Right There, or Everyday Miracles

It’s right there, just outside your window: an incredible world filled with (magic, love, science, energy, mystery, god, light, LIFE). A world where the smallest thing is vital, integral to the whole. Where your breath is as necessary as air, where angels really do dance on the head of a pin.

Just step outside and let the modern din, as alluring as it is, fade back. Listen: bird, plane, crickets, another bird, grasses waving. Look: sky filled with clouds like wings, deepening from white to cream to gold in the lengthening light.

© Kerry Wixted

It can be so easy to miss, these things, what with all the worries in your world: hurry, money, late, bills, gallop through your day, always reaching further than you fear you can reach. No room for the moment when a Damsel Fly (some call them darners) lands on your hand. She chooses you as the stable place to unfurl new wings. To accustom her new body to air before lifting off.

See the rainbows in her stained-glass wings. See the green-gold scales, irridescent armour protecting her beating heart. See the bulbous insect eyes, comically large, that see your world through a kaleidescope. She’s tender, pulsing, driven by hunger, born to move in the world, alive. She lifts off your hand, ready to fly.

© Maryland Sierra Club

I met her while kayaking earlier this week on the Mattawoman River. Considered one of the last pristine rivers in Maryland, it’s a major nursery for sport fish and other wildlife.

Just a little ways away, right now, lotuses are furling for the night, their generous cups closing until dawn. Their velvet green leaves, big as dinner-plates, ripple, floating. Droplets of water beading like mercury. beads and rolls off the rich . The water is warm silk, the boat parts the way through the lotus forest, somehow not an intruder. Green frog with satisfied grin watches from a floating leaf island. His tiny cousin climbs aboard. Small as a fingernail and perfectly froggy in every way; his orange eyes blink, unafraid.

Froggy rides with us further upriver. This creature that swam below the surface just days ago now sails through the upper world. He lost his swimmer’s tail ashe grew strong legs, preparing to begin a new life above the mirror’s surface. Now he’s on the prow of our craft. vivid green-apple green, skin patterned with leaf-llke veins, fading to cool lemon-white on his belly, punctuated toes ready to grasp or release; dead useful.

© D Finnecy

We paddle against wind and current, a proud craft with figurehead on the prow. Somewhat later, scratching ashore on gravel bank, Froggy debarks into his uncertain future. Happy hunting, my friend.

Here in this water our life begins, our sustenance is generated, life arises again and again every moment. Sun spun to sugar, consumed by tiny creatures that feed the tadpole, destined to be frog. CO2 into oxygen, caterpillar to butterfly, jellied egg to trophy bass, muddy seed to transcendent lotus: the everyday miracles are countless, and everywhere you look.

© Mr. T in DC

Now the sun slips below and only the high wings of the sky still beam us light. Tree swallows begin their dusk ballet and we glide on the outgoing tide, motionless, while the birds fly low and fast over the water snatching their evening meal. They pass so close we hear the flap of feathery wings rustle, as if we were invisible to them.

The lifeblood of these creatures flows around us, buoying the boat, carrying food and messages, pulsing with a heartbeat of current and tide. What happens miles away will determine the story here.

One day when you mow your lawn and dump the clippings in that low spot behind the garage, you may notice a little water moving.The grass clippings, lush with fertilizer, send plant nutrients trickling down, from drain to ditch to creek to river and sea. En route, your contribution joins all the other small amounts of fertilizer and excrement ultimately fouling the River and Bay as they feed great green clots of algae that suck all the oxygen from the water, creating ‘dead zones’ where no fish or crabs can live.

It’s a messenger, the water. It carries your chemical story into their world, but returns a message as well. Listen: in that quiet little shimmer there’s a pulse, a movement not unlike your own. I’m heading to the sea, taking your messages with me. Don’t you want to come along?

River gets bigger, finally spreads out into shimmering marsh lands, whole worlds of wild rice, spatterdock, pickeralweed and lotus, where young bass grow up to be sport fish. Where green frogs grin and lotuses unfurl and soaring birds eat their fill of flying things over the sunset river. You belong here, too.

© G B Glide

In the Garden: Too Much Chard?

