Am greatly enjoying my current Morning Reading book. The narrative is both compelling and evocative but for me the biggest pleasure is the slow rolling tone of the book. It's a wonderful ballast for the various topics that inherently hold a strong charge: race, history both personal and collective, unconventional upbringing and, well, science. Additionally Dr. Lantham has a love of birds so strong that I've begun to feel a persuasively described yearning connection to them I've not otherwise engaged - to know flight as a physical experience under no volition but one's own body.
Am roughly halfway through this memoir of roots and rootedness to both Place and Family. Requested his poetry through the library loan system.
The Turkish Fig usually doesn't unfurl any leaves until April. Am crediting my new plant mister which I got at Dick Blick after reading a comment INSISTING everybody get one for their painting practice and another for their houseplants. I got one for painting. I mainly use it for the plants. Over the holidays I got a second for the house/plants. Still using the stubby little Holbein sprayer with my paints.
Have never had such happy plants at this time of year in my entire adult life.
Look how beautiful.
Let's take a little walk together. You might remember all the leaves from a mid-autumn walk in many of the same places. As you can see they're still there settling further into the cellular world of the landscape's history. On warmer February days I'll begin to groom the frog pond's rockscape in line with late winter pruning tasks. But for now it's a symphony of decomposition.
Today was so warm that I expected to see a few oily black frog noses peeking through the slim passages of melted water. Perhaps they sensed how brief the pleasant weather was going to be. Am very thankful there was a break in the high to gale force winds of recent days so I had a chance for a lingering inspection tour before they descended again. Looks like this may be our third consecutive January thaw when there's very limited time to be outside enjoying the smell of rising earth and perhaps managing to knock off a few of the lingering items on the Didn't Get Done list.
The above stream views I habitually share are a familiar touchstone. But when I keep walking into the woods the view quickly shifts to offer a fresh perspective.
not pictured: a daunting amount of fresh tree-fall debris.
additional context: on our first evening of so-called 'ownership' I discovered the landscaped pond was full of frogs. J. discovered an enormous rock that grounds all energy and sight-lines in our backyard.
When we arrived the self-mulched area of the rock was dotted with Jack-in-the-Pulpits in full flower. The following year I learned that in earlier spring Canadian anemones ring the rock's entire border. Nearby is the first Hawthorne I noticed during my first full morning in residence. It took me two magical hide-and-seek years to find its Grandmother. Smaller rocks form stony breadcrumbs leading towards the heart of our little woods (pictured in the previous post with a look upwards at the heart's crown-land.
At some point the rock split. A few spindly maples set their roots just there but all have died and subsequently fallen since our arrival. Last year I used my grandmother's method of seeding woodland plants around our home's foundation to (hopefully) seed an additional colony of Jack in the Pulpits within the split. Time will tell if I was successful.
2 a.m. this morning, actually. Tree branches reaching to steady the moon are from a maple just beyond the west-facing dining room windows. Branches off to the left are descendants of Grandfather Hickory. It was 11 degrees at the time and wind had only just stopped blowing after a full 24 hour cycle of high/gale force winds. Shot, with wimpish lack of regret, through the weirdly arc'd window at the top of our front door. Wasn't up for getting bundled against the chill or the way I'd hold it in my bones if I tried to nip out quickly without enough additional layers. Them days are gone...
Here at long last is the lovely winding brook that hooks our tiny stream into the powerful waterway of our closest river.
I've only been here twice with yesterday being the second time. The first time was during the late summer of our first year living in this place. J. had been walking and riding his bike throughout the local byways. Sometimes just after the peak of summer's Golden Hour we'd jump in the truck and he'd show me local sites he knew would be of interest to me.
Back then: Even though the growing season's foliage was beginning to thin there was still too much vegetation to see the above side of the brook. But yesterday I could plainly visualize the Way it must meander to the point I've already documented right here. The portion of the brook pictured as this post's lede was partially obscured with copious festoons of Virgin's Bower. Their petals were dried to browning threads or fallen. I leaned in so close, atop an unstable embankment, that I nearly toppled over in my effort to get a decent closeup of the nearest whirling seedheads yet-to-be.
A few moments later J. alerted me that someone had clocked us and was 'coming down'. I asked what that meant without losing focus of framing options. As is our way if he's driving or I'm taking pictures, I received an ongoing narration of all he observed of the woman's approach. a woman, definitely, without a gun. She's older. Can't tell if she's angry or afraid ...
