More Clouds

Last week when I was writing the article about my salad days and Joni Mitchell, I looked at some cloud photos I’ve taken. Below are several of my favorites.

Front Range late afternoon, Denver, Colorado, April 2012
Kolob Canyons, Zion National Park, Utah, February 2013
The Needles Overlook, Canyonlands, Utah, March 2013
Sunset, Antelope Island State Park, Great Salt Lake, April 2013
Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado, April 2013
Pawnee Buttes, Pawnee National Grassland, Colorado, August 2015
Union Bay, Lake Superior, Ontonagon, Michigan, September 2018
Mathews Arm Campground, Shenandoah National Park, Virginia, September 2020
Bartholdi Fountain, Bartholdi Garden, Washington, DC, August 2021
Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore, September 2021
dawn Upper Mississippi River, Pikes Peak State Park, Iowa, September 2021
from the grounds of the Netherlands Carillon, Arlington, Virginia, May 5, 2022

August 2022: Both Sides Now

Clouds at Point Imperial, North Rim of the Grand Canyon, September 2018

Like some others, I have been thinking about Joni Mitchell this past week. Mitchell* performed at the Newport Folk Festival on July 24, 2022 after not performing an entire set for many years. Unlike some of my friends, I haven’t listened to her much this last week. Not sure why that is, but I think it might be because Joni Mitchell is already in my blood like holy wine.

Some of you have heard this story before (and some of you lived it with me), but I want to write about it again. I am writing this article sitting in my chair. No music now, but there are clouds off to the right through the balcony window.

my chair below the Joni Mitchell drawing**
our balcony with clouds and plants

I think I first listened to Joni Mitchell’s music in the fall of 1968 when I was not quite 19 years old. It is possible that I heard Judy Collin’s version of “Both Sides Now” before I heard Mitchell’s own version. I liked both versions–then and now. Soon after, I heard Mitchell’s albums, probably on one of my college roommate’s record player. Then and now, when I hear those words and that voice–or just think of them as I am doing now–I am transported to another place. There is pain in that place, but the words and the voice I hear sing a strong and healing magic.

For several years when I was young, I would sing Joni Mitchell, Judy Collins, and Joan Baez songs. This was quite a feat because I can’t–and never could–sing well, so I sang when I was alone. I sang Mitchell’s “Michael from Mountains,” “Tin Angel,” and “Blue” thinking of Tom. Sometimes I would sing as I walked at Lone Rock beach at Lake Powell near where I taught or while I drove the back roads of the Intermountain West, where I often didn’t have radio reception.

In 1973, I received a teaching fellowship for a Master’s degree in English at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. That was great (except for the stipend, of course, which was a meager $2,000 per year). Many of my Grand Canyon friends were in Salt Lake at the time and I met another lifelong friend there, my fellow teacher, Laura. I was still bewitched by the songs of Joni Mitchell and, because I wanted to study the English words that meant a great deal to me, I decided to write a thesis on the lyrics in Mitchell’s songs.

Many things happened: I taught freshman composition classes including reviewing hundreds of essays, I got married and shortly Tom and I were expecting a child. My plan on the thesis was to finish it before our first child was to be born in May of 1975. With one thing and another, I finally finished the thesis not long before our second child was born in May of 1977. Our friends from back in the day may remember me listening, writing, rewriting, stalling, obsessing, and worrying about the paper. I had elements of the thesis in various states of readiness for months, but the final version came together when I was able to spend a week working alone at our friend Sally’s apartment. My thesis was accepted and I remember the kind words of Professor Phil Sullivan–an aging hippie among the more standard issue faculty I had at Utah. Phil agreed with me that music lyrics could indeed be poetry. Rest in peace, Phil.

