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in The Natural World/

Like Water For Trees

The fragrance of nature, particularly water and trees, has always brought something powerful to the surface of my mind, a kind of happy joy that is spontaneous and immediate. Nature conceals a deeper meaning, drawing me to its depths without knowing entirely why. Since I was a little girl I have always loved it. The natural world is an essential ingredient of what I am, just as much as the gristle and bone I walk around in. Sometimes I think it’s about identification. But that’s not it exactly. I am aware of being an animal, a mammal specifically. And yet it is the essence of spirit that I really identify with, coming from some ‘other’ that created all of this, that I am a part of.

Life For It’s Own Sake

On a recent family vacation in Lake Tahoe I was reminded ever more powerfully of this fact. Because it is a fact for me. A reality. I could be a tree. I could be a body of water. But it makes no matter because I have been blessedly created as a human, and how lucky is that? Even if one believes in no higher power or God, let’s say it’s fate or a roll of the dice that I was created thusly, I still value it immensely. While I happen to believe in God, I recognize not everyone does. Are these individuals no less grateful to be alive?

In any case, my nephew took this picture off the end of a boat touring around the lake and sent it to me. I was not onboard, instead stationed back at the resort like a sentry, resting inside but catching the faint whiff of pines and water regardless of my physical location. The picture is compelling, as compelling as the state of being. This was puzzling to me in the beginning, at least until I started to view it differently. The opaque quality in a milky, cataract kind of way disturbed me at first. I wanted to bring it into focus, to clarify the view. And then I thought, isn’t that what we are always trying to do?  To fix, to adjust what we think we see into one meaning that suits our purpose?

And the foreground of waterwheel, intrusive and initially dominating, became something to be managed, fixed, so that one could better get to the the dusting of pine-topped mountains beyond. When I ignore this fuzzy, filmy veneer, the restless idea of it, I can focus instead on the essence of sharing space with nature, conjoined, being an intimate and authentic part of it, even as it’s steward and, as such, as essential as the earth itself and sky above.

A Larger Lens

I am transported to a primordial soup from which we all come regardless of belief system. It is quite simply a knowing, with nothing arguable about it. It is rooted in depths of certitude, ineffable though it may be, a oneness that defies explanation even though I struggle to explain it in the here and now.

And so I leave it here, the unanswered and unanswerable mystery of being born not just a human but being born here, now, in this place and part of a whole that is an inexplicable existence. The mysterious gift of life, the nature of it all, a dust mote traversing the universe through space and time, me who has been afforded incredible Grace and peace as evocative as the whiff of the pines and water themselves.

in Aging/

My (Cognitive) Decline

It may just be your average “age associated memory loss” I’m experiencing, the one most people in the mid 60’s undergo. But I have to tell you, it’s alarming when someone younger is trying to tell you something that is a NLO (New Learning Opportunity, allegedly good for the neuronal net) and you can’t really follow. In the last few years, it has become increasingly difficult for me to learn new things. I swear I can feel the brain creak, struggling to function as it gets slower and slower with each passing year. Read more

in American Culture/

Mother Mary Comes To Me

Driving over to Napa the other day, I witnessed the most amazing beauty. Breathtaking and compelling, low hanging clouds draped themselves over the mountain ridges. Near tears, it was obvious to me, obvious, the fog-laden peaks were caressed equally whether they had been untouched by the recent fires retaining stalwart golden-leaved trees or revealed burn scars, treeless, grassless and naked. It was as if these supple minute water droplet-filled boggy floating bulbs served equally as interfaces between earth and heaven. Mother nature – God, if you will – cared not what had come before it seemed, instead insisting on providing the same advantage for each peak rising up from the earth and I knew, not just that all would be well, but all IS well.

Lotus Fower

Lotus Flower

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in The Natural World/

Trees, Lovely Trees

Have you ever seen anything as lovely as a tree? I grew up in Michigan where trees thrived in abundance, both down state and up. The state in the shape of a mitten with a rabbit suspended above it, Michigan’s peninsulas had large swaths of state and national forests. Once heavily logged, most of that has died down now. But I digress. Read more

in The Natural World/

Writing About Nothing At All

I feel the pull to write but am minus a subject. It feels equivalent to taking a walk with no particular destination in mind, aimless to be sure yet compelled to put one leg in front of the other just the same. This endless tugging reminds me of singers singing scales or humming some little ditty just to keep the throat and windpipe limber, not to mention for the sheer pleasure of it. So I’m writing for no particular reason other than writing has showed itself to be my nature. For this reason I pound on keys, flexing some invisible muscle that serves as play, satisfied I have a small but sturdy impulse on which to creatively act.

A number of years ago I had the great good fortune to co-produce a program for Iowa Public Television called Dames from Ames. It profiled four women writers: Pulitzer Prize winner, Jane Smiley, current Iowa Poet Laureate, Mary Swander, and fiction writers, Sharon Warner, and Fern Kupfer. One of the questions they discussed was “can you imagine ever not writing?” All of them seem flummoxed, conceding it essentially felt unimaginable, with the exception of Smiley. Yet, even Smiley’s concession seemed qualified with “I suppose I could lose my appetite for it,” or something to that effect.

