Also of interest in Shelburne Falls. Seriously. Stand still with me and look.
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.
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.
and then - here's this morning
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.
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.
Hours ago I took this particular shot with sharing in mind. So we could all just stop and look without the razzmatazz of blooming things. The center background is vertically grounded by the hemlock I've left mostly alone up until last spring. I haven't tampered with the tree's intentional shape or inherent architecture but I have cut off a raft of secondary branches that were blocking several hours of sunlight a day from the frog pond's general eco-system.
The foreground features original plantings of standard mid-70's issue: never-fail hostas. Seriously run amok rudbekia/brown eyed susan, chocolate mint, astibles, columbine, 3 different sorts of iris and spurge. These are inter- mixed with a variety of native asters and milkweed that I've welcomed and encouraged. Also way off to the far right corner of this space out of picture-range - there's a wonderful epimedium that's trebled in size under my care and unfailing admiration.
[am pointedly not mentioning the pachysandra in this area and elsewhere. in an ideal world I would never ever mention this specific plant and it's 'miraculous' mid-70's Fool Proof planting solution status. But someday I will do an entire post illustrating what an ecological dilemma this diabolically invasive plant poses.]
The skewed mitre-frame beyond the straw mulching created by dried plant stalks. Follow that line of tall extinguished plant matter. It joins with a comparable line to form a not-right angle. This is goldenrod. I hope to root-out more of it before the ground freezes but there are a number of other things I hope to do with a lot more sense of urgent purpose. The large rust colored mound of spent flowers just left of center is a snowball viburnum. The tree to its left, directly in front of the hemlock, is a Japanese dogwood. She's not completely well but I prune all dead branches over the fall, January thaw, and earliest spring. When we first arrived she was merely partially dead but she barely flowered. Now the tree's yearly rise of life-force is contained solely in living wood. She flowers beautifully and on every bough that's survived the winter.
Two volunteer offspring saplings flank their mother. One is incredibly robust and may in my lifetime replace her mama in the role of visual anchor. She'll be tall and lithe but ever so off-the-mark by a yard or two in relation to where a Perfect Eye would place, plant and maintain the backbone planting features. I've planted another somewhat less date-the-trend type of tree; in a comparably less design-y obvious place but right along the same undeniably pleasing sight line. Will introduce the Fair Lass on the other side of winter. It will be her second here and how she responds next spring will determine whether she's planning to put energy into being a 'proper' tree or if she'll survive more happily as a multi-sprigged shrub.
Also share-worthy: yesterday a/k/a the first day-long sun we had after so much rain sleet or snow - I did indeed visit Grandfather Hickory just as I intended. I would share more of him and his Place beyond my personal sense of connection but that would involve walking rather than standing still with me. Today I'd much rather we all just stand still in this moment of embrace.