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Beyond the Fields We Know



Wild and Earthy Thoughts Gathered Along the Journey



Updated: 2017-11-20T20:06:15.509-05:00

 



First Snowfall

2017-11-20T04:30:19.967-05:00




Sunday - Saying Yes to the World

2017-11-19T04:30:07.248-05:00

The true language of these worlds opens from the heart of a story that is being shared between species. For us to be restored to the fabric of this Earth, we are bidden to enter this tale once again through its many modes of telling, to listen through the ears of others to the mystery of creation, with its continually changing patterns, and to take part once again in the integral weave of the narrative. Might we not hear our true names if we learn to listen through the ears of Others? Through language, one can exchange one's self with other beings and in this way establish an ever-widening circle of existence.
Joan Halifax, The Fruitful Darkness



Frost and Morning Light

2017-11-18T04:30:19.620-05:00




Friday Ramble - A Memory of Herons

2017-11-17T09:52:34.987-05:00

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) and Autumn River
Memory is a thirteenth century word, coming to us from the Middle English memorie, the Anglo-French memoire and the Latin memoria/memor meaning "mindful".  Further back are the Old English gemimor meaning "well-known", the Greek mermēra meaning "care", and the Sanskrit smarati meaning "that which is remembered". In the Vedas, the term smarati is used to describe teachings handed down by word of mouth from the ancients and never written out.
One of the late autumn entities that always tugs at my heartstrings is the last heron of the season, he or she haunting the shallows of Lanark rivers and lakes at twilight in solitary splendor and hoping for a few last minnows, frogs and/or water beetles to fuel the long trip south. It's a long arduous journey from here to there -  all the way to the southern states, Mexico, Honduras, Cuba, Colombia, Venezuela, and the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador.
I once wrote about an autumn morning in northern Ontario when the heron migration was in full swing, and the great birds gathered in predawn darkness to feed before flying onward. Hundreds stood side by side in the foggy waters of the Mississagi river near the town of  Iron Bridge (Algoma district), and as I crept along the shoreline for a better view, their silhouettes appeared one by one out of the mist. It was wild and absolutely magical.

There is enough enchantment in such tatterdemalion snippets to last many lifetimes, and I would like to retain the memory of that morning for the rest of my earthly days and beyond, no matter how many other mind scraps embrace the void somewhere along the road.  I've always loved the "Great Blues", and I revisit the scene often in my thoughts—it is always a place of peace and stillness.

For whatever reason, archaic English refers to a group of herons together, not as colony or a flock, but as "a sedge of herons".  Every summer I watch herons fishing in the shallows along Dalhousie Lake and think that if there were no other teachers about, I would be just fine with a sedge of herons to show me the way.  I don't usually think of a group of Great Blues as a sedge though.

For heron lovers who don't fly south in winter and stay here in the north, the right expression for a gathering of our favorite birds is surely "a memory of herons".



Thursday Poem - Praise Song

2017-11-16T04:30:14.920-05:00

Praise the light of late November,
the thin sunlight that goes deep in the bones.
Praise the crows chattering in the oak trees;
though they are clothed in night, they do not
despair. Praise what little there's left:
the small boats of milkweed pods, husks, hulls,
shells, the architecture of trees. Praise the meadow
of dried weeds: yarrow, goldenrod, chicory,
the remains of summer. Praise the blue sky
that hasn't cracked. Praise the sun slipping down
behind the beechnuts, praise the quilt of leaves
that covers the grass: Scarlet Oak, Sweet Gum,
Sugar Maple. Though darkness gathers, praise our crazy
fallen world; it's all we have, and it's never enough.

Barbara Crooker



Wordless Wednesday - On Its Way

2017-11-15T04:30:05.540-05:00




The Lush and Golden Alcove

2017-11-14T06:55:39.758-05:00

Some trees in our woodland hold their turning in abeyance until November, and we are always happy to see them.  Great oaks often retain their bronzey leaves well into winter and so do a few maples.  One of our favorite maples puts on a magnificent golden performance at this time of the year, and we visit her to admire her one woman showing and say "thanks" for her efforts to brighten a faded and rather monochromatic interval in the turning of the seasons.