It turned out she was neither. She'd noticed us stop in a place where nobody does that and then observed me lurching. On what was a very warm evening. Thought it might be a health crisis in need of extra help. We all exchanged names. After four months of living here she was the first person to offer us a name and express awareness we existed as actual people rather than Whoever bought the house we'd purchased.
(now on the brink of a solid decade living in such a culture I do it too at least in casual social-construct conversation: automatically communicating via the now-ingrained Whoever thing. As a description of somebody - an actual person who probably wouldn't like it any more than I did in the beginning - who wasn't there before. Whoever.)
Sometimes within the first few years of living here and still not knowing more than one other neighbor by name we would marvel at how bizarre it was that this was obviously normal business as usual for people living in a terrain where a person really ought to know who they live in community with and be on at least sporadic speaking terms with them. We would look at each other with slowly shaking heads whenever we had these discussions; dismayed by the folly of humans declaring each other irrelevant to a level of bedrock foolishness. Then one would remind the other well we know (person in this story's name). Closing in on a decade we don't have these conversations anymore. We'd be able to list a couple dozen people between us and, in point of truth, part of why we wished to live here specifically was so we wouldn't feel forced into continuous social rigors brought on by closer proximity to other lives in different dwellings.
Many years later the same woman wandered, on a spur of the moment whim, into the first session of the library collage lab. I didn't recognize her until after the fact nor did she recognize me. She raised her hand quite promptly when I asked who believed they weren't creative. And shook her head in disbelief when I assured them they'd all be leaving with a book they'd made themselves. Later I observed her carefully searching through all the old national geographics. It wasn't until I prowled back around as she was preparing to stitch that I saw she'd methodically tracked down every tiger image she could find. And I hope never to forget the precise illumination of her smile and the soft lilt in her voice as she said to me I made a book.
A few weeks later we were rear-ended and my brain got dinged so the following month's planned session was postponed. She'd come on the pre-arranged date - bringing with her paper she'd purchased in Italy years before and wished the program to use in some way. But she never returned. By then I'd realized who she was (She has a very common first name - the kind that might not stick out in a conversation unless you had another piece or two of personal meaning to attach) and kept hoping she'd re-appear. Yesterday while I was at the brook I glanced up the hill of her front lawn a couple of times. Wishing for a little past is prologue action.
In the town where I was raised a few hundred miles south of here I would not have thought twice about pulling my car around to the bottom of her drive, re-parking it, and walking up to her door in order to re-introduce myself. Here, after nearly a decade of being here, I simply made note of that fact. Got back into my car to reflect on what had become a very meandering route home. Thought I'd had two posts worth of experiences and images but there on that brief semi-colon of a road so close to my own front door I realized it would actually be three. Because I so loved and wished to include the way this speck of a moment could be expanded upon to include synchronicity with the collage theme going on at my other blog.
and far more importantly:
This is water directly connected to not just our stream but also our well. They're both given some derivation of the same water to hold. So this tiny little nook of a place just a bit further down the massive hill on which I live IS my life. Its water is the wild inverse of my life's ability to maintain itself in ways I consider normal and necessary. If for no other reason - this part of my documentation effort deserves and needs to stand alone.
From now on I'm going to walk to this place. I'll let that walk be the sole purpose out on such occasions - treating a previous afterthought as its own purposeful excursion - rather than a quick something I accomplish in the midst of several other Out In The World things on my to-do list. This is my literal back yard. Will definitely walk there for any future visits.
The other day I realized I still had an ongoing reason to travel near the river/oaks twice a month. Once a new year begins part of my ongoing routine involves picking up our winter bread shares from a local baker. I thought I picked it up (from the designated local health food/general store) on Tuesdays but apparently I was wrong. I'll be maintaining the same mid-week schedule until late Spring. Today I was pleasantly surprised to admire a new mural just outside the store. After learning I was there a day too soon I proceeded to the river.
Upon arrival I found a man quasi-napping in his car just to the right of the trees. So I pulled in closer to the road hoping he'd be gone by the time I was heading back to my car. [he was not.] Headed along fenced pavement across the bridge in order to document the western river view. This morning there was more of an icy rim at the bank edges but the river itself was moving with a lot more momentum and vigor than I've seen in several weeks.
If you look closely you'll see that a foot or more of previously iced snowfall is now below the waterline. The wind was mild yet brisk in its velocity. Traffic was very scarce. I took my time crossing the road and walking down the boat launch on the other side of the bridge.
