subtle energy

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“Study of the Trunk of an Elm Tree” by John Constable

Trees are the largest and most spiritually advanced plants on Earth. They are constantly in meditation, and subtle energy is their natural language. As your understanding of this language grows, you can begin to develop a relationship with them. They can help you open your energy channels and cultivate calm, presence, and vitality. You can reciprocate by helping them with their own blockages and devitalized areas. It is a mutually beneficial relationship that needs cultivation.
~ Mantak Chia
(Chi Nei Tsang: Chi Massage for the Vital Organs)

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.

web of connection

9.20.14 ~ Chapel Hill, North Carolina
carnivorous plants ~ 9.20.14 ~ North Carolina Botanical Garden, Chapel Hill

Quantum physics shows us the universe as a dynamic web of connection.
~ Robert Moss
(The Three “Only” Things)

Technology is destructive only in the hands of people who do not realize that they are one and the same process as the universe.
~ Alan Watts
(Zen and the Art of Making a Living: A Practical Guide to Creative Career Design)

another stickwork sculpture

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Larisa and Katie ~ 3.21.15 ~ Chapel Hill, North Carolina

For the first weekend of spring we decided to fly down to North Carolina to see Katie and her parents. Old man winter sent us off in the middle of a storm, a wintry mix that required de-icing of the plane. But we made it safe and sound and spent a relaxing Saturday hanging around the house.

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Katie’s favorite toy ~ 3.21.15 ~ Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Katie was happy to see us, and I like to think she remembered us since she had just visited us the previous weekend. Her parents have lots of weddings to go to in Connecticut this year so we will be having Katie staying with us for quite a few weekends!

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Katie ~ 3.21.15 ~ Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Saturday evening, a friend of Dima & Larisa introduced us to a cooperative game, Hanabi. It’s a new genre to us. Our family loves playing all kinds of games, but a game without competition is a delightful idea to me.

Cooperative games contain one simple concept… all players work together to attain a mutually desirable goal. Strategies, resources and decisions are shared. The challenge and enjoyment are in the teamwork and the story and setting of the game.
~ Suzanne Lyons
(cooperativegames.com)

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3.22.15 ~ Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Sunday we had a great brunch at Kipos Greek Taverna in Chapel Hill, and then we were off to a game store in Durham, Atomic Empire, to pick up our own set of Hanabi cards. While there we also found a cooperative board game which we are looking forward to trying out at home.

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North Carolina Botanical Garden ~ 3.22.15 ~ Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Later in the afternoon we went to North Carolina Botanical Garden to see Patrick Dougherty‘s stickwork sculpture, “Homegrown.” Some readers may remember that Janet and I visited one of his installations at the Florence Griswold Museum back in October 2011. This one was just as fascinating.

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3.22.15 ~ Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Another pleasant evening was spent playing Hanabi and then Monday morning Dima took us to drop Katie off at daycare and then dropped us off at the airport. It was in the 50s that morning. When we got back to Boston it was 22°F! Brrr… (But I still love you, New England…)

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3.22.15 ~ Chapel Hill, North Carolina

our well-being

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part of sprinkler system at Logee’s ~ 3.7.15 ~ Danielson, Connecticut

We humans have experimented with various social systems; some have endured and others not. I believe, however, that our well-being is tied not so much to the structure of our society and the politics that determine it, as to our ability to maintain contact with nature, to feel that we are part of the natural order and that we are capable of making a living within it.
~ Bernd Heinrich
(The Snoring Bird: My Family’s Journey Through a Century of Biology)

our children

Dennisport, Massachusetts
1880 Capt. Martin E. Thompson House ~ Dennisport, Massachusetts ~ photo by Larisa Rodgers

Once we meet our children, even for moments, in a place of “I don’t know,” of relinquished authority, we return to the realms of mystery and magic, where real connection becomes alive again.
~ Arjuna Ardagh
(The Translucent Revolution)

Well, it’s official, February was the coldest month on record in Connecticut. And it was the third snowiest, but I suspect it may have set a record for the amount of snow that didn’t melt between storms. I have not seen my garden since January 27. And March came in like a lion, with six inches of snow Sunday overnight into Monday. Incredibly we have more snow due this afternoon and another batch due Thursday… So much talk about the weather these days…

delightful dots

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Katie and Barbara ~ 1.17.15 ~ Billerica, Massachusetts

Grandchildren are the dots that connect the lines from generation to generation.
~ Lois Wyse
(Funny, You Don’t Look Like a Grandmother)

a quiet moment with Grandpa
a quiet moment with Grandpa Tim ~ 1.17.15 ~ Billerica, Massachusetts

Saturday we spent the day north of Boston, visiting Katie, who was visiting some friends there with her mother. Katie the observer, she is definitely an observer, bright-eyed and curious. She had grown a lot in the month since we saw her last.

Things have been relatively quiet around here. We’ve postponed some plans because a few relatives and friends have caught that severe flu going around. I haven’t had the flu since 1988 and I hope to keep it that way! We get flu shots every year, but this strain mutated and this year’s vaccine is only about 33% effective.

And the nursing home where my aunt lives is under quarantine, because of the flu outbreak, which may interfere with our plans to celebrate her 100th birthday on the 30th. So far she hasn’t caught it.

happy child
happy Katie ~ 1.17.15 ~ Billerica, Massachusetts

Zoë, who normally has excellent litter box habits, got the trots. Poor thing was doing her best to get to the box on time but we had a day of cleaning up after her. She wouldn’t eat and she didn’t want to be around us, but she is now back to her hungry, sweet, affectionate self.

