The Spirit of snow
highlights the love of line
the loving grace of trees in winter
bare and spiritual
the horses a gift of color
in otherwise black and white
It’s been a long, hard time since I wrote. But unlike the bird above I was not alone, thank the Lord. Beloved husband was at my side. I have thought of many of you and wondered how you’re doing, if you’re still blogging. Kit, Running Elk, Bert, Paul, Michael, Sue, Palestine Rose, Joshi, Ashley, Didi, Val and so many others. I check my hundreds of blog emails unread and see you are. Have not only not been blogging but not reading the blogs either. Been sick, selling our barn, moving and withdrawing from a major benzodiazepine, Klonopin, a “benzo” as they are called. My doctor got me addicted to it. And, while selling the house I took extra because it was so stressful and I had to function no matter how sick I was. Now I am paying the price. Withdrawal is at a snail’s pace and fraught with physical and psychological symptoms. It seems futile to be angry with my doctor. He didn’t force it down my throat but he did dispense a very dangerous drug. This is one of the seldom talked about pitfalls of being mentally ill.
The house is finally sold and all the headaches with it. We will miss the nature and our home in the depths of it. I have lost my inspiration. My muse. Pictures were everywhere. Now in New York City there is so much stimulation I cannot even see images to capture. But in many ways it is good to be here. Although I remain sick and sick at heart with what is happening to our country, even so, my husband and I are blessed to have each other. But today, with the March for Our Lives, I finally have new hope. Perhaps the new generation can succeed at peace where we have failed. Perhaps the world can stop destroying itself.
And finally now, at last, I can find time now to look within. I continue to follow Sadhguru and his Inner Engineering. That is my priority now. So I don’t know if I can go back to blogging as I used to. Inspiration is at zero. But at least I hope to visit sites now and again. Let me take this opportunity to say hello and happy Spring to all of you!
(Turn speakers up high)
One chill morning
Of late spring
Beat the heat
To their creator
As they awaken
In a celebration
Christmas and Winter Solstice blessings to all those who have visited Moonside and especially to those to whom I was unable to respond due to physical or mental illness, a HUGE THANK YOU!!
And to all… may you feel the joy of Christmas no matter what your circumstance, color, creed or faith and be blessed by health, happiness and peace in the New Year!
is my cathedral
A very diverse congregation…
to snails and turtles
Deer sometimes come round
Birds of every hue
All that’s missing is you
but you worship your own way
doing charity every day
more than I can say
Sitting in the sun, acclimating to the gentle June heat, swatting away an annoysome fly who keeps returning over and over, I know this swatting is definitely wrong—a stirring of the killer instinct. I remember naturalist artist and writer and turtle man, David M. Carroll, keeping his hand steady, while being bitten by hordes of mosquitoes, so as not to scare away the turtles as he paints them . Clearly he is a superior soul in his patient endurance of being bitten and as his, almost spiritual, beautifully poetic, writings and drawings reveal. I remember, too, the words of Pema Chodron, Buddhist teacher and nun, who teaches and preaches practicing compassion on little things, learning not to “bite the hook” of anger.
So I let the fly alight on my ankle and he seemingly happily stays on my leg and does not bite. I begin to try to image feeling kinship with this fly who likes my leg, fighting the idea that he is laying eggs in my skin. Pema Chodron has clearly inspired a city girl, afeared of bugs, to make friends with a fly as I watch the universe of insects beneath my feet. A Daddy Long legs crawls on my camera bag, hitches a ride to our bed when I go inside the house. I bring him back to his home outside.
This compassion things feels right, start small and grow big. As if to reinforce this point a butterfly lands on my chest when I return to my contemplation spot in our back yard. But all is not sweetness and light. Later the same fly (I swear it is) who landed on my leg now activates karma for my earlier murderous impulses towards him. He lands on my toe and bites me. A cautionary tale against getting too carried away with being virtuous. Still worse, later as I walk in the coolness of early evening, a bug lands on my arm and attempts a vigorous bite. In an instant, a reflexive smack smooches him dead.