Note: You can tell how long ago all of this was because my thesis only covers Mitchell through Hissing of Summer Lawns (1975). It was also so long ago that I needed to hire a typist to type/format my paper into a form that the university would accept. That cost some money. What I remember most, though is how much it cost to copy the thesis. I wanted to make a copy of the thesis to send to Joni Mitchell. Each page back then would cost about one dollar to make a good copy. At a little over 100 pages, I didn’t feel I could afford to copy the thesis to send. I didn’t really know where I might send it anyhow. A Grecian Isle, a red dirt road in Spain, or California? Years passed. Mitchell kept writing, composing, and painting. I kept parenting, gardening, working (mostly in education), and listening to music.

title page

Mitchell sang “Both Sides Now” at the Newport Folk Festival on July 24. I did listen to it and I loved the rendition. Both Joni Mitchell and I are old now, so we have had ample opportunity to look at both sides of our lives with all those illusions and that winning and losing. I don’t really know life at all, but I am okay with that. I remember and still believe what Mitchell said in “Woodstock”: “I don’t know who I am but life is for learning.”

With all the years of  loving, winning, losing, and learning in my life, I was happy this morning to see that I still agree with the final sentence of my thesis: “Joni Mitchell, for her part, writes song poetry the way Dylan Thomas would have it, as ‘the rhythmic, inevitably narrative movement from overclothed blindness to a naked vision.'”


*When I started writing this piece, I automatically started writing “Joni” instead of “Joni Mitchell” or “Mitchell.” I don’t write “Will” for William Butler Yeats and I realize I want to equally acknowledge Mitchell’s gravitas, so I have written about her here formally.

**Artist and friend Howard Brough drew this portrait as a wedding gift for Tom and me in 1974. Howard also drew illustrations for Mitchell songs and two more portraits, which were included in the thesis. Thank you, Howard.

Almost Summer 2022

I have so many people and things to be grateful for and so many things to be worried and sad about that I find my thoughts and feelings ricocheting around in my aging brain. Because I feel lousy today (two negative Covid tests so far, but, who knows) I am trying to settle down and write. Note: It is now two days later and I am still feeling a little weary, but now I have bored myself so thoroughly, that I am writing again.

Grateful I know I have written this litany before, but here it is again: Family, friends, nature.

Worry and sadness Some part of me has felt worried and sad since the 2016 election. I take that back: I was worried and sad before, after Sandy Hook in 2012. Surely, I thought, we will change our laws and our society now. I had similar thoughts after Abu Ghraib. Heck, I thought things would change after Mai Lai. I must have told you this before as well: I thought we good-hearted and idealistic people would put an end to war (and ethnocentrism, inequality, etc. ) back in the 1960s. I am, of course, reeling over the pandemic, Ukraine, Uvalde and all the rest.

I also worry and sometimes feel sad about those on the my “grateful” list. I worry about my family near and far, friends here and there, and nature everywhere.

My assignment In high school, I was noted among my friends as a “stable” person. Not sure what that actually meant. Most of the time through the years, I have continued to be a glass half-full sort of person. I lean toward the hopeful side. I think I lean that way because my loved ones modeled that stance for me and it has helped me throughout my life. So, now, that I have used this post to clarify my thoughts and feelings, I need to drink from that half-full glass again.  My soul drinks in words, photos, and music.

Words

I have been thinking about William Wordsworth lately. That’s partly because my friends Donna and David will be walking in the Lake District this June, but also because my brother Dan loved Wordsworth. Plus, I think Wordsworth has some words for us:

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.—Great God! I’d rather be
A pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn. (circa 1802)

sign seen at Van Aken Market Hall, Shaker Heights, Ohio

Photos

native spiderwort, Hillside Park, Arlington, Virginia

redbuds, Sky Meadows State Park

tulip poplar flower

pawpaw flower, Sky Meadows State Park

pawpaw flower, Sky Meadows State Park

pitch pine, New Jersey Pine Barrens

planting common milkweed along the W & OD Trail, Arlington, Virginia

Cook Forest State Park, Pennsylvania

swallowtail–first of the season

Photo and music

oak trees Westbound Van Aken Boulevard, Shaker Heights, Ohio

oak trees Westbound Van Aken Boulevard, Shaker Heights, Ohio

Because,” John Lennon and Paul McCartney, 1969

 

