Sunday, December 20, 2009

Precious little time

"Any idiot can face a crisis,
it is this day-to-day living
that wears you out."
~Anton Chekhov
Taking some time off to rest and regroup.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Beauty is everlasting

Beauty is everlasting.
And dust is for a time.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Like a river running through

Photo by Jason Neuswanger
See more of his work at

"These days, she says, I feel my life
Just like a river running through
the year of the cat."
~Al Stewart and Peter Wood
from The Year of the Cat, 1976

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Roses for Kia

Kia at eight weeks.

My beautiful Tortoiseshell cat Kia died December 9, 2003. Her name is a Polynesian word with many meanings, and I named her long before an automobile model by that name came into existence. After returning from the South Pacific, I saw her at a local shelter. I happened to come along on the same day she had been put up for adoption and knew immediately that I wanted to take her home. I adopted Kia on the spot; she was too little to be in a cage all by herself. She lived to the age of 15 and, had she not succumbed to lung cancer, would have lived many more years. Kia was a rare beauty and she stands out in my memory as quintessentially feline, fierce yet dainty and ultra curious. Since adopting two Tortoiseshell sisters last summer I think of her often and I miss her. See the posting from December 8, 2008 for more about her.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

You Will Find Your Way

Rise, let us see you,
Dawning is the day,
Miss, misty meadow,
You will find your way,
Wake up in the morning to yourself and leave this crazy life behind you.
Listen, we're trying to find you.
Flow to the sea,
You know where to go,
Still we are free,
No one tells the wind which way to blow.
Wake up in the morning to yourself,
Open your eyes and start to be you.
Listen, we think we can see you.
~from Dawning is The Day
by Justin Hayward
of The Moody Blues

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Song for Autumn

We have passed the halfway mark ― it is now late autumn. In less than a month winter will be upon us. Let us celebrate the season and savor what poet Mary Oliver calls "deep fall."

Song for Autumn

In the deep fall
don't you imagine the leaves think how
comfortable it will be to touch
the earth instead of the
nothingness of air and the endless
freshets of wind? And don't you think
the trees themselves, especially those with mossy,
warm caves, begin to think

of the birds that will come — six, a dozen — to sleep
inside their bodies? And don't you hear
the goldenrod whispering goodbye,
the everlasting being crowned with the first
tuffets of snow? The pond
vanishes, and the white field over which
the fox runs so quickly brings out
its blue shadows. And the wind pumps its
bellows. And at evening especially,
the piled firewood shifts a little,
longing to be on its way.

~Mary Oliver (1935 —)
New and Selected Poems: Volume Two

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Enjoying Turkey

Wild turkeys hang out in my gardens and woods

and were always comfortable around Rachmaninoff

On Thanksgiving I enjoy turkey alive, well and wild. I don't eat turkey at Thanksgiving or any other time and I don't miss it. These wild birds are incredibly social, intelligent and, to me, very beautiful, though getting good photographs of them can be challenging.

This Thanksgiving I am thankful for having had the pleasure of giving them sanctuary and seeing their young thrive. Sadly, their domesticated brethren suffer greatly from birth to maturity. Their lives, if they can be called that, are brutal, unnatural and very brief.

There is no need for them to be farmed in this manner. The poultry industry, in their quest for bigger and better profits, has come to regard these sentient beings as "products." The number of turkeys "produced" and "consumed" each year is staggering. Reducing demand is one way to re-introduce humane farming methods, but there are many other ways to initiate much needed change in how turkeys and other farm animals are raised.

All animals, especially those raised for food, deserve to be treated with kindness, care and respect. To help spread the word about creating a more compassionate Thanksgiving, visit Farm Sanctuary. And while you're there, consider adopting a rescued turkey!

Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Family Photo

Rachmaninoff watching over wild turkeys.

The woods are carpeted in leaves, the weather has been delightfully mild and goldfinches are enjoying the thistle feeders. But the nights have been getting much colder, and soon it will be time to bring in the birdbaths, except for the one with a water heater, which I keep filled all winter long.

With Thanksgiving just days away I am missing a very important family member. This will be the first Thanksgiving in 18 years that I have spent without him. Today, I heard Diana Ross singing a song that totally captures how my heart feels. Her beautiful voice, clearer than the most exquisite crystal, is so plaintive and true. Yes, my Rachmaninoff, I am missing you.

Missing You
Click Here to Listen

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Brewster, Cape Cod by Jim Scabereti

"Time does not bring relief; you all have lied
Who told me time would ease me of my pain!
I miss him in the weeping of the rain;
I want him at the shrinking of the tide."

