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.

Flåm

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Morning light in Flåm, Norway, looking off the balcony of our hotel room. (above) Morning is my favorite time of day and this particular morning we did not have to rush off to catch a train or a ferry or a bus so we could enjoy a a few leisurely hours in the village before our next adventure.

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good morning! ~ friendly little curious bird

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later on we would cross this bridge on a bus to get to a long tunnel to Gudvangen

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it didn’t take me long to find a few gulls

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entrance to Ægir Brewery & Pub, where we had dinner the night before

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wood carvings in a dead tree near our hotel

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so many lovely birch trees

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Ægir Brewery & Pub ~ it’s only open for dinner

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Flåmsbrygga Hotel, the warmth of knotty pine floors and doors

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Ægir Brewery, sign above entrance

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Tim on a little stone seat sticking out of the wall of the Flåmstova Restaurant

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wall in the Flåmstova Restaurant, where we had breakfast

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ceiling in the Flåmstova Restaurant

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While we were eating breakfast by a picture window, enjoying the view of garden, fjord and mountain, a cruise ship very slowly pulled into port! Then we could barely see the mountain over the top of it! Cruise ships are amazingly large – Flåm was such a tiny port I am sure it couldn’t possibly accommodate more than one of them at a time.

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I still can’t get over how it was spring on the fjord and winter in the mountains

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there was a hiking path up through the farms hugging the side of the mountain

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wish we had time to hike up there, but the zoom lens came in handy to capture this scene

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We boarded a small bus to take us through the mountains to Gudvangen. This is the entrance to Flenja Tunnel (above) which is 5,053m long. (16,578′). We came out of it for only 500m (1,640′) before entering Gudvanga Tunnel, which is 11,428m (7.1 mi) long, Norway’s second longest road tunnel.

Next stop: Ferry ride on Nærøyfjord from Gudvangen back to Flåm.

Heddal Stavkyrkje

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scenery on the road between Skien and Notodden, Norway

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more scenery

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one of countless food storage houses (stabbur) we saw everywhere

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when I dream of Norway I see many birch trees

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Heddal Stave Church in Notodden

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memorial to Olea Crøger

Olea Crøger (1801-1855) was the daughter of a pastor from Heddal Stave Church, known for collecting Norwegian folk music and folklore.

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the church was dedicated to the Virgin Mary in 1242

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on a headstone in the churchyard

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in the cemetery

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the west side of the church, and main entrance

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altarpiece

After the Reformation alterations to the church were slowly made. The date of the painting showing the crucifixion of Jesus by an unknown artist is 1667. The one above it, of Christ rising from his tomb, was painted by Lars Osa about 1908.

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above the altar

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The Heddal portals are a mixture of fauna and floral ornamentation. The western portal is dominated by leaf carvings but the vines transform into snake shapes with poisonous heads. Other animal bodies can also be seen. … These motifs were renown in Norse religion and superstition but were reinterpreted in Christian art. They did of course provide a sense of familiarity for churchgoers who found it difficult to let go of their old heathen faith. At the same time these wild depictions became a symbol of the battle between good and evil in the world. This was a central topic both in the new and old faith.
~ Heddal Stavechurch guidebook

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I noticed that most of the columns inside the church had a simple carving at the bottom of the arches, but on either side of the southern entrance portal columns there was a carving of a creature of some sort (above). In the picture below you can see the simple carvings of three oval leaves (?) on the bottom of the arches, about the same level as the lights.

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So I asked the docent about it. She explained that men used to enter the church from the southern portal and were thought to be more likely to bring corruption into the church, so the gargoyle was needed to scare off the evil. The women, on the other hand, used the northern portal and were already protected by the Virgin Mary.

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based on “Soria Moria Castle” by Theodor Kittelsen

It was chilly that day and we appreciated a cup of hot cocoa in the visitor center. I was delighted to find these copies of paintings on the backs of a couple of chairs. I’ve been using Theodor Kittelsen’s calendar art in my posts on the 15th of each month since August.

