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

Mid-October-Day begins in Brilliant Sun, is now Slipping into Rain Mode, then another Day of Sun emerged, and another in New England

How have you spent today, Wednesday, October 16th, 2019? I began with a gentle bicycle ride to our city’s downtown and coffee with my friend, who willingly drives up from hers to mine, enabling me to pedal a mere 15 delightful minutes to the coffee shop/bakery where we will meet. The generosity of friends always holds me lightly and I am grateful. I am very grateful.

This afternoon I sat right here where I am and for 90 minutes total (broken up into 2 to 15 minute intervals) I watched videos of Concord River water rushing through the weir. The very same site that I visited 26 times in May and June for 10 minutes at a time, standing at the edge of the fish ladder, serenaded by many and multiple songbirds, clicker in hand, to count the number of alewives swimming up the ladder alongside the falls. I must say the springtime outdoor visits were delightful. The 90 minute indoor exercise, perhaps I could call it a zen experience.

Thus, the fish counting saga for 2019. Next year, I will bring you another story or two. Count on it! (pardon the pun)

Where has the time gone? It is now October 24th, and this day has been another beauty. A great day for a walk, and so we took one. I continue to be astonished by the range of weather in this country on any given day, nevermind the entire earth. On the one hand, you can tell me that, yes, it’s natural that there is such variety, because of the tilt of the earth and the relative nearness to the sun of each part of the earth compared with each other part of the earth plus the earth’s rotation on its axis, which also, of course, impacts an area’s nearness to the sun, etc. etc. And on the other hand, the coincident immensity of differences of weather in various geographies of just the United States relative to, say 30 years ago, talks to something nearer to earth than the sun, talks to our impact on the ground, the water, the air, the things that support life on this earth; talks about our rough stewardship of this earth.

It would appear that I am going to be compelled to raise this alarm with each of my posts. I beg each of us to heed it and do our utmost to steward not diminish what comprises this earth.

Onto a little teaching I have been trying to give myself this year. I am trying to figure out which oak trees’ leaves turn red and which turn yellow, and if there is any consistency. Well, I thought that this would be answerable in the red oak family here in Massachusetts by identifying which are northern red oaks, which are black oaks, which are scarlet oaks, which are pin oaks, through their leaf shapes and/or bark configuration and then note the color that is emerging from their particular leaves. No, no, no! The other day I was walking among a plethora of oaks of many varieties. Identifying them by their leaf and bark characteristics I saw northern red oaks with red-green leaves and I saw northern red oaks with yellow leaves. I saw black oaks with yellow leaves, and I swear I saw more black oaks with red leaves than red oaks with red leaves. The scarlet oaks were turning red. The pin oaks were turning yellow, except for one that looked like it was going to hold onto green until it was time to turn brown. Well, and I don’t know, I think I saw a pin oak that was turning red, but maybe it was a scarlet oak, the tree was too young, lithe, and slender for me to know by the bark. So what have I learned so far? Oak to oak, just like everything else, no 100% certainty can be given to an assumption, a prediction, or an observation. Everything is itself, just as everyone is ourself. Each one is the only one it is, as I am the only one I am, and you are the only one you are.

Anyway, I collected several leaves that had fallen but had not yet shriveled or disintegrated. One was a green pin oak leaf. Two were chestnut oak leaves. One was a huge maple leaf, another a catalpa leaf, another a beech leaf, and I am not sure, but from one small, young tree I may have collected an elm leaf. I need to study that one some more. These leaves, as leaves collected in years past, are pressed in between pages of one of my books on trees. Since many of these leaves were extra large, they are residing between the pages of a very large book called The Love of Trees. Pretty appropriate, yes? I also photographed the lemon yellow and lime green leaves of one of the trees that I seek out urgently because I see so few, the tulip poplar. Last year I collected a huge tulip poplar leaf from the very, very tall and old tulip poplar that graces an otherwise insufficiently treed street here in this city and which is dying. That leaf, too, is in The Love of Trees book. And I record that tree each year with at least one photograph, just to hold it. Because it is itself, and it is for not a lot longer.

