I have found myself thinking of summer fields

I have found myself thinking of summer fields. Fields full of flowers— poppies or lupines. Or, here, fields where the roses hook into the dunes, and their increase is manyfold. All summer they are red and pink and white tents of softness and nectar, which wafts and hangs everywhere— a sweetness so palpable and excessive that, before it, I’m struck, I’m taken, I’m conquered; I’m washed into it, as though it was a river, full of dreaming and idleness— I drop to the sand, I can’t move; I am restless no more; I am replete, supine, finished, filled to the last edges with an immobilizing happiness.

~ Mary Oliver, from “Owls” in Upstream: Selected Essays 


Photo: Bart Ceuppens (Belgium) with Poppies (via drxgonfly)

Running. With This.

sky-blue-birds

What cycles up When on the random shuffle on a 7,231 song playlist and Why?

Is it so random?

The ears tune into her lyrics, Joan Armatrading’s “Heaven“:

“Am I in Heaven? Am I in Heaven? Am I in Heaven? Have I gone up. Have I gone up. To the big cloud.”

This asphalt. This footfall. This foam cushioning my footfall. This swoosh of a flock overhead. This red breasted robin foraging on the damp grass. This gentle morning breeze cooling. This bead of sweat that’s made its way from forehead to cheek to lips, this salt lick.  This sky stretching to the heavens, down to earth, to this ground, to this hip, this thigh, this leg, this calf, these feet – all propelling this body forward.

This, not the Rue de l’Abreuvoir in Paris. Not the Ramblas in Barcelona. Or the gardens of Łazienki Królewskie in Warsaw. This patch of ground here. Here. Now. [Read more…]

Walking Cross-Town. Without lungs.

blue

4:52 am.
January 19th.
35° F, clear, calm.

Rested.
Body parts functioning, check.
Smartphone in breast pocket, check.
ID building pass, check.
Nine minutes to first morning train, check.

I step out the door, insert key, turn, and lock the door. There’s a clop clop clop of footsteps on the street. I turn to see Runner. Male, wearing a Miner’s headlamp, his beam illuminating the road.

2003. That’s you. Up, pre dawn: 5 miles Tuesday. 7 miles Wednesday.  4 miles Friday. Hot shower. Off to work. [Read more…]

Saturday Morning. Call it Rest.

azure-butterfly-hand

 

Call it Rest. I sit on one of the branches. My idleness suits me. I am content. I have built my house. The blue butterflies, called azures, twinkle up from the secret place where they have been waiting. In their small blue dresses they float among the branches, they come close to me, one rests for a moment on my wrist. They do not recognize me as anything very different from this enfoldment of leaves, this wind-roarer, this wooden palace lying down, now, upon the earth, like anything heavy, and happy, and full of sunlight, and half asleep.

~ Mary Oliver, from “Building The House” in Upstream: Selected Essays

 


Photo: Shmoo Shots with A Visit from the Spirit of a Lost Friend. “Summer Azure butterfly which landed on my left wrist and stayed and stayed and stayed while I balanced the camera and took photos with my right hand.”

Through these woods I have walked

aerial-oregon-forest-winter-mt-hood

Through these woods I have walked thousands of times. For many years I felt more at home here than anywhere else, including our own house. Stepping out into the world…was always a kind of relief. I was not escaping anything. I was returning to the arena of delight. I was stepping across some border. I don’t mean just that the world changed on the other side of the border, but that I did too…They recognized and responded to my presence, and to my mood. They began to offer, or I began to feel them offer, their serene greeting. It was like a quick change of temperature, a warm and comfortable flush, faint yet palpable, as I walked toward them and beneath their outflowing branches.

~ Mary Oliver, from “Winter Hours” in Upstream: Selected Essays


Notes: Photo: Michael Shainblum: An aerial image of a snowy morning in Oregon taken during a misty sunrise near Mount Hood. (Photo selection inspired by Dec 21, 2016, the Winter Solstice.)

Faith…is tensile, and cool, and has no need of words

boyana-petkova-art

In the winter I am writing about, there was much darkness. Darkness of nature, darkness of event, darkness of the spirit. The sprawling darkness of not knowing. We speak of the light of reason. I would speak here of the darkness of the world, and the light of _______. But I don’t know what to call it. Maybe hope. Maybe faith, but not a shaped faith— only, say, a gesture, or a continuum of gestures. But probably it is closer to hope, that is more active, and far messier than faith must be. Faith, as I imagine it, is tensile, and cool, and has no need of words. Hope, I know, is a fighter and a screamer.

