll show the building at another time.

And now I am home typing this out at my desk, and might note that the shrub out front that had so far been cased out by cardinals and robins (and glanced at sidelong by hopeful bluejays), has also been checked out by a pair of house finches, while the cardinals and robins still flit in and around and out. Such an important decision, the infants’ nest. Oh boy! Who will choose it? Will any? I watch daily, holding my breath.

Once again, I offer no profundity, and am soon to close and send this out. But may I just share along with my hopes that this posting finds you healthy, learning new and wonderful ways to be inside your homes, and happy to know that in fact we are alive and the earth, created, I believe, by God as, I believe, was all else, runs without us, and can only delight if we only care; may I just share two more photos.

A Gingko tree, a tree recorded from prehistoric times, beginning it budding, yet again, yet again.
A budding branch of my beloved Tulip Poplar, persisting yet another year.

Thank you for reading this reportage of a day in my life. May you find reason to celebrate in yours. May you have cause to celebrate.

One more thing, here is a poem:
Counting-out Rhyme by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Silver bark of beech, and sallow
Bark of yellow birch and yellow
Twig of willow.

Stripe of green in moosewood maple,
Colour seen in leaf of apple
Bark of popple*.

Wood of popple pale as moonbeam,
Wood of oak for yoke and barn-beam,
Wood of hornbeam.

Silver bark of beech, and hollow
Stem of elder, tall and yellow
Twig of willow.


*she uses popple here in an archaic sense, as poplar
Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poetry, in my mind, runs the gamut from elegant and heart stopping to a bit overwrought. But I think she actually felt language and enables me to as well.

Marching to a New Drummer and It’s Hard to Keep in Step

We’re in odd times. Not unprecedented. Nor good.

It is a beautiful day outside today, March 15th, 2020. For some reason, I have not found a reason to wander in it. Yesterday I did. Yesterday I walked 8 miles. Today, I sit; I read; I drink coffee; I notice that I had better trim the front shrubs soon, very soon, because as I sat here at my desk looking out, I observed a cardinal pair exploring the evergreen shrub in which they had nested last year. In case they choose it again, I want to have finished trimming and its neighbor before they begin to build and so not scare them away from the home they were making. Today would be a good day to do it. It is currently 2:37 PM. There is time.

And I did, it is 4:47 and I trimmed one of two shrubs I thought I would accomplish today. I use hand loppers. I don’t like the electric thing that screams as it slices. As a result, there is not defined shape on our shrubs. It waves in the manner of my lopping focus and strength. I dare not share a picture of the shrub. It is not shapeless, but neither shapely. I’m ashamed to admit, I also have a blister on the base of my left index finger. Oh the places we can antagonize on our bodies. Just hope the cardinals will wait another day or two.

And now it is Friday March 20th, and the warnings to stay physically apart from others grow more urgent each day, and so since Tuesday I am obeying. I bicycled on Wednesday, but trying for remoteness not on the rail trail, which would have been beautiful. And, true to these times, while most of this week the temperatures were in the 40s, today it is supposed to reach 70, and tomorrow 40s again. I want to note the temperature progression so far today — I woke and it was 70, that was at 7:00. Half an hour later it was down to 38. But by 10:30 it was 43. And now, at noon it is 49. The patterns are intriguing to watch if only they weren’t so portentous.

What are you doing? What were you doing five minutes ago? Where? What will you do for the rest of this day? Tomorrow?

I feel at a remove. I am safe, and well, and not likely to be personally reached by the virus as long as I take care. But how many people who I or you know, and how many who we don’t know, but who exist nonetheless, are standing at the fore are breathing infested air just by being where they unavoidably are, or just by being where they choose to be in order to help. May we never forget to care, may we never deny the imbalance of life from community to community on this earth. May this bring out the best in us.

This is all I have to say today. It does not engender any relevant pictures, so I am attaching two disparate recent sunny day photographs. A duck I spied on the Merrimack River, and the shadows of my sister and me as we walked up the Kosciusko Bridge just last week.

