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.
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.
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.
In this week's Riverview report: I developed an active connection to the young oak closest to the river despite a pool of mental distraction along the way. Was, before getting behind the wheel, smiling from a place of ease. But once I started driving it seemed I was automatically moving myself straight into a no-win corner of trying to figure out everything we could possibly need if, during the predicted storms of the coming days, the electricity goes down for an indeterminate length of time. Or fallen trees block the road and then also everything stops in place even further due to long-term black ice and/or fallen live wires. Or if black ice becomes so treacherous a state emergency is declared for a few days' running. Suppose fallen trees and/or live wires block entry or exit from the driveway and it takes a scary long time before that's fixed due to so many other live wires blocking so many other driveways. Which has actually happened here, as have all these other things. Most of them (except the live wires blocking the driveway) more than just once or a scant few times. Just as a regular part of winter. A regular part of life's rhythmn.
What do we Need? Nothing. Sure? Positive. No such thing as positive if we can't Get Out for awhile. Let's take it from the top. What do we Need?
It was a relief worthy of some other deeper-level name to understand what I in particular needed was to shut this level of brain stuff all the way down and simply breathe deeply once my car was parked and I was There.
[as I write this Here in the future of Then - it's 6 in the evening and pitch-dark except when lightning flares light single portions of the sky. The thunder is loud but not directly overhead. Hail's hitting hard against the studio windows. We don't need or even merely want anything that isn't already here or utterly unavailable to us. That makes the storm feel invigorating. I'm free to revel in the Thunder Beings breaking up every energetic thing that's too stuck or otherwise past its expiration date. To picture so many of my beloved plants safely nestled in their mulch cocoons. To smile. Just because it's been a good day and promises to be an equally good evening.]
Hello. Find Yourself Here Now.
There/then: I was being addressed by the young sentry tree. Felt that distinctive zap of communicative connection without question or doubt. Having visited this place for five relatively consecutive Wednesday mornings I have a sense that All involved have helped choreograph a basic routine that is becoming muscle-memory natural to me. Being here is a form of walking yoga as well as whatever it was that occurred on an unexpectedly vertical plane between the two oaks. On this occasion my entire body is THERE - all the way IN that place the second my shoes hit the ground. I let the oaken channel guide my steps. And noticed I was both a lot more careful and considerably more sure-footed as a result. First stop: the mulleins growing inconveniently but, being mulleins, they are continuing to thrive nonetheless.
And then a slight backtrack to the Oak Pair for this week's portrait before heading more directly, and a lot closer, to the young sentry Oak. I would have moved even nearer; close enough for touch but that would've been quite a mistake for somebody on a schedule who lacked boots and/or a change of shoes, slacks and socks. I did get close enough to grasp the land looks stable enough from afar but it's seriously marshy up close.
I am a greeter not a sentry. There are the sentries.
I felt myself directed to look Beyond. Towards far-off bare hardwood trees congregated here and there on each diminishing curve of the westward river.
I see. Thank you very much for showing me.
It felt right to go back to silent communication after just becoming not-so-uncomfortable with vocalizing my communicative contributions. I breathed deeply into this familiar co-creative comfort zone and without doubt I sensed oaken roots breathing even deeper into this spot of theirs. Their world. Knowing of Oaks holding space everywhere and many other things but this is THEIR place.
Thank you for letting me know you can hear and feel me caring about you. For showing me who your tribe is.
