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Category Archives: Nature in All Its Glory

The Way Sunshine Smells

We picked dandelions and put them on the kitchen table in a mason jar. My mom would take them and put them there not saying they were weeds. Members of Kathy’s family ate dandelion greens as a salad. As our boys grew up, they picked dandelions and we put them in vases for a few days as the dandelions gave up their prime moments and shared the way sunshine smells.

Tamara Madison wrote this poem about daffodils not dandelions. It reminds me of the wonder we live in. Nature is transient. It moves at its pace and sometimes we pay attention to it. In a world filled with busyness, it is hard to realize we have little control over what happens outside our self. We control our personal responses to the world and its phenomena, human and non-human. When I reflect on what is was like to be a child and the many things I did not take for granted, it points out the transience I live with and a way to approach it. Daffodils and dandelions are the way sunshine smells and honoring me with their presence, as I honor them.

Ten daffodils stand in a pasta sauce jar
giving up their moment of prime
to brighten this cluttered kitchen table.

Yellow lovelies, I am honored
to have you here. Outside you’d be
just another bit of the great flowering world,
but in my kitchen, among the papers,
the bottles, the bananas growing tired
in the bowl, you are amazement itself.

Outside amid the orange blossoms,
the roses, the sweet alyssum,
your light scent would be lost.
Here, you turn this morning kitchen
Into a festival of fragrance – you
are the way sunshine smells.

Rhubarb

We have rhubarb in our backyard and it yields fruit through the summer. Kathy and I grew up where rhubarb was inexpensive and plentiful. It made great pies, jams, canned fruit, and was edible, with sugar, when eaten raw as it is tart.

It is interesting to note how, as we age, we notice things that seemed less relevant earlier. Larry Schug reminded me about rhubarb. I took this particular plant for granted as I grew up, but they create miracles as do other plants and animals in our world. Rhubarb provided an inexpensive dessert and snack that, as I recall, seemed available year round in some form.

When I reflect on nature, I see miracles and the ordinary is more powerful than when taken for granted. Nature is a great provider and takes care of human needs in ways that are not always readily evident unless I take time to see treasures provided.

By April, sour red stalks
push elephant-ear leaves
into near-earth atmosphere.
Rhubarb plans ahead,
years, decades even,
lives sustainably on the interest
of sunlight stored under ground,
having folded up its solar collectors
in September,
when the days grow too short
to make sugar.
See how simple is a miracle.

Tewksbury Road

There is something about walking in nature that stimulates all the senses. I come alive in those walks and feel energized. We walked the North Saskatchewan River Valley two years ago during Autumn. The leaves turned colour. Over time, I smelled rich decay as Nature continued in her life-cycle.

Nature celebrates her Sabbath. It is a time of renewal emerging from what was alive. She never wastes.

John Masefield described a pastoral scene I imagined in a multi-sensory way. There is a universality in these scenes that touches the spirit.

It is good to be out on the road, and going one knows not where,

Going through meadow and village, one knows not whither or why;

Through the grey light drift of the dust, in the keen cool rush of the air,

Under the flying white clouds, and the broad blue lift of the sky.

And to halt at the chattering brook, in a tall green fern at the brink

Where the harebell grows, and the gorse, and the foxgloves purple and white;

Where the shifty-eyed delicate deer troop down to the brook to drink

When the stars are mellow and large at the coming on of the night.

O, to feel the beat of the rain, and the homely smell of the earth,

Is a tune for the blood to jig to, and joy past power of words;

And the blessed green comely meadows are all a-ripple with mirth

At the noise of the lambs at play and the dear wild cry of the birds.

Nature’s Secret

Grace Holmes wrote this poem. I was unable to find a link to the poet, but wanted to share the poem. If someone has a link, I will edit and add it.

The poem reminded me of Alfred North Whitehead‘s thinking. He suggested we only need to look at nature and find general patterns for life. Nature reveals patterns when we take time and observe living in nature.

There’s a secret with these rugged hills, whose slender tops are gray;
There’s a secret with the wild flowers that bloom along the way;

There’s a secret with the roaming clouds that change the changeful sky
A secret have the busy winds, that chant and moan and sigh:

A secret has the moonlight, that touches land and sea,
A secret is between the stars that blink and you and me.

Ah the secrets! can you count them? so numerous are they!
Ah the secrets! can you find them out? can you find them out, I say?