It has been a very windy autumn, and we were delighted to discover this week that the north wind has not yet stripped the tree's leaves away and left her standing bare and forlorn on the hill with her sisters. It (the wind, that is) has been doing its best, but Maple is hanging on in there.

Mother Earth (the Old Wild Mother or Gaia Sophia) is the greatest artist of them all, and I would be "over the moon" if I could photograph or paint something even the smallest scrip as grand and elemental and graceful as my tree is creating in her alcove. Every curve and branch and burnished dancing leaf is a wonder, and the blue sky is a perfect counterpoint.

Writing this, I remembered that as well as being an archaic word for a scrap or fraction of something, scrip also describes a small wallet or pouch once carried by pilgrims and seekers.  That seems fitting for this journey into the woods and our breathless standing under Maple in all her glory.  Oh to be counted a member of the sisterhood of tree and leaf...



Cup and Morning Light

2017-11-13T04:30:06.509-05:00




Sunday - Saying Yes to the World

2017-11-12T04:30:00.159-05:00

To journey without being changed is to be a nomad. To change without journeying is to be a chameleon. To journey and to be transformed by the journey is to be a pilgrim. We all start out as pilgrims, wanting to journey and hoping to be transformed by the journey. But, just as it is impossible when listening to an orchestra to hear the whole of the symphony for very long before we are drawn to hear only the piano or the violin, in just this way, our attention to life slips and we experience people and places without being affected by their wholeness. And sometimes, feeling isolated and unsure, we change or hide what lives within in order to please or avoid others. The value of this insight is not to use it to judge or berate ourselves, but to help one another see that integrity is an unending process of letting our inner experience and our outer experience complete each other, in spite of our very human lapses. I understand these things so well, because I violate them so often. Yet I, as you, consider myself a pilgrim of the deepest kind, journeying beyond any one creed or tradition, into the compelling, recurring space in which we know the moment and are changed by it. Mysteriously, as elusive as it is, this moment—where the eye is what it sees, where the heart is what it feels—this moment shows us that what is real is sacred.
Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening



Little Islands in the Stream

2017-11-11T15:16:33.856-05:00




Friday Ramble - Winter

2017-11-10T04:30:02.105-05:00

This week's word comes from Old English wintr, thence the Proto-Germanic wentruz meaning "wet season", both originating in the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) wed, wod or ud, meaning "wet" or "wind". There are possible ties to the Old Celtic vindo meaning "white", but that word always sounds more like the English "wind" to me.  The Old Norse vetr sounds like the present day "weather" and may indeed be its root. Cognates include the Gothic wintru, Icelandic vetur, Swedish vinte, Danish vinter and Norwegian vetter. Wherever it hails from, the most common word for the long white season been around for centuries, and most cultures on this island earth have a word for it, at least those cultures in the northern hemisphere. The season occupies a singular place in our thoughts, dancing dramatically in a stronger light than its more temperate kin.  Those of us who live up here tend to predicate our activities in the other three seasons of the calendar year on making ready for it.Because of the ferocity of northern winters, ancient Anglo-Saxons measured their calendar years from one winter to the next. In Old Norse, the word etrardag was used to designate the first day of the cold season, usually the Saturday between Oct. 10 and 16. For the Celts, winter began at Samhain (October 31) or All Hallows (November 1) and ended on Imbolc or Candlemas (February 1 or 2) when springtime arrived. Northern ancients were sure that the world as they knew it would come to an end after the most savage winter in history.  In the Edda of Norse mythology, the fimbulvetr (mighty winter) is one of the events that precedes the twilight of the gods, their last battle with the frost giants (led by Loki) and the destruction of the earth.Ancient Celts celebrated the Winter Solstice on or about December 21, the longest night of the year.  From that date on, the light of the sun would return, a little more every day until the Summer Solstice in June. The legendary King Arthur was believed to have been born on the Winter Solstice in Castle Tintagel in Cornwall, and in recognition of that, Druids sometimes refer to the Winter Solstice as Alban Arthuan ("The Light of Arthur").It all comes down to cosmic balance. We owe the lineaments of our existence in the Great Round to a tilt in the earth's axis as it spins merrily in space. When winter reigns here in the north, the happy lands south of the equator are cavorting in summer. I cling tenaciously to that thought in the depths of January.When winter starts rattling the gate, I shiver and consider moving further south, but it isn't going to happen, and I do other things. I pile up books and music, collect canisters of tea, concoct fire breathing curries. Cumin, coriander and sambal oelak seem to wind up in almost every pot of "stuff" I put together between now and the end of April, and I may just come up with my own recipe for chili gelato this year. A local café serves one containing dark chocolate, hot chilis and a pinch of cinnamon, and it is to die for.My cross country skis, snowshoes and mukluks are always ready for an outing. Winter is about fruitful darkness, rest and rebirth, but it also gifts us with the most brilliantly blue skies of the year by day and the most spectacular stars by night. It would be shameful to stay indoors by the fire and miss them. Although my rambles have to be brief this winter for health reasons, I will still be taking them.To know the north woods and eastern Ontario highlands, one has to journey through them in winter, spend hours inhaling the fragrance of fresh snow and spruce, drinking in the shapes of sleeping trees with eyes and lens. She has to listen to snow falling on the bare branches, perhaps become a tree herself.[...]



