Saturday, March 29, 2008

Wondering ...

Yesterday while walking by the river
a tiny, lavender butterfly fluttered
across the path in front of me.

I wonder who this might be
so impatient for summer days
when frost still plates the morning grass.


Friday, March 28, 2008

Spring snow ...

Cloudy, 70 degrees. It was warmer earlier today when the sun was out. Now it's cooling off. Tomorrow it will be in the 50's, Sunday in the 40's.

Cherry blossoms are beginning to drift from the tree. When the wind blows it looks like it's snowing. I hear wind chimes accompanying the petals as they settle on the ground.

There will be no shoveling necessary.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Just being ...

I made this photo a few weeks ago on one of those early spring days that I like to describe as being "cranky." The day just couldn't seem to make up it's mind ... sunny, showery with rainbows or just plain gray? And why not all in one day and maybe even all at the same time?

It's kind of the way I've been feeling lately myself. Maybe I'll work in the garden today ... or maybe I should get to that pile of filing ... but now I feel like reading that fabulous book I started last week and haven't had time to pick up since. Then I remember something else I've forgotten to do ... and it's important! Must get to it now!!

I can't seem to focus. I do everything in fits and starts. And then I piss and moan about not getting anything accomplished. I just seem to be in one of those places where just plain "doing" is difficult. When I'm doing one thing, I want to be doing something else. And so I make my way through the hours getting very cranky myself.

So I decide to just "be." Why not take advantage of this craziness and do "nothing." In fact I do believe we need time to just let the psyche go and wander through the days and the changes that are making themselves evident with the shift of seasons. Our spirit needs recharging after the long spell of cold, soulful quietness that winter sets before us. It's time to just sit, sip a cup of tea while reading a few pages in the warm sun, walk through the garden and imagine a new tree or shrub in that empty space we suddenly notice. If dark thoughts arise, like those large gray clouds, they will soon pass and the sun will shine even brighter, warming the muscles of our bodies and minds so that soon we will be in sync with the what is happening at such a rapid pace around us. I think that if we don't take the time do this we're likely to cause damage to ourselves and those around us!

On Saturday and Sunday I will begin a new journey. It is the first weekend of a nine month class in the study of herbs and their medicinal uses. The class will meet one weekend a month through November and is the first session of a three year program, at which time those who finish the program should have enough experience and knowledge to be called "herbalists." I'm very excited but at the same time a tad worried. About what, I'm not exactly sure ... maybe about not being up to it for one reason or another. Or perhaps just afraid of the changes that are sure to accompany this new work. But I think just letting go during these next few days will help to prepare me for whatever lies ahead. For now it's time to just lay back and take in this magnificent world!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter In My Garden ...

Though the gods have the power of speech
more often they choose a flower or plant:
elder leaves pressed on a blotter,
or spring buds emerging from a winter stem

These messages they send--
so ordinary we usually miss them:
an easy laughter and lightness,
or legs casually crossed and touching

The way a serpentine dike blends seamlessly into bedrock
or the way two possible lovers move,
starting and stopping, passing and pausing
on an April trail

The subtlest oracles are always the most obvious--
seeing what is clearly in front of us the most difficult:
a butterfly hatching from a ruptured dream,
or a splintered tree rooting in the soil where it fell

found in The Secret Teaching of Plants,
by Stephen Harrod Buhner

All images © Joan Z. Rough, 2008

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Cherry Blossoms ...

Weeping Cherry, © Joan Z. Rough, 2008

It's official! Spring arrived here in the wee hours of the night as I slept, Breathe Right strip taped to the bridge of my nose, so that the pollen and ensuing congestion gathering in my sinuses wouldn't cause me to snore. People are already complaining about seasonal allergies ... that thick, heavy headed feeling, dripping nose, constant sneezing and feelings of malaise. But it's all so gorgeous how can one complain??

Another question!! Can one be married to the same person for going on 43 years and still learn something new about them??