~ Edna St. Vincent Millay

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Flowers at our feet

In the hopes of reaching the moon
men fail to see the flowers
that blossom at their feet.
~Albert Schweitzer

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Trembling of a leaf

Never say there is nothing beautiful
in the world anymore.
There is always something
to make you wonder
in the shape of a tree,
the trembling of a leaf.

~ Albert Schweitzer

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Golden Leaves

For some reason, whenever I look at these golden leaves with bits of blue sky showing through, I find myself thinking of this song:

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Know Where You Are

“No matter where I am, and no matter how much trouble I may be in, I can achieve a blank and shining serenity if only I can reach the very edge of a natural body of water. The very edge of anything from a rivulet to an ocean says to me: ‘Now you know where you are. Now you know which way to go. You will soon be home now.’ ”

~Kurt Vonnegut

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Some Things Subside

"So long ago it seems
I read your letter
in the evening light.
Now the light fades early.
Some things subside
and so must we."
~P.G. Wilde

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

Yet another reason why I don't eat my friends.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tigers Dying Out

Experts: Tigers fast dying out despite campaigns
By BINAJ GURUBACHARYA Associated Press Writer - October 27, 2009
KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) -- The world's tiger population is declining fast despite efforts to save them, and new strategies are urgently needed to keep the species from dying out, international wildlife experts said Tuesday.
"We are assembled here to save tigers that are at the verge of extinction," Nepal's secretary of forest and soil conservation, Yuvaraj Bhusal, told a conference of tiger experts from 20 countries, including the 13 where wild tigers are still found.
An estimated 3,500 to 4,000 tigers now roam the world's forests, down from the more than 100,000 estimated at the beginning of the 20th century. All the remaining tigers are in Asia.
Participants at the conference, which also includes the World Bank, the World Wildlife Fund and other groups, plan to discuss strategies for tiger conservation, as well as challenges such as poaching, the trade of tiger parts and conflicts between tigers and local populations.
In a recent case, a Sumatran tiger died after being caught in a pig snare last week in Indonesia, the country's news agency, Antara, reported Monday. The report said the tiger died as it was being prepared for surgery Monday. Only about 250 Sumatran tigers remain in the wild.
"Despite our efforts in the last three decades, tigers still face threats of survival. The primary threat is from poaching and habitat loss," Nepal's prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal told the conference.
He said extreme poverty has also challenged efforts.
"Global and regional solidarity and corrective measures are more necessary now than ever to face these challenges," the prime minister said.
Bhusal, the forest secretary, said participants hope to make high-level policy makers in their countries more aware of the animal's possible extinction.
The 13 countries where wild tigers are still found include Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam.
My response to this news is both a lament and a rant. I hoped I'd never live to see this day. Where is the urgency in our so-called "efforts to save these magificent creatures?" In yet another case of too little, too late, we just don't get it that we must do everything in our collective, global power, and do it NOW, to prevent this tragedy from unfolding. We are standing on the brink of a future that need not play out― a world without tigers will be just the beginning of what can only be a terrible ending. Can nothing stop the destructive hand of man?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

What Lies Within Us

What lies behind us and
what lies before us
are tiny matters compared to
what lies within us.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Cabin in the Woods

For a long time now, I've wanted a cabin in the woods. Something small and simple like the stone cabin above, though I do like the floor to ceiling woodwork in this cabin bedroom.

After watching Ken Burns' "National Parks" series, I've been captivated by John Muir. We share the same devotion to nature, though I feel like a slacker next to him. Muir covered a lot of ground and walking was a kind of meditation for him. He built a Sugar Pine cabin at the base of Yosemite Falls. His description of the cabin enchants me. If I could have one just like it....

"This cabin, I think, was the handsomest building in the Valley and the most useful and convenient for a mountaineer. From Yosemite Creek, where it first gathers its beaten waters at the foot of the falls, I dug a small ditch and brought a stream into the cabin, entering at one end and flowing out the other with just enough current to allow it to sing and warble in low, sweet tones, delightful at night while I lay in bed. The floor was made of rough slabs nicely joined and embedded in the ground. In the spring, the common pteris ferns pushed up between the joints of the slabs, two of which, growing slender like climbing ferns on account of the subdued light, I trained on threads up the sides and over my window in front of my writing desk in an ornamental arch. Dainty little tree frogs occasionally climbed the ferns and made fine music in the night, and common frogs came in with the stream and helped to sing with the Hylas and the warbling, tinkling water. My bed was suspended from the rafters and lined with libocedrus plumes, altogether forming a delightful home in the glorious valley....and I was loth to leave it.”

~John Muir

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Come to the Woods

Come to the woods, for here is rest.
There is no repose like that of the green deep woods.

