We Begin

How is your January?

January is the first month in the Gregorian calendar and has 31 days. The name January comes from Janus or Ianus, the Roman god of passage and new beginningsIānus is Latin and means arched gateway. It is related to the word Janitor, which initially meant “Keeper of the Gate.” I would argue that janitor still does mean that–keeper of the gate. I invite you to think that through. Where would public spaces, commercial and office buildings, entertainment centers, etc. be without someone(s) keeping them up, thus accessible, thus enterable and exitable? And, more often than not, that same janitor(s) can fix things, can rebuild things, can, by experience or reasoning, do.

I am born in January, would that it defined my mechanical and reasoning self-sufficiency. It does not. Could it? Could I do? Do you reflect the meaning of the name of your birth month? Could you? Would you?

Funny, my fingers touch the keys, and I do not know where they will travel. Today the trip began with January.

This morning I walked around the mighty river that flows through our city, well not the entire river, as I would still be walking to the Atlantic and then back up to somewhere in mid-northerly New Hampshire. I walked from my house to the river, across on Mammoth Street bridge, along the river’s north bank, and back across to the south bank on the 40-year old bailey (viz–temporary) bridge. It being a metal bridge, I mini-stepped along the walkway, touching the pedestrian-protective grating all the time so as to grab should my feet slide out from under me. I talked to myself the entire length.

These two views are from the Mammoth Street Bridge. I did not stop to photograph on the bailey bridge, which if you squint you might be able to see way back in center back of the bottom photo

What a gift it is to live walking distance from waterways. We have two. Two natural and oh, 5 or 7 dug canals that grabbed the power of this river and fed mills, mills, mills. About half of which remain standing, and most of these serving now as residential, museum, retail, and business spaces.

What a gift it is that trees persist along the river’s banks and birds ply its waters.

I think it’s a hackberry? Behind it you can see the river flowing
A Hooded Merganser couple

What a gift it is that one can stand at the lip of the bank and sense the river’s conversation as it passes by. And that no one has yet cleared away a recently fallen old birch, so that it can be extra sustenance for the myriad medium, small, and microscopic entities whose lifecycles are disrupted by the unpredictable, unseasonable, disruptive weather patterns that are life these days.

Fallen, ancient birch on the northside esplanade. The birch’s feet were toed into the tilting riverbank.

And the gifts of being able to walk along the river, among what reside beside it, and to see, hear, touch, smell, and taste, and walk home patting passing dogs, greeting occasional neighbors and numerous non-neighbors, and enter my heated house, and haul out my laptop, and type this letter to you. And the gift of you reading it. I am thankful, and I thank you.

Good Afternoon

This Saturday, last day of the year 2022. To be celebrated, down in Boston, amid ice sculptures quickly de-shaping in this day that here has reached 56 degrees farenheit. Easy walking, but also easy melting of a slew of annual winter festival celebratory pieces, including homage to the penguins housed in the aquarium behind which the carvings took shape. Lovingly housed, I understand.

Disturbingly, while walking my neighborhood earlier today I saw a silver maple with swelling buds. Not now!! Shut down! Go back inside your hard carapaces flush against the limbs, the branches, the twigs. Take cover!

And I call that to all the beings that are hibernating, or should be. Do so!! Do not come out. Stay in and sleep. This seems to be my December mantra. It is. It matters. Have you noticed the plethora of raptors trolling the ground from high in the sky, from high in trees, from low on tough shrubs, some flying across highways just above car roof level having captured with their incredible eyes, maybe incredibler ears (given the traffic noise interference) prey who came out for breath, snack, or from confusion, and …..

Okay! So I bring you down on this December 31st, this last Saturday, last day of 2022. And how do I bring you down? Moaning about warmth. It is warm enough that my dehumidifier is necessarily operating in the basement. And yet, here we were on Tuesday, December 28th

a pair of ice necklaced trees amid their cloths of ice
A parade of ice-necklaced trees traverse the shoreline of the Merrimack River
tree roots draped in ice gowns

Good afternoon may this be, of its own right.(or write?)

Good afternoon for you, for your neighbors composed of the same elements, but in different orders becoming/having become elms, maples, oaks, squirrels, nuthatches, yews, dreamers, doers, ants, ground worms, goldfinch nests, hyacinths, coyotes, sisters, nephews, clouds, snowflakes, rye, chia, pecans, hippopotami, trout, orcas, manta rays, guppies, panthers, me.

