Archives for posts with tag: nature

I am lucky, I think, to live in an area that has such a variety of locations out in nature that can be explored and enjoyed. Here in these mountains there are many little-known locations that have remained pristine. There are swimming holes, carefully guarded (hush hush) for fear of their certain popularity ruining them. Down a country road that goes from hardtop to dirt, a bridge that sways down low so the waters can roll over it in case of a flood….very old school. I know of no other bridge quite like that. But there it is still, a few miles from my boyhood home, around three curves and you are where that swimming hole is. You would never know it because it is tucked up around a hill behind some trees. Park in the field, a scramble over moss-covered rocks, a dip through mountain laurel, a massive stone outcropping and down it goes, slanting all the way to the river.

There are mountains high enough to give you a 35 mile view on clear days. A double falls, cascades, and many lesser-known caves which will take you from a grand room down a shaft 40 feet below, and a journey through a horizontal shaft where you walk in an underwater creek, bent over. Most just crawl in the water.

Covered bridges, rivers, swimming holes, caves, artisan studios!

So it was a few days ago that I took my nephew up into our mountains to go see a local waterfall. it is perhaps one of my top five favorite hikes. While walking up to the Falls, I thought about how I had climbed a mountain in my old stomping grounds in these Blue Ridge Mountains some 20 years ago. I had gone up there just after a storm had rolled through. I was moving up to the summit and as I did I came across a wild tiger lily. Delicate, orange, gold, yellow with flecks of brown and maroon, the sight had been burned into my visual memory. I have always been partial to wild varieties of flowers for how delicate they are. Many domesticated varieties seek to get a flower to heavy and big that it limps its way along on its stem. These wild varieties, something about them is just….so sexy because they are wild, natural, like the goddess in her natural state. No pretense. And as I was about to tell my companion about this experience I came around the bend and voila! A single tiger lily, identical to the one I had seen in the backwoods all those years ago, a sight I had not had the chance to have again….until that very moment.

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So what are the chances? The timing, perfect, we kept moving as the sky dropped rain. As we passed a family on our way we said “hows it going!” In the rain the Dad smiled and said “Lovin’ it!” I replied, “I know just what you mean!”

In the dappled sunlight, wild flowers, all natural and indigenous varieties met us along the way.
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Rhododendron is everywhere. It is a vine-like bush that carpets the forests and likes shade. It has flowers through most of the summer. Their scent is so mild that it is easy to miss, but when you know it, you never forget it. This variety is kin to the bay which we use for cooking. The leaves are a very very large version of the cooking variety. Hard and waxy, these are evergreen plants.

 

Top view of the tiger lily: its petals fold all the way backwards!

Top view of the tiger lily: its petals fold all the way backwards!

 

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Our path through the woods is covered in rhododenron. IMG_20140724_155426

A millipede crosses our path, hundreds of legs operating in perfectly synchrony
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A remnant of the Depression era WPA, a works project called CCA was used to build wild mountain trails in our neck of the woods. These were most often college-aged men who would spend their summers up in the mountains felling trees and dragging stone into the hills to build rugged trails. Our Cascades were the recipient of just such a program. While I like the idea of clambering over the boulders that line the path up the small gorge that leads to the Falls up ahead, the pathways are pretty great.

 

 

 
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With a place like this, who needs temples and churches and ashrams? This world of mine is a temple where I feel the God and Goddess moving in stick, stone, moss, river, and sky. And at the top of our journey into the woods? A great waterfall and one heck of a swimming hole beneath it!
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I don’t need anyone to tell me what to believe or think or feel. I am here, directly linked into nature. if there ever was a religion for me, this is certainly it. I worship the wonder of nature, the grace carried in a smile, and those moments no camera can capture so the mind remembers ever-more-vividly. Sometimes I feel I could just melt into nature completely and just fade from the self I was into something akin to dryads or nymphs….aligned to the forces of nature….barely there….but felt. Can you feel it?

So in every corner of this world there is so much to be thankful for. For nature, I am thankful.

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In the depth of Fall, a flower begins to bud and bloom. What could it be?

It is my sense that it is just as possible to know inner truth through reflecting upon nature than going to church or attending an ashram or spiritual meeting place. But to do it requires wonder.  And joy.  If you can approach it with this sense of newness as though the day has just dawned for you the first time even though you KNOW it has dawned countless times before, you have the opportunity to glimpse this incredible thing.  Through it, you can glimpse the masterwork of the Maker. In seeing this masterwork, you can get an idea as to the level of dedication and truly incredible detail that has gone into just such a production.  I awoke extra early today, at four in the morning for some mysterious reason, but it served to give me a nice jump on the day which also meant I was out and doing some garden work extra early, planting some seeds for a fall garden and preparing a bed that is perfect now for some new things to over-winter…..