~John Muir

Monday, October 12, 2009

Ardea herodias

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)

It was such a gift to be able to observe this adult Great Blue Heron fishing beneath the falls at a nearby dam along the Charles River. The water was low and the exposed rocks, home to many aquatic creatures, offered excellent fishing. In this photograph the bird was moving to another vantage point where he remained for about 30 minutes.

I believe I know this particular heron. He is unusually calm around people because he became accustomed to seeing them at a young age. As an immature and inexperienced yearling he used to hang around the dam, fishing at the far end where the Girl and her flock of Canda Geese liked to rest (see postings from January 2009). I've also seen him downriver, not far from the dam. Even kayakers paddling nearby do not break his concentration; he remains transfixed on whatever fish he has in his sights and ignores the sounds of barking dogs and lawnmowers with the same nonchalance.

Fortunately, I mostly see him in quiet settings, and I always feel privileged to be able to admire his magnificent plumage and observe his studied, patient gaze as he waits for just the right moment to spear a fish swimming toward him in the shallows and then swallow it whole.

On average, Great Blue Herons live 15-17 years in the wild, but some can live into their twenties. I hope this fellow enjoys a long life.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

In Old October

"All things on earth point home in old October:
sailors to sea,
travelers to walls and fences...
the lover to the love he has forsaken."

~ Thomas Wolfe

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Dawn Has Come

"Death is not extinguishing the light;
it is putting out the lamp because dawn has come."

Saturday, October 3, 2009

An Absence of Turkeys

Rock and wild turkeys in the Fall of 2008

Ever since Rachmaninoff died, with one exception (see the June 15 posting), I have noted the strange absence of wild turkeys here. Their continued absence underscores his.

For three years two hens brought their poults to raise in the peace and quiet of this protected, wooded acre. They were comfortable around Rock and he enjoyed being among them. I know he kept them safe from marauding cats.

Though I am making my way on the grief journey in the four months since his death, part of me wants only to get back to the time when Rock was still here. I never want to forget him.

After sharing nearly 20 years with such a special being, I can't expect the going to be easy, but I am consoled by the words of the Irish poet Thomas Moore (1779-1852):

"And the tear that we shed,
though in secret it rolls,
Shall long keep his memory
green in our souls."

Friday, October 2, 2009

Viburnum dentatum

Arrowwood Viburnum (Viburnum dentatum) berries

And the fruits will outdo what the flowers have promised.

~ Francois de Malherbe

Click on the image for details.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Hydrangea paniculata

This mature Pee Gee Hydrangea tree (Hydrangea paniculata 'Grandiflora') beside an old farmhouse in Wells, Maine is an heirloom favorite. The enormous, creamy white, conical flowers bloom in mid- to late summer and become pink as they age. As autumn progresses and the nights become colder, the flowers turn the color of tea-stained linen. Click on the photos for details.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Awakening to Queen Anne's Lace

Queen Anne's Lace in mid-September

"Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens."

~Carl Jung

Click on the photo to view interesting details.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Language of Flowers

Victorian hydrangea wallpaper

Antique hydrangeas

I recently stayed in a room called Patience, named after the daughter of a sea captain and former owner of the Cape Cod antique home that is now an inn. I chose the room for the hydrangea wallpaper, which struck me as very soothing, and it was.

In addition to a much needed change of scenery, the serenity of that room offered some solace after weeks of grieving, and I slept more soundly than I had in some time. In the language of flowers, hydrangeas mean "thank you for understanding." Hydrangeas also stand for perseverance.

As nights become cooler hydrangea colors intensify. Cultivars in shades of pale blue-lavender, mauve-pink and linen are much sought after for drying and sold as "Antique" hydrangeas. They last a very long time. The ones pictured above are a year old.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

September Ferns

This is the path I'll never tread
These are the dreams I'll dream instead
This is the joy that's seldom spread
These are the tears...
The tears we shed
This is the fear
This is the dread
These are the contents of my head...

~"Why" by Annie Lennox

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Otter Man

I had a ton of nicknames for my beloved Maine Coon cat Rachmaninoff and "Otter Man" is one that I remember fondly. Not only did Rock have the long, strong neck of an otter and liked to curl up in playful, otter-like positions, he also possessed their keen intelligence and fun-loving disposition.

I have been thinking of him a great deal this week and shedding more tears than usual. The eight-year anniversary of 9/11 put me in a somber mood as well. Rock became ill around this time last year. His scent has all but faded from his collar and last night I dreamed that he was there to greet me when I came home from work.

I try my best to remember him before he got sick, as my steadfast companion in the garden, “helping” me stack wood for the woodstove and watching wild turkeys forage among the fallen leaves. But all of these recollections lead to the same place of sadness.