Ducks scattered from both water and banks at my approach. The water moving east was really moving. I saw evidence of a tussle between a female mallard and something that pulled a lot of feathers. The scene lacked any hint of carnage. I picked up a joined trio of feathers and released them into the air while wishing the duck safe passage. Thought about what it would mean to my weekday structure and its points of focus if I were to officially make Wednesday a follow-the-water day. It could mean so many things beyond just visiting various spots in order to document them. The creek our little stream feeds into can be visited on foot provided there's not too much plowing build up and ice usurping the main road's shoulder. I could, with time, become adept at a larger walking loop that most likely has unknown-to-me water ways and small ponds.
In the days since my last River post I have moved from a sense of emotional cataclysm to one of certainty and redoubled focus on what it means for me to achieve and maintain good inner and outer balance. I know any sort of healing from ruptured trust is inherently a form of grieving. And this is never a linear trajectory. I don't intend to write about that moment of my life in this space again but I know the reverb factor will inform what I do or don't write in any given post.
As I'm sitting here typing on my laptop I can only see the lower portion of the river flowing east in the image above. It's so obviously moving. Although water can be parsed down to molecules it's really far more continuous in its nature. Finite only when actively manipulated and deliberately contained somehow. I look at all the water around me and think about areas of this country/planet where people have their daily water piped-in for a staggering number of miles. And whoever has the political clout/capital to put on the line has the lion's share of water. Have seen, heard and read about it time after time. Something so basic contained and withheld by so much greed.
Back in early '02 I thought about water manipulated into traveling great distance to fulfill a basic human need quite a lot. My family was traveling through northern Italy. During certain days of our two week road trip there we would often cross paths with vast panoramas dominated by monolithic sections of ancient Roman aqueducts. I wondered how somebody had known where to start figuring out such a system in the first place - and how many people it had taken to prop-up and devote their lives to the person who had the idea and then to whomever carried it to enough fruition to be worth all the idea/engineering time.
Maybe this sort of far from magical feat has played a part in why we as a species are so sure we're the most intelligent life form on the planet. Maybe?
On the heels of my slow and very thoughtful conclusion to Erosion I wanted something equally mindful and yet comforting in its familiarity. Had a very different re-read in mind but once Beech energy rose in search of my attention I reached for the above favorite. Am reading it for the third time - first thing in the morning once I'm awake enough to want some brain engagement and not yet out of bed. Since my mid-teens I've considered this the ideal time to immerse my imagination in particularly skillful and evocative descriptive passages. Richard Mabey has long been one of my top five favorite botanical/herbal writers. As a reader I love his ability to flashback in detail to his own past without giving in to sentiment. He can explain various plants' life cycles and the finer points of classical paintings that feature realistic botanical inclusions with equal aplomb and persuasive detail. And he has always given firm voice and strong credence to climate change issues. Beechcombings is no exception there.
Over the years I've engaged In this sporadic but much enjoyed early morning brain feeding practice I usually read about 30 pages or so before Yoga calls me to get up and then back down to the floor. Since I started reading this book a few days ago I notice that during the meditation portion of my routine I feel as if a thousand beech leaves where fluttering and rustling all about me. Wonder if that will stick around once I've moved on to a different book.
[my special Beech in mid-May]
trigger warning. FOR REAL. I'm going to post as briefly and as gently as I can about a core personal truth: I was recently diagnosed as having lived in a state of active trauma for 90 per cent of my life. I knew this to be true for any number of reasons but I also knew I saw no reason to let it stop me. Pretty much on any level beyond the realm of steering clear of trigger happy situations if I had any advance warning that's what they were.
SOMEBODY WHO READS HERE NEEDS TO READ THIS. I'M NOT OFTEN AS CERTAIN OF SOMETHING AS I AM OF THAT IMPRESSION. THAT'S WHY I'M WRITING IT. and of course also because it has the same bedrock level truth about me and my days and how and why I am as I am as anything else that I share here.
The primary reason - bundled with errands and occasional coffeehouse/girlz together time on the way home - I've been visiting the river on such a reliable timetable is because I've been going to therapy for what most people who love me tend to refer to as [my] situation. I, in a very glib way that never hurts because I am by non-nurture very dark in my unexpurgated humor veining, like to refer to it with icy sarcasm as my condition. The therapist I have been seeing truly felt like unshakeable proof the cosmos wished me to shine as never before. Until something happened right before the winter holidays. She inadvertently triggered me in a way I couldn't let myself fully comprehend let alone express as it was happening.