 

 

 

Spring 2022

I find myself thinking of the other two springs of our pandemic (e.g., the last trip to the museum in March 2020, the relief with the second vaccination in March 2021). Now, I think about war and children, family and friends–many here and some gone away. Some mornings, I find it hard to get out of bed. This week, however, I can still blame it on the recent change to Daylight Savings Time. I do, by the way, get out of bed–usually by 6:15 A.M. or earlier. I have my coffee and toast with peanut butter and banana, I do my old person stretches as the sun rises, and then I try to do useful things through the day. Generally, the more I do, the better the days are. Now that the weather is warming and the daylight is increasing, I feel more hopeful–in spite of the loneliness of missing far away family and friends, sickness, war, and social strife. I think I am feeling more happy because it is spring in this still beautiful world. Happy Spring!

arugula seedlings
crane-fly orchid, Piscataway Park, Maryland
pear tree and fence, National Colonial Farm at Piscataway Park
Potomac River at Piscataway Park, March 2022
lobelia on our balcony
cherry blossoms and branch, Tidal Basin, March 22, 2022
morning, Tidal Basin, March 22, 2022
Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, March 22, 2022

Happy New Year, 2022

When I first considered writing this article, I briefly thought about calling it just “New Year, 2022.” This would be my snarky comment about the state of the continuing pandemic, our national politics, climate disasters, and just about everything else. My terse title would say: nope, not expecting happy things this year either. Almost immediately, though, I remembered that snarky and cynical don’t look well on me. More importantly, I see that all jumbled up with my weariness and anxiety are bits of happiness (or contentment or, at least, acceptance).*

January 31 As it is, I have put off finishing this post until the last day of the month. Luckily, Lunar New Year is beginning, so I am coming in just under the wire. Here is a list of things that make me feel better about going into a new year. I need this list to remind myself of all the good parts of my life.

The people abide. I walk by playgrounds and I see children playing as they always do. Parents are keeping an eye on the kids as parents do. Every time we go to the National Mall, Tom and I see people enjoying the museums, gardens, the ice rink, and food trucks. Despite the continual dose of disturbing news–let alone the wars and rumors of wars–I see helpers and kind people around me every day. I see the workers at my condo and my local grocery store, and those who seek out and help all the lost and lonely ones.

Mosaic Park, Arlington, Virginia

My county still has heart. Tom and I first moved to Arlington County, Virginia in June 1978 and have lived here on an off since. Our children went to school here. In the 1980s we lived a couple blocks from Arlington CentraI Library where I worked part-time. Later I taught immigrants and refugees in Arlington. We were here on September 11, 2001 and saw the Pentagon burning. Again, three decades later, we live a couple blocks from Central Library. Now, in Covid times, Central Library has free WiFi for all in the parking lot, a food pantry, a vegetable patch, and is surrounded by a native plant garden. Most importantly, perhaps, is the library’s strong stand as a safe place for everyone in the community.

Arlington Central Library, Arlington, Virginia

Nature comforts me. I find both wonder and solace in the plants, animals, rocks, and sky that I encounter.

sycamore, Theodore Roosevelt Island
oak tree, Arlington, VA
frog at Long Branch Nature Center
Shenandoah National Park, 2021

Dawn comes. Every day we see the morning light. We follow that light through the day until it is evening. All the light warms us.

dawn comes

We have family, friends, music, and food. I remember the many good parts of my life. I also remember those who have gone. I have listened to Tom play Mozart sonatas almost every day of the pandemic and I feel lucky. It’s the time of year when I remember “Auld Lang Syne.” I shiver or cry or both when I hear the song. I want and need that cup.

