One Tiny Beautiful Thing

Paying attention to what is happening in Washington is a form of self-torment so reality altering that it should be regulated as a Schedule IV drug. I pay attention because that’s what responsible people do, but I sometimes wonder how much longer I can continue to follow the national news and not descend into a kind of despair that might as well be called madness. Already there are days when I’m one click away from becoming Lear on the heath, raging into the storm. There are days when it feels like the apocalypse is already here.

Except it isn’t, not really. Not yet. One day when the relentless rains let up for a bit, I went to the park an hour before sunset to walk on the muddy trails and take a break from the bad news. The woods were as lovely as they ever are after a rain: the creeks full of rushing water, the gray bark of the fallen trees slick with moss. Above the trail, the limbs of the living trees creaked in the rising wind, the kind of sound that makes your heart ache for reasons too far beyond words to explain. Though the forest understory is already beginning to green up, weeks too soon, the towhees scratching for insects stirring in what’s left of last fall’s leaves were not in any way sorry about the early arrival of spring.

A few hundred yards on, my eyes caught on a tree I hadn’t noticed when I was walking in the other direction. About seven feet up the trunk was a knothole, a place where a limb had long ago broken off and let water in to rot the wood. Perhaps a woodpecker had helped to deepen it, too, and given the water more purchase over time. The hole was small, a dark grotto in the thickly grooved bark of the stalwart oak, a hiding place that reached far into the mass of that old tree, and the failing light deepened its darkness. Who knows how many miniature woodland creatures have crept into its crevice over the years to nest, to shelter from the wind and rain, to hide from predators — or to wait for prey.

But a creature lurking inside it is not what singled this knothole out among the hundreds, even thousands, I had passed on the path as night came on. What caught my eye was a cluster of tiny seedlings colored the bright new green of springtime, so bright it seemed to glow in the gloaming. The tender plants were growing in the loam inside the knothole. Far above the ground, a hole made by decay in a living tree had become a cold frame, a natural greenhouse that lets in light and keeps out frost. Life in death in life…

Instead of giving up something for Lent, I’m planning to make a heartfelt offering. In times like these, it makes more sense to seek out daily causes for praise than daily reminders of lack. So here is my resolution: to find as many ordinary miracles as a waterlogged winter can put forth, as many resurrections as an eerily early springtime will allow. Tiny beautiful things are bursting forth in the darkest places, in the smallest nooks and deepest cracks of the hidden world, and I am going to keep looking every single day until I find one.

~ Margaret Renkl, from “One Tiny Beautiful Thing” (NY Times, Feb 23, 2020)


Photo: Mohan Bhat

Saturday Morning

I was struggling… overwhelmed with the world, and I had this feeling that I just wanted things to stop for a while so that I could catch up.  And I told my mom at one point that I was going to…spend a few weeks where people wouldn’t expect me to do anything other than just stare out the window…And she said, “You need to go to the wilderness.”

~ Terry Tempest Williams, Erosion: Essays of Undoing (October 8, 2019)


Photo: Luksefjell (Norway) by allanaasland (via Poppins-me)

Drone On, Please.

Shore break, Trey Ratcliff: “South Island of New Zealand. Just north of the Haast Pass on the West Coast is a pretty desolate and lonely place. In fact, the entire South Island, which is *roughly* the size of California, only has 1 mil people on it (Cali has 40 mil). Anyway, most of the west coast of the South Island is covered in a dense and beautiful forest. I found this area of the coast where the waves are undercutting the land and the trees dramatically tip over into the ocean to be battered around.” (via thisisnthappiness)

Atlas Obscura: “Drone-Piloting Scientists ‘Weighed’ Whales From 130 Feet in the Air” (via thisisnthappiness)

Lightly Child, Lightly.

I take pictures, not for a living, but for reasons that I’m not quite sure of yet.

