mind the cows

Carl-Larsson.thestable2
“The Stable” by Carl Larsson

Many said that now there was no hope of salvation, for a man might do anything and be in the wrong. There was no way to tell. It was better to stay on the steading and mind the cows and be content with such days as are left to one and cease to wonder about life everlasting.
~ Jane Smiley
(The Greenlanders)

two nephews

February 2015 ~ Dominic, Nate and Julius ~ Kingsland, Georgia
Dominic (left) and Julius (right), with their adored Uncle Nate (center) ~ photo by Shannon Rodgers

If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder … he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.
~ Rachel Carson
(The Sense of Wonder)

deer tidings

white-tailed yearling by Greg Thompson

Once upon a time I was as curious as the yearling above, and in possession of a keen sense of wonder. The mysteries of nature and spirit were intertwined in my young mind. 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!

My parents and grandparents were nature lovers, but from an early age I was locking horns with my scientifically minded father over the existence of the supernatural. It distressed me to no end that he refused to believe in anything that he could not measure in physical terms.

One afternoon when I was six years old I had a dazzling moment of transcendence when I encountered a stag, although I didn’t know enough to call it that when I later tried to tell my parents about it. As I was walking alone up the heavily wooded road from the school bus stop to my house, I strongly sensed that someone was watching me. When I turned around to look I was at first startled to see a huge stag with magnificent antlers. He was standing in the road, quietly staring at me, as if he recognized me, as if he knew exactly who I was. I was struck with awe. Completely enchanted, I was not at all frightened. In fact, I decided he was my guardian angel. A fatherly figure. Something about his presence was most reassuring. I never forgot him and have often felt his presence in my life, especially when spending time with my maternal grandfather in the years to come.

white-tailed buck at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Forty-five years later, a few years after my grandfather died, I had wonderful encounter with another deer. (Some of my readers may remember me sharing this in November 2008 on my Gaia blog.) I was visiting my father at his house in the woods, where spotting deer, coyotes, wild turkeys and fishers is not at all unusual. We were starting to watch a movie when my brother-in-law glanced out the window and noticed a doe in the yard, quite close to the house. Being so enchanted with deer I jumped at the chance to see one and went over to the window to look at her.

She was so beautiful with her large soft eyes and large ears lined in dark brown. Our eyes met and she stood there transfixed for a very long time. I could not take my eyes off of her. After a while she lay down and continued to stare at me, occasionally looking about to see what a noise might be, but then fixing her gaze back onto me. She seemed so peaceful and I wondered what, if anything, it all meant. It was as if I had lost my child’s sense of inner-knowing for a moment. Then I started to worry that my looking at her so intently might be threatening her in some way. But she was tranquil and serene. At one point a buck appeared and walked right past her and started helping himself to my father’s rhododendron. My brother-in-law was going to go shoo him away but I begged him not to. After the buck had enough to eat he slowly retraced his steps and passed by the doe again, glancing at her but unconcerned with her behavior. She ignored him completely, and kept looking at me.

white-tailed doe by Steve Hillebrand

After another long while she stood up and started nibbling at the ground, looking at me once in a while. She slowly made her way downhill around the corner of the house, so I changed my vantage point to another window on that side of the house. She was now one story below me. But she looked up to the window and saw me again and started looking at me again with the same intensity as before. Her look felt so reassuring in some way and yet I felt the thrill of butterflies in my stomach. It’s hard to put words to it. She definitely seemed to know me. It was getting darker and darker until I could barely see her, and just at the point where I felt I could see her no longer she suddenly darted away. More than an hour had passed. What an amazing gift! Even my father had to acknowledge this was an extraordinary experience.

