Experience is the Angled Road Preferred against the Mind By — Paradox — the Mind itself — Presuming to it lead
Quite Opposite — How complicate The Discipline of Man — Compelling Him to choose Himself His Preappointed Pain —
~ Emily Dickinson (The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #899)
I’m not quite sure what Emily is getting at with this poem but it did get me thinking. Many folks say that experience is the best teacher, but personally experiencing all that life has to offer would take forever and, in my mind, often amounts to wasting time and learning things the hard way. But is it any better to submit to the discipline given by other people, obeying potentially immoral rules from authorities that might oppress or harm ourselves or others? Perhaps experience and discipline are opposite sides of the same coin. Perhaps we are as likely as our teachers to make painful mistakes in judgment as we learn ways to make sense of the world.
On Indigenous Peoples’ Day my good friend Janet and I took a long afternoon walk from Eastern Point to Avery Point and back again, passing by Beach Pond both ways. The weather was picture perfect, if a bit on the breezy side.
After admiring the views of Long Island Sound and identifying the various islands and lighthouses we could see on a clear day, we found the “Cognitive Garden” on the Avery Point campus. There was still a lot of interest to see there in the middle of autumn. Textures and colors.
Cognition means to acquire knowledge through the senses, experience, and thought. A cognitive garden encourages learning through these three processes while exposing people to nature. While the beneﬁts of nature extend to all ages, young children learn primarily through their senses and a multitude of studies have demonstrated a correlation between sensory stimulation and brain development. ~ University of Connecticut, Avery Point Campus website
The naturalist is a civilized hunter. He goes goes alone into a field or woodland and closes his mind to everything but that time and place, so that life around him presses in on all the senses and small details grow in significance. He begins the scanning search for which cognition was engineered. His mind becomes unfocused, it focuses on everything, no longer directed toward any ordinary task or social pleasantry. ~ E. O. Wilson (Biophilia)
I wish I could include the smell of a patch of thyme for you, dear readers. What an amazing scent filled the air!
On the way back I was happy to see that Beach Pond was full of water again, although we were still in a moderate drought that day. I suspect Thursday’s torrential rains may have moved us up into the abnormally dry category. No waterbirds around but still some flowers blooming, and others spent.
So come to the pond, or the river of your imagination, or the harbor of your longing, and put your lips to the world. And live your life. ~ Mary Oliver (Red Bird: Poems)
It felt so good sauntering along and catching up with a friend!!!
The mind is never so open as such clear days in the fall, when the air has a special tang of flowers and frosty iron, and something flits lightly past you, a memory you can’t recall, a dream forever undreamt and forever far beyond. ~ Inger Hagerup (The Magic of Fjords)
This might be my last post tagged with “pandemic.” It’s been two and a half years! Not that I think we won’t eventually catch covid, but we have gotten our state-of-the-art bivalent booster shot now and we seem to be living in a new world, coexisting with a treatable endemic virus. We’re still masking inside public places but getting more adventurous…
The autumn equinox now seems like a perfect time turn over a new 🍁 and stop focusing on the virus. Yes, the mind is never so open as such clear days in the fall!
Yesterday the U.S. Department of Agriculture designated our county as a primary natural disaster area due to the drought. We did get about two and a half inches of rain on Monday and Tuesday but it wasn’t enough to end the drought or benefit beleaguered farmers. These pictures were taken at the pond yesterday, a couple of days after the rain.
We wondered at all the bubbles in the very shallow water. The poor mallard could barely swim and couldn’t dabble deep enough to get her butt elevated. 😉
There were a few sandpipers and yellowlegs wandering around. I’m feeling too wearied to bother trying to identify them more specifically…
After a lovely week of low humidity and opened windows, the muggies returned with a vengeance, corresponding with the arrival of our granddaughter, visiting us on her own for a few days. But we made the best of our time indoors and went out one evening to see a troupe of Ukrainian dancers perform outside at Mystic Seaport. Afterwards, Kat, age 7, exclaimed that they were awesome! We thought so, too.
The rain came for the last two days of our visit. I introduced Kat to Cesar Millan: Better Human Better Dog on TV and Tim introduced her to a family board game called Rocks. I filled in a family tree fan chart for her which she examined closely and offered several very thoughtful observations. We spent another evening walking on the beach after the rain let up. Our little bright spot in the doldrums!
