the Coldest Morn

One of my writers group sent out a prompt this morning: “Winter’s coldest day…”

My bay is frozen flat, and white with snow. In my youth I would have strapped on my skates…

The scrape of metal on ice changes as I move. there’s the soft shish of gliding on perfect smoothness, and the scrape sound when I slow or curve, shaving ice to slow down. There’s the vibration of milky ice that welled up then froze again, and the gritty sound of snow-crusted ice.

This watery world is off limits to me most of the year. It’s too swampy for swimming, too shallow for boating,  but now it’s mine for the gliding.

I skate onto a space swept clear by wind, a curving plain with ice is so clear that the underwater world is revealed as if through a window. Only the cracks break the illusion: pale ribbons cross the ‘window,’ revealing foot-thick ice.

It’s alluring. I speed up, soar across this glassy plain, and feel like I am flying over still water. A sudden move below, and I realize the fish are moving in the  underneath. Curling to a halt, I kneel and bow to gaze between my mittened paws, peering into a world below the ice. A finny tail flicks out of sight.

The sun glows, dully shining through a high thin sky, and I take to my blades again. My mirror is edged with tall marsh grasses, faded to gold against the grey. Beneath me, flashing white, dark deep and sky blues. My face is pinked with cold air and my heart happily pushes the air into my pumping limbs.

I outrace the cold. 

>note: I searched but could not find the name of the painter of today’s image. If you recognize this painting or could shed any light on the artist, I’d appreciate it.

The Magnificence Right Under Your Nose

A friend called to day, sharing coffee and gratitude though many states apart. She shared a thought experiment: what if everything, what if I were completely perfect right now, in this moment? What if the fear, disappointment, worry, grief were all lifted from our shoulders, without effort, right now.

If it crosses our mind, it is possible. By imagining this state, we can achieve it. As I believe, so I become. At the speed of thought.  (Remember Jonathan Livingston Seagull? “Perfect speed is… being there.”)

What if peace what right under our nose? What if beauty was blazing away, and our eyes were too busy to see?

Rarely do I hear them: the wild turkeys. But when I do, these huge birds make an alarming racket! The tom may flare his feathers to look even bigger, while his  flock melts silently into the woods.

Did I really see them? Look, there’s a feather, on the path in the morning frost.

 

I give thanks for all blessings.

Those year end reflections…

I’ve been slurping up the “best trash cans of 2017” stories that most media organs pump out this time of year.

Why? So I can muse about 2017 without thinking too much about reality in America. You haven’t seen “Greatest Hits of the 115th Congress,” have you?

As indulgent as they may seem, this NYT story got to me:

Inside of a Dog, by JENNIFER FINNEY BOYLAN

When you lose a dog, you not only lose the animal that has been your friend, you also lose a connection to the person you have been.

I hit 62 this year- old enough to qualify for senior housing. I walk with a cane, slowly. I’m grateful when I can remember your name. And at each wave of aging, there’s a wash of nostalgia/regret for what used to be.

It’s hard on me, losing a pet. This year my bright spirit Charlee (above right) was suddenly killed by a passing car. Four years ago I lost my old black dog- she presided over an important and eventful 15 year slice of my life. At 44 I had so many options to work with. Now I feel doors closing, firmly closed, on chapters in my life. It’s sobering.

I still have my Young Dog, Lily (above left) At 11, she’s considered old now, her vision dimming. Can’t see the squirrels to chase anymore.

I’ll never be the globe-trotting artist I was when Seneca was young- not again. I’ll not careen around the city on my bike. I’m most likely past my last great romance, and glad for the lack of emo drama.

My Wiccan priestess would challenge me: “look for your unfolding challenges! The crone has plenty of important things to learn.”

Okay. Perhaps it’s just year-end blues, all this looking back with poignant feeling. And the cold and darkness that Winter brings. Let’s light a lantern and look ahead.

The Real Deal

In the early 1960s I was in grade school, and my mother let me stay home to watch NASA’s Mercury and Gemini spacecraft launches on TV. We’d follow the whole exciting run-up and count-down, and cheer for blast-off, willing the fiery ship up, up and away into space.

This gave me my life-long love of space travel stories. Every moment of Star Trek the original series, the next generation, the movies. Star Wars amazed me with its realistic hardware, like Luke’s rusty little flying car – it felt so real!  I never miss a space flick on the big screen if I can help it.

I carried my space fandom into adulthood, thrilled when the Shuttle began to fly, and devastated when the Challenger burst apart before my eyes in the Florida sky. Then we lost Columbia, and the shuttle missions withered to an end.

