Bountiful Beltane

On this last day of April I look up to receive the emerging leaves on our backyard red maple, an ancient sentry that has overlooked our little bungalow for decades. As the lone tree on this skinny lot, she reaches her arms out to welcome and shelter us as we go about our outdoor chores. Last year on the final day of May I had just been given permission to begin gardening again after some scary eye issues post surgery. I’ve never been more grateful to get back to the earth and ground my grief for the world in fertile soil again.

This year I may have gotten a little carried away with the seed buying and propagation, but I’m determined to see no plant left behind. This vow of mine may become quite a challenge since my neighbors are equally intent on sharing their abundance of riches after a year of scarcity. I’m thrilled to share my bounty with my daughter living up the street, and together we will spread gardening cheer in spite of the deer, rabbits and groundhogs that cruise through our yards like they own the place (which they do).

With the help of my editor husband who needs a break from the hours of remote business meetings he covers, we have dug up a good bit of our front yard lawn to make room for new flower beds that will host native plants and pollinator flowers for the insects that are rapidly disappearing from our world. There are four new raised beds for the vegetables in back as well as a no-dig vegetable plot. The radishes and greens are already thriving and the snow peas are popping up. To my mind there is no better sign of hope than flats of seedlings ready for launch.

As I clear away the non-natives and invasive plants, I am learning to recognize the natives that I will leave and encourage. That includes loads of wild violets in every shade of purple, lavender and even white. I cheer on the white clover and enjoy watching rabbits nibble up the spent dandelion stalks like spaghetti noodles. Our bluebird pair has returned but unfortunately the neighborhood mockingbird who serenaded us with an amazing repertoire of calls was taken by a hawk last week and the yard falls silent in the evenings now. Its absence serves as a reminder that there is still loss in the midst of fresh new life that kisses the boughs and peeps from nests lined in rabbit hair.

I count myself lucky to prepare for a second Beltane in my little yellow house. May you all enjoy a beautiful May Day tomorrow!

Staying Strong


A dear writer friend and I went in search of oaks and acorns this week after a lovely lunch at my favorite local coffee shop. The walk was a welcome reprieve from the swirling chaos of horrific news and bad human behavior that we futilely attempted to recognize and understand over delicious fare, supporting the hardworking small business that bravely hopes to make a living in a fickle and uncertain industry.

The weather was amazing. If ever there was a reference picture for a perfect fall day, this was it. A slight, crisp breeze with the hint of cider, clear autumn-blue sky lacking summer’s haze, spots of ruddy blush as the leaves turn. I had a specific tree in mind for my friend to see, one that I pass every day on my morning walks before my hot cup of reward at that same coffee shop.

I call her The Grandmother, the ancient one who all the others surround. She existed before the military fort was built over a hundred years ago and wisely left standing when the army cleared the land. From her carefully manicured limbs, you can tell she’s been well cared for and honored through the years.

Towering over the rest of the former parade grounds, she doesn’t need the maples’ flashy foliage or the fir trees’ decorative pinecones to assume her throne with quiet dignity. On this particular day, her leaves had yet to turn gold, although the afternoon light that hit the highest branches already suggested a change to come. How many years had she worn her golden crown, I wondered as I pulled my head back as far as it would go.

Her acorns were few, a job left to younger trees as part of their service in exchange for her wise counsel. No doubt her roots connect to all, not just the young oaks, but to maple, gum and walnut trees that dot the landscape. She sends them messages of reassurance and fortitude earned from more than a century’s experience with drought, wind and lightning. She has seen preparations for war, and still remembers the young soldiers who stood in formation beneath her boughs, never to return.

On a late afternoon, I too stand under her protective shade and wish that she could share with me, with all of flailing humanity, the truth of what she has seen, an impartial telling of our human history from the view of one whose heartbeats send out the sap of life-affirming support through underground capillaries of ancient understanding, to those who are right or wrong, deserving or not.

And in her presence,  I humbly ask for guidance, knowing that in these turbulent times we all need to call on the strength of oaks.

From Where the Sidewalk Ends


Somehow, February got away from me. And then March. The days just slipped away through a hole in the floor, the grate, the ground, the sidewalk and ultimately, my soul. So, I search for them along the loop I walk most mornings that harbors mature oaks, maples and evergreens that have been around since this former army fort was established in the early 1900s. And some trees have been here long before that.

The other day, I noticed that a tree company had shown up and marked many long-standing sentries with ominous red x’s spray-painted on their trunks, or orange tape throttling their worn bark. There were too many to ignore, and some choices were downright puzzling. Sure, there were those that were mostly dead, or lopsided. But quite a few looked perfectly fine.

One morning before I left on a long trip, my walking partner and I marched around the loop saying a quiet goodbye and blessing to each of the doomed ones. The rumblings of the chainsaw and shrieks from a chipper could already be heard at the other end of the long parade, seemingly lined up like good soldiers waiting to be struck down by an enemy who claimed friendly fire, as if fire was ever friendly for a tree.

By the time I returned in mid-March, the sadly singled out were all gone, and in their places stood mounds of chips, where their very roots had been sought and ground out of existence. The innocent smell of freshly cut wood wafted in the breeze.

I still feel their ghosts as I walk, searching the sidewalks for a glimpse of the bottomless holes with their shimmering deceptions of days that are no longer there.

