profound stillness

“Forest in the Winter” by Isaac Levitan

I love the deep silence of the midwinter woods. It is a stillness you can rest your whole weight against. Not the light silence of summer, constantly broken by the sound of leaves, bird-song, the scurry of little beasts, the hum of insects. This stillness is so profound you are sure it will hold and last.
~ Florence Page Jaques
(Snowshoe Country)

When I was a child I loved winter, still do. There were so many moments when time seemed to stand still. Outdoors playing in the swamp and in the woods behind our house. The magic of ice-skating between clumps of earth surrounded by ice in the swamp. At dusk. Sometimes there were snow flurries, too, adding a silent thrill to the spell.

Only now do I discern the concept of stillness. My life happens in a small city these days and I have been complaining to Tim about the racket the snow plows keep making in their ceaseless efforts to keep the roads and our parking spaces clear. I find myself craving to be away from the noise, to enjoy snow flurries out my window without the inevitable pandemonium.

Maybe I’m just cranky these days. A couple of days before my six-week surgery follow-up I came down with a bad cold. Tim had it for three days before I succumbed to it, so we have been very miserable together. As soon as I got the go-ahead from the surgeon to resume normal activities I was too sick to enjoy the freedom! And now that the cold is almost gone I will be going to see the radiation oncologist tomorrow to consult about the next round of treatment.

A few years ago I wrote this on one of my posts:  One early wordless memory I have is of lying on the cold winter ground in the woods and eyeing a little princess pine peeking through the snow. I was astonished at the connection I felt to the small precious life, and how thrilled I was to be aware of its presence!

One little princess pine in an endless sea of snow and trees. I thought of that moment once again when I read Florence Page Jaques’ words about “a stillness you can rest your whole weight against.” One little cancer survivor in the endless flow of here/now.

devoted to trees

3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut
trailhead ~ 3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut

This past weekend we took a long walk in the woods at Connecticut College Arboretum, and found ourselves fascinated with all the dead and dying trees. Some have been recently toppled, either by Hurricane Sandy or Blizzard Charlotte. This is the time of year to see deep into the woods, before the view is obscured by green foliage.

3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut
a mighty one fallen ~ 3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut

This fallen tree brought underground stones, embedded in its root system, up into the air, along with the soil.

3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut
3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut
3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut
Tim (5’8″) to give some perspective ~ 3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut
3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut
skunk cabbage ~ 3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut

Skunk cabbage is one of the first plants to bloom in spring. Its flowers are often partly or wholly hidden beneath last year’s fallen leaves. Like many other dark-colored flowers, skunk cabbage is pollinated mostly by flies. The flowers actually produce heat — a benefit to the flies out in cold weather. The leaves emerge after the flowers. They smell unpleasant if they are crushed, hence the name “skunk cabbage.”
~ Connecticut Botanical Society

3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut
dying of natural causes ~ 3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut
3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut
living with scars and imperfections ~ 3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut
3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut
roots anchored in massive boulders ~ 3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut
3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut
boulders deposited by ancient glaciers ~ 3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut
3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut
3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut
3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut
roots partly above water ~ 3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut
3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut
swamp reflections ~ 3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut
3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut
mushrooms! ~ 3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut
3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut
3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut

Imperfection is in some sort essential to all that we know of life. It is a sign of life in a mortal body, that is to say, a state of progress and change. Nothing that lives is, or can be rigidly perfect; part of it is decaying, part nascent.
~ John Ruskin
(The Stones of Venice)

3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut
a new life, just a few inches tall ~ 3.23.13 ~ New London, Connecticut

Okefenokee Swamp IV

4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

In a swamp, as in meditation, you begin to glimpse how elusive, how inherently insubstantial, how fleeting our thoughts are, our identities. There is magic in this moist world, in how the mind lets go, slips into sleepy water, circles and nuzzles the banks of palmetto and wild iris, how it seeps across dreams, smears them into the upright world, rots the wood of treasure chests, welcomes the body home.
~ Barbara Hurd
(Stirring the Mud: On Swamps, Bogs & Human Imagination)

4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
sandhill crane ~ 4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
great egret – bill appears orange when breeding ~ 4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

As darkness fell we headed back through the swamp to the visitor center.

4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

photos by Tim Rodgers

It was too cloudy to see the full moon, but as we learned on this trip, we often didn’t get to see what we expected see, but what we were granted to see was more than enough to fill us with gratitude.

Okefenokee Swamp III

4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

To me, Okefenokee Swamp felt like a sacred place in the twilight, with Spanish moss hanging down like stalactites, and cypress knees rising up like stalagmites, like the ones often found in caves.  I grew up playing in Cedar Swamp, another mystical place, in the woods behind our house.  But this southern swamp is very different from, and much larger than, the swamps we have here in New England!

