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“the pace of nature.” [merely-a-thought monday]

“…adopt the pace of Nature. Her secret is patience.” (ralph waldo emerson)

no matter how hard we try, there is not one thing we can do to make the sun appear or the day warmer or the moon to rise or the snow to fall. we accept that time will come, time will pass, time will form and time will destroy. we give over to nature, anticipating that which we know, expecting the unexpected. we baby-step through this very time in the universe, our footprints barely visible on the timeline that is forever. we learn that no matter our stride, we are simply tiny beings. eventually, we learn, after giving over to patience, that that is enough.

the john denver sanctuary in aspen is a treasure trove. we have been there three times now. a garden of trails and large river boulders etched with lyrics and quotes, perennial daisies and aspen trees, it is a gentle sinking into peaceful. the city sounds of aspen fall away and the river and streams are lulling.

we wandered for hours, reading, sitting, pondering, the sun on our faces, the sound of quaking leaves slowing us down. i stood on a giant rock, like a stage under my feet, and bowed deeply to no one and to the brilliance of a man who knew how to tenderly shape melody and weave lyric into a fabric like a soft blanket.

we were immersed in poetry, in words, delicious to read aloud. we were quietly taking it all in, i in all my john-denver-glory, reliving the cassettes i wore out, rewinding, rewinding, listening again and again. this exquisite place, tempting all-day-hooky-playing, wielding a magic defined by thought, encouraging reflection, softly begging you to tumble in your own thoughts. this place slowing you down, reminding you that it is not stuff that defines you, it is not the stuff-of-you that will remain with others.

we wrestle with timing, with suspense, with expectation and disappointment. we measure against ladders of success and hold ourselves to higher higher higher standards of accomplishment.

nature quietly treks on, luminescent and glorious, patiently acknowledging every babystep moment of its impact, surrendering judgement and secretly, from the heart of the universe, signing its autograph on all of us, whispering to us to slow our pace.

*****

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greenery and pine cones. [k.s. friday]

i started noticing while hiking on one of our favorite local trails. greenery and pine cones sharing space. a visual backdrop for hallmark holiday movie escapism, the repetition of these simple symbols of the holiday season over and again on trail brought my camera to hand time after time. capturing these photos has been decorating my mind with fancies of christmases-past and brightly wrapped packages and trees of all shapes and happy lights galore and times spent with my children, my family, my friends. the trail’s gift has inadvertently set me on the path toward light, my spirit breathing with each snap of the iphone.

a week before thanksgiving my son sent me a photograph of the christmas tree in their apartment. with garland strung and lights and soft holiday-themed pillows, it was straight out of a magazine. “a classic look,” he told me. yes. beautiful and classic, welcoming winter. my daughter’s photographs are snowy and crisp, crystalline and inspiring. winter is coming on in the high mountains. it dresses them with idyllic wonder.

we haven’t started listening to holiday music. it’s too raw at this point. but we will. i will climb out of this cavern, aided by every gift of nature as it heads into this magical season, and i’ll soon turn it – music – on. in the meanwhile, slowly, we have strung some new white twinkling happy lights, we have brought up a couple trees from the corner of the basement storage room. maybe we’ll bring up the big bins and we can step-by-step-forward turn our home into a celebration of what-is and not a daily reminder of what-was. walking toward light. each silver ornament a coaxing, each strand of lights an urging, each tuft of greenery an encouragement. all seasonal prompts, that out of the dark there is light. indeed, in the dark there is light. “nature is ever at work building and pulling down, creating and destroying, keeping everything whirling and flowing, allowing no rest but in rhythmical motion, chasing everything in endless song out of one beautiful form into another.” (john muir)

john muir also wrote this: “between every two pines is a doorway to a new world.” maybe that’s somehow why i am noticing. the greenery. the pine cones. laying on the trail, juxtaposed yet clearly related. dark and light, juxtaposed, yet clearly related. a new world, a doorway.

no wonder i keep seeing these sweet moments in nature. no wonder i keep searching. no wonder i have my camera out on the trail.