Over the past couple of days I've been watching the blossoms on the weeping cherry outside the kitchen window, slowly swell, getting ready for their annual blooming. I happened to point it out to the love of my life and he said yes, he'd noticed and added that they are a little over a week early this year. I asked him how he knew that and he said because he keeps track of it every year and that every year since we've been living in this house, they have burst forth on the same date! Let me tell you, I was completely awed by this self-proclaimed indoor couch potato, who finds working in the garden too dirty and back straining.

I thought I was the only one keeping records and in my snotty, superior way, the only nature lover in the house. I record daily weather conditions ... how much rain or snow falls. I notate which birds arrive, leave and when ... and all sorts of other crazy things happening outside in the garden. I am the one who loves working in the yard and getting dirty. I do agree with him about the back straining problems as I get older. But right now I'm doing fine and loving every minute.

The interesting thing about all this is that I've never kept track of when the cherry tree blooms. When my sweet husband told me that he does, my heart stirred .... like it did when I knew I was first falling head over heels in love with him all those years ago. It is a validation of our love and the years we've spent together, in sickness and in health, in and out-of-doors. It's a reminder of my own misunderstanding of his love for the outside world and how he grieves when any one cuts down a tree.

So, you betcha!! After 43 years we can still find out new things about each other and ourselves. And what a delight it is, for me at least. For Bill, it may not be so great. He's finding out that I snore ... loudly!!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Spring Orchard ...

© Joan Z. Rough, 2008

This is what I saw one morning about a week ago when I woke up around 7 AM. Overnight the pear tree had burst into bloom. A few mornings later one of the peach trees burst forth and daily the scene changes. Now the daffodils at the base of the trees are at peak bloom with yellow trumpets that dance in the breeze. Spring is truly an amazing season with a newness each day that outdoes every other season.

I remember March and April mornings when I lived in Vermont. There would still be much snow and ice around but through the nights we'd keep watch for the first lamb or angora goat kid
to be born . Nine times out of ten the new babes would arrive at some secret moment between my sleepy eyed visits to the barn. I would linger watching mothers and babies getting aquainted with one another and marvel at the miracle that each birth brought to those still cold days. These births were a sign of things to come. I knew that somewhere under the mantle of the earth, rootlets were beginning to awaken. As the snow and ice melted, they'd jump to attention, pushing stems, then leaves and flowers into the the world from the dark womb of the earth.

Here in Virginia we haven't the harsh northern climate to deal with. The birthing of spring seems more gentle and steady, without interruption from blizzards or below zero temperatures. Still, sometimes I miss the drama that northern climes bring to the change of seasons. And though I do have more than enough to attend to these days, I still miss the lambs and kids, their soft bleating, the primal warmth and smell of the barn where the first signs of spring always appeared.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Pausing ...

Hellebore, © Joan Z. Rough, 2008

I seem to be over my frump, at least for now. It's amazing how little things can add up and make life difficult. In the past I've let bothersome things sit inside me without working on them until there was a BIG explosion because life wasn't going my way. Anyone in the vacinity had to run.

But I'm trying not to let that happen anymore. Now I try to work things out before they build into something that is not very pretty. And even then I've got plenty of triggers left from my journey through life that can set me off and I'll utter something unkind before I can stop myself. Hard as it is, I'm finding that if I just tell myself to "pause" and think about what I want or need to say before saying it, I'm a much nicer person. And I don't embarrass myself and then feel terrible.

That doesn't mean that I don't speak my truth when it is needed. It means that I try to find a way to make it more palatable instead of an insult. It's well worth the effort.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Seasonal Loveliness ...

Pussy Willow Tree, © Joan Z. Rough, 2008

The seasonal loveliness continues here in central Virginia ... nights in the upper 30's ... days in the upper 50's, with 60's expected later in the week. Perfect sweater weather for being outside enjoying the onset of spring. The pussy willows are soft and furry, the daffodils are up sooner than I thought they'd be and there will be lots of them this year. Last spring blooms weren't as abundant as they are this year.