I am finishing up some notes on this book I have been working on for the last four years now and I was reading through this one section early in my awakening experience where I wrote this piece that came out so fast….and it got me thinking about all of these issues, these ideas, thoughts, feelings all tied to ourselves, to our landscape, how we are connected to it and how we can live in harmony with it.  And when I say that, I mean an evolving real sense of harmony based on things that are real and tangible.  Its a great thought to WANT to be in harmony, but you aren’t in harmony unless you ARE.  You know?  Hunger in Mogidishu continues even though I wish there wasn’t hunger there.  For it to end something substantive has to be done about it that doesn’t make it worse and makes it possible for it not to happen again.  So what I am getting around to saying is, I think it would be great if we could develop technology more along the lines of green things…..chemistry that is entirely in harmony with its environment that doesn’t make things worse.  Is that possible?  Do things plants put off wind up degrading and turning into harmful substances in larger numbers when they wind up being carried down, say, a watershed into bays and lakes?

The new mystery flower buds up close

IMG_5216Nature has a lot to teach us about cooperation, about technology and how we can have a clean and verdant future by developing ways of living with nature that harmonize with it instead of possibly poisoning it. Imagine a world where solar panels are tree leaves and store energy like trees do….wait….that means that solar panels ARE leaves. Exactly.  Perhaps we need to consider how we can extract energy cheaply from the energy stored by living things without the creation of deadly chemicals in the process.  Or, perhaps we can create technology that merges with nature in some way where there are fewer conflicts, such as what GMO’s are known to do.  If you aren’t up on it, the issue with GMO’s is how the modified genetic material made by humans can wind up in other native species of plants through cross pollination or by other means.  We say for example that we have ways to keep these things out of the population, but there have been instances of genetically modified fish making their way into native populations and wiping out the native populations out because these newcomers take on weight faster and compete more aggresively for food, for example.  So I know I might be going far afield, here, but the thinking here is that nature itself has done an incredible job in getting things figured out.  We should be spending more time studying how nature did it and emulating it based on its millions of years scale rather than a CEO’s ten year tenure, or an engineers career in the GMO industry, for example.  Nature has had time to figure all these things out.  Its an off-the-shelf miracle we could learn a lot from if we knew how to.

I know by looking to nature that our lives could be very different were we to want them to be.  Instead of the old way where we create all kinds of compounds hostile to nature, we could put our inventiveness to ways to NOT harm nature while still growing the food we need to feed the humans on the planet.

What I am saying is that its really worth it to get out into nature.  Even during this time of year, in the Northern Hemisphere, when everything seems to be falling away and going to sleep, there is a great deal of life happening.

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Today, as I walked through my flower garden at the house I noticed that a flower I had planted but had not yet ever flowered, was now starting to flower in the presence of cooler weather!  In fact, this was a plant I had lost track of and could not figure out what it was exactly. It was BIG….and I wondered, why was it not blooming?  I had some plants that did not come up from their seed this year, but this one plant was a mystery.  It grew big and bushy but never put out a single flower all summer long!  But wait!  Not so fast!  Her come the blooms!  So just as I am getting ready for things to go bye-bye, something new comes along just to give me a delightful curve ball! All of this since my last post about my work in the garden preparing seeds for next years’ growing season.  The flower I am speaking of are the buds that are shown at the top of this page.  The other flowers are all flowers that are blooming as of today.

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I also found that my Thai Basil is looking truly incredible with its purple flowers.   I snipped a sprig and tasted it; sometimes I really love herbs when they are flowering.  It seems their flowers add something interesting to the flavor of the herb.  The Rosemary, for example, is suddenly flowering, and this was a new plant that I put in this spring and it has quite suddenly begun a growth spurt.  I put it nearest the steps so that I could smell its fragrance as I go out to snip a piece of it for cooking.  I like that my herbs are in with my flowers.  It makes me feel that much closer, more intimate with them.

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My Thai Basil in flower ~ Isn’t the flower so beautiful? Like an iris or snapdragon or….