So it would seem I have to start even smaller with my acts of compassion. How much smaller can one start? I wonder with daunting discouragement about the many, many more lives I will have to live to learn lessons of compassion and no anger. I contemplate the prospect of how many, many more films I will have to view in this movie house of Maya we call life. When, oh when, will I learn all my lessons? When, oh, when, will the sun set for good for me on this circle of life so I can exit the orbit and rest beyond the stars??
a rainy October morning
dry chilly warmth
in our little barn
you perusing the paper
me pumping poetry
on the metal roof
a tymphanic symphony
outside the window
a masterpiece of color
yellow walnut leaves
and red sugar maple
the steady drip-drop of water
what bliss is this
precious moments of Now
a heavenly haven
from a frightening, tipsy-turvy world
I wish to always be
in your aura of calm
and the beauteous bounty of Nature
death will come
please take us together
find us in each other’s arms
the everlasting Now
in the presence of God.
*German word meaning “coziness”.
My husband pronounces this a cow
standing among greens
well if it is a cow
don’t eat him
he is a sacred cow
as we all are sacred
I see him standing among the brush triumphant
for no one has turned him into hamburger
I say they are blue trees
filled with white blossoms
well if they are blossoms
don’t pick them
and extinguish their life of beauty
as if She were our own
meant to serve us
when She is there to teach us
about the Great Being
benevolent with His gifts
such as blue cows
or blue trees with white flowers
as Nature whispers in our ears
as She manifests the gifts of the Great Being
and we boorishly
cut them down
and put them in vases
(if I am right and they are blue trees with white flowers)
where in a day or so they die
having given their lives
for the mundane, bourgeois folly
of decorating our homes
(if my husband is right and they are cows)
we boorishly eat them
despite the disgust of eating flesh
at the expense of deaths by extreme cruelty
a travesty of justice
crimes against Nature
when She is to be untouched
just as She is
for She is the perfect
creation of our Heavenly Father.
September sunlight dances on drying leaves, sparkling like diamonds against a flowing stream, an azure sky. The plants of summer are dying. Flowers that have given such joy all summer long are now spurned by us as they shrivel into the paradoxical beauty of old age. The sun burns lightly on summer-drenched skin as clouds intrude intermittently into the almost- Autumn interlude– a gentle foretaste of the cold to come. The last butterflies of summer flit among the blossoming Goldenrod and browning Joe Pie Weed.
The beauty of Fall is the beauty of a dying season. It is the season of death– an alternative to the dew-like bloom of youth in Spring.
When I was very young, I felt death in nature. I could feel what it must feel like to be a tree or a flower—to just “be”—the Buddhist dictum which I cannot now master. In my late twenties, my mind broke into smithereens like shattered glass, and I had a choice to make between going on psych meds or going to hospital. I chose the former and have lived some 40 years more with that choice. I will not say it was a happy choice, at the risk of sounding ungrateful, because I have become driven into a fury of manic activity and self-seeking in stark contrast to the just “being” of my early youth. The psych meds have dispelled my “egolessness” which, in turn, makes me more able to “function”– at a price. For I no longer feel the waves of peace lapping at the shores of my mind and my religious feelings have, comparatively speaking, shriveled up like the summer flowers in the Fall. “It’s always a trade-off” I am told over and over again. My doc told me once that I am one of the lucky ones because for some people the meds don’t work at all. That shut me up and those words periodically pump gratitude into my system. I have remained med-compliant mainly because the meds have kept me out of hospital, DO allow me to function, and, most importantly, I have discovered that being able to function means allowing me to love.
And although more self-seeking, paradoxically this med-induced functionality allows me to give back to the world. My gift is to describe the “just- being” in nature that was imprinted indelibly on my mind when I was young. Death seemed beautiful to me then, a state of simply being at one with the soul of nature. Now I confess to a fear of dying, rather than a fear of death, but most of all, a fear of loss of the love of my life. For we are in the September of our lives and all is intensified now that we are more aware of our finiteness. Truth be told this was always potentially the case, but we lived, like most youth, in the inevitable delusion of immortality.
So I function now at the cost of loss of my revered altered states of consciousness. Perhaps I am in September mind, channeling words and images of the beauty of nature that flooded me long ago are a mere trickle now, as my time to “just be,” once more for this time round, approaches.
Tiny, twinkling stars
fall from the sky
and become fireflies,
flickering on and off
among the trees
calling for a mate,
lighting the night sky
and exciting vision
and flashing lights
and one is not sure
which is which
so bewitched are we
by the show of Light.
