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.
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.
we had never parked in that section of the daily parking garage, so we never saw it. creatures of habit, we didn’t park there this time either, but we walked across the driveway to use the elevator and the interior moving walkway on that side. for how many times i have flown out of the milwaukee airport, i was surprised to find we could walk inside instead of through the cold terminal parking garage. the walkway was much warmer than the damp parking structure and, since we were going to florida coatless, it was a much better choice.
we rounded the last corner – the one that takes you to the third-level-skywalk to the terminal – to find ancient words of wisdom marking an entrance to the airport’s meditation room. simple, beautiful, quiet – we never knew it was there, though it was completed in late 2017. “airports can be busy, hectic, and stressful places. the MKE meditation room provides a quiet, tranquil location for thought, reflection, prayer, and meditation.” (www.mitchellairport.com) we stopped into the meditation room on our way home. we sat for a few minutes, reading the inspirational words on the wall, closing our eyes in contemplation. it was surprisingly silent. it was right as the liminal space between the flight and home.
a few days ago – in the later afternoon – we hiked one of our favorite trails. we were stressed and needed the space and quiet of this familiar woods. we had been there days before, boots and snowpants through deep snow, trees stunning against the whiteness. it was beautiful. we find the ancient words of the talmud on this trail…we are sustained by its peace, we feel more hope for truth and justice as we walk in nature.
but this day was not quiet. and, though researching the mayhem revealed that it was a “woody invasive species clearing project,” we found the noise, the machinery, the devastated forest disturbing. nothing looked the same and, as much as we know this trail, it was hard to locate within it; without familiar trees and underbrush each bend in the trail looked different.
“removing invasive shrubs and trees in oak communities allows for enough sunlight to reach the ground level to encourage the growth of young native tree seedlings and other native vegetation.” (www.lcfpd.org) we felt somewhat relieved reading these words after our hike, understanding that these big changes were intentional and that the purpose was growth and sustenance of the savanna, prairie, and marsh wetland.
the talmud, the milwaukee meditation room, the preserved woods in northeastern illinois…all the same, i suppose.
it is the removal of the invasive, the obnoxious, the noise, falsity, injustice, all that is conflict-riddled, that allows the sun, that encourages, that sustains the world.
it found a perfect spot – on the target tiered-wooden-shelf-lamp in front of the peace sign that was created with an old fence post and bridle leather. the light shines in from the window behind it and, depending on the time of day, it glows, an opalescent crystal, this selenite satin spar.
we came upon it at the little shop, peacetree, as we were browsing. both of us cannot walk past the rocks and stones and crystals there without feeling them. it is as if they are inviting us to touch them, to wonder, to pick them up. they are warm to the touch, alive with gifts.
selenite has qualities worthy of attention…healing qualities promoting peace and calm and clarity, elevating the spirit, cleansing the space and enhancing connectivity and the shedding of blocked energy. it vibrates at a very high frequency, higher even than the ringing in my ears. we cannot hear it. or can we?
we stopped by the basket on the bench near the door. a pile of long narrow shards of crystal, fibrous and satiny, begging attention. we reached out to hold a spar. the decision was immediate – to take it home. no stranger to collecting rocks and such, i wasn’t surprised. this was just the first time i was purchasing one. it felt like peacetree was offering a little piece of goodness and, when someone or something reaches out to touch you and perhaps make the world a better place, it seems incumbent upon you to listen and to act. we took it home.
we pass by it every day. the selenite really does lay in the perfect spot, in a room that invites us into calmness. our sitting room, now, after cleansing the space and clearing it of excess, serene with a comfy couch and soft fuzzy pillows, paintings inspiring meditation, and many books shelved on the built-in.
there is a tiny spar on the windowsill in the kitchen and one on top of david’s stand-up work desk. i’m thinking it wouldn’t hurt to have one at the front door and the back door and one in the studio and one in the car. selenite is said to attract the change you need and absorbs divine light. sharing the space of your aura, it can create flow of energy and restore balance.
believing that this warm crystal reached out to us teeters on questionable for most. but choosing it, with its purported properties of goodness in its beautiful wand-like-shell, is serendipitous and fortuitous for us. we bring it home and, with it, the intentions we have, that which we wish to surround ourselves with.