Thursday Poem - Instructions in Magick

2017-11-09T12:03:46.837-05:00

You don’t need candles,
only the small slim flame in yourself,
the unrevealed passion
that drives you to rise on winter mornings
remembering summer nights.

You don’t need incense,
only the lingering fragrance
of the life that has gone before,
stew cooking on an open fire,
the good stars, the clean breeze,
the warmth of animals breathing in the dark.

You don’t need a cauldron,
only your woman’s body,
where so many of men’s fine ideas
are translated into life.

You don’t need a wand, hazelwood or oak,
only to follow the subtle and impish
leafy green fellow
who beckons you into the forest,
the one who goes dancing
and playing his flute
through imperial trees.

And you don’t need the salt of earth.
You will taste that soon enough.

These things are the trappings,
the tortoise shell, the wolf skin, the blazoned shield.
It’s what’s inside, the star of becoming.
With that ablaze, you have everything you need
to conjure up new worlds.

Dolores Stewart Riccio, from The Nature of Things
(reprinted here with the late poet's kind permission)






November - Songs in a Different Key

2017-11-07T06:27:20.177-05:00

Leaves crunching underfoot or rattling like sabres in in the wind, ice crystals limning cedar fence rails along the ridge, blowsy plumes of frosted field grasses on the edge of the western field—all are fine representations of the season and plangent leitmotifs in the windy musical work that is early winter.

The season marches onward, settling slowly, and with many deep sighs, into the subdued tints of early winter: soft bronzes, creams, beiges and silvery greys, small splashes here and there of winey red, burgundy, russet, a midnight blue almost iridescent in its sheen and intensity, but oh so fragile.

Highland frosts make themselves known as sugary drifts over old wood and on fallen leaves almost transparent in their lacy textures. An owl's artfully barred feather lies in thin sunlight under the fragrant cedars down by the spring and seems to be giving off a graceful pearly light of its own. The weedy residents of field and fen are cavorting in fringed and tasseled hats.

One needs another lens and tuning for winter, a different sort of vision, a song in a different key. The senses are performing a seasonal shift of their own, moving carefully into the consideration of things small, still and muted, but complete within themselves and perfect, even when they are cold and wet. There is light in the world, and she must remember that. Her camera, of course, never forgets.