Last week my husband called me from the back yard. “Come quick, come see what I found.” I ran to the back door where he was, holding out his arm, and there in his hand sat a teeny green frog, about the size of a thumbnail. I oooed and aahhed over it and thanked him for calling me. The frog had jumped onto his arm while my husband was unrolling the garden hose, its temporary home. “How wonderful!” I said. And then I thought some more about it and I realized I was jealous. Jealous of the fact the frog had jumped on my husband’s arm and not mine. “Well, he deserves the frog more than I do,” I found myself thinking, as if any of us deserve such things.
Today I began to think more about this. I remembered when we had first moved in. My husband was at work and I saw a mound in the grass moving out the back door window. Upon closer examination I found to my utter delight it was a box turtle. This time it was my husband, an affirmed reptile lover, who was jealous and even admitted to being so. Okay, jealousy of such things is obvious and on the surface in children. Yet we were dealing with adults here who, it seems, covet visits from animals. We cherish an interchange with a creature. And why?
I remember the Sunday night a few years ago, apprehensive about a challenging week ahead, when I saw a stag in the woods behind our house. I called to my husband to come see him. He was stunning with huge antlers, an imposing presence. And suddenly I knew everything would be alright. Why? Because the stag in the distance– majestic, princely, beautiful was a sign.
And how thrilled we are to have a snapping turtle return every year to lay her eggs in our driveway. We feel privileged. Again, blessed. Or when, with delighted guests, we saw a giant luna moth flying in the porch light one night. And the countless times a butterfly lands on one’s body, on a shoulder or head, or a dragonfly visits an arm or a sleeve. And, the beautiful hummingbirds. We even had a hummingbird nest in our Black Birch. Such visits feel so special– to have these delicate, exquisite creatures land near us or live in the trees near our house. Even when my least favorite reptile makes an appearance out from under his home on our back deck, a tiny garter snake, the spirit soars.
Research has shown how having pets is therapeutic. We are blessed by animals who trust us utterly. We feel their trust and it is pure, unalloyed by human characteristics. We don’t deserve such trust and yet we receive it as a gift. We have made contact with a being of a different species who lives in a different world whose being synchronizes with different biological rhythms. The native Americans believed animals to be spiritual guides that have much to teach us. Psychology tells us Nature is a natural antidepressant. An animal can disarm the most defensive, enchant the most mentally ill, bring out the goodness in the criminal, and bring a smile to the face of the young, old and in-between.
And, yes, animals can be pests when they get into where they don’t belong or become aggressive or defensive in a bad way. But our world is a richer, more vibrant place because of them. Animals bring us out of ourselves and into the experience of awe. Their innocence lightens our loads, allowing us to share the “mystery of the other” with others, drawing us closer to our friends and family. We share the world with animals and they share their hearts with us. And their innocent interactions with us are blessings from God.
Grace flows through the limbs of a tree reaching skyward, its intricate patterns of branches pleasing the eye– just as grace flows through the orderly, spikey branches of frost on a window.
Patterns repeated ad infinitum in all creation.
A microcosm of the macrocosm and a macrocosm of the microcosm.
God’s breath breathes through all.
Sitting in our living room, with all the little, dairy barn windows alive with falling flakes of snow, it is as if my husband and I were on a ship, floating on a sea of white. The living room in our converted dairy barn has the feeling of a ship cabin, and I think it most beautiful when the snow is falling.
The glass doors in the kitchen give us perfect view of the bird feeder, our television in all seasons. In winter we watch male cardinals, bright red in the stark white, feed and contend with the beautiful, bullying blue jays. And the more modest, gentle, tiny juncos and sparrows touch our hearts with their humility.
One winter, when the snow had covered the ground for a month or so and turned to solid ice, we watched, horrified, as squirrels clawed at the feeder and fought with one another for a chance to feed, making shrill cries of territoriality. The ground was too frozen for them to retrieve the nuts they had buried in the fall. They were fighting off starvation.
Waking up in the morning there is no need for a weather report as we see the snow piled high on the surrounding trees and see the sky through what used to be the hayloft door, now a cathedral window. The thermometer tells us how cold it is though we can feel the chill in the air. We gauge the depth of the snowfall by watching the squirrels running along the limbs of the trees, cleaning off the heavy snow. They seem friskiest just after a snowfall.
And if we are lucky, and the snow is deep enough, we get out our snow-shoes and climb up the hill out back to what we were told was once a Christian Indian burial ground. There are no markers left but the spot has the air of the sacred and it affords mountain views in winter. High on the hill overlooking the valley, it seems a perfect place for a burial ground. The snowfall makes it easier to walk the hill. In the summer the path is too full of saplings and underbrush to walk the “meadow.”
