The sky is my roof in my favorite house--out and about in Nature--sun, snow, rain, warm days and cold. Everything about what is going on around me in fields and mountains and beside creeks is fascinating.
Here in my blog I will be sharing tidbits of what I am seeing - in my yard and on trips up trails and over into nearby Yellowstone National Park.
This Mother's Day I write my mother. She passed on almost four years ago. And I miss her.
So I thumb through photo albums and as I look at her as a young girl, young woman, and mother, I wonder what she sees through my eyes.
And I "thumb" through the stories she told me in her 90s for the ones I would like to place
in my garden of memories on Mother's Day. Why a garden? For many years she sent me a check for Mother's Day to use to purchase plants for my garden. "I was never a gardener," she'd often
say, "but I liked to arrange our supper on plates to look like a garden."
I see you sitting at the dinner table in Concord, Massachusetts and New Canaan, Connecticut.
You've changed for dinner out of the dresses you wore all day. Lit candles are reflected in the shine of the dining table that belonged to your mother. Over the years you used different china patterns. You loved the blue and yellow design on the Stangl Ware dishes Dad bought you.
I loved the dishes from Grandmalyn with the tiny lavender all-over fern design and brightly-colored birds. The dinner plates painted with Audubon bird designs are in my cupboard along side
Grandmalyn's china. But who presided at the head of the table?
The girl who grew up in Chicago.The fourteen year old of the Grand Tour in 1930 who told her diary how may laps she marched around the deck of the S.S. Hamburg and how late at night she danced with your brother. The young woman who cruised to Bermuda with a college girlfriend. The woman who was active in charity work during and after Northwestern University. The young mother who moved far away from her family to be with her husband, and the wife who vacationed "out west" and rode on horse-packing trips into the wilderness even though horses weren't your favorite mode of travel. You gave fly fishing a go. Thrilled over a trip to Kenya and wrote glowing reports of the wildlife you and Dad saw.
You're the mother who learned how to sew so she be part of a 4-H club and teach my friends and I to sew some crafts--like covering a cigar box with calico to make a sewing box. The mother who took us climbing up Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire. Who made sure I took piano lessons. The wife active in the League of Women Voters. An active member of First Church of Christ, Scientist, Concord and then the branch church in New Canaan, Connecticut.
You moved away from the cottage you loved in Concord when your husband started a new job in New York City. Endured a year of remodeling of your home, much of the time without a real kitchen.
You made friends of what I called the "older women" at church. Invited them for tea.
You taught me how to drive--a stick shift. Put up with many lurches while I practiced.
After Dad passed on you let me move you to Bozeman when you were 95. I'm only beginning to understand how hard that must have been for you! But you squared your shoulders and soldiered on. When I suggested doing some things to have fun or that you might engage in some of the activities at the independent living facility where you had an apartment, you told me "I didn't move here to have fun, I moved here to have a purpose." You joined church. Attended concerts and lectures with us. Read more than one newspaper a day."I don't want to sit around and eat bon bons," you often said.
You were gracious, courageous, focused, determined. And you loved nature. I remember how much you loved to sit by our sliding door to the porch and watch the birds whenever you came over for lunch on Sundays.
The other day I held in my hand a quilt signed "Grandmother Keith," and dated May 6, 1917. She must have made it in time for your first birthday. I've don't recall seeing it before unpacking a box closed up since you moved. The next person to hold it will be the great, great, great, grandson of the woman who stitched childhood scenes in blue thread one hundred years ago.
Now I live "out west." I like to horseback ride, wade in streams, hike in wildflowers, write stories, take pictures. I often like to talk to you when I'm out in nature alone. In part I'm who I am because of you.
I find it a curiosity - rather like a curio shop - to be wandering through old poems and essays I have composed over the years. There is no dust to blow off the tops of books, no cat sitting beside a geranium in a shop window peering out at strangers scurrying by in the rain. No bell atop a door to let the wizened woman who owns the shop know when a curious stranger happens to enter seeking shelter from the storm or tempted by the sign that reads : "Browsers Welcome: Tea Shop and Books for Sale."
While wandering around my shelves of the topics hiding poems and stories I found this one and decided to share it with you. I have no idea when "yesterday" was. I don't think it matters.
Yesterday I went for a walk along a trail nearby. Many
bicycles with their riders passed by.
When I entered a part of the trail that went down beside and
below an abandoned railroad track
I saw a tangle of brambles and weeds in all directions.There were beer cans and bottles among them.
My first thought was “How ugly! There aren’t any flowers and it’s all a mess.