Timing-wise it was just then we skipped a week of sessions due to winter holidays. During the first week I seesawed around in various levels of trigger reflection and rebound - nine-tenths of it alone up here in the studio. I'm sure if it had been a regular week and we'd met I might have found my way around where I was headed. At least on the outside and layers of personality focused on thinking with my brain rather than my gut and little shards of heartspace. But on the inside I felt like a feral version of my child-self. Every time I shoved my awareness back to the present tense I felt like Victoria Falls - heavy emphasis on falling - but on the outside I was holding it down with enough sincerity and grounding that I thought I'd be okay. And I really was. Until I wasn't. as in really REALLY wasn't.
When I explained it yesterday, in my final therapy session, I said the levee broke. I looked into her eyes and she looked into mine and I made a smashed-apart gesture with my hands. I said it just broke. And she nodded. She felt it and saw it. I said there is nothing but water everywhere. And I saw her feel a pivotal particular trauma from a childhood crammed full of many. She saw where I was going to take the session and I felt in every cell of my own body how difficult that must have been to take in and sit with and continue to track all the particles of meaning and grief and my stark-blind terror that were pulsing back and forth between us.
My final words of truth spoken in a room that held me safe enough to now continue onward keeping myself safe here in another room and well beyond: I ask a lot of myself everyday. But I can't ask this. It will break me. Every time I think of - or very softly whisper just barely aloud to myself - I weep. Have been weeping quite a lot but I think that's gotta happen. It will have to be how and what I do for the next little while.
The oaks have known if not detail then both context and outcome. They have spoken in their rustling firmness of the autumn season. All of this is very temporary. You have to be strong enough to see this before it explodes I thought "this" referred to general life flow being safe and stable enough to be out toodling around living life as it might not stay. Stoic to the bone but not really understanding until yesterday when I visited them. I planned to stand between them with a palm on each trunk. Looking for strength to do the unthinkable: Something so counter-intuitive to 'common sense' and also everything I know and have experienced on both ends of the self-sabotage spectrum.
oh no. It was the greeter who threw me that just as I realized everything leading to the oak pair was a thick sheet of icy glass. I thought the younger oak meant my intention to go anywhere but back in the vehicle.
NO. You KNOW that is the lie.
When I got home I realized I was going to write this post but I didn't know the turnaround time would be so soon. Letting truth find its un-simple way into simple words has been profoundly grounding. I hope my intuition is on track that somewhere somebody else feels that way just a tiny bit more from reading what I've shared.
Yesterday afternoon I took this image of myself as I was movin' and groovin' between activities related to the 30 day collage challenge I'm hosting on my creativity blog. Inner wisdom suggested I would be including it somewhere in the post I'm just finishing. I thought: the fuck I will. Yet here I am doing it anyway...
Here's a look at the Beech tree I introduced with words in the last post. You can see why my heart wishes it a devoted long term companion, no? But just in case you aren't yet convinced -
Part of my documentation/living-of-Truth quest for the coming year is to travel to a few Beeches here in MA that I've loved in the past. My feelings for this particular tree are very special but the overall species has magnetized and fascinated me since early childhood. I love the way the branches form and grow to weave amongst each other. I love the various magical and flower remedy properties Beech offers with a gracious nod towards All. I love the fact that this particular gorgeous form of sentience is a communicator's particular talismanic medicine spirit of choice. And that every fullblown leaf fluttering against its neighbors in an early summer's breeze gives testament to the intricacies and cumulative power of co-operative communication.
Yes. I wish this particular Queen of the Forest a very devoted human ally.
Above is a slightly altered picture from yesterday's lowering sun phase approximately a half hour before sunset. Stand still with me for a few minutes here at the Enfield lookout point, won't you? We're overlooking a vast body of water called the Quabbin Reservoir. This is a primary source of Boston drinking water. The link I selected tells of towns Lost by way of deliberately sinking them. Everything you see above, beautiful as it is, exists as a false landscape that was manufactured so that a roiling metropolis' human population 70 miles away could sustain their need for drinkable/safe water as the decades rolled by.
[as just one example the hilly peninsulas chaining one after the other as far as the eye sees are actually submerged mountain peaks.]
That said The Quabbin is an undeniably beautiful place to visit and wander around at length. I lightened the pictures for this post because so many I know to be reading here constitute a Tree Crowd. And there are most certainly seemingly endless crowds of trees telling the story of what has Become here at the reservoir park. Also of note: the peninsula on the left side of the top image is off limits to humans. This is a place where the eagles come to nest and raise their young. Birders with enormous scope lenses dominate the parking and first-row viewing spaces once these raptors have been spotted heading north.
