Golden Autumn Afternoon

A sparkling warm November day, just enough of a chill to remind one of the passing of summer… The prosaic chores of the garden – pruning the delicate little Japanese Maple whose limbs seem somewhat ungainly, bare as they are of leafy covering. The satisfaction of a newly-purchased pair of offset pruners; clean, effortless cuts and the shaping of nature to a more tamed presence in this tiny suburban enclave – the tree is a thing of marvelous symmetry now. The rustle and crackling of leaves to be removed from gutters, raked from paths, and settled into garden beds to provide cover for plants and birds in the cold months to come. The garden looks to be slumbering, for the most part, though some brilliant late season climbing roses splash blooms across the fence. It is not the exuberant, multi-hued show of colour of the light half of the year, but the pleasing shapes and bones of the garden, the muted yet glorious autumn colours, the visceral sense of quietude and readying are a different kind of tonic and respite. Thickets of various shrubs, bright with berries to feed the birds, groupings of lingering flowers in sheltered spots: these are tonic. The palpable sense of repose, the winding down of summer’s frenetic energy – perhaps best of all, no sound of mowing or blowing machinery: this is respite. An afternoon in the autumn garden may be a marvelous metaphor for what our collective spirits require…

 

Yet who am I, to suppose a cure for the world’s ills? Nevertheless, this much I shall assert: that slowing down to enjoy the grace of everyday tasks, and the humble beauty we create and sustain is vital to human lives, as is some everyday quiet, some respite from the world of frenetic, mindless, unending ‘work’ that we are increasingly absorbed in.

 

I wish you a golden autumn afternoon, my imaginary friend. Some place and space where time slows down, where you lose yourself in the pleasure of homely tasks, where you end the day giving thanks for the joy of being merely alive.

autumn garden

Oh, April…

Oh, April…

 

April is the cruellest month, breeding

Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing

Memory and desire, stirring

Dull roots with spring rain.

Winter kept us warm, covering

Earth in forgetful snow, feeding

A little life with dried tubers.

Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee

With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,

And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten,

And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.

∼  excerpt, TS Eliot, The Wasteland

 

The lilacs outside my door are poised: soon they will blossom forth, but not yet, oh, not yet.

And this is how I feel, my imaginary friend – not here, not there, not yet. Memory and desire swirl around me, bringing up new budding tendrils each day; around me a vast sea of the barely-glimpsed colours of unopened flowers, while a lowering grey sky hems me in, viscerally. April’s refrain: not yet, not yet, not yet.

 

april rain 2

Winter Solstice, 2018

Today gives us sunshine, here in my particular piece of the Northern Hemisphere, and a reprieve from howling winds and slashing rain. How appropriate, on this day to mark the return of the light. The skies have been dark and lowering, and have seemed to hem us in to smaller space – and now, viscerally we unfurl and stretch and luxuriate, however briefly. 

 

Yes, this day marks the first day of winter, my imaginary friend, and the longest night of the year; but it also marks the fact that the days grow ever longer from this point to the summer solstice. I am reminded of Janus, that Roman god of portals and doorways, the god who looks forward and backward at the same time. Even as we enter the northern winter, and nature around us seems at a standstill, underground the work of preparing for the vibrant growth of spring carries on …roots burrowing deep into soil to build a strong framework, this burrowing, hibernating, and seeming rest simple a less visible energy. As Janus reminds us, to move forward one must remain firmly rooted, whether to build anew or to make radical change. 

 

The ancients, it seems had a way of acknowledging the solstices, the equinoxes, the cross-quarter days as portals of movement around the wheel of the year – the seasons of the year as circle, the years as circles that spiral, the spiral itself a potent symbol of ever-upward movement that rests upon what went before. 

 

‘Tis a symbol that resonates powerfully for me. May you find light and cheer in this festive season, and discover the wonder and beauty in nature’s quietness. Blessings of the solstice. 

 

Pincer Tree, photographed by John Lake.

Wish To Be There

As I composed an email to a friend this morning, I was struck by how much of the really important was left out of the narrative of my recent life. Here it is, then, my imaginary friend: not exactly how I spent my summer vacation, but a deeper picture of how my life unfolds these days.

There have been losses and grief – I do not want to minimize these, though they have helped me to understand how to participate more intensely in the meaning of my brief life. There has been work that I am proud of – at the same time as being insignificant in the estimation of the world, no doubt – which makes me think of how much ‘work’ matters to my life. ‘Work’ is not always the same thing as a job, maybe, though I think that work that is satisfying is an integral part of the story of my life. There has been time for play, naturally – wonders of mountain lakes, entrancing trails, rivers rushing, and serene swimming holes, time with friends and family that has been memorable in ways that casual socializing cannot match. The pleasures of my summer do not make for riveting reading, I expect, but my quest for the quiet, unassuming pleasures of the day has taught me much. I think, in fact, that my life seems to be an escalating curve of learning, making my steps a little friskier in spite of the steepness of the road at times. I always want to see what is around the bend!

