Choose Your Resources Wisely

It was misty on the big thumb that is Clearwater Florida this morning.  We live on the inside curve of the Clearwater-St Petersburg peninsula.  In the armpit, if you will, of “old Tampa Bay.”  The bay is beautiful. Shades of watery blue beneath whitecaps and the shadows of Great Blue Heron wings. A clam pot for birds, a safe passage for kayak and paddleboard the Bay lacks the primordial punch of the great womb that is the Gulf of Mexico.

We drove North and then West to the causeway at Dunedin.  We passed through the gate and maneuvered into a parking lot for 100 with 98 spaces left. The thick fog of a bottom-heavy steel gray cloud was just rising as we kicked off our shoes on flour white sand. Bands of blue green water snaked through the opaque ashen waves as the rising sun topped the palms at the edge of the beach. If you want to have color, you have to have light. Without illumination, life is just shades of gray.

 

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Those that show up at the beach on a morning like this didn’t come with sunscreen and a People magazine.  We come to the edge to restore and rejoice, or to soak up “beach time”, before the vacation runs out. Some stand ankle deep in salty water to reclaim dreams, or discover new journeys. Some come to petition the deities of great bodies of water for their divine assistance. Today I wasn’t clear who was doing what, except for one of us.

I saw them coming.  The two women walked slowly towards us wearing ultramarine blue t-shirts in different sizes. The older woman walked on the left. The deep lines of her face framed her expression of deep gratitude.  Clearly this was an extraordinary day for her to be walking here on this thin strip of land between waters, on this March day, with this young woman.  The older woman held her worn-well Keds in her hand as they walked barefoot near the water. She leaned in, listening attentively to the words that flowed from her companion. Neither seemed to feel the sharp shell rubble or notice the few passersby.  They were intent, focused.

Indeed! They were pregnant with change. The younger woman was supremely pregnant, probably beyond pregnant and well into “overdue.”  She walked strong, straight but with great care, balancing a belly that looked as if it might burst open at any moment.

 

“You came to the right place,”

I thought, thinking of the saltwater that filled that belly. Then I realized,

We are always in the right place,”

The young woman spoke fervently, passionately. Her arm movements animated her story and the old women with the wrinkles smiled a quiet smile. We passed unseen.

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It is my practice to stand at the edge of earth and water to check my trajectory and clear the emotional flotsam. Placing my thoughts in fragile shells, I create a shrine of temporal impermanence that holds my concerns and hopes for this day. The Gulf is my resource for reflection on the mud and miracles that happen daily. I imagine the Nereids float silently nearby, offering illuminating advice that wordlessly seeps into mind and heart through the souls of our feet stuck deep in the moving sands.  Their whispered encouragements float down from Tern’s wing,

 “Be brave! Be strong! Live! Live!”

Standing in sunlight and blue water one moment, and chilly wind of storm clouds the next, it’s all here, and it’s all good.

“Look at the sea, She lives there,

and She knows how it works,”

was my silent reassurance.

I walked up the beach a bit and found a message scratched in the sand by a sure hand on a sturdy stick.  It was addressed to the Sea and the Wisdom herein,

“I am ready now

I am ready now Baby”

March 19, 2018

She chose her Resources wisely I thought, as I wrote,

Godspeed!

in the sand with my toe. We are all in this together.

 

(http://www.theoi.com/Pontios/Nereides.html)

Photos: Carol Martell, Honeymoon State Park, Dunedin Florida

Indiscriminate Death

I went to the blue big box store for some hardware and a quick stroll through the green houses filled with flowers.  Standing amidst the colors of summer is like visual music. Humming this tune most clearly, are the precious pollinators; the bees.

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 Unfortunately these particular flowers are potentially loaded with systemic pesticides called neonicotinoids. These added chemicals can bring death home to the hive, riding the notes of sweet pollen. ‘NEONICS” banned in Europe, are used heavily here, present in many, if not most botanicals, from big box stores.  

http://www.beyondpesticides.org/programs/bee-protective-pollinators-and-pesticides/chemicals-implicated

I stopped to watch the bees on a blue Nepeta in full bloom, counting 10 bees on a single plant. The bees were being bees; unconcerned about place and time. Bees really mind their own business. They are focused and totally driven by the needs of the hive.

Those engaged in gathering the means of survival; the creation of more bees, are mature and experienced females.  This is the final job of a multi-career bee. The bee you see gathering nectar is no youngster.  She has already in her life cycle: cleaned the hive, nursed the larvae, guarded the front door and fed and protected the Queen.  These sweet ladies are on their final run.  Gathering is dangerous, and maybe the best task for a bee. She does this work at the end of her life until she dies.  She does this “in community, for the good of all,” but she does this task independently.bee-1322845_1920

The Garden Center folk had just unloaded some fresh carts. These racks of flowers had just arrived from parts unknown, and they came with hitchhikers. I spotted three shiny green bees working alongside our usual yellow and black crew.  They were smaller, hairless and coated in metallic emerald green.  If “Oz” has bees they would look like this. I thought perhaps, they weren’t real bees.

