do not disturb

On our next visit to the beach we sat in our usual spot to enjoy some supper and noticed that my gull friend wasn’t around. Instead we had two large juvenile great black-backed gulls (above and below) pacing back and forth in front of us, probably hoping for a handout. Eventually they will learn that these two humans never feed gulls! Perhaps they were the offspring of the gull bothering my herring gull during our previous visit?

Anyhow, after we ate we took a little walk. Tim spotted my gull friend first, sitting way out on a section of rocks where we are not allowed to climb. I called out a greeting but he seemed determined to ignore me. He turned his head a couple of times, but didn’t respond. And so parts of a Van Morrison song came to mind…

Other times you just can’t reach me
Seems like I’ve got a heart of stone
Guess I need my solitude
And I have to make it on my own

Well I guess I’m going A.W.O.L.
Disconnect my telephone
Just like Greta Garbo
I want to be alone

Too long to decode all the secrets
Have to get some elbow room
Most people think that everything
Is just what they assume

Well I know I’m going A.W.O.L.
Tell everyone I’m not at home
Just like Greta Garbo
I just want to be alone

~ Van Morrison
♫ (Just Like Greta) ♫

Having a very strong need for “alone” time myself I gave him his space and let him be.

the world as a tree

"Lane of Poplars on the Banks of the Loing" by Alfred Sisley (1839-1899) French Impressionist Landscape Painter
“Lane of Poplars on the Banks of the Loing” by Alfred Sisley

With the passage of days in this godly isolation [desert], my heart grew calm. It seemed to fill with answers. I did not ask questions any more; I was certain. Everything – where we came from, where we are going, what our purpose is on earth – struck me as extremely sure and simple in this God-trodden isolation. Little by little my blood took on the godly rhythm. Matins, Divine Liturgy, vespers, psalmodies, the sun rising in the morning and setting in the evening, the constellations suspended like chandeliers each night over the monastery: all came and went, came and went in obedience to eternal laws, and drew the blood of man into the same placid rhythm. I saw the world as a tree, a gigantic poplar, and myself as a green leaf clinging to a branch with my slender stalk. When God’s wind blew, I hopped and danced, together with the entire tree.
~ Nikos Kazantzakis
(The Wonders of Solitude)

a secret garden

“A secret garden. Made by Barbara Lyn (sic) Chomiak. Seven year old.”

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!

so old, so alone

10.12.14 ~ Durham, North Carolina
dawn redwood ~ 10.12.14 ~ Sarah P. Duke Gardens, Durham, North Carolina

The tree was so old, and stood there so alone, that his childish heart had been filled with compassion; if no one else on the farm gave it a thought, he would at least do his best to, even though he suspected that his child’s words and child’s deeds didn’t make much difference. It had stood there before he was born, and would be standing there after he was dead, but perhaps, even so, it was pleased that he stroked its bark every time he passed, and sometimes, when he was sure he wasn’t observed, even pressed his cheek against it.
~ Karl Ove Knausgård
(A Time for Everything)

Fossils show that Dawn Redwood (Metasequoin glyptostroboides) was a dominant coniferous tree in much of the Northern hemisphere from about 90 to 15 million years ago. In 1941 a few living trees were surprisingly discovered in a remote part of western China. Seeds collected from them were germinated at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University in 1948. The next year this tree, one of the original seedlings, was planted here in Durham, North Carolina at the Sarah P. Duke Gardens at Duke University.

Vøringfossen I

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Vøringfossen ~ 5.25.15 ~ Eidfjord, Hordaland, Norway

Back in May, after a long day of traveling up the north side of Hardangerfjord we ventured inland a little, up a steep valley, Måbødalen (more like a canyon!), to breathtaking Vøringfossen, a waterfall in Eidfjord. The road was full of hairpin turns and tunnels. We arrived at the Fossli Hotel just in time to take a quick peek at the falls before dinner.

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Fossli Hotel ~ 5.25.15 ~ Eidfjord, Hordaland, Norway

Apparently Edvard Grieg lived in Fossli Hotel during the summer of 1896, where he composed Norwegian Folk Songs, Opus 66.

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Måbødalen ~ 5.25.15 ~ Eidfjord, Hordaland, Norway

To have the ability to withdraw into oneself and forget everything around one when one is creating. That, I think is the only requirement for being able to bring forth something beautiful. The whole thing is a mystery.
~ Edvard Grieg
(Edvard Grieg: 16 Lyric Pieces)

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Vøringfossen ~ 5.25.15 ~ Eidfjord, Hordaland, Norway

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Fossli Hotel ~ 5.25.15 ~ Eidfjord, Hordaland, Norway

A couple of tourist buses stopped to let passengers get out to see the falls, but after that we had the place to ourselves. There was only one other family staying overnight at the hotel, a couple and their young son. It was wonderful hearing nothing but the roar of the waterfalls…

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Måbødalen ~ 5.25.15 ~ Eidfjord, Hordaland, Norway

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close-up of the rocks for my sister the geologist ~ 5.25.15 ~ Eidfjord, Hordaland, Norway

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5.25.15 ~ Eidfjord, Hordaland, Norway

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Måbødalen ~ 5.25.15 ~ Eidfjord, Hordaland, Norway

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Vøringfossen ~ 5.25.15 ~ Eidfjord, Hordaland, Norway

I had hoped to get all my pictures from this trip onto my blog by the end of the summer, but it didn’t happen. Perhaps by the end of autumn?

Last week we had another visit from Katie and nobody got sick this time, although the terrible humidity did spoil our plans to go apple-picking. But we managed to enjoy the great indoors with our granddaughter. The humidity finally vanished the day after she left – sometimes that’s just the way the cookie crumbles, as my mother used to say.

