Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Silence: From one Pond to Another

It was two nights ago when I first heard that brave lone peeper singing confidently out of tune. His notes echoed sharply through the damp spring air, over my head and off into the woods. It didn’t matter if he made mistakes, only that he sang with passion. I abandoned the urge to applaud, knowing that it would rob me of the joy of his sensual ballad.

I admired him and understand the significance of getting one’s chops up before the others congregate, tune and fill the senses with a cacophony of the wildest, deepest strains possible, drunk with the spirit of lanky Cato’ nine tails.

Today I heard the others. Today you were lost in the swell of spring within not one, but two ponds. I dropped my rake and walked softly to the other pond, knowing full well that it would dry up soon.

I searched each stump until I found the one without a crop of mushrooms or moss. I sat down facing the impermanent body of water. The only sign of music melted into a half dozen rings to resonate and ripple towards the makeshift shore.

We each waited patiently for the other to leave. In my determination, I was certain that I could outlast them. I heard the frogs in the enduring pond in the distance; I wished I had chosen them instead. They too would have ceased in my presence; they always do. I decided to have no regrets as I turned my face upwards to bathe in the sun.

The ripples finally diminished into a glassy surface that reflected the rushy greens and giant pines. I felt something tickling my leg. Expecting a fly, I was pleased to discover a newly hatched Grote’s Sphinx moth. The wings boast fragments similar to the orangey monarch design – enough to uphold in adversity – carefully woven into the corner of each small, fuzzy wing.

I put my finger in front of its head in hopes that it would climb aboard like others in the past, and adorn my ring finger for several enchanting moments. He did not have time for such frivolity; he fluttered to my other leg and continued his jittery walk.

We sat together and waited for the end of the frogs’ intermission. I cringed at the thought of my newest friend becoming a tasty morsel. No one should drive a bargain such as that.

It wasn’t until I decided to leave that the moth perched onto my ring finger – unrivaled by any other jewel – and accompanied me to the other pond where all fell silent upon my approach like they always do.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Bittersweet – Onion Patch

A vast array of emotions washed over me as I raked thick clumps of wet dead leaves, rotted wood stakes from gardens past and tangled roots, to reveal a healthy onion patch. Their pungent odor blended with black, fresh earth and last season’s pig manure from the nearby empty pen.

I was able to work outdoors wearing a tank top and shorts – glorious. I almost broke a sweat. I smiled. Relentless black flies would be swarming in a week or so; I savored buglessness. Remnants of death create fertile soil. To rejoice, I dug my fingers into the still icy dampness and squeeze. A considerable spider with a yellow stripe on its back hesitated on a mud covered rock, anticipating possible death on the heel of my garden shoe. We parted ways.

I followed the offensive reconstituted scent of pigs, recalling uninvited highlights of their short lives, confirming that I could not eat anything with a face. As hard as I tried to avoid eye contact with them, we always managed to catch glimpses of each other. I was their reluctant ally; their ally after the fact. I realized their souls amidst their heaven – filth and stench.

With rake in hand, I returned to the garden of intrigue, where mysterious things that come into flower were planted by the hands and sweat of another, one known to me only through this wondrous patch of earth.

Hundreds of crocuses continue to radiate; snowdrops pass by; daffodils quiver – about to explode, and tulips hold promise.

It began to rain softly. The ochre sky offered no guarantees. I shuffled my feet on the last stubborn snow bank to wash the treads of my sneakers before going inside. I tracked mud into the kitchen and threw one more log on the bed of hot coals in case the sun did not return.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Babies Breath: Wild Sonata

            [It may be necessary to turn up your volume to hear the "Music"]

Last night a thick blanket of clouds covered the sky, eliminating any sign of the waxing moon. I stood still, safe in Her womb. The riotous screeching of a barred owl gathering came from the darkness of thick giant pines and ancient hardwood trees, over the pond, echoing off of massive granite rocks.

I recognized familiar voices. Another deep, distinctive guttural voice – previously unknown –sounded over the others. I imagined them fluttering and flitting from one tree to another in their mating dance. The rising pitch triggered a response in the deepest part of my untamed heart. How I love their wild souls.

Suddenly, they fell silent. My breathing tempo returned to normal; yet I remained motionless.

The swollen brook raced over its rocky bed and gushed eagerly into the waiting pond where a lone peeper practiced chirping tirelessly, skipping every sixth beat taking a well deserved breath. In my head I contemplated moving, but halted when I heard a single cluck from the hill behind me. Again I waited for perhaps an answer or the same cluck. Nothing.

Again, one owl screamed and then the others joined in the rowdy chorus. The wind gusted, drenched with cold moisture from the remaining pockets of crusted, speckled snow. The peeper continued practicing and skipping every sixth beat. Every other measure was punctuated with a single, syncopated cluck.