Sunday - Saying Yes to the World

2017-11-05T04:30:02.628-05:00

Finding beauty in a broken world is acknowledging that beauty leads us to our deepest and highest selves. It inspires us. We have an innate desire for grace. It’s not that all our definitions of beauty are the same, but when you see a particular heron in the bend in the river, day after day, something in your soul stirs. We remember what it means to be human. 
Terry Tempest Williams



The All Gathered Moon of November

2017-11-04T04:30:06.745-04:00

November's full moon is usually the the second last of the calendar year, and it is a much colder moon than October's golden visitation. As is often the case at this time of year, I  briefly considered staying indoors last evening but wrapped up anyway, and Beau and I went out to the garden with tripod and camera and waited.  A little after seven there was Luna rising in the east, as round and smooth and lustrous as a great pearl.

Beau is still learning about his mum's passion for backyard astronomy and her full moon night activities, but he leaned comfortably against me and looked up, certain that whatever we were doing out in the cold after nightfall, it was something worth doing and he wanted to be part of it.

November's moon is about loss and remembrance, but it is about trust too - trust in the wild and elemental grace of existence and what I like to call "the great round" of our days and nights. Standing in our dark garden last evening, I remembered the gnarled box elder tree who once graced the southeast corner of the garden with her presence.  The old dear held the rising full moon in her arms for more than a century, but she has gone to her leafy reward and is flourishing somewhere else, perhaps even as a tree again.  I thought of Cassie and Spencer, of the kindred spirits and journeying companions who departed this plane of existence and have gone on ahead. Somewhere beyond the here and the now is a throng of dancing kindred spirits, and I smile when I think about it.

We also know this moon as the: Beaver Moon, Blood Moon, Buffalo Moon, Cold Begins Moon, Dark Moon, Deer Rutting Moon, Twelfth Moon, Falling Leaves Moon, Fog Moon, Freezing Moon, Frosty Moon, Geese Going Moon, Hunter's Moon, Large Tree Freeze Moon, Little Bear's Moon, Long Moon, Mad Moon, Moon of Cold, Moon of Fledgling Hawk, Moon of Freezing, Moon of Storms, Moon of the Falling Leaves, Moon of the Shaken Leaves, Moon of the Turkey and Feast, Moon the Rivers Begin to Freeze, Moon When All Is Gathered in, Moon When Deer Shed Antlers, Moon When Deer Shed Their Antlers, Moon When Horns Are Broken Off, Moon When the River Freezes, Moon When the Rivers Start to Freeze, Moon When the Water Is Black with Leaves, Mourning Moon, Moon of Much Poverty, Ring Finger Moon, Sacrifice Moon, Samoni Moon, Sassafras Moon, Snow Moon, Snowy Mountains in the Morning Moon, Trading Moon, Trail Moon, Tree Moon, White Frost on Grass & Ground Moon, White Moon, Whitefish Moon, Willow Moon, Winter Divided Moon, Yew Moon.

Among the many names for this month's moon, I am rather fond of Yew Moon and Moon of Falling Leaves, but for me, this will always be Christel's Moon.  My friend passed beyond the fields we know on November 1, 2011, and I still miss her.



Friday Ramble - Twelve Years On

2017-11-03T13:26:20.244-04:00

On Sunday morning, clocks will dance backward an hour in the little blue house in the village, and Daylight Saving Time will wave goodbye until next year. This week also marks twelve years of being here in cyberspace, twelve years of logging on in the morning, posting an image or two (sometimes three) and occasionally muttering along for a few paragraphs. Sometimes, I can't believe I had the audacity to set this "book of days" up in the first place, let alone do the blogging thing faithfully for twelve years in a row.

These are my my vägmärken (road marks), my morning or artist pages, and they will probably remain pretty much as they are in the coming year. There may be a bit of font and banner tinkering now and again, but that is as far as it goes. I don't foresee any significant changes to this place, and I expect life will simply go on as it has been doing so far.

We three will meander along at our own pace, watching morning fogs enfold the eastern Ontario highlands and oak leaves rain like honey in the autumn woods, feasting our eyes on skies alight with winter stars, on the sun going down like a ball of fire over Dalhousie Lake at the trailing edge of the year.

