Sunday, March 15, 2009

Wind, Bees and Trees

Some of my favorite trees are at the coast on cliff tops. So beautiful they are with missing limbs; sculptured by the wind they are standing evidence. The wind would be less without trees and less too, the wind.

I heard the rain on the skylight above my bed most of the night. We have an east wind blowing this morning. The bamboo seems to have captured a gust of wind and refuses to let it go so that the bamboo sways different ways; perhaps both wind and bamboo are enjoying the other.
I have never doubted that trees and wind are the dearest of friends; the tree giving voice to the wind and the wind bringing news to the trees so that together they become stronger.

This is a follow up to yesterdays post, which had a question about the bees that I saw pollinating the black elm. I've discovered that bees do indeed turn nectar into honey. I probably wasn't paying attention in 4th grade science, which doesn't surprise me. A honey bee has two stomachs one is their regular stomach and the other is the nectar stomache. They suck the nectar into their honey stomache go back to the hive were the other worker bees suck the nectar out from the stomaches through the mouth. It takes about twenty minutes for the enzymes in the bees mouth to break the complex sugars into simple sugars. The bees then put the nectar in the honeycombs. Water evaporates which turns the nectar syrupy. The bees fan the thickening nectar with their wings causing the water to evaporate faster. Now we've got honey. It is then efficiently sealed off with wax.
And all of this is going on between my walls! 'If walls could talk'; mine do.

Between Star, Dragonfly and Bees'

The bees have lived in this old farmhouse for going on fifty years. They occupy the inside wall behind the upstairs toilet. Before plumbing and electricity was added to our home this bathroom was a linen closet. There were times in the past when I found it a bit disquieting to hear the buzzing of hundreds of bees while sitting with my back to them...with my pants down!

I see the bees differently now; now we share the house. I've held a glass against the wall and listened to the goings on in there. I think that's when I decided they could stay. They sounded at home. The buzzing has become like the other house sounds ...creaking floors and stairs, the scratching of mice feet scurrying between a wall (I've followed their paths as though I had x-ray vision) and when a west wind in winter has grown to thirty to forty or even fifty knots the house has shuddered on it's pilling and cement foundation.

Back to the bees; there's been the odd bee now and then that has inadvertently found itself in the bathroom or hallway. I've become quite adept at getting bees into drinking glasses and slipping a piece of paper over the top and returning them outside.

I had an emergency situtation on my hands once; a bee was caught in a spider web that had been strategically set up next to the bee's enterence into their hive. The bee was struggling to get free and at a glance I saw the spider dashing toward the bee; I whipped the screen off the window (above the toilet) and stuck my hairbrush into the web, destroying it and sending the frustrated spider back to it's shadowy place. I watched the bee work at pulling the sticky web from it's wings. After a long minute, it flew away. To carry on with it's day, I thought. It might tell others in the hive about it's closecall and the mystery that saved it. Or so I imagine.

Last night was clear and the moon shone into my bedroom like a veiled sun and as I layed on my side facing the window I saw a star shinning through the bare branched locust tree. The star gave me the feeling that I was in place, perhaps in the same way the star was in place. I half turned and gazed over my left shoulder at a shadow of a dragonfly on the wall. It is a reflection from a candle buring beneath a glazed clay dome with a dragonfly pattern cut from it. So there I laid between a star and dragonfly and felt like a hum in the lyrical narrative of life.

I hear a great horned owl calling. The soft voice is round and it rolls out into the night and is answered by another. Oh, the marvel of mysteries.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Hummingbird, Hydrangea and Found Goat

Yesterday our friend Brenda Cooper stopped on her way from Seattle down to Portland. She was having breakfast with us when she casually mentions the hummingbird by our door. What! I caught a blurr of it before it disappeared.

I dropped my fork in my pancakes and mixed up a batch of hummer food and Dean went out and filled the feeder; it's always a special day when the first hummingbird of the year shows up.

And today while taking off the dried blossoms of the hydrangea I heard the familiar buzz closebye my head as the hummingbird (rufus) flew by. It lets me know things are in place, that sound.

