Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here, And you must treat it as a powerful stranger, Must ask permission to know it and be known. The forest breathes. Listen. It answers, I have made this place around you. If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here. No two trees are the same to Raven. No two branches are the same to Wren. If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you, You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows Where you are. You must let it find you.
You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves. Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. Meanwhile the world goes on. Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain are moving across the landscapes, over the prairies and the deep trees, the mountains and the rivers. Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, are heading home again. Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting — over and over announcing your place in the family of things.
Who made the world? Who made the swan, and the black bear? Who made the grasshopper? This grasshopper, I mean- the one who has flung herself out of the grass, the one who is eating sugar out of my hand, who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down- who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes. Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face. Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away. I don’t know exactly what a prayer is. I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass, how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, which is what I have been doing all day. Tell me, what else should I have done? Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
Driving along a prairie east west highway, see tawny hawks sit still and solemn on weathered wooden fence posts gazing out over the sun yellow canola fields bordered by green grass and blue sky. While crows hop on the edges of pot-hole ponds, and others soar on invisible cloudless slipstreams.
The linden tree we planted to replace the “sacred” grove of aspens, (those four slender white trunks and limbs finally reached their natural end) is now in full golden blossom, gives off that subtle, yet distinguishable sweet fragrance attracting big-bottomed bumblebees by the dozen.
This day I sit on the café patio of a favourite garden store. The masked hostess initially said there’d be an hour wait, then quickly waived it and me to the perfect table. Such kindness these days so easily brings me, touches me, moves me to tears. Thankful for sunglasses. I can see out. She can’t see in.
Creamy globes of hydrangea, some in pots, others topiary trees. Their petals flutter in a balmy breeze I’ve longed for ages to feel.
Piano muzak and signature water fountains, my aural companions. Another day of cloudless blue soothing warmth. Background melodies blur nearby conversations, but accentuate my silent solitude. Those familiar invite a slippery slope of remembering when
I was last here…lunch with friends, Winter cold. Swaddled in sweaters and down, toques, gloves and coats. Warm in the glow of time shared.
Floating down the river as a teenager with my girlfriends, or lounging on the air mattress in the cold quarry waters. Music blasting from the boom box above. Carefully passing the joint, we be jammin’.
My spoon glides through the layers of light whipped cream, denser coconut cream, then break though oven crisp pastry. My raison d’etre this favourite dessert.
Pachelbel’s canon whispers, evokes body memory to breathe slower, deeper. And then, like that golden dragonfly I watch my thoughts lift and land lightly
a friend who lost her husband to suicide another her brother won’t linger too long here, just enough for a steady pause and heartfelt prayer.
Finally a long awaited week of summer where the yellow circle weather icons make it possible to plan
a picnic, a patio visit, an alfresco dinner with friends, another day long road trip.
Slugs shrivel. Flowers flourish. Farmers’ crops and home gardens ripen, promising a bounty this week.Hallelujah! Cohen’s chords now proclaim. Bill received and paid. Thanks be given.
This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they are a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice. meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes. because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.
All the old signposts have fallen,
wood cracked and rotted,
atlases crumble, a pile of maps
flutter and dart like hummingbird
wings, the GPS signal is out of range.
Her compass slips from her hand,
the only thing she knows is that
she walks in circles now,
the trees ahead familiar
but really nothing is the same.
She wanders for hours, days,
weeks, loses track of the nights
as one tumbles into another.
Finally, she stops, builds
a bonfire from all the old maps
still in her pack, invites others
who wander by to gather,
each of them savor warmth
from flame and kindness,
laugh while they tell stories
of how they once knew the way.
Her eyes meet another,
hand outstretched, together
their breath rises in white spirals
into cold air and they
stay still long enough
to learn to love the quiet ache,
the old longing to be sure,
to see the country of certainty
as a memory receding
like an evening horizon until
there is only the black bowl of sky.
They begin to hear the whisper
of breezes, the secrets of birds,
follow the underground stream
that runs through each of them,
and they no longer ask
which way to go,
but sit and savor this
together, under night sky
illumined by fire and stars.
