this old age…

"Self-Portrait, 1669" by Rembrandt (1606-1669) Dutch Painter & Etcher

“Self-Portrait, 1669″ by Rembrandt

Old age is the most unexpected of all things that can happen to a man.
~ Leo Tolstoy
(Promises to Keep: Thoughts in Old Age)

Old age. All the facial detail is visible; all the traces life has left there are to be seen. The face is furrowed, wrinkled, sagging, ravaged by time. But the eyes are bright and, if not young, then somehow transcend the time that otherwise marks the face. It is as though someone else is looking at us, from somewhere inside the face, where everything is different. One can hardly be closer to another human soul.
~ Karl Ove Knausgård
(My Struggle, Book One)

This old age ought not to creep on a human mind. In nature every moment is new; the past is always swallowed and forgotten; the coming only is sacred. Nothing is secure but life, transition, the energizing spirit.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
(Circles)

natural scenery inspires…

6.30.09 ~ Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

“Shenandoah Valley” by Barbara Rodgers

In the interest which natural scenery inspires there is the strongest contrast to this. It is for itself and at the moment it is enjoyed. The attention is aroused and the mind occupied without purpose, without a continuation of the common process of relating the present action, thought or perception to some future end. There is little else that has this quality so purely. There are few enjoyments with which regard for something outside and beyond the enjoyment of the moment can ordinarily be so little mixed. The pleasures of the table are irresistibly associated with the care of hunger and the repair of the bodily waste. In all social pleasures and all the pleasures which are usually enjoyed in association with the social pleasure, the care for the opinion of others, or the good of others largely mingles. In the pleasures of literature, the laying up of ideas and self-improvement are purposes which cannot be kept out of view.

This, however, is in very slight degree, if at all, the case with the enjoyment of the emotions caused by natural scenery. It therefore results that the enjoyment of scenery employs the mind without fatigue and yet exercises it, tranquilizes it, and yet enlivens it, and thus, through the influence of the mind over the body, gives the effect of refreshing rest and reinvigoration to the whole system.

~ Frederick Law Olmsted
(America’s National Park System: The Critical Documents)

light and color…

5.24.14 ~ Stonington, Connecticut

 sidewalk garden by Barbara Rodgers

We live in a world of color. All nature is color: white, black, and grey do not exist except in theory; they are never seen by the eye – they could only exist in a world that was colorless. Such a universe is beyond imagination: a world without color would be a world without light, for light and color are inseparable.
~ E. Ambrose Webster
(E. Ambrose Webster: Early Modernist Painter)

Low Tide

5.3.14 ~ Groton, Connecticut

…Zoë waiting patiently for her morning sunbath…

Over the years our double-paned sliding-glass doors filled with condensation and became so “foggy” that we could not see out of them. It took us a long time to get around to having them replaced, but we finally did so near the end of April. Zoë was delighted to be able to clearly see the birds and we celebrated by buying two chairs and a little table (at an estate sale) for the balcony.

5.20.14 ~ Groton, Connecticut

…an extraordinary piece of driftwood…

Never mind that right on the heels of these sips of joy we had a flood in our basement, a sewer backup. Yuck, yuck, yuck. Funny all the twists and turns life brings. Thank goodness our home insurance is covering the cost of clean up and repair. Yuck, yuck, yuck. I’ll be glad when they finish, but we had to interrupt the process to drive to North Carolina as planned.

Everyone’s experience indicates that everything we are, and everything we do, is simply the movement of existence itself. It’s here that we come to the highest realization indicated in all the great spiritual traditions: we do not exist as anything apart from the flow of nature and that flow is an unformed, inexplicable dance accomplishing itself.
~ Darryl Bailey
(Essence Revisited: Slipping Past the Shadows of Illusion)

For a few days forgetting about the ‘inexplicable unformed flow of nature’ in our basement, we started our journey south and delivered Aunt Flora’s rocking chair. We had a wonderful time visiting family. Nate & Shea drove up from Georgia, and I got to see an old friend from high school who happens to live about 2 miles from Dima & Larisa.

5.20.14 ~ Groton, Connecticut

…wondering what it might be from…

And then… Tim got sick with diverticulitis (not again!) which delayed out trip home by a day so the antibiotics he was prescribed could have a chance to start working. Needless to say, we didn’t arrive home feeling particularly refreshed physically, although emotionally we were revitalized for having spent so much time with our children.

5.20.14 ~ Groton, Connecticut

Last weekend we made it to a local farmers market. This morning we took a walk on the beach – the tide was very low, revealing the largest piece of driftwood I’ve ever seen. Tim estimates it to be 20-25 feet long! What could it possibly have been? This afternoon we ate our farm-to-table lunch out on our new little table on our sunny balcony. Life is good!

5.20.14 ~ Groton, Connecticut

…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.