vitality sweeps

Mystic, Connecticut
baby ducks with mother ~ ? ~ Mystic, Connecticut

The release of reproach enables the universal motion of vitality to flow again. Like a long-dammed-up tide, vitality sweeps toward the arid shores of the soul with compassionate moisture, bringing life into perspective and rhythm once more.
~ Caitlín Matthews
(The Celtic Spirit: Daily Meditations for the Turning Year)

so old, so alone

10.12.14 ~ Durham, North Carolina
dawn redwood ~ 10.12.14 ~ Sarah P. Duke Gardens, Durham, North Carolina

The tree was so old, and stood there so alone, that his childish heart had been filled with compassion; if no one else on the farm gave it a thought, he would at least do his best to, even though he suspected that his child’s words and child’s deeds didn’t make much difference. It had stood there before he was born, and would be standing there after he was dead, but perhaps, even so, it was pleased that he stroked its bark every time he passed, and sometimes, when he was sure he wasn’t observed, even pressed his cheek against it.
~ Karl Ove Knausgård
(A Time for Everything)

Fossils show that Dawn Redwood (Metasequoin glyptostroboides) was a dominant coniferous tree in much of the Northern hemisphere from about 90 to 15 million years ago. In 1941 a few living trees were surprisingly discovered in a remote part of western China. Seeds collected from them were germinated at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University in 1948. The next year this tree, one of the original seedlings, was planted here in Durham, North Carolina at the Sarah P. Duke Gardens at Duke University.

a trail of busted stuff

"The White Mantle" by Willard Metcalf (1858-1925) American Painter
“The White Mantle” by Willard Metcalf

1° F here this frigid morning… Winter storm Bethany dumped some snow on us Thursday and Friday, and this morning I peeked out the window to see what kind of shoveling job I have ahead of me this afternoon, when it should be a little bit warmer. It doesn’t look like many of our neighbors have been out to shovel either. The world seems so still in the cold.

It was a production getting the bathroom warm enough to take a shower in! But now that I am clean and swathed in extra layers of clothing, I decided to find a painting and type out a few words for a blog post. It’s a start.

Not surprisingly, after nine months of unrelenting stress, my poor husband has succumbed to a bad cold. He’s tucked in on the couch, watching old movies and science fiction movies – a well-deserved rest from his care-giving. I’m bringing him soup, tissues, medicines, hot tea with honey. It’s going to take us a long time to recuperate and rebuild after a rolling stone entered our lives, in the form of his brother Toby.

A rolling stone gathers no moss
But leaves a trail of busted stuff
~ Dave Matthews
♫ (Busted Stuff) ♫

I hesitate to write much about the past year and the the joys and sorrows it brought, all blessings, some in disguise. Toby was easy to love but impossible to live with. Yet somehow we did it. I still had much to learn about family love and pain and trust and compassion. My heart is full of gratitude as I hibernate here in the winter to contemplate and heal…

contradiction and paradox

“Little Girl in Blue” by Amedeo Modigliani
“Little Girl in Blue” by Amedeo Modigliani

How is one to live a moral and compassionate existence when one is fully aware of the blood, the horror inherent in life, when one finds darkness not only in one’s culture but within oneself? If there is a stage at which an individual life becomes truly adult, it must be when one grasps the irony in its unfolding and accepts responsibility for a life lived in the midst of such paradox. One must live in the middle of contradiction, because if all contradiction were eliminated at once life would collapse. There are simply no answers to some of the great pressing questions. You continue to live them out, making your life a worthy expression of leaning into the light.
~ Barry Lopez
(Arctic Dreams)

complicity

"Shepherd with Cows on the Lakeshore" by Christian Friedrich Mali
“Shepherd with Cows on the Lakeshore” by Christian Friedrich Mali

The process of becoming a vegetarian acts like a spark to consciousness, and as you journey down this path, you become mindful of the connection between the living, breathing creature and the package of meat or fish neatly wrapped in the supermarket.
~ Jennifer Horsman & Jaime Flowers
(Please Don’t Eat the Animals: All the Reasons You Need to be a Vegetarian)

In the past, the idea of being a vegetarian has always appealed to me, but marriage is about compromises and I married a devout meat-and-potatoes guy. Our children had to put up with a few episodes of me trying to convert everyone to my way of thinking, but my lack of cooking talent and the lack of helpful information made for many unappealing meals. They all remember, without fondness, the TVP debacle – the cookbook didn’t mention that the textured vegetable protein needed to be soaked until soft before adding it to spaghetti sauce! No one appreciated the crunchy spaghetti and TVP sauce…

A little background of my journey from omnivore to herbivore…

My mom loved all things Native American. I remember her telling me that Indians worshiped nature and believed they should only take from her, with gratitude, what they needed to survive. With her words, she painted a picture for me that I still see to this day, of a hunter respectfully kneeling over the animal he had killed with his arrow, thanking its spirit for the sacrifice of its life for the benefit of his family or tribe.

One day I asked my father about hunting. He told me his story about a gun his father gave him as a gift so he could go hunting in the woods. Not wanting to disappoint his father, he set off to find some game. He found a squirrel and shot it on his first try. When he went over to retrieve it he found himself devastated and sick to his stomach that he had taken its life. He never hunted again.

But, Mom’s knowledge and Dad’s experience did not stop them from eating the all-American died of meat and dairy products! And while my paternal grandfather lived us, until he died when I was 8 years old, he regularly used his ax on a stump in the back yard to chop the heads off of chickens for dinner. It was very disturbing to me to see the decapitated chickens running around for what seemed like an eternity.

