the world as a tree

"Lane of Poplars on the Banks of the Loing" by Alfred Sisley (1839-1899) French Impressionist Landscape Painter
“Lane of Poplars on the Banks of the Loing” by Alfred Sisley

With the passage of days in this godly isolation [desert], my heart grew calm. It seemed to fill with answers. I did not ask questions any more; I was certain. Everything – where we came from, where we are going, what our purpose is on earth – struck me as extremely sure and simple in this God-trodden isolation. Little by little my blood took on the godly rhythm. Matins, Divine Liturgy, vespers, psalmodies, the sun rising in the morning and setting in the evening, the constellations suspended like chandeliers each night over the monastery: all came and went, came and went in obedience to eternal laws, and drew the blood of man into the same placid rhythm. I saw the world as a tree, a gigantic poplar, and myself as a green leaf clinging to a branch with my slender stalk. When God’s wind blew, I hopped and danced, together with the entire tree.
~ Nikos Kazantzakis
(The Wonders of Solitude)

distress

7.11.19 ~ my gull friend landing after a scuffle

This time I brought my camera to the beach, in hopes of seeing my gull friend with the mangled leg again. He was sitting on the highest rock, resting. Both of the benches along the sidewalk where we usually sit were occupied so we went to a bench on the rocks between Tyler House and the water. It’s kind of nice there anyway because it’s in the shade and there is a dip in the boulders creating a watering hole the gulls frequent for drinks.

As we were eating it sounded like some kind of scuffle was happening around the side of the house, with several gulls crying. Excited human voices were in the mix. Perhaps one of the gulls stole a hot dog and the others fought him for it. I think my friend was involved because when the calls died down he flew around the corner and landed in front of us, crying with great distress. And he went on crying for quite a long time. He was shuddering terribly, too.

After a long while — maybe after he was finished telling us the story? — he sat down and was quiet and seemed content to watch us eat. When I was finished I went over to him and sat on the rock with him. We communed for quite a while and I got a few pictures.

And then he suddenly stood up and started crying again. I looked to my left and saw a very large, menacing great black-backed gull standing there, staring my gull down. It flew off when I turned my camera toward it. Maybe these two are fighting about something?

7.11.19 ~ my gull friend after confronting a great black-backed gull

After he calmed down I gave him a little pep talk and then we started to leave. He followed us to the sidewalk and then flew across the grass. It was if he was walking (flying) us to the car. I hope we see him again next week under better circumstances!

7.11.19 ~ see you next week, my gull friend!

Thompson Cemetery

7.5.19 ~ the first map used to try to locate the Thompson Cemetery

What a day! I was doing some research early in the morning and found the address to a cemetery in North Stonington where one of my 5th-great-grandfathers is buried. Tim suggested we go find it and so we set out. The address was incorrect. We couldn’t find it. But we found the town hall and a very helpful clerk there who solved the puzzle for us, using a variety of maps. We were on our way once again.

7.5.19 ~ found at last!

It’s a very small family cemetery on private property. The gate was locked so we somehow managed with our old aching bodies to climb over that stone wall. That’s determination for you. We landed in poison ivy and other greenery, full of ticks, for sure. But we found what we were looking for, tucked in the back, close to the stone wall.

In
Memory of
JAMES
THOMSON
who died
Jan. 30, 1808
Aged 92 years

In
Memory of
MARY,
wife of
James Thomson
who died
April 10, 1803
Aged 73 years

7.5.19 ~ the back of Mary’s headstone, nestled between a lovely tree, the stone wall, and her husband’s headstone

I was disappointed, but not at all surprised, to not discover Mary’s maiden name. I went to the cemetery believing she had given birth to 15 children and wondered what her life must have been like. Something about the data I had at home didn’t quite seem to add up.

When we got home we first took showers to wash away any possible poison ivy oil.

And then I was back online for hours trying to see if I could find anything else about Mary. Well, it turns out that there were two Marys! James’ first wife was Mary Dixon, the mother of 5 of his children, and his second wife was Mary Denison, the mother of 10 of his children. The Mary in the cemetery is the second wife, and my 5th-great-grandmother. It’s no wonder there is so much confusion but I think I’ve finally got it sorted out.

