that’s summer

“Platter with Seashells, Roses, Pearls & Earrings” by Georgios Jakobides

My Garden — like the Beach —
Denotes there be — a Sea —
That’s Summer —
Such as These — the Pearls
She fetches — such as Me

~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #469)

house finch, gray catbird, cottontail

5.16.22 ~ house finch
Coogan Farm Nature & Heritage Center, Mystic, Connecticut

It was a lovely spring day and the air was filled with birds singing and bees buzzing. I couldn’t catch most of them with my camera but the scenery at Coogan Farm reminded me of a setting from a historical drama. I half-expected to see a character from a Jane Austen novel come around the bend on our path.

sunlight on dandelions
old farmland

It is clearly posted that dogs must be on a leash at Coogan Farm. This one arrived at the same time we did and was darting around the parking lot while its owner was getting things out of his car. We had two doors of our car open as we were getting ready for our walk, too. Next thing we knew the dog jumped into our car through the back door Tim was at, then squeezed between the front seats and exited the car through the front door I was at. She seemed very friendly and not too big so I wasn’t afraid, but, startled and annoyed. The man she belonged to called “Sadie” away and offered no apology. I assumed he would put her on a leash when he saw the signs at the trailhead. They took a different trail but our paths crossed later on and there was no leash to be seen, the man wasn’t even carrying one on his person.

We moved on, trying not to let the selfishness of others spoil a lovely walk for us.

Intensely selfish people are always very decided as to what they wish. That is in itself a great force; they do not waste their energies in considering the good of others.
~ Ouida
(Wisdom, Wit, and Pathos of Ouida Selected from the Works of Ouida)

In 2016 this tower (below) was designed by an Eagle Scout, specifically for chimney swifts. It provides a suitable nesting habitat to help increase the chimney swift population: Connecticut Project Chimney Watch

chimney swift nesting season is May to July
distant view across the Mystic River

Selfishness must always be forgiven you know, because there is no hope of a cure.
~ Jane Austen
(Mansfield Park)

gray catbird

I’m seeing and hearing so many catbirds this year! They have a way of cheering me up. 💙

dandelion magic
buttercups and dandelions
cottontail rabbit
mushroom
lupine (thanks to Mary for the identification)

Walking is the great adventure, the first meditation, a practice of heartiness and soul primary to humankind. Walking is the exact balance between spirit and humility.
~ Gary Snyder
(The Practice of the Wild: Essays)

Connecticut’s positivity rate is up to 13%. Not good. It’s been going up since its lowest point in March.

wars laid away in books

“Sailboats in Pourville”
by Anna Bilińska-Bohdanowicz

Adrift! A little boat adrift!
And night is coming down!
Will no one guide a little boat
Unto the nearest town?

So sailors say — on yesterday —
Just as the dusk was brown
One little boat gave up its strife
And gurgled down and down

So angels say — on yesterday —
Just as the dawn was red
One little boat — o’erspent with gales —
Retrimmed its masts — redecked its sails —
And shot — exultant on!

~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #6)


Now that I have a Kindle and can read for hours on end without bothering my eyes, I have delved into a huge comprehensive biography of the life of Emily Dickinson, My Wars Are Laid Away in Books: The Life of Emily Dickinson. The above poem struck a chord with me.

What I’ve been learning is that Emily grappled with an exhausting spiritual struggle during her childhood and young adulthood. One by one more and more of her family members and friends experienced evangelical conversions each time a revival made its way to her mother’s church in Amherst, Massachusetts. Emily was never moved to convert, winding up a solitary holdout, and I suspect it was the hypocrisy and inconsistencies in the dogma as presented by her teachers and ministers that never sat well with her.

Some keep the Sabbath going to Church —
I keep it, staying at Home —
With a Bobolink for a Chorister —
And an Orchard, for a Dome —
~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #236)

Emily found spiritual fulfillment and ecstasy in nature. I think it can be found in the creative arts, too, and in healing. I will read on, as I just got to the “Adrift!” poem yesterday, but my feeling is that once she made peace with this realization, she was able re-trim her masts, re-deck her sails, and get on with her true vocation, her poetry, her spiritual expression, her own way of worshiping.