I miss my Otter Man so.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Rubus occidentalis

Wild Black Raspberries (Rubus occidentalis)

"We can hold back neither the coming of the flowers
nor the downward rush of the stream;
sooner or later, everything comes to its fruition."

~ Loy Ching-Yuen

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Late Summer Beauty

"Never underestimate
the healing effects of beauty."

~Florence Nightingale

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Willows for a King

Weeping Willows (Salix Babylonica)
The willow's weeping stance reflects its association with grief.

Everyone is born a king,
and most people die in exile.

~Oscar Wilde

After watching the many tributes to Senator Ted Kennedy as well as his funeral mass and burial at Arlington National Cemetery, I believe he was one of the lucky few to be born a king and to die one, too. May he rest in peace.

Edward Moore Kennedy
February 22, 1932 ― August 25, 2009

Friday, August 28, 2009

A Time That Was

As the last days of August slip by, I am taking stock of the summer season, which began with loss and is ending the same way. A good friend just lost her 14-year-old German Shepherd and here in Massachusetts the death of Senator Ted Kennedy has hit many of us hard. His passing marks the end of an era, a time that was and will never come again. In grieving for him, we also grieve for those who went before him: Jack, Bobby, John, Jr., and other members of the Kennedy clan.

These losses have been like companions as I continue on my own grief journey. It is almost three months since I lost Rachmaninoff'; the reality still seems unthinkable. Lately, I have been dreaming of willows, sentinels of grief but also trees of enchantment. The Wind in the Willows was one of my favorite books as a child. Now it too seems to belong to a time that was and will never come again.

Kenneth Grahame's love for his son and the natural world inspired his writing, but the story of how the book came to be published does not have a happy ending. Grahame also grappled with loss. The following is from 'Wind in the Willows' at 100, written by Madeline Lewis for The Chicago Tribune, May 7, 2008:

In 1907, author Kenneth Grahame wrote a series of letters to his young son Alastair about the exploits of four small anthropomorphic animals along the River Thames. Conceived merely as bedtime entertainment for the little boy, these adventures went on to become the basis for one of the most unique and influential children's books ever written: "The Wind in the Willows." Today, after a century on the bookshelves, Grahame's novel remains a story that enthralls children and adults.

Alison Price, one of Grahame's biographers, suggests that the author learned to venerate the environment as a parentless child living with his grandmother on the banks of the Thames. The outdoors was then a source of great comfort and happiness to him. "It was not the Christian God that stirred Grahame," she said. "He looked at nature as the thing he could worship."

As a grown man, Grahame weaved his love of the environment into bedtime stories for Alastair. The book's success represented a high point in Grahame's life. Twelve years later, in 1920, his son, then a student at Oxford University, committed suicide. Grahame then began traveling and never wrote another novel.

Click on the photo for a detailed view.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What Is Lovely

What is lovely never dies,
But passes into other loveliness,
Star-dust, or sea-foam, flower or winged air.

~T.B. Aldrich

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Princess and Daisy Are Happy

These two sisters were resigned to spending the rest of their days in a crowded city shelter until Fate stepped in and our paths crossed. In less than two months they have settled in nicely; it now seems that they have always been with me. Though I continue to mourn the death of my Rachmaninoff and feel his absence keenly, Princess and Daisy have been an enormous comfort and I have truly come to love them. Their antics bring anyone who is grieving the best medicine there is: laughter.
Top row: Daisy loves sitting in the windowsill and she has a very silly side, too.
Bottom row: Princess is an adorable munchkin and can be devilish and extremely curious. I forgot that I had some cat treats in the bottom of my canvas bag. In no time at all I caught her digging for them!
Click anywhere on the collage for a better view.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Digger and Spike

Digger, the owl, and Spike, the duckling, have become inseparable; both six-week-old chicks are quackers for each other.

(Photo: SWNS)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Shades of Green ― Conifers

"Open your eyes and see those things which are around us at this hour."

~Richard Jeffries
For detail and depth of color click on the photo.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Shades of Green ― Malachite

While God waits
for His temple
to be built of love, men
bring stones.

Malachite is a semi-precious stone that is said to create calm and peace. Considered a stone of mystical power, gazing at Malachite or holding it can also bring harmony, knowledge and patience.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Shades of Green ― Glass Frog

Costa Rican Glass Frog (Hyalinobatrachium valerioi)

Not only the days, but life itself lengthens in summer.
I would spread abroad my arms and gather more of it
to me, could I do so.

~ Richard Jeffries

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Shades of Green ― continued

"Keep a green tree in your heart
and perhaps a singing bird will come."

~Chinese Proverb