Just Another Oddball Day in Paradise

Digital illo: Got It Made in the ShadeIt was a day of superb weather. As expected. It’s only that it was the kind of weather expected at entirely different times of the year, or at least in entirely different parts of the world. At least, by me.

In that way, it was par for the course in the modern world’s weather, at least. One doesn’t really know what lies ahead further than a few minutes, though now it’s less for the reason that weather forecasting is such an inexact art (it’s far less so than it used to be, anyhow) and more that previous centuries’ patterns have apparently been twisting and turning and emerging in wholly new directions and shapes. Exciting stuff, to be sure. Not so easy to manage our lives within it, given the difficulty of knowing whether the rain that’s begun requires a light, windbreaker sort of slicker or the building of an ark.

Meanwhile, superb weather at the “wrong” date and place.

One could spend plenty of time and energy trying to figure out why, or what it might mean in the grand scheme of things, and surely, thousands of smarter people have done so. I am not the one to solve those puzzles. I went for a walk, enjoyed the superb weather, and when it grew too hot for my taste, found a few trees in whose shade I could continue to enjoy the weather without being quite so warm.

It’s a weird world, this, and not quite like the one I thought I’d known all these years. But it still has some mighty nice shade trees here and there, and if I’m not too silly to take advantage of those, I can still think of it as a great home planet. Works for me.

To My Mother on Her Birthday

Photo: Under the Willow Tree 1Under the Willow Tree

Under the willow tree, her shade my calm,

I see so bent by storms her trunk, how far

The winds have twisted every limb, each scar

Where lightning struck; yet there’s a quiet psalm

Of gratitude that whispers in her leaves

Each time another rainfall comes to spend

Its quenching kindness on her and to send

New hope down deep—for anyone who grieves

Or wonders how to pass through life’s travail

Finds shelter in her shadow—knows the limbs

That seem to weep are only singing hymns,

Embracing in their gentle sway the frail.

                    So one fine sapling, tended with such care,

                    Becomes the home for all who shelter there.

And now her roots are deep, her branches wide

Enough to draw more birds to them to nest,

Assured, secure and loved, and full at rest,

No matter what the world is like outside—

Just as I am, beneath the willow’s arm

Of graceful comfort, grateful for her wise,

Kind lesson to look upward to the skies

For blessed rain, and sun to keep us warm,

For sweet reminders of the Gardener

Who made the willow grow, and gave her strength

To nurture others in her shade, at length,

Upon the graces planted there in her:

                    So one fine sapling, tended with such care,

                    Becomes the home for all who shelter there.

Photo: Under the Willow Tree 2Thank you, Mom, for the nurturing, the love, and the will to live as an example of bending but not breaking in the storms. Happy 80th Birthday!

From the Highest Towers

Digital illustration from a watercolor: Summer Stained GlassRinging In

Every time I hear them, I remember that first morning,

That moment in a narrow street when brightly, without warning,

The bells loosened their tongues to sing and raised their clarion voices

In that wild hymnody of joy at which my heart rejoices,

And now, wherever I may be, whatever is the weather

Or the occasion driving me, those voices joined together

Stop me, and make me raise my eyes while all the bells are ringing,

And search the gladness of the skies where Carillon is singing.Digital illustration from a watercolor: Springtime Stained Glass

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

We Wait for Change…

…when we should be agents of change. We wish for rescue when we should be out seeking ways to aid others. We huddle fearfully in the late summer, already conscious that the autumn ahead will lead inevitably to winter’s dormancy or killing frost, when what we could be doing is plotting the way to make use of the transition to position ourselves to take fuller advantage of the ripening and plenitude ahead.digital illustrationWe are, after all, only human. But the exemplary people of generations past have proved, and those of our own time are still showing, that as long as we exist to worry about them the ages and seasons, the events and goings-on do indeed go on, cycle and change, and that if we choose to do so—if we determine to do so and act on it—we can make the changes better and the growth so much the more meaningful and joyful. If we wait for change, it will happen, all right, but it will happen however and whenever the universe or others in it decide. Ours is the calling to engage in the world, no matter how intimidating it is, and move toward what we desire. It may seem like plowing on foot through chin-deep snow, but trusting that there’s a thaw ahead and behind it, renewal, we can stay the course.digital illustrationAt the other end of it is potential that surpasses even our fondest, wildest imaginings, if we dare to move instead of lying waiting.

It’s interesting to me that I wrote the foregoing portions of this post a few weeks ago and set it aside for this very date, not knowing that it would follow immediately on the heels of my publishing my first book, something I’ve longed to do for years but never had the nerve until now. Funny how we sometimes put things in motion without even realizing what we’ve done; it’s a saving grace of our race, I think. O happy day, when we stumble into our dreams because we kept seeking them despite all sense!

Tree-Totaler

I have a new toy! I’m not an early adopter when it comes to tech; in fact, I’m a slowpoke, and pretty much a big chicken, since learning new things intimidates the heck out of me. I know things come slowly to me, so it takes a while for me to even get up the nerve to try. But I have a new toy, and I’m liking the process of learning what I can do with this one.digital illustration

It’s an iPad, my new toy, and I bought a stylus to use with it, and downloaded several drawing programs (freebies and super-cheap ones, of course), and I’m having a grand time fiddling around and trying to see what I can do with the new artistic tools I’ve gotten. No amount of technology can make me into what I’m not, but some of those things I can do with the things I’ve now got could help me to make myself, however gradually, into a better artist. And that’s a fun thing to the degree that it does a remarkable amount to overcome my normal reluctance to trying to learn anything new.digital illustrationIn times past I have managed to kill a lot of trees in pursuit of my artistic growth. In my heart I am a great big tree-hugging plant lover, but my instinctive urge to make art has often trumped my tree love, at least to the degree that I make many works on paper. It’s easier to use when making marks into drawings than other, non-flat surfaces. I’ve been happy to use recycled material when possible, but paper is paper and, well, finite too. I’m liking the option that electronic tools give me of deleting or, better yet, erasing, layering, and redoing all kinds of things over and over again without needing to go to print unless and until I’m good and ready to do it. Here goes!

A [Mostly] Black & White Photoessay from the Road

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Farm Frames.
I loved the sweet repetition of gorgeous farms of all sorts, in parts of every state.

Some of the images yielded by five weeks and six thousand miles’ worth of rambling cross-country seemed to want expression in my old favorite black and white imagery. And, not coincidentally, this set particularly showcases my obsessions with seeing patterns, repetition and commonalities.

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Towers
Monolithic bare trees and sculptural bridges seemingly imitate each other.

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Twisted Trees
Driftwood. A helical trunk amid Douglas-fir and vine maple companions.

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AmeriCars the Beautiful
Car culture in the US may have long grown old, but it hasn’t stopped being a classic.

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Boarded Up
Fruit growers’ packing crates. A burned house.

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Shake Your Tailfeathers
Hawk? Maybe. Mallard, definitely.

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Sunday School
The old shed behind the parsonage, the inner workings of a portative organ, and a vintage church.

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God is in the Details
Small stuff, large impact.

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Radii
Spokes that speak for themselves.

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Elephants
An older model pachyderm and an older model Packard? (Nah, I think it was a Rolls.)

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Strange Geometries
The wonder of a weird homemade aerial and the magic of a zebra.