I descend from Mary Denison’s youngest son, Elias Thompson. He was born here in 1773 but moved to Kendall, New York and died there in 1848. His daughter, Lucy Anne, married Austin White and stayed here. I’m learning how deeply connected to southeastern Connecticut my roots are and why I feel so at home living here.

James Thompson (1724-1808) & Mary Denison (1728-1803)
Elias Thompson (1773-1848)
Lucy Anne Thompson (1808-1852)
William Martin White (1836-1925)
Samuel Minor White (1873-1949)
John Everett White (1905-2001) ~ my grandfather

After getting bleary-eyed online we finally went to the beach for supper. While waiting for our order and looking out over the water I suddenly saw my gull friend sitting on one of his posts! “My friend!” I exclaimed and rushed down the stairs and over the grass to say hello. He acknowledged me and took off, flying in a great circle and then came back and landed on a rock, safely away from some gull-chasing children. We gazed at each other for a long time and then he reached down into the water and brought up a large crab. He flew his catch to a rock closer to me and proceeded to break it up and eat it. I was mesmerized. It was so wonderful to see him again.

Of course I hadn’t brought the camera or my cell phone. But Tim got this picture of him. It’s kind of amazing, I first met this gull in 2011, 8 years ago. Most gulls can survive from 10-15 years in the wild. Perhaps we’ll be friends for a few more years to come.

Our first meeting: in the offing. It was a perfect ending to a great day. (And let’s hope we don’t wake up with poison ivy tomorrow…)

to dew her orbs upon the green

6.26.19 ~ heavy with dew

And I serve the fairy queen,
To dew her orbs upon the green:
The cowslips tall her pensioners be;
In their gold coats spots you see;
Those be rubies, fairy favours,
In those freckles live their savours:
I must go seek some dew-drops here,
And hang a pearl in every cowslip’s ear.

~ William Shakespeare
(A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

6.26.19 ~ cedar waxwing enjoying a mulberry
6.26.19 ~ dragonfly landing on dewy grass

We had a very wet spring and so far it’s looking to be a wet summer, too. Tuesday we got two inches of rain! It rained all day and I enjoyed many hours of family history research. But Wednesday we emerged from our den and took a walk in the very wet woods. And we saw several cedar waxwings, a new bird for us!

6.26.19 ~ cedar waxwing
6.26.19 ~ serenity
6.26.19 ~ ferns covering a bubbling brook
6.26.19
6.26.19 ~ cedar waxwing

As I approached this tree I was trying to figure out if it might be a shagbark hickory. (Still not sure…) And then a new experience for me: orbs appeared in the viewfinder when I went to take a picture! In the past, orbs have been an occasional surprise when they show up in pictures downloaded from the camera. But these were there before I even took the picture.

6.26.19
6.26.19 ~ looking up the tree with orbs
6.26.19 ~ more magic, sunlight highlighting a stone covered in lichen

In the span of centuries the rock became glazed with a gray-green crust of lichen almost indistinguishable from the rock itself, a bare coating of life.
~ Robin Wall Kimmerer
(Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge & The Teachings of Plants)

6.26.19 ~ juniper berries?
6.26.19

These trees and stones are audible to me,
These idle flowers, that tremble in the wind,
I understand their faery syllables,
And all their sad significance.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
(Collected Poems of Ralph Waldo Emerson 1823-1911)

summer solstice

“A Bouquet of Flowers” by Ilya Repin

Bloom — is Result — to meet a Flower
And casually glance
Would cause one scarcely to suspect
The minor Circumstance

Assisting in the Bright Affair
So intricately done
Then offered as a Butterfly
To the Meridian —

To pack the Bud — oppose the Worm —
Obtain it’s right of Dew —
Adjust the Heat — elude the Wind —
Escape the prowling Bee —

Great Nature not to disappoint
Awaiting Her that Day —
To be a Flower, is profound
Responsibility —

~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #1038)

to situations new

“Alice” by Amedeo Modigliani

On that specific Pillow
Our projects flit away —
The Night’s tremendous Morrow
And whether sleep will stay
Or usher us — a stranger —
To situations new
The effort to comprise it
Is all the soul can do —

~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #1554)

This poem brings to mind the restless sleep or sleeplessness we might have the night before a new experience, like the first day of school or a new job. Or traveling to a place we’ve never been to before.