*****

if you are ready for holiday music, i have three christmas albums to help you celebrate and welcome the return of light – click on this link

read DAVID’s thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY


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why? [two artists tuesday]

even nature is asking why

i have asked more than one person if they feel as i do – like they are living in an alternate reality.

from the moment i broke both my wrists to now, the smack-dab middle of the pandemic, it has felt that way – like we are in some kind of alternate reality.  a reality with different rules.  a different set of mores.  different judgment.  why?

when i used to be a minister of music, way-back-when in florida over 30 years ago, i worked with a wonderfully-southern georgia tech pastor, kirk.  we had a long tenure together and implicitly relied on each other.  at a distinct point in time, he decided to turn over all the wedding rehearsals to me.  i remember the moment of that decision, the moment he sighed, exasperated at the disrespectful lack of regard for simple guidelines.

the rehearsal ahead of time went well.  we lined up the wedding party and they walked up the aisle to their chosen music, went through the faked vows and such and then walked back down the aisle.  kirk, in his treasured drawl, slowly reiterated the guidelines to them about the next day – their wedding day.  the guidelines were common sense:  reminders about what to do or not do and how to be sure that this very-important-day would escape judgment by the perspective-of-time years later.

they did not heed his advice.

instead, the groom showed up inebriated, as did the videographer.

the groom stumbled multiple times over his vows, and, literally being held up by the bride, finally punted out, “forever and ever, till we die” in lieu of the more delicate loving words of the standard vow.  the videographer vaulted over the stationary communion rail in the front of the sanctuary and sprinted to the back of the church in an effort to beat the wedding party there and film their exit.  it was a circus.  i wonder how they view all that now, decades later, with judgment-as-it-passes-through-the years.  did it stand the test of time?  i wonder if they ask, ‘why?’

we are living this now.

we have a choice.

to decide to prevail by the pandemic safety guidelines and be able to look back with clear consciences, knowing we did all we could to heed advice, or to throw caution to the wind and see what happens.

looking around, watching as people react and push back against this very-important-time, i suspect judgment will not be on our side; it will not stand the test of time.

and years from now, we will ask – why?

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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slow down. [two artists tuesday]

curvy road

you have to slow down.  as you drive in door county toward the ferry dock on the southern side of death’s door, the road begins to curve.  it is imperative to slow down.  after you arrive at the dock, as you wait for the ferry, IF you have a signal, you google the route, wondering.  you find:

“Jens Jensen was a vehement believer in the power of nature to enrich the lives of men and women. His parks are famous for their water features, rock gardens, and meandering paths meant to mimic and incorporate nature rather than shape it.”

it is said that this scandinavian man (a landscape architect) designed this road to do just that:  enrich people’s lives by nature.  slow them down.  i give a lot of credit to a person who chose to do what was likely an unpopular decision in a society that wants to get as-quickly-as-possible from point a to point b.  slowing people down takes some guts.  (have you ever driven the speed limit in the fast lane?)

i tend to go slower than d.  we are both project-driven and completion-oriented.  but once he is on a mission, he is relatively unstoppable.  he likens it to being OCD (i’m not sure i’d entirely agree) but his focus is intense and he, like many, is not as tangential or multi-tasking-ish as i am.  he doesn’t circle around or circle back like i do.  it makes me wonder if circling is perceived as intense as straight-line-aheading, but i digress.

each time we have driven the road to the ferry that takes us to our little island i have thought about stopping and taking a picture of it.  many people are parked on the side of the road, pausing to do just that, trying to wait until all the cars are gone and there aren’t other people standing in the middle of the road photographing the ideal photograph.  i have joked about how they should maybe buy a postcard, but then, it’s not their personal moment and i really understand that.

the other day, because this route has grown on me and because it is really beautiful, i thought again about stopping to take a picture, to remember…all the times we have driven this way.  i drove past the curvy part and then, because there was this nagging debate in my brain, said, “would you mind if we went back so i could get a picture?”  of course, d’s answer was, “no, turn around!  we’re in no hurry!”  so i did.  i circled back.  i stood in the road and waited until there were no other cars or other people standing in the middle of the lane.  i could smell the colors of the fall leaves, could feel the briskness of air and the smile of the sun, knew the ferry to the island was at the other end of the curves.