The following pictures were taken on August 19, before the two and a half inches of rain, a week before the ones above. It’s the lowest I’ve ever seen the pond’s water level. But for the little puddle it was dry.
I always forget how important the empty days are, how important it may be sometimes not to expect to produce anything, even a few lines in a journal. … A day where one has not pushed oneself to the limit seems a damaged damaging day, a sinful day. Not so! The most valuable thing one can do for the psyche, occasionally, is to let it rest, wander, live in the changing light of a room, not try to be or do anything whatever. ~ May Sarton (Journal of a Solitude)
So I continue living in the changing light of this room, biding my time, dreaming of crisp, cool, walkable autumn air. And more rain, which is not in the weather forecast. Waiting somewhat patiently and keeping my wits about me — so far.
While she was visiting last week we finally got a chance to take our granddaughter, age 7, to the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center! She was all set with her camera and water bottle and we played follow the leader as she explored the place at her own pace. Sometimes we struggled to keep up but she was patient with us and we would catch up and so we had a fantastic time. 😊
After exploring the indoor exhibits we headed outdoors to see the birds in the rehab enclosures. We even got to see a staff member feed the raptors dead mice. It was difficult getting pictures through the wires but these two were acceptable.
For many decades the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center has been licensed by the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife to care for injured wild animals. We are part of a region-wide network of wildlife specialists that handle emergencies and help seek appropriate care for injured wildlife. ~ DPNC website
Next we followed a trail and spotted a Canada goose sitting on her nest on a hummock in the middle of a pond. Nearby her mate was patrolling the area.
Our minds, as well as our bodies, have need of the out-of-doors. Our spirits, too, need simple things, elemental things, the sun and the wind and the rain, moonlight and starlight, sunrise and mist and mossy forest trails, the perfumes of dawn and the smell of fresh-turned earth and the ancient music of wind among the trees. ~ Edwin Way Teale (Circle of the Seasons: The Journal of a Naturalist’s Year)
Kat led us back to the nature center and to the parking lot, checking rocks along the way to find dry ones for Grandpa to sit on for his rests. The occasional benches were welcome, too. She is a very curious, thoughtful and kind little sweetheart.
Here are two posts from the past illustrating Kat’s keen interest in maps: here(5th picture, age 4) and here(2nd picture and others, age 2).
The three of us had such a wonderful morning at the nature center! 💕
My love for gulls is no secret. Yesterday evening we went down to the beach and found the gulls pleasantly eager to pose for my camera. Incredibly, I came home with 79 pictures of these common and seemingly unremarkable shorebirds.
It was a very windy day as you can tell by the ruffled feathers in some of these shots.
It’s a good thing I took so many pictures of the other kinds of gulls last summer because we aren’t seeing many of them here this year. (But we did have oystercatchers this year, much to my surprise and delight!) These ”regular” ring-billed gulls seemed very happy to have their beach back to themselves… I envy them at times…
Some bodyminds have more stormy weather systems than other bodyminds, just as some geographical locations have more stormy weather than others, and it is neither helpful nor relevant to compare ourselves to others. It is also very liberating to realize that change always happens on its own timetable, not on the the timetable the thinking mind conjures up. Especially in our speeded-up, fast-food, modern culture, we tend to want instant results, and life just doesn’t work that way. Most changes in nature happen slowly. ~ Joan Tollifson (Nothing to Grasp)
As I sit here wishing for another bout of figurative “stormy weather system” to pass me by, communing with the gulls reminds me that change always happens on its own timetable…
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)
“Patience” comes from the same ancient roots as “petals” — to open like a flower, to unfurl, to receive the stroke of a moth’s tongue and the ministrations of a bee. And so we are given “passive” and “patient” and “passionate.” The philosopher Spinoza thought that passion was the opposite of action: to be acted upon rather than to act. And so a heron is passionate in this odd, old-fashioned way — open, unresisting, transparent, suffering the sense impressions to flow through its mind, exquisitely aware, a single still point of clarity. ~ Kathleen Dean Moore (Wild Comfort: The Solace of Nature)