Monday, August 30, 2010

Farewell to Sweetness

The last time I communed with the ruby throated hummingbirds, I lived on Pocket Mountain. That was four summers ago. Oh, I tried, but circumstances prevented the annual ritual of hanging the hummingbird feeders during the explosion of lilacs and apple blossoms and observing them until September, when they migrate to Central America.

When we lived on Carter Mountain, I hung the feeders on the apple tree where Miles would stand as still as possible for a ten-year-old boy and observe them from within a few inches. He didn’t even flinch when the black flies – later replaced by mosquitoes – swarmed around him. I tried it myself and marveled when the tiny miraculous creatures dipped their long beaks into the fake flowered openings in the feeder.

My other children – younger and wigglier – didn’t have the patience of standing motionless for extended periods until we lived on Pocket Mountain. Witnessing a hummingbird that close changes you. It becomes a spirit fulfilling custom.

I was at a loss when I started traveling. I spent the past three winters on the Southern Gulf of Mexico. The first thing I did was go on the internet and get a list of plants that would attract hummingbirds. I was excited because I read that there were three species where I was living; the rufous, black chinned and ruby throated. I braved the spiders and even saw a few unusual (non-poisonous) snakes and planted my new garden.

Disenchanted, my wildly colorful garden and feeders did not attract a single hummingbird; however, my disappointment was quickly replaced with gratitude and exhilaration when butterflies of various sizes, patterns and colors frequented the backyard. I spent a great deal of time thumbing through my butterfly guide and appreciated the alternative offering from Our Mother.

Last summer, when I lived outdoors on pristine Duncan Lake, I was captive audience to the ruby throated hummingbirds that frequented the wildflowers on the shores. This experience was a bit different, as I was not observing them physically as close as I typically did when I hung feeders near my house. I watched their silhouettes in the ochre twilight as they awakened me to their presence with the sound of their humming wings. Then, I would sit in my worn canvas chair and watch their dance until the final curtain of the evening fell upon us.

This spring upon my return to New Hampshire, I rummaged through boxes of miscellaneous randomness until I found the green glass feeder that hung desperately on the Gulf Stream Waters without so much as a glance. I cleaned it, filled it with nectar and hung it under the eave of the open front porch. The yard – a stunning palette saturated with sweetness – burst with well-established perennials, herbs and wildflowers. The tiny miracles descended upon the feeder in less than an hour.

Their presence owned me. I could not pass by without looking or listening for them. There were two pair that I could almost distinguish and they soon trusted me. I sat on the porch in my canvas chair, waited, and watched out of the corner of my eye. When one zoomed in, I sat without movement cherishing our closeness.

One male often flew to the nearby clothesline and bobbed his head back and forth, looking at me and then away, at me and then away, until he bravely zeroed in on the feeder. Sometimes they came in and rested on the pine boughs near the steps. I was hopelessly distracted from whatever I should have been doing.

Every morning I sipped my coffee with them, celebrating the emergence of each dazzling blossom only to move on when it shrivels away leaving seeds for the next season.

Although I know it is coming, I dread the morning when there is no whirring of fast beating wings amongst fading flowers, no trusting and perching above me on the feeder, which now hangs abandoned under the eaves. I feel a spark of hope at the sight of the still vibrant pink phlox that they liked the day before. I will wait one more day.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Almost Home

Today, I woke up to a soft, steady rain tapping on the roof and the purple curtain swaying in the gentle wind that blew through the woods that wrap around the house, protecting me from the outside world. I thought about pulling the pink cotton quilt over my head and returning to sleep, but the grayness of the day insisted on consciousness.

I meandered to the other room and peeked in. Her mahogany curls sprawled randomly across the pillow just as they did when she was still an innocent child who happened to believe that she was a faerie. Her faith was compelling. Eventually I believed it to be true and wondered what I did to deserve being the mother of a faerie. Why me? I still do not know the answer.

I found an excuse to enter the room. I rifled through the drawer until I found my oversized gray sweatshirt and stood still. The intensity of the rain increased with my breathing. I approached the bed; she stirred. I leaned over her, close enough to smell her hair. Sweet. Always sweet.