the idea of decelerating people to appreciate nature and moments in it speaks to me.  the idea of incorporating nature rather than shaping it speaks to me.  believing in the power of nature speaks to me. i vote with jens – slow down.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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spring stripes. [two artists tuesday]

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you have to admit – the first set of stripes is way more interesting than the second.  the first set. in the woods.  the color combinations.  all alive with hue and subtlety.  the second set.  static.  no air.  no depth.  no variance.

this weekend, on a warm-day hike along the expanding des plaines river, the colors were spectacular.  the blue-purple of the water late in the afternoon.  the fresh-baby-grass-green of the small island across the river.  sky blue, white clouds, golden sunlight.  it wasn’t capture-able on film.  you just had to stand there and breathe it in.  stripes, patterns, shadows, delicate light, elusive dark.

by hiking often on the same trails, we can see the minor changes along the way.  we take note of them, commenting on a felled tree or more water in a pond or a new nest high in some branches.  there’s more mud, there are goslings, the daffodils are in full bloom, the groundcover is rich.  the earth coming back out of fallow.  winter’s rest is over; spring’s explosion has arrived.

for us, these winter-spring-summer-fall hikes are necessary.  they allow us to see, outside of ourselves; they allow us to process good earth growth and change and color.  for us, these hikes are like a security blanket.  they soothe worries, sort problems, wrap gently around us.

read DAVID’s thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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a few warts. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

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a burl on a tree is caused by the tree undergoing some form of stress.  indeed, if this were true for humans, we would be loaded with burls.  instead, our burls are inner-burls.  they don’t generally manifest as growths on the outside or present as small or large bark-covered lumpy warts.  instead, our worry makes us lose sleep, have intestinal issues and headaches.  it makes us eat too much, pour the glass of wine a bit too early, seek medicinal solutions or drugged numbing.  it makes us argue and lash out, insist on our own way, slam doors both figurative and literal.  it causes sickness, physical exhaustion, loss of relationship or work or time in our lives.  we become afraid to share our burls with the ‘outside’, scarcely making headway, fearful of the opinion of others, confused by the wart in our lives.

we should be like trees.  the burls cover with bark, insulating from the outside yet evident to the outside.  they grow in response to the stress of disease or injury or insects, but a tree may continue to live with these burls indefinitely.   actually removing the burl exposes the tree to infection. the burl wood is prized, with swirling grain patterns.  often, burls are harvested (both legally and illegally), with stunning furniture and wooden bowls the goal of burl-wood-turners.  these trees stand tall and mighty, growing from seedlings, co-existing with disease, injury, insects and, even, together with trees more beautiful sans burls. they wear their wrinkled protuberances with grace.  they don’t rid themselves of the evidence of life amid stressors, seeking botox to hide irregularities and minimize affirmation of living.  instead they continue on, growing and growing and growing – despite a few warts.

read DAVID’S thoughts this NOT-SO-FLAWED WEDNESDAY

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amplified quiet. [two artists tuesday]

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having avoided the inevitable summer onslaught of mosquitoes in these woods, we recently went back to one of our favorite local hiking spots.  bristol woods – with the pringle nature preserve – is an easy decision for us, at any time of day that we can step away.  it is off the beaten path and serene and two loops through the trails give us about a five mile hike, a perfect revitalizing. we adore this place and the priceless quiet it affords us.

walking the trails recently, we came upon a wooden structure that invited me to go to the narrow end and speak into the woods…seemingly a megaphone, but a size we hadn’t seen before.  it’s a nature megaphone.  it draws in the sounds from around it and, as you sit inside, with the sun on your face, surrounds you with nature, amplified a bit closer and more personal.  this one needs to be turned around into the woods, as there is a busy road in the distance and it pulls in those sounds as well, but that’s a mere detail.  i love the concept.  a little googling shows that there are nature megaphones of great size in estonia, placed there for the healing power of the sounds of the outdoors, the quiet.  ahhh.