I cried a little in a very pure moment of overwhelming gratitude. The tears were thick and copious but they dried almost instantly once I felt myself opening psychically. My crown, palm and sole,secondary heart chakras opened with a gentle lack of fuss or ceremony; they simply opened like a blooming rose brought into a warm room - in complimentary unison and then there I was: suddenly capable of feeling myself pulled deeper into an under-ground vibe and the pulsing divine presence of universal Root Medicine. It was so vivid I could almost feel the snap and tingle of the tiny ice crystals forming just under the surface of the ground. I caught my breath. This was really happening. Sometimes, in the past, this kind of occurrence causes a reflexive tightening up and shutting down. What if this is NOT real and I'm merely batshit crazy? That recurring fear, all by itself, has the power to hold me steady in Lack Of Progress and/or Getting Nothing where authentic celebration of sentience is concerned. But not today. I breathed deeply. Felt the landscape breathing as a single entity. I was part of it. Everything breathed together and I felt, as oaken roots might feel, the rise of slowly moving water energy. YES. We were all together and it was very googoogajoob groovy indeed. Today there would be no fear or panic or second guessing reality beyond predictable human confines or any other reflex that sets far too many ultimately irrelevant terms to also be a state of true Be-ingness. Sometimes that happens, still. But not today.
Thank you for letting me in. Into this Place.
I felt as if I was mentally chanting. That, once I was home and the coming storms stopped I could move with privacy among the oaks scattered at the edges of our field's wild windrow. And there I would find the right vocal tones of the silent chant. I smiled to picture myself stomping around our place all winter chanting out loud.
Thank you for letting me in.
And then as a clear and direct reply The Greeter sang a very swift-paced and incredibly beautiful song. Hard to explain via words but I felt this song vibrationally - as sound travels through wood. This is something I know of from the decades full of sensing the way any wood in our home is enlivened and brought back to its living essence whenever J. plays bass for an un-distracted and extended period of time - particularly The Big Boy; his acoustic upright. This is something I love to experience but now i was having the opposite experience of a tree's vibrational sound expressions passing through me and reverberating the way J.'s bass playing passes through the wood throughout our home. Everything becoming one long evenly vibrating ribbon of sound translated far beyond the sense of hearing that ribbon undulate and unspool further and further. Who knows where and when the language of wood stops vibrating? Maybe it never does.
I also felt The Greeter's song as the river might receive it: as if it was an all encompassing gentle breeze of universal language. I felt the song encompass everything I had told the pair of oaks when I first arrived but now in this re-telling my introduction to pair and place was focused primarily on the tree in my backyard as kid. Which was known to be from a different species. In somewhat abrupt conclusion The Greeter sang about squirrels - even more quickly and just as beautifully. It might have been a micro-second. Or even something I dreamed during the night and then through some sort of confirmation bias I attributed it to the tree as it Was. But no. IT was as I felt it to be.
By now my brain was chattering very feebly and sporadically -purely out of reflex - concerning the proper necessary foot gear for getting closer to the water and The Greeter. And then. I stood all the way still, finally, all of a sudden. It was as if I'd never done anything else, stood there looking at a part of the river's view of land on its far side that I deliberately choose not to photograph or otherwise share with word imagery. Beyond this: stiff peaked whitewashed 18th century farmhouses dot the higher rises nestled among an evergreen wall of dark green. And the visible roils of granite ledge pushed far above ground.
Some of these farms are known at a personal level. One in particular is beloved for multiple reasons. I watched mist rise from the ground as parallel smoke rose from the houses' tall brick chimneys. And saw a gull pass overhead with something long and limp in its beak. I saw in a perfectly still and well-rooted manner with slowly dawning awareness: The Greeter was showing me how it lives. What it senses of the landscape. What it has come to know as part of itself and part of Beyond. Whoa. I stood still as an oak tree feeling what it was like to be just one young well-placed life form embracing everything about its existence with full sensory capabilities. I breathed in the purely loving energy of this sharing and exhaled heart-spawned gratitude. Did a counted breath mini-meditation that left my heart and lungs fully open and my brain at least partially grounded in a focus of keeping myself out of spaceshot harms way before crossing the road to approach the river itself.
I kept my senses elevated. Noticing my joints no longer object to the slanted walk downward. Appreciating the many layers of ever so slightly different reddish-browns in the dried stalks of still-sturdy vegetation all around. At the time it seemed likely we'd escape the doom and gloomy weather prediction for at least a few hours. Maybe for an entire 24 hours until everyone could safely get to where-ever they were going for tomorrow's Day of Eating. But the image above proved to be the brightest the day ever got. Not yet knowing that I stood before the sun and its reflection. HELLO. I closed my eyes and stood more like a water reed than a young oak tree. For you to take. Spirit of Place, I thought at first. Telling me in some Yoda-like way to drink the moment all the way in one cell at a time. For. You. To know. Come closer.
