Blurred by ice-then-snow-now, grass and tree and house and bay are rendered in the softest greys. Meteoric, a crow as black as space lands on a tailwind. Then another; black feathers plump and shudder off the snow. They strut like they own the place. Which today, they do.
Neighbors’ grand homestead, built out over decades of prosperity, has been surrendered to bankers, unmanageable. Dad became grandpa, then lost his memory one football story at a time.
So now, a ghostly hulk, their happy place is falling to ruin.
We had the world by the tail. We were invincible. We believed the tv gurus: you can have everything you want, if you focus clearly enough.
They didn’t tell us how inevitable the wind worries away the rock, and how an arc must eventually return to earth.
Let it snow, this cool balm, on the first days of spring. Breathe in the hush, let the softness dust your hair. It all happens right now. The house will disappear, and This will still be true.
I’ve been grumpy about the unseasonably warm weather – over 70° leading up to Christmas just didn’t feel right. But heading into the end of the year, Voila! And it’s so crispy cold that the bay has frozen.
There is a beauty to the frosted morning, a certain chilled pink and blue glaze over lawns and hills. White clouds lift from chimneys like weightless cotton candy. I don’t think of the water as noisy, but the hush when the bay freezes is palpable.
I love winter. It has it’s place in the cycle of life, for hibernation, rest, reflection. It’s a time of meditation, reading and stirring a cauldron full of veggies to warm the belly. For a cat in the lap. For contemplation and planning, for reviewing and resolving to move ahead.
Welcome, winter. Thanks to the Solstice we know your time is limited. I will enjoy you while you’re here.
On November 10, 1975, a wild winter storm was welcome incentive to stay indoors and study. A friend called me the next day to tell me his boat had sunk. We shared our memories of that crummy little boat. Then I told him about the sinking of the Fitgerald and we fell silent, the phone line crackling the way digital lines do not.
I grew up in a family obsessed with marine history in general, and Great Lakes shipping in particular. No wonder; these enormous iron ships passed our home day and night, sun and fog, most months of the year.
Nearly silent, the behemoths carried iron ore, limestone, coal, and grain. Unlike ocean-going ships (that we called ‘Salties’) these freighters were long, low lying, with pilot house fore and crew quarters, engines and tall smoke stack aft. The length of the ship held hatches filled with bulk cargo, usually iron ore or something used in the processing of it.
Living on a river with ship traffic leaves an indelible imprint on your imagination. The world sails by your door every day. The Norwegian flag, Russian sailors, the Queen’s yacht, Canadian ice breakers, Japanese cargo ships, and iron ore: day and night the red earth that became the cars, trucks, girders, refrigerators, screw drivers and kitchen sinks of our modern lives were moving past my door.
If there was one freighter that everyone loved, it was the Edmund Fitzgerald. Why? She was friendly! The Edmund F. would salute you with a long-two shorts whistle if you waved at them or whenever they passed the San Souci Bar, the pinacle of cultural life on the Island. Most ships were business-as-usual, but you could count on a ‘hello!’ from the Fitzgerald, every time.
We are a peculiar breed. Our roots grow deeper than the cedars, and yet we don’t know precisely where or who it is that we grew from. We are a mystery as old as these hills themselves, and it doesn’t take much figuring to know that we are enigmas of intentional design and destiny.
God knows our names.
We are not Northerners — damn Yankees, the men folks’ Confederate influence called them — and this we know without a doubt. I myself was always preened into believing I was a Southern child, born out of notions of gallantry and romance, but the fact is, I ain’t a low country belle and I’ve never picked a shred of cotton or been to a debutante ball.
We are not peaches.
And these mountain women before us were not delicate flowers or distressed coquettes. In these old heirloom hills, the women are…
On October 17-19 I was on retreat with my AWWG sisters in Mathews, VA. I had never visited this part of Virginia before and was smitten with the peace and big sky. This is a bit of my scribblings.
In the Tidewater we have our own weather.
Pattern: clouds march offshore, moving south along the coast. Clear inland. This is counterintuitive to our inland weather, usually West to East.
Broad soft curling rivers of salt marsh sweep and weave, flush and suck, swell and drain up and down the seaboard like lungs. The silt that creeps into corners, the poisons that filter down from our civilized behavior fan out and settle.
But then: the sea fills to bursting, inhales a great wet breath up into the rivers. Back toward their source, breathing saline into small channels, seething between reeds tangled with plastic trash, dragging the scum with her when she falls back away toward the moon.