I believe this is a female snow goose
A most uncomplimentary look, but it was cold, and we had on many layers to walk this high open bridge

By the way, now robins are inspecting the shrub directly in front of my window. They have nested there as well as have cardinals. We will see which choose the site, if either. A bluejay streaks by occasionally, which is a concern for any nesting birds of smaller or equal physical aspect to them. I will follow this saga, and report in the future. Final note, as I was typing the previous sentence, the cardinals stopped by again. Perhaps there will be two nests in the one shrub? One can only hope.

The Extra Last Day of February

Having not written in awhile, I was coming home from breakfast with my friend, Eunice, and remembered it is February still, even though we have passed by February 28th. It is that once every four years anomaly (except if the year is not divisible by 4, like 1700), February 29th. Once upon a time I had a boyfriend whose birthday was February 29th. Would he age more slowly than I, I wondered at the time, lo those many decades ago, when I was 18 and he 19? I guess I can keep wondering, because last I saw him I was 23 and he 24 (or 8?) On February 29th, 1912 La Piedra Movediza (“moving or shifting stone”), a balancing rock high above Tandil, Buenos Aires Province, Argentina fell from where it had perched. It had weighed about 300 tons, and not only did it balance on the face of a high hill, but also, it rocked from morning to evening slowly enough to be imperceptible to the eye, but if one placed a breakable object, say a bottle, under the bottom of the rock, it would be found smashed later in the day. Oh, the facts we can yank from the ether these days of e- everything.

That is me in dark blue jacket in front
watching winter solstice sunrise.
Carolina Wren

Earlier this week, I was pedaling my orange Fuji Absolute hybrid bicycle. It was gorgeous out, warm, windless, sunny. But it was February! I am disturbed by these many warm days that have stippled the 2020 calendar already. So when the cold winds blew in Tuesday or Wednesday, I smiled as I shivered and re-donned my center-of-winter heavy wool jacket (see said me and said jacket in photo left). There is so much troubling going on, I need seasonableness. But this is my relationship to seasons, thus, my sense of seasonableness. In two decades, as the shift we have been experiencing for many decades already, but generally noticing for four decades, as it becomes entrenched in its trending toward extremes of all weather systems, all storm types, a person aware of weather may believe that a plethora Carolina Wrens in December in northern Massachusetts are as it should be, and the absence of Juncos is not an absence because they have not been seen, cold weather birds as they are, and barely cold as Massachusetts may be on February 29th, 2040. But, as it goes, if the earth still goes, I, based on genetics, may still be here to feel this, old though I already am. I may no longer need my center-of-winter wool jacket; I may no longer even need my end-of-winter lighter weight wool jacket. I fear this. You?

Back to the bicycle. It is serving me well. We talk, it is not my Bianchi my ride of 22 years, but it is my Fuji. We talk so that we can become more comfortable with each other. The other day I nearly head over heeled over a fire hydrant that the Fuji balked at, and I know the Bianchi would have readily sidled by. But, hmm, I am assessing blame on an aluminum and other light minerals product, and, I was just going to say, that is anthropomorphizing. And on most levels it is. BUT! But, also are not these same minerals within the body the hands of which are typing these words? Not to worry, I will not be writing a sequel to Toy Story(ies). Because I know the balker was the rider, seeing she was about to descend a short (maybe 10 feet), steep dirt and asphalt decline (at least 5%) that ended in (1) a bright red fire hydrant and (2) a curved granite curb and (3) an immediately potholed street, and choosing to descend before taking her physical bearings. So the Fuji was only wheels responding to feet on pedals, and hands gripping grips and not brakes. Split seconds! Feet leapt to dirt/asphalt, and mineral rich fingers to brake lever! Skidded to a sloppy stop short of the hydrant, and short of a header.

How is your 2020? So far I have low hopes. So far Eunice has high hopes. You?

Here is a poem by Linda Pastan. Its title is something I never experienced, but is something I was once:

To a Daughter Leaving Home

When I taught you
at eight to ride
a bicycle, loping along
beside you
as you wobbled away
on two round wheels,
my own mouth rounding
in surprise when you pulled
ahead down the curved
path of a park,
I kept waiting
for the thud
of your crash as I
sprinted to catch up,
while you grew
smaller, more breakable
with distance,
pumping, pumping
for your life, screaming
with laughter,
the hair flapping
behind you like a
handkerchief waving
goodbye.