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based on “White Bear King Valemon” by Theodor Kittelsen

Next stop: Viking Ship Museum in Oslo.

numinous mystery

"October" by Efim Volkov (1844-1920) Russian Realism Painter
“October” by Efim Volkov

How lovely trees are. The human species grew up in and around them. We have a natural affinity for trees. … We human beings don’t look very much like a tree. We certainly view the world differently than a tree does. But down deep, at the molecular heart of life we’re essentially identical to trees.
~ Carl Sagan
(Cosmos)

When a man plants a tree, he plants himself. Every root is an anchor, over which he rests with grateful interest, and becomes sufficiently calm to feel the joy of living.
~ John Muir
(Steep Trails)

A tree is a self: it is unseen shaping more than it is leaves or bark, roots or cellulose or fruit. … We can not point to anything physical and say, “There is the self!” This holds for the tree’s activity as well as for the human’s. What it means is that we must address trees. We must address all things, confronting them in the awareness that we are in the presence of numinous mystery. Who shapes the tree? Who shapes my thoughts? We are in the mystery of the self.
~ Brian Swimme
(The Universe Is a Green Dragon: A Cosmic Creation Story)

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!

winter appointments

"Winter Light" by Ann Brainerd Crane
“Winter Light” by Ann Brainerd Crane

I frequently tramped eight or ten miles through the deepest snow to keep an appointment with a beech tree, or a yellow birch, or an old acquaintance among the pines.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Walden)

Oh! where do fairies hide their heads,
When snow lies on the hills?
When frost has spoiled their mossy beds,
And crystallized their rills:
Beneath the moon they cannot trip
In circles o’er the plain:
And draughts of dew they cannot sip,
Till green leaves come again.
~ Thomas Haynes Bayly
(Songs & Ballads, Grave & Gay)

more waiting

Mid-May I started re-reading The Master of Hestviken tetralogy and this morning I finished the last volume, The Son Avenger. (see Changing Perceptions) My reason to begin reading it again was that I remembered loving the descriptions of the natural surroundings and the inner thoughts of the characters living in medieval Norway. Or so I thought. What stood out quickly to me in the first volume, this time around, was all the waiting Olav & Ingunn had to do to get matters settled so that they could finally be together.

In my “Eternally Terminal” post I commented on the waiting again, and connected it to the waiting theme in my current life situation. Little did I realize that the theme would keep coming around again and again in the four volumes. Waiting. Some things cannot be rushed.

Like many of the other characters, Olav was not to have a quick or easy death. He had a stroke and could no longer speak or use one side of his body. His son and daughter-in-law did their best to care for him as he lingered on for a few years. When Olav felt his death was near he struggled, inch by inch, to drag himself outdoors near dawn one morning without his family hearing him. He wanted to see the fiord once more. He finally climbed high enough to find a spot where he could see the water and the sky and be with nature. The next two paragraphs took my breath away:

The immense bright vault above him and the fiord far below and the woods of the shore began to warm as the day breathed forth its colours. Birds were awake in woods and groves. From where he lay he saw a bird sitting on a young spruce on the ridge, a black dot against the yellow dawn; he could see it swelling and contracting like the beats of a little heart; the clear flute-like notes welled out of it like a living source above all the little sleepy twitterings round about, but it was answered from the darkness of the wood. The troops of clouds up in the sky were flushing, and he began to grow impatient of his waiting.

He saw that all about him waited with him. The sea that splashed against the rocks, rowan and birch that had found foothold in the crevices and stood there with leaves still half curled up – now and again they quivered impatiently, but then they grew calm. The stone to which his face was turned waited, gazing at the light from sky and sea.

What a profound moment of intense awareness… It reminded me how when playing in the woods as a child I never felt alone, sensing and delighting in the energy of the trees, my friends. I now feel I was led to read this book again so I could pick up on this message about waiting. Patient waiting is definitely not one of my strong points! I’m impatient for my father’s suffering to end.

I’m also impatient for menopause to arrive, because I’ve been assured, by older women who have been through this and by my neurologist, that my hormonally triggered migraines – and they are the worst of them – will disappear. Every time I go several months without a period my hopes climb a little higher, only to be dashed as they were yet again last night.

Both these things I wait so impatiently for are part of nature. Maybe like Olav I can learn to become more aware of all of nature waiting with me. To let nature calm me down and soothe my frustrations.

Poor Olav. When his family discovered him missing they came looking for him and when they found him unconscious they carried him back to his dark little bedroom and there he died a couple of days later. They meant well…

a secret garden

Yesterday Janet and I took a three-hour stroll through the Connecticut College Arboretum, and I came home with 147 pictures! First we made our way through the native plant collection…

5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
tulip tree ~ 5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

… and then hiked through the woods, noticing the abundance of mountain laurel and flowering dogwood under the dying hemlocks, which used to rule the forest. Finally we made our way to a secret garden hidden in a corner of the arboretum, the Edgerton & Stengel Memorial Wildflower Garden.