I did finally understand the doe’s message with some help from my Reiki practitioner a few months later. I’m keeping it safe in my heart for now. I will never forget this special doe and had so often felt her guidance while caring for my father in his declining years, as well as my mother’s presence, very strongly, in my life. And it was after the doe visited the house that my father, the skeptical scientist, started reporting that he had been seeing my mother. Sometimes he would ask where she was because he was certain she had just left the room.

white-tailed doe by Greg Thompson

Fifty years after my first encounter with a deer, when I was fifty-six, my father died in his sleep in the early morning hours of September 19, 2013, under a full harvest moon. My sister called me to let me know he was gone so Tim and I left to drive up to Papa’s house to be with our family. As we reached the end of the hour-long drive, we turned onto the same road where I saw my first deer fifty years ago. In about the same spot on the road, standing quietly on the side, in the moonlight, was a lovely doe. Tim slowed the car down and she looked right into our car, into my eyes. My mother was letting me know that she had my father now. What a feeling of relief and release came over me.

Beverly and I have often noted in the months since Papa died that neither of us have felt the presence of either of our parents. But Larisa has felt her grandpa’s presence down in North Carolina. And we all see in her new baby daughter, Katie, a remarkable resemblance to him, especially in her facial expressions and the way she moves her long arms.

As I continue to mourn the loss of my father I feel like I’ve grown to a place where I can embrace being in the elder generation now, a contented crone with my fair share of hard-won wisdom to gently share with my children and grandchildren. It’s a feeling of strength, stepping into the place where my parents and my grandparents once stood.

junco-dec06
junco ~ image credit: mike at luminosity.allthepages.org

A couple of weeks I put out a couple of bird feeders and have enjoyed watching the birds who come to eat. My parents and grandparents were avid bird-watchers but I thought identifying birds was a tedious endeavor when I was a child. However, these past few days I’ve been amazed to discover that some of what they taught me got stored in my memory files. It seems like every time a new bird shows up a name pops into my head, so I look it up and find it to be correct! I’ve always loved and could identify chickadees, but when an unfamiliar bird showed up the other day and “junco” popped out of my mouth, well, I’ve fallen in love with another little one.

I almost posted the first parts of my deer story several times since I started this blog, but something kept holding me back. After I saw the doe the night my father died it became clear that the tale had not been finished. Yet something still kept making it seem like it wasn’t the time to share it. After spending three weeks with my darling new granddaughter, though, it feels like the whole picture has now been revealed.

White-Tailed Deer

Katherine Leila

Katherine Leila
Katherine Leila

Well, I couldn’t wait to share the pictures tucked away on my camera so I decided to post this picture from my cell phone. Katherine has spent her first night at home and the new little family is settling into their nest. I am so thrilled to be holding my sweet little granddaughter so often. I love this blessing for a new baby written by John O’Donohue:

As I enter my new family,
May they be delighted
At how their kindness
Comes into blossom.

Unknown to me and them,
May I be exactly the one
To restore in their forlorn places
New vitality and promise.

May the hearts of others
Hear again the music
In the lost echoes
Of their neglected wonder.

If my destiny is sheltered,
May the grace of this privilege
Reach and bless the other infants
Who are destined for torn places.

If my destiny is bleak,
May I find in myself
A secret stillness
And tranquillity
Beneath the turmoil.

May my eyes never lose sight
Of why I have come here,
That I never be claimed
By the falsity of fear
Or eat the bread of bitterness.

In everything I do, think,
Feel, and say,
May I allow the light
Of the world I am leaving
To shine through and carry me home.

~ John O’Donohue
(To Bless the Space Between Us)

ordinary lives

“Teen & Children” by William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825–1905) French Academic Painter
“Teen & Children” by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Do not ask your children to strive for extraordinary lives. Such striving may seem admirable, but it is the way of foolishness. Help them instead to find the wonder and the marvel of an ordinary life. Show them the joy of tasting tomatoes, apples and pears. Show them how to cry when pets and people die. Show them the infinite pleasure in the touch of a hand. And make the ordinary come alive for them. The extraordinary will take care of itself.
~ William Martin
(The Parent’s Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents)

Our wait continues…

Yesterday I went with Larisa to see one of her midwives for a routine appointment and everything looks good, except that Mother Nature doesn’t seem inclined to acknowledge the human-determined due date! So, if nothing happens before Thursday night labor will be induced on Friday morning.