I walked away in silence, careful not to disturb the wild sonata of the woods, savoring the possibility of memories to come.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Bittersweet: Today I Walked in the Woods

Today I walked in the woods, bathing in the splendor of Our Mother. Being amongst the trees replenishes resources previously lost. I am safe and most at home in the community of trees. The symphony of shivering leaves (determined to remain until new buds explode), wispy wind, bird chorus, and the rushing water in temporary brooks emptying into silent ponds, ease my tension.

Last year’s berries look deceivingly fresh as they retain their redness. I pick one with a complete set of leaves to bring inside to identify for foraging. I have some knowledge, yet much more to learn. I am thinking that they are teaberry or wintergreen – a literal trail mix. If that is the case, then I will harvest the current season crop and make my own wintergreen oil, which sadly has become a commercial chemical product.

I let go of the week’s worries; this is what matters. Our Mother does not ask for anything other than the opportunity to continue to give us what we need – her thriving health. We need Her to thrive in order to thrive. How simple is that? How hard is that? Once we have lost it, we have lost the spirit, our origins, the core of our ancestors and the Creator Herself. She will carry on with or without us. I believe that She wants us to win; but we have to want that as well.

I stood at the edge of the small valley and remembered when it was all green. Last season I collected blackberries and raspberries there. I paused at what was left of the milkweed; soon butterflies will visit, especially the monarchs, which is where they lay their eggs.

The remnants of winter decay carpets the floor of the woods in morbid beauty. Death – orange, brown, gray and pearl white. Branches and twigs snap beneath my feet as I walk. The angelic white mushrooms perched on the log last December remain in place, ready to take flight. I stop and brush away brittle leaves, bark and pine needles to reveal new growth of what I believe to be ferns coiled in perfect circles of hope.

When I come into the house, I relish the scent of fresh air and the peppery woods, which clings to my clothes and hair. I used to like that about my cats. When they came inside, I picked them up and buried my face in their clean fur; it smelled deliciously like the “outdoors.”

It’s still cold outside, in the low forties. But it is not raining or snowing.

After lighting my writing candle and burning sage, I sit and write of all that there is or isn’t, while listening to ambient music that becomes the soundtrack to my inner life until I return to the woods tomorrow and listen to the rain as it washes away the sins of mankind, hoping for redemption.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Mamma Bear - Babies Breath

I tucked my goose down comforter under my chin and closed my eyes. A minute had not passed when I heard and felt the vibration of an urgent crash near the front porch.

I knew immediately that a black bear had gotten to my bird feeding station. In fact, at that instant, I realized that I was unconsciously expecting and secretly hoping that it would happen at some point. I know it seems odd to read such a thing, however in a world that has lost its way – where nature is fighting desperately to find balance – I too desire reassurance that I can count on a hungry bear to sniff out the wondrous scent of black oil sunflower seeds and peanut butter suet.

I know from when I lived on Pocket Mountain, that black bears find thistle distasteful. I awoke one morning to a shattered finch feeder and thistle scattered about the deck, while the black oil sunflower seeds were completely gone.

When I investigated the ‘crime scene’ this morning, I was relieved that she – I decided that it was a mother bear – did not break anything. She bent the red, rubber coated, wire feeder somewhat to get to the suet cake, and popped off the top of the plastic tube feeder to get the sunflower seeds. She must have shaken the seeds out of the holes of the larger cylindrical feeder, as the top was still intact. Surprisingly, she left the “A” Frame platform feeder untouched. Perhaps there were more empty shells than seeds, prompting me to replenish.

I gathered the hooks, wires, hangers and feeder parts from the ground and refilled them. I plan on taking them in at night, quickly dismissing the vision of leaving food out separately for the bears. I know that I could easily attract at least one black bear family. In the name of safety, I must not.

I could not stop feeding the birds at this time; I expect the migrating birds to return at any time. There are so many that will be coming through between now and the end of May – indigo buntings, pine grosbeaks (again, they were here in early winter), rose breasted grosbeaks, Baltimore orioles, brown headed cowbirds, which I like despite their stigma of being nest thieves, and of course the hummingbirds arrive when apple trees and lilacs blossom.

The chickadees (that are of age) are calling for their mates and have been visiting the feeders much more so than during the winter when my feeders hung virtually untouched for months. While I was re-hanging my feeders, I heard but did not see a small flock of Canadian geese overhead.

The past two weeks I have found peace in bird sightings at the wildlife sanctuaries that flank each side of the road by my house. They are swampy areas; a favorite environment for birds, deer, moose, beavers, turtles and many others.

One morning in the midst of the fog rising from the waters into the cold air, a pair of Canadian geese swam together and intertwined in an obvious loving manner. And yesterday on my way home, I passed a Great Blue Heron in flight. It is the second time I have seen him in that area; I will always look for him now.

