two statements that belong together, this title. It seems it has been awhile since two elements that belong together are. Since any kind of alignment has existed. It is December and it is snowing. It is life and there is hope. It is love and there is life. All good.
May this continue.
It is air and it is breathable. May this be so as long as there is air may breath be taken. May our respiration be safe.
I find I don’t have many words today after all. But I wanted to put my hand in. Perhaps before December closes, before 2020 is a history, I will find more words and will share them. For now, one final balance:
REMINDER!! Don’t forget, those who know, and mark it down, those who are just learning this–We are fast approaching the night of December 21st, when in the southwest sky here in the Northeast, two hours after sunset the planets of Jupiter and Saturn will be located so close to each other in the sky that they will seem like a bright star; first time in hundreds of years and last time until 60 years from now. You will be able to see it with your naked eye. Better with binoculars. Even better with a telescope. And December 21st is only the best night, December 18th through December 23rd are all nights on which you can look, and if the sky is clear, see.
My shoulders released a yoke I never knew was burdening them.
These days have been curious.
I have bicycled with gloves, a scarf and a wool jacket one day and a jean jacket thrown open two days later. I have bicycled in stillness and sun and have pedaled with all my might into headwinds, that, no matter which direction I turned from the route I was headed including about face, still seemed to be opposing me. The wind is a trickster. The wind is always ahead of me, and yet I am shoved at from behind, thrust at from the left and from the right, with no object about to accomplish this but the wind, invisible but for the particles it lifts and hefts.
Those are Petey’s comments. I thought I’d keep them in since he seemed quite adamant in his delivery.
In the beginning of this year during which we are spending most of the time physically isolated from the each other, I noticed a proliferation of neighbors walking their dogs. For several months I noticed this. And reports are that, indeed, lots of people went and adopted a pet. That is good! The incidence of neighbors walking their dogs seems to have lessened of late. Why? Too, my neighborhood is largely one of properties that have yards, ranging from postage stamp size to large enough to have a second house constructed on the property. And a substantial number of them have been constructing fences around their lots. So, doing some reasoning, I am thinking that many of us have become enervated by this enforced diminishment of public congeniality (only 10 people allowed at one time in a private house-what happens with my friend, Jack’s family of 14 children(?); no more than 25 persons at a time in a 1000 square foot restaurant; pick up your library books outside the back door during a specified hour call when you get there during your appointed hour and a librarian will bring it out, hang it on the door handle and go back in, then you may collect it, and bring the books home to read; no going to the cafe to have a coffee and baked good and leisurely read because you are allowed 45 minutes-tops! to linger), and dog-people have chosen to open the back door and let the dog run around in the fenced-in outback, rather than bother to rise from before the screen/monitor, clothe themselves in outside-appropriate garb and step out. This is purely my conjecture!! But no one is entering my house to refute me, and neither am I entering theirs to defend my hypothesis.
So the wind. Today I walked 7 miles into its face. It was projected. It is a day that my weather app says, temperature 50 degrees farenheit, feels like 43 degrees farenheit. Weather app. Who’d have thunk? Twenty years ago I laughed behind my hand at a friend’s husband who clicked the remote onto the Weather Channel several times in a day. In those days I would rise in the morning, after listening to the weather report on the radio, promptly forget what I just heard, and dress according to the season. I now do not go out without two or three times rechecking the weather app that comes with my “mobile device”. I tell myself it’s because I am going to be out there for a good length of time. When has that not been the case with me? I’ll tell you — never! So apps; cartoon clouds and raindrops, puffy clouds with or without an arc of sun and three rays poking out; instant temperature reports–you got me. And if I were to adopt a dog, well, the house we bought 14 or so years ago came with a fence around much of the backyard. I’m all set, thank you.
Here’s a poem by Vikram Seth. With no companion to my mood, Against the wind as it should be, I walk, but in my solitude Bow to the wind that buffets me
And here’s one by A.A. Milne No one can tell me, Nobody knows, Where the wind comes from, Where the wind goes.