Two adored and cherished traveling companions, Penny and Dolores, passed beyond the fields we know this year and so did my sweet Spencer.  Now it is Beau who wanders along with us, and he is turning out to be an absolute treasure. Health issues notwithstanding, it's grand to be here and all wrapped up in what we call simply, "the Great Round".  Some days are more difficult than others, but every morning, the small adventures of our journeying will continue to make their way here and get spilled out on the computer screen with a bad photo and a whole rucksack of wonder. The incandescent Mary Oliver still says it best:

The years to come – this is a promise –
will grant you ample time

to try the difficult steps in the empire of thought
where you seek for the shining proofs you think you must have.

But nothing you ever understand will be sweeter, or more binding,
than this deep affinity between your eyes and the world.
(excerpt from Terns)

In another poem, she wrote that sometimes one needs only to stand wherever she is to be blessed, something I try to remember. Thank you for your kind thoughts and healing energies, for your cards and letters, for journeying along with me this year. You are treasured more than you can ever know.  Alas, my fingers are still not working very well, thanks to chemotherapy.  If they were, I would write each and every one of you.



Thursday Poem - Sometimes I Am Startled Out of Myself,

2017-11-02T07:55:51.348-04:00

like this morning, when the wild geese came squawking,
flapping their rusty hinges, and something about their trek
across the sky made me think about my life, the places
of brokenness, the places of sorrow, the places where grief
has strung me out to dry. And then the geese come calling,
the leader falling back when tired, another taking her place.
Hope is borne on wings. Look at the trees. They turn to gold
for a brief while, then lose it all each November.
Through the cold months, they stand, take the worst
weather has to offer. And still, they put out shy green leaves
come April, come May. The geese glide over the cornfields,
land on the pond with its sedges and reeds.
You do not have to be wise. Even a goose knows how to find
shelter, where the corn still lies in the stubble and dried stalks.
All we do is pass through here, the best way we can.
They stitch up the sky, and it is whole again.

Barbara Crooker, from Radiance



Wordless Wednesday - The Cheerful Chap at the Door

2017-11-01T09:33:47.569-04:00

Happy November, happy New Year!



Happy Halloween

2017-10-31T07:34:11.774-04:00

Here we are again on the eve of Halloween/Samhain, possibly my favorite festive interval in the whole turning year. Winter is not far off, and there's a chill in the air that cannot be ignored.  Morning arrives later with every passing day, and dusk makes an earlier appearance, village street lamps turning themselves on one by one, hours before they used to. The shorter days and longer nights are all too apparent to a crone's fierce and gimlet eye, at least to this crone's eye. How did we get here so swiftly?The last days of October have a fleeting beauty all their own. In the greater, wider and more rural world, crops and fruit have been gathered in and stored, farm animals tucked into barns, stables and coops for the long white season.  Rail fences wear frost crystals, and nearby field grasses crunch pleasingly underfoot.  For the most part, foliage has already turned color and fallen, but the great oaks on my favorite hill are reluctant to part with their summer finery and are hanging on to every leaf.  A north wind scours the wooded slopes and sweeps fallen fragments into rustling drifts and heaps. Native wild things are frantically topping up their winter larders and preparing warm burrows for winter.  The air is spicy and carries the promise of deep cold days to come. This Gaelic festival marks “summer's end', and the beginning of the dark half of the year. According to the old Celtic two-fold division of the year, summer was the interval between Beltane and Samhain, and winter the interval from Samhain to Beltane. For the ancestors, the old year ended at sunset on October 31, and a new year danced into being.Some of us love spooky "stuff", the fey, mysterious and unknown, the old ways.  A few of us have Goth aspirations, like Halloween "clobber" and dressing up. Others are fascinated by the myriad ways in which the human species has marked the passage of time over the centuries.The cyclical and festival observances that demarcated ancient notions of time represented pivotal cosmic points, fey intervals when the natural order dissolved back into primordial chaos for a brief unruly fling before regenerating itself, burnished and newly ordered for another journey through the seasons.  All the old festivals celebrate the cyclical nature of existence, but Halloween/Samhain does so more than any other. A trio of dearly loved friends and traveling companions passed beyond the fields we know this year. They were some of the wisest and strongest spirits I have ever known, and places are set for them at our table this evening. All three walked through this world loving it fiercely, appreciating its grandeur, grace and reciprocity, cherishing its innate abundance and wildness. Lit from within, they fairly blazed with life and passion wherever they went, and they lighted up every room they entered. Somewhere beyond the here and the now, they are still alight, and I have to remember that.Three cheers for trick-or-treating, tiny guisers and goblins on the threshold. What's not to love about witches, ghosts and goblins, grinning jack-o-lanterns, the colors orange and black? As I dole out treats to wee neighborhood friends tonight, I will be reflecting on the old year and tucking it away under a blanket of fallen maple leaves.  I'll be thinking good thoughts about the cycle that is coming into being and trying to remember that endings and beginnings are natural parts of earthly existence and not somet[...]