As a child my intuition rebelled against my father’s atheism. The first chance I got I latched on to a religion with just as much oppressive dogmatism as the scientific atheism from which I was trying to escape. But while ‘gurgling down’ in my spiritual struggle, it slowly dawned on me that religion and science are simply different ways of trying to make sense of and explain the world and the universe. The assumptions of both can be terribly flawed and misguided. Organized religion and organized science can both be dogmatic and self-righteous. People who worship science, in my opinion, give up their own experience of the divine to the men in lab coats, our modern-day priests. Ideally there is a balance between Logic and Wonder, however.

When I started reading Emerson and Dickinson I found myself home at last with the ideas of transcendentalists:

The transcendentalists felt the presence of God in their intuition, but they advised that intuition should be guided by reason, and not follow its own course unaided. They discerned that God speaks directly to the self within us. They stressed the value and importance of personal mystical experience over beliefs, doctrines, rituals, and institutions. All their insights derived from their inner life. Their movement was a reaffirmation of the inner way of introversion or interiority.
~ Wayne Teasdale
(The Mystic Heart: Discovering a Universal Spirituality in the World’s Religions)

How I admire Emily for holding on to her inner life!

arrows and circles

“Psyche” by William-Adolphe Bouguereau
“Psyche” by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Sometimes you get there in spite of the route
Losing track of your life and what it’s about
The road seems to know when to straighten right out…
I could wonder if all of it led me to you
I could show you the arrows and circles I drew
I didn’t have a map, it’s the best I could do
On the fly and on the run
~ Mary Chapin Carpenter
♫ (Elysium) ♫

winter winds

Last week I had the fun and wonderful privilege of writing a guest blog at my friend Kathy’s blog, Lake Superior Spirit. I’m still “recovering” from all the excitement! Thank you, Kathy!

From time to time in my life I’ve been called upon to write an autobiographical sketch and as I wrote this one for Kathy it occurred to me that every time I write one it comes out a little differently. Probably because I’m always growing and changing, and each time I look back over my life my perspective has changed and some events take on new and deeper meanings. And other events are left out entirely because even though at one time they seemed so important, they no longer seem worth mentioning.

Within our whole universe the story only has the authority to answer that cry of heart of its characters, that one cry of heart of each of them: “Who am I?”
~ Isak Dinesen
(Last Tales)

A couple of weeks ago I figured out how to write a blog and not just save it, but actually schedule a publication day and time for it! Great! Now I can combine quotes with art and schedule them to go out on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Still, I was surprised Saturday morning when I saw the quote for that day published already and realized that I hadn’t written a regular post here all week.

Yikes! Oh no, I thought, my readers will think I’m doing nothing but posting quotes from now on… However, I’ve noticed these quote/painting combos are collecting more comments than I thought they would! It’s been so interesting, for me anyway, seeing so many varied kinds of responses to the same words and images.

This morning Tim and I went out for breakfast – it’s been a while because he has worked at home a lot on recent weekends – and it felt very good to get out of the house together. It snowed a little last night… After breakfast we headed to Starbucks for a coffee treat and saw a Mumford & Sons CD there, Sigh No More, which we eagerly purchased. We first heard them perform at the Grammys a couple of weeks ago and both of us like them a lot.

Then we drove down to Eastern Point and Avery Point and found a new sculpture on the Sculpture Path by the Sea. It’s named “Pig Iron” by Timothy Kussow. Looked for the sculptor online and he doesn’t seem to have a website of his own, but he lives on the same road in the same town where Tim’s family used to live. Small world and a bit of synchronicity as well! A little music and a little art – a very nice morning date!

But if your strife strikes at your sleep
Remember spring swaps snow for leaves
You’ll be happy and wholesome again
When the city clears and sun ascends
~ Mumford & Sons
♫ (Winter Winds) ♫

art?

Is graffiti art? I don’t know, though I tend to think that it is. Some of it seems very creative. I tend to think of graffiti as something painted illegally onto man-made structures like buildings and bridges, often with a negative message. But not always. How about when inspiration moves someone to paint something natural, like a tree or a rock, what might that be called?

These pictures were taken in October 2007 in the woods behind our condo complex.

