Wednesday, December 31, 2008
In a childhood dream which stuck with me for many years, I was snuggling in a giant rooftop nest with a bunch of sisters, (though I have no biological sisters). I periodically reflect on this idyll of sisterhood, but long wondered where the image came from, until a few years ago I realized it corresponds to a scene from the “Wizard of Oz” movie, (briefly shown in the scenes of Munchkin Land), where a clutch of little bird girls in a big nest are waking and stretching.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
One of the interesting things about living in the country is that once all the leaves have fallen, we become aware of neighborhood residents who are normally out of view, because their houses are set far back on deep wooded lots. Similarly, the bare trees reveal so many different birds’ nests. Often these nests are low and close to walkways I/you regularly use, without ever being aware that you are passing so close by a family of birds. When I walk around my 2-1/2 acres looking at the bird nests, I feel very privileged that so many birds also consider this little spot on Earth their home. It also seems that a tree is privileged to have a bird’s next in it. For example, I planted a fir which was at first shorter than the weeds, but is now getting taller, and for two consecutive years, robins have nested in it. It’s like somehow now that it has a nest in it, it has become a “real” tree, not just some kind of ornament.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
However, Halloween spirit was in shorter supply this year, because fewer houses were decorated. When people who normally decorate for the holidays stop doing so, that seems to be a sign of depression, stress, or absence. As I walk the scantly decorated neighborhoods, I do see a fair number of houses up for sale, including vacant houses with “notice” stickers on the doors or windows. When occupied houses are up for sale, they tell a different story and exude a different atmosphere than empty houses. There is that tinge of desolation when you see a house standing empty, especially when it sits close enough to the walk that a passerby can see beyond the windows, into the empty rooms. In any community, a certain number of houses are going to be up for sale at any given time, but it does seem that there are more of the vacant ones. As tokens of our scary economic scene, these empty houses are perhaps more spooky than any Halloween display.
On the bright side, today’s walk was enlivened by the neighborhood animal life: a brown bunny in the yard of a duplex; a fat, fluffy, puffy squirrel perched on a broken branch; and the call of bluejays coming from any quarter towards which you turn your ear.
Friday, October 31, 2008
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
In the case of Halloween decorations, scary-faced jack-o-lanterns and such are part of a world-wide tradition of decorating doors and other transition zones with apotropaic objects with grotesque faces to scare off evil spirits. Of course, friendly-faced jack-o-lanterns, as well as the golden pumpkins and other symbols of the harvest festival, serve to welcome the good spirits. By the way, I notice that people often flank their doorways with jack-o-lanterns or other decorations. It’s a natural desire for aesthetic balance, but it also echoes the African custom of setting a pair of gourds or pots filled with protective medicine on either side of the door.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
On Monday, I saw huge numbers of robins in a field. They weren’t immediately visible, because of the way they spread out amidst the corn stubble; others were roosting in the adjacent wood margin, and were heard more than seen. A flock of blackbirds surrounded an interior pond, and some were calling, but their okarees were muffled and weird—not the clear, spring-like calls I’d heard back on the 12th. On Tuesday, bluebirds were moving through my copse; I haven’t seen many bluebirds this year, but then I’d been getting more temp work in the spring and summer. The calls of jays are regularly heard, and today, I see a constant stream of them through my copse. They don’t travel in flocks as such, but in a spread-out sort of line. My best experience of jay migration was while staying at my Dad’s beach house on the north shore of Lake Michigan, when bluejays were streaming across the dunes of Michibay, in a continuous west-moving line past the big picture window that looks out on the dunes and the lake. (I have similarly seen hawk migrations there.) Flickers, and of course, Canada Geese and Crows are regularly heard. However, since we’ve been having frosty nights, the frogs and insects are no longer a part of the sound environment. Strange to think, I could still hear cicadas as recently as September 30th, (which is supposed to be rather late for them).
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Also, Friday I walked in the town of Leslie, which has a variety of old Midwestern-style houses, plus some people with Halloween spirit. The wooden steps of one old house were lined with jack-o-lanterns, and a plush gray cat was resting at the foot of those stairs, while on the porch just at the top of the stairs sat a black cat. If I had had a camera on me, that would have made a perfect Halloween composition. Leslie happens to have a spiritualist church, so anyone walking by might want to send out a mental Hello to any friendly spirits who might be gathering there, in anticipation of the high energies of Halloween.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Sunday, October 12, 2008
There also comes such a morning in autumn, and today was that morning. The redwings were in such large numbers, and so vocal with songs that are normally associated with their nesting territory, that it seemed more like spring arrival than fall migration. (At the same time, the jays could still be heard, so it’s still Jay World out there.) Later, we’ll see huge flocks, and if we’re lucky enough to be out at the right time of day, we’ll see rivers of blackbirds flowing across the sky; however, although they’ll be noisy, it won’t be the chorus of okarees, with no time to stop and party, because they’ll be heading straight south with a sense of urgency, (though there is always gaiety in their urgency).
