observing nature

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“January” by Theodor Kittelsen

The place to observe nature is where you are; the walk to take to-day is the walk you took yesterday. You will not find just the same things: both the observed and the observer have changed; the ship is on another tack in both cases.
~ John Burroughs
(Signs & Seasons)

…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!

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)

falling of leaves

“Waning Summer” by Willard Metcalf
“Waning Summer” by Willard Metcalf

The time of the falling of leaves has come again. Once more in our morning walk we tread upon carpets of gold and crimson, of brown and bronze, woven by the winds or the rains out of these delicate textures while we slept.

How beautifully leaves grow old! How full of light and color are their last days!

~ John Burroughs
(Under the Maples)

Welcome Autumn!

a place under the stars

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“LL Ori & The Orion Nebula” by NASA, ESA & The Hubble Heritage Team

The lesson which life repeats and constantly enforces, is “Look under your foot.” You are always nearer the divine and the true sources of your power than you think. The lure of the distant and the difficult is deceptive. The great opportunity is where you are. Do not despise your own place an hour. Every place is under the stars, every place is the center of the world.
~ John Burroughs
(Farm Journal, September 1908)

a sap run

3.10.13 ~ Orange, Massachusetts
3.10.13 ~ Orange, Massachusetts

Before the bud swells, before the grass springs, before the plow is started, comes the sugar harvest. It is the sequel of the bitter frost; a sap run is the sweet goodbye of winter.
~ John Burroughs
(Signs & Seasons)

3.10.13 ~ Orange, Massachusetts
3.10.13 ~ Orange, Massachusetts

We had no idea what a treat we were in for when we checked into a motel in Orange, Massachusetts Saturday night. Our plan was to spend the night, grab a breakfast somewhere, and head over to a family reunion in the neighboring town of Athol on Sunday afternoon. In the morning we discovered a great place to have breakfast, on Johnson’s Farm, a restaurant, sugar house, and gift shop! Maple syrup production was well under way, the old-fashioned way.

3.10.13 ~ Orange, Massachusetts
3.10.13 ~ Orange, Massachusetts

Sugar weather is crisp weather. How the tin buckets glisten in the gray woods; how the robins laugh; how the nuthatches call; how lightly the thin blue smoke rises among the trees! The squirrels are out of their dens; the migrating waterfowls are streaming northward; the sheep and cattle look wistfully toward the bare fields; the tide of the season, in fact, is just beginning to rise.
~ John Burroughs
(Signs & Seasons)

If only some way could be found to share the smell of New England in maple sugar season on a blog post! Our olfactory receptors were tickled with delight to whiff in the aromas of wood-burning stoves and sap boiling down into syrup. We bought a couple of jugs of pure maple syrup! Mostly we’ll be using it in marinades, since pancakes are no longer on our grain-free diet…

3.10.13 ~ Orange, Massachusetts
3.10.13 ~ Orange, Massachusetts

It was if we had been transported back in time to a place in the heart of New England. It made me appreciate anew that there are more “seasons” than the four four we normally notice as the year goes around. The gnarly old tree in the above picture caught our attention – what an amazing life it has had. And I loved the knotty pine interior of the sugar house in the picture below – so typical of New England.

3.10.13 ~ Orange, Massachusetts
3.10.13 ~ Orange, Massachusetts

When we got home Sunday night Zoë and Scarby seemed a little angry with us (ears pinned back, ignoring us) for leaving them overnight, but they’re back to purring and following us around, rubbing our legs and talking to us again.

precious resources

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“Italian Girl with Flowers” by Joaquín Sorolla

If I were to name the three most precious resources of life, I should say books, friends, and nature; and the greatest of these, at least the most constant and always at hand, is nature. Nature we have always with us, an inexhaustible storehouse of that which moves the heart, appeals to the mind, and fires the imagination, – health to the body, a stimulus to the intellect, and joy to the soul.
~ John Burroughs
(Leaf & Tendril)

unity in diversity

"John Burroughs" by Edward B. Greene
“John Burroughs” by Edward B. Greene

Science tends more and more to reveal to us the unity that underlies the diversity of nature. We must have diversity in our practical lives; we must seize Nature by many handles. But our intellectual lives demand unity, demand simplicity amid all this complexity. Our religious lives demand the same. Amid all the diversity of creeds and sects we are coming more and more to see that religion is one, that verbal differences and ceremonies are unimportant, and that the fundamental agreements are alone significant. Religion as a key or passport to some other world has had its day; as a mere set of statements or dogmas about the Infinite mystery it has had its day. Science makes us more and more at home in this world, and is coming more and more, to the intuitional mind, to have a religious value. Science kills credulity and superstition but to the well-balanced mind it enhances the feeling of wonder, of veneration, and of kinship which we feel in the presence of the marvelous universe. It quiets our fears and apprehensions, it pours oil upon the troubled waters of our lives, and reconciles us to the world as it is.
~ John Burroughs
(Accepting the Universe)