The sun just now has fallen behind the Willapa Hills and the golden light of it's last rays have left and it feels as though a door has been slammed and whoever went through it let the cold in. After living in the Pacific Northwest for going on thirty-five years now I'm finally getting to were I can say it's okay if it rains, if it snows (like it did yesterday) when its' 'not supposed to'. I give the weather a larger berth, that way it doesn't hit the sides of things and make a lot of noise; it's just the weather now doing weather.

You'd think this would be obvious but I'm telling you the most obvious things are those things that can elude us the most. This has been my life experience. About hydrangeas there are some that grow new growth from the bottom and some that grow it from the top. So, you don't want to be pruning yours down to the ground if it grows from the top.

If you have a hydrangea find out which you've got. I love them. Their blossoms can be dried so beautifully. Today while I was cutting last years dead blossoms away, (the ones I didn't take in and dry) a thought came to me...that life is a little like taking off the dead blossoms, I mean we can't hold onto last years blooms; those things we hold precious but have passed their season have to be let go of.
I know, I know, another obvious thing, but remember what I told you about me and the obvious. New leaf buds are opening on the hydrangea. I trimmed the stems just above these new buds. I'll have to pay attention and see when the flower comes out in relation to the leaves.

The black elm is covered with blossoms but you have to know what you're looking for to see them because this is a wind pollinated tree and doesn't need colorful blossoms to attract insects or what ever visitors would buzz by to pick and pick up pollen and spread it about. In the case of this tree, it's the wind's job, this passing about of pollen. I read somewhere that a tree is exactly like a flower but bigger.
Voltaire loved trees and planted hundred of them and with everything else he accomplished in life he said he wanted to be remembered for planting trees. I've always liked that.

The Willapa Hills and the cedars and firs that grow along their ridges are silhouetted now against the evening pale and darkening blue sky. And the wind that was blowing from the east a few moments ago is barely blowing now so that the windsock mostly slack just lifting in efforts of a little wave.
After breakfast Brenda and I took a little walk along the road beside the river and it was then when we were walking back to the house that I saw the dead goat. It was just as the note in my mailbox last week had said; it was laying just west of the barns. It was on the outside of the pasture fence laying in the slight ditch that's created by the dike road.

We'd thought the note writer might have had mistaken a young deer for a goat, but no, they were right. It had longish fawn colored hair, the goat and was laying on it's left side with it's feet facing the road. Where did you come from? What happened to you? I thought when looking at it's face not wanting to peer into the two perfectly round holes in the hair where it's eyes once were.

I think someone dumpted it off. Already dead. A terrible thought but when I see dead animals by the side of the road my thoughts tend to lean to the terrible. We have never seen a goat all the eighteen years we've lived here in Willow Grove. Could it have accidently fallen out of the back of a truck while it was alive?

Could it have swum over from Fisher Island, I asked my husband. Fisher Island is about two hundred yards from our dock. He said, he supposed a goat could swim over but with all the coyotes living on the Island, he didn't see how a goat could stay alive. I agreed. The question rises in my mind like a cork that won't stay down in water; where did it come from?

It's not as though if knew it would change the situation for the goat. It's not a small goat. It's close to the size of our lab/mix dog. So, it's like maybe nearly seventy pounds. Something that big arriving, even if it's down the road a hundred or so feet or more, well, it seems like we ought to have known when it arrived, something that big. It's not like a feather dropped, or even a small bird.

I'm wondering now what to do about it. Just leave it? We live in the country (the fringe) and I suppose it would just sink into the ground eventually. Leaving a coat and loose bones as evidence. And hooves perhaps. Perhaps the county picks things up like this if they are notified. Maybe I'll give them a call. But what will they do with it? The landfill? Do they have regulations about animals in landfills? I'm sure they do. Oh, all these questions. If not for the note we might never have known. I'm glad to know though. I am.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Art and Life Now and Then and We.

My eye caught a glimmer of white in the field as I sat at my window. It was on a mound of dirt scooped out from one of the many ditches that drain Willow Grove. I watched and then saw a marsh hawk lift up a few feet and drop down again. Must have a mouse I thought. A crow sat on a nearby mound and then flew and circled and made a deep dive at the marsh hawk, which ducked and fluttered it's wings.