For old acquaintance be forgot
And never brought to mind
Should old acquaintance be forgot
In the days of auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear
For auld lang syne
We’ll drink a cup of kindness yet
For the sake of auld lang syne

Hope is still around here somewhere. So many words from the wise ones exhort people to live for the day, be in the present, etc. I am on board with that-not that I can do it all that much. I still spend plenty of emotional time in the past and the future, and I am not sure that is all bad. Just a couple of weeks ago, I made camping reservations for early June in Arizona and Utah. Tom and I don’t know how we will feel or how things will be shaping up with the pandemic. We don’t know much of anything. However, we remember the places and people we love from the old days. Maybe we can get to the North Rim another time. Maybe we can visit Capitol Reef and camp on the Aquarius Plateau. Maybe we can go back to Fishlake National Forest and be near Pando (a clonal colony of quaking aspen considered by some to be the largest single living organism on earth) one more time. Maybe we will drink a cup of kindness again with the friends of our youth (now of our age). I am hoping.

I recently bought a new head lamp. I am hoping it will lead me through dark nights to bright dawns.

my new headlamp

*If I were grading this essay, I would comment on the need for more specific language than “happiness” or “contentment.” I hope the examples and the photos add some heft to the words. Happy New Year! (Added 1/31/2022: Chúc mừng năm mới).

U.P., Up, and Away

the view from our campsite on Lake Superior, Ontonagon Township, Michigan

Tom and I have been taking road trips together since 1971: fifty years in and we still love them. We went on another road trip from September 1 to October 2, 2021. This trip could be fairly summarized as: nine family members, three great lakes, two pleasant peninsulas, fourteen states, and 4,500 miles. Also, Tom and I went on six hikes where no one shared our trail;  we saw old growth trees including giant, healthy eastern hemlocks and hundred foot birches, and we learned to love the bluffs of the upper Mississippi and the river itself.  Our trip was balm to our societal-disintegrated and pandemic-battered minds, souls, and bodies. We mostly took short 3 to 5 mile hikes, punctuated with longer hikes (11+ miles at Sleeping Bear). Still, I was happy to see that my hiker’s leg muscles came back.

Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore

eastern hemlock, Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, Michigan

I have other photos (see below) and stories: happy times visiting brothers and sisters-in-law and nieces and great-nieces; plus eating those delicious camp meals again–hummus, chips, carrots, local sausage, and Amy’s chili. Once we got to the Upper Peninsula, we left the poison ivy behind and found ferns, flowers, and fungus galore. On part of the journey, Tom and I traveled along the Great River Road along the Mississippi River. We had never heard of this road and, now, we have another part of the country to love. A young bald eagle soared near us as we stood on the bluffs above the Mississippi River at the Effigy Mounds National Monument.

dawn, Upper Mississippi River

Other Parts of the Journey Tom and I–fully vaccinated since March–both contracted the Delta variant, probably somewhere in the Upper Peninsula.  Also, three of our loved ones died. This trip, even with its aftermath of illness, death, and mourning was fabulous.  My major struggle lately has been trying to write the words about the ones who have gone away.

Randi Tom and I camped in Pike’s Peak State Park in Clayton County, Iowa for three nights. Yes, this Pike’s Peak was also named for Zebulon Pike who explored the upper Mississippi and the Rocky Mountains in the early 1800s. The park was an unexpectedly lovely oasis and one of the highlights of our trip.  On the first afternoon at Pike’s Peak, we pitched our tent and headed out for a walk. We headed to a lookout point high above the Mississippi. We took a hike to see (and to feel) the Bear Mound (a ceremonial burial site constructed by indigenous people of an earlier time) and to take a look at the Bridal Veil Falls. All of it: the forest and the sun and the clear air and the whiff of fall caught us up into a perfect afternoon.  Chinkapin oaks and hickories and butternuts had already been dropping their acorns and nuts. Hearty and vigorous squirrels crashed through fallen leaves with, it seemed, some delight. I had a strong vision of Randi (our daughter Sarah and son-in-law Mike’s dog) and how she would love this forest.  Randi, a beagle/basset, likes nothing more than smelling squirrels, barking much louder than her weight class.  I didn’t say chasing squirrels: Randi just loves smelling the squirrely trails; she doesn’t need the squirrels themselves. I thought of Randi at least twice on that walk and mentioned to Tom how Randi would love this high forest near the great river.  The next day an early morning text came from Sarah. Randi, who had been suffering with late stage kidney disease had died.  Through tears, I told Sarah about the prior day’s thoughts about Randi in the forest. The sun and air had been special–as it can be in a cathedral forest. Sarah and I agreed; maybe before Randi left this particular reality, we think maybe she stopped by to share our perfect afternoon.  What do I know? I am an old woman crying in a Panera as I write this.  One thing I am pretty sure of is that all dogs go to heaven.*