It’s flying from somewhere As fast as it can, I couldn’t keep up with it, Not if I ran.
But if I stopped holding The string of my kite, It would blow with the wind For a day and a night.
And then when I found it, Wherever it blew, I should know that the wind Had been going there too.
So then I could tell them Where the wind goes… But where the wind comes from Nobody knows.
So as not to sit on the blues that I have saddled you with in this particular post, here is a picture from a week ago of predominant yellow. I love yellow.
Last week, at the predicted predawn morning of greatest activity for the Orionid meteor showers, a handful of us entered a richly dirted, well treed, five acre place, that includes a spacious “lawn” in which to stand, twirl, and stargaze straight up to the sky with views unhindered, or, if you choose, through the web of nut tree branches — hickory, black walnut, red and white and black oak, as well as sweet gum and black gum — and over a waterway that right now is rife with grasses and muds way more than waterbody, thus not a place to reflect the lights of the heavens.
As it was, this night, this early, early morning, the greatest activity for Orionid meteor showers night/morning, was pasted over in cloud. There was and would be no sky lights to see, even the 7:06AM sunrise occurred unshone. But it did not matter. The peace of darkness lifting into light with no audible nor visual disruption even though on all edges of this land were homes, a supermarket, an urban arterial, and just down from the access road, a major hospital. Even though all these trammels abided adjacent, we were not of them, we were not among them, we were not theirs, if only for these two hours in late October in northeastern Massachusetts.
And at 6:40AM a single mallard called out from the pond, one loud Honk! Two seconds later, maybe three, two warblers began to burble just in front of me, then a robin, and a cardinal over to the left, and redwing blackbird, and then a song sparrow, and then a mockingbird, and a crowd of sparrows all at once talking, clanking their lunch pails, thrashing amid the shrub that surrounds the nut trees in whose presence I then stood. The stillness was history, and to be awaited for its return in, oh, say 17 hours from now. But who can mind such a songfilled replacement to silence? I stood, enchanted, a vine entangled in one lock of my hair, the ground firm, the light soft, the day rising in its own time and at its own pleasure, and to mine.
I drove home, wishing I were on my bicycle; next time, I promised myself, fed the patiently waiting cats, saw that Mark had slept through my going out and my coming back (good thing, because he had been sleeping poorly for several days), brewed myself a cup of coffee and let rest of the day crowd in.
We were told that the Orionid meteor shower will occur at that predawn hour through November 7th with a little less intensity each day, but motion-filled nonetheless. Perhaps a clear night will occur in these 8 days up to that morning and I will go outside at 5:00 AM and stand on my street and look up with hope, or maybe I will go outside at 4:45 AM and make my way back to that once a upon a time farm, now wildland, and sit on the ground that in places is so dense, prehistorically dense that no tree can inch its roots through, so dense that it is a meadow in a wood, a wood that sways and soughs on the meadow edges, its back to disruption, its back a bulwark for this place.
A friend of mine, who never fails to speak of something of interest told me this cosmological information:
Upcoming during December will be a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. This is an event that was known to occur approximately every 400 years; however it paused or hid and has not occurred visibly since 1226. Yes, the year twelve hundred and twenty six, nearly eight hundred years ago.
The time schedule to watch this phenomenon progress and finally culminate is:
45 minutes after sunset look southwest, and
-on December 4, Jupiter and Saturn will be visibly “close” (2 degrees apart)
-on December 16-18 they are almost touching
-on December 21– they appear to the naked eye to be “one”
My friend tells me that with even a small telescope, (e.g. an 80 mm refractor) you are likely able to see and differentiate them to some degree. I haven’t got a telescope, so I will see what I can see with my trusty binoculars.
Here is Jupiter on left, courtesy of a Hubble Space Telescope photograph, and Saturn on the right, courtesy of NASA.
God ever knows what I never know so, God, I know in you is all before and after me and all is near even when far
There is so much, there are so many in this world who have merited and achieved venerability.
There are so many who have not, who will not.