I know that just beyond the Southwestern side of the pond is where a barred owl frequents. It is common for me to hear him any time of day or night. Sometimes I hear a great horned owl at night, but not as often as the barred owl. The Owl is a messenger, which can bring forth tidings of death and / or wisdom. Death does not always mean in the physical sense; it can also mean the death of old ways or of an era. I choose to believe now that this is a time of change and that the messenger is bringing awareness of change. I honor this messenger and this beloved creature of Our Mother, which I love and cherish.

I was comforted by the many sounds of the woods this morning. The trees and creatures therein are my companions. A variety of woodpeckers were busy pecking for bugs in dead trees, while the nuthatches (upside down birds) make a slight, almost honking noise. Two hawks were flying in the treetops on the edge of the clearing; I looked towards them but they were not in sight.

The innocence of the finches' questioning call surrounded me while I searched for pussy willows near a cluster of poplars. I always smile when I hear their persistent song that ascends into a high note, completely opposite of the descending scale of the wood thrush, which I eagerly await.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

My Only Witness

From Ballad of a Sandwich Girl
 Dear Beautiful Cello,

Every time I walk into the kitchen, I look at you. I regret that sometimes you are covered in dust. Sometimes I lean over and pluck your strings to make sure that they have not loosened to the point where the sound post will fall again. It only costs ten dollars to fix. I thought that it was much more, so I waited too long.

When Shelby was here, he tuned you. So now when I go into the kitchen, I pluck to see if you are still in tune. You usually aren’t which is normal. I use the fine tuning pegs to keep you in tune, but I still do not take you out of your stand. I think of it, in fact I ache to do so. There is a lump in my throat a lot…well, most of the time. I imagine playing you and embracing your old, worn wood against me, but there is an invisible force holding me back.

Sometimes when I remember playing you in the symphony, I wonder if it was really me. The thick mist in that dream has been tainted by so many nightmares, I am uncertain.

My tuner is broken. The lights and meter still work, but it doesn’t give me the name of the pitch anymore. I can tune you to yourself, which is what I did last fall. Shelby laughed when he plucked your strings because you were perfectly in tune, just not the right notes.

We played duets.  Heart, hands, head.  We remembered.

Last week I listened to the Bach cello Suites in the car. It was a good time for that. It was especially helpful because during the absolute musical perfection coming from my speakers, I was inspired to let out a primal scream. It had been over a year since I had done this.

At first I was self conscious and then I realized how ridiculous that was. The only one who would hear it besides me was God, and I think it was really His idea in the first place. I took a deep breath and checked the rear view mirror for some unknown reason and screamed so loud that it made my eardrums vibrate. My palms were sweaty on the wheel, my face flushed and my heart raced as I continued down the deserted road. I entertained the thought of screaming again, but because I did such a great job, there was no need.

It was only natural for tears to fill my eyes, so I gave myself permission to engage in a long awaited cry. It was one of those times when I felt like there were too many tears that needed to escape at once, like holding a funnel under Niagara Falls. The pressure is almost unbearable, which is all the more reason that these tears needed an out.

I choked and sobbed and thought that I should pull over. I didn’t, however, I was only going about twenty miles per hour at that point. I reached into the glove box and pulled out a napkin and dabbed my eyes. I caught sight of a Great Blue Heron in the swamp on the right. (There are a few swamps on both sides of this road – wildlife refuges). Seeing that magnificent bird invoked more tears. I was both honored and relieved that he – my only witness – did not fly away as they usually do.

The sun tried to break through the thick gray clouds. I let a few hundred more tears escape in the meantime. I turned up the volume on the cello suites and took a deep, cleansing breath and dared to remember; I actually played some of this in my other life.

The questions started in. Why can’t I play? Was it real? Did that time actually exist where I played music day and night and stood on the stage just doing what it was that I did? Music. It is too far away now. I cannot reach it.

I accelerated. I had come full circle once again, landing in the fog. Then it occurred to me; I thought that perhaps this is what was wrong with my life. I have been suffering and plagued with nightmares and ill fortune because God and Sophia will let nothing else work for me until I get my ass back into music.

I laughed. I figured it out (again). I would dash into the house, throw my coat and bag on the chair in the kitchen and run to you, my cello, and play into the wee hours of the morning. I won’t even need food because my love of music will sustain me as it did in my other life. I would even be so bold as to take one of my cornets from the case and play.

How delightful it will be, is what I thought. It has been five days since the primal scream and I have passed you by again and again. Last Sunday I dusted you off before my mother came to visit and had to tune your A and D strings slightly.

Please forgive me. I do love you.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Letter to my Father

In Loving Memory of
Ramsey Wood Pettengill
December 15, 1928 ~ April 6, 2006 
Dear Dad,
Five years have passed. A day does not go by without you present in some manner, whether a fleeting moment, vision, dream, or a wise word or two echoing within the walls of my being. Sometimes I believe that you are present now more than before.