I was drawn directly forward. After I snapped the above image I walked all the way down the slanting cement boat launch. Assuming I now understood. Because I suddenly saw the "inlet" I've been admiring for years is actually a tributary feed coming into the opposite side of the river. FOR. YOU. And as I felt myself nudged downward ever closer to the water's surface I finally got it. I was being given a gift. Once that clicked the rest was easy. Water energy moved through me - lazy slowing down seasonally dark and ever-potent water guided me to select a shell fragment and a small round stone.
The water was much warmer than I expected. Not warm by strict definition but not yet shock-cold like I assumed it would be. It was merely cold like the tap water in my studio faucet roundabout mid-February. And as the river's energy and literal watery self moved into every crack or crevice of my palms they felt a lot more healed than they look. I compassionately noticed the folly of skipping my normal hand-care routine since the previous morning. Understood without judgement that I'd imagined myself too busy or distracted or interested in something else or entirely too tired to stop long enough to do it. I examined my gifts, especially the luminosity of the shell fragment. And the river mentioned something very sacred that has become a cornerstone of my personal taproot's energy. The gifts having been offered with intention for inclusion and it was such an obvious (and perfect) suggestion that I stood absolutely still staring into my own rough-hewn palm. I don't know how long it was of standing so still before I could hear the water's steady movement. Not approaching, passing or retreating traffic. Not voices amplified here and there - raised in most cases specifically to make use of the water's sound amplification powers. No chattering seasonal thoughts. Just standing still and fully present in the place and my body right there at the river's edge.
Oak-ay. Yesterday morning I learned that oak energy possesses a fairly slick sense of humor. Not to mention powerful dream tendrils but that's not something I quite realized until this morning. Visiting these oaks as a regular part of my daily life has been illuminating in ways that make me want to INSIST that everyone everywhere go find their nearest moving water and then also find in that space a tree that's clearly waiting to be found. In and amidst everything else they do and dream and feel I'm pretty sure they're also definitely waiting for US. Because of what's happening between me and the oaks. And the obvious fact that there's nothing particularly special about me and yet this entirely mind/heart/self/soul/universe expanding experience is happening to and through me.
Trees, I'm pretty sure, would like to give this type of heightened and permanently altered awareness to as many human beings who are open to it.
Note: If it's impossible for you to physically visit moving water and its nearby trees then let yourself remember a favorite place from your life's experience. Put the memory on your inner sensory wide-screen and BE where you once were. Push into the water's memory of YOU. See if a tree appears spontaneously. You recall it being there, all of a sudden, or the image rises spontaneously from moving water in your mind as a gift to your body as well as your brain.
Dare to ask for that gift if it doesn't appear spontaneously. See if there isn't SOME way to connect to your memories as a present tense experience. It will be uniquely powerful and entirely real because you've had to actively jury-rig circuits of circumstance and ability in order to make the connection sing.
In my walking and snapping tour of the river I noticed the young oak tree that radiated such joy in its sentry position right at the edge of the river's flood plain. Yesterday it radiated a growing understanding of Oak's place, and thus its own, within this particular slice of Landscape society. I stood in a ceaseless and very chilly drizzle trying to work out to what precise category of progeny this tree 'belonged' in relation to the pair I'd just visited.
I'm not so far away. For lack of a better way to put it I stumbled into a tiny window of understanding the young oak was singing a song of determination. To and for itself. In order to know its own oakeness more fully. I thought at the time the tree was singing about the river as it slows and thickens noticeably, week-to-week. Writing these words I understand that would be me projecting the songs I sing myself concerning the absence of flowers. Summer's right around the corner. And in my adult life I have made it true. Summer, for me, will always be synonymous with 'growing season'. And that's something that begins, ready or not, as soon as the first seed catalogs arrive.
