Feel the breath of its song

fox-sparrow-bird

A clear, sharp, whistled voice peals up from the salmonberries. I follow it back along a narrow trail and find its maker: a fox sparrow twenty feet up in an elderberry tree. Wholly engaged in its performance, the bird takes no notice as I ease in below. It looks very plain – reddish-brown on the back, speckled on the breast and sides. Perhaps most of its evolutionary energy went into perfecting this ambrosial song. Every note is like a beam of brilliant light, woven into a complex, shimmering web. And with each sound, a tiny plume of steam puffs from the sparrow’s opened beak, rings and wreathes and curls outward, and dissolves into the crystal morning air. I can almost feel the breath of its song against the bare flesh of my face and fingers. Rich phrases pour down, and the leafless thicket trembles with its own living voice.

~ Richard Nelson, The Island Within


Notes:

Hump Hump Hump Humpbacks!

whale

whale

Amateur photographer Katrina Begg took this incredible shot of two whales breaching in tandem off Flynns Beach, off the coast of Port Macquarie in Australia.

Read more here: Herald Sun (July 7, 2015)


Reading the newspaper? Yes? Think about it.

coffee-paper-newspaper

A large stump raised six feet above ground on buttressed roots offers a good lookout. The man who felled this tree cut two deep notches in its base, which I use to clamber on top. It’s about five feet in diameter and nearly flat, except for a straight ridge across the center where the cutter left hinge wood to direct the tree’s fall.  The surface is soggy and checked, but still ridged with the concentric growth rings. On hands and knees, nose almost touching the wood, using my knife blade as a poster, I start to count.  In a short while, I know the tree died in its four hundred and twenty-third year. […]

Now I gaze into a valley miles deep, laid bare to its high slopes, with only patches of living timber left between the clearcut swaths.  Where I stand now, a great tree once grew. The circle that mark the centuries of its life surround me, and I dream back through them. It’s difficult to imagine the beginnings – perhaps a seed that fell from a flurry of crossbills like those I saw a while ago.  More difficult still is the incomprehensible distance of time this tree crossed, as it grew from a limber switch on the forest floor to a tree perhaps 150 feet tall and weighing dozens of tons. Another way to measure the scope of its life is in terms of storms. Each years scores of them swept down this valley – thousands of boiling gales and blizzards in the tree’s lifetime – and it withstood them all.

The man who walked up beside it some twenty years ago would have seemed no more significant than a puff of air on a summer afternoon.

Perhaps thin shafts of light shone onto the forest floor that day, and danced on the velvet moss. I wonder what that man might have thought, as he looked into the tree’s heights and prepared to bring it down. Perhaps he thought only about the job at hand, or his aching back, or how long it was until lunch. I would like to believe he gave some consideration to the tree itself, to its death and his responsibilities toward it, as he pulled the cord that set his chainsaw blaring. […]

The clearcut valley rumbled like an industrial city through a full decade of summers, as the island’s living flesh was stripped away. Tugs pulled great rafts of logs from Deadfall Bay, through tide-slick channels toward the mill, where they were ground into pulp and slurried aboard ships bound for Japan. Within a few months, the tree that took four centuries to grow was transformed into newspapers, read by commuters on afternoon trains, and then tossed away.

~ Richard Nelson, The Island Within


Notes:

I feel like a minuscule upstart in their presence.

yellow-cedar-tree

Studies of coastal forests like this one reveal that exposure to wind is what most determines the age of trees. Whereas spruce trees in vulnerable stands live an average of two hundred years, those in sheltered, fertile areas like the Deer Meadow valley can live eight or nine hundred years. Yellow cedars, which are better able to resist wind, commonly survive for a thousand years. […]

Only a few raindrops and oversized snowflakes sift through the crown of trees as a squall passes over.  I’m grateful for the shelter, and I sense a deeper kind of comfort here.  These are living things I move among, immeasurably older and larger and more deeply affixed to their place on earth than I am, and imbued with vast experience of a kind entirely beyond my comprehension. I feel like a minuscule upstart in their presence, a supplicant awaiting the quiet counsel of venerable trees.

~ Richard Nelson, The Island Within


Notes:

  • Photograph of 800 year Yellow Cedar Tree in Cypress Provincial Park in British Columbia: Mick
  • Related Posts on Live & Learn: Richard Nelson

A Mother’s work is never done (85 sec)

A mother raccoon is teaching her cub how to climb a tree.