Linda Pastan (1932-)

You know, I was going to end with Linda Pastan’s poem above. But then, I was looking through some books on my bookshelf and found in a book called Poetry in Motion, comprising 100 poems that graced the walls and trains of the NYC MTA, this poem by Robert Frost, which if you think about it, kind of speaks to the other end of the life of the girl that Linda Pastan watched grow up and away, to the end I find myself in now:

The Armful

For every parcel I stoop down to seize
I lose some other off my arms and knees,
And the whole pile is slipping, bottles, buns–
Extremes too hard to comprehend at once,
Yet nothing I should care to leave behind.
With all I have told with, hand and mind
And heart, if need be, I will do my best
To keep their building balanced at my breast.
I crouch down to prevent them as they fall;
Then sit down in the middle of them all.
I had to drop the armful in the road.
And try to stack them in a better load.

Robert Frost (1874-1963)

This Year has Begun

I am beginning this post on January 20th, 2020, the day, this year, on which Martin Luther King Jr. is being honored. His actual date of birth was January 15th. I would like to open with part of a quote from a speech he made in 1967: “I’m talking about a strong, demanding love. For I have seen too much hate…on faces…to want to hate, myself, because every time I see it, I know that it does something to [our] faces and [our] personalities, and I say to myself that hate is too great a burden to bear. I have decided to love.”

Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

May I live by this.

If you are with me at anytime and I am not doing so, please call me out on it.

This month, since the new year began, we have had a Cooper’s Hawk residing in and every so often calling out from the top reaches of the arbor vitae that divides our property from our neighbor’s. As a result, not too many local little birds have been visiting the feeders hanging, full and available in our back yard. It has been quite silent!! No squabbling sparrows, scolding blue jays, chattering titmice, nor bossy chickadees. No tittering goldfinches. No morning calling cardinals, nor mourning doves. No periodic honks from the downy woodpeckers. Not a single visiting mockingbird. No twittering carolina wrens. I have really missed them all. But this morning, as I ate my breakfast, many of the crowd came back! Sparrows aplenty, mr and ms cardinal, a family of goldfinches, boisterous blue jays, and a plucky carolina wren. Ahh, what a morning it is. 10 degrees farenheit, sun brilliant, bouncing rays off yesterday’s snowfall, feeders shivering under the landings, feedings, and flying offs of a crowd of songbirds. I love this. Now the year 2020 has begun!

Cardinal keeping its distance

I am guessing the Cooper’s hawk has gone for a visit elsewhere for a spell, and will be back. Hawk is as welcome as any other. Just, you know, give those little guys wiggle room each day, please. Thanks!

Cooper’s hawk keeping close watch (I did not take this photograph)

I am back from a noon tour of the back yard. A junco came by! This makes me happy, because over and above all the other rarely appearing avifauna, I’d spotted no juncos since this year and decade began, none, in fact, since before Christmas. I fear their absence, because their presence assures that winter will be here, and they arrived late this year, causing me trepidation, and they have been fewer in number, and then to be absent these three weeks. I worried had the Cooper’s found them particularly delectable, or had they departed for northern climes when January days soared to 60+ degrees farenheit? I do not have an answer for either conjecture, but I do have the delight of seeing one today, so winter is still here, and I, for one, am happy. Extinctions are occurring, may they slow down. May we slow down our consumption and let the earth’s resources rest, breathe, replenish.

Wilson spruce – new leaves emerging & cone tip

In this season

In this season dear people seem to die. If I count the friends, family, relatives whose time here finished in this season, they are many. Both of my parents, a grandfather, a cousin, and now, just this past week two friends. I can make nothing profound of it. I just observe it; and remember them.

My thought continues, and I realize that at the other end of this table, when January comes to light, and, thus, a new year, many, many people I am friends with, and many people I know, celebrate birthdays.

But of course, this happens every month, every day, every second, death and birth. That circle. But how much more we feel a death when we are invested in celebrating, as many of us are at this time of year. Is this loss harder at this season? Or can loss be mounted on a comparative scale? Is death an unmeasurable absolute? And birth as well–an absolute?