Upon reflection I think the tree was speaking of its lone status. And growing awareness that Oak reigns, in this tiny speck of Place, far more fully and subtly than was noticeable to me while the hardwoods still had leaves. Oaks stick out at this time of year because their leaves were the last to turn color, dry to death and fall to the ground. At this point in the year they're the only hardwoods with any stray leaves still attached to the tree.
Thus I could look around and pragmatically grasp a shred of the deeper mysterious beauty: The young oak tree is gaining relational awareness capacity to share and receive information from a tribal network of pheromones and root systems. I stood perfectly still in the unpleasantly chilly rain that didn't bother me in the slightest. I let both that surprising fact and the young oak's continued triumphant learning curve sink in as a cellular experience.
The rain we had all day and evening yesterday cast an extremely low ceiling. I walked around at length taking inadvertent videos I thought were actually pics in the form of killer New Glimpses into this tiny roadside universe. This was possible at a relaxed sauntering pace because I left a solid hour of time to spend here. Truth being greater than fiction: During the colder new england months I am not the hale and hearty type unless I can immediately come inside and strip down, warm up and don dry clothes from the skin out. That's inconveniently princessy and particular of me, I do realize. The oaks seemed to know all about it as well. When I approached them the one on the right (above is the one on the left) started vibing something about looka here it's the coming of the Oak-asional woodswoman.
Given the world we're all inhabiting at the moment I've developed zero problem making immediate jumps to this other form of what goes on in the same spaces we humans inhabit within our dogged insistence of making ourSelves and our endless foibles top of the consciousness pinnacle - but still. I did not care (certainly not on top of having already yielded to the moment to the point of the rain not-bothering me, anyway...) to be flexible enough to imagine that Oak medicine - of all stalwart and perservering things - would be inherently funny.* To itself if a little more than just a little bit too on the nose for my own tastes. And in the moment I flashed on understanding so simple and obvious I was fully downshifted by it. Whoa. Absolutely none of this was chance or a mere happenstance of right place/right time. The tree on the right, heckling me with sure swift pun-laden remarks was a representation of my husband so authentically there in that moment because that's how deeply embedded the oak medicine spirit is within his own soul and spirit.
~*~Loving irascible human inconsistencies as I [sometimes] do I have to point out that I've spent pretty much my entire life grasping quite thoroughly that without our ability to laugh and authentically see the humor of A Thing we are, collectively and as individual soul entities pretty much dead in the water.~*~
That would make me ... a married-in Oak? Partially oaken by nature left unexplored? On my first visit I felt a natural kinship to the oak on the left. I thought Lunar/female and, thus, the other tree would be Solar/male. Grasping this seemed more than sufficient. On some oak-casions people need to be hit over the head repeatedly in order to go deeper. Minus the pun these are my own words. Said many many times. Most often, I'm pretty sure, to the J.-man. As I admitted that to myself here on the screen for the first time since having this experience I chuckled. But, in final truth to be told, the lone song-dog in my heart started howling appreciatively right there on the spot.
Nonetheless on a somber morning full of rain rather than snow as predicted I was reflective. Woke up with a sense 'the Lunar tree' wished me to investigate the wounds humanity had so glaringly inflicted upon them in order to make room for the road. We sacrificed, she conveyed, in a way you must learn from. Given the rush of insights I experienced once I arrived it now makes sense that, when I first approached this pair, I was most drawn to the 'the wounds' of a weathering and wind-wrought nature.
Is anyone who reads here a bird-watcher with special knowledge of ground fowl? I know only the basic local triune of pheasant, grouse, and woodcock. While walking back up the rise from my detailed and much enjoyed inspection of the rainy boat launch - I inadvertently disturbed and partially distressed a female not-duck but with similar (just more delicate and russet) coloration and markings to a female mallard. We shared a moment. I hope I soothed her within it.
Walden Pond. Living Deliberately. Long revelatory conversations with significant friends talking passionately together while perambulating the pond; deeply immersed in the details of whatever we were deliberately making of our shared and individuals lives. Tourists speaking animatedly in a number of languages. People walking quite deliberately by themselves; often with a book in hand and a special passage within it marked by a careful finger. Looking around. Looking Within.
