I Find Respite in the Woods

We all find our places of escape where we can. Having grown up in the Evergreen State and not far from both the vast forests of Mt. Rainier and the green refuge of the Olympic Peninsula’s rain forest, I have always found trees and wooded places a comfort and a place of safety and reassurance. No matter how deep the sorrow and pain, I have found strength returning to me and a gentling of the spirit poured on my woundedness in those times spent in the protective forest greenery. When I can spend time among the trees and relish their distinctive and individual beauties, I find myself rescued and my hope renewed.digital illustration

To the Woodland

Cedar, bless me with your resinous breath,

And oak, stretch down those knotted arms to me

And close me in, so others cannot see

My sorrow as I stand so near to death—

I come here to the woodland for relief

Among the leafy shadows of the glade,

Hoping to leave my sadness where I’ve laid

It here, a monument in shade to grief—

Sweet birches, bend your green to veil my tears

And weep with all the willows, as I do;

Great trees, for graces have I come to you

Each time that I grew mournful through the years—

I come here to the woodland for relief

And leave a monument, in shade, to grief.

This mottled darkness will give way to sun

Anon, as time flows on, and so shall I;

The dead still sleep, no matter how I cry,

And I must live, or my own death’s begun—

And I’ve much yet to live, and purpose find

In bringing others light who, too, repine

That have no pine-groves filled with peace like mine

As balm and rescue for a troubled mind—

Who know not aspens’ kindly whispered care—

Should all seek peace and comfort in the wood,

These mercies surely better us, their good

And healing gifts send us renewed from there—

So we’ll go to the woodland for relief

And leave in shade, as we emerge, our grief.digital illustration

The Green Man is on the Move

digital artwork from a drawingThough he may well have sprung from the roots of ancient earthbound deities, the Green Man remains alive and well and, at this season, inhabits garden and woodland alike, filling sun and shadow with his mischievous magicks. And this presence is a very welcome thing indeed. Few things can compare with the appearance of those tender sprouts, however miniscule and vulnerable, that bring new signs of life to the winter’s loamy floor, unfurl their banners on the tiniest twig of the smallest shrub. The mere sight of one small tip of leaf can bring an upsurge of life to the dormant veins of even a hardened person who’s waited through the dark and chill for newness to arrive.

Did the long freeze of January kill that little sapling that I found? No, here’s the faint, alluring swelling of a bud, the blushing edge of a leaflet, soon to open wide in exuberant yellow-green shouts of Spring. Has the ice of the short days and long, long nights wholly buried and killed my favorite herb, both branch and root? No, I see a hairline stripe of promising verdure in the bony bark of its woody little stem. Life is a bold, determined act, and with its brazen call brings out the denizens of Earth, first the bud and then the bloom, one small broken seed shooting out a multitude of growing things at the conjuring wave of the Green Man’s hand. Like him, I cannot help but grin when the world begins again to wake in leafy laughter.

Silence may not be Golden, but Control of Noisemaking Keeps Everyone Safer

photoPractice as though Your Life Depended on It

Two singers strolled into a wood, and I

Followed the one less skillful; why?

Starved beasts will flock to an anguished cry,

As they did that day; in the wink of an eye,

I was on the road less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

[With sincerest apologies to Robert Frost]photo

Rain Dances

It dances across my imagination, rain. It is flowing and musical and magical and, most of all, it catalyzes cleanliness and growth that reawakens the graces of the living world in ways that very few other things can possibly do.photoIt is what I think of as the soundtrack to my dreams, rain. The softly bubbling, rippling, tuneful and prayerful sound of rain in the background, after even the slightest dry spell, is as lovely in its way as a kindly lullaby, as the warbling of some exotic winged thing in a  woodland on a magical evening, perhaps even as a gentle reminder that the creative spirit of the universe weeps both with sorrow and with joy in harmony with all her creatures.photoOn every greensward, in every park in Spring, the land smiles with contentment even while the rain still falls, when rain is in its right place. This is a gift happily awaited by all who thirst–every creature and all the sweet, sweet growing things that fill our garden world. Whether it is thought of as saving for a rainy day or being saved by a rainy day, as much as I bask in the sun at every opportunity, there will always be a part of me that relishes and desires the generous presence of a kindly rainfall.

(I’m pleased to say that it has been raining here for the last number of hours. Life is good.)