5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

We opened the gate and were soon greeted by a Cheshire cat, who let us know that it ‘didn’t matter which way we went’ in his lush and untamed neck of the woods. He appeared and disappeared as we explored the maze of paths, drawing our attention to various wildflowers and settings.

5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

Janet will have to identify some of these flowers…

5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

We were surprised to discover that maidenhair ferns have black stems – the black and green contrast was striking!

5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
maidenhair ferns ~ 5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
maidenhair ferns ~ 5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
“Who are you?” ~ 5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

See the cinnamon sticks in the cinnamon fern?

5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
cinnamon fern ~ 5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
star of Bethlehem ~ 5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
lady slippers ~ 5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

To see the world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower;
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.
~ William Blake
(Auguries of Innocence)

There are a couple of Jacks-in-the-Pulpit (aka Indian Turnips) in this picture if you look carefully – they’re not fully in bloom yet.

5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
Jack in the pulpit or Indian turnip ~ 5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
yellow birch ~ 5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
May apple ~ 5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
waiting patiently ~ 5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

Sadly, all the hemlocks are slowly dying…  new life is taking hold under bare branches…

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hemlocks over wild phlox ~ 5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
he was so tame and affectionate ~ 5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

The Cheshire cat disappeared before we could say good-bye.

5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
an enchanting garden ~ 5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

After this delightful sojourn we sat and rested for a bit and studied our map. We still haven’t seen the whole arboretum, even after three hours! So we’re planning another visit in a month, when different things will be in bloom, and of course, we hope to come and see Shakespeare-in-the-Arboretum in July, too. Plans made, we then headed for Ruby Tuesday and quenched our thirsts with two strawberry lemonades each!

gardens and yards

Tim & I bought our little condo in 1993. We loved the wooden blue-grey board siding, the landscaping, the light, and most of all, the two birch trees in front of and on the side of our unit. Our little garden in front was just the right size for me to keep up and I loved taking care of it, and basked in the frequent compliments I received from the neighbors. But it was not to last. Sadly around the year 2003 the condo association decided the complex needed improvements. It was a very drastic renovation and we are far from pleased with the result.

First, they removed most of the trees, bushes and flowers in the gardens to make room for scaffolding. I can’t begin to describe the anguish I felt when the two lovely birch trees disappeared… After we got new roofs and new windows they covered the exterior with some ugly peachy tan stuff that looks like stucco or adobe. Here it is, seven or so years later and I still haven’t fully recovered from the trauma. Not that I haven’t tried. I’ve planted all kinds of things in the garden and made valiant attempts to keep weeds at bay. Occasionally it looks presentable, but most of the time by August (when my allergies kick in) I’ve had it and have given up.

My sister lived in New Mexico for many years and told me the siding looks like it would be appropriate there. But I am a New Englander and I’m still at a loss trying to figure out what would make me feel at home with the outside of my dwelling.

Tim was home sick with bronchitis most of this past week. So yesterday we went out for a drive to see the trees starting to get some green on them. We wound up in Mystic for a brunch at a little restaurant we love, and then decided to head up to the nursery in Ledyard following the back roads. We took pictures of a rusty tow truck that looked in worse shape than the last truck it ever towed! We wondered how many “Yankee points” this farm would score. (Not sure where I learned about Yankee points – many New Englanders, who can’t seem to throw anything away, keep all kinds of potentially useful stuff in their yards. The more stuff, the more points. You know the old saying, “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”)

4.24.10 ~ Ledyard, Connecticut

When we got to the nursery I was immediately going off on a tangent wanting every other bush I saw. Tim helped me to recover my focus and stick with my new plan. A cranberry cotoneaster. I loved the one I had before it was taken away and this one promises to be 5 feet in diameter. It will eventually choke out some of the weeds. Maybe this will be the year I regain my footing out there. Maybe this fall or next spring I will dare to buy a birch tree. One step at a time… I dug a hole this morning and planted the source of my renewed hopes. It’s supposed to be drizzling for the next three days so it won’t need too much watering. We still love the light here… Will try yet again to make the best of it.