Sunday - Saying Yes to the World

2017-10-29T04:30:07.964-04:00

We sleep, allowing gravity to hold us, allowing Earth — our larger Body — to recalibrate our neurons, composting the keen encounters of our waking hours (the tensions and terrors of our individual days), stirring them back, as dreams, into the sleeping substance of our muscles. We give ourselves over to the influence of the breathing earth. Sleep, we might say, is a habit born in our bodies as the earth comes between our bodies and the sun. Sleep is the shadow of the earth as it falls across our awareness. Yes. To the human animal, sleep is the shadow of the earth as it seeps into our skin and spreads throughout our limbs, dissolving our individual will into the thousand and one selves that compose it—cells, tissues, and organs taking their prime directives now from gravity and the wind—as residual bits of sunlight, caught in the long tangle of nerves, wander the drifting landscape of our earth-borne bodies like deer moving across the forested valleys.
David Abram, Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology



Shining Through

2017-10-28T04:30:11.637-04:00




Friday Ramble - Edge

2017-10-27T12:36:39.814-04:00

This week's word has been around since the eleventh century at least, making its way to us through the Middle English egge, the Old English ecg, the Old French aiglent and the Old Germanic ecke, all meaning "corner". It is also related to the Latin acer meaning "sharp", and the Greek akmē meaning "point", and at the root of all these forms is the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) ak- meaning "sharp". Kindred words in the English language include acerbic, acid, acrid, acumen, acupuncture, acute, eager, ester, exacerbate, hammer and selvedge as well as eglantine (or sweetbriar), an old world rose known for its thorns.

A liminal and edgy time is this, for the old Celtic year is passing away, and we stand on the threshold of a brand new year, in the north a chilling contraption of fallen leaves and frozen earth, short days, darkness, frost and and wind.

The eastern Ontario highlands always seem empty at this time of the year and rather lonesom too.  Except for Canada geese, migratory birds have (for the most part) departed for warmer climes. and most of our wild and furry "year round" residents are either hibernating or thinking about hibernating.

On trips into the woods, the long shadows falling across our trail have edges as sharp as the finest examples of the blade smith's craft. The earth under our boots is firm, leaves are crunchy, and puddles along our way are rimed with ice. For all the emptiness, frost and morning sunlight change the Two Hundred Acre Wood into something rich and elegant and inviting: glittering weed fronds artfully curved and waving in the fields, milkweed sculpted into pleasing shapes, bare trees twinkling like stars, the margins of blackberry leaves rosy and sparkling with frost crystals. The air is fragrant with cedar, spruce and pine.

These last weeks of October always seem chthonic to me. That engaging word with its bewildering arrangement of vowels and consonants springs from the Greek khthonios, meaning "of the earth", and it is usually employed in describing subterranean matters and deities of the underworld.  When we use the adjective to describe something, we are focusing on what is deeper or within, rather than that which is apparent at first glance or resting on the surface. Implicit in the adjective are notions of rest, sleep, fertility and rebirth - mortality and abundance coexisting and enfolding each other in a deep embrace.