Longing, we say, because desire is full
of endless distances.”

31 May 2011

 Letters from the Outside #44

Im ruminating on maretail clouds and Hindu swastikas (“auspicious mark of well-being”)when a turkey flushes from from the scrub and flaps urgently over our heads coming down through the opposite understory in a coda of snapping branches and shattering leaves. Calves successfully weaned from their mothers after a week of grievous bellowing that haunted the valley air. The seedlings are getting more and more nakey-sun-time out on the picnic table to acclimate to a more authentic lifestyle. Its been too wet to even plant the cold crops, but I think this weekend, if the weather holds, we'll till in some fine local composted horse manure and set the bevy in.

The yellows of May make way for the the violets of June as per the first lovely flowers of Dame's Rocket, the piebalds my heart goes out to, neither of one nor the other. The bloom is off the lilac and the apple trees, and theres less of a rush in the rills. Buds on the nut trees transform to tiny gothic cathedrals, the grand central spire unfurling, buttressed by an immaculate geometry of sweet leaves fractaling outward through the evening into fresh sheets for the sun to lie in, and other than a few reluctant hold-outs, Cloud Valley is green from hogsback to fen.

I fill in some of the bare patches in the perennial bed with seedlings found wandering in the garden. The strawberry plants are full of white flowers, and again and again am I awestruck at the miracle of green and growing things, from bloom to fruit, from seed to leaf. Wet and wet and the world is changing. Storm front of tornadoes and fire, hurricanes and flood, messengers presaging a coming cataclysm or maybe were just catching up with ourselves, level the playing field. Aliens and Eschatology hover in invisible wavelengths over my head while the seedlings spend another day under the indoors for fear theyll drown in the insidious drizzle. Ive pulled the ancient Sage plants from their beds and moved a Rhododendron.

Now the empty eggshells on the ground, speckled wombs sacrificed for the sky. The pacific northwest climates been a boon for the evergreens I planted on the boundary line, a lush spurt of soft green growth, the snails are legion, and the ground is a cup filled to the meniscus; last nights rain returns to the earth a familiar and unwelcome squish, the soft shoulder of the road churned by the drag of fleeting, sinking hooves. I find one foreleg of a fawn along the road, banks and culverts covered in buttercup and wild geranium, the cuticle of its wee perfect hoof still lustrous. I tuck it under some leaves at the base of a Witch Hazel and wait to see what time will leave for me. Bob Dylan is seventy years old.

When the Sun comes out it as as Light on the face of the waters. And man welcomes summer in, strewing loose garlands of cans and bags and wrappers along the road while bumblebees hover over the russian honeysuckle and the Willow shows her summer robes. A dragonfly. The days I get my allergy shots are always a little weird, as im required to load up on benadryl and still function. Always that half-hour or so when I sit there staring at the sunlight through the hoya leaves. Which isnt so bad, I suppose.

Thunder woke me last midnight and I went out in nothing but my slicker to keep the seedlings I had left out on their first overnight outside from drowning in their wee plastic beds. This weekend we plant out what we can. There hasnt been a hard frost all May, so its not a killing cold that quails me but the rain. Every day the rain. Every day the looming threat of rain. Its getting a little psychological. 

June and not one sweep of the tiller, not one seed in the ground. So the last monday in May I transfer some of the seedlings to their place on the Earth, move a few more pioneering coneflowers, move some notoriously-impossible-to-transplant Sunflower volunteers toward the margin; within minutes theyve fainted away, but only time will tell.

The Hopi Tobacco has gone in, as has the Calendula, Zinnia and Mugwort. There is still standing water in some of the garden. The strawberries are hard green bristly seeded heads, the blackberry still beaded fists.

Theres always thunder in the evening, and the days prove humid and bright. But its good to be out in the heat and the light, listening to the birds and feeling the breeze on my face. Its good to try and work with the Earth, bring something peaceful and beautiful and good into the world which sorely needs it.

My grandfathers factory fan comes down for the summer, tuesday we get our manure and then the tilling and the tomatoes go in, then the gardening in earnest, and the summer, and time moving out in all directions toward your return.

