We now have six detected cases of coronavirus in our town. We’re continuing to stay at home, except for our daily walks. Strictly adhering to social distancing. Hoping for the best. Thinking of health care and other essential workers with heartfelt gratitude.
Back in March, when I was sorting through the boxes of family stuff, I found the following undated, typewritten account of a lovely October day Tim’s great-grandparents spent together many years ago. Charles Amos Hamilton (1866-1943) wrote it for his wife, Gertrude Mabel Hubbard (1874-1965). They lived in Batavia, New York.
AN OCTOBER DAY
Written for the delectation of my good wife, Gertrude, who delights in reading descriptions of commonplace things, written in rather grandiloquent language.
The poet wrote,
“What is so rare as a day in June,
Then, if ever, come perfect days.”
Without questioning the judgment or belittling the taste of the writer of this couplet, I make the assertion that, with equal or even greater veracity, it might have been written with the substitution of “October” for “June.” For, in old October, Nature gives us examples of a brilliance of coloring, and a tang of ozone, which June, for meteorological reasons, cannot duplicate.
I arise on a bright October morning and raise the shades of my bedroom window. What a riot of all the hues of the rainbow meet my eyes. From the pale green of maple leaves not yet touched by autumn’s frosty fingers, up through the entire gamut of the spectrum, to the vivid scarlet of maples of a different species. As the leaves rustle in the light breeze, they seem to be whispering “Goodbye” to their companions of the departed summer. The dark green limbs of the evergreens nearer the house, stand out like sentinels, bravely daring the blasts of the coming winter. The sunlight lies in little pools in the verdancy of the lawn, dotted here and there by vagrant leaves which have thus early abandoned the protection of their parent branch. The clump of spireas, which last June resembled a snow-bank, now has the appearance of a cluster of shrubs, which in the serene consciousness of a duty well done, are now nestling quietly and unobtrusively together. A belated hollyhock, and a few sturdy petunias, render an additional dash of color. Glancing from the the rear window, I behold the majestic line of cedars, bowing gently before the breeze, but standing with all the dignity of a line of knights in full armor. The row of sweet alyssum shows the same white purity it has maintained for several months. Two scarlet rose-buds, with youthful optimism, raise their heads fearlessly to the autumnal skies, disregarding the improbability of their ever being able to attain maturity.
Later in the day, we take a drive in our Buick, through the farm lands of the vicinity. The same magnificent coloring marks the foliage everywhere, outdoing the most artistic efforts of the painter’s brush. Huge stacks of golden straw stand beside the farmer’s barns, testifying to the repleteness of the barns with fodder for the stock. We know without inspection, that the cellars are well filled with fruits and vegetables, destined to adorn many a well-filled table, and to furnish apples and pop-corn for groups of merry young people. In the fields, the sheep are quietly nibbling, already comfortably clad in their winter woolens. The cows are lying placidly chewing the rumen of contentment. Everything denotes peace, harmony and plenty. Occasionally, a vagrant leaf flutters down momentarily upon the hood of the car, then, as if disdaining its warmth, flutters away to joining its companions by the roadside.
In the evening, fortified by an excellent dinner, maybe washed down by a flagon of “Old October ale,” we sit by the bright flame of our fireplace, and as we listen to the occasional snap of the apple-tree wood, and watch the sparks seek freedom via the chimney, we feel that “God’s in His heaven, all’s right with the world.” Yes, what is so rare as a day in October?
One of the strange things about living in the world is that it is only now and then one is quite sure one is going to live forever and ever and ever. One knows it sometimes when one gets up at the tender solemn dawn-time and goes out and stands alone and throws one’s head far back and looks up and up and watches the pale sky slowly changing and flushing and marvelous unknown things happening until the East almost makes one cry out and one’s heart stands still at the strange unchanging majesty of the rising of the sun — which has been happening every morning for thousands and thousands and thousands of years. One knows it then for a moment or so. And one knows it sometimes when one stands by oneself in a wood at sunset and the mysterious deep gold stillness slanting through and under the branches seems to be saying slowly again and again something one cannot quite hear, however much one tries. Then sometimes the immense quiet of the dark blue at night with millions of stars waiting and watching makes one sure; and sometimes a sound of far-off music makes it true; and sometimes a look in some one’s eyes.
~ Frances Hodgson Burnett
(The Secret Garden)
I’m still poking around through my childhood papers and drawings. My mother was the true bookworm in our family. So many images coming back to me now, like my parents in the evening, my mother with her nose in the newspaper and my father watching television.
At bedtime, my mother read to us, even after we were old enough to read for ourselves. One of my favorite books was The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. (Apparently I loved it so much I illustrated my own version of a secret garden.) And often my father would start playing the piano, gentle Bach lullabies sending us off to sleep.
Spring is in the air! Time to pick up the pace and plow through some more boxes. Onward!
The will in the wind and the weather,
The voice that calls and whispers…
Whether doubter or believer,
a fisherman knows this of “Him”
if he lives in the storm, He lives
also in the sunset’s glow,
and in the red of the morning.
~ Gunnar Reiss-Andersen
(Sea & Sky)
When the powers of nature are the focus of your awareness and your thoughts, you come near to spirit, near to the source of all life. This is why most people love to walk in the woods or by the sea: they come close to the original source, and it is healing just to be in its presence. It cleanses you, brings peace of mind, touches your heart and brings you home to your soul.