Randi visiting us December 2019

Randi visiting us December 2019

Will I didn’t know Will Bagley very well, but I did love and do love him. Will married my lifelong friend, Laura in 2003.** A few years after that, I was going to be conducting professional development workshops for adult English as a second language (ESL) teachers somewhere in the west–maybe Montana. I can’t remember.  What I do remember is that I had a stopover in Salt Lake City where Laura and Will lived.  They said they would pick me up at the airport and drive me down to Zion National Park. I was exhausted from my workshops and I slept part of the way.  We reached Springdale in the dark of the night and I woke in the morning surrounded by my old friend Laura, my new friend Will, and my red rock refuge for the first time in twenty years.  We three walked and talked and I bought a pair of socks at the Zion Lodge gift shop. I haven’t been able to throw away these worn-out holey socks because they remind me of friendship, love, and refuge.

Paraphrasing Wilbur from Charlotte’s Web: It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Will was both.

desert socks from Zion National Park

Tom and I got back to Arlington on October 2.  In Arlington we tested positive for Covid-19, which was no surprise.  In the latter half of September, I had felt like I had the flu with a little cough and aches and chills. At first, it was a little difficult to tell what I had because we were tent camping and a few aches and chills go with the territory. Tom followed with similar symptoms. A couple of day after we got home, we got the call that my brother Dan had died of Alzheimer’s disease.

Dan I have a lifetime of memories of Dan: from early years in Detroit and Milford to the middle years in Ann Arbor, Dodge City, Kansas and Lemoyne, Pennslyvania to the later years on our Deep Creek family reunion weekends. For all his brilliance–and he shone brightly with style and grace and rock and roll songs or poetry ever on his lips–it is Dan’s kindness I remember most. Circa 1970, when Dan and his wife Jeanne lived in Ypsilanti they watched over the baby sister–me–eight miles away in Ann Arbor. They hosted my 21st birthday party in their small apartment. A few years later, Dan and Jeanne’s home in Dodge City was my beacon as I crisscrossed the country between Michigan and the Intermountain West. I could go on, but I I don’t know if I can trust my own words to do justice to this good brother. A couple of months ago, on this blog, I dedicated Dylan Thomas’ Fern Hill to Dan. While not exactly a prince of our apple town, he was the fair-haired and bold youth with the golden ’36 Ford with the corvette engine.  Enough. Let Wordsworth’s Tintern Abbey say the words.

These beauteous forms,
Through a long absence, have not been to me
As is a landscape to a blind man’s eye:
But oft, in lonely rooms, and ‘mid the din
Of towns and cities, I have owed to them,
In hours of weariness, sensations sweet,
Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart;
And passing even into my purer mind
With tranquil restoration:—feelings too
Of unremembered pleasure: such, perhaps,
As have no slight or trivial influence
On that best portion of a good man’s life,
His little, nameless, unremembered, acts
Of kindness and of love. Nor less, I trust,
To them I may have owed another gift,
Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood,
In which the burthen of the mystery,
In which the heavy and the weary weight
Of all this unintelligible world,
Is lightened:—that serene and blessed mood,
In which the affections gently lead us on,—
Until, the breath of this corporeal frame
And even the motion of our human blood
Almost suspended, we are laid asleep
In body, and become a living soul:
While with an eye made quiet by the power
Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
We see into the life of things.