4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

The swamp’s water is black, due to vegetation decaying in the water and leaching out tannin which stains the water in much the same way as the tannin in tea color the water in a teacup.  After the swamp exploration our skiff turned out into a marsh, where we could view the sun setting and see what wildlife might come near.

4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

To love a swamp, however, is to love what is muted and marginal, what exists in the shadows, what shoulders its way out of mud and scurries along the damp edges of what is most commonly praised. And sometimes its invisibility is a blessing. Swamps and bogs are places of transition and wild growth, breeding grounds, experimental labs where organisms and ideas have the luxury of being out of the spotlight, where the imagination can mutate and mate, send tendrils into and out of the water.
~ Barbara Hurd
(Stirring the Mud: On Swamps, Bogs & Human Imagination)

4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
alligator ~ 4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
alligator ~ 4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
alligator ~ 4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
alligator ~ 4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

One last batch of pictures from Okefenokee Swamp tomorrow!

photos by Tim Rodgers

Okefenokee Swamp II

4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

Cypress knees (above) are woody projections sent above the normal water level in the root of a cypress tree, usually seen in swamps. They may help to provide oxygen to the trees and may help to support and stabilize the cypress trees in the soft, muddy soil.

4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

Not the best photo of a dragonfly (below), but enough to make out how different it looks from most of the dragonflies I see up here in the north…

4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

Spanish moss (below) is a bromeliad that hangs from oak or cypress trees. The plant has no roots and absorbs nutrients and water from the air and rainfall.

4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

Spanish moss hangs from the cypress like old lace-pewter veils.
~ Barbara Hurd
(Stirring the Mud: On Swamps, Bogs & Human Imagination)

4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

photos by Tim Rodgers

Okefenokee Swamp I

4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

If there were Druids whose temples were the oak groves, my temple is the swamp.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Journal)

4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

On the night of a full moon, April 6, we took an enchanting sunset cruise on a small skiff into the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. There had been a natural fire, started by lightning, about a year ago.

4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

In southern Georgia and northern Florida there is a very special place, one of the oldest and best preserved freshwater systems in America. Native Americans called it Okefenoka, meaning “Land of the Trembling Earth.” Now this place, where earth, air, fire and water continuously reform the landscape, is preserved within the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, created in 1937 to protect wildlife and for you to explore.
~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge

4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

Can you spot the alligator eyeing us in the next picture?

4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
4.6.12 ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

photos by Tim Rodgers

O Christmas Tree

12.16.11 ~ Old Mystic, Connecticut
Christmas Trees at *Somewhere in Time* (our favorite restaurant) ~ 12.16.11 ~ Old Mystic, Connecticut

Christmas trees are like the moon, best enjoyed with the naked eye. After failing to capture an image on camera that came close to representing what our tree looks like to me, I realized that Christmas trees posses the same mystery and aura as the moon. Lovely Luna is one huge light-reflecting orb who never shows up on the camera the way she looks to us here on the earth. And evergreens brought in for decorating hold in their arms many small lights and orbs (and birds and garlands), radiating an enchanting glow which also never shows up well on the camera. Sigh………. A gentle reminder to stay in the moment and put down the camera… I can’t help wondering if painters have better luck capturing the magic of it all!

12.28.11 ~ Groton, Connecticut
12.28.11 ~ Groton, Connecticut

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
How lovely are your branches!
Your boughs are green in summer’s clime
And through the snows of wintertime.
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
How lovely are your branches!

We had a delightful winter solstice party here, eight of us around the dinner table for hours enjoying the tree, the candlelight, the food and music, the conversation of friends and story-telling.

Christmas day we went up to my father’s home. Every time we see Dad (89), Auntie (96), and Bernie (the cat) they seem to be shrinking in old age still more, if that’s even possible. Dad and I had a few quiet moments sharing a few clementines for a snack. I brought them because I know he loves them. Simple precious moments I will cherish forever. Bernie didn’t want to take a walk with me, so I sat with him at the top of the stairs for a while, petting his thin and bony body, talking to him. Then I went out for a walk in the woods by myself before it got dark.

12.25.11 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
long midwinter shadows on the moss ~ 12.25.11 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
12.25.11 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
somehow we managed to ice-skate in this swamp when we were kids ~ 12.25.11 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
12.25.11 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
shortly before sunset ~ 12.25.11 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

If the weather cooperates we’ll go to Massachusetts this weekend for still another gathering, this time with Tim’s aunt, three cousins and all their children and grandchildren. It will no doubt be a lively day. How different holiday celebrations can be from one place to the another!

Hope your holidays were merry and bright!