Well, the harshness with which death of a loved one pummels us will vary with when in our own lives it occurs; the date, the season we are in natural and personal, where we are, the level of rebound resource we have within us and from others, what follows in our lives because of this loss of this person, and what in this world is just plain continuing despite our loss and that feels like life is stomping right over us as we mourn our loved one’s loss of it, and our loss of our loved one. But here’s the absolute–that person was here, and no longer is. Actually that is two absolutes, two irremediable absolutes.

And here’s the absolute of birth–a person wasn’t and now is. That is each one of us. We once were not born, but then we were, and we are, and we are here. Two things Annie Dillard said smote me: (1) “[regarding the concept behind]the old philosophical conundrum about the tree that falls in the forest. The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.”

Bluebells and Hornbeams (standing and fallen)

(2) “I think it would be well, and proper, and obedient, and pure, to grasp your one necessity and not let it go, to dangle from it limp wherever it takes you.”

I would add, Even if it tears me up for awhile

I wish you life, and life to the fullest.

John 10:10

Now in Early December

All that is usual and expectable seems to be sliding sideways to unanticipated, more difficult to recognize, perhaps even a puzzle with a piece missing, unsolvable. When I began this post, 4 days ago the day had begun at 8 degrees farenheit. We had 20+ inches of snow lying over the ground. Today it reached 60 degrees farenheit. It is raining the snow away for now (3:00 PM, December 10, 2019). Tonight with sundown, rain will shift to its heavier identities and I have been promised by the weather forecasters that when I wake up in the morning our outdoors will again be white with snow and 30 or 40 degrees colder than it was at 1:00 PM. What was predictable is not. In every element of our planet’s life in this solar system in this galaxy in this universe it is entering, more, has entered and is wandering down a tunnel of no known dimensions, unknown obstacles, constantly unfamiliar shifts in norms.

Earth, photo provided by NASA
The Milky Way, the galaxy that contains our solar system, so this picture is from the inside out, like being in a shirt and looking out through the neck hole.

The earth is within a solar system within a galaxy within a universe, which may be within or beside other universes. On one side I cannot imagine that anything we less-than-pinprick sized humans do impacts the position and condition of our tiny slightly larger pinprick size planet in this galaxy, nor, even, perhaps in our much smaller solar system. But I can imagine that anything we do impacts the elements of earth’s atmosphere, i.e. our house within which we expect to be safe and our basic needs and their provision predictable. Because while relative to all creation we are a breath, relative to our dot-earth, we are part of the apparatus that enables or disables our breath.

How can we influence this for good? What gift can we, this season when all thoughts trend toward gifts — what we want, what we want to give, where and how we acquire them to give, how we deliver them, to whom we will need to to whom we will want to, to whom we can give them; what we hope to get, from who, by what means–what gift makes good, is good, comes from good, will be good hereon out. How about the gift of giving a gift — be that gift tangible or just audible; tangible or of self-time, love, care, hope, promise kept, attention; tangible or just visual; tangible–a present, or intangible–a memory that pleases, gives peace, delights, with each recall? How can we receive a gift fully–understanding its value and valuing it–air, breath, water, rich dirt, a smile, a laugh, a trusting teary face–and savoring its value, not spoiling it, not forgetting it, not discarding it.

Of what was, can we receive it, learn it, carry its good forward? Aware of what was, can we propel what is to a good, kind, generous, careful, caring, what will be? May it be so.

A spent tulip poplar leaf clutched in the bark of its tulip poplar tree; breathing as one; gifts given and received.

Thank you for reading this. Thank you for your presence.

At Noon on a Friday

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about thought. So much of the time what I am thinking about seems to rise no higher than trying to remember the denouement of this week’s episode of Midsomer Murders, or what was it I wanted to pick up at the library next time I am there, or why is the wind so strong today and preventing me from bicycling? We have these 3 lb. brains in our heads, packed with potential; carrying intellect, emotion, and that which is our spiritual self not by way of electric connections, but, because these thoughts, feelings, and beliefs are ours alone, by means of, in my book, God, who created each of us, blew breath in humankind, each and every one of humankind, and every other kind that inhabits this planet and lives off its earth and water and air. This is not to say that I don’t believe that we are also beings that function by means electrical, mechanical, chemical, biochemical. I do! These are a body’s vehicles for transmission, motion, physical change, sensation, but they are not what give self to a being.