“be the change you wish to see in the world.” (gandhi)
maybe that sometimes starts with answering the call of a simple iridescent crystal, investing in bringing its properties into your own world. a symbol. allowing for goodness. setting an intention for goodness.
maybe a little selenite satin spar is just the right spur.
we didn’t order our dogga with stripes, but, had we ordered our dogga, we would have ordered exactly him. he is an aussie full of aussie-quirks and amber eye-contact, a furball of vacuum-stalling potential, a lifesaver in every way our pets save us from ourselves and the world around us.
he is – most definitely – not perfect.
though he knows he must sit-on-the-rug before going out – and wait for one of us to utter “ok” – he first must jump up and down, seemingly effortlessly, like an nba star looking for a basket. then, with a sheepish i-couldn’t-help-it look on his face, he sits.
though he knows he is not supposed to run along the back fence barking at the neighbordog, he must first run along the back fence and bark. then, with a wink at the neighbordog, he returns diligently to the patio or the deck, fully expecting a treat for his “restrained” behavior.
though he knows he is not supposed to pull on the leash during walks, the first few minutes are like taking a giant bungee cord for a walk – out and back, out and back – although recent days and the new use of the “wonder walker” have yielded a magical change, sans bungee-dog.
though he does not sing, he has several songs – the dogga-dogga song, the dad song, the mom song. no other songs count on his chart, except the babycat song, which we sing for him when he is – or we are – missing his babycat.
though we cannot guess what he is thinking, his beautiful eyes give us eye contact that tell us everything we need to know.
our dear friends have a puppy. he is full of puppy-smell and puppy-teeth and sweet wriggly antics and is the variety of dog that doesn’t shed. they are being very intentional about his training, which makes us think about the books we read, the videos we watched and the way dogdog turned out. we weren’t as intentional in that phase of our lives nine years ago. at least not about puppy-training. maybe there’s still hope. sigh.
we visited together and caught up outside around the firepit the evening we met him, puppy in a fenced playpen off to the side, learning how to calm-himself-down-when-new-people-arrive. we clearly need to start that part over with dogga.
we drove home talking about that darling puppy. our friends would love us to get a puppy now too. that makes us laugh. we are – oh so clearly – not ready for a puppy.
we pulled into the driveway and, judging by his quick walk, david was as anxious to hug our dog as i was. though dogdog was skeptical about the attention, especially since he could smell “puppy” all over us, he gave in to the lavish display.
because, though we didn’t order our dogga with stripes, though he sheds like dandelion fluff in the spring wind, though he sometimes tries our patience and is a bit doggedly stubborn about barking, though he has us wrapped around his little wagawag tail, he is exactly the dogga we need.
“now, the idea is to get everything right – it’s not just color or form or space or line – it’s everything all at once.” (richard diebenkorn)
each time i have stood in front of one of the ocean park series paintings, i have been totally engaged. the light, the color, the form, the line, the space – richard got it all right in these. they are fantastic abstracts, luring you in. we left the san francisco museum of modern art with a richard diebenkorn book, one of those coffeetable type books – large with gorgeous illustrations and text. i keep it in my studio, to gaze at and sink into.
i do not know much about painting. at all. i have learned, though, that composition is, across the medium-board, still composition. a painting, a song, a dance, a poem needs someone to receive it, someone to interact, to respond, someone upon which it may fall. and for the artist, though imperative to do the work regardless, it creates the space for the flow to go back and forth, like a tennis ball across a court. each bounce and bounceback adds a little wisdom, a little emotion, breath. as i stand in front of richard’s ocean park paintings, it is as if i can hear his even breathing in my ear.
i stood on the dock up-north, gazing down at the water, light and sun playing on its surface. were i to have chosen colors to paint this, and not the black and white of the paintings i have spattered – the only paintings i have done as an adult, i might have chosen these tones. they are the colors i love to be surrounded by. this would be an abstract painting of getting outside without getting outside, to be there without being there.
but i did not paint this. nature took care of the color and form and space and line and i merely captured what nature made easy. there are many of these now – photographs of the abstract – all with strings tied to my heart and memories in my mind’s eye of outside. i keep thinking they would make a good coffeetable book…”getting outside inside”….a title, an invitation…for those sulky days when one needs the bounceback of the breath of the woods or the water, the space of the mountain trail or the rocky beach.
the gift of glassy lake reminds me that there are other mediums to explore, textures i might consider. i imagine richard diebenkorn and arvo pärt, on two sides of the court, two dimensions, lobbing the ball back and forth. abstractionist and minimalist – both extending an invitation. i start to answer.
