descriptions of commonplace things

“October” by Willard Metcalf

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?

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!

a fisherman knows

“Fishing Boats, Calm Sea” by Claude Monet

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)

in the woods and by the sea

12.20.18 ~ Bluff Point State Park

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!

12.20.18 ~ Bluff Point State Park ~ Dominic and Julius

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. 🙂

12.20.18 ~ Bluff Point State Park

on the year’s shortest day

"Peasant Interior in Winter" by Carl Larsson (1853-1919) Swedish Painter & Interior Designer
“Peasant Interior in Winter” by Carl Larsson

A sly gift it is, that on the year’s
shortest day, the sun
stays longest in this house —

extends the wand of its slow
slant and distant squint
farthest into the long depths

of our wintry rooms — to touch, with
tremulous light, interior places
it has not lit before.

~ Robyn Sarah
(Solstice)

spring blossoms

4.8.18 ~ Sandhills Horticultural Gardens, Pinehurst, North Carolina

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)

4.8.18 ~ Sandhills Horticultural Gardens, Pinehurst, North Carolina

4.8.18 ~ Sandhills Horticultural Gardens, Pinehurst, North Carolina

April
Comes like an idiot, babbling, and strewing flowers.
~ Edna St. Vincent Millay
(Selected Poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay)

4.8.18 ~ Sandhills Horticultural Gardens, Pinehurst, North Carolina

Blossoms will run away —
Cakes reign but a Day,
But Memory like Melody,
Is pink eternally —
~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #1614)

4.8.18 ~ Sandhills Horticultural Gardens, Pinehurst, North Carolina

4.8.18 ~ Sandhills Horticultural Gardens, Pinehurst, North Carolina

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)

4.8.18 ~ Sandhills Horticultural Gardens, Pinehurst, North Carolina

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)

4.8.18 ~ Sandhills Horticultural Gardens, Pinehurst, North Carolina

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)

4.8.18 ~ Sandhills Horticultural Gardens, Pinehurst, North Carolina

Every spring is the only spring — a perpetual astonishment.
~ Ellis Peters
(Spring Meditations)

4.8.18 ~ Sandhills Horticultural Gardens, Pinehurst, North Carolina

Nauset Beach

10.16.17 ~ cloud drama in the sky ~ Nauset Beach, Orleans, Massachusetts

In October my sister and I spent a couple of nights at the Nauset Knoll Motor Lodge in Orleans on Cape Cod. The big draw was that the motel had a short path to Nauset Beach, a ten mile stretch of seashore facing the open Atlantic. We could hear the waves from our motel room. Pure joy!

10.16.17 ~ eternity ~ Nauset Beach, Orleans, Massachusetts

Wildlife sightings: from the road we saw wild turkeys and a coyote; hopping across our path to the beach we saw a bunny; and at the beach we saw gulls of course, and a little piping plover running along the water’s edge, and a seal bobbing in the waves.

10.16.17 ~ parallax ~ Nauset Beach, Orleans, Massachusetts

One afternoon we spent two hours meandering on the beach. Nothing but sand, sea and sky as far as our eyes could see. Beverly, the geologist, was collecting stones, and I was taking pictures. And contemplating the universe, the oneness of all things.

10.16.17 ~ gull ~ Nauset Beach, Orleans, Massachusetts

Being awake. Resting in the happening of this moment, exactly as it is. Relaxing the need to understand or to make things different than they are. Opening the heart. Just this — right here, right now.
~ Joan Tollifson
(Resting in the Happening of this Moment)

10.16.17 ~ posing ~ Nauset Beach, Orleans, Massachusetts

10.16.17 ~ infinity ~ Nauset Beach, Orleans, Massachusetts

10.16.17 ~ Nauset Beach, Orleans, Massachusetts

We already have everything we need. There is no need for self-improvement. All these trips that we lay on ourselves — the heavy-duty fearing that we’re bad and hoping that we’re good, the identities that we so dearly cling to, the rage, the jealousy and the addictions of all kinds — never touch our basic wealth. They are like clouds that temporarily block the sun. But all the time our warmth and brilliance are right here. This is who we really are. We are one blink of an eye away from being fully awake.
~ Pema Chödrön
(Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living)

10.16.17 ~ yawning (no sound) ~ Nauset Beach, Orleans, Massachusetts

10.16.17 ~ dune grass ~ Nauset Beach, Orleans, Massachusetts

10.16.17 ~ resting ~ Nauset Beach, Orleans, Massachusetts

Few places on the earth possess a nature so powerful and so unspoiled that it would remind anyone living in a concrete world that he once belonged to a pre-industrial civilization.
~ Liv Ullmann
(Changing)

10.16.17 ~ adolescent gull ~ Nauset Beach, Orleans, Massachusetts

10.16.17 ~ Nauset Beach, Orleans, Massachusetts

10.16.17 ~ a young gull ~ Nauset Beach, Orleans, Massachusetts

10.16.17 ~ Nauset Beach, Orleans, Massachusetts

10.16.17 ~ Nauset Beach, Orleans, Massachusetts

10.16.17 ~ Nauset Beach, Orleans, Massachusetts

10.16.17 ~ Nauset Beach, Orleans, Massachusetts

It was windy and chilly and we were bundled up well. I even wore my mittens when I was not taking pictures. But eventually it was time to go back to our room and get ready for dinner. So back up the path to the motel. Our window was the one on the right in the white section of the building. There are only 12 rooms. A quiet, beautiful, windswept place to stay.

10.16.17 ~ view of our room from the path leading to the beach ~ Nauset Knoll Motor Lodge, Orleans, Massachusetts

I hope I will come back here again one day…

10.16.17 ~ view from our room, a hill with a path through the brambles, the parking lot and the beach are between the lawn and the water ~ Nauset Knoll Motor Lodge, Orleans, Massachusetts

middle summer

“The Flowers of Middle Summer” by Henri Fantin-Latour

The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color. Often at night there is lightning, but it quivers all alone. There is no thunder, no relieving rain. These are strange and breathless days, the dog days, when people are led to do things they are sure to be sorry for after.
~ Natalie Babbitt
(Tuck Everlasting)