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Peering down at a birch tree

Pardon me, Mr. Tree.

Are you up for a discussion?

Have any advice for us humans?  Anything you want to share with us?  Any words of wisdom?

Peering up at a birch tree

Should we be looking up at the sky or down at the earth?  Optimistic?  Pessimistic?  Realistic?  Which direction should we look? 

Close up bark

Should we look up close?  Is the answer in the details or in the wider view?  What do you think?  Please don’t just stand there with your branches blowing in the wind.  Whisper some secrets.  Tell us the Secret of Life.  Please.

The language bark speaks

Ahhh,  so that’s the language you speak.  All the swirls and hieroglyphs.  Are we suppose to understand what you’re trying to say in your tree-ness?  What ancient Egyptian-like language are you speaking?  Do we need to get quieter, Mr. Tree?

Lean a little closer to read this message...

You are saying something, aren’t you?  Something deep.  Something profound.  Something miraculous.

What is it? 

Bear claws?

Oh, yes.  I hear you now.  You say to us, “You are barely scratching the surface”.

That is your message to us tonight.

We will go deeper tomorrow.  Look deeper. Look wider.  Keep our eyes wide open. 

Please continue to teach us with your bark and leaves and roots and seeds.  Help us to look beyond the surface.  Help us find our own tree-nature hidden beneath our feeble twig-language.  Help us learn to bend without breaking in strong winds, how to let go of our leaves when the time comes. 

Thank you, Mr. Tree.

 

Clear cut

It’s a delicate subject around here.  Toss a coin up in the air and decide.  Should the land ever be clear-cut?  Should the trees be sliced off like a razor cutting whiskers on a stubbly chin? 

Foresters often say that in certain areas a clear-cut is advisable.  Many tracts are not good hardwood sites; they refuse to grow beautiful hardwoods like maple and yellow birch which have high-quality value.  If  foresters selectively harvest on these sites they never see much improvement.  If they want to have productive tracts, they will sometimes choose to clear-cut.  The result will be thick aspen (poplar) stands.  In 40-50 years these will be big harvestable trees.  The mills need these stands to mix with their hardwood.

There.  I have just given you forestry-speak.

Keep turning around in a circle

I could share the perspective of someone who loves trees; someone who doesn’t much like the labels of which trees are “valuable” and which trees are “junk”.  I could share old Native American stories about the trees being our brothers and sisters, the lungs of the planet earth.

But no.

I want to talk about the clear-cuts of our soul.

When God calls a Time Out

What times in our own lives have we felt like we’ve been clear-cut?  When everything has been torn away?  When things safe and familiar and loving have been ripped asunder?

Have we all had clear-cuts?  Some clear-cuts come on the heels of endings of relationships.  The endings of friendship, of love, of romance, of marriage.  Some come with the tears of loss:  the death of a child, a spouse, a parent, a grandparent, a friend.  Others have lost their home, their money, their job.  A clear-cut is a place in life where our beloved past meets destructive saws.  The dear trees fall.  So often don’t we weep?  We weep from the loss, the pain, the absence of the loved one.

Stump and dried flower

Afterward the brush lies all over the ground of ourselves.  We wipe our tears and stand straight.  We have to walk with faith, then, through the clear-cut of the soul.  The seeds are growing beneath the tangled brush, but we don’t know it yet.

In a few days or months or years the new trees will be growing.  We will persevere. 

The horizon

I have known many forests who have been heavily logged.  In my lifetime, I have not intimately known many forest tracts completely clear-cut.  Yes, we see clear-cuts everywhere.  But they usually aren’t on land that I have walked, loved, whispered to, dreamed upon.

Once, a long time ago, while crying in some beloved logged forest, an inner thought arose,  “Just sit here until you can feel the sacred beauty of the place.”  I sat for a long time surrounded by impenetrable brush and jagged logs and wild disarray.  I sat with the memory of the tall hemlock, the sturdy maple, the feel of the forest.  I was not going to move until it felt sacred once again, until the invisible seeds of hope and new life showed themselves.

And finally, I saw it.  A flower.  Blossoming.  And over there a precious sweep of branches.  And over there a bent cedar. 

Slowly the logged forest started revealing its promise.

We will grow again, the trees said.  We won’t be the same trees.  But we will grow again. 

Hope

I think of a dear friend who lost her husband three or four years ago.  The first year of her clear-cut was agonizing.  She wondered if she would survive.  I wondered if she would survive.  The second year was filled with many tears, but slowly the young sprouts grew.  She still grieves, but she’s stronger now.  Her new roots are growing into the earth.  It wasn’t something she wanted, but  she’s learned to see the sacred beauty in what remains.