the other thing we notice as we walk are the red and green ribbons encircling trees, the little red flags planted in the dirt.  fearing what we had read earlier in the summer, we asked the naturalist what these ribbons and flags were for.  she verified our fears, telling us that they were markers for the new aerial ropes course that the county has decided to move forward.  the article states that there are no high ropes courses in the area; a very quick google search shows one in lake geneva and three (!) in east troy.  but money talks (is this shocking?) and the county will share in the gross revenueScreen Shot 2018-10-23 at 11.12.08 AMand the quiet of this small county park, the well-being of the wildlife in the woods, the educational value of a pristine teaching environment untouched by commercialism will all cease to exist. is  “teaching confidence” and “learning about yourself” not found in the quiet woods?  is a “family-oriented, wholesome” experience no longer a hike together?  what exactly does “putting people in touch with nature” mean?

while i don’t question the opportunity for learning that a high ropes course might afford children and adults on all different levels, i do question the sacrifice of an active nature facility and its woods for this purpose.  an official associated with the county is quoted as saying, “(bristol woods) is not going to be significantly impacted.”  hmmm.  i disagree.  during the construction of and upon the completion of the high ropes course, what sounds will be amplified in their beautiful new nature megaphone?

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trees and angels. [merely a thought monday]

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“how was your week?” jonathan asked.  we rolled our eyes.  he was unpacking his bass while i uncovered the piano and d adjusted the mic stands.  he said, “tell me about it.  you guys always have great stories!”  eh.  great stories.  more like mini soap operas, you might think schadenfreude applies here (where he might derive some pleasure from our angst) but on the total other side of the spectrum, we have agreed that jonathan is an angel.  i wonder if, as he drives away in his subaru outback, he turns the corner and POOF! he disappears.

“it’s ok,” he says.  “trees must split their bark to grow.  there is pain.”

i can’t remember ever truly thinking about this.  but…i immediately pictured a beautiful sapling, our own “breck”.  a baby aspen we brought back from colorado, we have been nurturing it for over a year now, watching it carefully -and proudly, like parents- through the seasons.  the smooth bark on its adolescent trunk glows in the sunlight and we worry as we see this summer take its toll on the young tree’s leaves.  we notice little scions near its base, our aspen sending out roots to perpetuate itself.

i think of all the walks in the woods, the trails in the forest, the old trees in our yard and neighborhood and i can picture the rough bark, the puzzle pieces up and down the trunk of each tree.  somewhere along time, these trees, too, had smooth skins.  and then, in growing, the cambium layer’s cells, just under the bark, divided and grew, adding girth to the tree’s diameter in the process.  the outer bark continued to protect this inner layer of growth.  the job of that outer bark is forefront, keeping the inner tree healthy, as it experiences pain from the environment.  and the tree grows.

the bark.  the cambium.  the heart of growth.  and angels.

thank you for the perspective-arranging, jonathan.  again.

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pay attention to nature… [flawed cartoon wednesday]

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ohmygosh.  this was my swan song every time we left the house when The Girl and The Boy were little.  this is our swan song before we leave the house now.  every time.  some things don’t change.  i know this has nothing to do with this flawed cartoon and the instincts of birds flying south (or the technology they pay attention to), but middle age and its challenges -and joys- dictate what i pay attention to.   and the common theme songs are hot flashes and restroom locations.  sheesh!

we have a group of friends that all go together to a winter festival up north a bit.  we literally PLAN where we are stopping for the “rest” stop and snacks.  and it’s only an hour and fifteen minutes away!  we don’t have devices to alert us.  they are not necessary.  besides, charlie refuses to have any of that confounded stuff.

yup. sometimes nature and people and even geese don’t really need technology.

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find love everywhere [two artists tuesday]

uncropped acorn love

i am a scavenger.  i readily admit it.  it’s not like you don’t know.  you have read posts about my pieces of wood or sticks or rocks or feathers; i have even posted photographs of how these things decorate our home.  but i am always looking…keeping an eye out for something else i can bring home.  something that is natural.   something that will remind me of time spent.  something i really treasure.  and every now and then, i will find a heart – that nature, in its infinite wisdom, has left behind.  a gentle reminder that love is everywhere.

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