A Filigree of Nature

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It’s just a leaf. A damaged leaf at that,
clinging to a filbert tree ravaged by blight.
The leaf turns partially back upon itself,
riddled with holes, the traumatic result
of voracious insect appetites.

Damaged does not accurately describe
this leaf, the color of rich burgundy wine,
deep purple veins that branch to the tips
of its serrated edge. The holes open the leaf
to light and air, forming a filigree of nature,
an exquisite fragile beauty.

It makes me think of our own traumas,
how they open us, raw and hurting, humble us,
soften and expand us to the pain of others
and when we are most vulnerable we hold on,
weakened, but not necessarily damaged.

Perhaps it is then our scars become beautiful
and an inner loveliness shines through.
~Lois Parker Edstrom “Fragile Beauty”


–an ekphrastic poem based on my photo above,
soon to be published in her latest poetry book  –
thank you, Lois, for allowing me to share your beautiful words here

 

 

holyleaf1

 

 

Nature doth thus kindly heal every wound.
By the mediation of a thousand little mosses and fungi,
the most unsightly objects become radiant of beauty.
There seem to be two sides of this world, presented us at different times,
as we see things in growth or dissolution, in life or death.
And seen with the eye of the poet,
as God sees them,
all things are alive and beautiful.

~Henry David Thoreau (journal)

 

 

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…writing was one way to let something of lasting value emerge
from the pains and fears of my little, quickly passing life.
Each time life required me to take a new step into unknown spiritual territory,
I felt a deep, inner urge to tell my story to others–
Perhaps as a need for companionship but maybe, too,
out of an awareness that my deepest vocation
is to be a witness to the glimpses of God I have been allowed to catch.

~Henri Nouwen

 

 

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Mountains We Had Never Seen

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He found himself wondering at times, 
especially in the autumn, 
about the wild lands, 
and strange visions of mountains that he had never seen came into his dreams.
~J.R.R. Tolkien from The Fellowship of the Rings

 

 

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Thank God who seasons thus the year, 
And sometimes kindly slants his rays; 
For in his winter he’s most near 
And plainest seen upon the shortest days.

I scent my med’cine from afar,
Where the rude simpler of the year
October leads the rustling war,
And strews his honors on the summer’s bier.

The evening of the year draws on, 
The fields a later aspect wear; 
Since Summer’s garishness is gone, 
Some grains of night tincture the noontide air.
~Henry David Thoreau, selected stanzas from “The Fall of the Leaf”

 

 

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Wandering in a wild land of beauty,
especially in the coolness of autumn,
with the dry hot melting “garishness” of summer past,
God is most plain in these places,
His slanting rays touching
everything and all,
especially me.

 

 

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Now Let the Day Decline

 

 

 

But hark! the drowsy day has done its task,
Far in yon hazy field where stands a barn,
Unanxious hens improve the sultry hour
And with contented voice now brag their deed—
A new laid egg—Now let the day decline—
They’ll lay another by tomorrow’s sun.
~Henry David Thoreau from “I’m thankful that my life doth not deceive”
We cycle, reassured, from the decline into night, climbing back into day to descend yet again into night,
even at summer-sultry 90+ degrees.
There will be a new sun tomorrow
reddened in the smoky haze of wildfires.
There will be new eggs tomorrow,
bright, clean, fresh, announced by hen-cackle.There will be a tomorrow
and I am thankful.

An Old Acquaintance

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pine

 

I frequently tramped eight or ten miles through the deepest snow to keep an appointment with a beech-tree, or a yellow birch, or an old acquaintance among the pines.
~Henry David Thoreau

 

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You can live for years next door to a big pine tree, honored to have so venerable a neighbor, even when it sheds needles all over your flowers or wakes you, dropping big cones onto your deck at still of night. 
~Denise Levertov

 

silverthawpine

 

I hear you call, pine tree, I hear you upon the hill, by the silent pond
where the lotus flowers bloom, I hear you call, pine tree.
What is it you call, pine tree, when the rain falls, when the winds
blow, and when the stars appear, what is it you call, pine tree?
I hear you call, pine tree, but I am blind, and do not know how to
reach you, pine tree. Who will take me to you, pine tree?
~Yone Noguchi “I Hear You Call, Pine Tree”

 

pinecurls

 

pinecones

Our wet side of the state is not pine tree country — they prefer the dry climate east of the mountains.  Once planted here, however, they take hold and make the best of their wet feet.