I will, on this gratefully rainy day, write of delight in the impomposity (new word?) of older trees, in particular tulip poplars. The one of which I have written before in my town, one that I have been photographing for a number of years now as it has declined in health and robustness, but never in stature, is no more. I bicycled past its spot a few weeks ago and behold! there was nothing but mulch, dust, a few shards of bark, and one flower. All else had been cut, sawn, ripped, and carted away. Here is a late in life photograph of this tree dying from time’s passage, land’s diminishment, man’s malignment, air’s loss of breath.
But about two weeks ago, my sister and I visited an area that is well populated with stands of elderly, stately, venerable trees including scarlet, black, pin, and white oaks, mockernut hickories, shellbark hickories, sweet gums, beeches, some sassafrass, one or two magnolias, two spindly but growing american elms, a few sugar maples and a sycamore or two, and a whole community of tulip poplars, including one estimated to be about 400 years old.
The home for all these wonderful breathers and givers of life is flush against two major highways and a puzzle of urban streets on which houses are being replaced with HOUSES.
The home for all these wonderful trees is a respite for any one of us who happens by and wittingly or not deep breathes air that has life, even as in our personal and corporate industry we wrest it of its every molecule.
But speaking of homes, a different “tall” tale:
A neighbor of my sister’s gave me a huge baggie of sunflower seeds from I think just one sunflower that grew in front of her house in NYC. Some I will roast and shell and enjoy. Some I have stored in an envelope, named and dated, and stored in a dark space for planting in the deep brown earth outside my shed, a spot that basks in sunlight practically from sunrise to sunset. And it is a space
that is eminently visible to my busy bees, they need make only a slight left in their departure flights to afar, or, even more efficiently, send a contingent from the designated local foragers (those that do not zoom up and over the driveway, but rather spin around in constant infinity loops in the back yard within feet of the hive) Why have I never thought to plant these flowers there before? Oh, I know. There are a passel of raspberry canes there, which I am and have been removing for the past couple of years, as they do not succeed in providing berries, only in procreating their canes and overpowering all in their vicinity. So after 11 years of no luck, I chose to quit, but it is a years and years long effort, as their procreation of canes is prolific and their roots run long and strong under every possible surface. So I will replace removed, perennial raspberry plants with annual sunflowers to accompany the annual wildflowers I already began sowing among the removed and to-be-removed canes two years ago. Assuming success, the bees, the finches, the starlings, the chickadees, the titmice, the cardinals, the white breasted nuthatches, even the sparrows, bluejays and grackles will be happy to feast on those towers of yellow. See me next August, perhaps I, too, will harvest some of those seeds and can share.
I will finish with this from A. A. Milne’s When We Were Very Young
Halfway down the stairs Is a stair Where I sit. There isn’t any Other stair Quite like It. I’m not at the bottom, I’m not at the top; So this is the stair Where I always Stop.
As September 2020 dries and dries here in New England, the world squirms in discomfort at myriad new, largely unwanted events. We pine, even as we separate from each other in our theories of why, who, what, what next, what was. History, just current events yesterday, a minute ago, has as many eyes, as many versions as there are sentient beings on this planet.
The weeping Gray Birches out front are dropping golden leaves like dust. The Concord River, cutting through downtown to meet up with the Merrimack River, is barely a body of water. I watched a great blue heron the other day slogging through the muck that is the bed of the river where two canals usually drain into it. The heron had to work to raise each foot to move forward in search of errant fish. For 20 minutes I watched, and saw no captures, just slog, slog, stop; slog, slog, stop.
I am sorry to be writing such a blue blog post. I am sorry that there is cause to.
But another impression, oddly heartening: yesterday I was pedaling along a major state numbered roadway (3A) also known, in the area I was pedaling, as Middlesex Road. It carries constant vehicular traffic including many trucks. It is not the pleasantest route to bicycle, but along it are occasional surprises that bring delight. One, well, one was an old cemetery, perhaps 90 feet wide by 50 feet deep, surrounded by a stone wall. I walked my bicycle through an open gate straight through to the 50 feet to another open gate that let out onto a small woodland. I leaned the bicycle against a sugar maple and tiptoed into this woodland. I got about 30 feet in and stopped. Several cardinals, a finch, and I think a robin were talking, calling from different corners within the woodland ahead of me. And beneath their treetop calls, the sugar maple, pine, ash and shrub tree woods were a silent breath.
