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Posts Tagged ‘nature’

MacDonald Frances Desire Path

Then and this. Now and here.

A pause.

Cool air shivers skin. The bus engine grumbles below plastic seats molded to cup a human’s soft places. Thighs of meat padding bone. Outside, women in a pack bustle down the sidewalk in jeans stretched taut.

The days grow shorter.

Even so, I forget. Forget to stop and touch the zinnia with its five shades of orange tethered to a center like chocolate. Forget to let the crepe myrtle dip across my cheek. Barely notice a fat bee chugging past me towards what bursts from the hedges. A body that should be too weighty for the tissue of wings somehow stays airborne.

I forget that eventually, everything falls. I forget to catch drift.

(more…)

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cicada dreams

Walking the dog, it comes. Out of nowhere, or somewhere almost forgotten.

If my words did glow
With the gold of sunshine

A song.

Out loud. Into this ordinary day, I sing.

This is the first time in months my voice has opened like this. It is not the first song, no – there’s always the radio, always mugging for neighborhood kids.

But like this? Just the day, the dog, and me? I am new all over again.

(more…)

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Mother Earth Odjig

Mother Earth, Daphne Odjig

Eyes like a growling. Eyes like a treasure box. Storefront reflection, candid photograph, inverted glint on spectacle glass.

Eyes tethering me to corporeality.

They write their stories on my body. Make their confessions on my body. Cast the runes and decode the signs and plan their fortune on my body. Ink the map of their nightmares on my body. X the spot of their rescue on my body.

(more…)

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mygardenlife

Petals from nameless tress, blossoms pink as sisters
edge sidewalk, gutters, stairs
drawing a perfect pillowed frame around everything that separates us.

With a form to cement the end
of a project that’s kept her here eight years,
she stands at the threshold
of my office. Her offering of gratitude
a satchel of lotions and oils, heavy with the perfume of peach flowers.
The girl in me feels the kiss of a sundress on her calves. Remember
grass? Body paint, sun-streaked boys,
pennants stained with soot and crushed blackberries,
gymnastic arcing bonfires,
bare arms in pas de deux with dusk.
(more…)

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hidden-door

Tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in everything.

– William Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act ii, Scene 1

In case of paralysis, break glass. Out there
is here. Stairs, a whining thud, fat-bellied
cicada trapped in a breezeway
flings itself from wall to wall
until it surrenders
to defeat, so much like gravity.
Even with its trident of five eyes,
it is blind to the way through.
Corridor becomes vault. Had it been born
a bluebottle butterfly, it might stand a better chance,
its photoreceptors detecting
a million colors
more than those five eyes,
and far beyond what our feeble pair perceive
(and so believe). We are as wary of spectrometers
and their evidence of hidden hues
as we are of quantum wavefunction
and infrared snapshots of the Kuiper belt. (more…)

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CCT

You have no engagements, commitments, obligations, or duties; no special ambitions and only the smallest, least complicated of wants; you exist in a tranquil tedium, serenely beyond the reach of exasperation, “far removed from the seats of strife,” as the early explorer and botanist William Bartram put it. All that is required of you is a willingness to trudge.


– Bill Bryson, A Walk in the Woods

With a little vacation away from work and my kiddo off canoeing at day camp, it’s time for a fix of woods.  I pull up Hiking Upward to find something near enough to hit in a few hours but far enough for solitude.

This is the goal: solitude.  And its accompanying quiet.

Humans are social creatures, sure, and we need to be in proximity to people as much for a sense of connection as for all the stuff — the supermarket and hospital, the auto mechanic and school.  To survive, we need to be in community.  Even so, too much proximity to too many others can take its toll.  The buzz of engines and clang of machines, the soundtrack of urban and suburban life, can jam the signals.  When I start to notice myself too focused on the clock and task list, too alert, too aware of every demand and every passing vehicle, I know it’s time to seek out a forest.

Hiking Upward’s interactive maps let a user explore a stretch from southern Pennsylania to northern North Carolina.  The descriptions cover each leg of the journey and reviewers add details to keep things up to date.  Many of the reviews make note of the presence or absence of “road noise,” which is almost impossible to escape anywhere in the mid-Atlantic.  The site rates each hike on five characteristics: difficulty, streams, views, camping, and — yes — solitude.

For a mid-July hike in Virginia, shade would be more important than peaks.  Quiet, most important of all.  Out west in the Shenandoah and beyond, several hikes hit all the right numbers.

The problem is that lately, I’ve been taking care to drive less.  My dual commitments to frugality and environmental stewardship have me hopping on the bus and train when I can, even though this choice extends the commute.  Bug and I bike around the neighborhood for fun instead of driving to parks further away.  My shopping and entertainment are much closer to home, and I make every effort to combine trips by doing things like picking up groceries during my weekday lunchtime walk then lugging them home on the metro.

This desire for the woods is in direct conflict with the desire for sustainable living.  Still, the girl hungers to be out in the quiet.  By the time I’ve gone to bed, I’ve settled on a regional park about 16 miles out of town.  It seems shaded enough, isolated enough, and close enough that it would meet all the criteria without my little Corolla belching too much carbon monoxide back into the atmosphere.

Thankfully, sleep has a most refreshing effect on my conflicted mind.  Blessed is the deep rest that washes clear the path.

I wake to this thought: I want to go somewhere free of road noise, and I’m going to put my car on the road to get there?

The hypocrisy makes me smile.  I climb out of bed determined to make a choice that will honor both of my commitments.

With my hiking gear already in the car and my kiddo packing up his sunscreen and bug spray for day camp, I hop back online.  Where can I hike without leaving town?