~ Chris Lüttichau
(Calling Us Home)
The weather report was calling for heavy rain all day on the winter solstice, so my son Nate, his nephews Julius and Dominic, and I decided to go for a long walk in the woods the day before it. It felt so healing to be outside in the fresh air!
We are very fortunate to have this coastal reserve in our town. The scenery is always lovely, but I especially love the light of winter. It’s been so long since I’ve taken pictures with my Canon, so I grabbed it on my way out the door. To my dismay, I discovered later that the battery in it was dead and the spare was dead as well. So I made do with my cell phone. Of course, as soon as I got home I charged both batteries. 🙂
The wood is decked in light green leaf.
The swallow twitters in delight.
The lonely vine sheds joyous tears
Of interwoven dew and light.
Spring weaves a gown of green to clad
The mountain height and wide-spread field.
O when wilt thou, my native land,
In all thy glory stand revealed?
~ Ilia Chavchavadze
(Anthology of Georgian Poetry)
“Summer is coming!” the soft breezes whisper;
“Summer is coming!” the glad birdies sing.
Summer is coming — I hear her quick footsteps;
Take your last look at the beautiful Spring.
~ Dora Read Goodale
(Summer Is Coming)
To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.
~ George Santayana
(Words of Wisdom & Quotable Quotes)
How many Flowers fail in Wood —
Or perish from the Hill —
Without the privilege to know
That they are Beautiful —
How many cast a nameless Pod
Opon the nearest Breeze —
Unconscious of the Scarlet Freight —
It bear to other eyes —
~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #534)
Honor the space between no longer and not yet.
~ Nancy Levin
(Grief Interrupted: A Holistic Guide to Reclaiming Your Joy)
Science has never drummed up quite as effective a tranquilizing agent as a sunny spring day.
~ W. Earl Hall
(Always Look on the Bright Side: Celebrating Each Day to the Fullest)
Comes like an idiot, babbling, and strewing flowers.
~ Edna St. Vincent Millay
(Selected Poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay)
Blossoms will run away —
Cakes reign but a Day,
But Memory like Melody,
Is pink eternally —
~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #1614)
Spring comes on the World —
I sight the Aprils —
Hueless to me, until thou come
As, till the Bee
Blossoms stand negative,
Touched to Conditions
By a Hum —
~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #999)
A little Madness in the Spring
Is wholesome even for the King,
But God be with the Clown —
Who ponders this tremendous scene —
This whole Experiment of Green —
As if it were his own!
~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #1356)
Beneath these fruit-tree boughs that shed
Their snow-white blossoms on my head,
With brightest sunshine round me spread
Of spring’s unclouded weather,
In this sequestered nook how sweet
To sit upon my orchard-seat!
And birds and flowers once more to greet,
My last year’s friends together.
~ William Wordsworth
(The Complete Poetical Works of William Wordsworth)
Every spring is the only spring — a perpetual astonishment.
~ Ellis Peters
Next stop was Inch Beach! Another location where part of Ryan’s Daughter was filmed.
Inch or Ínse meaning Sea Meadow (Oilean Ínse – Island of Inch) is best known for its impressive Blue Flag beach. It offers miles of golden sand and breathtaking scenery showcasing mountain, beach, valley and sea. Standing on the beach, the 360 degree panoramic view before you encompasses the McGillycuddy Reeks, Rossbeigh Beach and the northern shores of the Ring of Kerry, Dingle Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, the Slieve Mish Mountains which form the backbone of the Dingle Peninsula and the magnificent sand dunes that stretch along this amazing sand spit. A majestic setting, which has inspired artists, poets, writers and was chosen as the location for the Hollywood films Ryan’s Daughter and Playboy of the Western World.
~ GoKerry website
After a nice long meandering walk on Inch Beach we had lunch in a crowded beach restaurant. The parking lot was full so some cars were parked right on the sand. And so we were off to our next destination where I encountered my first Irish forest.
Sunday happened to be Imbolc, Groundhog Day, Candlemas or Brigid’s Day, about halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. It marks the beginning of spring, which I now see comes a lot sooner in Ireland than it does in New England. Our first stop was at these fascinating beehive huts.
Also known as the Fahan Beehive Huts, Caher Conor (Cathair na gConchuireach) is located on the south side of Mount Eagle west of Dingle. The complex consists of five structures.
The clochan (beehive huts) in Caher Conor were probably single family dwellings and were attached to each other with a doorway leading from one to the other. They were built in the form of a circle of successive strata of stone, each stratum lying a little closer to the center than the one beneath and so on up to a small aperture at the top that could be closed with a single small flagstone or capstone. No mortar was used in building, which is called corbelling.
The hillside at one time had over 400 of these drystone, corbelled huts surviving, prompting one antiquarian in the 19th century to refer to the area as the “City of Fahan”. Dating the huts is difficult because the skill of corbelling has been used in Newgrange (3100 B.C.) and as recently as the 1950s. The huts at Fahan along the Slea Head Drive may well date to the 12th Century when the incoming Normans forced the Irish off the good land and out to the periphery of the Dingle Peninsula.
~ Saints & Stones website
It was good to get warmed up in the car and drive off for our next destination.