By the way, this was quite a warm morning, with afternoon temperatures into the 80s, so perhaps the weather contributes to the festival atmosphere. I do not think we would call this Indian Summer—that pertains to certain warm days in November. If it weren’t for the fiery colors of maples and sumac, it really would seem more like Spring.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
I have a theory, albeit unproven, that if a person could consume a certain amount of the wild food to be found in his or her vicinity, around the calendar, (for winter, you would have to make teas out of certain trees’ bark), that would help align and harmonize him or her with the environment, (and the spirits of the land), in such a way that it would mitigate a lot of physical and mental complaints. (I’ve never carried this out myself, because too many disruptions to my schedule prevent me from getting out on a regular enough basis.)
Kind of tied in with this, although I’m taking it out of context, Tom Brown, the Pine Barrens Tracker, cited an old Indian belief that wherever there is something that causes illness or other problems, the cure will be found nearby. So for example, jewel weed, which is a cure for poison ivy, grows in a lot of the same places as poison ivy. My extension of that theory is that if you need a tonic, your own land or your neighborhood will provide what is best suited for you.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Friday, October 3, 2008
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Monday, September 29, 2008
After yesterday’s post, I looked into an article on Hurricane Ike, [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurricane_Ike], and learned that Ike began as a system in the Sudan, and moved through Nigeria, Mali, and Senegal before crossing the ocean. After moving through the U.S., it proceeded to unleash high winds and heavy rain on Ontario and Quebec. So, it is truly awesome to contemplate how extensively the elemental powers connect places and people. Here, we have an echo of “butterfly effect” theory. In the wake of destruction, we are also reminded of other ways that we are connected. A lot of people think that Buddhism teaches that we are all One, but that is actually more of a Hindu concept. However, as one of our local monks, (Ajahn Khemasanto, abbot of Wat Dhammasala in Perry), has pointed out, what the Buddha did say is that all beings are united in suffering. So, something else for me to contemplate, as I gaze into the creek which is still racing, two weeks after the storms.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Another way that Heaven and Earth are interconnected, and enable us to be interconnected, is through water and weather. Today I stood on the Elm Street bridge, as I like to gaze into Sycamore Creek. I noticed the creek is still a bit swollen and swifter-moving from the torrential rains of two weeks ago. When Hurricane Ike was done pounding the Gulf Coast, its system tracked up into the Midwest—which is typical of prevailing weather patterns. Although it created a lot of havoc in Chicago, we weren’t too badly affected, even though we experienced “a hundred year storm.” (We’ve had several hundred-year storms in the 12 years I’ve been living here.) I actually look forward to Hurricane season in the Caribbean, because when the rains eventually get to us, they bring cooler weather, often break summer droughts, and wash a lot of the ragweed pollen out of the air—thus enabling me to get out for more walking. These weather systems also enable me to feel elementally connected to my older son. He is an rpg designer-programmer in Austin, Texas, so the weather that he experiences eventually works its way up to me. (By the way, one of his hobbies is tornado chasing.) When I watch the weather news and see that something is coming my son’s way, I know it will eventually get to me as well.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
The illusion of onions as golden balls amuses me, because the golden orb is a traditional sun symbol, and in Jungian psychology, it is also an archetypal emblem of the Self. Golden balls (in sets of three) used to be hung at the top of English Maypoles, and they are a common design element in old German signage and other wrought iron decorations. Also, people have seen mysterious golden orbs hovering over crop circles and other mystical sites in Britain. So, if I want to color the onions by the side of the road with meaning, I could read them as a message of how we can find a shining quality of happiness and wholeness in the humble things of the earth.
Friday, September 26, 2008
The flicker's exhortation to seeing and hearing is a theme in the works of Gary Snyder, who likens its cry to the zen master's exclamation, "This! This! This!" This is a reminder to see things as they really are, independent of the images and notions we form about them. Because "Whimsy Walks" has to do with ways we can project our imaginations into the things we encounter, this may seem like a contradictory point to be bringing up. However, I think it's possible to maintain a dual consciousness, acknowledging that other beings have their own realities, while entertaining our own little fantasies about them--as long as we remain respectful. After all, who is to know whether some of our imaginings engage reality on another level?
Because flickers are Michigan's most common woodpecker and have such distinctive markings, they were among the first birds I learned to identify, beyond the obvious robins, cardinals, jays, et al. (In those days I was more into my seeing function, as the only bird call I ever noticed was the mourning dove's; I didn't start paying attention to sounds until I was in my 40s.) Nowadays, the recognition of different birds revives memories of my first sightings, which in the case of flickers, was on a walk in the autumn-yellow woods. Also, there is something about the way a flicker flashes his big white spot during a sudden take-off that can be just a little bit startling--not unlike the flash of insight.
p.s., the flicker pic is by F.C. Hennessey, circa 1919.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
I collect proverbs and greeting words, and greeting itself is a magical act. When you say "Hello" to someone, you are using an old Anglo Saxon blessing word that is wishing health and wholeness, as well as happiness, to him or her--in keeping with the wholistic worldview that characterized the Anglo Saxons as well as so many other tribal peoples. The greeting terms of other lands have similar associations. For example, "salute" comes from Latin roots that are related to salutary (healthful) and even salt as a healthful, protective substance. Walking provides an opportunity for many hellos, and as I walk, I try to extend my Hellos not just to the humans I meet, but also to animals and to distinctive features of the natural as well as built environment. Such "rites of greeting" enable us to engage the environments we pass through in ways that make us participants, not just mere observers.
Therefore, I wish us all innumerable hearty hellos, as we greet our world, and in return, receive greetings from that world.