The crow took a dive at the hawk. This time the hawk put up more of a fuss and rose into the air and flew at the crow. How interesting I thought to be watching this action of the wild. Now they are both up in the sky diving at one another and there is no competition because the hawk out manuvers the crow ten to one. And I realize while watching this swooping and diving why some World War 11 planes were named after hawks; they're such amazing fliers!

After no more than two minutes it was settled that the hawk would keep what it had and the crow went back to his own mound of dredged soil.
I'm let to see the nature of these birds and I like that. It's a refreshing sight because there's not all this... oh, I hope I'm looking good while I'm flying and, oh, I hope this is how I'm supposed to be doing this.
There is no doubt about their actions. This might sound like a rather obvious observation but I am refreshened by it.
This 'dance' in the sky was not a performance; it was poetry with purpose. Art and life together. I believe we tend to separte art from life. I know I'm being drawn back to uniting the art and life by my longing for what I once had. And I wonder where it was along the way that I separted life from art.

The picture I am sharing of myself, my dad and my sister in this post was taken in 1965 in California. I'm twelve and wearing a dress sewn by my mother. I have on a white cardigan with the top buttoned. I wearing pale blue socks to match my dress and am standing with my feet neatly together (red sandels) with my hands rather gracefully clasped.
What I'm seeing in this image of me is a girl who is comfortable in her body, is wearing what she likes and has a self-possessed air about her. I can tell you when I became separted from was when my legs grew longer and my waist narrower.
I got looks of approval from guys. It was no longer about feeling content and comfortable in myself; the stakes had changed, now it was about looking good for 'them'. I exchanged how I felt about myself for they felt about me. Bad trade.
How could I have given up that which had the most value. I became a slender young teen who knew she drew admiring gazes and she loved acting as though she were not conscious of them. The delight of being admired and acting as though it didn't matter.
I began turing all my attention outward and my inner world became a room boarded off. I stopped being friends with her, my inner self. I saw her as not being quite with it. She could embarras me. She was too honest. She could say the wrong thing! I mean, I don't think she even shaved her legs! But with all those inbetween years behind us now, we are closer friends now, her and I. I love seeing her straight unshaven legs in pictures and her hair that hangs to her shoulders and slips forward, which has never been to a salon. She's smiling in the picture and I imagine she is smiling at me that even then she I would be coming back for her.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Goat, Trees and The Way It Used to Be.

Last night after everyone left, Dean went to our mailbox which is across the road from our home(it's a typical county affair, a red flagged metal mailbox stuck in an old milking jug). Along with our mail was a handwritten note. He handed it to me after looking at himself with a perplexed look on his face. It read, "Dead goat on the west side of the barn beside fence next to road."

Dean said and I agreed, it must be a deer. It was late, almost midnight. I thought for a moment of getting the flashlight and going to take a look. I saw from the window the headlights of a car and thought it would be dangerous and besides I hate it when I'm driving and the dead eyes of an animal beside the road glare back at me in the headlights of the my car. And he said it was dead so there was no saving the poor thing.

I was home all day and it wasn't until I was pulling up onto the road from our driveway and looked west toward the barn that I thought of what poor dead animal was laying out of sight but yet there. Or, perhaps, I thought, someone had moved it. I came home just after midnight and it was when I approached my driveway with a car driving behind me on the narrow road that runs beside the river, that I thought of seeing what layed just beyond the barn. And I wondered when I drove down my driveway, how many things are going on just beyond arms; just beyond my sight lines. Things without number I imagine. And I feel a sadness about this; about what I am so close to yet I am disconnected from.

I will ,because I feel like it, in this case at any rate, blame the road; both for most likely killing the animal and for cutting me off from it. Since we moved here eighteen years ago there have been more than the average amount of car accidents (given any other stretch of road of same length). I blame the road for cutting me off from the river; for choking out the life from the land. I believe when land is parcelled and separated, it loses its essential nature; meanings it's power of place.

