Today's morning Out took a different directional turn first thing in the morning but on my way back home from my usual lineup of activities I noticed a dirt turnout close to the River Bridge was clear enough for me to risk parking on its icy crust. I'd worn my thickest thermal socks and winter boots because I'd planned to walk around somewhere before I went home. After I parked I followed some fresh and clearly purposeful coyote tracks. They led to the western bank of a tributary I first noticed for what it was during this visit earlier in the fall.
The apparent whitish haze in the mid-distance is actually ice. It's currently coating every leaf and branch in the outside world.
All vegetation was still as can be in the absence of wind. Not so the birds scavenging with fierce intent. They were a constant flurry of highly focused motion - much too busy to talk among themselves let alone pay much attention to me crunching my way along the stable ledge of water bank. I'd never been here previously. Only gazed at others parked in this spot in order to walk where I was now walking - wondering what their business was. As to my own business on this day: I followed my four legged relative's tracks trotting busily back and forth no doubt on the trail of small or medium sized rodents.
Stood for several long moments breathing deeply at this spot. It was very cold (mid teens) to be standing still but I couldn't bear to rush this first introductory visit. I kept smiling as I made my determined way towards the river and oaks. I could do that because there was no wind today. Had there been I might have gotten back in the car. Had I done that I would have discovered all the snow blocking my usual parking space had melted in our recent rains. I would have been warmer but I would have missed so much. And am glad I didn't.
I took the above on my double-time lope back to the car. By then my fingers actively hurt from the cold as did my toes. I'm posting it out of sequence so you can easily compare what a difference a half an hour and some moody cloud cover can make in these parts.
I crossed the road as soon as I spied safe and relatively sensible opportunities to shoot the western view from a different perspective. The foraging birds were everywhere amidst the brush and marsh grasses. I felt ecstatic to catch sight of the Oak pair on the other side of the bridge.
I chose the two images above (east facing first, then west) to share because they show so many variations of the way moving water changes form as a very gradual process. Below all three Oaks share the same frame from a heightened perspective just before the bridge's sudden descent.
I was very joyous to be here again but kept my exchanges internal. At the higher elevation the ice crust was thicker and slippery. My imagination's engineer - always so eager to slide right on over into metaphor and potentiality - wasn't silent so much as otherwise engaged. Today I was simply a woman walking briskly - one eye cocked towards the water. Watching all the different layers of ways water slows down with the cold. Paying special attention to some new wind/storm damage to the lunar oak. Walking all around the pair's trunks about five feet away from them with my right palm extended towards their bark so we could exchange vibrational hellos. I recognized that it can be as joyous as it is vexing (as well as, let's face, often just as pragmatically likely as not to be the Biggest Mistake Ever) to throw out every plan and rule book and ethical premise a person authentically values. Just as a way to keep up more cogently with what's actually happening in and around all our various spheres of influence.
But mainly I simply was. There. I was There. Taking my place - even though it moved around a lot today - here in this landscape. I felt both accepted and recognized.
Above is something new for all of us! A view of the western river from the opposite bank. I made special note of the hardwoods right at the edge of the river bank here and there on the right hand side of this image. Wondered how many of them were Oak sentries as indicated by the Greeter. The scent of winter's approach is astringent but also crumbly with blown seeds and dried vegetation. I suddenly and abruptly noticed I was missing the vast symphony of plant-scents I've come to associate with being there. On this side of the river most everything's been cleared away for an extensive private boat launch. I saw how that type of development changes everything. Real river bank is excavated and taken away in order to replace what was there with who knows how much tonnage of rough-chunked granite. I saw a bird flying in very low over the water - most likely hoping to score some lunch.
My hands felt like they'd take half an hour (twice that as it turned out ...) to stop burning. My feet and nose weren't far behind. I double-hoofed it back across the road and beelined straight to the turnoff where I'd parked. By the time I was home the sky was completely grey. It's now three hours later still and I just checked our weather forecast. Seems there have been squall bands skewing all around us throughout the afternoon.
TTW is one of my favorite environmental/spiritual writers. Years and years ago I read Pieces of White Shell and never looked at my own natural landscape, or writing, nearly as carelessly again. When Women Were Birds haunted me in all the right ways for a very long time. So I didn't hesitate to treat myself to her latest, feeling very grateful that I could, because I trusted it would be like all her others and I'd want to re-read at both leisure and in search of specific passages.
Last night I started this collection of essays and read 160 pages before my eyes started to object. I went to sleep marveling at the degree of synchronicity I'd found within the book's very first sentences:
If the world is torn to pieces, I want to see what story I can find in fragmentation. I have taken to making collages. I want to see whether a different narrative might arise from poring over American magazines, tearing them up and putting them back together in a shape that makes sense to me. When everything feels like it is coming apart, assemblage feels like a worthy pastime.