~ Mary Oliver, from “Winter Hours” in Upstream: Selected Essays

 


Watercolor: Boyana Petkova (Bulgaria)

But dawn— dawn is a gift.

morning-frost-grass-light

There is a rumor of total welcome among the frosts of the winter morning. Beauty has its purposes, which, all our lives and at every season, it is our opportunity, and our joy, to divine. Nothing outside ourselves makes us desire to do so; the questions, and the striving toward answers, come from within. The field I am looking at is perhaps twenty acres altogether, long and broad. The sun has not yet risen but is sending its first showers over the mountains, a kind of rehearsal, a slant light with even a golden cast. I do not exaggerate. The light touches every blade of frozen grass, which then burns as a particular as well as part of the general view. The still-upright weeds have become wands, encased in a temporary shirt of ice and light. Neither does this first light miss the opportunity of the small pond, or the groups of pine trees. And now: enough of silver, behold the pink, even a vague, unsurpassable flush of pale green. It is the performance of this hour only, the dawning of the day, fresh and ever new. This is to say nothing against afternoons, evenings, or even midnight. Each has its portion of the spectacular. But dawn— dawn is a gift. Much is revealed about a person by his or her passion, or indifference, to this opening of the door of day. No one who loves dawn, and is abroad to see it, could be a stranger to me.

~ Mary Oliver, from “Wordsworth’s Mountain” in Upstream: Selected Essays

 


Photo: emeL (magic grass)

it kept running back and forth, trembling and chattering

 Alexandra Bochkareva

A summer day — I was twelve or thirteen — at my cousins’ house, in the country. They had a fox, collared and on a chain, in a little yard beside the house. All afternoon all afternoon all afternoon it kept—
_______

Once I saw a fox, in an acre of cranberries, leaping and pouncing, leaping and pouncing, leaping and falling back, its forelegs merrily slapping the air as it tried to tap a yellow butterfly with its thin black forefeet, the butterfly fluttering just out of reach all across the deep green gloss and plush of the sweet-smelling bog.
_______

— it kept running back and forth, trembling and chattering.

~ Mary Oliver, from “Staying Alive” in Upstream: Selected Essays

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Photos: From Autumn and Winter series by Alexandra Bochkareva (via My Modern Met). The dichotomy between the Mary Oliver excerpt and the photographs is that the fox (Alice) is trained and domesticated. Don’t miss the backstory and additional photos at My Modern Met.

Miracle. All of it.

turtle-nesting

They come, lumbering, from the many ponds. They dare the dangers of path, dogs, the highway, the accumulating heat that their bodies cannot regulate, or the equally stunning, always possible cold. Take one, then. She has reached the edge of the road, now she slogs up the impossible hill. When she slides back she rests for a while, then trundles forward again. Emerging wet from the glittering caves of the pond, she travels in a coat of glass and dust. Where the sand clings thickly the mosquitoes, that hover about her like a gray veil, are frustrated. Not about her eyes, though, for as she blinks the sand falls; so at her tough, old face-skin those winged needles hang until their bodies fill, like tiny vials, with her bright blood. Each of the turtles is a female, and gravid, and is looking for a place to dig her nest. […]

I saw the tracks immediately— they swirled back and forth across the shuffled sand of the path. They seemed the design of indecision, but I am not sure. In three places a little digging had taken place. A false nest? A foot giving a swipe or two of practice motion? A false visual clue for the predator to come? I leashed my two dogs and looked searchingly until I saw her, at one side of the path, motionless and sand-spattered. Already she was in the nest— or, more likely, leaving it. For she will dig through the sand until she all but vanishes— sometimes until there is nothing visible but the top of her head. Then, when the nesting is done, she thrusts the front part of her body upward so that she is positioned almost vertically, like a big pie pan on edge. Beneath her, as she heaves upward, the sand falls into the cavity of the nest, upon the heaped, round eggs. She sees me, and does not move. The eyes, though they throw small light, are deeply alive and watchful. If she had to die in this hour and for this enterprise, she would, without hesitation. She would slide from life into death, still with that pin of light in each uncordial eye, intense and as loyal to the pumping of breath as anything in this world.

~ Mary Oliver, from “Sister Turtle” in Upstream: Selected Essays (2016)

 


Notes:

  • Photo: Brent Fleming, Nesting Sea Turtle
  • Inspired by Albert Einstein’s quote: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
  • Related Posts: Miracle. All of it.

Riding Metro North. The Morning After…

train-tracks-paris-metro

Just another ordinary autumn morning in November. But, and it’s a big But, this one follows the U.S. Presidential election.

It’s the first train to Grand Central: the 5:01 am. The 1% fills this train. The traders, the bankers, the Suits, the professional class.

I am Them.

Overnight, the Earth has shifted, and cracked.

All heads in this train car are down.  The gleaming late model Apple devices beam the story lines. “Election results driven by the poor white…the rural vote…the non-college educated…”  These written words coming from the same college educated who got it all so wrong, are now anxiously explaining what went wrong and why, and they are soon to pivot to telling us what happens next. Stunned.

The Words coming from these pens and keyboards (and now digested by their Readers) are less confident today, less certain about outcomes, and fear a change of the status quo.  Mary Oliver describes the anxiety in ‘Sister Turtle’: “You can fool a lot of yourself but you can’t fool the soul. That worrier.” [Read more…]

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