Her wings – a bit awkward and large at first – were silky, opaque blue, white and silver. I don’t remember exactly when, but one day they fit perfectly. She frolicked about in warm rains, climbing on rocks and waving the wand that I made from a flawless oak branch, multi-colored satin ribbons and a small canister of metallic sprinkles attached to the end.

Her powers were not and are not limited. Her music makes me weep. The thought of it aches inside of me.

She began creating music on a tiny cello at the age of five, casting an infinite spell on those who listened and on the one who gave birth to her. Soon, the unfathomable, soulful voice found me, edging beyond the brass and silver that once sustained me.

We played together – mother and daughter, brown eyes to brown eyes – bows dancing across strings, from Frosty to Beethoven’s Fifth in a full symphony orchestra. Without this, my life would be devoid of passion.

She befriended flowers – mostly dandelions – and for some reason butterflies were not as high up in her order of things. Her magic charmed all that lived in the woods, fields, ponds and sometimes even the cats. Her magic captivated me. Her enchantment was born from her unwavering passion and loyalty to the little folk and earthy goodness.

Tattered wings – illuminated by experience – told her story through stitches and a string of small holes. One day the wings disappeared. We searched tirelessly for them. In my heart, I know of the reason for their disappearance. The act of writing words of such a jealous and vengeful deed empowers negativity, so it remains undeclared.

She became a faerie without wings.

I sipped my coffee, assured by the thought of her sleeping safely near me.

I have two sons. One sails the seas on old wooden ships, bringing honor to our ancestors and to those of us who know and love him in this life. The other has played the violin since he was able to embrace it. His music is of the gods.

Today was raw, raw enough to make a fire in the kitchen woodstove. The Yankee in me thrives on the ambient smoke of a wood fire. The perennial hermitess and Cancerian me loves a blazing hearth and peaceful home. It was decided; I would make a pot of soup on the stove as I did for so many winters.

We have gone away and come back and gone away again. My sailor shot the stars, bringing her home safely to the nest, then returned to his wooden ship.

When my son, the violinist, came into the kitchen, it startled me. In the midst of the moment, I forgot. We were somewhere between those times when it was enough for him to fiddle on the mountain and my sailor only dreamed of faraway places and my faerie had new wings. Home was where the rooster crowed every morning, calling us to our daily lessons and spicy stew simmering in the pot on the kitchen cook stove.

My violinist son stood beside me in the warm kitchen, the fire warded off bleak drizzle while I peeled the carrots for the pot. Mozart’s Fifth Violin concerto played in the background. Today, I was almost home.

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Warm Cleansing Rain

I thought that I – a mother and her young going out to face the unforgiving world – was alone. We hauled our belongings, some worn out furniture and clothing, but mostly musical instruments and accessories, into the old farmhouse on top of Pocket Mountain.

As a perennial hermitess, I was accustomed to a solitary lifestyle and actually preferred solitude. I had a rich inner life that I nurtured and cultivated; it worked quite well.

This was different. Being alone by choice and being discarded by society are not the same. For the first time, my music no longer worked for me. Every time I tried to be that girl, that woman who navigated the world through her music, I froze. The notes were trapped inside of my head; I heard them all of the time, tapped out the fingering on my leg, and tried to ignore the pressure in my chest.

Before Pocket Mountain, I was a musician, home educator and farmer. I was always in a mode of creativity, playing my cornet on every stage and bandstand from Vermont to Gettysburg and playing my cello in the orchestra, throwing pottery, rescuing baby birds, performing with my children. That was my livelihood; I knew that. So, it made sense when no one would hire me. My resume was filled with music and farming; it was difficult to convince them that I would not be bored, quit and run away with the circus.

A few potential employers recognized me from my performances, “Why are you here?” They would ask with wide eyes.

“I am changing my career path.” My ears were ringing and I felt small as I was being swallowed up by mediocrity. I didn’t fit; I wasn’t convincing enough. I could not even be hired at a donut shop.

One time I applied for a job as a produce manager in the local grocery store. The woman at the Courtesy Booth looked suspiciously over her glasses. “Do you have experience in produce?”

“Yes.” I swallowed and my face heated.