Why did I bring my camera? There’s nothing here to see.” Then something said as
though in whisper “Look a little closer.” Jewel weed was growing in a small
patch beneath a choke cherry bush. I am familiar with this plant having seen it
in Connecticut. I didn’t expect to see it here. The orange flowers are like ¾
inch tiger lilies. The leaves are one of the jewels. If you draw them back and
forth in the water they appear silver on one side and gold on the other. When
they go to seed they form a case which will spring open if brushed against and
the seed shoot out all around the plant.
To see the jewel inside, scrape off the seed covering. Each
seed is the color of a robin’s egg.
They are edible too.
As I walked farther along the trail I began to notice the
deep red, almost black choke cherries shining in the sunlight. They were sweet
and had very little of the ingredient in them that causes the person looking
for a casual snack to have his mouth go dry. Burdocks were bristling with
purple, long-leaf cottonwoods were perfuming the air with spice. When two boys
raced past us on their bicycles, dropped them and raced under the bridge I couldn’t
imagine what they were up to. I saw a little while later smoking cigarettes. My
first thought was “how awful!” Then I paused, wanting to think better of them.
I don’t know them. I may never see them again. But do I want to identify anyone
as useless or vagrant or unpleasant? They may be like the jewel weed whose
jewel needs to be looked for carefully.
It’s easy to have a plan for a walk on a sunny day that
includes discovering wild flowers or sitting on a bench beside the river. It
takes more work to let in thoughts of beauty when things don’t go the way we
April. Phoenix. Desert Botanical Garden.
A new discovery. Hills like sleeping and curled up dragons in shades of dusky mauves and purples, sculpted by wind, scattered with sage greens of prickly pear and cordone or saguaro. Columns drilled with holes by woodpeckers, cactus that form "boots" inside where the woodpecker hollowed out space safe above the ground for his nest. Violet shadows. Golden showers of palo verde blossoms.
A quail threads his way through vegetation on the ground, top not bouncing on his head. Hummingbirds darting among hot pinks, oranges and deep reds of spring blooms. A hawk watches over the throngs of Sunday garden visitors from his aerie atop a curled, dusty dragon. Light, shade. Hot, cool. Butterflies, dragonflies. Somewhere a roadrunner. I seek the sun. Slide into shade beside a pool. Strange bird songs. I feel as though I am in a boneyard, a sculpture garden, a nest.
Today I walked the paths around the ponds at Cherry River fishing access and sanctuary. The snow beneath my feet was packed slush. Overhead clouds were colors of faded denim, dusky lavender,
and violet-gray. The sky, where visible was a washed-thin cobalt overhead and pale lemon
near the horizon.
I didn't hear any song of returning birds. Not even a robin.
The honey, tawny, blonde and russet grasses are mashed by snow. Here and there stragglers, stems at odd angles, leaves curled and wet, wipe the frosted surface. When the sun shines through cloud, their shadows are violet. The old snow still sparkles.
Off in the distance rags of snow litter the mountains and hills.
Canada geese and mallards feed in the ponds' open areas. With each day above freezing, stained ice gives way to open water.
I find solace in walking there. A place to enter Nature's world and leave the cacophony of news behind.
I've just returned from a conference at Asilomar Conference Grounds in Monterey, CA with poet David Whyte. In this beautiful setting by the sea, poetry, song, and fierce Pacific storm all came together to create a space of wild beauty--inside and out.
When we learned that two men were swept out to sea by the storm driven waves that rose higher than normal onto the land, we all joined for a few moments of silence to honor them.
"Half a Shade Braver" was the title of this conference for the weekend. We were all asked to contemplate ways in which, in our daily lives, we could be just a little bit more brave than before.
It's not required of us that we be super heroes or even change dramatically.
What one act can I take or make today to believe more in myself and my power to help a world
crying for love and peace?
I can begin with a poem:
My poem is an offering
to the pearls of rain
on soft green needles.
The fragrance perfumes sea air.
A gentle face
into a fierce storm
where waves unleash
their fury on the sand
and sweep the unwary
into their embrace.
salt and fresh--
as I breathe
how they join together
While I cannot speak,
in this silence
a fire warms my body,
music my heart.
My voice is here,
in the pines crooked branches
sheltering the hummingbird,
in the raven's call,
and gulls curved wings.
the wind knocked at my door
Who called me?
I will listen.
Today, a sparkling January day in Bozeman, Montana, I began my author adventure on Facebook. New adventures await while my book "River Shadows: A Passage from Head to Heart" nears completion -- and will be out in the world in March.
Meanwhile a family of deer gathered beneath our bird feeders. Their hooves embroider trails in the snow. A northern flicker pecks at suet. Magpies gather the suet that falls to the ground. Hairy and downy woodpecker ratchet up the ash tree. Chickadees flit from pine to feeder and back.