Yesterday in the later afternoon J. and I drove out to the Pioneer Valley for a seasonal ritual of great meaning to us. Along the way I figured I'd take some pictures of the Boston area's primary water supply because even though it's not moving water it's certainly very significant water indeed. It's also sacred ground for local fishermen and home to innumerable groves of vibrant birches and a pleasantly spooky long-abandoned apple orchard. Since 9-11 anywhere remotely close to the water has been on lockdown or actively monitored by state employees in boats constantly on the prowl.
I have vivid memories of what it was like here in the direct aftermath of an occasion when MA figured prominently in Security Failure news of huge magnitude. That's because - macro to micro - in the same unprecedented window of experience I spent a great deal of time here. This is the place - and it was the time - where/when I first began to actively merge the sciencey part of my nature interests with the vibrational certainties I'd yet to collate very effectively. It's how I found personal stability and meaning during a time when so many people I knew kept asking me how they could/should find it.
below see the Eagle Zone in its entirety.
As twilight fell we drove through a great many of our history's familiar haunts. Amherst has strong meaning beginning with the sixth month mark of our initial merging together. And - two months in between not-being and being-All - I was staying in nearby Hadley when I realized ALL OF A SUDDEN that I was deeply in love with J. and drove all over the rural highways looking for a pay phone on which to call and privately tell him Back There in the shared hometown I had recently left for good and all.)
Yesterday was once the future. And within it - all these years later - we arrived at a stop sign directly across the road from a house and property we've kept track of in an automatically loving way for the last few arcs of our story. In its yard is a Beech tree I've bonded with a couple of extra-memorable times. And in point of fact I have waaay too many pictures earmarked to include in a post about The Silent Communicator sometime in the new year. Yesterday a large truck blocked any decent view of it. So I looked at the house and how it's changed since I had opportunities to examine certain portions of it in a close-up fashion.
When we got home I looked up the listing because our price guessing had been all over the map. In the end we amalgamated everything and estimated something pretty close to the asking price. So there's a pointless skill to hone, eh? price is right scenarios for things that have no bearing on one's own life. And reading the realtor's layout description gave me serious vertigo. Just to see the place described as a normalized home-life setting as, no doubt, originally intended. I wondered if the yard still contained a sizeable Chicken compound.
[this place is known to us because our son lived there during his college years with 9 other people. Every semi-private alcove of space that could be used as a bedroom was deemed to be such in order to keep the individual sliding scale rent rates as low as possible. Fourteen years ago the three of us spent Christmas day together in the otherwise empty house there. But evidence of extensive and frenetic habitation was all around us on that switched-plans day. One of T's roomates had their dog sitter bail at the very last moment and he agreed to stay there for the animal's wellbeing. Shortly before eleven on Christmas Eve our family plans pivoted for what proved to be a memorable holiday tale we enjoy re-telling to this day - heavy emphasis on the dog and the way she and J. took to each other like Long Losts.]
This morning I woke up wondering who might have the means and vision to buy this place and either make it the home and studio it once was or revert to using it as an income base for the very classic MA rite of young adulthood life lived among kindred peers in an old farmhouse loaded in equal measure with charm and windy drafts. Every time I imagined people with the means for either I further imagined these people had a child. And the child ran straight to the Beech tree when the family first toured the [extensive] gardens. And the way the child hugged the tree and leaned back to stare up at it made their parents smile at each other. Yes. This is their Place. Screw one of their older siblings foolproof moneymaking plan of letting yet another generation of students run rampage. They'd figure it out to the bare bone - rent out the studio to a low key grad student and set about having a life they meant to live as deliberately as possible.
I wondered if it could (still) be possible: if a specific magnificent tree and a child not yet entirely shuttered by Devices could be destined for mutual companionship for a very long time to come. Still. Still. Could that still happen? Don't know if I'm able to actively believe it could and will but I'm certainly inclined to wish for such a lovely wish to be made real.
I am probably one of the least happy-ending dependent/Hallmark channel sort of people I know. But far more importantly I want that magnificent tree to remain in place and authentically valued by a human companion. And for that alliance to mean, on many levels of the deepest kind, absolutely everything to somebody quite young who has so much to figure out and survive largely because their human predecessors quite deliberately chose to drop the ball time after time.
Last week when I visited the river I took many pictures. In between two images of ice-encrusted river bank the above image appeared. I thought of posting it as an Other contribution to the re-connection but also thought doing so lacked a viable context. Then I thought: wait until it's time to make a wish publically. Huh? but now that quiet inner suggestion makes a little bit of sense.