There was a time when this road with a speed sign that reads 35mph (which is ignored) was a slowly traveled dirt lane where a few horse drawn buggies traveled and got stuck in ruts when springs were rainy and warm and the river swelled with snowmelt. There was a time when the three hundred yards of earth between our front porch and the river was flat and naturally appointed with cottonwood and alder trees with shrubby willows fringing the sandy beach. But that is not now, now the river, like the dead 'goat' is close but so often out of reach. I long for that natural meeting of land and river; the sandy beach where the young children of this home a hundred years ago ran along and where drifting logs washed upon and dried in the sun. It all happened here once. Life was like that here once. If I had lived here then the dead young deer would have been so close I would by now have seen it and burried it and it would have felt closer, even though it was in the same place at it is now.

I love the closeness of the river but long for uninterrupted space. No dike road. But this house with it's old boards the pilings that it stands on has brought me home. I, perhaps was the stray that it took it; it feels that way, that the house took me in. And that the hundred year old laurel, black elm and locus trees were in on it too. So for now we are travelers together. The soul of the house lives in these trees that sit so close to the house; these trees that were sent for by the builder of this house and planted when they were saplings. You could say they have grown up here. When the house was vacant, as it was over the years the trees kept it company. When I first saw this old farmhouse, the trees, like children pushing their way to the front of a crowd, wanted me to know that they came with the house. Not to be separated. I cannot imagine the house without the trees; perhaps wood never dies and the house and the trees have grown together. So, it seems to me. I wonder if it is still there...the dead animal?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Invisible That Holds Everything.

The wind is blowing from the west so that the bamboo is bowing down as though hailing some greatness to the east.
The wind, since the metal on the barn roof has begun to come lose, has become the voice of the barn; that is the way I hear it anyway. I have been out in the field and watched the corner of the roof lift and then fall and I have counted three, four and five seconds until it's voice has reached me.
I think of that invisible that the voice has traveled on, and I wonder about that space that is everywhere; in us and around us. I don't attempted to wrap my mind around it; I have no wish to make the wonder of it that small or my mind stretched out of shape by the attempt. I just let it be.
A lean to along side the barn came down with the big snow in December. So now what I am hearing along with the falling of the corner of the barns' roof, is the hitting of a hammer on wood. I looked over there, for they are not our barns (they did at one time belong to this house, those who lived in this house were dairy farmers and those barns housed their cows) Someone it seems has been hired to take away the metal roof of the lean to that collapsed the snow. I don't know if the hammering is the taking down of the wooden structure that held the roof or the strengthening of it so that a new roof will replace the old.
I wonder what he (it is a he) thinks of the talk that comes from the barn on this wind blown morning.
The sun comes out in bursts and then just as suddenly is gone. The thick bodies of clouds are blowing eastward too; off, it seems in a hurry somewhere; like someone walking a fast walk that it to dignified to run when not dressed in a running outfit.
Shadows and bright spots wave across the southern face of the Willappa Hills. The cows (not our cows) are out grazing. I see two calves, both black. The cows like mornings like this, greeted as it seems by a warm friendly world.
The lean to is silhouetted against the evening sky in the photo and the edge of the barn roof is seen just to it's left. It is that corner that lifts and falls and gives voice and travels on the invisible that holds everything.

Monday, March 2, 2009


I saw it earlier; that time just before the sunsets when all is saturated with syrupy sunshine so that all colors are heightened. It stops me and like a voice calls me to look at it; to listen to it; to feel it. And I do.

A vase of tulips on the small table beside the couch is shadowed on the wall and I am stunned by it and the light seems to say, 'see I told you so this is amazing stuff'. Yes, I say this is amazing. I call Dean to come and see before it goes...those shadows of tulips. And the sunshines on the picture of my father that sits just below the tulips so that he looks as though he is laying on the deck where I took the photo in the shade; he looks now as though he is laying in the sun with shadows playing as shadows often did across his face.

And I do believe in what I wrote as dialogue in my play, "Swimming Lessons" It was Pamela Markam and she says that if you want to find the seams in life you'll find them in the afternoons. She continues on and says that it is at this time that if you look to the side while concentrating straight ahead you can see them. And if you're real careful you can take a seam apart then, take something out or put something in; fix something and sew the seam back together again.

The other time is as I described above when everything is brought together and held up; when all catches the light and says, 'amazing stuff'. Yes, it is amazing...all of the stuff of life. I wonder how I can doubt life when it manages to hold so much amazement at the same time having room for suffering. It is the ache of life, is that, that ability life has of holding both.