You have just dined, and, however scrupulously the slaughter-house is concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
(A Political Companion to Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Over the years I got an inkling that animals were suffering terribly on factory farms and in slaughterhouses, so Tim & I agreed that we would only eat meat that was naturally raised, cage-free, and slaughtered humanely. A friend, knowing my sensitivity to violence, warned me not to watch the documentary, EARTHLINGS, but I did watch it, in August, while Tropical Storm Irene was raging outside. It did deeply disturb me, and removed all doubt from my mind about how bad things were in these torture chambers.

In one scene there was a pig who had spent its whole life squished in a cramped pen and had never seen a ray of sunshine or a blade of grass. Now it was time for it to be slaughtered. The worker opened the gate and started poking the terrified pig with a sharp prong. It fell down repeatedly and was pierced over and over to make it get up and move on. All the while the merciless worker kept shouting at it, over and over, “Come on, mother-f—-r, move.”

And a sharp contrast appeared in my mind between these two images: one, the cruel words coming out of the mouth of that heartless factory farm worker; and the other, much different picture: the sincere words of thanks coming out of the mouth of the respectful Native American hunter.

EARTHLINGS

science, mystery, wonder

zebras by Gary M. Stolz
zebras by Gary M. Stolz

Science is not meant to cure us of mystery, but to reinvent and reinvigorate it. … I love science, and it pains me to think that so many are terrified of the subject or feel that choosing science means you cannot also choose compassion, or the arts, or be awed by nature.
~ Robert Sapolsky
(Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers)

embrace all living creatures

“Harmony of Creatures” by Margret Hofheinz-Döring

A human being is a part of the whole, called by us “Universe;” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts, and feelings as something separated from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security.
~ Albert Einstein
(Mathematical Circles: Mathematical Circles Adieu & Return to Mathematical Circles)

Sleepy Hollow Cemetery

8.?.06 ~ Concord, Massachusetts
8.?.06 ~ Concord, Massachusetts

The one in Concord, Massachusetts. Not the “original” one in Sleepy Hollow, New York. In August 2006 my daughter Larisa and I visited the one in Concord, which, as far as I know, does not have its own website.

Julie left a beautiful poem – written by Louisa May Alcott about doves – in the comments on yesterday’s blog. The poetry made me recall the visit with my daughter to Orchard House, also in Concord, where the author and poet lived. We weren’t allowed to take pictures at Orchard House, but we got quite a few when we went to locate Louisa’s grave along the Author’s Ridge path in Concord’s Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. Thoreau, Hawthorne, and Emerson lie buried there as well.

8.?.06 ~ Concord, Massachusetts
Author’s Ridge ~ 8.?.06 ~ Concord, Massachusetts

The unpretentious gravestones reflect the ideas of these Concord neighbors, writers who were prominent transcendentalists, naturalists, pacifists, philosophers, abolitionists and teachers. Louisa’s father, Amos Bronson Alcott, founded of the Concord School of Philosophy, and a building was constructed behind Orchard House to serve as a place for the public to attend the summer lectures offered about transcendentalism. Louisa’s parents rest on Author’s Ridge as well.

8.?.06 ~ Concord, Massachusetts
Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888) ~ 8.?.06 ~ Concord, Massachusetts

Larisa and I were so touched by the little stones people left in tribute. People from all over the world come here to pay their respects to the dearly loved writer. We were curious what people might have said in the notes they left, but chose to respect their privacy.

My father taught in the wise way which unfolds what lies in the child’s nature, as a flower blooms, rather than crammed it, like a Strasbourg goose, with more than it could digest.
~ Louisa May Alcott

Alcott family marker ~ 8.?.06 ~ Concord, Massachusetts

All the beauty and advantages of Conversation is in its bold contrasts, and swift surprises… Prose and logic are out of place, where all is flowing, magical, and free.
~ Amos Bronson Alcott (1799-1888)

Wherever I turn I see the yoke on woman in some form or other. On some it sits easy, for they are but beasts of burden. On others, pride hushes them to silence; no complaint is made, for they scorn pity or sympathy. On some it galls and chafes; they feel assured by every instinct of their nature that they were designed for a higher, nobler calling than to drag life’s lengthening chain along.
~ Abigail May Alcott (1800-1877)

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) ~ 8.?.06 ~ Concord, Massachusetts

Direct your eye right inward, and you’ll find
A thousand regions in your mind
Yet undiscovered.
Travel them and be
Expert in home-cosmography.
~ Henry David Thoreau

8.?.06 ~ Concord, Massachusetts
Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) ~ 8.?.06 ~ Concord, Massachusetts

It is to the credit of human nature that, except where its selfishness is brought into play, it loves more readily than it hates.
~ Nathaniel Hawthorne

8.?.06 ~ Concord, Massachusetts
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) ~ 8.?.06 ~ Concord, Massachusetts

Respect the child. Wait and see the new product of Nature. Nature loves analogies, but not repetitions. Respect the child. Be not too much his parent. Trespass not on his solitude.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Another grave I’d like to visit one day is that of Emily Dickinson, which I think is located in Amherst, Massachusetts. A day trip sometime… Maybe with Larisa??

In this quiet valley, as in the palm of Nature’s hand, we shall sleep well, when we have finished our day.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

8.?.06 ~ Concord, Massachusetts
Barbara ~ 8.?.06 ~ Concord, Massachusetts