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 this, the shortest day of all the 365, I wander over the covered paths of the garden hillside. I wade through the drifts along the swamp edge. I walk over the snow-covered ice among the catttails. The wind is gone. The day is still. The world is decorated with unmarred snow. This is winter with winter beauty everywhere. Autumn is finally, officially, gone. Like the evening of the day, the fall has been a time of ceaseless alteration. Cold, in the autumn, is overcoming the heat just as darkness, in the evening, is overcoming the light. All around, in recent months, there have been changes in a thousand forms. The days of easy warmth were passing, then past. Birds departed. Threadbare trees lost their final leaves. Nuts fell from the branches. Pumpkins and corn turned yellow in the fields. For animals and men alike, this was the time of harvest. The phantom summer, Indian summer, came and went. The chorus of the insects died away in nightly frosts. Goldenrod tarnished; grass clumps faded from green to yellow. Milkweed pods gaped open and their winged seeds took flight. The windrows of fallen leaves withered, lost their color, merged into one universal brown. Now they are buried beneath the new and seasonal beauty of the snow. Autumn, the evening of the year, is over; winter, the night of the year, has come. ~ Edwin Way Teale (Circle of the Seasons: The Journal of a Naturalist’s Year)
As we begin this meal with grace, Let us become aware of the memory Carried inside the food before us: The quiver of the seed Awakening in the earth, Unfolding in a trust of roots And slender stems of growth, On its voyage toward harvest, The kiss of rain and surge of sun; The innocence of animal soul That never spoke a word, Nourished by the earth To become today our food; The work of all the strangers Whose hands prepared it, The privilege of wealth and health That enables us to feast and celebrate. ~ John O’Donohue (To Bless the Space Between Us)
May your Thanksgiving be blessed with good chat and cheer and the love of family and friends!
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!!!
Caroline Black Garden is known as the secret garden of Connecticut College, located on a steep hill between the college and the Thames River. Starting with this gate you follow paths passing through various garden “rooms.” It has four acres of native and exotic ornamental trees and bushes. We enjoyed a morning of exploration.
Sit and be quiet. In a while the red berries, now in shadow, will be picked out by the sun. ~ Wendell Berry (This Day: Collected & New Sabbath Poems)
The clearing rests in song and shade. It is a creature made By old light held in soil and leaf, By human joy and grief, By human work, Fidelity of sight and stroke, By rain, by water on The parent stone. ~ Wendell Berry (This Day: Collected & New Sabbath Poems)
What a natural wellspring — cooling and refreshing the years — is the gift of wonder! It removes the dryness from life and keeps our days fresh and expanding. ~ Edwin Way Teale (Circle of the Seasons: The Journal of a Naturalist’s Year)
We enjoyed a lovely long walk around the pond at the arboretum on Friday. I was in my sweatshirt and enjoying the fresh cool air. The trees are still green for the most part and we wondered what kind of fall color is in store for us in the wake of the drought. There were still some summer tints lingering side by side with hints of autumn hues.
Few men know how to take a walk. The qualifications of a professor are endurance, plain clothes, old shoes, an eye for nature, good humor, vast curiosity, good speech, good silence and nothing too much. If a man tells me that he has an intense love of nature, I know, of course, that he has none. Good observers have the manners of trees and animals, their patient good sense, and if they add words, ’tis only when words are better than silence. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson (The Later Lectures of Ralph Waldo Emerson: 1843-1871)
We also took a side path to the Glenn Dreyer Bog which was illuminated with spots of bright sunshine. The light near the equinoxes is amazing, as I often say.
The woods were full of gray catbird calls and we heard them rustling around in the tree branches. Occasionally we spotted one but they were diligently avoiding my camera. This was the summer of the catbird. Not only did we have one singing in our river birch outside our kitchen window, we saw them on almost every walk we took. Back in June, though, they were out in the open and more amenable to being photographed.
How much of beauty — of color, as well as form — on which our eyes daily rest goes unperceived by us! ~ Henry David Thoreau (Journal, August 1, 1860)
Today the humidity is creeping back with higher temperatures but it shouldn’t last for too many days. We plan to go see an outdoor Ibsen play, Peer Gynt, in the park tonight and will bring blankets to keep warm. This was supposed to happen in June but covid got the theater group and they had to postpone. We got our new bivalent booster shots last week but still plan to exercise caution as we try to move forward.
If we keep having these lovely weather days I might have to change my negative feelings about the summer season. Returning to Avery Point we again found a song sparrow singing at the top of the beach rose bushes. I wonder if it’s the same one we met a month ago. He was in the same spot.
The bushes were full of rose hips but I think there will be another bloom or two left in the season.
Look who was very busy digging bugs out of the lawn…
I lingered under this immense copper beech tree and held my hand on it, soaking up some healing energy. (It’s trunk was way too big to hug!) Looking up into its branches was a transcendent experience.
We come into being in and through the Earth. Simply put, we are Earthlings. The Earth is our origin, our nourishment, our educator, our healer, our fulfillment. At its core, even our spirituality is Earth derived. The human and the Earth are totally implicated, each in the other. If there is no spirituality in the Earth, then there is no spirituality in ourselves. ~ Thomas Berry (The Sacred Universe)
Not sure what kind of tree this is (below) but the slash in its bark was striking. I wonder how long it’s been there and if it grew with the tree…
What would our lives be without trees? Bleak and inhospitable, I’d say. What a blessing to have their gifts to us and the other creatures in our summer world.
A lot had changed in the seven weeks between our visits to the nature center. The trees had leafed out and we could barely see the little mound where Mama Goose had been sitting on her eggs. But on this day the bullfrogs were still populating the pond. After checking out the pond we headed out to the meadow.
We’re squeezing in as many walks as we can before the weather forces us inside. The meadow was lovely with a few well-mown paths to follow through and around it. It was so refreshingly cool that in the shade I wished I hadn’t left my hoodie in the car, but in the sunshine the warmth felt so good on my bare arms. There were lots of birds flitting about, but not too many stayed still long enough for pictures.
Then we walked back through the woods to the parking lot, and enjoyed the different things the dappled sunlight was highlighting.
But beyond perpetual wonders and mortals asking why casting its light upon us all is the sun’s supreme reply. ~ Gunnar Reiss-Andersen (The Magic of Fjords)