Eight feet behind me, consistently audible, was the road traffic. But before me, and surrounding me was this woodland breathing.
I was walking to the mailbox to send a card. My phone was in my pocket–gone are the summer days when we would walk empty pocketed, wandering possibly anywhere and unconnected to any satellite beam, unwatched. Maybe, if were “grown-ups”, we would have folded a couple of singles and a five into our shoes. A neighbor, several houses down, had lined their property with sunflowers. A week and a half earlier they were just green stalks, pretty indiscernible from the tall privet hedges with which they share the property edge. Now they had not only burst forth, they were giving out seeds, some having already distributed all they had.
And who do I see there? Bees!! Bees of all stripes, my hive’s residents sharing surface with bumble bees and perhaps others of their community. Look, look, they’re making a beeline!
I want to thank these neighbors for planting so many sunflowers. But I do not know them. This is too bad, that I stop myself from knocking on their door. I can attribute it to the ongoing virus. But I have been enjoying the ways in which they use their green space for several years now. How many of us know our neighbors these days? How many of us have any familiarity with what occurs just outside our front stairs? Our back porch? Our back window? Beyond the fence, the hedge, the wall that demarcates our side from another’s? Nevermind the people down the block, or one or two floors below or above us.
I could be an old fart and grouse that it’s only these past couple of generations who do not know, raised, as they have been, on keyboards and computer screens, even when outdoors, as their heads are bowed to the pittance of a screen on their handhelds. But let us confess, we are almost all of us limited in our awareness of what immediately surrounds our living spaces. We are more attuned to what is broadcast for us on one or another screen than the space through which we pass, or could easily pass, if we ventured forth. I remember the delight I experienced 20 or 25 years ago when I could pull this little pocket phone out of my pocket and call my sister as I walked down the sidewalk! How cool is that!! I can call her and describe to her where I am walking right now! So quickly it became I need to call her right now, this call cannot wait until I am back home, this call to ask what date is so and so’s birthday, demands to occur now, nevermind the patch of wildflowers I am passing by laden with bees dipping and delving, doing their remarkable life-giving pollinating before my very eyes, if only I looked, instead of poking at the numbers on my electronic device. This call, this distant contact about unurgent matters matters more than this moment here now.
So I need to stop, need to look about me, breathe, listen, touch the textures at hand, lick the salt of sweat off my upper lip. Put the phone back in my pocket. Stand still, watch the bees, watch the sunflower petals riffle in the breeze. When I set myself back in motion, to make it slow (hard for me! it is easier to stop short and peer around for a bit, than to amble at a pace below three and a half to four miles per hour), and notice what surface I am treading, what sits at the edges, who is standing at their front door ready to say hello to me if I will say hello to them.
Here are a couple of photographs, hard to see her, but look carefully–a great blue heron in, due to our current drought, a low water pond. I stood and watched her for about 20 minutes, and then I couldn’t stand still any longer; I just had to move on (:-)) She had been there before I had arrived, and she remained standing there after I left. She preened feathers, aired out her wings, scratched under her chin, preened again, and paid close attention to the terrain. She stayed in place. Attending.
Can you say you have ever experienced complete silence? Do you believe one can experience complete silence? Do you know if it exists? As what, a concept, an audible absence-external and internal, only external? I will stop offering options for what I am asking it is, because by them I am skewing your response. I go back, and rephrase just slightly. Can one know if complete silence exists? How?
I go forward and re-ask again slightly differently, if you know complete silence exists, where, how do you find it?
Is it felt? How?
Is it calming? Does it cause fear? Peace? Anger? Freedom?
I come back, can silence even be a concept? Is it a presence? An absence?
