and in the way that getaways slip into the wind, i know that this one will as well. time spent in the snowy up-north will slowly peel off and fly, seeds for the next time, the next few-days-away, the next memories.
this weekend we’ll have dinner with our son. he owns a new home – his first – and this will be our first actual viewing of it. i can’t wait! time spent with our adult children flies all too fast. already it’s been six months since i have seen our daughter; already it will be three months since we saw our son. their lives are busy and active and they are not in the same town. their homes have been anywhere from an-hour-and-a-half to twenty-seven hours away. it takes time and planning. and life is full of things – many things, for all of us – that take time and planning.
in what will feel waytoofast, our time spent together will zoom by. visiting and catching up and doing the yes-of-course-i’m-staring-at-you-i’m-your-mother will be followed quickly by goodbyes at the door and me, as ever, wiping happy (and wistful) tears as we drive away. and the tiny layers that comprise this time will feather, drifting into air streams where our mind searches for details and they are just a little further out than we can reach.
the wind brushes past us and time passes in its grasp. we – as ever – attempt to hold its filmy contrails, but time and vapor cannot be held. they are part of the wind that swirls and we simply are witnesses to its magic. we experience, we create memories, we stand next to those memories and gaze back as time’s half-life multiplies before our eyes. on friday, we are astounded by a long week’s end. on our 60th birthday, we are astounded by the six decades. as we sit at our child’s table, we are astounded by their maturity and place in the world, their mark.
we – and the stars – float in the basket of the hot air balloon of the universe and – if we are wise enough – glory that we are part of it.
one single deer walked across this frozen marsh. it left its footprints behind and we could see that it was alone, at least as it crossed. we wondered where it was going, if it would be meeting other deer, if it was young or older, if it had been seeking food or a little open water. we’ve seen many deer on this stretch of trail. they are usually in the woods, gazing out at us as we pass. they stand silently and watch, making sure that we mean no harm. and, of course, we don’t. i always whisper to them how very beautiful they are and i thank them for their quiet presence.
i wonder – after we leave and our boots are printed in the snowy trail – if the deer ponder us. if they wonder where we are going, if we are meeting others, if we are young or older, if we are seeking food or open water.
one of the reasons we love being on the trail is to mutually share that space with wildlife as it surrounds us. we know that there are many creatures, many critters we will not see, though they likely see us. and while we can usually identify them and whether we are in jeopardy – if we see them – we know that identifying humans is harder. for creatures and critters do not know the intent of humans as they pass. they do not know who humans are nor if they are in danger because humans are nearby. the sun rises and sets in their neck of the woods and they must always be vigilant. few natural predators, their vigilance is mostly because of the humans.
they do not realize that it is also necessary for humans to be vigilant of humans. for not all are well-intended and some mean harm. some are singularly focused on hurtful agenda, some are dedicated to marginalizing others, some are dangerous.
i hope that our footprints – now and later – reveal goodness, cause no alarm, are no menace. there’s already enough of that in this world.
the fine line between snow and water. it curved along the shore, made more obvious by the mudline separating the two. the edge between frozen and watery marsh appeared like a crayon thickly outlining the coloring book image, colored in with either whitish snow or blueish water.
standing on the shore – away from the edge – it’s pretty easy to see it…the place where, if you step, you will fall in. undoubtedly, there is also an area close to that place – but not as obvious – where you are also likely to fall in, where your boots will get all wet and perhaps you might lose your balance. you will be – maybe – covered in snow and mud, but you will be laughing there, because you will not have been in danger and it is not likely that you will be hurt. cold and wet, yes. but in real danger – no.
in a time of reorganization of our life together, we are trying to step closer to the edges…the ones we can see and the ones we can’t see. there are places and things that are oh-so-familiar to us, comfortable smushy places into which we sink, easy places to live in. there are places that push the envelope, places that push back and question and, even in that less-smushy-but-necessary zone, we steadily take steps. then there are those places that are a little frightening, a little less solid, a crossing-over place. these are the places we are finding we need to go now. we carry with us all the tools of our lives – education, experience, work, learnings along the way. as artists, as people working in the world, we toss our work over the open water so that it might float around and land – sometimes inside the edge, sometimes out past the buoy and the ropes that designate safe swimming.
and so, in the edge-approach, we glance down and see that our boots are getting wet. the leather – quite worn and no longer waterproof – is taking on marshwater. our socks are getting damp. but, we remind ourselves, we are not in danger. we are simply at the edge. there is much room for growth here, with our feet all wet. there is time to breathe and slow down our fast-beating hearts as we keep going. there is no worry about having to swim or tread water, for it is shallow. and the shallow water offers plenty of nutrients to feed us, teach us, keep us going. the edge looks scary and unfamiliar, risky, but we can see the horizon and the sky meets the land and we can recognize that.
every time we release an album, hang a painting, publish our words, stand in public with our art, openly protest unfairness – whatever it might be – we stand with feet on either side of the edge. we vulnerable ourselves to the world and we are in open water for the moments in which we allow ourselves to consider how our work – our standing there – is being received. but the foot that remains on solid ground – the one on the other side of the edge – holds us to terra firma. and, each time, i suspect, we have found it to be less scary to take the leap, not knowing.
i suppose right now should be no different.