On our half of the meadow there is a squat fir tree which provides a great shelter for deer in a storm and the deer love the meadow. There are a few blown over trees. And as we snow-shoe we see all kinds of animal tracks which we attempt to identify.
Like many barns, ours was built near the road so there is some traffic noise. But in the meadow we are far removed from the road. When it snows, it is so beautiful in the quiet, looking at the animal tracks, and feeling the spirits in the graveyard. A secret, little piece of Paradise. And to stand there in the virgin white silence, and see the abstract patterns of the snow on the surrounding hundreds of trees, is a taste of the Divine.
8×12 Watercolor for sale
The descent into darkness
after the blinding bliss of mania
is as inevitable as the fall of night
after the blissful bright of day.
All limited edition original photographs available in different sizes and formats.
It was a beautiful autumn day. The air was the lovely cool that October brings and the birds and the squirrels were in a feeding frenzy. I barely noticed though because all morning was spent cleaning resistant rust stains with some horrid acid cleaner with all kinds of warnings on it. And I had a low fever and was feeling kind of lousy. A phone call set the afternoon on a downward spiral. It had been an angry phone call. I had called my husband at lunch time and he was showing all the signs of extreme job stress. He is a psychiatric social worker and at times it seems all of his clients act out at once and intakes happen and hospitalizations happen and whatever can go wrong, does. It was one of those kind of days. He proceeded to yell at me, for what seemed like fifteen minutes but was probably only five, about all that went wrong that day. Then suddenly the phone went dead. I called back immediately and got a fast busy signal. I tried again with the same result. And again. I tried the cell but, as usual, his cell was turned off. So there was no getting through. And he had a long commute home and considering his mood and all, I was totally alarmed. I tried him on and off all afternoon and finally left a message on his cell asking him to call me. He didn’t. Until well after the time he should have left work.
“Are you still speaking to me?” he asked right away. “Yes, of course, why do you ask?” “Because I was yelling at you at lunch time.” “I know and I was wondering why but I didn’t hang up. The phone went dead.” “Okay, I am on my way home. It will take some time because I was delayed and traffic is worse at this time.” “Okay,” I said. I didn’t say my usual “Be careful!” or other worried dictums. I was just happy he had called. When I hung up the phone I thanked God he had called and he seemed to have calmed down some since lunchtime. Things were looking better than they had at midday.
And then there was the unmistakable thud on the window. I hoped in vain it was a falling walnut since they bounce off the roof and such at this time of year. But two feathers on the window pane left telltale marks. I was felt ill. We had just put up a wooden bird house with suction cups in the window above to prevent bird collisions (according to the advertisement). I looked out the window on the deck for a body. None. I went outside. No bird. Such a loud thud though was unmistakable. When I turned the corner of the deck on to the lawn, sure enough, I saw the bird. He saw me and seemed too stunned to be afraid so I did a quick form of Japanese energy healing technique known as Reiki on him. Deciding my gigantic presence was probably stressing him out further I went inside. I could see him from the window. I did the symbols for distant healing and sent him the animal healing symbol. He sat there with his head resting on the ground. At least he did not have his beak open in a screech like a wounded blue jay a few months ago but things did not look good.
Now half of me comes from a Sicilian background and it is a strong strain in my psyche. My maternal grandfather was a peasant working in the stone quarries of Sicily when, at 16, he fulfilled his dream of coming to the United States. Here he wound up becoming a lawyer but only after first doing stone work to finance his night schooling. Among his carving work was the Lincoln Gettysburg address at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. He was an exceptional man and I was very close to him as a little girl. His peasant background never left him. This was both good and bad. The bad, he and his wife and my mother were very superstitious. They believed in omens and signs. And this was instilled in me. Now to have this bird fly into the window just after talking to my husband about his long commute home was all too much. I argued in my mind against omens and superstitions but in my gut I was sick.
I kept checking on the bird, wondering if he was dead yet and if I should go bury him so he wouldn’t get eaten. I did more Reiki. I cried. It was not only that this poor little bird was hurt and probably going to die but what he represented. The birds had been in a feeding frenzy these past few days. I had just refilled the bird feeder yesterday and it was half empty not even 24 hours later. And it was bird central. Birds flying like kamikaze planes all over the front yard. When I went to fill the bird feeder a bird stayed on eating to the very last minute, unafraid of my approach. And as soon as I put the feeder back up in the tree he was back, not even waiting for me to leave. In this frantic feeding no wonder there was an accident.
