Autumn’s Paradox

It has been a busy month.  September always seems to mean racing to prepare life for winter.  Of course we could do some of these things before we HAVE to do them, but it doesn’t seem to happen that way, year after year.  So we fly around in September getting fire wood cut and stacked, filling fuel tanks, mowing the grass a few more times, winterizing motors, cleaning the chimney…..the list is long, and usually expensive.  Things feel really hard, tempers are short, work days seem long and sometimes it feels like a hopeless cause to try to change anything at all.  But here we are on the first day of autumn, and the list is getting done.  We have firewood stacked, the septic is pumped, the furnace is tuned up, and we still have funds to the other things we need to do, even if we won’t be going on any European vacations anytime soon.

Autumn is a paradox. The leaves are changing, the harvest is coming in and the warmer temperatures this year mean the blackberries are still putting new blossoms on their brambles.    There is vibrant tree color alongside the withering of the annuals I planted in the spring.  There is the fresh possibility of a new school year alongside the mourning of summer’s sense of freedom.  There is hope for a late freeze alongside a yearning for the day the temperature drops far enough to bring many kinds of garden work (and allergies) to a halt.   We feel like we will never have enough, yet we always have more than we need. Continue reading “Autumn’s Paradox”

The Blue of Longing

When I hear the words “the blue of longing,” I am transported to a dusty red four-speed Toyota that doesn’t have air conditioning, and I’m driving west across South Dakota.  It’s August and there’s a cassette tape playing since no radio stations will tune in without static.  After miles of corn fields give way to miles of grassy pasture; after the Missouri river valley gives way to rolling tall grass prairie; after I cross through the barren beauty of Badlands spires reaching toward the sky, after the signs for Wall Drug say, “wait, you missed it!”……after all of that I finally come to the place where the Black Hills loom in the distance, and I marvel at the sudden change in the horizon.  There is a reason these mountains are called what they are – when they appear in the windshield, it is like looking into layer upon layer of coal colored refreshment against the brightness of a late summer sky.  I am astonished at the majestic expanse that commands my sight lines and the welcoming darkness of what lays ahead.  Surely there is myth and magic to be found once I arrive at this oasis.  And then at some point as I continue on the westward journey, it’s gone.  Once I reach the point where identifying individual hills and trees is possible, the black has vanished and only the landscape remains.  They are just hills, now – beautiful and sacred as they always were, but the mystery that came with the space that was once between me and the place I sought is as gone as the distance that was closed to nothing.  And when I look up and out past the place where the hills give way to grasslands again, I can see hints of the next place that I seek, and the color that tints that desire to arrive.   The myth and magic remains just around the next corner. Continue reading “The Blue of Longing”

Kayak Morning

To be alive is to totally and openly participate in the simplicity and elegance of here and now. ~Donald Altman

I glide though the silence of early morning fog rising from the river, my kayak paddle slicing through the glassy water, propelling me forward into the next moment, and the next, and the next.   I am not always good about doing this, but sometimes in the time just after dawn as the sun starts to claim ownership of the sky, I am able to be in each moment, not thinking about the last one, not anticipating the next one. Just present, one paddle slice or step or breath at a time. Simple elegance, on paddle slice at a time.

kayak

We spent this past week about 500 miles from home, in a little yellow cottage outside of Manistique, Michigan. Perched on the southern shore of the state’s upper peninsula and the northern shore of Lake Michigan, my husband’s family has roots deep in the sandy shores and waters and lore of the small lakeside town and its surrounding forests. It’s a place of simplicity if you choose it, and an elegance of a different sort than is usually conjured from the term. I suppose you could say it’s a place where they have always gone to be present. To simplify the pace of the days and let the slow energy of a summer vacation take the reins. Continue reading “Kayak Morning”

A Wild Dare

Like Leonard Cohen, singing of loss and love, make clear the beauty of what we stand to lose or what we have already destroyed. Celebrate the microscopic sea-angels. Celebrate the children who live in the cold doorways and shanty camps. Celebrate the swamp at the end of the road. Leave no doubt of the magnitude of their value and the enormity of the crime, to let them pass away unnoticed. These are elegies, these are praise songs, these are love stories.

-Kathleen Dean Moore

Continue reading “A Wild Dare”

Bits of Astonishment

An excerpt from Woodland Manitou: To Be on Earth – available wherever books are sold. 

 

About a month ago, we pulled into the driveway after a great five days up along the north shore of Minnesota, still reveling in the tonic that is Lake Superior, anticipating a low key few days of unpacking before returning to the usual work schedule.  We ambled down the path from the garage, happy to be out of the car and walked into the house to a putrid smell and reports that the septic alarm had been going off for an indeterminate amount of time in our absence.  Awesome.  Turns out a little creature of some sort had chewed through the cord that powered the septic pump, shorting it out.  Could have been much worse.  All and all and easy fix for Nick, and we were back in business.  But the smell….remained.  For another day we pondered just what could be making the kitchen stink.  Eventually we followed some clues and found a decomposing mouse behind the fridge.  Again, awesome.  But we got rid of it, gave the cats a pep talk and life carried on.  Then I got a call that my credit card number had been stolen and there was someone in Texas trying to charge a trip to Thailand on my Visa.  And the grass needed to be mowed and the garden weeded.   Then the water heater broke, one of our indoor cats got out and was lost for a day and a half, and my retreat co-leader broke her foot and couldn’t come to the retreat we had been planning for several months.   And then the road construction workers cut the phone lines that run to our house and we were down phone and internet for several days…and still are, truth be told.  Not a big deal, really, except for when you work from home calling people and working on the internet.   (And that’s just what happened in my own little privileged bubble – the events happening in tandem with my own mini dramas in terms of racial inequality and war and planetary destruction would make this little list much, much longer.)

It’s been a rough month. Continue reading “Bits of Astonishment”

Safety and Risk: Enough

Most of my childhood was spent living seven miles south of a small college town in eastern South Dakota. Days in the summer were spent outside in the fields around our five acre plot, picking berries and vegetables in the garden (enthusiastically…some of the time) and strategically placing Breyer horse models and My Little Ponies in various little nooks and crannies around the homestead. Spring was muddy and wet, but that just meant there were streams in the back in which to splash. Fall was about apples and jumping in piles of leaves and waiting for the first snowflake. Winter was all about burrowing into the snow, sledding down the hills in the neighbor’s pasture and skating on the frozen cow pond.   My brothers and I roamed. Continue reading “Safety and Risk: Enough”