We often wonder who the mysterious anonymous artist could be… What can you tell about an artist from her work and where she chooses to exhibit it?

When I was little we passed what we called Frog Rock (right) in Eastford on our way to the Cape almost every month. It doesn’t seem so big now as it once did. We’d beg Dad to drive by it slowly so we could get a good look at it from all angles.

I grew up in Storrs, Connecticut, home of the University of Connecticut. I’m used to seeing art on rocks on the campus, including on a large outcrop on South Eagleville Road, sanctioned for painting. There are new creations painted over it every time I go by, and have been for as long as I can remember. Perhaps this experience has conditioned me not to be surprised, but rather fascinated, when finding art co-existing with nature in the woods or by the side of the road. I wonder how many layers of paint on that outcrop in over 50 years???

Every artist dips his brush in his own soul and paints his own nature into his picture.
~ Henry Ward Beecher
(Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit)

Here’s another bit of Connecticut nature art, Snake Rock (right) in Marlborough.

So, are these creations art? Graffiti? Or something else? I suspect that “art” cannot be definitively defined, and that like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder…

Images: Frog Rock, Snake Rock

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)

hurricanes and heart attacks

“Storm Landscape” by Franz Stuck

The mixture of the calm with the storm is not haphazard. Quite the contrary. My growth is at the center of each. I will trust its message.
~ Karen Casey
(Each Day a New Beginning: Daily Meditations for Women)

It’s been an unsettling week, to say the least. We’ve been keeping a wary eye on Hurricane Earl since Sunday, hoping it stays on its predicted course and brushes past us to the east tomorrow with minimal damage. The tropical storm watch was upgraded to a tropical storm warning today at noon. Cape Cod is now under a hurricane warning and for some reason I have a desire to go there.

Sometimes it seems that all there is to talk about is the remarkable weather. Yesterday and today we’ve had a heat index of 100º. Today many towns nearby are letting their schools out early because of the heat. The weed pollen levels are “very high.” And there is an air quality alert to boot. The advancing storm should be eliminating all these problems when it arrives. I don’t usually watch the news at noon, where I learned all these bits of information, but I was curious about the hurricane.

Any threat of hurricanes stirs up frightening memories for my father and his sisters. The Great Hurricane of 1938 descended on my father without warning as he was walking home from high school in the afternoon. Fierce winds were snapping branches off trees and other trees were being uprooted as he struggled to keep walking. According to Wikipedia it “remains the most powerful, costliest and deadliest hurricane in New England history.”

When Dad got home he discovered that his mother wasn’t home, only his father, two of his sisters, and a baby nephew. At the height of the storm they were all trying desperately to keep walls from crashing in on them, bolstering them up with heavy furniture and the weight of their bodies. Still, the hardest part was not knowing if his mother was safe, and his sister’s husband, too.

After the storm passed by Dad’s mother returned home. She had decided it would be safer to stay at the neighbor’s house where she happened to be when the hurricane struck. Auntie’s husband was caught at work in New London which had flooded with the storm surge, so he stayed there to help rescue people. Not knowing what had become of him for several days was hard for the family to endure.

Well, thanks to modern technology we can worry a little less about the storm coming tomorrow. And modern technology was at work for Tim’s family this week as well.

On Monday Tim’s younger brother, age 51, had a heart attack. He lives overseas in Luxembourg so we found out about it on Tuesday. It was such an emotional jolt. Since Tuesday Tim’s been trying to make contact with him at the hospital using Skype and finally this morning they connected and had a long conversation, comparing notes, etc. This is still more evidence of a genetic factor at work here, their maternal grandmother died of a heart attack at age 54 – the age Tim was when he had his – and their great-grandmother died of a heart attack at age 52. Tim has four more younger brothers and it’s pretty sobering contemplating the possibilities, although we can all be very grateful for the advances in medicine that no doubt have saved two lives so far.

Our inner selves understand the journey; a journey destined to carry us to new horizons; a journey that promises many stormy seasons. For to reach our destination, we must be willing to weather the storms. They are challenges, handpicked for us, designed to help us become all that we need to be in this earthly life.
~ Karen Casey
(Each Day a New Beginning: Daily Meditations for Women)

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