Home Sweet Home

Day 29: Home
Day 29: Home
For the last year and a half, a small walk-up apartment on the third floor has allowed us to expand our living space from forest trails to sandy beaches. We have made ourselves at home in the world of nature and she has welcomed us.

I’ve decided to participate in Susannah Conway’s December Reflections  photo prompts again this year. During this hectic and stressful season, won’t you join me in mindful reflection from life’s photographic window seats and contemplative comments that provide refuge from the madness.

Reach for the Sky

Day 7: Branches
Day 7: Branches

I needed the tree branches’ reassuring reach to guide me through the fog this morning and pull my eyes up into that bright blue ozone.

I’ve decided to participate in Susannah Conway’s December Reflections  photo prompts again this year. During this hectic and stressful season, won’t you join me in mindful reflection from life’s photographic window seats and contemplative comments that provide refuge from the madness.

 

Into the Woods

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At that dark time of year when every cell in my body screams out hibernation, my husband and I ventured over the river . . . and stayed in the woods for Thanksgiving. Our daughter flew off to spend the holiday with relatives in more exotic climes, so we found ourselves suddenly on our own without family or friends, no dish to prepare for a lavish meal, no festive gathering to clean for or drive to.

Instead, we walked into the forest on a day that could have been mistaken for early spring and listened to the birds chatter, squirrels rustle and ancient trees still hum with the loss of their kin to a pioneer’s axe. The eccentric Scotsman who found this enchanted spot full of caves, underground springs and streams, bought the land not to plunder and clear, but to preserve.

What remains are some of the few remaining acres of virgin timber in the state and country, a landscape littered with the carcasses of dead giants, petrified beneath the gentle shade of their younger brethren, their memory enshrined in sacred roots. Dotted here and there you can still find a living elder, oaks with many limbs amputated, beeches tattooed in initials long forgotten, centuries documented by burls and knots and hollowed trunks.

And so it came to pass this year, while others gathered at the lodge to feast and play, we walked hallowed ground in the hush of our own kind of holiday, gratitude for the presence of these gentle giants singing in our hearts.

Tattoo Hewn

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Day 3: Skin

This tree has lost its other half, with initials of the state park memorialized on fresh-cut skin like a tattoo.

Yes, folks, it’s that time of year again. I’m looking forward to my third go at participating in Susannah Conway’s August Break by posting prompts here on the blog and on my Instagram account. There are no rules, really. Simply take a photo every day for the month of August, based on the prompts or not. I take a photo a day all year long, but you can’t lose no matter how many days you keep this up. And the more, the merrier!

Tall Tale

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Day 2: Air

Well lookie there, that’s a tree growing in thin air on top of the clock tower at the courthouse.  And I’m sure there’s a story to go with it. #sundaydrive

Yes, folks, it’s that time of year again. I’m looking forward to my third go at participating in Susannah Conway’s August Break by posting prompts here on the blog and on my Instagram account. There are no rules, really. Simply take a photo every day for the month of August, based on the prompts or not. I take a photo a day all year long, but you can’t lose no matter how many days you keep this up. And the more, the merrier!

Thank You For . . .

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Finding me
after all these years

Seeing me
for who I really am

Telling me
that everything will be okay

Holding me
even though I can’t ask

Letting me
go, when it’s time.

April Love Prompt: Thank You For . . .

This year I’m celebrating National Poetry Month by combining  NaPoWriMo’s daily poetry challenge with Susannah Conway’s April Love daily photo prompts on Instagram. Each day of April, you will observe the same photo in my Instagram feed on the righthand sidebar that you see in my blog post along with an instapoem.

I’m actually sad that this is the last day of April. I’ve met a lot of lovely folks over the past month, and reconnected with some old friends. I want to give thanks first to Susannah Conway for her inspirational prompts that I’ve tried to capture with my own words and photos. And a big thank you goes out to all who took the time to like, follow or comment, especially , MeghanKrissyLisa Mari, Sharon, Belinda, Sheeba, Beth and Shirah. Of course, this list wouldn’t be complete without my undying thanks to Maureen, my writing buddy in the creative trenches, and my wonderful blogger friend Bonny, who has supported this challenge for all thirty days. You deserve a medal, Bonny! I encourage my readers to check out the links provided to see what all these creative folks are up to.

All in all, my third year celebrating National Poetry Month by writing a poem a day, no matter how brief, was far from a fool’s errand. I stay convinced that poetry adds art and meaning to our hectic lives, and condences the best of existence into the sweetest of moments. But now, new leaves on the old oak in my neighborhood park are signalling a new month, and different endeavors. Time to leaf out.

Benediction

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In spring

they will

wash away

all my winter

sins with

a shower

of

petals.

April Love Prompt: Trees

This year I’m celebrating National Poetry Month by combining  NaPoWriMo’s daily poetry challenge with Susannah Conway’s April Love daily photo prompts on Instagram. Each day of April, you will observe the same photo in my Instagram feed on the righthand sidebar that you see in my blog post along with an instapoem. We shall find out at the end of the month whether this was a brilliant career move, sheer laziness or a fool’s errand. 

Until then, care to join me in these creative waters where even fools fear to tread? The water’s fine.