 

*Maybe you caught it: I wasn’t quite able to write all of Randi’s verbs in past tense. Not yet.

**Laura is not exactly a “lifelong” but since our teaching fellow days beginning in 1973; close enough.


Lake Superior, Ontonagon, Michigan

Lake Superior, Ontonagon, Michigan

in the Upper Peninsula

in the Upper Peninsula

yellow patches (Amanita flaoconia?) near Cascade Falls, Ottawa National Forest

yellow patches (Amanita flaoconia?) near Cascade Falls, Ottawa National Forest

asters, Wyalusing State Park, Wisconsin

 

Summer 2021, Part 2: Photos

This summer–like all the other summers I’ve known–seems beautiful.* Even with the loss, the sickness, the uncertainty, the worry, the fires, the floods, the wars, and all the rest of it, I am trying (fitfully, I admit) to see some good in this world. I do see it in my stalwart family and friends and in the sky, plants, and animals. I don’t have much to say, at least much that is new, but I hope you enjoy the photos.

Bartholdi Fountain, Bartholdi Park, Washington, D.C.
milkweed longhorn beetle (genus Tetraopes) Mt. Cuba Center, Hockessin, Delaware
garden–inside and outside of our condo
Regional Garden, U.S. Botanic Gardens, Washington, D.C.
bee on pickerel weed, Regional Garden, U.S. Botanic Gardens, Washington, D.C.
New York ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis), Hillside Park, Arlington, Virginia
bishop’s hat (Epimedium brachyrrhizum), Mary Livingston Ripley Garden
tawny (?) skipper on unidentified flower
wingstem (Verbesina alternifolia), Hillside Park, Arlington, Virginia

*Sometimes I find it difficult to be hopeful without sounding like some superannuated, prissy Pollyanna. I really don’t think I am a Pollyanna; I think I am more of an inveterate idealist. Whatever I might be, I still find myself sad and angry quite often. For example, yesterday I discovered that someone had ripped out the two pink fuzzybean plants off a trellis in Hillside Park. I had transplanted these plants from Arlington’s native plant nursery last fall. I watched the plants as they came up in late spring and cheered them on as they grew up the trellis and spread wider and wider flinging out their green leaves to the wider world. Did someone think they were getting rid of noxious weeds? Was some person or persons just wreaking a little casual cruelty on the park? I don’t know, of course, but I was sad and angry. It was a petty little anger amid the current sorrows of the world and of humankind. However, the hopeful part of me is wondering now whether the plants will grow back from their roots in another season. I wish them well.

Summer 2021

Shenandoah National Park, August 2021

I tried to write a post before the summer solstice in June, but that didn’t work out. By July 4th, I wasn’t even thinking of writing anything. Because Labor Day is coming up in a little over three weeks, I am shaking the dust off my mind and heart and trying again.

Please don’t get me wrong. Things are okay for me. This summer Tom and I met up with family members and ate lunch in Milford, Michigan, my hometown. I walked in sunny meadows and shady forests with Tom and with friends. I heard frogs, barred owls, and other birds. Day after day, I have listened to Tom play Mozart sonatas on the piano. I saw the dragonflies by little ponds, but they moved too fast for me to photograph. Many of the native plants Tom and I planted last year in Hillside Park are thriving (blue mist flowers, New York Ironweed, golden ragwort, blazing star, forest stonecrop, and pink fuzzy bean). We ate lunch at the Bayou Bakery today and Tom is making paella for dinner.

blue mist flower (Conoclinium coelestinum) at Hillside Park, Arlington, Virginia

Still, I am older than I was before the Trump administration befell us and the pandemic began. I miss my brothers and my mother and father. I tell myself to live for the day and to be grateful while I spend more than enough time in reverie of earlier days–of sun on the lake where I grew up, and on the snow, and on the ponderosa needles at the North Rim.

For the last few days, I have been thinking about Dylan Thomas. Although Thomas is not one of my favorite poets, I have always liked him well enough. Today, I remember one who loves poetry and, I do believe, may have once declaimed “Fern Hill” for me. Today, I send the poem back to you, my dear one.

