Friday, November 20, 2009
Sunday, November 15, 2009
The red twig dogwood bush and a rainbow tree
November, when I picture it, is harsh and angular, colored gray and dull brown, with a chance of rain. It follows October, of course, a round, full month overflowing with red, orange and
yellow, especially orange. Is this because of the “N” in
November, which doesn’t hold a candle to the “O’s” in October
and orange, when it comes to warmth and coziness?
I spent two hours outdoors today, waving confused people toward a drive-through electronics recycling event, on a classic November day. Trees bare, except for one with little bunches of rattling brown leftovers; gray sky that only spit at us, offering to let the sun through and then reneging at the last minute. I was too cold for comfort. Yet, being alone with several kind of flora that were taking a break from being growing things, I got to see a lot that I liked. In this part of the suburbs some prairie grasses have miraculously survived, and they were reddish if you looked at them just right. That reminded me of my red-twig dogwood bushes at home, which are more beautiful now without the distraction of leaves.
This seems to be one of my tasks, living in the Midwest - to relish everything I can about fall and winter, not just because the promise of spring is lurking under the soil, but because they are fall and winter!
This is the last winter when I’ll be in my sixties, and somehow the seventies sound a little more autumnal. Of course, when I hit seventy, maybe it’ll only be the eighties and on up that sound like that, and the seventies will be, if fallish at all, then more Octoberish, with bright colors and abundance.
Here's a very accepting look at the season:
Autumn Song of Fearlessness
I am surrounded by a peaceful ebbing,
as creation bows to the mystery of life;
all that grows and lives must give up life,
yet it does not really die.
As plants surrender their life,
bending, brown and wrinkles,
and yellow leaves of trees
float to my lawn like parachute troops,
they do so in a sea of serenity.
I hear no fearful cries from creation,
no screams of terror,
as death daily devours
once-green and growing life.
Peaceful and calm is autumn’s swan song,
for she understands
that hidden in winter’s death-grip
is spring’s openhanded,
full-brimmed breath of life.
It is not a death rattle that sounds
over fields and backyard fences;
rather I hear a lullaby
softly swaying upon the autumn wind.
Sleep in peace, all that lives;
slumber secure, all that is dying,
for in every fall there is the rise
whose sister’s name is spring.
Ed Hays, Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim
Thanks to Rose-Therese, who read that poem at the last SSC meeting.
And here's a more light-hearted approach to autumn, seen on pumpkin day at the zoo:
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Am I obsessed with yellow in my yard? Perhaps, but look at this giant plant; it loves it here! What you have to imagine is that every so often a vivid goldfinch sits on a post just over my squash plants and then flits colorfully around the yard. Much too fast for a photo; just a streak of yellow. Oh, and don't forget to imagine the sound of some twenty or thirty bees smacking their little bee lips at whatever this generous plant offers them in its yellow blossoms.
Friday, August 7, 2009
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
My grandmother never went to the farmer's market and deliberately picked a bunch of leaves she's never tried before, from an African refugee woman selling fresh vegetables that she grew to augment her family's meager income.
Friday, May 22, 2009
Have you ever noticed that an idea keeps coming at you from lots of directions until it’s about to hit you over the head and you want to yell, “Enough, already – I’m getting it!” This year’s idea is a piece of the environmental movement, loosely called conservation. Quakers named a testimony for it: simplicity. A bright nutty person on the Prairie Village Environmental Committee invented a subcommittee and named it Glidepath to Frugality. Of course, I volunteered to be on it. And then I opened the Tao te Ching at random, as I often do, and I read Chapter 80: (as you read this, remember that it was written roughly around 500 b.c.e.)
If a country is governed wisely,
its inhabitants will be content.
They enjoy the labor of their hands
and don’t waste time inventing
Since they dearly love their homes,
they aren’t interested in travel.
There may be a few wagons and boats,
but these don’t go anywhere.
There may be an arsenal of weapons,
but nobody ever uses them.
People enjoy their food,
take pleasure in being with their families,
spend weekends working in their gardens,
delight in the doings of the neighborhood.