This morning I woke early. Could hear the sound of fast-moving water even with the storm windows down. When I opened the door in Jim's office to listen through just a screen the NOISE of the water's movement was exhilarating.
The picture above faces upstream/northeast. Below faces west. The stream doesn't run in a straight line; it veers sharply to the right at a 45 degree angle. My plan to follow and photograph where it goes after it leaves the farm's barnyard has been thwarted for the day. There's a missing link in what I've documented so far - a place close enough that there's no excuse not to go and complete one section of our local watery network.
Today was a good one to spend some time standing quietly with swiftly moving water. It's mesmerizing to listen and watch. The longer I stand doing just that the more clear it grows that water is inevitably and organically true to itself. Since beginning this impulsive follow-where-it-goes project I've had days and a couple of evenings when I found it hard to think of anything else. To want to think about anything else.
When I first went outside the cow featured in the Grandfather Hickory post was standing right at the pool where our stream re-appears from the culvert. I could see she was waiting for the pool to fill just so before she drank. Or maybe she waited for the white water bubbles to settle before lowering her head to the surface. I watched her having her post-rain morning outside. Then turned my attention to an evergreen on our property that's been calling my attention quite a lot in recent weeks. Don't think I'll live long enough to learn something about every tree here. But I'm doing my best not to sleep walk too much of the time.
While I was searching for the above image to close out the post with a quick shift back to Green and Balmy I realized I've yet to stand in the stream. It's always seemed so forward and presumptuous to even imagine doing such a thing...
We got not so very much snowfall before and directly after daybreak. The roads were clear by the time I was on the road and the river looked absolutely gorgeous. BUT. It doesn't seem likely I can get close to it to photograph until J's behind the wheel and I can jump out, walk around, and be picked up on the other side of the long bridge. That can happen for sure but guaranteed not on Wednesday mornings.
It's become important to me to stand near trees and moving water Out in the larger world from our place - and to do so on a reliably consistent schedule. This experience has built itself into my week the way some people cherish the same half hour to forty five minutes of Alone time to do whatever. Or nothing. Alone. So today I made it my business to find what I needed.
But first. A whole different form of water that I can visit quite easily as part of my established schedule. The available parking that overlooks this swamp used to be private property. Now it's county wildlife management. I can park there long enough for 15 or 20 minutes of deeply inhaling the actual components of this familiar landmark. Don't know much about swamps at all. But have always felt that in some other lifetime I knew enough to get by within them.
This is a very cool place I have photographed and loosely examined from this particular vantage point. Love the spot but wouldn't consider making it a regular thing while it was private property.
and yet it isn't running water, is it? however ...
this is. I crossed the road to say hello to a large expanse of icing-up water. Before I was halfway there I felt a kind of energetic stopping mechanism. I am a place. So I focused beyond the river to its bank and all the beautiful trees on both sides of the road. "You are a very beautiful place."
On the other side of the road: water moving swift and loud. This very happy brook is just aside a confluence of roads where I have two or three options for parking long enough to get better bearings of less time-sensitive places to leave my car comfortably. The latter option might not work due to everything there being private land with scant town/county abutment rights. So my quest will be ongoing but for today this is where I went to reconnect with the constant pulse of moving water.
Of course I can always go to our little stream but I like the idea of making a point of forming connections with wider landscape water ways as well. I also like keeping that a part of my mid-week psychic/emotional groundcloth. Last week I actually got a little bit buggy without this intentional Time With Water experience. Like: early April still haven't seen any green yet level buggy.
Yesterday around two in the afternoon from my studio window. It snowed for a couple of hours with just enough precipitation to dust everything newly white and sparkly. Above is the closest I can get to a true portrait of the four-trunked maple I consider to be our home's Place/Keeper as well as the property's southern guardian. On the first day after we'd spent a night here, I went out on the porch with a few important garden talismans I wanted to introduce to this Place. One of these was a large whelk shell I'd found in my mother's garden a few days after she died. I took it home and placed it in my own garden the following spring. And then placed it in another and then we came here. I placed the shell very carefully on a large heavy rock that's just below the tree atop a low stone wall that's buried under the snow in the image above.
A family of nuthatches was living in a prominent hole of the middle trunk at the time. As soon as I walked back to the porch and sat down a few of them emerged in order to talk at length and with considerable emotion - curiosity, uncertainty, excitement to be confronted with something new BUT WHY - all the things humans do when something unexpected shows up on their doorstep. I took the shell away when I realized that. Two years ago it finally found a significant purpose when my son moved back home with a 50 gallon fish tank and four freshwater friends in addition to the splendiforous Mama Cat. One bottom dwelling fish desperately needed a private place to Be and so I washed and offered the shell. Felt that helped to balance the scales from having unintentionally freaked-out the nuthatches with the same object.