 

Not very long ago a hummingbird discovered my flower patch.  It was a brilliant peacock green colored hummer.  I noted that it was making a habit of coming to the flowers and spent a lot of time going around to each one many times each day.  I noticed that it often came around lunch time, so I made a plan to spend a little time out by the flowers in early afternoon.  I was rewarded the first time I tried this.  A hummingbird came to the flowerbed within minutes of my walking outside.  I had been standing stock still for many minutes and the hummingbird came in perfect timing.  I was able to watch as the bird flew from flower to flower just a couple of feet from me.  Realize that the flowerbed I am talking about is right along the walkway in front of my house, so I was standing almost in the flower bed.  The hummingbird did a curious thing, though, and I think it was checking me out; it flew in front of me and looked at me and then it flew up and then flew to my side farthest from the flowers, which resulted in its flying from one side of me to the other by going over my head.  Its path, though, was within about a foot of my head as I could hear and feel it track in a very even path around me as it checked me out. I have gotten close to hummingbirds, but never like this.  It is events like this that make creating a flowerbed so worthwhile.

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There are ants on my plants!

What I like is how nature creates so much opportunity for life.  Ants come to check out the cigar plants (I forget the Latin names) as there is something that attracts them, and that the ants probably help with.  The Peonies are attended by many ants that take the nectar that come from the flowers and seem to assist with the bloom of these remarkable flowers. There are several bees found everyday at the flowers, and a number of butterflies and moths as well as spiders. All this life springing up, creating a teeming island of life.  it makes me wonder what will happen when I expand the gardens next Spring and include sweet smelling flowers of many different kinds.

raspberry sizedI go to the raspberry bushes and I note with a great deal of amusement that bumblebees LOVE raspberry blooms and even now my raspberries continue to bloom and bear. As they do, the bumbles seem to camp out, going over them over and over like some star-crossed lover might.  I know it may not be fair to place such human traits on a bee of all things, but to watch them you would think they are drunk with their affection for these berry blooms.  I wonder why raspberries of all things?  A rabbit has taken to liking to hide out in the growing bush of the raspberry patch and often shoots out like a cannon ball from a canon after I have plucked a few ripe berries from the bushes.

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This is a simple form of worship, but it is worship just the same.  I do worship this masterwork because I know to even mention what a sheave of grass represents is nothing short of an entire miracle or twenty miracles all working together in some amazing way.  And it is in such places I put my attention and miraculously I find peace, a strengthening of the flow of energy within me, a sense of health and happiness I often miss when bound up in other work. Being an artist, I love to make things, and perhaps I observe nature for hints on design and on the still deeper nature of….NATURE!   I can see how observing nature levels the self and enlivens the soul.  I smell a flower and it sends me to other worlds now.  I see something new crawling over the fence and I follow it back to its source, amazed at where its seed could have emerged.  I have stroked flowers and felt a jolt of energy that was so clear and so perfect that I have come to realize there is something in nature.  Actually IN nature for me to find that heals.  It means slowing down and observing, rolling around in the grass a little.

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Once, a very long time ago, I used to have dreams my first year in art school about Picasso.  Now, I want you to know I really do not like Picasso’s work.  In fact, there isn’t a single piece of his work that I really feel COMFORTABLE around.  Be that as it may, something in me chose to create him or I had some exchange with someone who came as Picasso. He came about three times and each time he had something to impart  about art.  The first one had him with his bottom up in the air and his head in the grass.  He had planted himself just outside my dorm room building in a small patch of grass.  I walked up to him and he saw me under the crook in his arm and turned to gesture for me to come close.  He said for me to get down to his level and look closely. He said “There are worlds in things….but you must first learn to see them….”  so we sat crouched over ourselves in this patch of grass and as I did so, my vision took in a piece of grass maybe six inches square.  As I did this I saw how I noticed ants and small mites of some sort along with a spider and a whole world of things growing down there.  Pablo watched me with those big eyes of his and said “Look closer….” and as I did I noticed that there were these very small mushrooms growing down beneath the level of the grass.  I watched and saw grains of sand and all kinds of things I had never seen before.  It was a world down there in a small inconsequential patch of grass!  As I watched, the mushrooms began to light up!  My head moved up and out of the grass as I had, no doubt, a stunned look on my face.  Picasso looked at me with eyebrows arched as the dream faded.  I think that nature is like this….a world of things that we often miss, but could learn so much from.

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Kale in my summer garden, ready to become my winter garden….

Gardening is incredibly therapeutic. I encourage you to give it a try since it increases your enjoyment of your space.  I am sure someone has a study that reveals the link between something remarkable and what we do when we garden.