But I suspect Emily is talking about death. The specific pillow, the kind we find in a coffin, when death interrupts all our projects. Will we stay asleep in death or will we find ourselves in a new situation, an unfamiliar life after death? There are many “answers” to choose from but there is no way to “know” for sure. The universe is full of wonder and mystery. After years of spiritual struggle I’ve finally made peace with uncertainty, sometime in my 40s I think. Just this. Here/now.

Viking Days #2

6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport

Last year’s Viking Days at Mystic Seaport was such a success that they decided to have another one this year. The weather was cool and comfortable and there were plenty of Vikings out and about.

6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport

We again enjoyed strolling through the Viking encampment set up by Draugar Vinlands.

6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport

No Norwegian fjord horses this year, instead there were Gotland sheep, a domestic breed named for the Swedish island of Gotland.

6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ weaving with Gotland sheep wool
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ a bag lunch for sheep
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ one finally came up for air
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ skeins of the wool
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ the wool is very soft
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ close up of weaving
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ ???
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport

The Draken Harald Hårfagre Viking ship (above) spent another winter here. I’m not sure what its future plans may be. It was open for tours.

6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport

The majestic wooden whaleship Charles W. Morgan (above) is always a pleasure to see.

6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ the blessed green of summer

I was happy to see the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center‘s presentation about birds of prey again. The Vikings were falconers but the birds we were shown are from Connecticut. All were injured and brought to the nature center but were unable to live in the wild after their recovery.

6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport
~ screech owl with head turned away
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ short-eared owl
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ short-eared owl
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ kestrel
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ kestrel

The first birds shown we’ve seen before but a new one has joined the group. It’s a red-shouldered hawk who was found hit by a car and brought in to the nature center. He had a recently broken wing and an x-ray revealed an older break, too, that hadn’t healed well. He’s all right now, but cannot fly far enough to survive in the wild. So he’s getting used to his new life educating the public. This was only his third time being shown. He seemed as awed at the sight of us as we were of him.

6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport
~ red-shouldered hawk
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport
~ red-shouldered hawk
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport
~ red-shouldered hawk
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport
~ red-shouldered hawk
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ screech owl
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport
~ red-shouldered hawk

After the birds of prey presentation we spotted a couple of young Scottish Highland cattle. We were told they are 8 months old.

6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ Scottish Highland cattle
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ Scottish Highland cattle
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ Scottish Highland cattle
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ Scottish Highland cattle

And of course, we were mingling with Vikings…

6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport

On our way out we spotted these purple alliums.

6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ alliums in sea of green
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ allium

We left with three bottles of mead for summer solstice, two skeins of Gotland sheep wool, and a camera full of pictures in my backpack. It was just as much fun as last year!

the force of happiness

5.17.19 ~ bark of dwarf river birch, my garden

Such is the Force of Happiness —
The Least — can lift a ton
Assisted by it’s stimulus —

Who Misery — sustain —
No Sinew can afford —
The Cargo of Themselves —
Too infinite for Consciousness’
Slow capabilities —

~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #889)

5.17.19 ~ new leaves of our dwarf river birch

We planted this tree in our garden in the spring of 2014 and it has brought me so much happiness. Especially in this season, when the leaves come in and start competing with the bark curls for visual interest. When I open my kitchen shades each morning and see more and more green ~ pure joy. In summer it protects the kitchen windows from the harshest afternoon sun.

Yes, happiness is uplifting, and misery weighs us down, too heavy, impossible to carry alone. Grieving a loss is often a slow process, and might last a lifetime.

I count having the company of this tree as one of my many blessings.