May your year begin well, and follow that thought for all its days.

“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” Numbers 6:24-26

Greetings!!

This is that time when most of us remember someone we have meant to think about for months, maybe 12 of them. We remember then we act on it, or shrug, or think about it, or wonder honestly if there was a reason for it, or if there was not and we should reach out, or should we? Should they?

I think if I am doing thinking then there is something I have left undone, and need to tie that bow, snap that snap, zip that zipper, loosen that knot–make the call, write the letter, jot the note, tap the text. Oh my, how many colloquialisms are there per language for completing an undone?

Anyhow, while many species have burrowed and will stay so through, say February (or August in places in the upside down hemisphere of this earth, e.g. New Zealand), humans fight that natural weather avoider and don layers so to accomplish, “play” (like skiing–is that play? Does play by definition avoid effort? What is play? What is effort? Is it effort when push and shove may be involved but are not minded, may even be enjoyed?

does the beaver mind the effort it takes to gnaw through these trees?

Admittedly, cocooning though I desire, I also, when I do so too long, desire–need to–emerge and move, move in the weather whatever it is. I tell myself I could curl up and read all winter. I cannot.

It is cold, and others of other feathers are walking, so am I

In fact, neither can most hibernating entities. Most, for instance chipmunks, oppossums, groundhogs, bats, have to rise and stretch their appendages occasionally, take a snack, warm their physical selves a bit, and get away from that recurrent dream that loses its allure once dreamed too often. Myself, I sleep so deeply, that if I awaken from a dream that I would like to record, I usually can’t. I take way too long to awaken, and the dream, by then, has flitted to behind its hatch. I know it’s there somewhere, because 10 or 15 years later it will send me a capsule of it and I will want the full dream, but I have only been teased. Nevertheless, I know it is there!! I know I still have it. If only my mind knew what my mind does with things.

I am thinking of thinking. I am thinking of the amount of time a thought takes to assemble, rise, and talk. And then I always collapse back to that question(s)–what is time? Is time?

Time is the component quantity of various measurements. A construct. Absent a personality, a self. A way to shove space around like we control it.

time

We named it and it owns us.

thyme

Ha! What is space?

What is a name?

Greetings!! Stay in. Go out. Dance. Watch, as I am while I type here, the sunset. Listen to the neighbor rolling his trash barrel closer to the intended contents. Touch the smmoooth that is my cats’ fur. Smell the coffee I have just finished a cup of. Greetings!!

Let Me

Good afternoon, this November 1st, 2022. It may be a bleak day, in keeping with the reputation November holds, but I am not bleak today. I hope you, too, are on the upside of down.

October closed out so beautifully, there was no down to sink into. Yesterday, October 31st, I walked the beaches and cliff walks of Ogunquit, Maine. It was an unmatchable beauty of a day.

Perhaps you can tell, perhaps not–the various mollusks are underwater. I lucked out, and arrived at lowest tide. So they were in puddles, and I could be close. A couple of hours later and these would have been inaccessible to me and the hovering seagulls, until, of course, they became accessible again in the next cycle. This thought brought me to the thought of the cyclicality. Is there such a thing as a straight line in the created universe? So, two divergent thought streams flow out of my brain simultaneously: Is anything as it seems? And, is anything irredeemable?

I wanted to categorize these two questions: One physical and the second philosophical. But it quickly became obvious that I could not. To limit them to these categories limits them to the realm of human intellect, and human intellect is only an element in the physical; and the philosophical search of any thought is incomplete, as incomplete as the scientific, as the mathematic, as….

And, to, say, delight in a place, a person, or a thought experienced or observed, I don’t have to know the complete. Which is good, because if I thought I had to, I would never be able to delight in.

I delight in the fact that, for instance, Gingko trees are ancient, pre-ancient in their origin, and they prevail. And in the realization that the elements from which they arose, so did I. Everything in its time out of the same stuff. And everything redeemable. These are pat sentences that say everything or that say nothing, depending on the hearer’s receptiveness. The delight of creation: He who began a good work in you…

As a final word. If you are of a mind, sit down and read Job 38 & 39.

It’s fascinating.