Daffodils, © Joan Z. Rough, 2008

The Canada geese are no longer hanging out in their winter gaggles. Moms and Pops are now off on their own, preparing for nesting and defending their territories day and night with noisy, squauky squabbles. Later next month won't be too soon to perhaps see these families with fuzzy goslings in tow, proudly paddling down the river or up on shore browsing the grasses for the tender greens they love and delicious squishy bugs.

I'm having a hard time with the time change this year. I just wish they'd leave it all alone. There are many reports suggesting that the energy savings that Daylight Savings Time was supposed to bring to our world haven't worked out. I do love the light in the evening, but getting up right now when the alarm goes off at 6 AM is very painful and dark. Last week at the same time the sun was rising and I was awake and aflutter with all the other early birds.

I'm getting really tired of this prolonged primary election process and find Hillory and Bill Clinton's invitation to Barak Obama to be Hillory's Vice Presidential running mate laughable and crude, since Obama is in the lead. Why did I once like those people?? What I had hoped would be a civil and healing campaign is just turning out to be more of the same crap and my inner ostrich pipes up wanting to bury it's head in the sand and say, "Whatever!" No wonder alot of us have trust issues!

Sounds like I'm having a bad day and in a sense I guess I am. I don't usually allow it to show, trying to be the optimist on the block. But occasionally it gets to every one of us and I guess today is just my day!!

Friday, March 07, 2008

A Sad, Wild Tale ...

Great Horned Owl, © Joan Z. Rough, 2008

It isn't often that we get to see magnificent birds like the Great Horned Owl. After all, they hunt small mammals, up to the size of a rabbit, in the dark of night, after the sun slips over the edge of the world. I tell my cats about owls when they insist upon going out after dark ... which I don't let them do, unless they're bouncing off the walls and are about to make me totally crazy. I tell them that besides cyotes there are BIG birds out there who think small cats are very tasty. It doesn't seem to make a difference when they want out!!

I found this beautiful specimen down by the river as I was walking the dogs late yesterday afternoon. It was being harassed by a flock of crows and a mockingbird, that dove after it trying to drive it away. But alas, the owl had an injured wing and couldn't fly.

After taking the dogs up to house, I grabbed my camera and called the Wildlife Center of Virginia to find out how to help this poor bird. This center is a wonderful place with a staff of veterinarians who doctor and rehabilitate injured
animals so that they can be returned to the wild.
They gave me the names of several people who live nearby and do captures of injured animals and also transport them over to the center near Waynesboro. I found Garth Kemper at home, ready to sit down to a dinner of trout. He said he'd be right over. When I suggested I could call someone else on the list so that he could enjoy his dinner, he added he'd go from there to Kalimazoo to help. The trout could wait.

An hour later, Mr. Kemper arrived with a huge cardboard box, some nets and other gear. We went down to where the owl was sitting on a stump. It started to get very nervous as we approached and was strong enough to move about by flapping its wings but little more. We managed to catch him with the nets after he hopped into the cold river .... not a pleasant place for it to be .... boxed him up and Garth drove to the Wildlife Center. I had high hopes for the recovery of this bird.

But we don't always get fairytale endings ... especially when it comes to injured wild animals. When I called the center to inquire about "my" owl just an hour ago, I was told that they put him to sleep last night after discovering he had a detached retina (not good for an owl who depends upon its eyesight in the dark) in addition to a dislocated elbow. The elbow could have been repaired if the he'd been brought in within 12 hours of the injury. The bird was very thin and they felt it had been injured "days" prior to my finding him. Even if they could have fixed the elbow, the detached retina sounded the death nell for this poor bird.

It's very sad, but it's also life. We cannot always save the day for other people or creatures. I've learned over time that we cannot get attached to the outcomes of our prayers. We can only do our best with what we're given and allow what will happen, happen. I'm grateful to people like Garth Kemper and places like the Wildlife Center of Virginia, who go out of their way to help animals in need of medical attention and a temporary home until they can go back into the wild.

At least we kept this owl from suffering too much longer and perhaps from dying a violent death in the jaws of a cyote or some other preditor. May he rest in peace.

Great Horned Owl with injured wing, © Joan Z. Rough, 2008