Fairfax County, Virginia is home to environmental leaders whose dedication far surpasses mine.   My neighbors have been working for decades to protect the fragile watersheds that sustain our region.  In the 1990s, a critical mass of residents and leaders began to plan the 40-mile long Cross-County Trail. Its path  moves through vast ribbons of green whose undeveloped foliage act as sponges to filter pollutants from our streams.

This trail weaves in and out of neighborhoods.  It follows busy roads to connect sections of woodland.  I’ve walked parts of it further east, popular sections next to parking lots and ball-fields.   Those areas are wide and groomed, with bikes and families and runners.  But miles of the trail wind through areas that are hard to find unless you know where to look.

The truth is, I’ve never thought much of this local trail as a “hike.”

It’s time to change that.

One section of the trail happens to be within a few hundred yards of the bus pick-up spot for Bug’s camp.  The Corolla will clock exactly zero additional miles and I can be hiking.  So this is what we do, Noodle and me.  We drop the kiddo at the bus, I shrug into the backpack, and we start walking.

Around the golf course, behind houses, and into the woods.

Woods!  Woods like forest, like Shenandoah, like a wild place.  Creek crossings.  Lush carpets of ferns.  Damp oak leaves drooping across the sky.  Solitude, yes — in three hours, only four people pass us.  And while the occasional distant leaf blower or lawnmower jars me back to this zip code, the morning is almost entirely quiet.

“Quiet” isn’t the same as “silence.”  Truth is, when we need to replenish the spirit, silence is not really what we’re after.  Rather, we crave the absence of pressing need, the muting of the incessant clatter that keeps us in a heightened state of reactivity.  Quiet is far from quiet.  It’s a music, a pulse of wildness that tracks the beat inside us.  Quiet is the chittering throb of cicadas, the swooping cry of an unidentified bird.  The small crystal shattering of water over stone.

Eight and a half miles we walk through the morning, through our very own town.  I see its raw underside, the part that feeds us whether we know it or not.  It nourishes us without us drawing down its riches.

It’s here.  It’s not just in our backyard, it is our backyard.

It turns out that it is indeed possible to hike close to home.  Isn’t a hike just a walk with intention?  Even a cross-county trail isn’t a requirement.  A hike can cover suburban neighborhoods and city streets.  Seeing any stretch of ground as hike-able reveals a whole new terrain.

Of course, it isn’t new at all.  It simply asks to be entered as if it contains the possibility of wildness and wonder. It simply requires of us “a willingness to trudge.”

We teach our kids to revel in the natural world in ways that minimize damage to it.  We don’t let them deface trees or leave trash.  As grownups making our more complicated calculations, it’s critical to remember that the same simple rules apply.  If we want to keep finding refuge in the forest, if we want our grandkids to seek sustenance in the unbuilt world, then we need to do our part to sustain it.  Sometimes that means choosing not to go at all.  Sometimes means opening ourselves to the wild places waiting right outside the door.


 

 

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garden woman

Deadheading flowers will encourage more blooms on flowering plants. The normal goal of a plant is to flower, set seeds and die. Since we want them to continue to set flowers. . . we want to discourage flowers from setting seed. Deadheading the flower as it expires will redirect the plants energy from setting seed to creating more blooms. Additionally, keeping your plants free of dying material will discourage disease and allow more parts of your plant to receive sunlight.


From Cedar Circle Farm organic farmstand and education center

Someday I will live where I can garden naked. For now I make do with stepping out onto the balcony at daybreak, damp from a shower and dressed in enough to mask my skin’s craving.

July’s rain is nothing to its glare.  A geranium in its pink pot drinks up half the jug without draining a drop. Everyone is thirsty.

A spider bobs on filament above a mess of thyme. Every time my clumsy elbows tear loose her spun walls, she rebuilds.  I take care to duck under her strands but she knows better than to trust me.  She skitters to the safety of the railing, her back an arrow of malachite flashing through a mica shield.

The thyme has tangled itself into the rosemary.  Both started from seed two years ago.  Now they are a wild fury.  Winter buried their leggy stems, spring drowned them in pools of choked mud, and now summer burns them raw. As determined as their spider neighbor, they go on.  New strands unfurl sometime in the night.  When sun steams open the sky, tiny leaves press towards light.  They grow even when the only sustenance is a stolen sip from morning’s turgid heat.   Even left forgotten in the corner, they climb out of their barren beds and peel open their seams to free a thin, bristling marrow.

The marigolds and petunias perched up in boxes have curled in and darkened. I deadhead the withered, closing my fingertips gently around each base and letting the dry tissue fall free. It is more of a coax than a tug.  Picking blackberries requires the same light touch.  The ripe ones slip loose.  Any that resist are left to darken their bite to sugar.

Ample rain and sun have kept these blossoms in a state of perpetual return. They begin even as they end.  The petunias are tricky this way.  Bud or compost?  At a glance, it’s hard to know which are closed for good and which are waiting to open.  The only way to tell is with a tiny stroke, just enough for the purple fullness to lay its pulse against the skin. The gesture is almost imperceptible.  Does it fold itself over and surrender to its end?  Or does it flex and hold inside its cocoon of flesh?   Touch has no influence on the dormant thing, only on me.  Its signal sounds through cell, through our common organelles, that it is bud and not corpse.  I let go and step back.  Somewhere deep in its furred sepal it clings to the threads of its root, churning sustenance into the shape of itself, murmuring, here, I am here, don’t rush me, I’ll know when it’s time to wake up.


Image: “Earth Goddess” from a 2013 exhibition at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens by Mosaïcultures Internationales de Montréal

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