Blessings for all of us in times of the clear-cuts of our soul.

Afternoon reflections

Rain dripped from the sky most of the day.  It was a drizzly damp afternoon.  Mist descended upon the earth.  Waves of fog rolled in. 

By 3:30 it looked like dusk.  A late autumn afternoon.

Blue fog

Here’s my daily confession.  I went into the woods today.  Shhhh…don’t tell anyone.  You know you’re not suppose to hike in the woods during hunting season.  Especially during the first week.  But I couldn’t help myself.  The woods called.  I said, “No way, woods, I will not go in you.”  The woods called again.  I said,  “OK, but just in a safe place where hunters surely won’t go.  Near the lake.”  The woods smiled.  It knew I wouldn’t refuse.

Along the curve of the lake

Drizzle, drizzle, drizzle.  Camera shutter going snap, snap, snap.  (Christopher, out there in San Diego a few days ago, suggested I turn off the sound.)  Heck no.  I like the sound the camera makes.  It sings a lively four-note tune when you turn it on.  Maybe five notes. 

Deer tracks to water

I thought today about how our favorite places on the earth look different all the time.  They look so different on a foggy day than, say, a bright sunny morning.  They look different in snow, different in the jungle-depths of summer, different in the tentative green of spring, different when the autumn leaves fall.  This may sound obvious.  But isn’t it true of everything?  We think people or things are always the same.  But everything and everyone are constantly changing.  You are brand new in every moment!  And so am I!  Isn’t this a miracle?

Fallen tree on Huron Bay

I have 2,000 more words to write on the NaNoWriMo novel before bed, so had better shut up here right now.  The “novel” now has 32,328 words.  After the first five days of sheer torture and probably terrible writing at the beginning of the month, I have had a great time birthing this story.  We need to have 50,000 by November 30th to get our…I’m not sure what we get…an award?  Praise?  Inner contentment for actually writing a novel?  Whatever! 

Hope you all had sunlight after 3:30 p.m.  If not, hope you enjoyed the early dusk.

P.S.  I am definitely back in slower-Internet land.  After uploading photos in ten seconds in San Diego…it’s back to almost three minutes per photo.  I am trying to figure out what to do during those three minutes.  Meditate?  Read?  Play a computer card game?  You can’t check any other Internet applications because the Internet politely refuses to cooperate.  Alas, the little problems in life, eh?

Fire

Fire

Today rain wept from the leaden sky.  Rain pounded sideways, drenching.  The great Lake Superior roared.  Waves splashed with fury against the rocks along the Keweenaw Bay.  A walker needed to step oh-so-carefully on slippery rocks.  Place feet consciously, pause, take step, place foot again.  It was a treacherous rain-sodden walk.

Sweat lodge memories have been nudging the back of my mind recently, memories kindled a couple of decades ago.  When I was invited to attend sweat lodges with local Anishinabe people here in the Upper Peninsula.  It’s a long story which involved a lot of strange dreaming in my life.  At one point I dreamed a voice said, “I want you to learn about the Native American people.”  The story took a lot of twists and turns but eventually I was invited to attend sweat lodges and ceremonies.  This lasted about seven years back in the ’80’s and ’90’s.

Rock and waves

Rock and waves

The first time I entered the lodge and sat in the darkened womb of Mother Earth, I almost wept.  It was a feeling of remembrance, of returning, of being completely safe, of being held in the embrace of an ancient culture and spirit.  Something deep in my soul remembered this sacred ceremony.  It was a ceremony of prayer, of steam, of connection with the Infinite.  It helped me to remember who I was in a deeper sense than just a little white girl who only understood white culture.  It was as if the spirit of my great-great grandmother from a native tribe in New York whispered in my ear, “Wake up, Kathy, and learn to be truly alive.”

Sweat lodge rock

Any one else see the spirit-woman on this sweat lodge rock?

In the following years I probably attended two or three dozen lodges (a handful of these were conducted by respectful non-natives).  Hot lodges, cool lodges, challenging lodges, easy lodges.  They were all deep ceremonies of prayer and healing.  We witnessed prayers come true, healings happen, mystical occurences, quiet prayers, deep connections.  I cannot share what happens in lodges, because I promised to keep that sacred, but each experience offered a spiritual gift to the participants.  Some of the gifts involved learning how to grow up, learning how to let go of ego’s relentless attachments (um, still working on that!) and learning how to surrender.  It was like the church of my childhood in many ways, although in other ways in was very different.

