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Posts from the ‘Gratitude’ Category

Rays of Hope

“The first sparrow of Spring! The year beginning with younger hope than ever.” Henry David Thoreau

Amanda Gorman our National Youth Poet Laureate is a fine young sparrow whose poem, The Hill We Climb, delivered at the Inauguration of President Joe Biden, deeply moved a nation and offered renewed hope on January 20th, 2021.

Though this was our Nation’s Inaugural Day, I can’t help but include a little history of my own because this, too, provides a confirmation of hope.  Martha Tabor showed her first of five Prophet’s Wheels on our property in Highland, Maryland.  We used to host Open Studio every summer where artists from the Baltimore and Washington, DC area would hang, set, install or perform their art outside among the trees in the forest that was our property. The entire neighborhood was invited in to see and to buy if they chose.

When I saw her magical piece my heart cried out to have it for my own home, but the musician and I could not afford the asking price. I didn’t know Martha at the time, but we became fast friends, and like Michael Gessner (who was our original connection), she would come out to our property to gather wood for her sculptures and to let her two dogs run free.  

Sadly, Martha passed away far before she should have.  All of her unsold art she willed to The Friends (Quakers) community to which she belonged.  This piece, however, had been damaged, one ray of hope had broken off and therefore deemed somehow of little value.  Michael was offered the piece but he declined, suggesting instead it go to us, knowing how much I loved Martha’s work.  A gift, from a friend, from The Friends.

The lesson: cast your dreams, like rays of light, into the future…name them…call to them singing, “I will see you soon. I know what you look like. I feel your essence. ”  Name your dreams. Call to them from mountains and mesas, from valleys and streams.

 

All photos by me unless otherwise noted.

Featured Sculpture: Prophet’s Wheel by Martha Tabor (made with curly willow, hickory and poplar)

Craning

“It’s the beauty within us that makes it possible to see the beauty around us. The question is not what you look at but what you see.” — Thoreau

When I first arrived at my river sanctuary I could see through the bushes and the leaves, a single sandhill crane thirty feet away on one of the many long, narrow islands the shallow river had created. Separated by ephemeral streams, the rills and rivulets looked like fingers stretching, searching for the unimpeded flow.  I pushed through the tamarisk blind onto a narrow slip of sand, then stopped.  Holding my breath, I quickly but quietly doffed my satchel and sat down slow-motion slowly so as not to startle my grey-feathered friend.  The crane turned away with mock indifference and headed for the far west bank.  I watched, entranced, held captive by the moment.

Shortly, two more cranes emerged from the island bushes to join the larger of the three. Together, on long stilted legs, they preened, stretched, bowed and pecked their way across the damp sand flats until reaching the flow on the western bank.  I felt awash in deep gratitude, grateful they didn’t fly away, grateful I was allowed to observe their foraging.

At first, they stood directly across from me on the nearest of the river islands, in truth nothing more than mud flats, where seasonal flora dressed in golden autumn and rusty sage danced their ebb and flow. Having crossed the width of the river, knee deep in the Rio Grande, they turned upstream into the current and set about their day’s business, feeding themselves while their eyes swept the deepest shallows, hoping to spot a fish floating by.  Alternately, one would take an alert posture, scanning the banks from left to right as good guards do to assure the group would not fall prey to beast or other fowl.  Fascinating to watch.

From the moment I sat on the warm, sunny shore my intuition urged me to join the sandhills, though wary of the water’s depth nearest me.  How far up my thighs, my waist, would the river rise? How deep into the ooze might I sink?  People have been quicksand-stranded on the river flats, never completely sucked under, but stuck nonetheless, requiring rescue.

Always curious, a nature investigator, I watched the fowl forage, observing how high the river rose on their lanky crane legs, gauging approximation to my own body.  Never above their knees I noted; therefore, not above mine.  That was the information I needed to get me up off my duff and test the water’s temperature with my toes.  Would I follow the cranes?  Dare I embark on a simple exploration…alone as I was in a great, wide river valley?IMG_4049 (3)

Of course I did, happy to have worn my water Keens.   Keen to have worn my happy.  Fortunate among beings I stood in this wide, long stretch of the river.  Alone.  No children cried, no dogs barked, no planes roared or leaf blowers buzzed, no one to answer to…just peace.  The warm wind, the welcoming water, so lovely.  I basked like a turtle, feeling the energy of the sun infuse my every molecule while downstream visual perspective joined the banks at the bend in the river.  I laughed to see the last of the trees had dipped their crowns in gold, at the same time the cottonwoods upstream and nearest to me fluttered in their full, shimmering finery.