We have a black pigeon who has adopted us. He is beautiful. All black, except for a bright white spot just above his tail, that is invisible when his wings are folded back. He showed up in late August. He has a banded leg, and the band has a number, which we copied down. We researched and called all sorts of pigeon fancier organizations — is he a homing, a racing, a show pigeon? Whose is he? We learned that his leg band is counterfeit (why? why would someone go to the trouble of creating and attaching a fake numbered band on a pigeon leg? What were they thinking?), and, so, there is no way to find his home of origin. These bred pigeons are accustomed to being sheltered in lofts. Go on line and research them.

So I worry about him as winter encroaches, for instance, this morning the thermometer registered 23 degrees farenheit when I checked at 6:30. He has found shelter somewhere. Perhaps in someone else’s eave. I am happy of that. And he comes by every day to have a meal. When he first was here in the warm weather he joined the mourning doves, sparrows, cardinals, robins, and blue jays eating seeds that fell to the ground beneath the bird feeders, and any other seeds that happened to be there. But then he began to visit us on the back porch, so, having discovered that we would not be able to discover his home of origin, we began feeding him his own stash of seeds (not sunflower seeds!! I read up on it. Not edible to him. But yes to peas and round seeds and small nuts) He eats vigorously, and drinks water from the bowl we put out — he steps into the bowl and drinks, then steps out. This morning the bowl had an ice layer. I knocked it out. He drank quickly. I went away for half an hour. I came back, the bowl of water was iced over again. I worry for him. We have named him. Yes, yes, we have. He is called Buddy. How will Buddy winter over? I spend time thinking about this. But I am not solving the dilemma of his well-being. I cannot. I can only contribute to it in the ways I have and acknowledge that he is still here, daily, so he has devised a way of life. (And to marvel at his watchfulness, because often, when I return home from somewhere, he swoops in right behind me onto the back porch.)

Why do I think? Why do we think? Why do I think what I think? Why do my thoughts tip into a certain direction and yours into another? I worry about what I think of someone, because of the evidence in human behaviors since forever; i.e., what I think of that person, the way I think about that person influences my behavior towards that person. Many thoughts, translated into actions, are the outcome of a first impression. A first impression is not merely an sensory observation, it incorporates a thought. Sometimes first impressions are accurate. Sometimes they are not. Whether or not, they do inform my thoughts about you or him or her, or Buddy, or about an occurrence, or about a policy, or a held belief, or, even, about a thought either popping into my head or expressed to me or somehow brought to my attention.. How many times do I revisit my first impression, rethink it before cementing it firmly? How many times should I do so?

I recently heard an interview during which it was suggested that what other people think of you is none of your business. Well, on some level that holds water, but if another person’s thought about me or something I hold dear is acted on and impacts me, it becomes my business and it impacts my thoughts about that person or, possibly, entire population that that person represents to me. Because, again, our thoughts inform our acts (including the words we speak, which is an act). And, as we do not live uninfluenced by where we are, there is not a thought held that does not reflect something, someone, or sometime else.

So I come to another thought. Can there be thought devoid of feeling? I am thinking no. I will give more thought to that. What do you think? (feel?)

Oriole’s nest
Robin’s (?) nest
Not sure what bird’s nest

I attached the above three photographs of nests, left over from this spring/summer season. I ask, what were the birds who built them thinking when they chose the placement? I know, nest placement and design is instinctual bird type to bird type. But, choosing which tree, under what conditions? Is that not choice? Is not choice a thought act?

Emily Dickinson (1830–86).  Complete Poems.  1924.
Part One: Life
LXVII
A deed knocks first at thought
And then it knocks at will
That is the manufacturing spot,
And will at home and well.

It then goes out an act,
Or is entombed so still
That only to the ear of God
Its doom is audible