Today in the garden I pulled up the last of the spinach, broccoli and arugula, and planted carrots, climbing beans and mustard seed under the tomato plants.

Our weather is unusually pleasant: dry, clear, breezy and not too hot, so I found myself enjoying the garden in the noonday sun, not besieged by biting flies. Some years I’ve felt there was no way to keep up with the weeds. this year, better bed prep and garden fabric paths has made a huge difference. Pulling the occasional crabby or cracky grass is easy.

The crop dujour is the Rainbow Lights chard: huge rippled leaves of juicy green with stems that are red, pink, yellow or white. Yesterday faced with an excess of chard and eggs I made two lovely quiche that are even better reheated for breakfast.

Swiss Chard Quiche

2  pie crusts (I love the pillsbury ones in the red box!)
1/2 large sweet onion
BIG bunch of chard, stems diced and leaved shredded
2T each butter and olive oil
1/3 c heavy cream
12 eggs (I used 6 guinea eggs and 6 hen)
1 c shredded cheese (cheddar, gruyere, mozzarella)
salt and pepper

  1. prepare pie crusts
  2. preheat oven to 400f (205c)
  3. whip the eggs and cream, adding the seasonings
  4. dice onion and saute diced chard  stems and onions in butter and olive oil, over high heat until beginning to brown. layer leaves over top, allow to wilt.
  5. fill the bottom of the pies with onion-stem mix, layer leaves on top.
  6. pour egg-cream mixture over the vegetables
  7. sprinkle cheese on top and bake about 30 minutes until golden brown and firm.

This recipe will work fine with spinach or other leafy greens.

New Life arrives in Storm

We humans were warned to expect violent thunderstorms late this afternoon. The doe, if she knew of them, was too preoccupied to care. She found a safe-enough place in my woodlot to birth a tiny fawn.

Coming home from the CSA pickup run and snacking on fava beans, I see a deer cross the road, from the woods on one side to a field of tall grass on the other. Between road and field is a ditch, narrow, but rather deep.

newborn deer, about the size of a cat, with longer legs

As I drove closer, this tiny creature, like a cat with stilt-like legs, wobbled after her but was daunted by the ditch, and teetered there, afraid to continue. I backed up the car, put my flashers on. The fawn toddled along the roads edge toward my car. Moma waited nervously in the field, about 40 feet away.

A car approached, and I waved frantically for them to slow, stop. It was friends Grace & Patrick. Another car comes up behind me, and it’s Josephine! Hah, no coincidence that my neighborhood loved ones are all present for the big event. We form a blockade, and turn other traffic away.

Baby deer wobbles over to Grace’s Prius. Patrick gets out and tries to shoo the creature, and it comes to him like a puppy. He starts walking and the fawn is following him like he’s Moma. He leads the babe to a driveway where she can get off the road, but when he tries to go back to his car, guess who trots right at his heel!

At this point we’re all out of our cars, and gently waving and shooing Baby down the driveway adjacent to the field. She follows Patrick and he leads her a ways from the road and into the field. Again he tries to return to us, and Baby follows him. Looks like she wants to meet everyone. He waves us off, and we go back to open the roadblock. Grace waves at her husband: “I’ll pick you up tomorrow, honey!” He rolls his eyes and heads back into the field.

In a little while we see him calmly walking toward us, then running back to the human world. Welcome to the neighborhood, little one!

Spring Awakening

Patrise on a Rock

Fifteen years ago I climbed this hill, carrying only a bedroll, a sheet of plastic, some twine and a gallon jug of lemon-maple cayenne water to carry me through a three day fast. Today I am sitting on the rock that I slept on back in 1997, listening to spring awakening the mountains. Here a hawk, there a crow. Further down in a valley, an owl calls, a fox barks.

The wind comes, I hear it chasing along the ridge through bare branches, coming closer until it passes overhead like a wave. Last time I was here it was July, mountain summer sweet and green. I slept in the forest with no roof and no tent for the first time in my life. When the sky showed first light the air began to stir and the sound of birds began, like the wind is coming today, first faint from afar, then moving closer riding the edge of sunrise. Theoretically I knew about this everyday miracle: Continue reading “Spring Awakening”