Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Whole World in Tree Rings

On afternoon walks with Pasha, my pace 
is slow, reverent, my voice, hushed. 
My small friend's enthusiasm is contagious.   

On a cushion of moss, the remains of a mourning dove.
I wonder if it was one of the pair that often 
pecks around in the garden.  

I wonder at the vibrancy of the moss, 
even though we've had months of drought.

We have our places: the places where we always pause.

 The huge split boulder is a favorite. I call it the 
"whispering stone", because when I sit there, I whisper. 
 Its where we first met the barred owl the year we moved here. 
flash of white in a tree, then she was perched on a 
branch near us - watching. Pasha saw her, too, as he 
rolled on the soft forest floor near the pond. I got up 
to move closer to him, just in case, but knowing he 
was much too big a critter for her. I thought that would 
be the end of our visit with the owl, but she didn't 
mind my movement at all. We sat, all three of us in the 
same, small circle of hemlocks for an hour. Me not 
wanting to lose a moment of encounter, Pasha hanging with 
me because that's what he does, and the owl because this is
her place, I guessed. She jumped around from limb to limb, 
focussed on the ground, and very little on us, until 
the blue jay came and pierced the silence with 
loud warning cries.  

Towering hemlocks hide all kinds of 
creatures, and only if we don't seem threatening, 
do we get a glimpse. Root systems
wrapped around stone ledges - dark 
hiding places everywhere. 

I took a slight detour on my usual path and found my 
drawings in the scars of an old tree. I thought of all the 
things you wrote in response to my drawings - 
time, tree time, finger prints, labyrinths, and suddenly 
you were all with me on my walk... you from Australia, 
England, Wales, Atlanta, South Africa, Canada - the whole 
world in the rings of a tree...

A tree shouting red through branches - 
releasing the fire of summer. 

Back in the clearing, 
only a small bit of wood left to stack. I stacked 
a cord one day and that got me over the hump. 
I'm waiting for a slow moment in my work-life to get
 back to fall tasks. I find comfort in a stocked shed and the 
clinking sound of well seasoned wood. I think 
the squirrels know what I mean.  

Mums dress up the front step, and the nicotiana is 
tall and hanging on until the first frost which the 
grocer said is coming this weekend. 

Our owl friend came to visit the other day, briefly.
I haven't had a good visit with her in years, so 
I was excited when I saw her perched in her spot 
in the dead hemlock. Folks say I should cut that tree 
down, but I know she likes it. 

She stayed until someone made a racket on the road 
with a loud truck. The moment she tucked in her head 
just so, I knew she would fly.... 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Wind, Water, Cloud-filled Skies and Rain

Though I am still thinking about tree rings, 
the spinning of time and spirals, 
life has taken me on other adventures. 

My last weeks of summer break started with well 
challenges. The above photo is what ended a 
week of very little water use in the house. 
Thank goodness for the privacy of many acres 
of forest.... what DO city folks do if their 
indoor facilities are not in service? 

After a summer with almost no rain, 
my twenty year old water pump decided it 
had had enough. Most of the plants in the vegetable 
bed had to be dug up in order for the small tractor 
to dig out my well. When the men and heavy 
equipment moved into the center of my 
garden, I did my best... 
which wasn't very good!

Once the work had finished, I still had to use the 
well sparingly and wait for the chlorine to flush out
before drinking. I've been visiting a friend up the street
to fill water bottles, and taking very short showers, 
but luckily I am no longer digging little holes in the 
forest floor to use as my outhouse. As of today, 
I think the water may be safe to drink again.... yipee!

And with the start of the school semester, it was days 
before I got into the garden to repair the damage 
caused by clumsy men's feet and the huge tractor wheels. 
Finally last weekend, I graded, re-edged, spread topsoil 
and copious amounts of mulch. In the house, 
I am speaking my gratitude to the water 
as it pours from my shower, and appreciating
the quiet click of the water pressure tank 
 that replaces loud growls 
and roars of the old pump.

sprial post along the trail at Moore State Park, Paxton, Mass

Out and about in the world of teaching, 
classes are in full swing, and two days a week 
I am pulled away from RavenWood and forced into 
much more social interaction than I've had all summer!
My class, Exploring the Natural World, visits numerous 
parks, farms and ponds to draw, photograph and collect 
materials for mixed-media work. 


Yesterday was a breezy, cool fall day for our drawing
trip to a nearby state park. I walked the "Enchanta" 
trail from the parking lot through the forest to the pond. 
Looking up, the damage from the ice storm a few years 
ago is still very evident and many piles of limbs and brush 
sat on the side of the trail. These higher elevations 
were severely damaged in the storm and what used to 
be a relatively thick stand of trees is now open and airy
because so many trees were so severely thinned. 

At the end of the trail, a lovely pond where I became 
obsessed with photographing the clouds reflected in 
the gently moving water. 


I was mesmerized by the undulating surface of 
the water and the changing patterns 
of clouds forms. 


I thought of Monet's huge water lilly series and found 
myself longing for a smooth wood panel and oil paint. 

On the way back along a road, 
I thought this tree was painted with orange. 
Upon closer inspection, I discovered that it 
was hollow and the blaze of orange was 
sunlight reflecting off the interior.

It was really quite magical....
a tree filled with late afternoon sunshine. 

Back at our meeting place, 
a stand of American Chestnut hybrids 
is growing nicely. I've been watching 
the progress of this important project 
for years now.  Most of the native 
American Chestnuts were killed by
 disease years ago. These trees 
are a hybrid with a European Chestnut, 
I believe, and finally this year look more 
like trees than small sticks with 
big ideas.  

I'm happy to report that while I write, 
the rhythm of raindrops taps away 
on the metal roof, the first serious rain 
in weeks! I am hopeful that the garden
might last a few more weeks now. I
haven't been able to water, and 
felt horrible watching things wilt and 
dry up. Thank goodness for 
cloud-filled skies

Monday, September 6, 2010

Whispered Stories of Wombs and Caves

About to walk down the spiral staircase, 
I pause, and notice a knot in the window frame. 
I haven't looked closely before.  
Now I SEE it. 
It reminds me of a drawing done today. 

I begin to look around the house, at the 
wood grain in the floor, at circular, 
spinning lines in a bird's nest on a shelf.
Everything is reduced to line and pattern. 

I see an omphalos in a piece of wood,  
and another in a drawing nearby, 
and understand the elegance of math, 
orbiting electrons and spinning galaxies,  
though I can't explain them, 
except like this, 
in pen and ink and blurring lines. 

I notice the little bits of things picked up 
along paths - ordinary yet miraculous things - 
   whispering stories of wombs and caves and
small creatures hiding in trees. 

I marvel at a tiny spiral relic of shell. 

Again and again I carve a spiral path 
with ink -
as if  spinning around 
the navel 
of a tiny universe.