I apologize for still needing you, and actually asking for your help. It is an unexpected relief to know that you will deliver; thank you. I admit, I rejoiced and even displayed a hint of poor sportsmanship when I actually won at bowling. Me - the gutter queen. I remember all of those times you stood behind me and provided instruction on every aspect of exceptional bowling technique. I failed miserably. I could never concentrate, at least not on things like bowling or golf, yet you never quit rooting for me.

I did not listen closely to your words back then because I got lost in the timbre of your voice. I stood in time wearing white knee socks with a red argyle design, high water blue jeans and the blue flowered shirt as I wailed the ball down the lane with the utmost inconsistency. Even when I became an adult, no one wanted me on their team. Thankfully for us all, I promptly quit the league and stuck with orchestra.

That is why recently it was a great victory when I stood in the middle of crashing pins, barreling, neon balls and general bowling alley chaos and became Maryjane wearing the white knee socks. You stood behind me and coached my every move. I blocked out the surrounding clutter and applied your technique. Finally.

Hearing your voice again made me giddy. I got it. I concentrated on you, my success, and held off on the true excitement in case that brought about distraction. My heart soared with each passing strike. Bowling means nothing, hearing your wise words means everything. The high lasted a while; I still tap into it from time to time.  I may or may not ever bowl again.

I honor your presence in my dreams and understand why you remain silent. In addition to my dream journal, I have imprinted the symbols and suggestions put forth by you; they evolve with each passing day.

I'm back in Sandwich, well North Sandwich. Returning to my childhood home is both good and bad. The good is that it ‘smells’ like home. I never knew that this would be a factor, but it is. When I say this, I am referring to the sweet smell of the earth. It is a combination of balsam, wintergreen, grasses and pepper – Sandwich. It is vital to be where the earth remembers me. Walking through the woods is like bathing, I am refreshed and energized.

What an odd feeling I get when I drive through the village. Dad, everything has remained almost untouched. The buildings, fences, store, the grill and gas station, our house, certain trees, the horse pastures, churches…it’s all still there.

A “For Rent” sign hangs in the vacant store window, the grill needs painting and the Inn waits patiently for Denley's return. Of course, as anyone would expect, the people are gone…but I do not mean that “we” are gone, but it is virtually devoid of life. I realize that time is in constant motion and everything changes, however, I have rarely if ever seen people out and about. When we lived there, the entire village was thriving and pulsing with activity; children were at the playground, on the streets, at each other’s homes.

Sandwich Village is silent now – a ghost town. The laughter of children and life in general seems to have vanished. I find myself avoiding going into town, it’s as if it has become the scenery and backdrop of my childhood; I yearn for the characters. I put us all there. At least if there were other characters meandering about, I would learn to accept the new version of the village, but that is not the case. This means that I must make an effort to go to town often and come to terms with my own sense of abandonment.

I got a library card. I felt a pang of guilt when I thought of how long I kept “Peter Rabbit.” Anne P is the librarian! Such delight and contentment filled us both when we were able to rekindle warmhearted memories. Sometimes the deepest part of me fusses when I comprehend that with the passing of time and of family and friends, that keeping you alive becomes more of a challenge. Inwardly this is not an issue; however, by speaking of you, I awaken your existence.

Sharing recollections has become sacred in many ways. A few months ago Eddie McCormack came into the office. I spoke with his wife on the telephone and she told him that I would be there so he came in to see me. His visit had nothing to do with business; it had everything to do with going back there.

Remember when we were sitting on the back of your big old car watching fireworks at the ball field? I plugged my ears. When you came back with a hot dog (before I knew how disgusting they were) I was stumped because I couldn’t hold it and plug my ears. You and Eddie laughed so hard when he suggested that I put the hot dog in my ear. I wasn’t amused at that thought, but your laughter remains a bright spot inside of me.

My children are thriving in unimaginable ways as they navigate through the turbulent, yet awe-inspiring waters of this life. Your light shines in them.

Although Mom is not the same since you left, in honor of you she carries on with your steadfastness and determined spirit. You were right when you told me that she was tough and came from good stock. She has those times of course when she misses you the most and with a heavy heart she retreats to her room, but you know that she is surrounded by a circle of love.

Your daughters, my sisters, remain loyal and strong-minded as you well know. It is between you and them what comes to pass. I still believe that we are responsible for our connections with each other.

The world is in what seems to be infinite peril, however I maintain hope. My hope does not lie in governments, politics or religion. I completely trust God and Sophia (the feminine face of God), so that I may live a purposeful life.

All things that do not have integrity are disintegrating and life as we know it will never be the same, but this is necessary to attain universal enlightenment. I move ahead without fear and with the intention to think beyond what is consciously possible. As your daughter, I continue to stand firm in the creative vision of my future.

I love you.