Over the last few days I have been sprouting mustard seed in order to grow mustard in a fall garden.  I am told that cool weather improves greens so I am growing both kale and mustard to try this out. The mustard was taken from a large packet of seeds bought four years ago, seed that ought not to be fertile, and yet is showing a remarkable level of fertility for being so old and not fresh.  These were seed I bought the Spring before I moved from my home during a separation from my-then wife. It was a garden I never got to plant, and yet this seed has returned two years’ worth of growth from this packet of heirlooms.  A squash plant that was lovely that I had planted he year before skipped growing the three years that my ex was in residence at my home but then chose to sprout up in the yard whereupon it grew a nice fat Italian heirloom squash that makes great stuffed squash.  It was like some weird gardening miracle or something.  I sowed the sprouted seed today into my compost area, which is  a large planter I have taken over for the task of “growing” new soil of special projects (like a flower bed, or berry bushes, or my fig trees, etc.).

The truth is, its the life force that is in all of these things that fascinate me so much.  I wish I could give everyone the awareness that has settled in and made nests in my heart and soul….for this sense has liberated love in a way hard to explain so that it can be rightly understood.  It is wonder taken beyond what I used to feel until it becomes something like love struck fascination, amazement, wonder and awe…..and all of this because of something like GRASS or a flower petal!  These, oldest of all life on the planet, rooted still, seem to bear such hidden wonder to our too quickened ways….it is time for us to slow down a little and garden….

In The Garden1   My name means “keeper of the Park.”  As I grow older, I develop a deeper appreciation for nature with each passing year.  Awakening had a lot to do with it.  There were times in awakening that the living things helped me to have clearer energy.  It is hard to explain, but its as though you become this live wire with everything around you.  Suddenly you see or feel into another world of experience.  It can make you feel a little unsettled at first, but for me now, its an important and sacred part of the experience.  Touching nature from the inside out.  In The Garden2

 

 

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Some months before my awakening I was feeling this flush of energy and wrote something called “The Yearning.” This thing spilled out of me so fast that when I looked at the clock on the computer, I could hardly believe my eyes.  Whatever this was, it really came out of me like a lightening bolt!  The piece was actually about awakening, even though I didn’t know it at the time.  It also wound up being so similar to passages within The Gospel of Thomas that it left me scratching my head in wonder…

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But in that piece, I was writing about how nature surely feels the flush of passion and desire, else, why go on?  Surely all of life here is enlivened by the pleasure principle, the passion that fills root and vein and all else here, keeping us bound to this great circle of life and re-creation. In the piece it was October and I was looking back on the change of the seasons.  Now, seven or eight years later, I am now doing the same.

 

I have been slowly but surely developing my properties with flowers and plants of all kinds.  At my Frilled Pink Closeupsizedstudio I have butterfly bushes and lillies as well as Mums and some herbs like oregano and sage.  At home I have grown a caucophany of flowers from succulents to lilies, wildflowers, tall flowers, shortflowers, bright and dark ones as well.  With the flowers coming to their end, I have taken to saving their seeds.  This is itself a meditative practice that gives me time to honor the beauty these plants gave and the island of life they created with hummingbirds, moths, butterflies, bees of all kinds, and other flying insects (along with a spider or two). There is something very fulfilling about seeing so much activity spring up out in the yard.

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So it is this time of year that I have been collecting seeds.  I take them apart and take out their seeds, slowly winnowing the chaff to get down to the seed.  I have a broad range of saved seeds now on my table.  It looks like some kind of natural history exhibit!  IN the last few weeks my daughter has helped me gather seeds and I am very proud to say that I have enough seed to increase my plantings a hundred times over what they were this past season!  Its fabulous, really.  I can now plant seed in other places and create whole islands of new flower beds, which leads me into spring with a light step and a flutter in my heart.  I can hardly wait!  And when that time does come, what other flowers will I go and pick out at the nursery to add to the wild array of flowers now silent and still, existing for now as seeds?  Given what has been happening to genetic diversity and seed viability, I take it upon myself to save seed that are genetically safe, non GMO, and viable as organisms.

The raspberries have quadrupled and I am getting ready to replant them in an ever extending bed, and my two fig cuttings have begun to bush out.  Next year it might be plums, cherries, and…..what else….(suggestions are welcome!)….

 

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Over the last few weeks we took photos of the garden, my daughter and I.  Its nice to think about what took place there and how three red flower plants will not turn into a hundred as a single flower bud offers up as many seeds.
Every day upon Gaia is a wonderful gift.  Being able to watch things grow and to enjoy the swell of life that it creates is simply great.  Some of life’s greatest pleasures are the simplest.

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