~ Petra van der Ree, Rotterdam-based web, text, and image editor via Ignant’s “Petra Van Der Ree’s Photographs Take Us Outside Ourselves (April 29, 2019)

 


Notes: Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

 

Saturday Morning

Had he remained standing there too briefly, chances are he would not have let the place get to him and consequently decided to devote his life to it. A few minutes, maybe. Long enough to hear the wind in the already wind-bent pines, the wind in his ears, the wind in his trouser legs, the pebbles under the soles of his shoes, his hand fiddling with coins in the pocket of his leather jacket, the oystercatcher’s shrill, Morse-like biik-biik-biik-biik. I picture my father turning to the cinematographer and saying: Listen to how quiet this place is.

Linn Ullmann, ”Unquiet: A Novel


Photo Credit

Lightly Child, Lightly

But mostly I live here in the capricious present
Writing down one thing, then the next.
Autumn passes like empty freight cars—

Some doors open, some doors closed—
Light flickers and flashes through the cracks.
The trees are a thousand species of fires.

Eric Pankey, from “Southern Elegy,” Trace: Poems


Notes:

Picking a World

One world
Includes airplanes and power plants,
All the machinery that surrounds us,
The metallic odor that has entered words.

The other world waits
In the cold rain
That soaks the hours one by one
All through the night
When the woods come so close
you can hear them breathing like wet dogs.

~ Tom Hennen, “Picking a World” in Darkness Sticks to Everything: Collected and New Poems 


Poem: via See More. Photo by Aleksi Tikka titled Hazy Moonlight (Harinjärvi, Lake in Finland)

Sunday Morning

Angels are wonderful but they are so, well, aloof.
It’s what I sense in the mud and the roots of the
trees, or the well, or the barn, or the rock with
its citron map of lichen that halts my feet and
makes my eyes flare, feeling the presence of some
spirit, some small god, who abides there.

If I were a perfect person, I would be bowing
continuously.
I’m not, though I pause wherever I feel this
holiness, which is why I’m so often late coming
back from wherever I went.

Forgive me.

~ Mary Oliver, “Forgive Me” in Blue Horses


Sources: Poem – Thank you Whiskey River. Photo – Lichen by Mathieu Noël

Riding I-95 South. With Cuts.

I’m crossing the I-95 overpass, aiming to circle back and slide down the ramp into the pack – the morning rush is backed up for miles.

I wait at the stoplight.

Four girls, 7-8 years old, blue skirts, sweaters, hair pulled back, backpacks bouncing on their backs…hustle across the crosswalk, all four with iPhones cradled in both hands. Texting. Surfing. Instagram. Facebook. Snapchat.  Hands, eyes, fingers, all blind to the onset of autumn in the trees overhead, and the yellowing leaves which quiver from the gentle breeze easing in from the North. The light turns, I see them in the rear view mirror, heads down. And likely still down at this moment. The scene replays in a loop. Something Large, is irretrievably Lost.

I inch down 95.

Something Large, is irretrievable Lost.  A 1/2 mile stretch on my right, formerly lined with thick, lush trees, the same trees that separated the commuter train lines from the suburbs, the same trees offering a moment’s sanctuary from Work-to-Come or Work-Behind-Us, these same Giant trees, thick with foliage…are Gone.

A giant yellow earthmover hulks along the highway, resting from the mayhem it delivered overnight. Creating What? Room for a second lane exiting into Greenwich? Another rail line? Tree-free space to stand-up cinder block distribution warehouses for Amazon, that stretch for acres, offering convenient access to I-95?

I pass the clear cut, the traffic eases and it’s all behind me. Or so I think. [Read more…]

Sunday Morning

I find myself walking softly on the rich undergrowth beneath the trees, not wanting to crack a twig, to crush or disturb anything in the least — for there is such a sense of stillness and peace that the wrong sort of movement, even one’s very presence, might be felt as an intrusion… The beauty of the forest is extraordinary — but “beauty” is too simple a word, for being here is not just an esthetic experience, but one steeped with mystery, and awe… Standing here…I feel part of a larger, calmer identity; I feel a profound sense of being at home, a sort of companionship with the earth.

~ Oliver SacksThe Island of the Colorblind


Notes:

  • Quote Source: Brainpickings
  • Photo: Pine trees stand forming a forest near Briesen, Germany, on Thursday. Brandenburg’s forests produce sustainable wood resources of roughly a million cubic meters. (Patrick Pleul, wsj.com, January 11, 2018)
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