Sometimes I can walk down a New York City street and become aware that I have not been hearing the always massive-decibel sounds surrounding me, neither original sounds nor echoes, neither mechanical sounds nor human. Why? Has a shawl of silence draped itself around me? Is noise, perhaps, only a function of attention? What does that say about silence?
When you think of silence, do you think of it as lightness? Do you think of it as weight?
Can sound be felt? Can a thrumming inside one’s head, seemingly inside one’s ear be called sound? If so, does this make silence impossible?
And, if so, can someone without the physical capacity for hearing experience sound, feel sound?
Does motion mean sound? Therefore, in life, is silence even possible? Blood flowing through our veins and arteries, constantly; organs tugging their needed sustenance out of resting or passing food stuffs; breath even held still circulating in the lungs in the vessels in the molecules–not silent?
Something just occurred to me as I sit here pondering silence “out loud”, two things actually–when you read this text, do you hear a voice? Whose?
Secondly, it seems that silence can be visual. See this picture? This guy at this moment in the presence of a rushing river, chattering and squawking gulls behind him, chirping songbirds behind me, and automotive traffic behind them; this guy embodied silence and it took my breath.
Unphotographed, but closely watched, through fairly new binoculars through the kitchen window, as I sat, eating my lunch at 1:00PM this humid, hopefully soon rainy day, was a young robin. She looked, it seemed at me for a few seconds, then turned her head left responding to a sparrow who had landed further along on the very branch on which reposed said robin. The sparrow, as sparrows do, immediately leapt off the branch toward another spot, angling his way toward the bird feeders, currently well populated by other sparrows. One sparrow does not care if 10 other sparrows are at the feeder, he shoulders in when he is ready. Everyone squawks and everyone shifts.
The white breasted nuthatch announces her arrival from the west, about a tenth of a second before she lights on the sunflower seed feeder. She lands or redirects to nose-down, everytime. Her long, sharp beak pokes into the grid, she yanks out a sunflower seed, and rushes back to the tree face to jam the seed in and then repeats this procedure, three or four times before she pauses her flights, likely to then poke the tree bark against the sunflower seed tucked underneath it using that broader push surface to force the seedpouch open the the seed to fall out, and she, the nuthatch to consume it. Meanwhile, the sparrows are flicking and flacking each other from feeder to feeder, variously clutching and falling off of perches, and fluttering their wings to regain balance. On top of the shepherd hooks from which the feeders are suspended, are several immature sparrows, with two more on a back branch of the dogwood, all feverishly flapping their still kind of tiny wings and calling to the adults, feed me, feed me! And they do. Child opens wide, and adult places seed in gullet to be swallowed and used.
There is also a parent-child downy woodpecker pair appearing daily, usually in the morning early and then at noon. The child, whose crown is brown, and so I think may be a male child, waits clinging to the thistle feeder, while the adult/mother pokes at the gross (to me) suet in its feeder, digs an ample chunk out and brings it to the child, 6 inches away or so on the thistle feeder. Here too, the child opens wide, and the adult sets the food morsel deep into its mouth. They repeat this five times or so and then fly away for a bit, to return 5 or 10 minutes later.
Sometimes in the morning, sometimes at lunchtime, sometimes in the evening, these days, the cardinal father and child pair arrive. The child either perches on the lip that encircles the sunflower feeder, or on a branch of the dogwood, and the father, brilliant red and in full voice between tasks, pulls out a sunflower seed and places it into his child’s mouth, again and again.
But this young robin, today napped so assuredly eyes tightly shut, not even cracking a peek once it tired of watching me watching it. The sun gentled her head and shoulders. Her tail, two u-shapes at their gathered bottoms; her wings draped alongside her, like a shawl falling from her shoulders. She was lulling me into a parallel ennervation, when from a ways off to her right side a cheep, one loud cheep struck her ear. Her eyes flew open, she turned, and she flew off the branch straight at that sound. And I was seeing only a branch, around which she had easily curled her long slender toes and dozed.
