Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

Up the gentle green hill, mid-morning sun dapples through the leafy ring around this landscape. Pick up speed running down again, laughing, arms akimbo, making fluttering shadows in the sun.

What’s it all for?

Once many of us ran our own green slopes when young.  Half a century later, probably few of those young’uns do.  For me, time has collapsed, my future passed, and the timeless summer day comes again. If only for the exhilarating run past sun, shade, and flower on a peerless blue sky day.

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Take note

Has anyone else noticed how similar the wail of an ambulance siren is to the keen of the banshee?

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Electric medium, the mind.  When Marshall McLuhan said the “medium is the message,” he meant the carrier, not the mode of the message.  What, or more correctly, who is the carrier?  You, me, we, and them.  The background noise, the humanity of this planet.

Our flesh and chemistry, flickering substrate between heaven and earth, shadows against the wall, differing lives, intent, needs, joy, and despairs. Even socially distanced, we are a hive, like eventually finds like, online or off, the edges undulate, a sinuous dance snakes through time and space.

A fire that breathes. Inhale the future, exhale a life story. Billions of eyes peer out, taking in scenes that feed restless souls. What have your eyes seen? A sight seared into memory three decades ago, or the angle of light this afternoon? Sight or vision, outer or inner, each image adds to the primordial visual cortex that is human history.

Unlimited by distance, we share what we see, all that was, or ever is, ours to recollect.

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There are many type of gardens, most improve with age.  And sometimes age says more about the gardener than the garden.

For as long as I recall, my mother kept a fair-sized garden at the house where I grew up.  Only the second place she ever lived, her garden welcomed many varieties and the occasional native plant, long before native plants were popular in residential gardens.

It was not until my mother was into her 70’s that I learned she did not come to gardening on her own.  It was the chain-smoking, bottle-blonde older neighbor with an affinity for Yorkie dogs that introduced her to the hobby. The neighborhood was new then, mostly rancher homes with no landscaping save  for the barren hardscape of a construction zone.

Mother of two when she moved in, eventually two more children came along, and the garden began to take shape.  Phlox, lilies, ornamental shrubbery, scrub oak, columbine, and a host of perennials came and stayed for the duration. A few larger trees arrived over the years, an Austrian pine, Linden, Quaking aspen, Hawthorne, and Mountain Ash, several of which remain today.

My mother was reliably found in the garden, enriching the soil year after year with a cup or two of peat moss in each planting hole, dipped out of a colorfully painted tin cup that was old even when I was young.

The gardening styles of my mother and I are wholly different.  While my mother established and tended the mainstays of her garden for decades, I cultivate changeability, welcoming volunteers, being romanced by new introductions, stalking my garden with a trowel in one hand and unexpected entrant in the other, looking for the right spot–or sometimes any spot. Her garden was steady, mine forever shape-shifting.

My mother retired some time ago, her garden figuring prominently in each day after that.  She volunteered for years at the local botanical garden, and there is a bench there that bears her name. When I visited home, we walked and talked in the garden, discussing plants and their habits.  As any gardener knows, one of the secrets of a garden is its timelessness.  There is no before, or after, there is simply the face of the garden as it is now.

I visited again last August.  In her 90th year, my mother does not have a great deal of short term memory.  There had been talk of a move to assisted-living, as aging in place with assistance simply wasn’t enough anymore.

After I arrived, we chatted inside the house. I had the discomfiting feeling that my mother could not altogether place me. While I was used to reintroducing topics or people, this was something different.

As we spoke, I glanced out the picture window that takes in a terraced garden in the back of the house.  The garden, long home to a community of robust plantings, was three-quarters covered by an invasive grass, beautiful in the breeze, but entirely hiding the differentiated species that may yet be struggling there. Startled, I asked her about the grass.  She looked out unperturbed, saying only that it grew well there.

Though lovely, the grass is homogeneous, smothering wherever it grows, it has nothing to say and little to show.  A metaphor of the mind, the grass had overtaken the decades of detail of the life that tended it. The gardener is no longer in residence.

A few weeks later, my mother moved into a beautiful assisted living facility.  There are kind people, good meals, and interesting activities.  She adjusted well, with help, over time.  There is a sunny courtyard in which to walk and the garden that I thought she would miss does not come up in our telephone conversations.

COVID-19 is stalking the residents of assisted living and nursing facilities throughout this country.  Family visits curtailed, packages quarantined, employees tested for symptoms on each arrival. But like seeds of invasive grasses, the progenitors of COVID-19 are rarely seen, showing only after the virus has taken hold in a fragile human ecosystem. Like everyone around the world, we can only wait.

