It’s Never a Bad Time to…

…Stop.

Yesterday’s chip on my shoulder or rants in my pants should remain yesterday’s. I did enough whingeing and wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth to give vent to my current irritations with the American political landscape. Resulting, I fear, in my passing the irritants on to everybody else in my wake, for which I am only semi-sorry, as I was selfishly just plain unwilling to keep it bottled up any longer. A quick trip to your Happy Place will undoubtedly remove any of the gunk I splashed on you, and I hope you’ll find it in your heart to forgive me even in my slightly unrepentant state. Wink-wink.

Meanwhile, I will shut up for the moment. Here: I’ll show you one of the photos that I took on our last part of the summer’s expeditions, a view that gave me great pleasure both on the day—our last of travel for the season, it happens—and on seeing it again now, as I’m busy editing the hundreds of shots taken from the start of the summer adventures in June through this photo. I’ll inundate you with more of those later. But now seems like a better time to just bask in a Happy Place of my own and share it with you. Peace.

Photo: Last Evening

On our last evening of 2015 summer travel, the view from our hotel room was a calming respite after a day of deluge. Rain and storms can be a joy, but the sweet promise of a rose-colored evening sky afterward brings a different kind of bliss.

Mermaids in the Conservatory

Isn’t it a little odd that so many of us find it calming to watch colorful fish swim? We don’t live underwater ourselves, generally preferring to breathe oxygen from above water level. I’m quite certain that most people would agree that the very idea of attempting to survive in a fish’s environment without plenty of protective gear or at least an ability to hold one’s breath for great lengths of time is more intimidating than inviting, especially as it would mean spending time rubbing…hmmm…elbows (?) with a fish. (Pectoral fins? Dorsals?)

No matter. When I’m feeling tired, under stress, or otherwise out of sorts, few things comfort me like the peaceful ripple of calm water when a few fish pass quietly by me. I would go on about it further now, but I’m growing pleasantly sleepy just thinking about it and shall go off to bed to dream of orchid beds and fountains, fan palms and a stone-lined pond filled with a silent, painterly array of highly bred carp easing past me. I’ll leave you with this little pond-full for your own moment of uncoiling in calm.Digital illo from a photo + text: Koi

Sailing Ahead, Wherever That May Be

The only time I’ve ever been on a sailboat was to sleep. There’s a great Tall Ship converted into a youth hostel in Stockholm where my sister and I bunked for a couple of nights on our college gallivant across western Europe. [Which hostel appears to have been recently renovated, and very nicely, if any of you should be interested.] While there may have been the faintest of motion rocking us to sleep in our on-board berths, I doubt it replicated very accurately the sensation of actual sailing. My next opportunity was during graduate school when I got a fan letter (one of the very few in my life, as you can imagine!) from a stranger who’d liked a gallery art installation I made so much that he offered to take me out sailing to the nearby islands. I don’t think there was anything predatory about him, but besides my still having a grandiose case of social anxiety in those days, there is the fact that the art show in question was entirely a walk-through, life-sized illustration of an espionage thriller; while I am doubtful that was his inspiration, I didn’t take him up on the offer.
Photo: Adrift on the High Seas

But whenever I see a sailboat, I do think it’s a beautiful representation of a genteel form of freedom that captivates my imagination all the same. Yes, I know plenty of tales of grueling trials on the high seas, no matter the size of the craft; even some of my close friends and relatives have such stories to tell, thankfully, having survived them. And I know, too, the old joke about testing one’s real interest in boat ownership by dressing up in a rain slicker and standing under an ice-cold shower for a couple of hours while flushing hundred-dollar bills down the toilet. But I also know that a vast number of people who could jolly well choose to spend their money and time on less demanding, safer, and far less expensive pastimes still choose boating. There’s clearly a strong pull to counterbalance any such negatives.

I, too, have spent some happy times on boats, just not sailboats. As a coastal kid, after all, I grew up thinking time spent on the ferries was as much pleasure and sightseeing as it was commuting or transport. I have been fairly miserable on a North Sea ferry in stormy seas while I was recovering from the stomach flu, but it did not so permanently scar either my psyche or my stomach lining that I didn’t look forward to the next time I got to be on a slow boat cruising along the shore, or perhaps best of all, in a rowboat or canoe, dipping the oars or paddle in with the rhythmic soft splashing that accompanies my reveries.
Photo: All Ashore

Living far from any natural body of water as I do these days, I am beached like an old craft whose hull is no longer seaworthy. But like those old boats I see, dry-docked on the beach or alongside the tumbledown barn or in a weedy field, I keep in my soul a firm and loving memory of every good time spent with the waves rocking me softly from below, telling me stories of their own and inviting me forward, ever forward, wherever that might take me.