The last evening of May is wide open; quiet and pale and smelling of mown turf and evening dew. We keep at what must be done, patch by patch, and there are the closer hopes and the farther dreams, like small islands and the imperceptibly shifting stars, in search of Home.

27 May 2011

the friday song.

its the birthday of rachel carson.

"The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction."

25 May 2011

its the birthday of ralph waldo emerson.

"Every materialist will be an idealist;  but an idealist can never go backward to be a materialist."

"Amidst the downward tendency and proneness of things, when every voice is raised for a new road...for an  improvement in dress...for a political party...will you not tolerate one or two solitary voices in the land, speaking for thoughts and principles not marketable or perishable?  Soon these improvements and mechanical inventions will be superseded;  these modes of living lost out of memory;  these cities rotted, ruined by war, by new inventions...or the geologic changes;  all gone, like the shells which sprinkle the sea-beach with a white colony to-day, forever renewed to be forever destroyed.  But the thoughts which these few hermits strove to proclaim by silence as well as by speech, not only by what they did, but by what they forbore to do, shall abide in beauty and strength, to reorganize themselves in nature, to invest themselves anew in other, perhaps higher endowed and happier mixed clay than ours, in fuller union with the surrounding system."

24 May 2011

its the birthday of bob dylan.

18 May 2011

Letters from the Outside #43

Sunday bright but everything is still so saturated from a steady month of rain. Creekwater deep and ice cold. Every day is something different and every day is new. The lilacs have arrived, and the old branches cant hold their heavy blooms off the ground, especially now with this new round of rainfall, filling all the thousand mouths with water.

The seedlings spent a few days taking the air, overnighting out in the open, even, but with all the rain I brought them back in under the bulbs. I ate the languishing beet, broccoli and lettuce seedlings and replanted some lettuce since the garden is still too wet to sow. The air in the morning is perfume.

The north beds are filling in, my Candelabra Primrose (also struggling at grace under the weight of rain), Astilbe, False Solomon Seal, its all there; the transplanted Echinacea settling in nicely among the Lupine babies thanks to the cool wet weather, the Dicentra remarkable in its hugeness and profusion, the long arcs of pendant hearts, each one split and dripping its one white tear. The Chocolate Mint resurrects in its dim corner cranny, and the diamond tipped frill of spreading Ladys Mantle is a ceaseless morning wonder, one perfect tiny orb of dew dancing on the pinked edge of the low-growing leaves.

The Hostas, the Peonies, the Columbine – just standing there witnessing their health and thriving affords me a deep and quiet peace I am endlessly grateful for. The wet weather bodes well for a fine Blackberry harvest, and my virgin foray into bramble-infused brandy for Yule. But the windows close, and i rekindle the bright dancing heart of the woodstove to chase the chill away. The hummingbirds seem grateful for the thick sweet food I prepare for them in this cold. Like the emerging flowers, these birds afford me a long moment (if im lucky) of unadulterated joy and grace. I offer them nourishment and they return the gift with the miraculous simplicity of their Light which feeds my own.

Hummingbirds, Mockingbirds, Grosbeaks and Orioles. Daunted by the gardens enormity, its dandelions, and its squish. Biblical rain from the low tyrannical clouds. And this whole matter of the world ending, which has whipped a startling swath around here into jibbering apocalyptic froth. I restart flats of spinach and lettuce, more cabbage and marigolds, try at peppers, hot and sweet. I air out the tomatoes in this sudden generosity of sunlight which will pass with the day into days more of rain. The black cat follows on the bank as I wash the garden mud from my shoes with a walk down and up the little creek that runs between us. It is lovely there, and over the years a deep pool has formed, id be up to the split in it.

. The dense energy of the crest from waxing to full has dissipated some; now theres not the wet down duvet oppression I felt under that hot thick Scorpio tide. Now we oar our little coracles into june, hanging in for heat and light and Litha. I keep the nectar coming, and the feeders full.