In the image above the right hand side of the background features a long tiered wooden structure where people sit, talk, and ease themselves into the water for a bit of swimming. My son learned to swim in that spot as a young boy. We were inner city dwellers at the time and summertime weather could get stifling despite the harbor breeze. Looking back at my small but mighty family's shared root system, I often reflect on the innumerable times we'd pile in the car and arrive at the pond just in time for the magical early evening glow's debut.
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately.
My interest in/appreciation of Thoreau began in childhood. My grandmother used to read me Walden Pond any time I got upset and couldn't find a way to calm down again. That's what it used to be called, especially for children: calming down. But now I see what I needed to do was nothing short of totally re-rebooting my emotional barometer. I'd be spinning out emotionally in a very unquiet way and she'd firmly open to the bookmarked page and begin reading in a loud unquestioning tone from where-ever we left off the last time this happened. She wouldn't stop until I'd long since stopped out-bursting emotionally and was actually listening. Had been listening for quite a number of minutes. Because she was reading me something other than the bible. That alone gave this book and whoever wrote it very special status, indeed.
Whenever we reached the end of Walden Pond we'd begin again on the heels of fresh Upset. This went on straight up until she went in the hospital and, eventually, died there from stage 4 lymphoma cancer. I was seventeen and it was the literal eve of Nixon's resignation. My mother came home said well it's over, and asked me to give her the name of somebody she could call to be with me while she devoted herself to calling relatives and friends. I blurted out the name of a 21 year old guy I knew through church and community theater. Once, about a month earlier, I'd gotten tipsy on beer in his back yard and boldly sat on his lap unannounced and uninvited. She called him, not knowing what else to do. And he in turn had notknownwhatelse showed up with a six pack and willingness to drive us both around town barely speaking until we settled-in at his newly married buddy's house.
It embarrassed me tremendously to be in a married couple's house when the people involved were just 3 and 4 years older than me and we all knew all sorts of weird and mortifying things about each others parents due to being from the same church group. I didn't know where to look or what to say but fortunately I was largely ignored. There was a single bookshelf with mostly high school 70's english class novels sitting on it. Walden Pond was there. I stared at it for a long time, wondering if I should be worried that I had no desire or ability to cry and couldn't really remember my grandmother as she'd been when she read to me. It took her a long time - well over a year - to waste away to death without once knowing why it was happening. Her doctor and my mother believed if she knew she'd stop wanting to live.
[no comment. Which of course means I actually have several in mind I'm all too prepared to share but this is neither the time nor the setting.]
It really bothered me that she didn't know why she was sick and unable to ever be well enough to return home. If she couldn't get home, to her bible and various representations of her faith, would she be able to move on to where-ever?
On the first evening of her passing I abruptly stopped worrying about whatever might or might not happen when I got back home and whether or not Pearl would be able to make her way towards St. Peter and her deceased siblings without her bible. Because the newly married couple had weed in addition to seemingly endless beer. Had I not reached out to accept the joint I would have become the focus of the entire evening. I didn't want that. They were leaving me alone because they thought I was numb with grief and it was fine with me to not-realize they were absolutely correct in that assessment.
Nobody wanted to talk about The Whole Nixon Thing. They talked instead about camping at the Delaware Water Gap. I'd smoked before but not effectively. My grandmother was dead. That left my mother in charge. The only other time I've felt that specific combination of terror and dread with such intensity was later in the evening on election night 2016. At that time I thought not so much of Thoreau but of Emily Dickinson. I'm nobody who are you. We'd all be nobodies soon. That was so clear to me I'd been clinically depressed since the previous summer. I might have remained in that condition if closed head brain trauma hadn't shifted the narrative in so many unexpected ways just a few days later.