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
     The night above the dingle starry,
          Time let me hail and climb
     Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns
And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
          Trail with daisies and barley
     Down the rivers of the windfall light.

And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns
About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,
     In the sun that is young once only,
          Time let me play and be
     Golden in the mercy of his means,
And green and golden I was huntsman and herdsman, the calves
Sang to my horn, the foxes on the hills barked clear and cold,
          And the sabbath rang slowly
     In the pebbles of the holy streams.

All the sun long it was running, it was lovely, the hay
Fields high as the house, the tunes from the chimneys, it was air
     And playing, lovely and watery
          And fire green as grass.
     And nightly under the simple stars
As I rode to sleep the owls were bearing the farm away,
All the moon long I heard, blessed among stables, the nightjars
     Flying with the ricks, and the horses
          Flashing into the dark.

And then to awake, and the farm, like a wanderer white
With the dew, come back, the cock on his shoulder: it was all
     Shining, it was Adam and maiden,
          The sky gathered again
     And the sun grew round that very day.
So it must have been after the birth of the simple light
In the first, spinning place, the spellbound horses walking warm
     Out of the whinnying green stable
          On to the fields of praise.

And honoured among foxes and pheasants by the gay house
Under the new made clouds and happy as the heart was long,
     In the sun born over and over,
          I ran my heedless ways,
     My wishes raced through the house high hay
And nothing I cared, at my sky blue trades, that time allows
In all his tuneful turning so few and such morning songs
     Before the children green and golden
          Follow him out of grace,

Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me
Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,
     In the moon that is always rising,
          Nor that riding to sleep
     I should hear him fly with the high fields
And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.
Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
          Time held me green and dying
     Though I sang in my chains like the sea.

Spring 2021

spring near the Arts and Industries Building, National Mall, Washington, D.C.

I started writing a post in early April–it is still in my drafts file–but I got annoyed by WordPress’ new publishing format and let my words and photos dangle in the airless vault of the Internet. Even though “technology” was featured in two of my most recent job titles, I am somewhat of a Luddite. However, I do think that as programs, platforms, applications, and what-all become more streamlined and standardized, it is possible that creative work can become overly lockstep. Enough of my carping excuses for my procrastination: I want to write about spring before Memorial Day!

I might have shaded the truth a bit (above) about the reason/s for my procrastination. What is slowing me down is that I keep thinking about the almost 600,000 people who have died of Covid-19 in the United States and the millions more around the world, and about those who loved and cared for them. Also, I live 4.5 miles away (by foot) from the U.S. Capitol and I was under curfew on January 6, 2021. That spooked me and saddened me. Before the Inauguration, Tom saw an armed gunboat patrolling the Potomac River near Georgetown. When the celebratory fireworks began on Inauguration night, I worried that our country and its institutions were under attack again. I continue to be gobsmacked by lies, disrespect, viciousness, and what-all. Also, I feel somewhat discomfited about how lucky I have been through all this mess and about the–mostly–good spring I have had.