“life is a travelling to the edge of knowledge, then a leap taken.” (d. h. lawrence)
it is entirely and utterly exfoliated. delaminated. naked.
the slender tree stands alone in the marshland, like a graceful ballerina in allongé. barely a side branch, it is stunning against a blue blue sky.
and, yet, in all its raw nakedness, its vulnerability, it stands proudly, stalwart, determined. it is still alive.
we stand next to our canvases, in front of microphones, in recording studios, on wooden stages, at qwerty keyboards, poised in front of 88 keys, with ballet shoes or tap shoes or jazz shoes, behind the cine-camera, in front of the cine-camera, at the potter’s wheel, baton in hand, holding sculpting tools or playscripts, focusing lens and aperture, holding written words in our fingers.
we are naked trees in the marsh. we stand – vulnerable to the elements – unprotected. we brave lack. we brave abundance. we withstand the inbetween.
we are exfoliated every single time we put it out there. we are artists.
we are binge-watching new amsterdam. we hadn’t ever seen any episodes, so now, on the binge-couch, we are up to season 3, episode 2. we just watched episode 1 of that season – where they very respectfully nodded to the pandemic. it took our breath away.
instantly we were back there. the early season of covid. pcr tests, cdc numbers, masking arguments and people feverishly sewing masks and then masking everywhere, washing our groceries, leaving our mail on the table in the foyer for two days before opening it, zoom-work. lonely isolation and social distancing. a million questions. uncertainty. boosters. a divided nation. the dreadful images on our tvs and in the news of overwhelmed medical staff everywhere, the lack of supplies and semi-trailers serving as morgues and the common use of the word “ventilator” and a shortage of isopropyl alcohol, toilet paper, sanitizer. it was stunning to feel it all up-close-and-personal again, having had a bit of space and time since the absolute peak of the crisis. wow. we felt sickened to the core.
in those moments of watching we realized that there is likely no one who experienced this profound time of global pandemic who does not have some PTSD associated with it. how – on this good earth – could you escape that? the virus devastated people’s lives and livelihoods and isolation and worry tore apart the sense of community so important to all of us. we will all never be the same.
feelings have a way of finding their way. yes.
i am trying to establish a practice of mindfulness, a time of quieting my mind and body. in life – fraught with busy thoughts and lists and angsts of all sorts – this is not easy. there is a symphony going on in my mind at all times – many plates spinning in the air.
but i started listening to some guided imagery. quiet non-thematic music. a quiet voice.
the first time i listened, i wept. i thought it would be the exception. it wasn’t.
because, well, feelings are gonna find a home and, on the days you allow them, the days you grant space, the days meditation creates a safe haven, they peek out.
and, like a lazy river in the marsh, you can follow them or get out of the raft, disembarking for now.
either way, those feelings have all found a home. the gossamer-tied memories are all right there, somewhere. so is the grace.
maybe we all need be a little softer on ourselves.
it’s a no-win. the classic rock-and-a-hard-place. a lose-lose. a pickle. a crunch. a conundrum. a double-bind. a dilemma.
yup. there is no truly right response here for that man.
i have learned to preface things i talk about – for instance, “i just want to tell you this. i want to go on and on. i want to _________ (choose: rant/think/ponder/ruminate) aloud. please do not try to solve this. please just listen.”
but sometimes, yes, indeedy, sometimes i just talk. with no preface. and then, in the way of conversation, especially in the middle of the night pillow-talking, he talks after i talk. and – whammo! – that’s where he makes his mistake.
and – up close – if you choose – you will see the foreleg of a winter-dressed pony, the extra cold-weather-coat trapping hair next to the skin of the horse, keeping him warmer. he is stopped, gazing at the distant field, ready to canter into it, the exploding of freedom of movement.
and you blink and it is a cattail. one of many in the field, waiting in the marsh through autumn and winter for early spring. as many as 250,000 seeds, white fluff sailing and transported by birds and breezes. and the life cycle continues.
it is winter in my studio. the rhizomes are gathering underground, together with the cattails. maybe around the spring equinox, maybe a bit later, the shoots will rise out of the ground – like a phoenix out of ashes – and new sprouts will grow and grow. the cycle germinates and pollinates and seeds will fly again. the birds and the wind and i will play for you – seeds and notes flying.