Back in the Nixon era thread of this post I effectively got high for the first time on the night of the day when my grandmother died. That's how one of the assembled Old Friends in that living room put it. I was effectively stoned which in my case meant sitting stock-still and silent. Looking around with enormous eyes. Our hosts had a land tortoise. Sometimes it was on one floor of the house and other times it was lumbering in an excruciatingly slow way in a quiet corner of the other. I once saw it climbing up the stairs. On that night the weed was stronger than usual and an enormous need to speak instead of Just Sitting There suddenly overcame me. I stood up with dramatic pointing of fingers on both hands and shrilly announced the reptile's laborious movements.
The tortoise - about whom I never once asked a single question although I was even more painfully curious in those days than I was shy - was, ultimately, pretty much the most interesting and tenderhearted aspect of that elongated moment from my past. I was intensely curious about the creature and wanted badly to get to know it better but I never indicated any such thing in the months I dated That Guy and therefore spent more weekend evenings than not sitting in that specific living room. Smoking just enough weed not to be noticed and then potentially questioned by the group; abstinence of any kind at any point in the proceedings was viewed as subversive rather than sensible. Or inhaling with clear intent to keep going until the last seed popped whenever my mother happened to be Acting Up.
Nearly everyone who gathered there in that plaid-upholstered '74 living room of Young Lives/Anytown USA had at least one parent who Acted Up on the regular. All I had to say upon arrival was that tonight it was once again happening at my house. I learned how to relay the information breezily and without the slightest inner feeling. Managing a smile at times, almost, and oftentimes while UNawkwardly accepting the proffered joint that hovered closest to me once Acting Up was mentioned . Then I was free to get back to watching the tortoise because everyone involved accepted that's what I did once I smoked. My grandmother remained dead. She'd been the one who raised and cared for/about me. She was gone with a finality that for me befitted the way she'd lived. So I kept that in mind in place of grief expressions that 'wouldn't bring her back.' It seemed likely she'd be proud of me, if she was able to know about it, for holding that kind of line as she'd worked diligently to teach it to me.
Be sensible. Have a bank account into which you unfailingly put a solid half of everything you earn. No use in crying over spilled milk. One way or another pretty much everything in life boiled down to spilled milk and I'd see that for myself once I was Old Enough. Respect the president of the country no matter what he does. Never LOOK at a hippie let alone become one. BE. SENSIBLE. Always be clear about what you love and don't let anyone take it away from you, ever.
Everyone I knew fully realized she'd been my lifeline. Everyone, including That Guy and his friends who all understood I was even more transient from their point of view than I felt myself to be, kept eyeing me nervously waiting for me to lose it in some spectacular wreckage of a Way.
Maybe I never did - then, or any time since, because my grandmother was no longer available to read Walden Pond to me until I pulled myself back together.
I went to the woods.
The above image was taken from an outlook that's either two or one third(s) of the way around depending on whether you proceed clockwise or counterclockwise at the pond's beach-based entry point. I used to walk the perimeter paths a lot during the year when my son was learning to swim in the company of his father and, oftentimes, a family friend with a loud hearty laugh. T. would laugh as loudly as he could in imitation of the sound. I'd hear them both as I walked no matter how far away they were; their joy amplified to ambient status thanks to water's sound conduit properties
In my own case I initially 'went to the woods' because it was there in a way the civilized world was not and could never be. And because I thought dominant culture was based on absolute insanity borne of shortsightedness. (Plus the way our culture arranged itself with our complicit acceptance if not approval into contortions so toxic or soul-numbingly petty and trivial in comparison to what society could be). I didn't see how I could possibly live well or even at all with the hurt and apprehension that conventional living evoked in me. I started reading Thoreau for myself as a young adult for much the same reasons. More than once I've found my sense of personal equilibrium and resolve through the words I do indeed at times read aloud to myself. I sit bolt upright when I do it, holding the book and my uncompromising tone of voice just like my grandmother would. But I never really thought about that until just now.