And so I am enjoying my winter rest, puttering around the house, watching the birds, wishing for a little more snow, pruning my family tree (still), and making travel plans. My eyes get very bleary reading these travel guides……

We find delight in the beauty and happiness of children that makes the heart too big for the body.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
(The Conduct of Life)

deer tidings

white-tailed yearling by Greg Thompson

Once upon a time I was as curious as the yearling above, and in possession of a keen sense of wonder. The mysteries of nature and spirit were intertwined in my young mind. One early wordless memory I have is of lying on the cold winter ground in the woods and eyeing a little princess pine peeking through the snow. I was astonished at the connection I felt to the small precious life, and how thrilled I was to be aware of its presence!

My parents and grandparents were nature lovers, but from an early age I was locking horns with my scientifically minded father over the existence of the supernatural. It distressed me to no end that he refused to believe in anything that he could not measure in physical terms.

One afternoon when I was six years old I had a dazzling moment of transcendence when I encountered a stag, although I didn’t know enough to call it that when I later tried to tell my parents about it. As I was walking alone up the heavily wooded road from the school bus stop to my house, I strongly sensed that someone was watching me. When I turned around to look I was at first startled to see a huge stag with magnificent antlers. He was standing in the road, quietly staring at me, as if he recognized me, as if he knew exactly who I was. I was struck with awe. Completely enchanted, I was not at all frightened. In fact, I decided he was my guardian angel. A fatherly figure. Something about his presence was most reassuring. I never forgot him and have often felt his presence in my life, especially when spending time with my maternal grandfather in the years to come.

white-tailed buck at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Forty-five years later, a few years after my grandfather died, I had wonderful encounter with another deer. (Some of my readers may remember me sharing this in November 2008 on my Gaia blog.) I was visiting my father at his house in the woods, where spotting deer, coyotes, wild turkeys and fishers is not at all unusual. We were starting to watch a movie when my brother-in-law glanced out the window and noticed a doe in the yard, quite close to the house. Being so enchanted with deer I jumped at the chance to see one and went over to the window to look at her.

She was so beautiful with her large soft eyes and large ears lined in dark brown. Our eyes met and she stood there transfixed for a very long time. I could not take my eyes off of her. After a while she lay down and continued to stare at me, occasionally looking about to see what a noise might be, but then fixing her gaze back onto me. She seemed so peaceful and I wondered what, if anything, it all meant. It was as if I had lost my child’s sense of inner-knowing for a moment. Then I started to worry that my looking at her so intently might be threatening her in some way. But she was tranquil and serene. At one point a buck appeared and walked right past her and started helping himself to my father’s rhododendron. My brother-in-law was going to go shoo him away but I begged him not to. After the buck had enough to eat he slowly retraced his steps and passed by the doe again, glancing at her but unconcerned with her behavior. She ignored him completely, and kept looking at me.

white-tailed doe by Steve Hillebrand

After another long while she stood up and started nibbling at the ground, looking at me once in a while. She slowly made her way downhill around the corner of the house, so I changed my vantage point to another window on that side of the house. She was now one story below me. But she looked up to the window and saw me again and started looking at me again with the same intensity as before. Her look felt so reassuring in some way and yet I felt the thrill of butterflies in my stomach. It’s hard to put words to it. She definitely seemed to know me. It was getting darker and darker until I could barely see her, and just at the point where I felt I could see her no longer she suddenly darted away. More than an hour had passed. What an amazing gift! Even my father had to acknowledge this was an extraordinary experience.

I did finally understand the doe’s message with some help from my Reiki practitioner a few months later. I’m keeping it safe in my heart for now. I will never forget this special doe and had so often felt her guidance while caring for my father in his declining years, as well as my mother’s presence, very strongly, in my life. And it was after the doe visited the house that my father, the skeptical scientist, started reporting that he had been seeing my mother. Sometimes he would ask where she was because he was certain she had just left the room.

white-tailed doe by Greg Thompson

Fifty years after my first encounter with a deer, when I was fifty-six, my father died in his sleep in the early morning hours of September 19, 2013, under a full harvest moon. My sister called me to let me know he was gone so Tim and I left to drive up to Papa’s house to be with our family. As we reached the end of the hour-long drive, we turned onto the same road where I saw my first deer fifty years ago. In about the same spot on the road, standing quietly on the side, in the moonlight, was a lovely doe. Tim slowed the car down and she looked right into our car, into my eyes. My mother was letting me know that she had my father now. What a feeling of relief and release came over me.

Beverly and I have often noted in the months since Papa died that neither of us have felt the presence of either of our parents. But Larisa has felt her grandpa’s presence down in North Carolina. And we all see in her new baby daughter, Katie, a remarkable resemblance to him, especially in her facial expressions and the way she moves her long arms.

As I continue to mourn the loss of my father I feel like I’ve grown to a place where I can embrace being in the elder generation now, a contented crone with my fair share of hard-won wisdom to gently share with my children and grandchildren. It’s a feeling of strength, stepping into the place where my parents and my grandparents once stood.

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junco ~ image credit: mike at luminosity.allthepages.org

A couple of weeks I put out a couple of bird feeders and have enjoyed watching the birds who come to eat. My parents and grandparents were avid bird-watchers but I thought identifying birds was a tedious endeavor when I was a child. However, these past few days I’ve been amazed to discover that some of what they taught me got stored in my memory files. It seems like every time a new bird shows up a name pops into my head, so I look it up and find it to be correct! I’ve always loved and could identify chickadees, but when an unfamiliar bird showed up the other day and “junco” popped out of my mouth, well, I’ve fallen in love with another little one.

I almost posted the first parts of my deer story several times since I started this blog, but something kept holding me back. After I saw the doe the night my father died it became clear that the tale had not been finished. Yet something still kept making it seem like it wasn’t the time to share it. After spending three weeks with my darling new granddaughter, though, it feels like the whole picture has now been revealed.

White-Tailed Deer

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)