Like the trees, there’s an exchange. At first it’s not so obvious, but here is the swish and pulse of our body’s lymphatic health, breathing salt soup life, in and out of our pores.
She seems boundless, indefatigable, infinitely absorbent. We clever ones already test her limits, tinkering with the chemistry set of the globe. It looks like the calcium cities built over eons by coral will be bleached dead before we ever learn their language. And yet they gave us Florida.
Here the dawn comes: extraordinary color the camera won’t get. Greeny sky, violet pink clouds, slate blue waters, all very Maxfield Parrish: smooth fields of tonal color and flawless gradients. The clouds feel muscular, bubbling, and constrained along the beach like eager horses. Later in the day they will wander toward and lumber over us. In the Tidewater we have our own weather.
I’m in the last throes of completing a series of river pictures that have been ‘almost done’ for weeks now. I nudge each of them forward every time I get out the palette, and yet they seem to stay stubbornly in the ‘not quite yet’ camp. ALMOST!!
Last Sunday I completed this one: (click for larger view)
This was one of those summer days when you can feel the thunderstorm wanting to happen. Living on Piscataway Bay gives me the most wonderful relationship with the sky. I am so much more in tune with the movement of weather and celestial bodies than I was living in the big woods.
Moyaone Market this Saturday, October 3rd.
Come on down for new paintings and new things happening at Clearwell Studios
Astrology Rob Brezhny is a weekly source of inspiration for me, and sometimes he knocks my socks off with a profound connection, a pithy quote, a soulful connection. But today it’s just one simple sentence.
The Holy land is everywhere.
I spent my Memorial Day Weekend basking in my new home, enjoying the neighborhood and the house. This was somewhat a wise decision to keep things low key, and somewhat forced house arrest due to budget constraints. It worked out beautifully. With no dollars to spare my food was humble and home-made, my engagement was with neighbors, friends and pets, and my entertainment came from the cycle of the day.
One splendid evening I took a walk with dog Lily and cat Charlee, and we watched herons wading in the sunset waters of Piscataway Bay.
The end of November is traditionally the end of the Atlantic hurricane season, and we saw no huge storms in 2013. Last year I had just moved, completing a pretty radical life downsizing. I was tired and bewildered and went off on retreat to St. George Island, MD, a tiny sand spit that trails out into the mouth of the Chesapeake.
As the weekend went on it became apparent that a big storm was approaching, fated to become ‘Superstorm’ Sandy At the time, I was irked that high water was forcing an evacuation of my hotel, where I had hoped to ride out the wild weather in comfort, watching the water, wind and rain from my little sanctuary.
When I wrote this, I had no idea Sandy would create so much havoc, nor leave such a wake of conversation about our changing world in her wake. I just knew that I was changing, and had to flee before the wind.
author: Patrise Henkel title: Storm is Rising for: Herring Creek Writing Retreat — Tall Timbers, MD date: Saturday, October 27, 2012 word count: 325
Sandy’s coming. Here on this Maryland island high wind and waves are a concern: we are but a slender thread of sand, water lapping at either side. Nevermind that this is called the Potomac; this sand spit thrusts out into the open mouth of the great Chesapeake, where weary ocean crossers once pulled up to rest on terra firma.
A persistent slapping on rocks, strange rocks brought here to make the sand stand still, sings of a great wind to come. Watch the gulls lift off with just a hop they coast on waves of moving air. They watch and wait on the wing. The wind pulses, lifting my hair with a gentle touch. It brings messages from the east, rushing stormward as if eager to join the fray.
But this terra is not so firm: water nibbles away the land, land that resists or yields to the whims of the wind and tide. Before we came and tried to make the land hold still, this island grew and diminished with its own rhythm of destruction and rebuilding.
Now the moon is calling. Tide swells and pushes up forested creeks, seeking the low places, sinking wet fingers into the land, loosening sand between the roots of the great trees, those guardians of the solid ground. Water rising worries the land, soaking, saturating, sucking sand out to sea.
Dry leaves rattle in the oaks. Hanging by their tough stems they flutter hissing in the breeze. Oaks stand tall, their long-fingered roots gripping firm, reinforcing the land.
But I’ve seen the great oaks break: they are tall but hollow, and too rigid to bow before the storm. I’ve seen the great oaks fall: when earth, so wet it slips apart, yields to the force that can lift a tree into the sky.
Sandy is coming. I feel the rising tide of fear, raising tiny hairs on my neck, calling me to at once come toward and run away.