Inspiration from David George Haskell’s book, The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature

I wasn’t expecting to have to run back inside for a jacket for my morning walk to the gate, but I did and was still cold. It was right at 50 degrees with a chill stiletto wind that slips down around your neck  and makes you hunch up your shoulders.

The pictures here are ones I took this morning. There was a low cloud cover, with just enough light so that the camera did its point and shoot thang without the flash. So, there’s a little story in the captions. You’ll be seeing lots of these sorts of photos as the year moves on. I want to document the plants here in a slightly more orderly way than I have in the past. Probably because I’ve just started reading David George Haskell’s highly recommended book, The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature. I’d like to take my fingers out of all the other pies they’re in, and hide out to read this book with no interruptions. Thanks to my friend, writer and the BBQ/coffee king, David C. Bailey, for giving me a head’s up on this one. I’m no scientist, but I am surely a loving observer.

I believe that the forest’s ecological stories are all present in a mandala-sized area. Indeed, the truth of the forest may be more clearly and vividly revealed by the contemplation of a small area than it could be by donning ten-league boots, covering a continent but uncovering little.

The search for the universal within the infinitesimally small is a quiet theme playing through most cultures. The Tibetan mandala is our guiding metaphor, but we also find context for this work in Western culture. Blake’s poem “Auguries of Innocence” raises the stakes by shrinking the mandala to a speck of earth or a flower: “To see a World in a Grain of Sand/And a Heaven in a Wild Flower.” Blake’s desire builds on the tradition of Western mysticism most notably demonstrated by the Christian contemplatives. For Saint John of the Cross, Saint Francis of Assisi, or Lady Julian of Norwich, a dungeon, a cave, or a tiny hazelnut could all serve as lenses through which to experience the ultimate reality.

~David George Haskell (from his Preface to The Forest Unseen)

Florida Anise (Illicium Floridanum), photo taken at Longleaf Preserve on April 5, 2013 on bank of natural spring, where it blooms this time every year.
Florida Anise (Illicium Floridanum), photo taken at Longleaf Preserve on April 5, 2013 on bank of natural spring, where it blooms this time every year.

 

Photographed at Longleaf Preserve on April 5, 2013. We were leaving town for several months back in the year 2000. My step-daughter had given me several iris plants, and I had bought a couple, too. Some had yellow flowers, others purple. I slipped them into the stream-bed muck, hoping they would like having their feet wet all summer. Ever since, they continue to thrive and divide, and make a big show for us each Spring.
Photographed at Longleaf Preserve on April 5, 2013. We were leaving town for several months back in the year 2000. My step-daughter had given me several iris plants, and I had bought a couple, too. Some had yellow flowers, others purple. I slipped them into the stream-bed muck, hoping they would like having their feet wet all summer. Ever since, they continue to thrive and divide, and make a big show for us each Spring.

 

Purple Thistle (Cirsium Horridulum) Easily recognizable, a weed seen in ruderal spots nearly everywhere. This one was photographed halfway between house and gate at Longleaf Preserve on April 5, 2013. My husband, Buck, didn't run over it when he ran the bush-hog yesterday because he knows I have a soft spot for blooming thistles.
Purple Thistle (Cirsium Horridulum) Easily recognizable, a weed seen in ruderal spots nearly everywhere. This one was photographed halfway between house and gate at Longleaf Preserve on April 5, 2013. My husband, Buck, didn’t run over it when he ran the bush-hog yesterday because he knows I have a soft spot for blooming thistles.

 

Each fall, Buck and our friend Harold bush-hog the clearing all around the house and plant it with oats, wheat and rye. Deer, bunnies and other critters nibble it and sleep in it all winter and then they eat the seeds. It's a real boon for our wild turkeys and migrating birds. This is how it looked today, April 5, 2013.
Each fall, Buck and our friend Harold bush-hog the clearing all around the house and plant it with oats, wheat and rye. Deer, bunnies and other critters nibble it and sleep in it all winter and then they eat the seeds. It’s a real boon for our wild turkeys and migrating birds. This is how it looked today, April 5, 2013.

 

Henbit (Lamium Amplexicaule) is an annual broadleaf weed. It prettifies our clearing every year and makes for unhappy golfers and happy bees. You can guess which one I care about the most. I took this photo this morning, April 5, 2013 at Longleaf Preserve.
Henbit (Lamium Amplexicaule) is an annual broadleaf weed. It prettifies our clearing every year and makes for unhappy golfers and happy bees. You can guess which one I care about the most. I took this photo this morning, April 5, 2013 at Longleaf Preserve.

 

See caption on the yellow iris for an explanation of how this stunner came to live in the stream-bed. Photo taken at Longleaf Preserve April 5, 2013.
See caption on the yellow iris for an explanation of how this stunner came to live in the stream-bed. Photo taken at Longleaf Preserve April 5, 2013.

 

 

 

 

Not Quite Out of the Woods

Flying free in the woods is much more felicitous than being shrink-wrapped in the supermarket.

FUNNY HOW WE SPEAK OF SOMEONE being “out of the woods” as a sign that they are out of danger from a health crisis and yet when I see the wild turkeys so at ease in the woods on this Sunday before Thanksgiving, and I consider my own ease there as well, it is clear that for the turkey to be shrink-wrapped in a supermarket refrigerated case or me sky-dropped into a concrete canyon, to be “out of the woods” would be lethal for the turkeys and uncomfortable for me.