I havent walked in what seems like two weeks, save that last drizzling saturday I spent the next town over, in the woods on the hill, and talked about the visible difference between spring Tansy and Yarrow, bird call retention as affected by age, and animal sovereignty. A lovely sprawling place unfurling with ferns and spangled with trillium. The sound of water moving through the broad bed that runs along the shallow gully seam, and moments of that, for me, deeply comforting evergreen cedar smell. Coming upon a stone cellar in the slow and gentle process of returning to the good green world, a pioneer graveyard where the dark stones fall forward into settling pits.

With all this cool and damp, I tell myself, itll be a fine year for the bramble, and berry bloodstained hands will craft a sweet and heady cordial for the coming cold solstice. The bulb flowers have passed for the most part, the lilacs crest, and with the Grace of good weather, my Delphinium will rise, and the perennials will offer an excellent show of yolk-yellow, dusk violet and white petals gathered round the black and golden prickly hived heads attracting and adorned with pollen-heavy bees and the blue-eyed Painted Ladies, some of which were coddled and cocooned at the school down the road from here, making their way in the world.

In the garden, I see where the Jays broadcast juicy Tarahumara seeds last Fall, and I am loathe to till them under. The strawberries are hale, broad petaled blossoms heralding (hopefully) berries heavy and red, all the way through.

You and I did not know one another very well, and these letters may not change that. That was never their intent. But as I said before, you were to me, and will be, a Good and Peaceful presence, going about the days of your life with your friends and your family and your dog, always generous with your Spirit and your energy and your resources, and looking not for recompense, only an acknowledgement of mutual belonging to the family of Man. We love you.

13 May 2011

the friday song.

11 May 2011

08 May 2011

for my mother, on mothers day.

07 May 2011

Letters From the Outside, #42

Skunk totem, and a coyote. Furled hearts emerge on dicentra sleeves. Damp and chill, winters green sweater reemerges for a walk to Sister Mothers where I realize the hummingbirds are back. Jiggety-jig to make french breakfast muffins, and nectar. Its been a bit like Edinburgh here, without the culture. I think this is the fourth sump pump. Skunks are loner mystic pacifists, im told. Skunks walk their talk.  Skunk people are buoyant with life-force, and crepuscular. Allied with Artemis, otherwise unaligned, with its own family classification, Mephitis mephitis.

Early afternoon doesnt feel quite like November as it had in the morning, that prickling in the air when mist crystallizes into thin glittering snow. There are columbine and lungwort and lily of the valley. Deep amethyst faerie cathedrals at the ends of lilac branches. The hosta unwinds in fluted chartreuse stands. Broadening swaths of Lemon Balm and Wild Violet, the Nemeton buds fuzzy with blood red at the edges. The Monkshood robust, Ladys Mantle, Lupine, Lambs Ear, Solomon Seal and Jacobs Ladder in spreading evidence. Coneflowers in deceptively humble clumps, Stargazers and Foxgloves. The daffodils are over, the tulips exuberance still concealed in slender stemmed reticules, and the lone purple hyacinth at the end of the drive rests its fragrant, heavy head on the rising tide of daylily. There might even be hollyhock, if they dont drown.

My little apple saplings sport their silver-dipped leaf clusters. Inside, the christmas cactus lets loose with an especially extravagant display of flowers, phoneix flaming. In lieu of planting leafy greens which I should presently be attending to outside in what most resembles an abandoned hog pen, I putter and dote with the nursery, just proud as punch of my tomatoes which I recently realized I never labeled when moving them into larger nests. Entirely like me, I suppose, but theyll let me know soon enough what their name is. The bookshelf set up just wasnt up to snuff; the bulbs were weak and two set tight together in the center pulled the outside rows of growing into limp slanting filaments. The lettuce and Calendula may never set right. So Cowboy hauled the big four-bulb we used last year up from the recently drained basement and we set it on pedestals of craft tackleboxes and up-turned terracotta pots. I imagine books will be employed to raise the bar as we reach the frost-safe date.