Spooky

In the cool of the evenin’
When everything is gettin’ kind of groovy
I call you up and ask you if you’d like to
Go with me and see a movie

In the cool of the evenin’
When everything is gettin’ kind of groovy
I call you up and ask you if you’d like to
Go with me and see a movie

First you say no
You’ve got some plans for the night
And then you stop, and say, all right
Love is kinda crazy with a spooky little girl like you

You always keep me guessin’
I never seem to know what you are thinkin’
And if a fella looks at you…

This is the first four stanzas (minus one final line) of the Classics IV sung song, Spooky, written by James B. Cobb, Jr., Harry Middlebrooks, Buddy Buie, and Mike Shapiro.

Did anything come to mind when you read these lines? How many of you could hear the song sung in your head? How many remember it from your youth? You don’t have to answer.

How much of a day do you spend remembering your past? How much of it involves joy? How much regret? How much I wonder/what if? What do you do with your remembering? Do you use it? Do you slough it off? Does the thought come to mind–how many more memories will I have before (a) I can’t anymore, (b) I’m not anymore, (c) they take over my present, (d) [you fill in the blank]?

How often do you purposely reraise a memory? Why? Would that we did that only to relish, or smile, but how often is a bitterness that asks you to call it back up, a resentment, a hurt, an urge, need, desire to rewrite or repay or reassert? How often is it the regret of its ever occurring that dredges it up again-how can I make this that I did, thought, said, and shouldn’t have–right?

How big is repentance in each of our lives? How much of it do we (I) need to complete? Why did I do what now needs to be repented? Am I likely to do it again? Is it preventable?

How big is forgiveness in each of our lives? Of others. Of ourselves. If I do not forgive, what will I be like for the rest of my life on earth?

If I do forgive, how will that define me going forward? If I do forgive today, will I still tomorrow? And if not, why not?

Last question: the other day I was looking at a trove of trees and wondering at their closeness to each other, their height, their variety even as they were all tall, brown trunked, green leaved (mostly, some were reddening and oranging), and the calm they instilled in me as I stared. We are undermining trees very roots, and disassembling their bodies and lives. So much we do this to. Why were humans created? In the fact of us, what good do we bring to this earth?

Spooky.

Fill in your own captions.

If you have made it to this bottom line. Thank you. Not all days delight.

Death Becomes Her

Now, I could mean anything by that often used phrase, coined originally, at least for the majority of us, in a dark comedy movie with Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn. And I could mean anything simply for the verb-“becomes”. Because as a body, a physical presence, it becomes, ultimately who each of us–animal, mineral, vegetable, “solid” or “liquid” or “gas”-becomes, no longer actively impacting earth. While also it (darkly) compliments one, somehow, in another one’s eye (viz, “is becoming when displayed by her”). And again, be it anthropo or any other human-defined life form.

Today I am thinking of autumn leaves.

In this picture, perhaps you can see, in their autumn “death” hues, the khaki-tinted pin oak leaf, the yellow and ochre tulip poplar leaf, and the american elm twig with seven lovely yellow leaves along it.

On other recent days I considered clam shells and mussel shells, just “empty shells” of their former selves, but thus because they provided sustenance for seagulls at the beach I show below, Plum Island, where I recently returned with my friend, Lynne, and we watched black-backed and herring gulls, as well as a cormorant, and a handful of piping plovers chase and consume sustenance.

Mark and I would come to Plum Island fairly often. May it always be “wild” and protected.

I wonder at the persistence of death into life. I wonder at the miracle of it.

I wonder, too, all, all being combinations of the very same elements (such incredibly wise creation!) if death is even possible. Life becomes her.

You know what? Read Genesis 1. All starts and all that comes from the start, Comes from the start, emerges from the start, is of the start. Is.

Would that we could live as one.

And Suddenly September

I have just figured out why I keep not writing a blog post when I expect I will. Weather.

When it is warm. When the sun shines. I am out and not writing.

When it hot and humid. I am drained and not writing.

When it is precipitating, likeliest time that I will be writing.

It is raining. It has intermittently since midnight poured, rained, stilled. I am so grateful for this rain here. Also that the basement, which is well settled within a high watertable, and is equipped with a sump pump, a dehumidifier that runs all summer (and the outflow of which as mentioned in a previous post, waters my vegetable and window box gardens), and a wet dry vacuum for when the previous two means are overwhelmed, is so far today, dry floored.

The geography of weather seems to be ever more extreme, perhaps still predictable in its type, it is no longer anticipatable in its extent. We are all participants in a wild world.