Thank you for the comfort of your words and prayers for my sister. She has just been moved down a notch from intensive care. There has been brain surgery to relieve pressure from swelling in the unforgiving skull.  There have been seizures. One day we conversed on the phone and the next she could not speak at all, and all the faces she beheld were as if they were strangers rather than her own good sons. During the past sixty hours, her ability to speak, to read, to think and to remember her loved ones and friends, has returned. The joy I felt upon hearing her slightly creaky voice, sometimes reaching for a word or phrase, is quite indescribable.

Buck and I talked once about creating video conversational interviews of one another to preserve the essence of light in the eye, timbre of the voice, body language and the je ne sais quoi that makes us us. We really need to do this for each other, against the day.

We walked the woods today. It was warm in the sunshine and a tad chilly in the shade, the sky electric blue. I hope you enjoy this little slideshow of our walk.

September’s End at Longleaf

Yesterday morning I walked our woods for the first time in more than two weeks. There were several cool nights while we were away; enough to tinge these oak leaves the colors of autumnal hydrangeas. Today, noisy rain has enclosed me in the sconce-lit dreaming space of my study, where I wear a soft old sundress and pink slipper socks, and drink pomegranate-infused green tea.

Every Blazing Star stalk in the woods seemed to come with its own bee yesterday. The drunken bees were slow and heedless of a camera-clicking person.

The forest was strung with dancing garlands. I wonder if they have tiny bulbs inside that light up at night?

A mushroom with strep throat? Blushing? Don’t believe I should touch or taste this one.

Haven’t you ever had one of those days when you were just too tired to hold your head up a minute longer?

Of course, if you stay down too long, somebody may move in.

Tiny yellow flowers sprinkled as if from a Lilliputian’s basket are everywhere I look. Who wouldn’t be cheered by these bright sprites?

I let a  rafter of 18 turkeys move through the clearing in front of the house before heading out for my walk. They bounded along, stopping every few steps to lunge at something on the ground, either a bug or a seed.  A young deer calmly watched as I moved into the woods. She probably grew up right here and has most likely seen me many times before. Our home, hers and mine.

Flying Women, A Dragon, and a Bunch of Antsy Characters

Tuesday morning. I should have gotten up at 2:30, when it was clear the itch in my brain had escaped and was running down my legs and out into my arms so that it was impossible to keep still in bed. I twitched and sighed all night.

I got this idea that I needed a Dragon. Doesn’t every woman? My inner voice harps, “Be your own dragon.” Well, yes, sure, but this dragon is different. It’s a Nuance Naturally Speaking Bluetooth Dragon. I am not ready to create voice-to-type blog posts or novel chapters yet, but have sent out several Dragon-assisted emails that passed muster (not perfect, but close).  I’m thinking ahead for the future, which in my experience arrives a lot quicker than you planned. Now that I finally figured out what I want to be when I grow up, I plan to become adept at voice-to-type before the osteoarthritis that has already made writing by hand uncomfortable stakes a claim on elbows and shoulders. Right now, writing to a keyboard is a joy, but when I’m cranking out stories at 95, maybe not so much. Of course, by then, the technological miracle of voice-to type will probably be like a Stone Age tool. Who knows? Maybe I’ll speak to a holographic image — let’s make him a hunky stud muffin while we’re theorizing — who will sit adoringly at my wrinkled knee and listen with perfect recall, processing words into strung pearls while we sip morning-glory tea or some other honeyed delight.  Ah, the future. I want high-tech and high touch.

This morning, though, there’s a bunch of frustrated characters laid out on the dining room table, flat as flitters on their index cards, waiting to jump up into their dimensional selves if only I would quit screwing around: Bree, Jess, Rory, Bo, P.J., Lilla, Ellie, Grace, Mary Alice, Troy, Ryan, and especially Evangeline are ready to boogie.

But they’re just going to have to wait a bit while I explore the sublime, which I found this morning. A new, much anticipated, book arrived at the post office yesterday, and I opened it for the first time while brushing my teeth early this morning.  I discovered this new gem by Terry Tempest Williams from writer/editor Lanie Tankard’s guest review on writer/teacher Richard Gilbert’s wonderful blog, Narrative.

It is the province of mothers to preserve the myth that we are unburdened with our own problems. Placed in a circle of immunity, we carry only the crises of those we love. We mask our needs as the needs of others. If ever there was a story without a shadow, it would be this: that we as women exist in direct sunlight only.

When women were birds, we knew otherwise. We knew our greatest freedom was in taking flight at night, when we could steal the heavenly darkness for ourselves, navigating through the intelligence of stars and the constellations of our own making in the delight and terror of our uncertainty.

What my mother wanted to do and what she was able to do remains her secret.

from When Women Were Birds: Fifty-Four Variations on Voice by Terry Tempest Williams

Of course, I have dropped everything else to read. Wouldn’t you?

Sweet Surprise of an Ordinary Morning Glory

Temperatures will rise to the mid-90’s today, most likely culminating in evening thunder boomers to break the heat, same as last night. Eighty degrees already when I walk to the gate to fetch the morning excuse. The morning glories take my nonchalant breath, remind me to wake up to their gorgeous surprise.