Instead of a fieldtrip I take a lap on the mountain bike (such a different experience from my garagesale blue chirping boardwalk cruisers) and begin the summerlong task of weeding the garden. The soil already leans toward clay, so the stuff is heavy and dense and the dandelion roots slide out with gently applied leverage. Im pulling Comfrey and Mullein and what ive heard called Witchgrass, for the sharp teeth waiting beneath the surface to bite. Today a toad, carried to the cool of last years lavender and sage with salutations to our Lady. Today a prayer more steadfast and effortless as any ive ever sung standing on the Big Pink as the water rushed around me, an incantation to weave me deeply into this wondrous painted veil of the world. And an enormous mythic stone in answer. And a snake, drowned and swaying, caught on a root underwater. I clear the leafpack and lay her in a spiral at the little altar of moss on the feet of an oak tree I have dedicated with a standing stone, a solid chip from a brick. A lot of bricks this spring in the crick.

I begin my auto-didactic banjo lessons today, me and my safety glasses and my workbook with accompanying cd. It is so strange to think it took me this long to get here. Still feeding the woodstove, but only to keep off the chill. Made cookies for Cowboys birthday, little cut-outs of dogs and suns and hearts and john b. stetsons.

Saturday another sunny day so im up and out for more weeding, and another day to work through the tearing pain that comes with my ostracism by Cowboys family, but desperately trying to understand that this is a crucial step in my evolving. But being informed by silence that im simply unforgiveable for a crime no one will explain to me, that my exile has been unanimously agreed upon simply as the way things are and the way they will remain, that i never meant anything to anyone...the senseless hostility and estrangement...its a millstone ive worn around my neck for years now and so much of my spiritual work right now is focused on lifting that millstone. The first decisive step is realizing that I cannot change others, how they perceive me, and their inexplicable, steadfast desire to maintain a hostile environment.  It feeds and validates my vile and ignorant habit of self-loathing, it frustrates my true and beautiful soul-self to literal tears, and since it is a persistent but unspoken subject, it takes up residence in my dreams. This struggle no doubt has a purpose, crucial to my Awakening. But I grieve that when that Awakening comes, it will be only me, without them, on the other side.

"And if the question were asked: What is more real, the mundane or the sublime? most would hesitate before they gave an answer. On the one side, details: say, the aftermath of a breakfast, dirty chipped plates in the sink, their rims encrusted with egg yolk. Against this, the unnameable: small aching heart with boasts, what can you know? Outside the cage of everything we ever heard or saw, beyond, outside, above, there lies the real, hiding as long as we shall live, there stretch and trail the millions of names of God burning across the eons. When all through this our end will come before we even know the names of us.

For many the egg yolk prevails." -L.M.

"Love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is done well."

"The perfection of the Absolute where all Becoming stops and pure Being, immutable, timeless, unchanging, hangs forever like a ripe peach upon the bough." -E.A.

"...and the whole incident was incredibly frazzling and angst-rod and filled almost a whole mead notebook and is here recounted in only its barest psycho-skeletal outline." -D.F.W.

"At the top of the mountain, we are all snow leopards." -H.S.T.

"Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live." -D.T.
"Cometh a voice: My children, hear; From the crowded street and the close-packed mart I call you back with my message clear, back to my lap and my loving heart. Long have ye left me, journeying on by range and river and grassy plain, to the teeming towns where the rest have gone - come back, come back to my arms again. So shall ye lose the foolish needs that gnaw your souls; and my touch shall serve to heal the fretted nerve. Treading the turf that ye once loved well, instead of the stones of the city's street, ye shall hear nor din nor drunken yell, but the wind that croons in the ripening wheat. I that am old have seen long since ruin of palaces made with hands for the soldier-king and the priest and prince whose cities crumble in desert sands. But still the furrow in many a clime yields softly under the ploughman's feet; still there is seeding and harvest time, and the wind still croons in the ripening wheat. The works of man are but little worth; for a time they stand, for a space endure; but turn once more to your mother - Earth, my gifts are gracious, my works are sure. Instead of the strife and pain I give you peace, with its blessing sweet. Come back, come back to my arms again, for the wind still croons in the ripening wheat."
-John Sandes, The Earth-Mother (excerpt, 1918)