Memories of traveling to Newfoundland five years ago were evoked this week, thanks to photos I’d posted on Face Book coming back to remind me, and viewing the beautifully shot episode “Strange & Familiar: Architecture on Fogo Island.” I didn’t get to Fogo Island then. Hadn’t even known about it. But it’s been on my list since, and visiting may come sooner than later as international travel might now be a thing of the past.
That trip, with its magnificent vistas of land, sea and sky, awakened a deep love for the wild and inspired words that remarkably won me a writing contest sponsored by the tour company.
It’s been good during these my fallow days – when the only vistas I’m seeing are those in my back yard and community, and the only words that come are few and far between – to remember back then, to trust in now.
Seeing Newfoundland in Six Vignettes
I The Table Lands, Gros Morne June 20, 2015
The vastness of this Island’s spirit, holding the Earth’s very own heart exposed to all the elements.
A paradox of deep beauty, magnificence and awe, with a cutting desperation for survival.
A people who, fierce and proud – despite what we mainlanders think – know what matters.
II Woody Point, Gros Morne Early Sunday Summer Solstice Morn June 21, 2015
A Bonne Bay full of Sun on this Sacred Sunday Summer Solstice morn.
Shhhh… the only sounds…
A choir of birds. Robin singing, thrilling, trilling. Black Crow cawing. Meadow Lark warbling. Red winged Blackbird wooing.
Blood red blossoms about to burst forth on the front yard crab apple tree.
Water softly lapping on the stony shore.
Locals sitting on their front porch stoops, sipping coffee, smoking the day’s first cigarette.
The “from aways” their laughter and chatter break the spell.
I stand on yet another threshold looking for the middle way.
III Norris Point, Gros Morne Our Summer Solstice Prayer June 21, 2015
Intention held in the hearts and minds of twelve women wild to witness the whale, grand dame of our species.
A blow…once, twice seen along the rock and tree faced cliff.
Colour full kayaks skim the surface, carry us Home.
Our hands drum the chant of welcome, invoking her wisdom, calling her in.
A tail sighted…once, twice breaking though the glassy bay.
A sudden breach.
Our collective Heart leaps with the closeness of her show.
A prayer received and delivered.
IV Woody Point, Gros Morne Last Breakfast at the Granite Cafe June 22, 2015
“I’d be nervous all the time,” explains the sweet young server (can’t be more than twenty-two, eyebrow piercing twinkles a delicate blue, matches her eyes), sharing a bit about her baby girl, why she’ll stay put on Woody Point, where the closest traffic light is in Corner Brook, so Adrianna can run free.
V Western Brook Pond, Gros Morne June 22, 2015
That long-awaited landscape. The one I first saw on TV. You know, the one that grabbed my Heart and fired my Imagination. The one with the cliffs.
“I’d like to go there one day.”
So what fired the Imagination of those ancient mariners? The ones whose fjords evoke the very one I’m travelling down right now?
VI Long Time Home L’Anse aux Meadows and Home July 7, 2015
Two days travelling then waiting. Anticipation grows with the wish to be settled back home. Thankful all uneventful, as a day later, and for several more, re-routing, premature landings, delays, all in response to bomb threats on my airline.
The world’s madness – is it more than ever, or the consequence of instantaneous connection – hits my consciousness broadside, closer to home.
And what of those ancient mariners and the many days’ and weeks’ and months’ anticipation and sailing across the ocean? What bold imagination and steel-hearted courage, madness even, drove them from their Nordic homeland to what we now call Iceland, Greenland? And then further south, to be the first of their kind, my kind, to settle on this, my home and native land?
L’Anse aux Meadows, the very tip of Newfoundland’s northern most shore. One thousand years ago. We now know centuries before the likes of men we call Cabot, Columbus, Cartier.
When I recall the day I disembarked from the van, set foot on and looked out over that first “from away settlement,” over the bare expanse of naked land and sea and sky – cold and windy and grey and raining – I can hardly imagine, in a thousand years, their first reaction to seeing and setting foot. Unless I search in my own DNA and evoke that of my father’s, when he first saw, from the ship carrying him across the ocean from post-war Germany, and set foot on the land that he would claim and make home, that day over a mid-century ago.