We humans are puzzling: we long and strive and yearn for the good and the beautiful, while we compel ourselves, some of us, to confine our dreams and ambitions to the conventions of our society, whether we live in city neighbourhood, small town, or country hamlet. As one who is decidedly unconventional, this has chafed and irked me for much of life, this attention to the trivial, the superficial, the unimportant. That sense of being rubbed the wrong way though, becomes less and less important as I simply become more me. The inner me is the real me, and the me I choose to show to the world…convention be damned.

The friend that I wrote my email to this morning gave me this lovely little objet d’art some years ago, and attached a note to the back saying “Wish to be there”. My friend, I think I am there, and that is what I most wished to tell you, and could not find words for…

With all my faults and failings, turmoil and despair, missteps and meanderings, I am in that place of joy. To friends real and imaginary – come with me.

Summer Morn

Is there anything so magical as a summer morning, my imaginary friend? Energy and optimism, the sheer sensuality of the glory of the day…the high spirit of pleasure, sweetness of sun caress, all things reaching for the sky…The forest as I walked in it this morning pulsing with life as the growing things revel in an abundance of light and warmth. Birds have perfected their morning chorus to a veritable orchestra, and last night’s rain shower has left its fresh, invigorating scent and a few lingering drops to moisten my skin. The loveliness of rain drops as I push through brushy fronds; total immersion in my idea of paradise.
I am one who loves my country’s four seasons, and I believe that autumn is my favourite time of year. This summer, though, hints at glorious days of perfect beauty – or perhaps this is merely my reaction to the end of a long winter and much-delayed spring.Days of perfect beauty may be rare enough;here is one to carry in my heart, to thrill with each and every moment, and to share with you. Beauty, I wish you.

Summer Morning, AJ Casson

Je T’aime

Now, I must say good bye to you, though you are already gone. And I do not know why I must write this: this, the most difficult of all things to put into words. It is not within my powers of expression to write the words that would be a fitting eulogy, though perhaps I might be able to capture something of how I find myself wanting to live in that deep certainty of joy that you taught me. That joy lives in me, viscerally; that even as I weep, I feel its call to experience deeply and fully with no reserve. This is the gift you have given me, which is beyond words.

Still, I shall write some more words. That you once told me that simply to hold my hand was your idea of happiness. That when I fell asleep in your arms, you would not move for fear of disturbing my rest. That in those moments of fine rapture we murmured ‘babe’ to each other in tone and feeling that echoed the great love language of English poets. That your delight in loving me was the greatest compliment I have ever been paid.

That you told me you would try to find a million ways in which to tell me that you loved me. That every time you told me that you loved me I was thrilled and moved to the centre of my being. That you will never again tell me that you love me; even so, it lies here in my heart and cannot be dislodged or shaken.

We do not get to the final movement of our symphony, you and I. I shall always envision you in the glorious, heat-soaked foothills landscape; the sky, and the possibilities, endless. Some echo of our music shall linger there forever, I believe. Our human hearts grapple with the mysteries of love and life and death and loss…perhaps it is simply to comfort myself that I write these words inadequate to tell of my love, and my desolation. But this, this I feel with a certainty – that within this cauldron of swirling memories lies the promise of rebirth, for to love another is to immortalize some part of ourselves.

I find I cannot say good bye, and words of love spoken to empty air bring no consolation. To return to the beginning is perhaps to honour the spiral of life and death – I shall live with the joy of having been loved by you. Je t’aime.

openheart

February 29 (first published 2012)

I cannot shake the idea that this day has some magic, somehow. Of course it is a calendar correction, and Wikipedia has a fine article on that. Doubtless you will have been inundated with stories of the folklore of the day as well. Still, a day that exists only once every four years… Not quite exactly, but do read Wikipedia for details.

 So here we are, and what is this magic, anyway? I want to dig down, deep down into this feeling; something like being on a cusp. Or perhaps merely the anticipation of Spring? Sigh. By now you will be asking yourself, my imaginary friend, just why you are reading this stream of consciousness.

 It has to do, I think, with the idea of reviving a feeling of wonder in the ordinary and the prosaic. The way we used to come together, in the community sense, merely to mark in some shared way all manner of things. The first of May. The harvest. The turning of the tides… These ideas changed over the course of centuries, naturally, though they seem almost ghostly remnants, now.

Well, here is my insignificant contribution to marking this day, this year. Because the magic I believe in is that spark that yearns for connection. Beyond the connection of family and friends, the connection that extends to town, or city, or village, to nation, to culture. That we share some simple experiences, and because we share them, we shall make note.

 

paint your day with marvelous colours...

paint your day with marvelous colours…