In a previous work life, I arranged, marketed and hosted author events for the now defunct, Borders Books & Music. In that capacity, I met an amazing number of writers from a wide variety of genres, some just starting out, others’ seasoned and quite famous. I recall marveling at their efforts and, in some cases, phenomenal talents. I was also curious about their inner lives. What energy compelled them to act so fervently, some of them prolifically, on that writing impulse which, for me, was monstrously repressed and still latent at the time?

I have since come to know that the urge to write about even nothing in particular randomly erupts of its own accord, now claiming my mind, fingers, and voice, operating from the key creation was composed in. It’s not even personal although the exercise is acted out from an individual subjective perspective. I liken the writing environment to what the physicists and social scientists call M Fields or EM Fields, an energy system that generates electrical and magnetic activity, a coalescing of functions comprised of like characteristics and qualities. It’s akin to a flock of birds in flight that form a collective, working toward a parallel destination or purpose. In short, they are drawn together and operate within an Attractor Field.

Field Theory requires me to write even if no one reads these words. Since unleashing me from the straightjacket of conventional work, my impulse to write, write, and write, even if it’s about nothing in particular, must be acted on. It’s a requirement of the field I find myself in these days. My brother is a photographer and suffers from or enjoys a similar compulsion. It’s part of his nature to take pictures. He simply cannot help himself. The nature of a writer is really no different; only the unique expression it takes is. This is true for all the arts. What’s more, I have learned the hard way that to suppress the creative urge is literally destructive, deleterious to life itself. It is likely one of the principle reasons I have been so painfully frustrated during much of adulthood, not allowing myself to fully become immersed in the flock I was born to inhabit.

And so, my eye is fixed on some vague notion that I occasionally may have something worthwhile to say in what I write. If not, I’ll write anyway, willy nilly, hoping at minimum, to stumble on something useful for others to enjoy. Some small niggling comment or curiosity will penetrate another’s skull, prompting an investigation into how Field Theory affects their own lives.  For to ignore my urge to create with words feels downright irresponsible at this stage, even sacrilegious, a sacrilege I can no longer afford, even if I write about nothing at all!

in The Natural World/

Our Duet

Not long ago while attending a book discussion group, a lovely bird and I sang a duet together, he with his song and I with my words. It was quite remarkable really. Our little group takes turns reading and I was up. No sooner had I started and the bird in question arrived in the chimney flu, launching into a loud melody of his own making.  I mean he was loud! Not only that, he was delightfully melodic, communicating in his language and me in mine. It seemed the more I read, the more insistent he became and I quickly felt immersed in his rapture as he sang his heart out! It seemed our little duet transcended both of us, becoming a third thing born of sharing. Not only was I aware of this in the moment, the third thing obliterated any comprehension of the words I was reading, rendering instead a greater understanding found in being. I became both lost and found in the larger experience, feeling astonishingly uplifted, expanded somehow. I felt not only a smile on my face but one planted firmly in the heart, beating in syncopation with his.

To contend we are all in this life at Earth School together is a heady concept made headier by a knowing participation when subjectively experienced. I often feel this when out in nature, witnessing and involved with birds, trees, flowers, even pedestrian things like mud or decomposing leaves. The muskiness of a tree, the overwhelming fragrance of a Eucalyptus, even when a tiny gnat flies into my face as I walk, all evokes this sharing, this all-one-thingness that is transcendent, lifting me out of what I perceive as me. When I am blessed to reside in this space I feel fortunate indeed, enlivened by a force greater than any definition as writer, mother, friend; whatever.

I see this in other people and creatures as well, though they may not experience it in quite the same way. My old friend Bennet feeds peanuts to squirrels, throwing them in their shell on the ground outside his back door each morning. I’ve watched his face when he does this. I see his joining with each squirrel in some invisible force field as they scamper toward each nut, also entering a third thing, a space they intimately share for a moment before the spell is broken.

My hummingbirds also display this quality. Most of the time they function according to hummingbird rules, which is to say territorial, chasing each other away from the feeder in an attempt to be top bird. Yet there are times when they share. It is a joy to watch. Lately I have seen as many as three, four, sometimes five hummingbirds perched or hovering around my 3-hole feeder, waiting their turn to drink. It is just as if they silently agree to suspend their individual nature, relying instead on a collective One. On occasion, when the feeder has been drained dry a bird will even peer in my window as if to say “fill it up, creature!”

This hushed communication remains a mystery to me for how is it that form or the physical world can be so overcome with a force not of bird or animal making. Yet the songbird and my duet incline me to know it not only can be but is when desiring to do so, whether consciously or unconsciously. For the bird in the chimney kept up his warbling until I finished my paragraph, and even briefly thereafter, only ending his song when it was someone else’s turn to read. While others in the group noticed and even commented on the bird, I took such pleasure in having him accompany me and I him, not only witnessing but immersed in the One life we all share.