The tall pine along our barn driveway must be at least sixty years old — it is starting to look its age, as am I.  Sure, there are some bare branches, a few brown needles, yet it still drops cones in the hope of a future generation of pine seedlings.  The squirrels are too fast and whisk the seeds to their hideaways before they can sprout and take hold.

This old acquaintance of mine, this venerable pine and I, we may sway in the breeze and be bent by ice and snow, but we weather the years together. After all, our roots go deep and our arms reach to the sky.

 

japanpine

 

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The True Harvest

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The true harvest of my daily life is somewhat as intangible and indescribable as the tints of morning or evening. It is a little star-dust caught, a segment of the rainbow which I have clutched.
~Henry David Thoreau

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Painting the indescribable with words necessitates subtlety, sound and rhythm on a page.  The best word color portraits I know are by Gerard Manley Hopkins who created  through startling combinations:  “crimson-cresseted”, “couple-colour”, “rose-moles”, “fresh-firecoal”, “adazzle, dim”, “dapple-dawn-drawn”, “blue-bleak embers”, “gash gold-vermillion”.

I understand, as Thoreau does,  how difficult it is to harvest a day using ordinary words.   Like grasping ephemeral star trails like our current Perseid meteor showers or the transient rainbow that moves away as I approach, what I hold on the page is intangible yet very real.

I will keep reaching for that rainbow moving target, searching for the best word pictures to preserve my days and nights forever, perhaps for my someday greatgrandchildren, or whoever, even today, might have the need to imagine what it is like to capture and clutch it fast in their mind’s eye.

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The Wild Lands

Mt. Shuksan yesterday, photo by Emily Gibson
                                                  Mt. Shuksan yesterday, photo by Emily Gibson

 

He found himself wondering at times,
especially in the autumn,
about the wild lands,
and strange visions of mountains that he had never seen came into his dreams.
~J.R.R. Tolkien Fellowship of the Rings

 

Mt. Baker from the north yesterday
                                                            Mt. Baker from Artist Point yesterday

 

Thank God who seasons thus the year,
And sometimes kindly slants his rays;
For in his winter he’s most near
And plainest seen upon the shortest days.

I scent my med’cine from afar,
Where the rude simpler of the year
October leads the rustling war,
And strews his honors on the summer’s bier.

The evening of the year draws on,
The fields a later aspect wear;
Since Summer’s garishness is gone,
Some grains of night tincture the noontide air.
~Henry David Thoreau, selected stanzas from “The Fall of the Leaf”

octobertwinlakes11Twin Lakes Mt. Baker National Forest

Wandering in a wild land of beauty,
especially in the coolness of autumn,
with the dry hot melting “garishness” of summer past,
God is most plain in these places,
His slanting rays touching
everything and all.

shuksan6Mt. Shuksan yesterday, from Artist Point

The Boreal Fruit

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underherwings
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The moon now rises to her absolute rule,
And the husbandman and hunter
Acknowledge her for their mistress.
Asters and golden reign in the fields
And the life everlasting withers not.
The fields are reaped and shorn of their pride
But an inward verdure still crowns them;
The thistle scatters its down on the pool
And yellow leaves clothe the river—
And nought disturbs the serious life of men.
But behind the sheaves and under the sod
There lurks a ripe fruit which the reapers have not gathered,
The true harvest of the year—the boreal fruit
Which it bears forever,
With fondness annually watering and maturing it.
But man never severs the stalk
Which bears this palatable fruit.
~Henry David Thoreau
So many eyes turned skyward last night
to witness the shadowing of the moon,
its large unblinking eye turned bloodshot.
The wonder is that we are mere witness
to something beyond our reach,
trying our best to harvest, record and keep it.
This morning the moon sets,
bright and cheerful,
as it always does,
and we go about our daily lives
oblivious that it will continue to do so
long after we ourselves are harvested.
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The Eye of the Poet

3rmoss

holyleaf1

 

Nature doth thus kindly heal every wound.
By the mediation of a thousand little mosses and fungi,
the most unsightly objects become radiant of beauty.
There seem to be two sides of this world, presented us at different times,
as we see things in growth or dissolution, in life or death.
And seen with the eye of the poet,
as God sees them,
all things are alive and beautiful.