in the meanwhile, i wear my winter coat. it is keeping the heat in. it protects me. insulation for shelter in this long and cold winter, to shield in the storms, to brace in this fallow.
but soon, soon, with the sun and fresh air, the pony will run free.
as we were walking into costco the other day, there was a man briskly walking out. he was balancing a a box of items in his right hand. but in his left was a bundle of flowers. i don’t think he was aware of my brief stare, for outside costco it is windier than most places and we were scurrying to get inside.
but i did stare.
it wasn’t because of the man – i wouldn’t be able to identify him in any way. it was because of the bundle of cellophane-wrapped flowers in his hand. he made me think of my sweet poppo who would purchase grocery store flowers for my momma to put in the center of their coffeesitting table or maybe on the side table in their foyer. my momma loved those flowers. inexpensive, and often on sale – she was ever budget-mindful – but she really loved them.
in these days of a bit more challenge we have taken to a new practice. it’s: pretend-i’m-giving-this-to-you. next to a display of valentine cards sweet-topped in love language with $5.99 printed on the back, we held one out to the other – “pretend i’m giving this to you.” we stopped by the floral cooler and he pointed to a bundle of red roses (with buds and petals actually attached, i might mention) and said, “pretend i’m giving these to you.” the “pretend-i-got-you-this” is far-reaching and much more satisfying than you might imagine.
for it is an intention of love and, in our lighter-weighted and budget-minded world, not stuff.
as we drove home from hiking we contemplated what we might do for the rest of the saturday. it was wide open and we had vowed to hold it as our own. we needed this day on the trail, this time outside, this time together sans angsts. we ran ideas in littlebabyscion.
revisiting frugality is not unfamiliar for us. it is, in fact, much more familiar than extravagance. and so, it is much easier for us to be prudent and thrifty when considering the ‘what’s next’ category. off-trail, our legs were tired from hiking in snow and, though refreshed, we were a little weary from being out in the windy cold.
we considered our options. what to do with the rest of saturday. it was getting later.
back home, we made a little charcuterie board, poured a little wine. we decided to stay home – with our happy dogga. we talked about our trail covered in snow, we read a book together, we played one of favorite cds. kind of a gentle end to our day.
i scrolled through my photo stream then reached out to d with my phone, pulling up one the photographs i’ve taken on the trail we love – this photo of stunning blooms of wildflowers in the winter forest – and said, “pretend i’m giving these to you.”
i’ve noticed lately that my eyes look a lot like my poppo’s.
one mention of jack-in-the-pulpit and i was back at blydenburgh park in smithtown. it didn’t take much to find myself in the woods, hiking along the nissequogue river, by the pond. camera in hand, early spring, looking for the earlybirds of the season. jack-in-the-pulpit didn’t disappoint, flowering shortly after my birthday, spotted on muddy hikes on brisk days.
i remember bike-hiking there, with susan. i just googled it and the county park was only 6.6 miles from my growing-up house. we would ride bikes everywhere. our destination of choice – most of the time – was crab meadow beach, but you know that. even in the winter, when handlebar-turned-down-10-speeds were impossible, my trusty little bug would get me there, to that beach. i would walk and walk and walk. the shoreline is a good place to think, to grow, sandy step by sandy step.
last friday – as it approached the end of the workday – we looked at each other. “fridaynightdatenight,” we tossed into the kitchen. as the hour wore on, we pondered what to do – on this datenight. an iffy-weather day, we didn’t bundle up late afternoon for a hike or even a walk. we were looking forward to making a big stockpot of soup, glass of wine in hand. we have three books we are mutually reading. we are binge-watching new amsterdam. dogga was at our feet in the kitchen. it was a cozy fridaynight.
the next day we hiked. because we really do love to be outside on a trail.
and the more i hike, the more i remember hiking.
but somewhere along the way, i stopped.
i didn’t hike. i didn’t take long walks.
and i am somewhat astounded to think about that now.
but not everyone likes to be on a trail or even a sidewalk, for that matter. not everyone likes to merely take-a-walk in the company of someone they love.
i didn’t realize how much i missed blydenburgh park and crab meadow beach and millneck manor and planting fields arboretum and smith’s point park and hoyt farm nature preserve – places so very familiar to me because i walked them – again and again – until i started memorizing the des plaines river trail and the van patten woods and bristol woods and allendale sidewalks along the lakefront.
that’s when i realized how much i had missed, how much each step on trails feeds me – nearby, or in the high mountains of colorado or the smoky mountains of north carolina, along the easternmost long island beaches or in the woods of upstate ny state parks or in the red rock of utah.