I vaguely remember my mother saying I was two weeks late and had to be delivered with forceps. And first babies are often late, they say. I had three planned Cesareans so all of my babies were born a few days before their due dates. But we’re still enjoying watching the little one wiggle around in her mother’s womb!

a way of life

5.28.14 ~ Stonington, Connecticut
Kentford Farm ~ 5.28.14 ~ Stonington, Connecticut

To be worthy of the astonishing world, a sense of wonder will be a way of life, in every place and time, no matter how familiar: to listen in the dark of every night, to praise the mystery of every returning day, to be astonished again and again, to be grateful with an intensity that cannot be distinguished from joy.
~ Kathleen Dean Moore
(Wild Comfort: The Solace of Nature)

Kentford Farm

5.28.14 ~ Stonington, Connecticut
5.28.14 ~ Stonington, Connecticut

Wednesday afternoon Janet and I found a new woodland garden to explore, Kentford Farm in Stonington, Connecticut. We seemed to have the place to ourselves, but for a very charming tortoiseshell cat who acted as our hostess. When we left we spotted a sign saying the garden was open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays – unknowingly we had been trespassing! But the gate had been open so perhaps our confusion was understandable.

5.28.14 ~ Stonington, Connecticut
5.28.14 ~ Stonington, Connecticut

The last time we had a cat as our guide was four years ago in May at the the Edgerton & Stengel Memorial Wildflower Garden in the Connecticut College Arboretum.

5.28.14 ~ Stonington, Connecticut
5.28.14 ~ Stonington, Connecticut

We introduce ourselves
To Planets and to Flowers
But with ourselves
Have etiquettes
Embarrassments
And awes
~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #1184)

5.28.14 ~ Stonington, Connecticut
5.28.14 ~ Stonington, Connecticut

We will have to return as the seasons progress – it’s a perennial garden and there will be different things blooming every time we go. Please enjoy some of my favorite photographs. The plan was to travel light, with just the camera and not its bag, but it backfired on me when the camera battery died only about a third of the way through. Next time I will carry the whole kit and caboodle with me!

5.28.14 ~ Stonington, Connecticut
5.28.14 ~ Stonington, Connecticut
5.28.14 ~ Stonington, Connecticut
5.28.14 ~ Stonington, Connecticut

The wall is silence, the grass is sleep,
Tall trees of peace their vigil keep,
And the Fairy of Dreams, with moth-wings furled,
Sings soft her secrets to the drowsy world.
~ Ida Rentoul Outhwaite
(Tibetan Buddhism Deck: Buddhas, Deities, and Bodhisattvas 30 Meditation Cards)

5.28.14 ~ Stonington, Connecticut
5.28.14 ~ Stonington, Connecticut
5.28.14 ~ Stonington, Connecticut
5.28.14 ~ Stonington, Connecticut

Way over yonder is a place I have seen
In a garden of wisdom from some long ago dream
~ Carole King
♫ (Way Over Yonder) ♫

5.28.14 ~ Stonington, Connecticut
5.28.14 ~ Stonington, Connecticut

Frequently the woods are pink –
Frequently, are brown.
Frequently the hills undress
Behind my native town –
Oft a head is crested
I was wont to see –
And as oft a cranny
Where it used to be –
And the Earth – they tell me
On it’s axis turned!
Wonderful rotation –
By but twelve performed!
~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #24)

5.28.14 ~ Stonington, Connecticut
5.28.14 ~ Stonington, Connecticut
5.28.14 ~ Stonington, Connecticut
5.28.14 ~ Stonington, Connecticut

In the woods too, a man casts off his years, as the snake his slough, and at what period soever of life, is always a child.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
(Nature)

5.28.14 ~ Stonington, Connecticut
5.28.14 ~ Stonington, Connecticut
5.28.14 ~ Stonington, Connecticut
5.28.14 ~ Stonington, Connecticut

The good Will of a Flower
The Man who would possess
Must first present Certificate
Of minted Holiness.
~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #954)

5.28.14 ~ Stonington, Connecticut
5.28.14 ~ Stonington, Connecticut