I went back to the window to check the bird again. His head had been resting on the ground and things definitely did not look good! But, did I see his head up now? Yes, he had lifted up his head and he was moving his head right and left and up and down. I prayed in desperation. And I kept watching feeling guardedly hopeful. And next thing I knew he took to the air and flew to the swamp somewhere lost to my eyes. I was ecstatic. I got down on my knees and thanked God. This was truly a miracle. In my pessimism and superstition that I must battle with daily I have lost all faith in miracles. But miracles do happen. The guy at work who was on death’s door after collapsing outside the library and wound up having cancer, was now fully tumor free and working out at the gym. Another miracle. People and birds don’t always die even when things look their bleakest. Sometimes there are miracles. And my husband came home safe and sound and apologized to me and was happy to be home. Sometimes, too, there are happy endings.
Horses and Watercolor Trees
Autumn, the “second spring, where every leaf is a flower.” ~ Albert Camus
No.5 Landscape in a Window
No. 4 Melancholia
No. 3 Fall Reflections
No. 1 Lace Highlights
All limited edition original photographs available in different sizes and formats.
(This is dedicated to my brother who died a year ago this Father’s Day after a long and courageous battle with lung cancer.)
It is Springtime and I am doing my annual Spring cleaning– maniacally giving away old and unused clothes and items that no longer serve or never did. Some things I remember as I go through the linen chest– others are totally forgotten as to origin and use. And then it hits. In the corner of the chest is a neatly folded piece of green check cotton cloth. I immediately know its source. It is the cloth my Mother used to make curtains for her kitchen. Mom was always making curtains. When my husband and I were married she made curtains for our first apartment. We are still using them. Seeing this green check cloth brings me back to a hard period in my life when seeing my Mother was my only joy. We are sitting at the table in her kitchen having tea and laughing. It is a happy meeting. So many years ago.
And now with the sun shining and the birds singing and fresh air wafting in through the windows I am struck with uncontrollable grief. Tears that feel they could go on forever. It is as if she just died yesterday. But there is one difference, the remorse and the resentment I felt at the time is finally gone for the very first time. Some harsh words from my Mother as she lay dying, my lack of empathy and leaving without saying goodby for what was to be the last time– all this led to fifteen years of not being able to think of my Mother without guilt and deep regret. It was as if all of the good times we shared were negated by this one memory. Now the tears seem to be some sort of liquid acid dissolving the stone of resentment, guilt and remorse that squelched all the good. I feel cleansed and feel like I could cry a good, long cry as I go outside to sit in the sun. The sun seeps down in the wound like a salve.
Grief is not just a human phenomenon. Elephants will stand over the dead body of one of their herd, in some way showing respect for the departed spirit. And I think of examples close to home. The doe we saw one day going over to the dead body of a fawn on the side of the road. Or the baby rabbit we saw crossing into the middle of the road where a large mass of flesh with fur lay. And even closer to home– my husband and I adopted my Mother’s dog once Mom got too sick to care for her. Ko-ko had stayed with us many times in our house and loved being there. We never took her to see Mom again because the parting was too hard on both of them. We did take her toys though, from Mom’s house one night, and put them in our bedroom, among them a corroded rubber Santa. We were sitting at dinner that night and Ko-ko went into the bedroom. We heard a heart-stopping yelp and then whimpering. We went in and found Ko-ko with her old Santa in her mouth. The Santa was her version of my green check curtain. A stabbing wound and tears.
Clearly animals feel grief. Some die of grief just like humans. Grief binds us together, human and animal, and perhaps provides the special appeal of the new life in Spring. Yet when Spring inspires happy faces and a general feeling of well-being, and flowers are blooming everywhere, the contrast can be cruel. As T.S. Eliot so eloquently put it: “April is the cruelest month.” But once it is June the new life has settled in and we can go out in the yard and bake in the sun– the universal giver of life.
We humans have no prerogative on grief. Our lives entwine with happy moments and tragic in this vast web of existence, and Spring and loss are just two facets of possibility.
(Click http://www.independentauthornetwork.com/ellen-stockdale-wolfe.html for information on, and to purchase my Bipolar/Asperger’s memoir.)