Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Greeting Old Friends

As I write this, most of the Snow lying about has departed. The Soil is still frozen, nonetheless...I attempted to dig a small hole for an errant Tulip bulb. Even as the tips of other Bulbs are showing green, the Earth had not yet heard the message.

I am awaiting, with great longing, the soft scent coming from warm, Southerly breezes. Wind, this afternoon, has a very sharp edge...one which chased me indoors after spending a morning in the Snow-free landscape.

I injured my shoulder a few days ago, which has hampered me in many ways, typing being one of them. It is not serious, only somewhat painful. It has kept me indoors, resting it, for most of my time. But this morning, after returning from the vet's for a check-up of Lucky's ears, I could not resist the warm-ish early Sunshine, no matter an injured shoulder!

As all gardeners will do, I wandered about, raking a bit here, poking about there. I pondered the fact I now recognized favoured perennials which were showing the minutest signs of life. Last year, I had not lived here long enough.

There was no formal garden here, when we took ownership of our home. It was a completely blank slate. So many plants have been planted over the last four seasons of Spring we've lived here I have trouble remembering them all. Many only lasted a season, at any rate...until I finally grasped an understanding of which Plants could survive the harsh climate they would have to live in.

The Plants reaching for the Spring sunshine this morning have proved their worth. Many Tulips are pushing through the frozen Soil. I see signs of Forget-Me-Nots, Daffodils, Poppies, a  wee Violet here and there, Pansies and Borage seedlings. Many of the old friends are still snoozing, waiting for warmer weather. Their roots are firm as yet, I notice with a bit of trepidation, during a quick check.

I make connections with Plants in the garden, as I plant them, but it has taken time with this one. I was also heavily involved in building raised beds...it became more a matter of...Yes, this Plant will look good here, and the other here, the next over there...

You know how it goes.

And so the connections I formed were tenuous, at best. But the Plants which continue to emerge every year, every season, mostly right on time, these are the ones I greet now as dear, old friends.

Usually, these favoured ones are perennials or small shrubs. We planted an Apple and a Cherry Tree. Although both are doing well, they are still young, without the wisdom of the wild, elderly Trees we are surrounded by.

I have discovered it takes time to 'know' a Tree in an entire Forest of them. I made the mistake of thinking I could just pick a nice Tree, one I was attracted to, and make friends, thereby connecting.

It didn't happen. At least not right away, as I fully expected it to do. Each Tree I approached was friendly enough, but neither of us had that energy surge which occurs, in these situations, between us.

Over time, after I had lost patience with the whole thing and had largely forgotten about it, each Winter, I would notice a big, old but curiously graceful Paper Birch which grew in the base of the Draw in front of our home.

I noticed it in the Winter for obvious reasons. Even though the Tree towers over the rest growing near it, I would not have been able to see it after the fleshing out of Leaves, from her and others...her babies...around her. 

In the Winter months, however, her triangled top shows clearly...a beautiful sight with fresh Snow layering her filigreed branches. Birds have nested in the crotch of the triangle...a perfect spot! I watched a family of Robins nest there last year, although there is no longer any sign of them.

This is the Tree I have a connection with. An odd choice...one whose top seems to have split, making her appear headless, although I know she is not. She is old, she has watched over the land for a long time before I ever knew it. And she is a survivor.

But from all the hundreds of Trees here on this Land, this old Birch is the one who will tell me stories of the countryside, of the way things were. She is my inspiration, my guide and my muse, a part of my Spirit.

I am happy to see she has, once more, survived the long, gruesome Winter just passed. I look up to see one of her fingers pointing to a lone Eagle flying high overhead. We both rejoice at the sighting...Eagles are rarely seen during colder days.

I marvel at how lacy her tangled branches appear...naked and black against a clear, blue Sky, twisting and turning every which way...yet inordinately graceful. Her trunk is long, curving and white, largely without branches.  She is beginning to shed long, white strips of her bark, exposing  reddish-orange inner bark, which will turn black with age.

It is not surprising I am drawn to her. Birch Trees help mankind and animals in myriad ways. She is Winter food for Deer, Moose, Porcupine and Beaver. In years gone by, she has lent her Bark for baskets, cradles and canoes. Her Bark was also used for wrapping and storing food, and as roofing for pit houses. She gave medicine for colds.  Her sap is fermented to make beer, wine, spirits and vinegar.

I've not had the pleasure of trying any of her products, but I did notice a bottle of Birch syrup in one of the health food stores I frequent. With the amount of Paper Birches in the Forest here, where I live, I've often thought it would be fun to tap a few, but I have no idea how to begin.

The Paper Birch is the Tree of new beginnings and new perspectives. A perfect Tree to choose for another ally!

As I prepare my Tea, I notice another dark Cloud, stronger Wind. The Leaves I've just finished raking are catching the Wind, whirling and spiralling about. Snowflakes are beginning to descend once again.