The tree itself was barely more than a sapling. I love something so small and slender supports so much life.
Actually, here is the trunk of this tulip poplar. Its distinctive white striping is already evident. Given the chance it will grow to 80 or 90 feet tall with long straight trunk until very high, out of reach branches will dance out like arms rippling their muscles and carry lovely mostly yellow flowers and then hefty cone shaped fruit.

A poem to close us out.

Image result for poems of self

Is New England Not Beautiful Right Now?

Hello. It is deep into September and I am just writing my first post of the month. And, I have just responded to several of you who kindly commented on my last post, about the urgent need, still, to plant trees. It was brought on by the fires in the Amazon of Brazil. There are fires in Indonesia as well, massive, same reason, land clearing. Please, consume less. Let more trees live, add more to their places. Make room for the world of bio that depends on trees–including other trees, birds, dirt, insects, microbiota, humans, plants of all types, animals that make forests and wetlands and jungles their homes, even including ice in the glaciers, ice in the polar caps, temperatures that support the world of bio at each latitude.

Birds, now, birds like warblers, sparrows, finches, pretty, small, singers of spring and summer, keepers of grasses, trees, and microbiota, these small spots of beauty are disappearing. The report just out, the number of birds in the US and Canada has fallen by 29% since 1970. There are 2.9 billion fewer birds taking wing than there were 50 years ago. What are we doing?!

I cry, while I still can look up and see blue sky, and massive clouds, and taste rain on my tongue. We have the resources. Please let us protect them. Here in New England, rain usually falls well; we have not been enduring the floods and winds of the southeast, massive storms that rake the plains and the small islands that poke into the Atlantic. But here in New England, as everywhere, our coastline is receding. Every element of our Earth is in turmoil.

Hancock, Maine facing, I think, Frenchman’s Bay

On the Friday before Labor Day weekend I came down with pneumonia. This is part of the reason for my silence. I have spent many, many hours sleeping. Some hours lying and looking out windows. Some hours sitting on the back porch .

Downy Woodpecker and beehive from the back porch
White breasted nuthatch on red feeder, goldfinch on black feeder

Many people have told me to rest. And so I am. Well, my body has also forced me to rest, because if I try to defy it it knocks me down. I miss my bicycle! I watch with envy pedalers passing by. I am not a good patient, I am not patient. But, should you find yourself in the grip of pneumonia, listen to the wisdom! And if you’re lucky enough to live in the northeast, particularly, New England, delight in the autumn.

So I finish this posting. I began this morning. Then did stuff, nothing strenuous, but stuff, and now am too tired to add. Adieu. Breathe. Plant. Count birds. Inspect the types of grass in your yard. Check out the dragon flies.

Blue Dasher Dragonfly–I did not take this picture. Mine are never so detailed.

Trees. Plant Trees. Please

We are in need of trees. They are how we breathe. Their mass destruction in numerous rain forests and is tantamount to suffocation. Suffocation of all species. Please plant trees in your place. Invite your family to plant trees in their places. Invite your neighbors to plant trees. Invite your communities to plant trees — your social and your political communities. Please.

In my city this Linden was struck by lightning in March. It has a twin tree to the left, which is ill. Despite the severe shearing the arborist and crew did to these trees, they sprouted delightfully. I had hope. But they are now all gone. Pine bark mulch marks their spots.
Tamarack tree in a glen that abuts two major through routes and enables foot access from them to the local rail trail.
Persistent, lovely beech in the next town over from ours.
Ash, Hampstead Heath, London
Willow and offspring at Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, MA
Aspen in winter along the rail trail. The aspen’s root system is famously enormous, often ancient and supportive of other beings.
A stand or group of aspen trees is considered a singular organism with the main life force underground in the extensive root system. Before a single aspen trunk appears above the surface, the root system may lie dormant for many years until the conditions are just right.
Horse Chestnut, Public Garden, Boston, MA
Tree roots. While exposure seems, and to some degree is debilitating to them, as we walk on them, roots, as noted in last post, need some exposure to air.