Having a serendipitous moment, I imagined them to be an alien race on reconnaissance. Or could they be some researcher’s cleverly designed mechanical drones seeking answers to our shortage of pollinators. The real bee drones are male and generally don’t carry that level of responsibility. They are pretty much “one trick ponies.” One pirouette in the sky with a new Queen and they are done and dead drones. They have some domestic duties back at the hive. but are the first to be exited when the pollen pickings get slim. Google identified these green newcomers as Green Orchid Bees from somewhere “South of the Border.”

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I turned the corner, moving finally toward Hardware. Just two aisles removed from the Summer kaleidoscope of Mums and Marigolds stood a shelf four tiers high and twenty feet long. Any product commanding that amount of shelf space in a big box store is a moneymaker. The shelves were completely filled with red, white and blue plastic containers, four deep.  They were arranged in precise rows seemingly at attention, with  weapon-esque sprayers strapped to their sides,  all ready to dispense some twisted human justice.

What I saw was a conquering army poised to attack.  Concentrated poison promising insect free, lifeless gardens standing right here in amongst the plants. Plants that need insects to pollinate their flowers.  I began to feel a pattern forming. I begin to feel sick.

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I walked the length of the aisle, twice, looking at each container.  There was a theme: an illustration of the potential “damage”, chewed leaf, aphid covered rose, thin grass etc.  A superimposed grossly magnified insect portrait of the perpetrator of this disaster was front and center. The truth was told in tiny print on the back of the label. This elixir is willing and able to kill everything it touches, every kind of bug, indiscriminately.

What about those who prey upon those, who prey upon them? We can assume that birds, frogs, dogs, cats, children might also be at risk with improper use, wet weather or unexpected wind. The pictures on the bottles are not the enemy, it is us.

 

Aphids on Roses have never ruined a life. Angry words, resentful thoughts, these can shrivel an adult, and a child won’t fair as well. (see Be Careful They will Hear You

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I was face to face with the masters of our universe.  The mightier purveyors of Indiscriminate death and maniacal manipulation. These products are created from the depths of impossibly deep pockets with no international borders. These are the products of behemoth industries, soon to be a single industry. These potent killers are on store shelves everywhere, deadly poisons in user friendly packages.

 

macro-photos-6A metaphor for the smiling well-groomed folk that occupy the media arena. Throw some anger and hate out into the world like meat to hungry dogs.  See how we tear at it, anxious to feel the burn of anger.  Keep spraying the country with fear and anger.

I stood in the Big Box store and took in the schizophrenic rantings of the chemical trade. “Fertilizer and weed killer in one application.”  Yes, this company makes cancer causers, and cancer treatments, pharmaceuticals, sunscreen and Pesticides and pills.  They are indiscriminate in their creation, indiscriminate in their killing.  And we are willing participants.

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And we, as a culture are indiscriminate in what we choose to spray on our lawns and out of our mouths.  Angry hateful spiteful thoughts are poison in red white and blue wrappers that promise you a better life.

We have all become extremists in our views, no time for discourse, no time for thought.  Repeat what you heard, assume you know what I think, assume your information is correct, and assume you know best.

You can always get out the pesticides for everyone else.

I have assigned myself the task of living with as much integrity as I can dig up or cultivate in my garden. It is a far simpler way to live. I will disconnect from the continuous pollution and poisoning of our emotional environment that is seeking to damage our cultural connective tissue.  When it is acceptable to celebrate hate, it is time for the rest of us to generate something different.

Wake up and stop spreading poison. It is impossible to know who the enemy is…

“If we continue to spread poison only those who created it will survive”

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Let Yourself Grow!

Winter Landscape at Sunset

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Winter Landscape at Sunset, Anton Mauve (Dutch,  c.1885-87.)

“Look deep into nature and you will understand everything.”

— Albert Einstein

This week in mid December the thermometer at the wide window of my western exposure has reported -7 to 44F. Standing close to the fire in the woodstove, I watched the “outside life” slide slowly into the quiet whispers of winter. In just a few hours, the last leaves caught in the wire fence, tufts of emerald green grass, and stiff stalks of Kale disappeared beneath brilliant white snow edged in hard grey ice. The sky darkened, the wind blew. The Poplar communities huddled together, the white Birches leaned and dipped, carrying pencil thin snow loads in silence, until wind or sun relieved them of the burden.

The spare plainness of organic form on light, black branches on white snow, wiped away any subtlety or shading. The four elements of life shouted out their truth; the earth is quiet, the water still, time in the light is short! Sporting illusions are meant for gentler, longer days. Epiphanies come fast and furious in this stark landscape. Ice isn’t gentle, and cold has no conscience.

We are not separate from what we like to call “Nature.” Bring on your fancy down jacket, and the heat tape, we are that which we call Nature, and she is us. Skate if you wish across frozen natural truths, you will eventually come home to the thin ice of Earth born mortality.