On my next visit, I will bring starts of some of the plants in her garden with me, and her garden will live on, far from its original setting. That is the way with gardens, even when the gardener goes home.

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And Still the Peepers

On Walkabout this morning.

It rained overnight, the streets shine.  Worms stranded in the middle of the street, I rescue as many as I can.

Coming up on the corner, I hear them, the spring peepers.

In these parts, spring peepers are a small chorus frog that herald the arrival of spring.  This year, I heard them first a week ago last Thursday.  Theirs is the first song of the morning, followed by the solo of the 5 AM robin.  Not long after, a chorus of birdsong serenades in the day.

Nowadays, the streets are more quiet than the birds in the trees and the frogs in the bogs. Residents stay home, school buses are parked, waiting out the virus raging across the land.

Spring peepers are a sure thing when nothing else is.  I am grateful.

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To be a Sunrise

The swirling earth under overcast night turns toward the sun.

Hues of pink orange ripple up the heavenly vault, revealing blue breaks in the sullen sky.

A flush of extraordinary color bathes all that is touched by the dawn.

Breathtakingly new and full of possibility, the everyday marvel lifts the eye and heart of any age.

The flush fades, a cloudy palette closes in.  Oh, but it was glorious.

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Driving into my neighborhood on Thursday afternoon, I noticed a pile of leaves by the side of the road.

Cold weather took many trees by surprise and there remain leaves blowing about, stacking up, and blowing off again.  This pile seemed different.

Slowing down, I saw an adult opossum, curled on its side, jaw slack in a half-smile.  Sadly, it wasn’t playing dead this time.

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Playing Dead

Lying half-curled on its side in leaf debris, head limp, jaw open in a reflexive curled smile, the full grown opossum was dead.

My two dogs, neither youngsters, danced around it, lunging, grabbing it in their mouths, and throwing it back down. By the time I got there, I surmised my female dog had done what she usually does with rodents, birds, or in this case, a marsupial—a forceful shake and the neck breaks.

Because of the potential for these nighttime encounters, the female goes out on a leash in my fenced backyard, otherwise she is impossible to corral, hunting is her thing. My male dog, her dad, is bigger, but not as twitchy fast.

Once I got my female stuffed in the house, I ran to stop him from pouncing on the body, mouthing it, and throwing it around. A nightmare vision of the opossum returning fully vitalized with angry eyes and pointy teeth gnashing at my dog and my hands ran through my head.

Finally separated, my thoroughly insulted dog was difficult to push in the door, but we got there.

The opossum lay prone, unmoving. I apologized to it and made plans to dispose of the body in the morning, hoping there was truth in the slang, “playing possum.”

Playing dead is common. People do it all the time in relationships, jobs, and in the face of overwhelming aggression. For humans it exacts a serious toll, the burial of honest reaction, hope, potential, and pleasure. But for some, it means survival.

For opossums, it means the same. When I looked 45 minutes later, it was gone.

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Rounding a street corner on Walkabout, I heard the first frogs of spring at 4:43 AM several weeks ago.  We call them “spring peepers.”

As the weather swung between warm spells and cold snaps, the song of those solitary individuals, and eventually quartets, came and went as they somehow detected me on the street some distance from their marshy greenbelt.

At about the same time, two early birds, robins in this case, took up the traditional roosting spots where I find them year after year.  For anyone interested, that would be a particular mailbox post and a tree down the block.

Nowadays, spring is in full swing.  Forsythia bush and magnolia trees are blooming and the 5:00 AM robins quickly give way to a delightfully discordant mashup of birdsong—an audio veil that transports any common morning into something more exotic.

And the peepers?  It is prime time.  Early spring rehearsals have led to a tightly interwoven tapestry of sound, a background thrum that is both impenetrable mystery and a well-remembered song of childhood.  Eternity calls nightly—and in those early morning hours, along the greenbelt in an unremarkable neighborhood that could just as easily be yours.


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Age bequeaths change.

Change gives us life and flesh. In turn, change leads us to shed those gifts, eventually.

I am older than I was, and hopefully younger than I will be. It is the same with you.

White, brown, black, pale, dark, yellow, poor, comfortable, avaricious

Genetically conferred containers, in the flesh, while we are.

Take a moment, take a lifetime, soul etches experience from the inside out

You see my face, I see yours, a book and its cover

Scramble for status, to have and to get—does it really matter?

Horseman, pass by.

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