Words from a song hummed in my head…I wish I had a river I could sail away on… A gentle breeze enveloped me.  The water, the trees, and the land held me rooted yet flowing.  Grace rushed over and through me, a purifying cascade.

I do have a river, I realized!  I have this river, right here, right now flowing under and around me.  My heart sang out the words of another song, this one by Nahko from Medicine for the People …Each day that I wake, I will praise, I will praiseEach day that I wake, I give thanks, I give thanks….. Aloha Ke Akua

Offerings: “I am grateful for what I am and have.” HDT

I collect stones, driftwood, shells, etc. It’s not an easy thing for me to resist bringing them home. But I have discovered that if instead I make an offering with them, and record that act, I am less inclined to acquire and more inclined to “let it go.” After all, how much do we need? And of course, some of those rocks are quite heavy.

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I actually took all of the rocks you see on this ledge home with me. In the back of my mind I kept feeling gluttonous for that act. Finally, I went alone and gave them back from whence they came.

This second time, on my way return to the car, I spotted this boulder.  I held in my hand a lovely, palm-sized red stone I had picked up after replacing all the others.  I am a rock cleptomaniac. Should I take home my hand-held stone?  Should I leave it in this quiet place? 

” I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual. It is surprising how contented one can be with nothing definite, only a sense of existence. Well, anything for variety. I am ready to try this for the next ten thousand years, and exhaust it. How sweet to think of ! my extremities well charred, and my intellectual part too, so that there is no danger of worm or rot for a long while. My breath is sweet to me. O how I laugh when I think of my vague, indefinite riches. No run on my bank can drain it, for my wealth is not possession but enjoyment. ” Henry David Thoreau

Moon Lit

“Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake”– Thoreau

Mythical sirens called.  Compelled to follow, I drove alone through the night toward Vulan, Dark and JA volcanoes where I parked in the outer lot, empty until my arrival.  I was exquisitely and cautiously alone; a warrior is always alert.

Leaving safety behind, I climbed through an opening in the locked, metal gate and walked along the moonlit trail, a somnambulant hypnotically urged forward.  The vast open plain spread out before and behind, hushed but for the soft whisper of wind through the sage.  I thought perhaps I might witness something magical, something magnificent even.  Nature often rewards our efforts when communion is our purpose.

Through a haze of fairy-book wonder, I looked up.  Magic had already taken hold….luminescent orb!

IMG_20181218_193101640I stopped to watch a shallow stream of clouds pass over the moon.

The slow current flowed north to south along the western rift edge of the Rio Grande River Valley.  The moon danced in ether, bathed in a billowing diaphanous dress, a glowing sphere of mystery. Perhaps this nomadic community of water vapor had coalesced from the earlier heat of the day, or maybe this mystical mist had been conjured for my eyes only; a pleasure I was witness to contemplate.

Me, my moon shadows, and the sweeping sky above, humbling in its boundless grace. I laughed and twirled around whispering, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

The intention had not been to actually climb one of the volcanoes.  The walk from the outer parking lot measures more than a mile and a half to the top, not a long hike during the day, but under moonlight one’s footing is always tenuous.  Plus, it was very cold.  I would return with wind in my face.  Yet, JA rose closest in the distance, a darkened silhouette, an old friend calling me.  An old cone calling an old crone.  I could not resist the summons, so I set out to climb the narrow jagged path to the crest, stumbling, sometimes tripping, but determined.

The top!  My reward (as if the sky were not enough): a dazzling, sparkling, display of city lights far below toward the east, toward the Sandia Mts.  Bewitched, I laughed with delight and twirled around again, arms outstretched, hooting and howling my “barbaric yalp,” no false faces necessary when only the gods were watching.

Cautiously, I tread across the ancient caldera and soon found a windbreak. Here I turned toward the stone, hugged the jagged wall of lava, literally hugged it…cheek to rock…forehead pressing cold, aged pahoe-hoe.  Silent, standing perfectly still, I swear I felt JA’s heartbeat against my own chest. Here I met with eons and millenia, with this 125,000 year old rock and a primordial sky.

Back around to face the east, I leaned against the lava while looking up at the night and nestled in for a prayer.  I thought of Thoreau’s good friend Emerson who said it better than I.

“Standing on the bare ground…all mean egotism vanishes…I am nothing;      I see all; the currents of the universal being float through me.”

I understood my wee proper place within the warp and weft, the fabric of the universe; I wept with gratitude. How fortunate am I…are we?

Sentient beings on a beautiful planet!

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