I have already accepted the mantra:

Whatever works for a tree, works for me.

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Winter Landscape, Edvard Munch 1915

These are my gentle alignments that come to pass on a quiet walk in the overgrown backfield on a snowy December afternoon. The frosty air clears my sinuses. I watch as the dogs push warm noses into mysterious snow mounds. They look up at me with fantastically funny white beards and a comic’s straight man face, “What? What’s so funny?” New snow is a dog’s miracle.

Extraneous thoughts drain out of my head like the watery mucus from my running nose. It’s very bright, very clear.

“A bonus!” I think.

The snow adds so much light to a dark day. I am grateful for the reflected light that fills my eyes in the days of long slow darkness. I have left my backpack full of, “I need to,” over there, leaning against the side of the barn. When words stop, senses come out of hibernation.

Stepping back, there is a crunch of boot on fresh snow. A tall elegant Truth strolls by me, donned in ice-encrusted branches with hoarfrost festoons on curled brown leaves. I follow the crooked finger with my eyes, walking across downed Goldenrod and winding grapevines to the rear tree line where I see the Dogwood relative splayed out across the fence. The still attached leaves had taken on ice and snow and the weight was too much. The cold caused brittle, the wind blew, and the graceful tree was snapped in half. In a tenuous fracture, she was broken from the weight of water and ice encasing the leaves that clung to her branches; a casualty of the natural progression of cold and wet at the entrance of winter.

Standing in the hour of sunlight of the afternoon of just pre-solstice December, it came to me. In this light it was crystal clear. It is our inability to let go of our leaves at the end of a season that causes human beings so much angst, and yes, agony. It is our inability to accept that seasons come and go, wind happens, all things have a natural ending as well as beginning. It is just all grist for the mill. To argue this changes nothing. To cling to the past is to be weakened, taken down, cracked open in the cold leveler that is winter.

I heard it clearly out there.

“Let it go already! Give it up! Move on, forgive,

 Let yourself Grow!”

The anger, the hurts, disappointments, the stuff, the sadness, let it all go. Toss it onto the great sacred compost heap of human experience. Let the leaves of past seasons become the rich indiscriminate fertilizer of collective wisdom.

Out in the field, my crunchy truthful friend spoke.

“No need to understand the whys, drop the leaves on the ground and walk away.”

 

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Winter Day Ending David Grossman

In the past week at this Northern latitude, mountainous grey thunderclouds have tumbled across our upper landscape. It has snowed, rained, precipitated in shapes that only the far Northwest Native people would recognize as separate entities. We have been blown about by winds capable of moving massive arctic fronts across our entire continent. We have been frozen solid, thawed, wet and flooded all in the same afternoon.

These are powerful forces and yet the trees, for the most part, stand strong in the wind, despite the cold, despite the short days. All the while, in the dark ground, the roots stretch out, growing thicker and stronger, reaching out to new depths.

 

Tomorrow will be a short dark day, the next the darkest yet, the Solstice of 2016. I intend to enjoy this time. I wish you Safe passage and Much Growth this blessed Winter season.

 

Singing the Solstice Blues

Solstice 2014

We chased the sunset; flying due west across the Southern United States at sunset on the Solstice of 2014. This final day of descent into darkness in the Northern Hemisphere has always been notable to me. In the last few years Solstice prayers and hopes have been etched on heart and they played out their mysteries in the months that followed. It isn’t the darkness that catches my attention. It is the echo of rituals past when people and the earth sang together, danced together in mutual care and respect.

Solstice is an intractable physical event; like puberty or menopause, birth and death. An astrological alignment of sun and earth described in light and shadow expressing constants floating in a sea of other potential outcomes. All this drama played out right here in our own intimate corner of the universe. These behemoth players dance the archetypes of sacred interrelationships on a planetary stage of constant change. For the early watchers, when survival was more primordial, the daily sunset was mortality, the sunrise a prayer of gratitude.

The Solstice is the shortest day, the least light, the final exhale of this solar year. Seems worth a few moments of contemplation amidst digital distractions of pre Christmas cheer. Our 21st century world is not a jazzy hologram or fantastical computer generated image, but a living breathing entity. We the humans, are here, because there is a “here.” All that happens in the physical realm is “that” which allows us a life in the physical. We are all part of this beautiful planet earth and one of her children. It would seem reasonable to listen to “Mom” now and then, give a hand up to those in need, and say thanks once in a while for our ride on this fantastic space ship.

I was reminded this year to mark the darkest day by an explorer in the realms of plant devas. An in-training Anam cara of the apple tree has reminded those of us who listen of the olde practice of wassailing. A sweet and chilly practice of going to the trees that feed us in summer to give encouragement in their hardest and darkest days. The grace of warm breath amongst chilly trees, human voices singing out support, grateful hearts banishing dark spirits who would bruise and maim the creators of food and fruit. Marking miracles makes sense.
Attend the last breath
makes the next breath feel so sweet.