These are almost all local, urban or suburban trees. Local to my purview or, in one case, travel. It is life that comes through photosynthesis, and through fungi. Many fungi are also associated with trees because they are linked into the tree roots. The association benefits both the fungi and the trees. This particular type of association between fungi and the roots of plants such as trees, is known as a mycorrhiza .

“The forests are the flags of nature.   They appeal to all and awaken inspiring universal feelings.  Enter the forest and the boundaries of nations are forgotten.  It may be that some time an immortal pine will be the flag of a united peaceful world.”
–   Enos A. Mills (Enos Abijah Mills (April 22, 1870 – September 21, 1922) was an American naturalist, author and homesteader. He was the main figure behind the creation of Rocky Mountain National Park)

And here’s the biggest danger from the Amazon rain forest burning. It could self destruct. Because as they burn they emit carbon dioxide. It is their function to counter the emission of carbon dioxide by emitting oxygen and ingesting the carbon dioxide. When they have burned, they (1) emitted a lot of carbon dioxide, as this is what fire does, it swallows oxygen, and (2) they are not there anymore to make oxygen and offset carbon dioxide. Plant trees!!

Like all other entities, trees have a better life when in community. Plant like trees or complementary trees if you can, and trees that are indigenous to the place where you are planting them.

Mid August, How August is the Month of August

This is the time in each year when the unrelieved heat suddenly is relieved, at least once or twice, and more often during the night. This is the time, I note, when those who use air conditioners in their homes comment, Oh, I turned the air conditioner off last night. This is the time when I pull the blanket back over my shoulder. If my husband had his druthers, the first floor of our house would have been far less heavy in the air. But he gives in to me on this, and the sole air conditioner is upstairs in his room/studio. My room here on the first floor, southwest corner shaded by the weeping English birches, relies on cross breezes — as does every room on the first floor; every window on the first floor of the house is open, that is the summer modus operandus. I do not like air conditioning. When we are in the livingroom, he has a fan close at hand, and a hand towel to mop sweat, and sometimes a damp washcloth to cool his neck. I think that’s pretty kind.

Recently, I had a bunch of errands to do, bank, library, post office, hardware store, and when completed at the hardware store, found myself at the foot of a street I didn’t remember pedaling ever. So I took it. It was, as many streets in this city are, a mix of large and small houses on large and small plots, in varying levels of tending and planting. It also was, one of those streets with no street trees. I felt like I was pedaling through a heated tunnel. Each house had multiple air conditioners perched on windowsills, held in tight by closed windows. A couple also had one of those low profile air conditioners the body of which hugs the wall below the window and a small hose opening in its own frame sits beneath the almost closed window, not as aesthetically disruptive on the outside. One house had central air. An urban desert. You hear about it, you read it, and see the maps showing heat zones, all disturbing to imagine. But to see it, to stand at one end of the street in New England, tree abundant New England, and see the unmitigated heat rising from pavement, it makes me sweat just to look. As these years progress, this heat will only be worsening. I won’t argue the cause, you know pretty clearly what I believe about humans, designated stewards serving, instead as excessive users, you may think it is cyclical. No matter! It is hot, getting hotter (and stormy getting stormier, and cold getting colder, and dry getting dryer). Trees are natural coolers, natural air conditioners in the real sense of the word, natural shade, natural. Let’s plant them!! And where they are planted, let’s keep them!!