The Gilding of the Gliding

That magical time known as the Golden Hour seems to give everything, not just color, an extra fillip of beauty. Colors do, indeed, become warmer and more saturated when the sun is at such a low angle to the horizon as its place near dawn and dusk, but there is so much more to the mystical powers of those fleeting moments that it is a great treasure to be still in them and let the wonder fill me. At such times I feel more connected to nature and everything around me seems more in tune, better adjusted, and I feel that I am, too.
Photo: The Golden Hour

How can the mere angle of the sun turn a scrubby lawn into finely cut velvet? The touch of gilt on the scene makes every ounce of it seem that much more precious and valuable. The bejeweled day, in turn, makes the simplest action in it take on significance it never had before: the chattering of birds in the trees becomes a miniature angelic choir; the dipping of oars in the water turns from a quiet splashing to the whispering of poetry; the evening breeze that gently stirs shore grass becomes a delicate communiqué from the harmonic internal logic of the universe, and I am at one with it all. As the golden hour ripples through my environs and begins to permeate me, I almost feel as if I am gliding along their silky way right in sync with the rowboats nearby, waving fluidly as the grasses on the verge, tipping my wings with the evening birds to slide onto the branches of the trees. I am at peace with the world, and the world, with me. That is golden indeed.

It was Only a Dream…

Photo: Waking UnderwaterA short meditation: The Oarsman

When I opened my eyes, I saw a cedar boat ahead, a craft of sleek and patinated wood; I was ashore, looking, watching without knowing why, standing on the verge with the clear salt sea touching my feet and on its cold breath casting up an offering of tide-polished stones and shells moved into patterns like a prayer shawl.

The cedar boat drew near, and in the boat, a man whose solemn joy preceded him and made my thoughts lie still.

Only the scent of cedar broke the salty air. I waded out to catch the prow and saw the oarsman watching me, and I was humbled but not afraid. He said nothing. I didn’t think to say a word, myself, but caught the boat and slowly pulled it ashore.Photo: The Scent of Cedars

The oarsman wore a long superlative braid that rose and fell on his breast; I made fast the boat to a spike of driftwood at the verge, tying the painter in a braid as like his own as I could make it.

When he stepped from the boat, the oarsman put his broad hand on my head, wordlessly, and I felt, too, his solemn joy.Photo: Solemn Joy

If My Song could Last Forever

Photo: Well Seasoned 1Hours into Seasons

There’s a sweetness in the morning when the sun has yet to rise

And the blooms lie, still unopened, under sleeping butterflies;

When the stars still wink and glimmer, while the frogs yet softly sing—

There’s a sweetness in the morning that is like the breath of Spring.Photo: Well Seasoned 2

There’s a graciousness at midday when, amid the racing streams,

All arise and put in motion yesterday’s profoundest dreams;

When the past its chains has loosened on the race of all alive,

That in joyful forward motion we, like Summer, grow and thrive.Photo: Well Seasoned 3

There’s a calm amid the evening when the birds come to the trees’

Respite from the day of flying, echoed by our evening ease;

When the cares of noon have lessened as the dusk swept into place—

There’s a calm amid the evening, peaceful as the Autumn’s grace.Photo: Well Seasoned 4

There’s a beauty to the nighttime, glorious and peaceful bliss,

Treasured for the kind renewal of the souls that rest in this

Cradling darkness and this languor, in this place of mending rest

That, like Winter’s dormant healing, lets us wake refreshed and blessed.Photo: Well Seasoned 5

I would take these hours’ presents as my guide through seasons long,

Through a lifelong path that’s pleasant as a choir’s finest song;

I would be a seasoned traveler, happy above everything,

If my song could last forever,

Summer, Autumn, Winter, Spring.Photo: Well Seasoned 6

Gently into the Night

digital illustration from a photograph

Reparations

While the quiet of the evening draws its curtain on the noise

Day had clamored ’til its leaving, I will lie in calm and poise,

Gently as a bed of lilies bends in summer’s kindest breeze,

As the cat turns, curling, ’til he’s found his pose of greatest ease;

While the dusk falls, silent, deeper into night, my eyelids close

Heavily…I’m soon a sleeper in the stillest of repose…

Midnight finds me softly dreaming, all the day’s loud clatter gone,

‘Til birds chatter at the streaming light of the approaching dawn

While I lie in silent dozing where no sound comes breaking through,

All that shouted ceases, closing restive lips—and spirits, too,

Slip like shades and never flutter more than deepest sleeping sends

To the surface from the utter place of healing and amends;

I will rest here in the solace and the silence so supreme

It can quiet every call as I lie still and, gently, dream…digital illustration from a photograph