…first day of spring…

Sulamith Wülfing (1901–1989) German Artist & Illustrator

illustration by Sulamith Wülfing

To see the fire that warms you or, better yet, to cut the wood that feeds the fire that warms you; to see the spring where the water bubbles up that slakes your thirst and to dip your pail into it; to see the beams that are the stay of your four walls and the timbers that uphold the roof that shelters you; to be in direct and personal contact with the sources of your material life; to find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter; to find a quest of wild berries more satisfying than a gift of tropical fruit; to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird’s nest or a wild flower in spring – these are some of the rewards of the simple life.
~ John Burroughs
(John Burroughs’ America: Selections from the Writings of the Naturalist)

Welcome Spring!

Food Shopping

Ruth Mary Hallock (1876-1945) American Illustrator

illustration by Ruth Mary Hallock

Food – the kind of food we eat and the amount of money we spend on it are hotly debated topics. Because of Tim’s heart disease I’ve been on a quest to find a “diet” that will help his body cope with his compromised state of health. In 2012 we tried a vegan diet and he wound up in the hospital twice that year. In 2013 we switched to a grain-free diet and he has not been hospitalized at all, in spite of being under tremendous stress coping with his brother while he was living with us.

But I’m not writing this to promote any particular way of eating, in fact, my stance is very non-judgmental because I suspect different bodies may need different foods to thrive and avoid disease. One of the most difficult things for me about having Tim’s brother with us for eight and a half months was not that his own diet seemed so unhealthy, but that he never let up on criticizing me for “wasting” so much money on our groceries. I let him cook and eat what he wanted without comment and so wished he would have done the same for me.

I spent a lot of time fuming in my room, meditating, slowly acknowledging my anger and frustration, letting it go, examining with curiosity my beliefs about food.

There is a show on public television I watch all the time called Nature. Because I believe that nature is a great teacher, one day it occurred to me while watching an episode that the chief concern and activity of most animals, who definitely live in the moment, is that of locating and eating food. This thought helped me to see that it is perfectly natural to spend so much time and effort cooking and feeding us well.

The Atlantic, 5 April 2012

This is our story today: It is a story about how spending on food and clothing went from half the family budget in 1900 to less than a fifth in 2000.
~ Derek Thompson
(The Atlantic, April 5, 2012)

It is sobering to see that back in 1900 we considered it normal to spend over 40% of our budget on food! Today the average family spends only 10-15% of its budget on food. And most people complain bitterly about the price of food. We spend more money on fancy “starter castles” and less on nourishing food. Animals will leave their homes and travel to find the food they need to sustain themselves, but we humans demand that our food be delivered to us over great distances and at minimal cost. It seems so lopsided!

So we will continue along our current food path, scouting around for grass-fed beef and wild game, avoiding grains. Paying without questioning higher prices for local and/or organic produce. Knowing that no one has the final answers about food, but feeling much more settled about our choices.

to be human…

Sarah Margaret Fuller Ossoli (1810-1850)

Sarah Margaret Fuller Ossoli (1810-1850)

Who can know these and, other myriad children of Chaos and old night, who can know the awe the horror and the majesty of earth, yet be content with the blue sky alone. Not I for one. I love the love lit dome above, I cannot live without mine own particular star; but my foot is on the earth and I wish to walk over it until my wings be grown. I will use my microscope as well as my telescope. And oh ye flowers, ye fruits, and, nearer kindred yet, stones with your veins so worn by fire and water, and here and there disclosing streaks of golden ore, let us know one another before we part. Tell me your secret, tell me mine. To be human is also something?
~ Margaret Fuller
(Meditations of Margaret Fuller: The Inner Stream)

simplicity of winter…

Barred Owl by Mdf/Wikimedia Commons

Barred Owl by Mdf/Wikimedia Commons

The tendinous part of the mind, so to speak, is more developed in winter; the fleshy, in summer. I should say winter had given the bone and sinew to Literature, summer the tissues and blood.

The simplicity of winter has a deep moral. The return of nature, after such a career of splendor and prodigality, to habits so simple and austere, is not lost upon either the head or the heart. It is the philosopher coming back from the banquet and the wine to a cup of water and a crust of bread.

~ John Burroughs
(Deep Woods)

too bleak and cold…

White-breasted Nuthatch by Mdf/Wikimedia Commons

White-breasted Nuthatch by Mdf/Wikimedia Commons

Nay, nay,” said a nuthatch, making its way, head downward, about a bare hickory close by, “The nearer the bone, the sweeter the meat. Only the superfluous has been swept away. Now we behold the naked truth. If at any time the weather is too bleak and cold for you, keep the sunny side of the trunk, for a wholesome and inspiring warmth is there, such as the summer never afforded. There are winter mornings with the sun on the oak wood-tops. While buds sleep thoughts wake.”

Blue Jay by Mdf/Wikimedia Commons

Blue Jay by Mdf/Wikimedia Commons

“Hear! hear!” screamed the jay from a neighboring tree, where I had heard a tittering for some time, “winter has a concentrated and nutty kernel, if you know where to look for it,” and then the speaker shifted to another tree farther off and reiterated his assertions, and his mate at a distance confirmed them; and now I heard a suppressed chuckle from a red squirrel that heard the last remark, but had kept silent and invisible all the while.

~ Henry David Thoreau
(Journal, November 28, 1858)

all the great questions…

"Portrait of a Girl" by Helene Schjerfbeck (1862-1946) Finnish Realist Painter

“Portrait of a Girl” by Helene Schjerfbeck

Childhood is a mystery: the soul is timeless, the body new, and the world complex.  What a conjunction: the great unfolding in the small.

Childhood asks us what reality really is, what the world is, and where it came from.  Childhood asks where life came from, and where it goes. Does the soul exist?  Where was the soul before birth?  How many realms are there?  Are fairies real?  Do ghosts and spirits exist?  Why are some people lucky and others unlucky, why is there suffering?  Why are we here?  Are there more things in the innocent-seeming world than we can see?  These are some of the questions that the state of childhood asks, and which perplex us all our days.

Childhood is an enigma, a labyrinth, an existential question, a conundrum.  It is the home of all the great questions about life and death, reality and dream, meaning and purpose, freedom and society, the spiritual and the secular, nature and culture, education and self-discovery.

~ Ben Okri
(A Time for New Dreams)

Swamp Rose Mallow

8.18.13 ~ Groton, Connecticut

“swamp rose mallow” by Barbara Rodgers

Those who dwell, as scientists or laymen, among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.  Whatever the vexations or concerns of their personal lives, their thoughts can find paths that lead to inner contentment and to renewed excitement in living.
Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.  There is symbolic as well as actual beauty in the migration of birds, the ebb and flow of the tides, the folded bud ready for the spring.  There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after the winter.
~ Rachel Carson
(The Sense of Wonder)

Native to New England, swamp rose mallow grows along the salt pond near our beach and blooms from July to September.  It is tall, reaching 4 to 7 feet high, and the lovely pink five-petal flowers are 4 to 7 inches wide.  This sorrowful summer, when I’m in town, we go down to the beach nearly every day, sometimes twice a day.  Enjoying the sight of these cheerful flowers en route helps me find those reserves of strength and healing Rachel Carson wrote about.

8.18.13 ~ Groton, Connecticut