 

 

There’s the eagle’s world, and there is mine. Let’s Fly.

eagle-close-up-eyes-beak

As I watch the eagle rise above the bay, I let myself drift out beyond an edge, as though I were moving across the edge of sleep…I am filled with the same disdainful surge that releases him from his perch, feel the strain of air trapped in the hollows of his wings…The eagle sweeps away in great, lazy arcs, drifts against the corniced peaks, and soars up toward the smooth layer of cloud…At three thousand feet, the feathered sails flex and shake against a torrent of wind…I can feel the lash of gusts as the eagle planes above the mountain, gaze through his eyes at the fissured, snow-laden peak, and share the craving that draws him more deeply into the island’s loneliness…I have flown, however artificially, and have looked down over the island and the strait. But I can never know what the eagle sees with those blazing eyes, what are the shapes of mountains and shores amid the maze of detail that leaps into his brain.

There is the eagle’s world, and there is mine, sealed beyond reach within our selves. But despite these insuperable differences, we are also one, caught in the same fixed gaze that contains us. We see the earth differently, but we see the same earth. We breathe the same air and feel the same wind, drink the same water and eat the same meat. We share common membership in the same community and are subject to the same absolutes. In this sense, the way we receive what surrounds us is irrelevant: I have the eagle’s eyes and the eagle has mine.

~ Richard Nelson, The Island Within

Notes:

Every stub. Every whisker. Every mole. Every freckle. Every eyelash.

bald eagle

The bird cranes his head down to watch me, so the plumage on his neck fluffs out. HIs head is narrow, pinched, tightly feathered; his eyes are silver-gold, astringent, and stare forward along the curved scythe of his beak. Burned into each eye is a constricted black pupil, like the tightly strung arrow of a crossbow aimed straight toward me. What does the eagle see when he looks at me, this bird who can spot a herring’s flash in the water a quarter-mile away? I suppose every stub of whisker on my face, every mole and freckle, every eyelash, the pink flesh on my eyelid, the red network of vessels on the white of my eye, the radiating colors of my iris, his own reflection on my pupil, or beneath this reflection, his inverted image on my retina. I see only the eagle’s eye, but wonder if he sees down inside mine. Or inside me perhaps.

~ Richard Nelson, The Island Within

Photograph: Fairy-Wren

Walking Cross-Town. Crossing the Street.

plant-green-water-drops

The morning ritual is…

GET to the office.
GET to the desk.
Fire up the PC.
GET a jump on the day.
Same. Same. Same.

I exit Grand Central,
and head West.
Same route.
As the crow flies,
it’s a straight shot, on foot, cross-town, to the office on 48th street.
Speed traps are meted out by flashing Don’t Walk! signs and traffic,
as jaywalking is a cultural norm in Gotham.

I couldn’t tell you what triggered it.
It could have been a car horn.
A driver shouting at another.
Or perhaps more subtle,
a bird call amidst the gray, inert skyscrapers,
or a unusually, warm early morning wind gust from my left.

[Read more…]

Go, and Be


In a word,
she is empty,
untouched with inescapable beauty.
She is pure,
free from advertisement
and the need of distraction.
Within the slips of her land
there are fallen rocks still asleep
where they originally made their bed.
Her livestock craw without concern of time or where to go.
They call the ground home without need for a door.
No lock, or key.
Waterfalls find their way where ever needed,
Down the sides of the mountains green and
across the dirt paths
carved by wandering admirers.
The ground, this home, smells so rich.
The soil doesn’t stick or crumble,
it molds to the hand as the hand becomes one with the land.
For she is kind.
She is genuine.
We pilgrims come here to pay our respects,
And she repays us with peace.
And once here, you are home,
you find silence,
a glimpse of heaven,
A place where you can go and be.

~ Josh Brine


What I feel is scarcely a twitch

photography

I try to imagine the entire force of this storm flinging itself onto a thousand miles of Pacific coast, the multitude of gusts rolling over the land during every second of its passage, the combined power and noise and energy felt only by the continent itself. Listening to a single gust billow through the timber, I realize that what I feel is scarcely a twitch in the larger scale of things, like the swirl from one stroke of a bird’s wing.

~ Richard Nelson, The Island Within


Image: Endlesspetrichor