~Henry David Thoreau (journal)

 

lichenmoss13115

holyleaf

Like the Direction of Sunbeams

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A swarm of honey bees appeared, suddenly and without fanfare, on our old black walnut tree with the tree house. After dusk, a local bee keeper came to brush the majority of them into a cardboard box to take home to a new hive.

A bee swarm is an amazing single-minded organism of thousands of individuals intent on one purpose: survival of the queen to establish a new home for her safety and security, thus ensuring survival for all.  I am grateful they stopped off here at this farm for a bit of a respite, and wish them well under the nurture of a gentle apiarist who, for forty years, has loved, respected and honored bees by working for their well-being.

The keeping of bees is like the direction of sunbeams.
~Henry David Thoreau

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One can no more approach people without love than one can approach bees without care. Such is the quality of bees…
~Leo Tolstoy

beeswarm2A swarm of bees in May
Is worth a load of hay;
A swarm of bees in June
Is worth a silver spoon;
A swarm of bees in July
Is not worth a fly
.
-An Old English Ditty

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When the air is wine and the wind is free
and the morning sits on the lovely lea
and sunlight ripples on every tree
Then love-in-air is the thing for me

I’m a bee,
I’m a ravishing, rollicking, young queen bee,
That’s me.

I wish to state that I think it’s great,
Oh, it’s simply rare in the upper air,

It’s the place to pair
With a bee.

If any old farmer can keep and hive me,
Then any old drone may catch and wife me;
I’m sorry for creatures who cannot pair
On a gorgeous day in the upper air,
I’m sorry for cows that have to boast
Of affairs they’ve had by parcel post,
I’m sorry for a man with his plots and guile,
His test-tube manner, his test-tube smile;
I’ll multiply and I’ll increase
As I always have–by mere caprice;
For I am a queen and I am a bee,
I’m devil-may-care and I’m fancy free,
Love-in-air is the thing for me,

Oh, it’s simply rare
In the beautiful air,
And I wish to state
That I’ll always mate

With whatever drone I encounter,
All hail the queen!

~E.B. White from “Song of the Queen Bee” published in the New Yorker 1945

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I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
~William Butler Yeats, The Lake Isle of Innisfree

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Bees do have a smell, you know, and if they don’t they should, for their feet are dusted with spices from a million flowers.
~Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine

 

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…The world was really one bee yard, and the same rules work fine in both places.
Don’t be afraid, as no life-loving bee wants to sting you.
Still, don’t be an idiot; wear long sleeves and pants.
Don’t swat. Don’t even think about swatting.
If you feel angry, whistle. Anger agitates while whistling melts a bee’s temper.
Act like you know what you’re doing, even if you don’t.
Above all, send the bees love. Every little thing wants to be loved.

~Sue Monk Kidd from The Secret Life of Bees

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Such bees! Bilbo had never seen anything like them.
“If one were to sting me,” He thought “I should swell up as big as I am!
~J.R.R. Tolkien from The Hobbit

what's left behind this morning, waiting for the beekeeper's return
what’s left behind the following morning, waiting for the beekeeper’s return

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When the bee comes to your house, let her have beer; you may want to visit the bee’s house some day.
    -Congo Proverb

from May 2014 (reblog)

Distilled Richness

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…now the cordial clouds have shut all in,
And gently swells the wind to say all’s well;
The scattered drops are falling fast and thin,
Some in the pool, some in the flower-bell.

Drip drip the trees for all the country round,
And richness rare distills from every bough;
The wind alone it is makes every sound,
Shaking down crystals on the leaves below.
~Henry David Thoreau from “The Summer Rain”

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wwusprinkles

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