the trees were submerged in the river; there had been some mild flooding. i know these trees. we’ve watched them through seasons on saturdaydatehikes or latemondaytuesdaywednesdaythursdayafternoondatenights. we’ve attached to this trail and it feels as if it remembers us as we pass along it. soon, i think i’ll look for jack-in-the-pulpit, just in case. it would likely bloom later here than in blydenburgh park. spring is later here.
as i bent way down, camera in hand, to shoot through the mulch at the river, i was transported back to that suffolk county park, camera always in hand. and it made me think about all the years i had not stepped foot on a trail, had not walked-until-blisters, had not watched the water rise and fall on rivertrees or glimpsed jack-in-the-pulpit in the underbrush.
i wonder about what those decades of trails would have looked like, what mountains i may or may not have climbed, what roiling rivers i might have entered or not entered, what out-of-breath conversations would have taken place, what problems sorted, what challenges summited, what decisions made, what disasters averted, what center might have been out there, what wisdom trails may have gifted me, what might be different.
“in every walk of nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” (john muir)
i’m glad to have found my way back.
walks of nature.
blydenburgh park is 898 miles from here. crab meadow beach is 908. smith’s point park is 924. upstate new york around 1000. the smoky mountains are 739. the high mountains of colorado are 1237. moab et al is 1511. all on the list of places to return to. places to hike, to walk.
but bristol woods is 13 miles and the des plaines river trail is 12. and either of those is a worthy handinhand fridaynightdatenight.
it looks like the hubbabubba fairy flew through, magic wand in hand, touching stumps and shredded trees everywhere. it is striking to see and not just a little disturbing. there is blue-fairy-dust-smattering all over the woods. trees have been felled, underbrush torn up, everything ground into rough-hewn mulch. one shade of blue and many shades of brown.
only it’s not magic dust and no hubbabubba-bubble-gum or jolly-rancher-blue-raspberry fairy has been there. instead, it’s an herbicide and part of treatment for the invasive species eradication project on our trail. it’s completely and understandably important, but it sure doesn’t look very nice. right now, it looks a tad bit decimated, but good strong organic matter remains and will grow and rejuvenate, despite the eradication of so many toxic invasives.
we need be cautious. often the invasive stands in the forest, all tall and righteous, and we are convinced that they are a beautiful partner in the woods community. or the invasive is short and squat, pudgy bushes that look lush and, again, we are convinced they are contributing members of this symbiotic woods. careful discernment is necessary, for we can be easily fooled, particularly by those invasives that look mighty or seem healthy. and these mistaken identities can – as we have learned – lead to the detriment of the very lovely and thriving woods.
that’s the thing about invasive species, i guess. you don’t recognize them as invasive. you trust – as you look around – that they are supposed to be there – for the good of the woods or the preserve or the wetland or the lake. here, in this woods, they appear to be a part of it – ever-present, growing and greening up in the spring. according to the national park service, “invasive species—nonnative organisms that cause harm to the environment, economy, or human health—have serious impacts on native ecosystems. they disrupt ecological processes, threaten ecosystem integrity, degrade cultural resources…”. they are not what they appear.
i suppose there are institutions like that as well. invasives choking out the real life, the real growth, the organic nature of the organization – all bent on preserving their own agendas, maintaining control, practicing a generalist survival strategy honed through the years. bobcats and coyotes are generalists and, i must say, i know a few.
the national wildlife federation states, “detecting new invaders quickly, and responding rapidly to eliminate them, is essential to limiting impacts and costs when prevention fails.”“many invasive species thrive because they outcompete native species for food.” i suppose it would be wise to be wary of being outcompeted.
“many invasive species destroy habitat” and “some invasive species do great harm to the economy,” national geographic warns and then adds, “invasive species are almost always spread by human activity.”
“you can treat and dispose of invasive non-native plants by: spraying with chemicals, pulling or digging out live, dead or dying plants, cutting back plants to prevent the seeds dispersing.” (gov.uk)
yes. these are some of the efforts we are seeing in our own treasured woods: the removal of the toxic longstandings – masked as steadfasts participating in the mission of the forest – for the true benefit of that forest and wildlife community.
“once invasive species become established and spread, it can be extraordinarily difficult and costly to control or eradicate them.” (national wildlife federation)
in that light and with great intention, in one dedication to such efforts, “the national wildlife federation leads the charge to prevent invasive carp from entering and decimating the great lakes.” the national park service explains, “invasive carp cause serious damage to the native fish populations in the lakes and rivers that they infest because they out-compete other fish.”http://www.invasivecarp.us asks fishermen who catch a carp to “immediately contact the appropriate agency personnel for the state you are in.” we are urged to be ever mindful, to be transparent about what we see, about that which is destructive.
yes. watch out for those carp and all the other invasives. the hubbabubba fairy has left the building.