afflicted with consciousness

"The Difficult Lesson" by William-Adolphe Bouguereau
“The Difficult Lesson” by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Had Madness, had it once or twice
The yawning Consciousness
~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #1325)

Whenever I read an Emily Dickinson poem I am struck with a deep sense of affinity and connection, sometimes even a moment of transcendence. And yet words fail me when I try to describe what it is about each poem that moves me.

Emily Every Day is my favorite blog, written by Constance Adler. I discovered it almost a year ago, when I started poking around WordPress and following tags to see where they might lead. And while the author no longer posts every day, each post is still a treasure trove of ideas to ponder and of clues to the mystery of Emily’s consciousness.

In the January 6th post, Emily and Jeanne, Constance uses the phrase “afflicted with consciousness,” which seems a fitting description of the essence of my own spiritual journey. Even though I would never dare equate myself with Emily, so often I’ve felt that I “could not escape or ignore the experience of awareness.” It plagued me all through my childhood, as my father did his level best, but ultimately failed, to raise me to be an atheist. Awareness of awareness has driven me to “Madness” on several occasions… But, as Constance concludes:

Emily shows us how to turn and see deeply behind our own eyes. That loss of solid space/time boundaries might scare us back toward front and center. But no. It’s okay to follow Emily’s directive. She’s gone there first. We don’t have to be afraid.

And I think that is what it is for me. When I read Emily’ words I stop fearing, even if only for a little while, that journey ‘behind my own eyes.’ She’s paved a way that I can find and follow. Many thanks to Constance for helping me to gain more insight into the works of my favorite poet.

And so of larger — Darknesses —
Those Evenings of the Brain —
When not a Moon disclose a sign —
Or Star — come out — within —
~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #428)

Between Eternity and Time —
Your Consciousness — and Me —
~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #713)

Growing Hope for America

John Mellencamp, Willie Nelson, Dave Matthews, Neil Young

Been meaning to write this blog all week, another rough week, migraine and Auntie recovering from surgery… Taking some refuge in listening to music…

Saturday night I had a treat – I got to watch the 25th Farm Aid benefit concert on Direct TV! I’ve wanted to go to one for years, but they’ve usually been held at locations too far away for us to attend. In 2008, Larisa and I were so excited when we learned that it would be held in Massachusetts, about an hour and a half from here. Unfortunately for us, the tickets (20,000 seats!) sold out in 5 minutes and we didn’t get to go… As far as I know, that was the only time it was held in New England.

This year it was held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but I got to see and hear everything! And I think it was probably more enjoyable listening in the comfort of home, with an unobstructed close-up view of the stage. And with earphones the music sounded very good! It must have been cold there because many of the performers and people in the audience were bundled up. The host, Tavis Smiley, even had a scarf wrapped around his neck!

Farm Aid is a worthy cause, celebrating the positive, sustainable future that family farmers are trying to cultivate with their hard work every day. It supports family farms to stand their ground in the fight against factory farms, which are ruining the quality of our food supply, spreading diseases, and polluting the environment. Listening to the information presented between performances renewed my resolve to buy local and buy organic. It’s nice to know so many people are fighting for the future of our planet.

And I didn’t know Willie Nelson had a son who has his own band… Lukas Nelson & The Promise of the Real. He’s a very intense and energetic performer, first riveting my attention during his band’s set. It wasn’t until he came back to perform with Willie at the end that I connected the dots and realized they were father and son. Lukas has his own psychedelic bluesy folk rock sort of sound.

Of course my favorite part was Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds, who did Bob Dylan’s All Along the Watchtower, and then Dave’s Don’t Drink the Water, Save Me, You & Me, Gravedigger, and Crush. Willie Nelson came out and joined them for Gravedigger. By the way, Willie’s cover of Gravedigger is very good. I refer to Gravedigger as Dave’s genealogy song, as it seems to describe the contemplating genealogists tend to do as they meander through cemeteries.

Just as rock and roll is loud and proud, so is Farm Aid. Farm Aid’s greatest accomplishment, I believe, is in the spirit. It’s the fact that we represent the spirit of the good fight, to keep something good happening. It just keeps getting stronger and stronger….
~ Neil Young

Thank you, Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp, and Dave Matthews, and all the guest artists who donated their time and resources, for keeping us focused on the important role of family farmers in America.

Iduna: Keeper of Apples

“Brita as Iduna” by Carl Larsson

According to Wikipedia: “In Norse mythology, Iðunn is a goddess associated with apples and youth.” Iðunn is “a keeper of apples and granter of eternal youthfulness.” (Idun, Iduna, Idunn, Ithun, Idunna)

A few words following about October and apples, which we are enjoying daily since we went apple-picking last weekend. Nothing like crunching into a juicy McIntosh fresh from the tree! An old saying keeps popping into my head: an apple a day keeps the doctor away.