Earlier today I checked on my ceremonial oil and noticed a large air bubble in the quart jar. You can see it above covering the left side of jar's curved base. Brought both jars out to the kitchen in order to rectify and take these pics. Thought it might be helpful if you're getting ready to check your own brews or simply appreciate more encouragement by way of information concerning what you can expect as an overall process when doing this for yourself.
As soon as I unsealed the jar band on the quart jar I could smell the white pine. Once I lifted the lid I also smelled juniper and lavender in equal measure. It was only after I walked away to grab my camera that my brain registered the after-note of tulsi just as true to itself as a small crushed leaf in my hand.
a visual aid of what you can expect due to oil seepage. The outside of the infusion bottle may also have a sheen of oil. I use a cotton dishcloth with a tiny amount of grease cutting liquid dish detergent to swipe clear then polish everything clean with some warm water rinsed through the cloth and over the dish.
note: I don't include this oil with lid leavings (see below) because it isn't remotely clean. It's been sitting around in the open air collecting everything that's passed through the room. By default that means it's holding a much lower vibrational frequency than sequestered lid leavings.
Here's what full to the brim should look like. Note the surface tension of the oil is still holding its own weight. Nothing should be dripping before you do this:
You can see oil seeping like something in a cave, and also dots of infusion material. That means you'll need to get everything clean and clear of oil. Yes I realize that sounds redundant but oil's relatively heavy. That can be a royal pain if you've got a lot of it to deal with at one time and your cleaning cloth becomes over-saturated too soon.
pro tip: The surface tension smush-down pictured above makes its own case for the advantages of working with banded lid canning jars. Although it's by nature a messy maneuver this particular way of getting the jar re-sealed with confidence is simple and effectively fool-proof.
When you check on your own oil's welfare you'll probably have a lid with some thoroughly oil saturated infusion materials clinging to the lid's underside. Usually I use a small rubber spatula to scoop everything back in the jar. But today I had the inspiration to try scooping everything into the bottom pan of the enamel pan I use for all my herbal concoctionary needs. Once the water was simmering I placed it on the stove's warming burner. This had the whole downstairs smelling refreshed and revitalized in 20 minutes or so.
The smaller half pint bottle I prepared didn't need additional oil. When I took a deep inhalation of its scent I discovered the imprint was exactly opposite to the larger jar. The tulsi hit me right in the third eye as soon as the lid was unsealed. But the general scent's olfactory after-glow came from white pine. In both jars the elder lavender buds mellowed the sharp edges of the juniper. Which in turn enlivened and bolstered the lavender.
If you're doing this - or still actively planning something out at the recipe level please share in comments or drop me an email.
Thought it would be fun to share some of my documentation photos of the season's first snowfall. Especially the above being so similar to the hazy green view of the same thing at the opposite point in the year. Yesterday's predicted precipitation time frame was cut in half and so I declared the storm a dud at 8 inches. But then a second snow band started adding to the mix around 4 in the afternoon. And that one's been active until 20 minutes ago. So it's quiet and white and timeless outside. Winter's clearing her throat - letting us know she's about to take center stage.
If you look closely you'll see the uphill road dips and then rises to a stronger slant of incline. This is a steep hill to walk and consequently it's an excellent cardio workout. But not when the whole thing gets layered with impacted snow, ice, snow, ice, ice.
Last night right before I went to bed I watched the wind blowing snow from the top deck railing. Was amazed the difference the slight elevation made because nothing was blowing off the fence gate or sheltered-by-fence picnic table. When I got downstairs around seven this morning I learned J. was told by his boss that he might as well work from home again today. That gave me a back-up for my snowfall estimate. We agreed on 14 inches.
Since it was so early in the day and there are some miles to go with neglected chores and incomplete organizational upgrades here in the house, I didn't linger a lot while taking these pics. My venture outside wasn't to commune at length so much as it was to silently address the snow (you are back. I am grateful. Please blanket the ground safely and securely as much as you can in your natural season) take these pictures and put seed out for the birds. A mixed flock surrounded me as I walked away and they all descended to the rocks. The chickadees flying close enough to hear their wing flutters rhythmic and strong in my ears; the titmice circling noisily overhead along with jays while silent wary cardinals watched it all from the shelter of pine boughs within the adjacent volunteer windrow.
Until this point in the yearly cycle I generally let myself sit in this chair for a little while to watch them feed and interact with each other. Now I regret not pushing myself that one last extra quarter mile to carry them into the dog run over the weekend. But there's always the January thaw...and I did get the two little garden strips by the porch's walkway mulched while the first flakes of the first snow band fell.