While we may not be launching as many humans into orbit, NASA has stayed busy with amazing planetary missions and probes bringing us closer to the planets, moons, asteroids, and comets.

Today, the incredible Cassini mission to Saturn and its moons begins its final mission, 20 years after it lifted off from earth. For nearly 13 years Cassini has amazed with the data and imagery from the moons, rings and storms of Saturn.

Watch this. This is epic space opera, folks. And this one is REAL.

 

Oldest Library in Europe?

Reblogging for all you book and library lovers: Never before seen images of the oldest Bodleian Library reading room. How I’d love to write there, surrounded by history!  Click through to the article for more images. 

Photograph by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0 Built in 1487, Duke Humfrey’s Library is the oldest reading room in the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford. Duke Humfrey’s Library is named after Humphrey of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Gloucester, a younger son of Henry IV of England. He was a connoisseur of literature…

via This Reading Room at the University of Oxford is One of the Oldest in Europe — TwistedSifter

Monarch update

My neighbor, naturalist Patrice Gribble-Fetter, was on TV this week, sharing about the Monarch research and support going on at Old Maryland Farm.

The farm grows milkweed  expressly for the Monarchs. See how they tag the butterflies, and also film clips of the huge migrations to Mexico.

 

I also learned about the Baltimore Checkerspot, a threatened Maryland butterfly with similarly gorgeous coloration.

baltimorecheckerspots

baltimorecheckerspotchrysalisThey like stream fed wet meadows and are found in the western uplands of Maryland. They like to eat milkweed but their key plant is the white turtlehead, I flower I see in the wetlands of Southern Maryland. Alas these beauties aren’t thriving around here anymore. They have a really striking chrysalis.

The Wildflower Calendar

Chicory blue and creamy Queen Anne’s lace give way to the hot happy yellows: first the Mullein, then state flower Tickseed Sunflower. But it’s the first young tendrils of Goldenrod that cause my heart to pause- September and back-to-school is nigh. It’s bitter-sweet, this moment, every year.

Law of the Jungle

I saw Disney’s new Jungle Book film, and it’s a magnificent experience – a beautiful, heart-wringing adventure. As one of the millions of kids who were a captive audience for the 1967 animated version, I watched it in rapt delight and breathless anticipation.

I’m more of an experiential viewer than a critic; thus I fell in love with Bagheera’s green eyes and cultured voice (Ben Kingsley.) Bill Murray as Baloo the bear was inspired. The lushly detailed environments, plants and animals is a feast for the eyes. But the story the crisis that Mowgli the man-cub brings to his jungle community is bittersweet.

Mowgli is raised by the wolf pack and mentored by Bagheera. They consider the boy one of their own. Shear Kan, the menacing Bengal tiger, claims that man is the most dangerous beast of all, and insists that the man-cub must leave, and later, die. The community erupts in debate, and Mowgli, unwilling to be the cause of such strife, agrees to leave.

For all the lush beauty of this film, with it’s depiction of vibrant life, knowing it’s all created with CGI leaves me with a hollow ache. The ‘jungle’ world that Kipling wrote of in 1894 no longer exists today, except in scraps of parkland.  So Shear Kan made a valid point: humans will bring the end of life as they know it.

Please, go enjoy the movie. It’s lovely. But then take some small action to help the creatures in the film.

To learn more about the state of the ‘jungle’ today, visit one of these organizations.

Global Tiger Initiative

Wildlife Conservation Society

World Wildlife Society

 

 

Cherry Blossom Joy!

I try to get out and paint plein-aire from the Yoshino cherries during their brief and glorious blooming. It’s always unpredictable! This year it seemed imminent, then a cold front delayed their progress, then BAM! an explosion of flowers.

CherriesPhotog2016
Ducks check out the Photographer

When I first came to Washington, I expected something gaudier. I was amazed by the subtle beauty of these earliest blooming trees. They are a ruddy color before their buds open, then a soft pink when they’re newly opened. Finally they create a soft glow of white with but a memory of pink, as if a cloud were caught in the dark and twisted branches of the old trees.

Morning at Capitol Plaza
Morning at Capitol Plaza

Saturday I spent the day with easel and paints under the pale clouds, enjoying the color and all the other folks who came there to do the same. Lily got lots of petting and I got one small and one large canvas started. It was a perfect day.

If you’d like to join me, leave a comment. I plan on heading down again on Saturday April 2 from 10:30 am to 1:00 pm. Visit me on Facebook for daily updates and spontaneous painting trips!