And it seems I can’t stop talking about it. Oh for the days when weather was local. Oh for the times when life was local, and self-sufficiently so! Those times, I admit, well preceded my personally fairly urban-centric lifetime. Perhaps if I had been raised on a farm, or in one of those small towns through which we occasionally pass on the way to vacationing in some other far-flung where (where, passing through, in the long ago 20th century and first two decades of the 21st century I used to wonder, how do they make a living?), those times may have been more current for me.

But can we live locally anymore? Many, many of my fellow townspeople in our 110,000 population, magnificently diverse city do manage to raise admirable summer vegetable gardens in tiny plots owned, rented, borrowed, or purloined by them. I have even consumed from my own garden abundant arugula, some tomatoes, some cucumbers, some beets. But other than vegetables, what else? What else in anyone’s life these days can be provided, produced at one’s homestead or close neighborhood? By the way, the hoped for buttercup squash I wrote about last time was not. It is gourds. Perhaps one of you can use them to decorate? I am at a loss for what to do once I tire of seeing them draped colorfully over the fence, stakes, and other obstacles that they in their persistent crawl forward latch onto.

This one is actually no longer there, as a visiting something or other snapped it off. Many others remain, some deep dark green, some half orange half green, all with the little knobs poking out willy-nilly.

We cannot. We live and breathe and have our being where we are, but not without enormous input, not without provision from somewhere else, be it the copper in our electronics, the lithium in our batteries, the variously provided cloths in our clothes, the growing elements that comprise our clothes, furniture, food, the chemically produced, extracted, extruded items that comprise our same clothes, furniture, vehicles, possessions (from what are these chemical elements derived? yes, something somewhere not here, or here, and depleting).

Perhaps, as I reread this post, I shouldn’t write during rain. I might be more cheerful on a day of sun, low humidity, moderate temperature, with a sweet breeze, and on the heels of days with just enough precipitation to make earth Eden.

So! Will I not post this? No such luck. I will post it. I will hope you are still reading to this point. I will hope you have found cause for delight today, and that it is unshakeable. Taking a cue from myself, I will say that I delight in the friendships with which I am graced. I also delight in your patience and kindness, and how each friend also is a provider of wisdom.

And, just because I am so enamored of so many trees, including and notably, tulip poplars, here you go.

Don’t tell my neighbors, and don’t tell the squirrels, chipmunks, rabbit, opossums, blue jays that I have planted a couple of hickory nuts, a white oak acorn, a scarlet oak acorn, and a beechnut variously in my copiously growing, rather wild albeit tiny backyard. Maybe one will grow up and fill in where the very sadly aging, failing dogwood becomes more and more a host to and housing for woodpeckers (downy, hairy, and red bellied), nuthatches, sparrows, purple and house finches, blue jays, cardinals, and titmice, with occasional visits by carolina wrens, and like all things, ages and sags within its skin. I love that dogwood. So do all the above! It makes for a busy backyard, and will until it no longer can.

May you have joy today, in whatever way, in whatever surprise, may you have joy.

We Begin

My intent was to write a second July post. I assured myself I had time and energy. I did not. How often do we say and say and then it becomes we said, because the time has past.?

And so it is August the first. Or as an acquaintance of mine, who is just learning English calls it Augustus. Which came first in the history of our language–August and thus the child born to a king perhaps emerged ruddy and ready to conquer and thus was named Augustus, or Augustus, perhaps a king so ruddy and ready that persons demonstrating that leadership trait were termed august, and the month named it, blows in so powerfully hot that it, too, was termed this term indicating ruddy and ready to conquer.?

I am growing a rather august vine in my backyard this year, it has enormous leaves, enormous flowers, the non-fruit bearing ones of which I include in my backyard sourced salad and they are succulent! It has been growing and stretching and attaching by tentacles to all manner of grippable surface for a month, and until a couple of days ago, provided me only leaves, vine, flowers, tentacles, and great awe. But then fruit began to grow!! A squash, I think a cucurbita maxima, based on the leaves and flower. If that is so, that means it is a buttercup squash, and it and butternut squash are my favorite!! Here are two photos, one including the first fruit of note. What do you think?

The tentacles grip everything they touch, including clover and rhubarb!

In keeping with the words to here, I am pretty sure this vine insinuated itself into my garden. Its roots are right in the middle of the space in which I tossed wildflower seeds, and so growing around and under and with it are a few daisies, cosmos, and tiny white flowers and tiny pink flowers and others (perhaps next year I will try to learn the names and reasons for the names of some of the wildflowers in my yard, along the rail trails, in the empty urban lots, and jutting from cracks in the sidewalks, among other places). And also ripening among the squash vines are ground cherries, one is actually in the picture above, but short of mastering insertion of pointers to my attached photographs, I could never really direct you to the particular leaves in that photograph that are they. Nevertheless, a delicious fruit. If ever you find some, I recommend partaking.