What is the first tree you remember noticing? For me, a city kid, it was the sycamore. They are determined by arborists to be excellent city trees, as they are particularly efficient in scrubbing the air of carbon dioxide and re-emitting oxygen. That sycamore and its companion trees along the block were taken down years ago in interest of widening the street in front of our apartment and the three other apartment buildings on the block and for about twenty blocks east and west of us to five lanes, plus two parking lanes. The noise that rose into our 3rd floor apartment increased most noticeably. A constant dull roar, punctuated frequently by the wheezing buses pausing at the bus stop below us. Then about 10 years ago, trees were planted again. A small but urgently needed success.

The 10 year old trees (well they were 7 years old in this picture of three years ago), and the bus stop sign, and parked cars, tight to the end of the bus stop, and see to the right, the apartment building itself has planted shrubs and grasses. That happened when the pre-war apartment building was converted to condos (existing residents were grandfathered into their apartments).

Urge your community to plant trees, real trees, shade trees, ones that will grow, breathe, withstand even as they help to diminish the stress. And, this I just learned the other day during a tree identification walk through the local cemetery, make sure that the roots are not totally covered up, not even by dirt, because these roots breathe, and need to not have their noses covered or they will suffocate. I conjecture that this is probably why so many of the trees along Route 3 in Massachusetts , and so many newly installed city trees fail, the roots are buried in dirt, under bricks or grates or concrete–death guaranteed. We need to be mindful of our neighbors including those that keep us breathing. Do you know, even the cracks between concrete blocks of sidewalks benefit the trees’ breathing. Air seeps in however it may, and root noses inhale.

This is a gingko, a female gingko, with the fruit, which becomes stinkbombs (The male gingko does not fruit). These beautiful trees are prehistoric in their origin. This one was I spotted on the cemetery walk. They live despite us.
Sycamore with a nest in it. In Lowell.
Trees growing from a long defunct factory. Thank God for their persistence.

I Sing a Song of …

Here in late-mid July I am at my desk, with the windows in the room flung open. I am shivering, and wearing two layers, but I refuse to close these windows because it is raining and lovely, and because two days ago it was 98 degrees farenheit and at least as humid. For three days that was the weather we had, and it rendered me motionless. How many times have I visited a hot, humid climate (e.g., in my experience–islands like Puerto Rico, Antigua, Margarita, as well as countries such as Costa Rica, Mexico, Morocco) and reveled in that weather — beachside, poolside, barside — inattentive to the resident population, whose life this ennervating weather is?

Which brings me to the question–who among us, anywhere in the world, of any social or economic stratum, has enough information about anywhere else in the world, to make an informed judgment? An opinion, I think, can be made with less than full information, but never concreted into a judgment until “walking in their shoes”. And I fear we are very, very quickly expressing judgments these days because we are so inundated with information, subjective information. (I think we probably often make judgments, aka, first impressions, fast, but used to express them a bit more slowly as we had to work more to find means.) May I realize my ignorance and willingly research, study, learn before I opine and, by technologically enhanced capability, judge.

I am thinking, access to a “mouthpiece” is so available, and use of said mouthpieces so second-nature, that perhaps we do not even remember that words of judgment spoken via fingertips to keys are in fact often broadly cast, whether by ourselves or by share-happy recipients. In fact, I find myself flinching at the word share. It is losing any modicum it may still have held of relationship to the idea of generosity.

And, speaking of words losing aspects of themselves, I slide over to another, and I think related topic, loss of words, themselves. A book written a couple of years ago by Robert McFarlane and illustrated by Jackie Moss talks about words that have been removed from the Oxford Junior Dictionary. Robert McFarlane has written numerous books about usually difficult-to-access places; written about these places to note, share, and preserve at least in words, their singleness, their beauty, their very presence. Until his latest book, published this year, they were about places on the surface, at all different topographies, often quite high and treacherous. His book, out this year is Underland and is about just that-deep places, caves, tunnels. Always at work in his writing is the value, the generosity of these places, and always understood in reading them and being alive in this day and age, is the usually human threat to their health, even presence. His book about words, called The Lost Words, notes the loss of:

many words that denote/describe things of nature–some of them relatively common words, still, and relatively common things, such as: acorn; bluebell; ivy; fern; dandelion.

ferns along the local rail trail in spring
violets in the backyard in spring

As we shrink our personal contact with what is outside of ourselves, and rely more and more on immediate (both locationally and time-based) electronic transmission, will munificence be lost? Oh, I pray not.