Above is my favorite outlook point at the pond's perimeter. The first picture in this post features the view Thoreau might have seen when he ventured out of his cabin and took in the new day's air. Once, back when the second bush-president had declared the official opening of the second gulf war, my moments of peak despair were interrupted by news of an impending release of Faith in a Seed. Just thinking about that (and a fresh out-loud re-reading of On Civil Disobedience) kept me going until J. gave me the book as a Christmas present. I read it with such tender love and gratitude that each sentence took root in my soul. And grew outwards embodied within my own faith in seeds of many kinds.
Ever since children and babies started living in cages at the pleasure of our federal government - like that's a perfectly okay thing for an even partially civilized nation to do - I have been thinking about the stability and grounding I know I'd get from reading Faith again. All the same I have been totally unwilling to give a book that means a great deal to me a connotation of this particular magnitude. Maybe it's time for me to learn how to change my mind about these kind of things. It's now. It's happened and continues to be happening. And yet. When has faith in seeds ever been more relevant and meaningful?
Our little stream feeds into this local brook. It in turn feeds into the river I've been documenting as part of my Wednesday morning routine.
This pictures hints at the sluggish tone of the water's movement and its currents. Although it's the most accessible place to photograph the dramatic impact of the water's increasing passageway from the corner of our property it's also a spot that borders a main local artery road. Beneath that road the water passes underground until it's just about to slip into the wider currents of the closest full-fledged river.
In the above image you can actually see the first thin scrim of ice forming closer to the banks. We came to this spot yesterday specifically so I could take pictures linking one watery perspective to two others I've already shared on this blog. It was J.'s idea to hook it up with errands and our established plan to accomplish them via some specific back roads that we both love but haven't traveled together since mid-spring.
I was immediately taken by the strong-spirited Willow guardian. I was also struck by how dramatically the water's passageway narrows from one side of a low-seated two lane bridge to the other. J. accompanied me for about half of my perambulation, narrating the water's journey in relation to specific geographic/local landmark terms. I was half in and half out with my listening skills because, you know, taking pictures. With two different cameras. That part was my idea.
I've decided to give the oak/river documentation postings different titles that speak to the mood of the day. Oak energy is very solid and UNmoody. But water is another story. And in other moodiness quadrants of ongoing reality this day was profoundly challenging in a thoroughly sucky sort of way. It was, in fact, the perfect occasion to make a point of giving myself respite with an Oaken interlude.
The river spoke a language of steady movement and reflected sunlight. Because I wanted more time for exploration and personal healing I visited this spot about two hours later in the day. That meant I could linger at will instead of sticking to schedule and roadway timings. There was a stiff little breeze and I imagine the water was plenty chilly. Ducks were following the current in medium sized groups. To paint the river today I would choose indanthrone blue and build a palette from it. The breeze tested and trounced the wind resistant fabric of my windbreaker. It was strong enough to leave me spontaneously swallowing my breath as I walked straight into it.
I was the only person walking around on this side of the bridge. In my solitude I moved directly to the water's edge. I wanted to make sure I started including images of a pretty inlet that never fails to capture my eyes' imagination when I see it from the road. I took my time just looking and then letting my eyes gradually blur what I saw to a puddle of payne's gray. Then I turned to study the sharp hill down from the road with plant geek eyes; already those eyes are hungry for a preview of next year's landscape, mother nature style.
I shut my eyes and hummed in a steady tone. I'm not sure it harmonized with any other sounds but that didn't seem to matter. be like water, I kept reminding myself. just...be like water.
Plenty more ducks were traveling further east along the river. I believe this is the first shot where it's clear the rolling hills travel in both directions. I like hills. They're more accessible, in every way, than mountains and I've spent a lot more time among them. Standing still and wondering how many species of ducks I was not quite seeing - I let my eyes soften in slow degrees while my shoulder and neck muscle did the same. I was at peace. Anything is possible, I realized. If it's rooted in the heart to grow steadily and with proper care from within.
When I returned to the oaks they seemed to put out a tractor beam. Tell us, they beckoned. In response I walked directly to them and circled so I was facing east. Looking at today and the future. Turning my back with abrupt resolve on the past. TELL US. I said out loud that I was very tired. As I spoke I placed a palm on each trunk. VERY. TIRED.
