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

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.

Flourishes, but Quietly

Digital illustration from a painting: Splashy-FlashyNo Talking in Class

Am I a showy character? It may be that I am…

A bold display of color makes me happy as a clam—

The splash of waves or fireworks delights me deep within

Enough to make me run and leap and wear a silly grin—

An anthem sung; a symphony or jazz or drumline played

Or children’s playground chanting—yes, by all of these I’m swayed

To passion and delirium, to ecstasy and dance,

But mostly, from the audience, where I can hide, perchance…

I have to tell you honestly, I’d rather you’re the star

And I the meekly happy fan who worships from afar,

For though I love the big and grand, extravagant and wild,

I’ll gladly leave that up to you and stay a quiet child.Digital illustration from a photo: No Talking in School

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

Endless Sleep that Needs No Dreams

Cadence at Evening

Slow as the settling of the sun
Upon the western shore and lees
Where nightingales call from the trees,
Watching the honeyed daylight run—

Slow as the shifting motes of time
That sift and spin in lamp-lit rays,
Fall lazily to dust and haze
And love, ineffably sublime—

Slow as the sleeping breath when dreams
Have ceased, and thought receded to
The farthest corners, shaded blue
To inky black, to flow in streams—

Slow as the silently locked door
Was, to admit all at the last
Where wonder waits that, long held fast,
Now pulls us inward evermore—

Slow as the parting of that night
Which closes day with one last kiss,
Night languorous with hymns like this,
Draws us toward slowly growing light—photo

It’s Still Life

Little is as desirable in day-to-day life as peace and quiet. Rest, respite, calm–I crave them. There’s so much invitation and welcome in the sweet marvels of time off, time out and down time that I never feel I have too much of, well, not-too-much.

But busyness is ever so much more common in our everyday existence in this century, certainly in this household. It’s no still life, to be sure; any silence found in this way of living is more of the deafening sort. But yes, it’s still life.

So I have to manufacture or steal my moments of rest and relaxation. Isn’t that how most of us end up finding our tiny increments of space and time and sanity anyway? I have to learn how to tune out the white noise, hide from the constant demands and burrow into hidden corners when and wherever I can, to choose deliberately to decompress and unwind. If I don’t make room for my own peace of mind, who’s going to give it to me? The world may rattle on around me at a furious and eardrum-shattering rate and all I know may change in the ten minutes I’ve stolen to renew myself, but I will return to those realities soon enough, and hadn’t I better do so in a fortified state than otherwise?

Better to sit down and tell myself soothing tales undergirded with lullabies, to draw myself a little old-fashioned still life arrangement in the calm unruffled grey of graphite, and breathe deeply without regard for the bustle and bash of the universe, if only for a moment or two.graphite drawing

I Think I Must’ve Dropped It Here Somewhere

Peace of mind and clarity can be mighty hard to come by these days. Half of the time I have a tendency to suspect they’re things I once had access to or even owned in small quantities but somehow misplaced. Don’t mind me, I’ll be crawling around here on hands and knees with my compatriots. If we look like we’re hunting for lost contact lenses while not actually awake, you might well be right.

graphite drawingRespite

Among the herds and hordes that clamor for attention undeserved,

Some few remain that will not yammer but sit back, demure, reserved—

Odd, in the cacophony of wild, attention-grabbing rush,

That what finally wins from me my focused notice is mere hush—

The effect of surfeit, excess, ultimately in the riot

Of the maelstrom, is what checks us in our racing: simple quiet—

So I seek the silent moment, empty spaces, basic form

Of absent noise and crush and foment, then go back to face the storm.

Ashore

Islands can bring out the hermit in people, as it seems–and conversely, the social butterfly. Some who go to islands voluntarily either do so out of the desire to cut themselves off, at least partly, from social pressures and demands or come to embrace the opportunity that appears when they’ve become islanders. But involuntary islanders, the marooned (whether by shipwreck or by job transfer), can often feel contact-deprived. Suddenly people who had no particular desire for company on a regular basis feel socially abandoned and hungry; who knew?

Me, I have never lived on an island. Certainly never been set adrift and stuck on one against my will. And I happen to have pretty serious hermitage skills when I want to haven them: I’m a master at finding the quietest, remotest, emptiest corner of any place when I sincerely desire it. So I don’t generally have to wrestle through either of those dire, trying situations mentioned above. And also, I don’t really expect to run into such a situation any time soon.

That means I rather like my visits to islands, which visits are thus far entirely intentional (unless you count wrong turns onto bridges leading to them), and I like aloneness enough to seek it. Even on an island, if need be. Truthfully, though, I’m quite happy to visit islands any time I can, for holidaying purposes. Whidbey Island, Molokai, Ireland, Vancouver Island, Puerto Rico . . . I will be glad to return to these and visit many another any time I might have the chance. Let me wander inland and explore the beauties beyond the islands’ perimeters. Perch me on a rock by the shore and I will be happy, no, delighted to spend my time in good company or solitude, either one.photo