“Where?” She cleared her throat.

“I know how to distinguish apples from oranges and I’ve eaten vast amounts of carrots and peppers in my life.” The sharp tongue would not subside. “I’m a farmer; I’ve grown a lot of this stuff. How difficult is it?”

“You need…blah, blah, blah…”

I walked away. I had never worked in a grocery store.

I had the windshield wipers on high but still could not see through the blinding rain. I drove anyway, barreling over the rutty dirt road to the top of the mountain. I squealed into the driveway. No one noticed or cared, but it felt good.

I stood motionless in the kitchen. My son was still playing his violin, only he switched from Bach to Sarasate. My daughter was in her secret nook in the root cellar where she strung green lights and sat on pillows stuffed in a potato bin writing poetry. My other son was away at college. He escaped our poverty.

The rain pounded on the roof. I could not decide what came next as I stood in the puddle that formed around my black heels, usually worn for concert performances. I slipped them off my feet, peeled off the damp panty hose and kicked them away.

I opened the door and walked out on the cement deck that overlooked the fields, mountains and a distant lake, all shrouded in a milky fog. I walked barefoot on the grass towards the rather large pond that I had named the “Froggie Pond” for obvious reasons. Like passionately sprinkled lemon drops, dandelions dotted the carpet of green grass as far as the eye could see. When I passed the apple orchard, the blossoms made me smile and even laugh a little. My soaking wet dress clung to me and large droplets of rain fell from my drenched curls. The old gray day became new. It was the first time that I went to the Froggie Pond in the rain. I stood beside a patch of quivering reeds on the water’s edge. It was a warm, cleansing rain. I knew I would return.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Thistle Within

I watched and waited patiently for your arrival. I pretended not to fret, but deep inside I was much too anxious. What good would it do to pressure you? Everything comes in its own time and you are without exception.

I often wonder what draws me to you. Although you are fair to behold and I admire you in your prickliness, I refrain from touching you. Perhaps it is the anticipation of your explosion into fullness or maybe it is your unwavering confidence. I will not allow myself to dwell on your exquisite beauty as you reign over the others who have withered around you, becoming shadows of their prime.

When you emerge in your perfect roundness of deep violet, I blush in your presence. I would approach if I dare be so bold. I admire the honeybee that crawls uninhibited over your untamed perfection and I give thanks for the sharp spines, which guard you from greedy hands.

When the bee passes you by, I stop and think about touching you. The spikes have softened and your color fades, but I remain true. I praise your wisdom, which replaces vibrant loveliness. I honor you, as you remain powerful yet still over the others who bow to you in death as they did in life.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Duncan Lake – The New Season

Yesterday I walked under the familiar canopy of tall pines and rushy oaks on the path that leads to Duncan Lake. A year had passed since I stepped foot on the carpet of orangey rich pine needles. My eyes scanned the area; I imagined the tent, the outdoor kitchen and screen house. The shower room still had the pallet floor, shelves on the tree and branch overhead to hold the solar shower. The framework of trees that formed a teepee for the potty looked strange without the blue tarp.

Living in the woods was the ultimate test of my womanhood. Not only did I pass the test, I now long for oneness with nature, the point of my existence for over three months. I used to walk to the water’s edge off and on throughout the evening to look at the night sky. I cannot define my motive; I was simply observing, respecting and following my instinct to continue seeking. Of course, I pondered the quintessential question... Why? I was thrilled the first time I witnessed the perfect reflection of the stars on the surface of the lake on a still night.

I am a Cancer (moonchild), and have always been greatly affected by the moon. Living outside reinforced my lunar bond. I watched the moon wax and wane and took it to heart. At some point during the summer, my reflections and inspirations were dependent on the moon. When I returned to the traditional world of a house with four walls and all the amenities, I had to work hard to overcome my addiction to the moon, and when that time seemingly arrived, I realized that it wasn’t an addiction at all, simply a part of me that needed acknowledgement.

Throughout the day and night, I walked out on the man-made dock to take inventory of the crayfish. They were abundant from scraps of food. I didn’t really want to bother them or pluck them from the water; I had a need to establish their presence once we had made each other’s acquaintance. I fed them and they looked up at me with red glowing eyes as they danced slowly around the mucky bottom.