And now July

This morning, bicycling to share an early breakfast with a very good friend I was a few minutes early, so I pedaled along a probably 2/10ths of a mile section of a rail trail in downtown Lowell. Just off of Merrimack Street, the major downtown transecting urban way. On the roof of an abandoned, I think former auto dealer, just along the entry to this mini trail a high trill beckoned me, her song beautiful as the Sirens’ who called to Odysseus, enticed me to veer from my entry to the trail to pedal on the broken pavement, up a granite curb, between links of a rusting chainlink fence, and to stand in 6:50 AM sun looking for the best way to see, and yet still hear. I lost sight of her briefly, but her song, more a breath than a voice, kept me close. I don’t know what she was. Small, no more than 5 inches, light brown head, but I could not see below her neck, nor could I see whether her eyes were ringed or not. Was she a warbler, vireo, sparrow? Among each of them are sweet voiced singers, but whisperers, breathers? I am mystified as much as I was enchanted.

She sat back, and was now out of sight, so I returned to my intended river hugging route of two tenths of a mile. I saw red wing blackbirds, grackles, yellow warblers, a mallard flying overhead, then a slew of mallards or maybe black ducks congregating at an eddy in the Concord River below me, near the Middlesex Fall. I saw a robin. I saw a warbler. I was just about at the end of the path, and happy, when whoosh a long grey wing sliced the air below to me and to my left. I turned full face toward that disturbance in my sight line. Ahh, a great blue heron rising silently from the rocks and rushing waters directly below me. I was happy, and as she began to move beyond my viewshed and I began to continue my way,whoosh, a second great blue rises across the river, invisible in her stillness and grayness against the granite stone and drooping willows, until opening her wings and rising this slender study in blue, grey, green, white, struck by orange beak and calves. There was no time nor dexterity nor desire to find and wield my phonecamera. I just sighed with delight.

The greys of these birds like the rocks among which they stand for hours, the touch of blue like the sky reflected in the waters in which they are vigil, the green waters of their feathers, tse orange sun bringing life to the green algae, leaves, grasses, shoots, stems, all which breathe out refreshed what they had inhaled, and send to Merrimack Street, and Davidson Street, and Central and Bridge Streets, and the adjacent commercial buildings, manufacturing buildings, educational buildings, residences, fresh air, fresh, fresh air. The waterfalls and rapids so audible on hand, auditorially absent 20 feet along Merrimack Street, yet not personally absent, only no longer heard among horns, rubber tires coursing asphalt pavement, humans and their burdens pursuing our lives, able to because the water runs, the trees leaf, the grasses feed, the air thermals up and dives down and moves along–each pushing, transforming, transporting, removing particles upon particles left in our wake. Enabling us to be awake and not waked, for another day, and another.

I am waxing and I am waning as I write this post. I am hearing that small brown bird. I am shivering at the two great blue herons. I am remembering the five turkey vultures I watched group mid air and then swoop down and roost on a barn roof in Westport, Massachusetts, and the twelve turkey vultures swooping to behind a Provincetown sand bluff and congregating and conversing and then swooping up and away again, one at a time each in her own direction some over the sea and some overhead and some toward the bay, and, this past weekend up on a small beach on a small lake in New Hampshire, seven ducklings (oh, maybe teenage ducks) preening and chortling while we watched. I am remembering a three hour conversation with my friend this morning wandering across all the places our lives range this year, this month, these days, wandering with gratitude that there is never nothing to learn.