Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Emergence and discovery #phenology

OK, we admit that the weather we've been experiencing has us grumping around the house. It's not that it's actually unpleasant outside, but neither is it actually pleasant outside. Who was it that had the hit song "Stuck in the Middle With You?" That's pretty much how we've been feeling about the weather for the past few weeks. We're really looking forward to enjoying the two or three days we get  each year when it's warm and sunny but the mosquitos, black flies and deer flies haven't yet arrived in great numbers.

British soldier lichen surrounded by snow
British soldier lichen surrounded by snow
Photo by J. Harrington

What we had failed to realize until this morning is that, with a little luck, we still have ahead of us chances to go find British soldier lichen and maybe collect a few pussy willows. But first we'd like to let a little more of the snow melt in the fields.

March is pussy willow time
March is pussy willow time
Photo by J. Harrington

We've had reports from reliable observers that numbers of Canada geese have arrived in the neighborhood and read several reports that sandhill cranes are back in the general area. We've had no real sightings of either. so that's something else to look forward to.

A third- or fourth-hand report has reached us that a gray wold was trapped near the borders of Washington and Anoka counties. We're a little surprised but not astounded, since their known territory has extended to the northern half of Pine County, which borders ours on the North. It will be very interesting to watch for additional reports, if there are any, and to see how the possible arrival of wolves affects the local coyote packs.

Instructions on Not Giving Up

Ada Limón, 1976

More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out
of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s
almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving
their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate
sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees
that really gets to me. When all the shock of white
and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, leave
the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath,
the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin
growing over whatever winter did to us, a return
to the strange idea of continuous living despite
the mess of us, the hurt, the empty. Fine then,
I’ll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf
unfurling like a fist to an open palm, I’ll take it all.

Thanks for visiting. Come again when you can.
Please be kind to each other while you can.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

North Country: Springing into a new world?

As we write this, it's almost exactly the Vernal Equinox and it's snowing, not heavily, but steadily. Welcome to Spring in our North Country. Purple finches are back at one of the feeders. Woodpeckers have been having lots of fun with one of the trees in the neighborhood. We hope, when the trunk finally lets go, it doesn't land on the road.

a woodpecker favorite
a woodpecker favorite
Photo by J. Harrington

What do you see when you look at today's photos: a series of various size woodpecker holes not connected to each other nor anything else; a much-abused dead tree trunk and limbs, pock-holed, growing fungus amongus? Or is it possible, with just a skosh of imagination, to see archways, doorways and entrances to other dimensions? Could the mushroom steps lead to a newer, higher, better universe? Are there tunnels through the limbs and trunks, connecting at least some of the holes, connecting us to a neverland such as Alice discovered? If you see no such possibilities, you might want to ask yourself why?

where do the holes lead?
where do the holes lead?
Photo by J. Harrington

We admit that we have been aided and abetted in our thinking about and experiencing the "old, dead tree" by the chapter in Robert Macfarlane's Landmarks titled "Childish." If you haven't yet read Landmarks, please do. Macfarlane is among the more powerful and compelling writers we've found who explores the relationships among languages and places and times. We continue to wrestle with whatever linkage exists between the idea and the reality. Annie Dillard writes in "Total Eclipse," "All those things for which we have no words are lost." We wonder what that means for those, like children, with limited vocabulary but much less limited imaginations. What, also, does it mean as too many of us age, expand (if not improve) our vocabulary, and simultaneously lose access to our imaginations? Words are tools. Words cast spells through incantations. Words are squiggles on screens and sheets of paper. Words may have started as grunts or birdsong or.... Words are used to lie and cheat and steal and hurt. The Bible claims that "In the beginning was the Word." Which came first, the Word or the reality, our Words or our World?

                     World Word

What over the gable-end and high up under tangled cloud
           that raven might be saying to its tumble-soaring mate
or what the blackbird might intend when chattering among
           scattered breadcrumbs or what the bellowing of one cow
then another in the near field might mean remains beyond
           my ken—being all noise for which no words will manage
though all is language settling and unsettling the world
           beyond me . . . and yet there’s the dunnock in all its
dun colours at work among the small stones and patchy grass
           of the driveway and here’s the robin’s aggressive tilt
at breadcrumbs and there goes the sudden shriek
           of the blackbird . . . all alive inside the inhuman
breath-pattern of the wind trawling every last leaf
           and blade of grass and flinging rain like velvet pebbles
onto the skylight: nothing but parables in every bristling inch
           of the out-of-sight unspoken never-to-be-known pure
sense-startling untranslatable there of the world as we find it.

Thanks for visiting. Come again when you can.
Please be kind to each other while you can.