it’s under construction; they are restoring it, this beautiful art-deco historic building, finished in 1940. the southport beachhouse “used recycled materials to cut costs. this way, rather than paying for new materials, the city paid workers to tear down condemned buildings as well as build new ones. the beach house uses luxurious slate, stone and marble materials salvaged from the old kenosha post office, which would have been otherwise unaffordable.” part of the new deal and roosevelt’s wpa (works progress administration) it is a gorgeous structure on the shore of lake michigan and the place we had our reception six years ago, a bonfire on the beach to end a stunning day.
in the middle of the beginning of covid – last year – i read an article about a new york couple’s ingenious solution to the inability to go to restaurants or pubs or gather with others, instead to isolate and social distance. i saved it and thought it was something worth pursuing.
this year, after a lot of research and a couple false starts sent back, i found a lightweight (mostly plastic) folding table and lightweight (mostly plastic) folding stools. i showed them to david and said, “let’s have pop-up dinners!”. small enough to be kept in littlebabyscion or big red, it’s an intention that begs spontaneity.
our first pop-up was this past sunday after our trip to the orchard.
we carried the table and stools and the picnic basket, the one from my sweet momma and poppo, onto the beach and found a spot in front of the scaffolds on the cement by the building, lit our candle-in-a-jelly-jar, set out our plates and cloth napkins and cheese and crackers and olives, our metal stemware. easy.
i imagine this fall, and even winter, will bring many pop-up dinners and happy hours. i can already list the places at which i’d love to pop up. snowpants and mittens won’t deter us. we’ll carry blankets, maybe thermoses of warm soup.
it was a little chilly at the beachhouse on sunday. the breeze was picking up. i picked up my phone and turned on the one piece of music i have saved to it. cherish the ladies began playing if ever you were mine and i watched david rise off his stool. he came over to me, held out his hand and invited me to dance.
as the sun began to dip below the horizon and the colors in the sky began to rise above the lake, on a honeycrisp apple kind of day, we danced on the sandy beach, scaffolding and a smiling cream city brick beachhouse our backdrop, a pop-up dinner waiting.
when a business is transparent, it is not afraid to put it out there. it’s not afraid of feedback – good or bad. it only wants to be the best it can be, its actions to be the most positive. this automotive shop was up-front, honest and did the best they could in a short period of time with circumstances for which they clearly had heart. davis automotive in hays gets our recommendation and – if you find yourself in need of car repair in the middle of kansas – we suggest you go there. they stepped up and helped when we really needed it. and the sign above their door was sincere.
it is important for a business or organization, its mission statement and its actions, treatment of customers, employees and its community to be in alignment. i’m thinking that’s why people go to the trouble of writing such declarations. to have intention and to courageously be accountable to that intention.
lately i’ve taken particular interest in reading posts, brief mantras, vision statements or supposed purposes. more than once i have found these to be askew of the organization and its reality. more than once i have found posts about listening and compassion, assertions about avoiding harsh words and falsehoods, pronouncements about lifting others up and statements about participating in generosity – lovely words but, often, empty words of hypocrisy.
so when we drove up to this small automotive shop in hays and they wanted to know, post-repair, if we were satisfied, i had great appreciation for them, for their dedication, their compassion, their service, their courage and their – yes – transparency. they are indeed participating in the mission of goodness.
we hang out with joey coconato every night. we hike out west with him on back-country trails, on high mountain ridges, in glacier national park and yellowstone, in the tetons and canyonlands. we camp in tiny tents and eat meals out of bags, filter our water and hang our food way up in trees. joey is easy in this world and he has inspired us day after day, taking us one more day through this pandemic, breathing fresh air into another evening when we turn off the news, the dessert for the odd buffet that is life these days. joey’s camera captures the tiny and the vast, things that become indelible in your mind’s eye – the beauty is astounding. we see glimpses of him hiking when his selfie stick leads the way or when he painstakingly plants his tripod and creates the chance to watch. otherwise, we see these trails through joey and we are grateful for his keen eyesight and his love of the outdoors. for him, the mountains and the trail seem to make all things 20/20; he is clear and committed and profoundly capable. joey sees the up-close and he sees that which is far away, both are part of his focus, the details and the big picture.