Will Winter never give up?

But then, I remember the growth my old friends in the garden are showing.

Spring will not give up, either.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

This, That and the Other..

I am writing this accompanied by the gurgle of Water from the melting Snow on the roof. I have placed receptacles to catch some of the melt...the Earth seems muddy and wet right now, but it will not take long to dry. On a well Water system, I have learned to use what Nature provides, with regards to precipitation, as much as I can.

The splashing of the running Water is loud to my ears at first, and then recedes to the background. During the last week, much Snow has melted. I am beginning to see the blackened remains of last year's garden. I wonder to myself...How will I ever get these garden beds presentable?...and even as the thought drifts through my mind, I know it will all get done eventually.

It's the way of it, in the Spring...

It is a strange sort of Spring this year. While I have so much to be grateful for, there are other things which I am not so joyful about. I find, to my dismay, some days...more days than not... that I am tending to more negative than positive thoughts and emotions. My intent is to change that not so insignificant way of being.

As I begin to rake the Flower beds, ridding them of the blackened Leaves and Stalks still standing, even after five feet of Snow covered and surrounded them for most of the Winter...as I begin, I wonder if that is just the way of it, too...the late Winter-early Spring blues that can take hold, darkening every thing and thought with a touch of the same black the Leaves hold...

When I look back over the sixty Winters of my life, I believe I've felt this way every year at the end of the season...perhaps the feeling is a part of the rites of Spring.

There are flocks and flocks of Birds travelling through, on their way to their breeding grounds. It sounds like I'm in an aviary when I open the doors to the outside...shrieks and twitters and pure musical notes surround the Forest. The bird feeder requires filling every few days...watching who has fought and won for the best access to the seed takes up much of my time.

I must remember, I tell myself as I pull on a mushy Peony stalk, finally breaking off the recalcitrant thing, that all these Birds and their babies become drunk with joy and seed and Spring. They fly every which way, with no concern for glass windows and doors. Should the window or door be open...well, in a Bird's reasoning, there is no cause not to explore the dim interior of our home.

And if the door or window is closed, the sickening thumps tell me a Bird has flown directly against it. Most times, Birds recover, after a period of rest and recuperation, where they all look surprised and shocked at the clear obstacle that stood in their way.

Some Birds, of course, cannot survive the blow...these we bury in the garden. And some of them...it seems to me as if they appreciate that shocking smack into the glass. I will watch the same Bird try over and over again to fly into the house. Over and over again, he will hit the glass.

This, to me, is the definition of insanity. When something doesn't work and one keeps doing the same thing continuously anyway...doesn't it seem like there must be something not quite right?

As I rake Limbs, Leaves and Fir Needles off the half-frozen Flower beds, I muse over Lucky, who has not bounced back after Nate's death.He has turned into a completely different Dog, with hardly any interest in anything at all.

On the day of Nate's death, a huge herd of Deer came to the lower gate. It was the oddest thing I've seen. Deer are always around here, but rarely in such large numbers, all at once. It seemed they were not interested in food or even browsing for it. They stood at the gate, looking up at Lucky, who sat on the deck.

There was no sound out of either Lucky or the Deer. If communion was occurring, it was done in complete stillness. It felt very like the Deer were offering their condolences to Lucky on the death of Nate.

After some time had passed, I continued my raking, leaving Lucky and the Deer to stare at each other. I could feel the empathetic energy in the Air, be it in a personalized manner or not.

The young Deer I have written about previously stood at the very entrance, his nose barely able to clear the top of the gate itself. The whole scenario...the youngster and the herd of Deer behind him... seemed so remarkable to me.

I felt a little as if I was intruding on some peculiar, private moment between the Deer and Lucky and after a time, I left them to it.

There was another moment, just before Nate's death, where I felt I was intruding in a particularly human way. I took a photo...and as soon as I did, I knew that photo would be a private one.

Nate was lying on his side on the floor. Lucky was in his bed. But suddenly, Lucky got up and lay down facing Nate, nose to nose. Knowing that Nate would be gone the next day, tears came instantly to my eyes...and then the practical, unbelieving side of me took hold for a moment. But the two of them stayed that way for a long, long time, nose to nose.

The practical, unbelieving side of me fled. I knew I was witnessing an extraordinary act, where the two Dogs were saying goodbye. 

The photo I took will remind me that Animals mourn, just as we do, but that they also have an extra sense which allows them to communicate without words.

I am thankful that I am blessed with a strong sense of awareness. I would not have missed either of these two events for the World. Had I been focused entirely upon myself and how sad I felt, I could easily have overlooked them.

The Snow continues to melt. I have decided the gushing gurgling of the Water from the melting Snow is the sound of Spring to me, almost more than the Bird song.

When the gurgling stops, Winter has ended.

And Bird song has just begun..