This week Nate & Shea are coming up from Georgia!!! It’s been way too long, although we did see them last year at Dima & Larisa’s in North Carolina when they came up to see the new baby. Hopefully we will get around to apple-picking while they are here, and we are all excited about the supermoon and lunar eclipse coming on Sunday night.

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Dan at the viewing area Vøringfossen ~ 5.25.15 ~ Eidfjord, Hordaland, Norway

Next: dinner and more scenery…

one held breath

okapi.pintrest
Okapi ~ image found on Pintrest

She is inhumanly alone. And then, all at once, she isn’t. A beautiful animal stands on the other side of the water. They look up from their lives, woman and animal, amazed to find themselves in the the same place. He freezes, inspecting her with his black-tipped ears. His back is purplish-brown in the dim light, sloping downward from the gentle hump of his shoulders. The forest’s shadows fall into lines across his white-striped flanks. His stiff forelegs splay out to the sides like stilts, for he’s been caught in the act of reaching down for water. Without taking his eyes from her, he twitches a little at the knee, then the shoulder, where a fly devils him. Finally he surrenders his surprise, looks away, and drinks. She can feel the touch of his long, curled tongue on the water’s skin, as if he were lapping from her hand. His head bobs gently, nodding small, velvet horns lit white from behind like new leaves.

It lasted just a moment, whatever that is. One held breath? An ant’s afternoon? It was brief, I can promise that much, for although it’s been many years now since my children ruled my life, a mother recalls the measure of the silences. I never had more than five minutes’ peace unbroken. I was that woman on the stream bank, of course, Orleanna Price, Southern Baptist by marriage, mother of children living and dead. That one time and no other the okapi came to the stream, and I was the only one to see it.

~ Barbara Kingsolver
(The Poisonwood Bible)

When I stumbled across this picture of an okapi on Pintrest it brought to memory this passage In Barbara Kingsolver’s amazing book, The Poisonwood Bible. It stuck with me because I had a similar experience with a stag when I was little, a moment of transcendence, when time seemed to stand still for this six-year-old.

I was introduced to Barbara Kingsolver’s writing by a physical therapist who was coming to the house regularly to work with my dad. One morning the three of us were sitting around the table, waiting for Papa to finish eating his late breakfast. Her name was Betty-Jean, which reminded us of my mother, who was called Betty-Jo by her parents. We fell into a conversation about my mother’s love of nature and Native American culture.

Papa mentioned a visit he and my mother had made to the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe on Cape Cod, and that he had inadvertently offended a young man when he “stepped into his circle.” I wasn’t sure what he meant and he had trouble trying to explain it to me. Betty-Jean thought perhaps it had something to do with a vision quest. “What’s a vision quest?” I inquired, full of curiosity.

The conversation meandered around for a bit after that, but before Betty-Jean began her session with my father, she asked me if I was familiar with Barbara Kingsolver. I had never heard of her until then, so she said she thought I would like her book, Animal Dreams. I ordered it as soon as I got home that night and have been devouring her books ever since. They way she weaves spiritual journeys with nature resonates with me deeply.

out flew the moon

KayNielsen.eastofthesun29
illustration by Kay Nielsen

Now, after a while, the Foster-mother had to go on another journey; and, before she went, she forbade the Lassie to go into those two rooms into which she had never been. She promised to beware; but when she was left alone, she began to think and to wonder what there could be in the second room, and at last she could not help setting the door a little ajar, just to peep in, when – Pop ! out flew the Moon.
~ from The Lassie & Her Godmother
(East of the Sun & West of the Moon: Old Tales from the North)

a gentle tree

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4.7.13 ~ Stonington, Connecticut

On March 31st I met a lovely tree in a local cemetery and could not stop thinking about her all week. (See the Lady Patience post.) So I plan to visit her as often as possible and get to know her through the seasons. As is often the case with me, I sensed an energy coming from her but did not notice any of her particular physical characteristics.

During the week following our meeting a life-threatening health crisis arose for one of Tim’s brothers, Toby. Brother Josh flew from his home in England to California to collect Toby and fly with him here so he could stay with us and seek treatment. So it’s been a very busy week getting Toby settled in for the indefinite and uncertain future.

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Larisa ~ 4.7.13 ~ Stonington, Connecticut

It is difficult to realize how great a part of all that is cheerful and delightful in the recollections of our own life is associated with trees. … Their shades, which, in the early ages, were the temples of religion and philosophy, are still the favorite resort of the studious, the scene of healthful sport for the active and adventurous, and the very sanctuary of peaceful seclusion for the contemplative and sorrowful.
~ Wilson Flagg
(The Atlantic Monthly, June 1868)

I don’t even know what kind of tree “my” tree is! When she puts out some leaves I will be able to identify her, but I wish I could identify her by her bark.

Larisa came for the weekend to visit her uncles, and when I mentioned my new tree she was happy to pop over with me to see her and to pose for a couple of pictures with her, too. On this trip I noticed the tree’s burls – one very large one near the base of the trunk, and perhaps ten much smaller ones above it and below the first branches. And Larisa noticed the shape of the branches – like check marks they arch up and then down before reaching up again.

The kitties are handling all the extra people in the house pretty well. Zoë is blossoming with friendliness and curiosity. Scarby is still pretty shy and anxious, but she stays where she feels safe under Tim’s bed and I suspect she comes out to eat and use the litter pan once everyone is asleep. We’re giving her all the time and space she seems to need. After all, it’s only been a month since her whole world was turned upside down!