Sunday, March 30, 2014

We'll Have Plenty of Time Together

We'll Have Plenty of Time Together

I didn't go to church today,
I trust Mother Divine will understand. 
The sun was shining in a cloudless sky
on daffodil shoots the height of my hand.
She knows, She knows how brief my play,
how short this spell of soft spring weather.
She knows when I am gone from here
we'll have plenty of time together.

After "I Didn't Go to Church Today" by Ogden Nash

I Didn't Go to Church Today

by Ogden Nash

I didn't go to church today,
I trust the Lord to understand.
The surf was swirling blue and white,
The children swirling on the sand.
He knows, He knows how brief my stay,
How brief this spell of summer weather,
He knows when I am said and done
We'll have plenty of time together.

From The Best of Ogden Nash (c) 2007 Ivan R. Dee

          Ogden, I didn't go to church today either. No swirling surf in Iowa, but after the long winter, the daffodils are daringly poking green shoots up through last year's decaying leaf litter and the sun is perfectly warm for a long walk in the woods. 
          Ever since our 17-year-old kitty Pepper died, I have been having unexpected episodes of feeling my mortality, like a sudden electric jolt that stops me in mid-step. It's not the end of the body that shocks me into a momentary panic so much as the piercing knowledge that the sense of self that lives in my mind will all too soon be gone forever. 
          This existential angst is an old, familiar feeling that commenced at age 13. It felt like I was falling into a black hole, to be extinguished, eradicated, annihilated, forever and ever, even though the rest of the world might go on without end. I was utterly terrorized by the thought that "I" am just a brief blip in time, and nothing I heard in church about the immortality of the soul consoled me for the eternal loss of this particular mortal self. 
          Now, as the years advance and the moment of termination approaches, I do have more of a belief in the soul, but it seems like a sort of hazy cloud, a ubiquitous field without much distinct personality, at least not this personality, which will never ever be replicated. 
          Because I have such a keen sense of my time being limited, I feel an urgency to experience as much as I possibly can of this amazing world with this unique mind-body. So I spend as much time as possible in nature, adoring her ephemeral creation in a seemingly endless cycle of recycling into ever-new variations of old material.
          Perhaps when the body stops, this life will just seem like a dimly remembered dream, slipping away without any great sense of loss as the higher self entertains entrancing new possibilities. 
          Pepper, you whose body is now nourishing the roots of a Sassafras tree, how is it?

Friday, March 28, 2014

standing stock still

standing stock still
in shallows a great blue heron
forages alone

So long and thin and nearly the color of the pond, yet unmistakably a Great Blue Heron, the first I've seen this spring, though they are supposedly year-round residents in Iowa. The bird's large size makes it easy to recognize, as well as the long, wide black stripe over the eye and the fringed wing feathers. Somehow its appearance makes me feel winter is finally over, even more than a whole flock of robins hunting in the pasture.
          Here's a cool fact about this heron, from Great Blue Herons have specialized feathers on their chest that continually grow and fray. The herons comb this “powder down” with a fringed claw on their middle toes, using the down like a washcloth to remove fish slime and other oils from their feathers as they preen. Applying the powder to their underparts protects their feathers against the slime and oils of swamps (or, I might add, farm ponds).
          In Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe, Ford Prefect tells Arthur Dent that the most import item to travel with is a towel. Well, these birds fly with built-in towels. Way to go, Great Blue!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

early spring -- frost flowers

early spring -- frost flowers
bloom on the window, snow bends
grass in the horse pasture

We're past the state of disbelief that winter could still be hanging on so long. Late March, the sky turns tarnished silver and starts sprinkling little white stars, quickly coating the long grasses in the pasture. The horses meander through the whiteness, tracing little brown paths. In the morning, frost flowers bloom on the windows, glittering in the sunrise, which soon sublime as the air warms ever so slightly.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

first day of spring -- snow

first day of spring -- snow
crocuses open frail petals 
among dead oak leaves

When I leave home on 17 March, it's still winter in Iowa, 14 degrees F with snow on the ground. By the time I park at my sister's home, 100 miles southwest in Kansas, spring has already arrived, with St. Patrick's Day green erupting from bare ground.

On the sunny Spring Equinox, the lilac buds of the snow crocuses open, but instead of poking through snow, they are thrusting up through a thick layer of dry oak leaves. 

These appear to be the wild variety, C. tommasinianus. Some intrepid "tommies" are springing straight up through gravel, their delicate petals as luminescent as stained glass.

Six pointed purple petals form a chalice for three inward curving golden anthers surmounted by a ruffled tripartite stigma.

The pollen, the color of turmeric, is so heavy it's spilling onto the delicate petals. No bees in sight, but the sticky stigma will remain moist for quite a long time, waiting for a princess charming to give it a pollinating nuzzle.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

another snowstorm

another snowstorm
in March, the only sign 
of color, one redbird

On the ides of March, I get the bike out of the shed and go for my first ride of the year. I'm not even wearing a coat. Sure, it's windy, but that's to be expected in early Spring. Then the Mad March Wind turns blustery, plummets the temperature and drives a new swarm of snowflakes down from the north. This morning I look out at a world gone white once more, awed by winter's tenacity. Only the sight of one vivid Cardinal reassures me that warmth and color have not forsaken the world.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

rain turning to ice

rain turning to ice
transforming to snow reverting to
sunshine on March mud

Today is the birthday of my sister Iris, born on the same day in the same year and in the same city as poet and fiction author Naomi Shihab Nye, who said, "Poetry calls us to pause. There is so much we overlook, while the abundance around us continues to shimmer, on its own." My sister is also a poet and author, and like Naomi, she takes time to pause, to look and to celebrate the abundance around us.
          This morning I awoke to a shimmering world. The rain that began last night had turned to ice and then snow, sparkling in the morning sunlight and already beginning to melt. I went out, in pyjamas and snow boots, to gaze at the tiny glimmering ice sculptures capping last year's seed pods and this year's buds. Even though we are tired of cold, the wonder of this, surely, last fling of winter made this special day even more special.

Friday, March 7, 2014

sweeping snow once more

sweeping snow once more
from the sidewalk -- it's March but
winter won't let go

Another snowstorm and -6 F on the night of the first of March, already making it the coldest March on record. And then another flurry on 5 March. If you don't sweep the snow from your walkway, foot traffic will pack the snow, which turns into ice -- dangerous for walking and difficult to chip away. So it's sweep, sweep, sweep, whenever snow falls -- and this lady does it with style!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

chipmunk searching under snow

chipmunk searching under snow
for hickory nuts draws a deer
with its busy feet

A maze of tracks in the snow surround one of our big shagbark hickory trees -- a chipmunk searching for nuts. When I stop to admire the meandering lines, I'm surprised to see that a four-footed artist has drawn a delightful caricature of a buck, complete with antlers. Wonders never cease.