although he does not consider himself a guide, sometimes joey will have others join him on the trail. i’m guessing it is important to him that their goal for the potential of the hike would be similar, that their respect of mother earth and the basics of backpacking etiquette would be allying, that the bottom line of the trail would be the stunning goodness of being a part of the outdoor miracles of nature. it is clear by his grand hiking successes, alone and in tandem with others, that he values those around him, that he embraces sameness and differences. his generous spirit in his gorgeous workplace is not commanding nor controlling with his hiking partners. he has an overall intention, he has made all the proper regulatory reservations and permits, and he looks to his partners-on-the-trail, people he obviously trusts won’t put him in harm’s way, for input. he listens and he considers what they say, whether it is complimentary of his efforts or is critical or probing of plans he has made; he respects the dignity of each person he is with. if they push back or question him, he, without ego or agenda, looks for clarity and truth. he regularly features these trekkers and always speaks to their strengths. he films them as they hike, as they choose their own boulders on their way down the scramble-field. he encourages them. he empowers them. he takes a back seat and quietly goes about being the expert that he is and together they all get there – to the next campsite, down the next canyon, to the next summit. he is a natural leader.
my gaze alternatively shifts from the icicles in this photograph to the trees, back and forth, icicles, trees, icicles, trees. i can feel the cold air on my face staring at the sculptural ice and the changing color of the sky behind the trees gives me pause, makes me remember the day will soon end and a new day will again be upon us. it’s 20/20 this vision – clear that both exist, co-exist even.
20/20 vision is a funny thing. according to the aao, the american academy of ophthalmology, only about 35% of adults have 20/20 vision without corrective lenses. with correction, 75% of adults have this vision while 25% just don’t see very well at all. so, at best, what we see is somewhat subjective, centered on our own focus, our own viewing lens. i’m pretty certain that in life this pertains to all manners of vision. so many lenses.
these days our lenses have a pandemic-limitation as we respect the boundaries of what we should or shouldn’t do, where we should or shouldn’t go. we know that we don’t necessarily align with everyone else in our choices, but we are painstakingly figuring out how to go about life in this very difficult time, constricted and staying on the trail for the time being. now – with over 500,000 good people in our country who have died from this insidious virus – is not the time to split hairs over alliances. instead, it is the time to recognize the big picture co-existing with the tiniest details and to stay as laser-focused as possible on working together, in unity, in community, with love. now – in this time of the kind of extreme angst not seen in a century – is not the time to cease conversation, to cease looking to each other for input, to cease collaborating. it is not the time for commanding or controlling or invoking fear. perched on a cliffwall, trail transparency and accountability as guideposts, reality as his north star, joey knows all that. he is a natural leader.
so right now, if someone – in any arena, on any mountain – says, “your vision doesn’t align with ours,” i can’t help but wonder about their version of leadership. what does that really mean? whose 20/20 counts? is it the icicles or the trees? or is it both?
“it’s easy to look at this and think of my own daily-life eye-to-eye challenges. but – i can’t look at this cartoon and stay away from the political climate in our country. whether you prefer blue or red – or even purple – you have to admit, we are not in a state of blissful co-existing. we have moved in together and have drawn lines down the middle of the virtual apartment, down the middle of the ever-increasingly important issues, down the middle of integrity, down the middle of people’s hearts. and, with such strong big-thick-font-lines drawn, there seems to be no meeting ground, no where to go. the “eyes” of wisdom and for-the-good-of-all-people have disappeared and the “i’s” have shown up, stronger and bigger and more powerful than before; superman without clark kent’s goodness.“
it’s easy to look at this and think of my own daily-life eye-to-eye challenges. but – i can’t look at this cartoon and stay away from the political climate in our country. whether you prefer blue or red – or even purple – you have to admit, we are not in a state of blissful co-existing…
from march 18, 2018:
“perhaps we all could work on seeing eye to eye (er, i to i) if we made conscious and generous life-giving decisions with every choice-we-are-faced-with that take into account a weighing-in of how it might impact others. we don’t have to agree. but we have to respect each other in the process, try to walk in another’s shoes, see another perspective, see what someone else’s eyes see. see i to i.“
perhaps we all could work on seeing eye to eye (er, i to i) if we made conscious and generous life-giving decisions with every choice-we-are-faced-with that take into account a weighing-in of how it might impact others…
2018. 2021. then and now. and nothing has changed.
the narrative, the rhetoric, the ramrod-personal-agenda-driven behaviors…nothing. on the global front, on the national front, on the local front, on the personal front. what is it they say? “insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
we must choose a different path. globally, nationally, locally, personally. seeing eye to eye doesn’t just happen. it is cultivated. through good intention, compassion for others, asking questions, truth-telling and transparency, listening, negotiating fairly, dropping power and control mongering.