cherry tree, Arlington, Virginia
tulips in Rosslyn
golden ragwort

Some Paragraphs

  • I have been wanting to tell you this for awhile: For months, I got through each day by getting the next day’s coffee ready ridiculously early, like at 1 p.m. I wasn’t sure I had the emotional energy to get the coffee machine ready before bed, let alone the next morning. Not a solution to any problem, but, and this is the truth now, having the coffee ready to go helped me feel ready for whatever might be coming the next day.
  • I don’t usually pray, but I do try to send good thoughts and love to our children and their families every night. Some nights, I fall asleep before I finish my good thoughts.
  • It has been almost nine weeks since our second vaccinations. Tom and I have been lucky to see and hug many family members and friends. We have been to Shenandoah National Park, Williamsburg, Pittsburgh, and Shaker Heights, Ohio. We have more jaunts in the works. Now, we are staying fairly close to home. Later, we don’t know where we will go. We are still waiting to find out which way the wind is blowing.
Shenandoah National Park
  • We have had a beautiful spring here. I think we always have beautiful springs wherever we are, but this season has been another one. On April 26 on Theodore Roosevelt Island I noted these flora and fauna: Carolina wren with oak catkin in mouth, another C wren?, another wren or warbler???, mallards, heard red-winged blackbird, several birds I couldn’t identify, turkey vultures, robins, sparrows, lots of minnows from bridge by the marsh, cabbage butterflies, other butterflies–slight possibility of a zebra swallowtail?, pawpaws-no flowers, tall meadow rue, lots of garlic mustard, Virginia waterleaf, Hartford fern?, horsetails. As usual, I had a few questions about what I observed. I can report that I have now seen some blooming pawpaws and that the tall meadow rue is going into flower. Note: All these nature words aren’t just small items on a useless list; they keep me close to the ground where–even in difficult times–I feel safe.
Virginia waterleaf, Theodore Roosevelt Island
trees and sun, Theodore Roosevelt Island

Spring did come after that difficult winter and now summer is about to follow. The 17-year cicadas are tuning up around here and the roses are coming out. I hope to see some of you soon. So long (as my Dad would say) and best wishes.

Winter 2021

I started this article a week ago during Arlington’s small bout of snow and ice.  I couldn’t seem to figure out how to effectively reconcile my homebound (from weather and pandemic) current self with younger versions of me who always loved to be out in the snow and ice. I didn’t want to have to find the words for all those winter feelings I didn’t feel this year. (See Winter: January 1, 2019 for some of my words about winter). Today, I realize that I don’t need to dig for those words and feelings anymore. I have received my first Covid-19 vaccination, I have walked five miles today, buds are plumping up on the witch hazel in Hillside Park, and spring is coming soon.  Before spring arrives in earnest, I want to share some words and photos about my favorite refuge during this winter of our pandemic and social disunion.

witch hazel, Hillside Park, Arlington, Virginia

This winter, I have been walking often on Theodore Roosevelt Island, which is 0.8 miles from our condo.  It’s not the ponderosas on the North Rim or the slickrock in Canyonlands, but I do love this tiny little bit of the national park system, just as I love the other parks.

While TR Island is only 88.5 acres, heavily visited (over 160,000 people visit yearly), and cheek by jowl with our hyper-urban Rosslyn, Arlington neighborhood, when I am on the island I find respite from this distressing time. I would have thought that walking here on this island–a little over a stone’s throw across the water from the Kennedy Center–would be much different from walking on the North Rim or in Canyonlands, but, somehow, it feels much the same. I glimpse a red-bellied woodpecker, I see the mallards paddle around the marsh, and I marvel at the fungus on the stump. I want to hug the beech trees. The underbrush all mixed together with water, snow, and leaves reminds me of the lakes of my childhood. I find solitude on the island’s Upland Trail. Seeing the Paul Manship statue of Theodore Roosevelt lifts my spirits.  None of the U.S. presidents have been without flaws, but, still, on every trip to the island, seeing the statue, of Theodore Roosevelt, who signed the Antiquities Act of 1906, eased some of my pain related to the presidency of Donald Trump. Time after time in these last months, while my mind and heart were filled with worry and sadness, my feet headed toward the island where my body, mind, and heart revived.

I keep meaning to go to the island early in the day with my binoculars. I want to sit on a bench on the boardwalk and listen to and watch the birds. I think I will go next week. Soon enough, I will be hearing the frogs.

 

sycamore along the river

mallards, theodore Roosevelt Island

forest floor, Theodore Roosevelt Island

stump and fungus, Theodore Roosevelt Island

beech leaf, Theodore Roosevelt Island

leaves and log with snow, Theodore Roosevelt Island

marsh, Theodore Roosevelt Island`

Theodore Roosevelt statue, Theodore Roosevelt Island


I hope you are vaccinated or will be soon. I hope you will be able to visit loved ones soon. I hope spring will come soon for us all.