As noted at the top. I have no photographs of these goings on. Nothing to visually accompany my tale of today’s lunchtime antics. I hope you can picture them in your mind. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.1
So here are two photographs I just took while sitting on the porch (when I come out onto the porch it takes the birds about five minutes to adjust to my presence and return, whence they had hastily departed upon my interfering arrival)–the four feeders around which these birds all congregate with a few branches of the dogwood to your left; and the beehive that remains ever active behind those bird feeders.
As I type this right now, thunder is rumbling in the distance. Our hope is for it to evidence rain this time. We remain green so far, in our trees with their deep, deep swallowing roots, and shrubs, and the bushes that feed our fragrant pink and red roses and the stalks that hold orange lilies, white daisies, pink, yellow, white, blue wildflowers; but our grasses are brown and beige. We are not accustomed to such prolonged evidence of dry here in New England. Happily not.
I mostly do not write to propound political or economic or societal or religious views. I write to share moments of this life on earth that might intrigue another of you as they do me, or might surprise, or might please, or evoke laughter, awe, a smile, once in awhile a tear. Sometimes something just pokes its face inside my head and sidles down my arm, into my fingers and out onto the keyboard, leaps into the space that electronic communications fill, and to you, if you choose to reel in what those electronic waters are running past you at your moments along their shores.
Today though I have this to say: Let us begin to value being. (what is that called when the letters of a word rearranged are another? anagram? yes. begin being. Let us begin to value being. What is it called when a word or phrase spoken sounds just like another word phrase? homophone? yes let us lettuce.) lettuce bottoms a setting, and on it is built many a salad, which comprises such a mix and is the beauty of its own eclecticism; let us enjoy from the bottom up that which surrounds us, that which is life as we know it, unpredicted, unpredictable, an adventure of no certain outcome. Let us find its good base, and climb up what this base holds firm and sing a melody, discordant or concordant, harmonized, multivariant, however it grows and merges, let it, let us.
We were made good. Let us let good be; let us begin being good. Every element was made good, and for good (both meanings — for the purpose of good, and for all time. what is that called — both are a noun, one is moral one is computational, and yet each one impacts the other. How to think of this? Each one, made good, impacts the other. But did begun-good/made-good stay good or become not?
Why, oh, why from the bottom of slopes do slopes slant so steeply up; for some? All start at 0, creation ensures it. Why are some ascendants’ adventures so beleaguered, cratered in the slipped-foot gashes of others? Why is not a hand to help held out, tilted to be caught into, cupped to carry? Why instead a fist, uncoupled, ungraspable? Why is good so difficult to accomplish, so unoffered? Thus in time, derelict, unreceived?
And, yet, it is not impossible. The answer to my question above the photo story, my question asking: But did begun-good/made-good stay good or become not? Both. Let us together remove ‘become not’ (good)’ from the experience of life.
have this dance? cross this line? have more? call you? take this book home? ask you a question?
What do these May I questions evoke in you? Who do you see asking each question? Is it ever you? Is it never you?
Is May I polite or argumentative? Is it neither? What is it then?
Are these questions hard for you to answer or easy or mindless or annoying?
May I dream
The next five photographs are of two tulip poplars. The first three are of a tulip poplar I recently discovered a mere half mile from the one I have been watching for years, the one that is slowly, graciously dying and is the subject of the final two of these five photographs. After photograph three and before photograph four is a paragraph from one of my favorite books of all time, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, by Annie Dillard.
“A tree stands there, accumulating deadwood, mute and rigid as an obelisk, but secretly it seethes, it spits, sucks, and stretches; it heaves up tons and hurls them out in a green, fringed fling. No person taps this free power, the dynamo in the tulip tree pumps out ever more tulip tree, and it runs on rain and air.” (Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, by Annie Dillard)
And that gingko note, the very word, prehistory, makes me laugh, a bit joylessly. The fact we hold anything before we humans were is, semantically, as not. Perhaps we will begin to read epochal signs a little more humbly. Before we were is was. Will we, singlehandedly, bring it all down along with us?