Now’s the time when children’s noses
All become as red as roses
And the colour of their faces
Makes me think of orchard places
Where the juicy apples grow…

~ Katherine Mansfield
(Autumn Song)

There is no season when such pleasant and sunny spots may be lighted on, and produce so pleasant an effect on the feelings, as now in October. The sunshine is peculiarly genial; and in sheltered places, as on the side of a bank, or of a barn or house, one becomes acquainted and friendly with the sunshine. It seems to be of a kindly and homely nature.
~ Nathaniel Hawthorne
(The American Note-books)

When my father was a boy growing up on a New England farm during the Great Depression, his family picked as many apples as they could and stored some of them in a barrel in the root cellar. Of course he ate as many as he could while picking them, but his parents had a rule about the ones in the barrel he found exasperating. If anyone wanted an apple later in the fall or winter, he was required to take one that was the least fresh. By the time they got to the fresher ones they had also become much less fresh! So all winter he was having to make do with eating not-so-great apples. If only he had known he might have called on Iduna to keep the apples fresher longer!

To appreciate the wild and sharp flavors of these October fruits, it is necessary that you be breathing the sharp October or November air. The outdoor air and exercise which the walker gets give a different tone to his palate, and he craves a fruit which the sedentary would call harsh and crabbed. They must be eaten in the fields, when your system is all aglow with exercise, when the frosty weather nips your fingers, the wind rattles the bare boughs or rustles the few remaining leaves, and the jay is heard screaming around. What is sour in the house a bracing walk makes sweet. Some of these apples might be labeled, “To be eaten in the wind.”
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Wild Fruits: Thoreau’s Rediscovered Last Manuscript)

“Apples & Leaves” by Ilya Repin

Larisa in Norway

August 2010 – Larisa, Johanna, Erin

In August our daughter Larisa had the opportunity to travel to Norway with her cousin, Erin, to visit Erin’s friend, Johanna. Larisa gave me permission to post some of her pictures!! One of my passionate dreams, when circumstances allow, is to visit Norway, the land of some of our sea-faring ancestors. Although Johanna didn’t live by the sea, the mountains offered more than enough beauty and scenic vistas to satisfy my curiosity for now… Larisa brought me a treasure: one of the flowers she picked in the field (below).

Larisa – Norway.2010 – “The hills are alive…”
Larisa, Erin, Johanna – Norway 2010 … Amazing how blue the water is!
Norway 2010 …nature…

According to Wikipedia: “A stave church is a medieval wooden church with a post and beam construction related to timber framing. The wall frames are filled with vertical planks. The load-bearing posts (stafr in Old Norse, stav in Norwegian) have lent their name to the building technique.” There is a replica of one at the Norway Pavilion at EPCOT in Disney World, which I have visited four times.

One of Norway’s stave churches – 2010
…Erin in the graveyard of a stave church…

Raised by a genealogist, Larisa knows that pictures of cemeteries are essential souvenirs to bring back from any country visited.

Show me your cemeteries, and I will tell you what kind of people you have.
~ Benjamin Franklin

Norway 2010 …feels like home…

The first time Larisa showed me the picture above, I got butterflies in my stomach because it seemed so very familiar. I saw that same reaction portrayed once in the movie The Motorcycle DiariesWhen Ernesto “Ché” Guevara took in the spirit of the ruins of Machu Picchu, he wondered, “How is it possible to feel nostalgia for a world I never knew?” I knew exactly what he meant. It is the same feeling I also had when I walked into the stave church replica at EPCOT.

And of course it also made me think of Sigrid Undset and her books Kristin Lavransdatter and The Master of Hestviken. And the Kristin Lavransdatter movie directed by Liv Ullmann.

Thank you, Larisa! You have given your mother a most wonderful gift!

talk of the flower

7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
7.2.10 ~ dragonfly ~ New London, Connecticut

This is fun, I get to use all kinds poetry to go with my photos… But after this I might run out of new poems to decorate with!

We found a meadow in the arboretum, stunningly sunny and bright. Yes, there were plenty of dragonflies in all colors and sizes. One even had a huge dark body paired with totally transparent wings. Again, the contrast between the sunlight and the shade was very sharp.

Most of my efforts to capture them with my weary camera failed, as I half expected. However, there was one very special BLUE one! And it held still for a very long time. Long enough for me to come to my senses and use the zoom and get a shot. One more click, got it again!

7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

Poking around online I have learned (from Wikipedia) that “the Norwegian word for dragonflies is ‘Øyenstikker’, which literally means Eye Poker.” And that just as people who love to watch birds are birding, ones who love to watch dragonflies are oding. And that “oding is especially popular in Texas, where a total of 225 species of odonates in the world have been observed.” Well, that would explain why Lili gets so many great dragonfly pictures down there!

And magically, yesterday, Paul stopped by with a gift from Linda, an amazing knitted square with a dragonfly knitted right into the design! Paul said it was a pot holder but it’s too pretty and delicate to be used in the kitchen. And it doesn’t have a loop to hang it up. (And I hope I don’t get him in trouble for not delivering it sooner, he said he had carried it around for a few days – or was it weeks?)

7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
liatris ~ 7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
black-eyed susans ~ 7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
black-eyed susans ~ 7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

Silently a flower blooms,
In silence it falls away;
Yet here now, at this moment, at this place, the whole of the flower,
the whole of the world is blooming.

This is the talk of the flower, the truth of the blossom;
The glory of eternal life is fully shining here.
~ Zenkei Shibayama
(A Flower Does Not Talk: Zen Essays)

A garden chapter of this rambling account should soon follow this post…

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

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…

5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
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!