The fruit is buttercup color, but not the shape, at least not yet. And do you see? A second fruit is forming in the foreground!

How, you may ask, in this drought the world is passing through, except, as I write, in Kentucky, am I watering these plants? Every morning I carry out to the backyard my newly collected dehumidifier water, straight up from the 1915 stone walled basement. The miracles of humidity even in this summer of dry, this summer of dry, so dry that my rain barrels rattle emptily.

And the river is low. The mighty Merrimack is mighty, nakedly rocky.

I am on the North Canal walkway, behind the fence my bicycle leans on is the Merrimack rock garden, usually known as a river, floating haplessly above in the background right is the University Avenue Bridge.

Barely visible in the back left is the dam, it is holding back waters, waters being diverted to the North Canal for distribution into Lowell through the dam further downriver, but in high water, and indeed, even in regular water conditions, water would be flowing over the wall to the left and back, rendering that vertical structure invisible behind the falls. Also, look hard in lower center of the picture is a juvenile heron, what I cannot determine is: what type of heron is this juvenile? black crowned night? yellow crowned night? or a green? This was a day I wished I had a camera, not just a phone.

So August is begun. Join me as we explore. For why life if not to search, find, learn, love?

Dry July

It has been, so far, for the most part, dry this July.

And this is not good for any part of the earth, nor for any participant in the life of the earth, in the long run. Yet in short spans, it speeds up my bicycling pace, because the air weighs less, presses less, and billows more, so like a sail in a good breeze, I carry my body faster with less effort. A mixed blessing? What is a mixed blessing? I think a blessing either is or it is not. So I won’t go with that colloquialism. A mixed metaphor? What is a metaphor? I think it is a way of illustrating an idea through equating it with an object that may not have ever been thought of in the way the idea uses it, but once the idea is equated with the object, the object takes on a more detailed face, more lines define it, like narrow ruled paper enables more words on a page than wide ruled paper. So, then, what is a mixed metaphor? What do you think? Is dry air being both beneficial and detrimental a mixed metaphor? Or is it just two actualities of the same force?

Where am I going? Don’t know. Perhaps, whichever way the wind blows…

I bicycle often these days (as usual), often for pleasure, but often I time my tasks, my chores to coincide with good air and wind conditions, conducive to good bicycling experience. I like that it is possible to mix up the order of tasks according to conditions. In my life these days, I can usually do this. Would that all of the world could go when it is good to go, and stop when it is best to stop. So often these options are not able to be part of a plan. If they were, would there be more peace? I ask because I think much of what we fight over is due to the existence of time and task schedules set by gain objectives, or even less desirably, by self-preservation, self-promotion, or self-protection motives. They take time out of our hands, they take, therefore, choice out of our hands and gift it to–generally–not common, not personal, and therefore not natural good. They disturb the possibility of joy of being.

Ah, to spend our days at this pace
And gaggling with these

Do I sound a nay sayer? Do I sound a glass is half emptier? Do I sound like the Eeyore moaner? Or do I offer a visual that, when observed and considered, can encourage, even enable, reordering of what seems to matter toward what does–that which benefits the largest number of impacted beings be they insects, trees, consumers, producers, waterbodies, all fauna, all flora, all air–all that exists and can enable not disable all else to exist.

How many layers and forms of being right here? How long to come to be? And how much did each layer enable and support the other(s)?

Today while pedaling, I paused to watch a father squatting in the center of a dead end street jutting off the urban street I was on. He squatted with two young children, I am guessing his, showing them how to hold a ball in a baseball glove, AND, how to keep the cumbersome glove on their small, very mobile hands. And I watched a mixed-breed puppy watching them, squirming while practicing sitting still, the desired stillness encouraged by soft commands-verbal and manual. It caused me to smile, and pedal a little slower so to see more of what I passed along the way.

So, I worry at the extremities of weather, and I worry about the intensity of time and energy allotment.

She stands just as long as time passes, or a fish. (Recently someone told me they saw a heron standing in a spot in the evening, and, looking there the next morning, still there she stood. Was it still or was it again? Who can attest?

But I have hope.

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