I knew that some sweet secret ‘twixt my garden flowers grew.
But I said, I know, I feel, it is not for me, or you.

I felt there was a secret with the wondrous charming sea,
But again I shook my head and said, that secret’s not for me.

Yea, every where I turn my eyes on nature living show,
I feel there is a secret that ’tis not for me know.

i thank You God for this most amazing

e. e. cummings was a poet who loved playing with language and its rules. We see this where he makes up words and excludes capitalization except for two words.

Poetry allows me to explore the world in new ways such as watching for the leaping greenly of trees and all those things which are yes. It is in the cracks that appear in poetry that light shines through.

i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

Coyote

As I read this weekend, I found Peter Blue Cloud poem. Blue Cloud subtly describes an interconnectedness quite, often overlooked in daily life, that exists in the universe. When we step away from life’s busyness and impersonality and move slowly, gracefully and intimately we explore and connect in the world instead of being outside it.

Indigenous cultures, through tricksters, understand the world as a space humans live in. Coyote is a trickster in many North American aboriginal stories. Through coyote, Peter Blue Cloud reminded me I live in the world and not outside it or beside it. I made whole in this relationship.

Ecologically and ideally, classrooms, students, and teachers are nodes on vast interconnected webs across time and space. Seen this way, education is a reverent, holy space binding us together as it holds stories across cultures and generations. We hear the voices of all, particularly those who live on the margins.

by starlight hush of wind the owl’s voice,

the campfire embers glowing inner universe

by firelight smoke curls weaving faint the voices,

coyote voices faint the pain and smell the pitch,

fire, I sing you stars,

fire, I breath obsidian

& again the owl’s shadow voice leans back

into times past

slinging firs fire,

brittle spine bent bowed toward the fire,

voices low to murmur a child whimper,

deer fat sucked upon to gentle dreaming,

the mother her song the night cradles,

child, the owl, too, has young,

tiny hears and warmth of down,

& old man coughing guttural spit to fire,

young people giggle beneath hide fondlings,

soon to sleep,

again coyote voices drown the mind in a loneliness

of deep respect in love of those who camp

just up the hill,

& tiny crystals of tears spatter the dust,

my people,

legs cannot every carry me back to you,

soul that holds you

forever.

This is what you shall do

This is not a poem, but Walt Whitman used poetic language and deep meditative thought it qualifies. He used  language in ways that are politically incorrect today, but provided considerable insight into what it might mean to be a servant-leader and live in the world that way.

I become part of the world and it is embodied in me in such remarkable ways as I learn from the world. I think that is the counsel that this passage provides for me and asks of me.

“This is what you shall do: love the earth and the sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning god, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons with the young and the mother of families, read these leaves in the open air every season in every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body…”

Men Say They Know Many Things

Henry David Thoreau wrote this poem at a time he could not have foreseen where we are with the thousands of appliances. He thought it was only a thousand appliances. There are times I get lost in them and forget they are separate from me and only tools that enable a particular job. At the same, I realize used wisely they advance life and the tasks involved.

The arts and sciences blend together, but I would take it a step further and suggest that the spiritual and the sciences are not separate from each other. When I take time and see life through a lens that allows me to understand what is at hand, I can make wiser decisions and feel that wind blow.

Men say they know many things;
But lo! they have taken wings, —
The arts and sciences,
And a thousand appliances;
The wind that blows
Is all that any body knows.

The Peace of Wild Things

Wendell Berry is one of my favourite poets. I have many favourites. It is much easier to find a poem when you have many.

We spend time each summer wandering through nature. I think for Kathy and I it is a return to our roots. We grew up in rural settings and were outdoors a lot as a result. I think as we mature, getting older is so passe, we look for the roots that connect us to the universe. Nature is one those things.

Alfred North Whitehead suggested we only need to look at nature to find the patterns we need in life.

When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Praying

Mary Oliver writes in uncomplicated ways. It is not simple, but there are elements of simplicity linked to complexity. Her poem Praying is an example of this simplexity. Praying is an entreaty or asks for something and suggests creating space for responses. There is a simplicity in the way prayer unfolds. It happens anywhere, anytime, and with few words. The complex part is being quiet and discerning the answers. This requires quiet spaces that we have to craft out of the busyness of modern lives and days.

It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

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