Dangerous Desires

My little retelling of the story of Hansel and GretelYes, I prefer a slightly less virulent interpretation of the tale than the early versions focusing on the stereotype of the ‘Wicked Stepmother’ and a father cruel enough to go along with her determination to abandon the children. After all, there’s still plenty of blame to go around when ordinary and seemingly decent people do thoughtless and stupid and even horrible things without considering the ultimate consequences, and even a fairly charitable interpretation of the story seems to me to illustrate that quite handily. And, lest I be accused of excessive softening of what is, after all, a pretty grim [!] tale, I left off the traditional cozy ending, to keep the pointy parts more firmly entrenched in any conscience that will allow them. Wink, wink.

graphite drawingLaw of Unforeseen Consequences

Late, when the children want to play, When chores are a burden at end of day, Why, what harm can come of it, anyway?

Who would begrudge their choice, this chance To lay down the work and pick up a dance? Who would look on this sweet play askance?

What if their Schottische, when lightning flashed, Upset the pitcher and milk was splashed? Ah, suddenly, their mother’s lashed

At them with her anger in surprise At such wild waste of the poor folk’s prize, And tears are smarting in all their eyes!

The rich folk scarcely would give a fig At spilling milk over one swift jig, But their consequence never did loom so big.

No innocent children ever guess That a tiny slip and a modest mess Will afford their mother such deep distress,

Nor mother foresee that her sorrowed scold Will send, heavy-hearted, into the cold Her little ones, lost to the family fold.

And how could their father know what would fall If they failed to answer his panicked call And foraged instead far from safety’s wall?

Too distant from hearth and garden run, Could the children know that their crimeless fun Would lead to endangering anyone?

So off to the forest’s gloom, replete With wild strawberries, so good to eat, They skip unconcerned, when a wilder sweet

Appears before their young, hungry eyes In the most appealingly false disguise Of a gingerbread palace, whose luring lies

Present irresistibly tempting charms To lead them directly into the arms Of the wicked witch whose most horrid harm’s

The deceptive sweetness her cottage seems To hold in its sugary halls of dreams–What covers in icing the children’s screams!

(How could these tender young cherubs guess That under the sparkling prettiness Was a ravening monster intent to fress On their flesh and bones in a gory mess!)

But the most nefarious in the tale Was also most ignorant that such frail And tender tidbits might possibly fail

To end up feeding her heart’s desire, Instead being fueled by fear and ire To shove her into her own oven’s fire!

The story is old, that in unformed youth We may lack the wisdom to see in truth, That apparent delights may be foul, forsooth

But we still hold on to our foolish ways Of dreaming and hoping in wishful haze And never considering that this daze

Can blind us to sanity–in its mire, Can lead to such unexpected, dire Results–unintentionally, Desire Makes us leap from the frying pan into the fire.

Well Grounded

Defying Gravitygraphite drawingOnce upon a leafy glade, a pretty perch in sun and shade,

Where callas leapt into the day from darker places and made play

Of turning winter into spring full suddenly, the single thing

That was most lovely in that place, that clearing full of sweetness, grace

And peaceful calm, was that the birds alighting there, beyond all words

And dreams of nature, sat quite still and quiet, and a subtle thrill

Of magic held the place in thrall–as if amid a concert hall

The orchestra fell silent, yet their silver melodies still set

The air a-quiver, pulsing, live with such wild music as to thrive

Beyond its moment and to sing whether the birds sat or took wing–

The butterflies that came around this glade of gladness also found

It fit to sit rather than fly and flit about the gleaming sky,

And set their wings to capture sun rather than race about and run,

Their painted beauty neatly limned as though tall ships in port had trimmed

Their sails to rest and find surcease in this most gracious bay of peace–

And yet, the clearing’s finest gift was that no butterfly would lift

A wing disturbing stillness there, nor bird stir up the hovering air,

Nor even angel choose to float aloft, disturbing the remote

And pleasant sense of such remove as was existent in that grove–

All this to say, though all could rise and wing their way about the skies,

Each visitor the clearing drew found on arriving that she knew

It was a place whose joy and mirth might make her leap up from the earth,

Yet with serenity so blessed she chose instead to lie at rest,

By flight’s exertions not be led, but letting souls fly high instead.

Aloft & Alighting

graphite drawingAngels in the Aviary

Of winged and wondrous beings shall I tell,

Whose incandescence fills the deepest wood,

With brilliance, dazzling, pretty as it’s good,

And singing lays clear as a silver bell–

Take wing, you also, soaring wide abroad,

To sing elated tales of what is seen

From over oceans, forests rich with green

And storied mountains–palisades of God–

Let each take flight, to race the sands of time;

To see along the universe’s rim

All future iterations growing dim,

As at such speeds our eyes glaze up with rime–

Of angels such as these I tell my tale

And bid you join their swiftest ranks to fly

Above the oceans, forest, land and sky

To loveliness beside which all falls pale–

And cry, sweet birds, for happiness that we

Are joined in such angelic company.