YES the trees agreed. I noticed I'd automatically moved to mirror the first/last time I touched the trunks. My receiving and projecting hands were switched in terms of what I felt and gave to the separate tree energies. I kind of felt a flare of interest to notice that but mostly I was still primarily being one with my fatigue level. It was a relief to just let myself feel it - the pile upon pile of emotional and psychic overload that's become the hallmark of something about my ongoing life that I cannot change or resolve. It's quite seriously the precise kind of exhaustion that might attract a pair of oak trees' attention when I first got out of the car to gaze upon and photograph the river.
Maybe none of this was ever a simple whim of mine at all. Maybe oaken magic of worldwide legends are remembered, told and loved because the magic's so powerfully strong and unshakably true to itself.
Their trunks pulsed with a vibrancy that travelled from my fingertips throughout my body: Strength. Endurance. Absolutely no question of ever coming close to hitting a wall. Not. Ever.
I could get used to this. I thought that and then my brain switched off while the oaks communed directly with my body. The trunks seemed to emit an energy that vibrated directly within my spine. In that thrall I squared my body's center of gravity and placed my feet so they were perfectly aligned with my hands. Then I very slowly leaned backwards into my spine's incremental bending. The oaks facilitated a means to work into, and maintain, cobra pose. I realized this in a crystalized moment of certainty and then my thinking (and monkey) brain shut all the way down. I simply hung there. Yoga lovers imagine this - cobra pose without the gravity component. Just ... hanging ever into it while fresh and revitalized vertical energy flow unknots and unlocks itself one vertebrae at a time. I began a slow count and when I reached what I know my floor-based limit to be I started very slowly moving my spine out of the curve. The oaks continued to pulse under my palms. They held me steady during the phase where I was still hanging in air and the winds blew ballast into my lower spine. Its force engineered the mechanics of the curve as it un-curved in a manner as fluid as my earlier spontaneous healing advice to myself via Buddha: be like water.
Thank you for coming around and bearing witness to the best part of this day on my end. Because it was very good indeed.
I've decided to make it an ongoing practice to visit my local river from a point in its journey that I've previously viewed mainly through car windows. And nearly always during times when I'm down to the minute scheduling-wise; on my way to or from something that generally holds the lion's share of my mind. But now, based solely on an impulsive gesture last week at almost the same time of morning, an oaken spell has been cast! This pair of trees has thoroughly captured my imagination in a way that authentically feeds my soul and spirit. Can't even count the number of times I've thought about them in the past week. And so I've decided to document their lives as time and weather permits. Have also decided I'd like to collect ongoing portraits of the river at this particular point in its flow towards the Atlantic Ocean.
Today I had an extra 8-10 minutes to spend framing my shots and walking more extensively. I've now toured a small dirt road that dead ends at the east-west railroad tracks. Below you can see the eastern river view at a slightly different angle because I elected to walk down to the deserted boat launch.
The slope between the ramp and the bridge is covered in young mugwort plants that probably sprouted back in the spring or last fall. The tree line now features solidly bare limbed hardwoods mixing through colonies of evergreens.
When I took the above picture the faraway trees appeared vibrant amidst masses of rising fog. Note the spritely young oak in the right foreground. I imagine its spirit finds great joy in greeting the river each day. Am not up on local waterside grasses so I can't do much i.d.-ing here beyond the dying clumps in the foreground. That'll be goldenrod. And absolutely anywhere a mullein seed's found a way to sprout and take hold it has done so. Am so impressed with the plants below finding a place for themselves in a scant half-inch width of soil compressed between the asphalt road and the cement walkway. Plan to keep track and see how they get on in terms of fulfilling their natural life cycle next year. High odds against, I know, but that's what makes the endeavor interesting.
In truth most of my extra moments were spent finding just the right place to photograph the oak pair so they looked like they shared a trunk as well as a crown. Gotta make sure to bring my good camera into the car for these jaunts as I'm now keen to play more with the idea "singular plurality" as time and circumstance allow.