I synchronized with the elements. I woke up at sunrise and assimilated each day. Venus offered guidance, and the drinking gourd spilled wisdom as it pointed north, reaffirming my proper position. I perceived my world as if looking through new eyes. In some ways, I was, but the truth is, I was seeing with “old eyes” as I had returned to my Abenaki roots.

My father’s family lived on the shores of Bitawbagok (Lake Champlain). Through my research and writing of my novel, “Etched in Granite,” I rediscovered the significance of my native essence and authentic nature. It was a relief and completion of the circle. Most of the small fragments within, once scattered about in disarray, had become part of the whole.

At first, I was overwhelmed with a mixed sense of fear and hopelessness, but in time, I learned to embrace my natural environment – weeks of rain, spiders, skunks and zero comforts of home. I celebrated the music of the loons, frogs, squirrels and all that shared the woods and lake. Now I am inside of four walls. The floor separates my feet from the earth and the roof keeps the stars and moon from my sight. I am conscious of the necessity to stay connected and I honor that.

We human beings, unconsciously, collectively, grieve the loss of our natural state of being and existence. We have drifted so far away from our original state and place within the breast of Our Mother that the trauma lays deep within our unconscious.

Yesterday, at Duncan Lake, my son and I went out in the canoe. It was a new season. The population of the crayfish around the dock had decreased, but I saw them further out. A loon swam across our path and two kingfishers did their nervous dance in the sky before us. The blueberries were gone, but we were met by a large bullfrog that was more golden than green. I kept my eye out for the otter; he did not appear. Instead, a somewhat trusting painted turtle stayed on the sunning rock long enough for us to greet him. When he splashed into the water, he stopped and looked up at us from beneath the surface, regretting his doubt yet thankful for his safety.

The canoe swished over bright white water lilies with deep yellow centers. I considered picking one, but like the daisies, I won’t. They belong in their blissful water garden on the other side of Otter Island.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Essence of Ripe Wild Berries

For me, the berry season begins in middle to late June with the arrival of petite wild strawberries, which continue to surprise me with their intense sweetness. If you aren’t careful, you might miss them hiding beneath a woven layer of delicate grass. I collect enough to use each day for delights such as buttermilk pancakes, muffins and topping for ice cream.

With a bit of greenish yellow at the base, the red raspberries tease and broadcast that they are on the verge of explosion. This of course is false advertising, but I continue to maintain hope that they will deliver as I wander with cup in hand estimating which ones will be ready in the morning. I am able to gather five or six (individual berries) and think that if I freeze them, I can keep adding to my collection of raspberries and by the end of the summer, will have enough to make a small batch of jam.

After weeks of going out to the red raspberry bushes, the truth emerged; the birds were getting the best of the crop. It’s okay; we share the space. Next year I will cover the bushes with netting and leave one bush for wildlife.

The high bush blueberries were plump and bountiful this season. There were so many at my fingertips that they seemed to jump into my basket and fill it rather quickly. Immediately following the harvest, I went straight to the kitchen and made jam. This is the true meaning of fresh and organic.

Every day I plan on paddling the canoe out to Otter Island in Duncan Lake and picking the low bush blueberries. They are much smaller and sweeter than the high bush. I like them more. Last summer while camping for the entire summer season on Duncan Lake, I created an excellent recipe for the miraculous wonders. Spread peanut butter generously on a wrap, cover with a layer of fresh picked blueberries and roll it up. It’s very easy to prepare, healthy and tasty. Now the trick for me is to avoid derailment and get out there to pick; hopefully it is not too late.

Currently I am picking black raspberries. They are more plentiful than the reds, and the birds seem to be a little slower on the uptake. I go out twice a day and pick and add them to my ongoing berry collection in the freezer, which is now showing a little promise for making some mixed berry jam.

If it doesn’t rain this afternoon, on my way to Duncan Lake, I am going to a secret place to check on the progress of the blackberries. The last time I picked them, they were huge and abundant. Whenever I go into the woods to pick berries, I sing loudly to let the bears know that I’m in the area, and to offer a bit of unsolicited entertainment.