And even though the next country is so close
that people can hear its roosters crowing and its dogs barking,
they are content to die of old age
without ever having gone to see it.
Tao te Ching translation by Stephen Mitchell
If you believe that Lao Tzu was generally on the right track, what do you do with a concept like this? It’s heresy to most progressive people, even lots of environmentalists and Quakers! When I look up travel quotes, I get this one, which I’ve agreed with all my life:
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” - Mark Twain
Of course! People who stay put are the embodiment of narrow-mindedness. Don’t you agree?
But now we have to look at it differently. A website I just looked at said that a round-trip flight to Europe produced 3-4 tons of carbon emissions, more carbon than 20 Bengladeshis cause to be emitted in a year. I’m not going to Europe any time soon, but I am going to California next month to help sort out Betty’s bequeathed possessions, and for a multitude of reasons, I’m not going to take the train.
I’m feeling compelled, somehow, to figure out when a trip, a purchase or an expense or extravagance of any kind is the right thing to do and when it’s merely an unjustified drag on the future quality of life on Earth (as well, perhaps, as on my personal finances). This stuff is really hard to think through, and I’m struggling as I write. But I got some good hints at our last Quaker Meeting retreat.
In a small group discussion, Kathy said (and I hope I paraphrase all right) that simplicity has a lot to do with paying attention to the small voice inside – or That of God – and asking ourselves if what we are planning to do or buy is something that will help us hear or heed that voice or if it’s more likely to interfere with our hearing. That made so much sense to me! Examples poured into my mind.
It reminds me of a woman from Africa who spoke here or was on a film – I think she was here. A group of Americans went there regularly to help with projects that the people in the village considered important. The help was important, and the money that came in was important, but she said that the greatest thing was that people showed up. A woman raised her hand and said that a trip to Africa costs a lot, and wouldn’t they rather have the money. And she said no, not always. It meant more than she could express for people to actually make the trip.
Making a trip like that might be a way of expressing what one was lead to do – if the voice within was clear that it was the only way. On the other hand, the myriad business trips that clog the system of air travel, and which most people admit that they loathe, don’t appear to do anything for anyone’s spirit. Maybe the key is to sincerely consider what’s going on – will this trip (or new car or new shoes) help me feel more contented, better able to fulfill what I’m here for? Or will the excitement wear off and leave me looking for more?
Back (for those of you who remember my blog’s theme: Becoming my Grandmother) to my grandmother. More and more I find that when I do grandmotherly things, I am content. Twice this week I’ve started listening to music (my grandmother didn’t have an iPod – we have made some progress) and found a great well of energy for …..cleaning! I was in one of those zones that are hard to describe, especially to people who think they don’t like cleaning while listening to Simon and Garfunkel (Wednesday Morning, 3AM, to be exact). But when I’m busy in the kitchen with music on and a breeze coming in the window, I really don’t feel like I need to go anywhere. I love to read about places. Right now I’m on my third book about Marco Polo and people who followed his path, and those certainly aren’t my first books about the Silk Road and the Gobi Desert. But I’m beginning to realize that not going there is okay.
If you have any ways that spending less money and at the same time being easier on the planet is working for you, I’d like to hear them. That’s the idea of our little subcommittee: helping people see that a little less spending can contribute to the greater good and maybe even make them happier. What do you think about traveling less?
There’s a fence between us and our next-door-neighbors’ swimming pool. When I’m in the yard I can here their grandchildren playing in the pool, but I can’t see them, and that’s okay. I’m happy pulling weeds and encouraging my veggies to grow. That’s what I picture when I read Lao Tzu.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Yesterday was our anniversary. It's the 26th, which doesn't seem very special, but last year, the big 25, we somehow never had time for the big splash. So this year we decided to do one simple thing - a little road trip. Just a day trip. And seemingly against all odds, we took it.
Monday, March 9, 2009
Sunday, March 1, 2009
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Stella Mae Henry Augerson 1886-1979
Their names were Stella and Herbert; if I'd been a boy I've gotten the Herbert; there's another reason to like having been born a girl.