Cedar over water

Cedar over water

Three people died in a sweat lodge in Arizona recently.  My heart breaks thinking about this.  Immediately I imagined that lodge, imagined the heat, imagined the suffering.  So many of us want to know more…how could this happen?  You feel perhaps the terror and disorientation of the weakened fasting participants and your heart clenches in sorrow.  I, too, have fasted before a sweat lodge. This feels very close to the marrow.

And yet, another feeling also comes in. Some people hear of this horrific incident and condemn all sweat lodges.  Thinking perhaps they shouldn’t exist; not understanding.  Not understanding the sacred nature of this, a ceremony which has existed for hundreds or thousands of years.  Perhaps thinking of limiting or restricting the ceremony.  And that also makes me sad.

Stone for fire

Stone for fire

I think of how all religious and spiritual ceremonies and groups and churches can be fraught with challenges, how good-meaning folks can screw up, how some folk aren’t perhaps so well-meaning.  How we need to be alert and aware with both our mind and our heart.  How we must be careful.  How we must listen to our deepest heart.  There are no easy answers. 

Another reflection in another mud puddle

Another reflection in another mud puddle

Today I stood in the pouring rain, stared out over a churning lake, and thought about fire, rock, lodge and medicine.  Said a prayer for the people who died.  Said another prayer for the sacred sweat lodge.  Asked permission of the ancestors to write this blog.  The rocks said, “yes.”

The Blackened Land

The Blackened Land

It’s been four months since the Pinery Lakes wildfire which seared 685 acres about ten miles from our house.  My daughter and I were lounging in her Manhattan apartment when we heard the news via Facebook:  “Pinery Lakes Fire, 2009“.  I remember feeling so sad with memories of cross-country skiing (and falling on my butt way too many times) and hiking with Denise and her dogs and the Anishinabe “spirit houses” in the nearby cemetery.  How could the land be burning?  How could this be happening?

Please read this FIRE!!!  blog if you would like to learn more details about the actual May 20 fire.

Lately I’ve been wanting to return to the fire scene.  To see what difference four months (well, almost 4 1/2 months if we want to be a bit more accurate) might bring.  My last memories were of ash and smoldering logs.  Fried landscape.  The acrid smell of fire.  The remnants of fire crews standing by. 

What would it look like now?

Black trees, black stumps and green ferns

Black trees, black stumps and green ferns

OK, here’s what it is like. You get out of your car and head into the woods.  Ferns and plants are growing up everywhere.  Some of the brambles are already chest high!  The ground still lies covered in black ash, but Mother Nature has waved her magic wand across the landscape and there grows wintergreen, labrador, ferns.  There bloom asters, raspberry, Queen Anne’s lace.  New life springs up everywhere from the ashy soil.  Ahhh, the soul sighs in relief:  Life Returns!

Yellow flowers bloom against black trees

Yellow flowers bloom against black trees

I wandered for a long time, up hills and down.  Let me tell you, it’s a bit dangerous.  Roots have been up-rooted and holes punctuate the earth everywhere.  If you’re not very careful, you will trip in a hole.  (Yes, I tripped.  But not to the point where I fell unto the ashy earth.)  You must, I repeat, be completely alert.  The fire has consumed so much.  It’s not a hike for the unwary.

Looking up...

Looking up...

I really wanted to show you photos of the Native American Spirit Houses which sit atop the graves at the Indian Cemetery.  But I can’t.  For some reason it seems sacrilegious to do so.  Perhaps not to me (after all I casually put in photos of cemetery graves from the Marquette Cemetery for a June 26th blog).  But it seems this might perturb some of the local Native Americans who do not believe the graves should be photographed.  So I shall leave them photographically undisturbed. 

Half burned

Half burned

The weather has turned lovely today, by the way!  The temperature soared to 52 degrees and the sun nudged the clouds away for a while.  The weather forecast has the “S” word in it for the weekend (that would be “SNOW” for any of you non-Upper Peninsula folks) but we’re thinking that means the Highlands.  Not the lowlands around the lake.  Surely we won’t get snow.  It’s not even October 15th for goodness sakes.  And my parents are coming to visit.  No, snow is not allowed.

One charred pine cone on autumn leaf

One charred pine cone on autumn leaf

That day, last May, when my sneakers almost started smoldering while taking photos of the fire seems so long ago.  How strange nature is.  On that day in May the temperatures soared up into the 90’s and the fire sparked.  How many other times did we reach the magic 90 degree mark during the summer?  Once?  Never?  How very unexpected the weather can be.

The bones of a tree

The bones of a tree

I think of us humans and how fires sometimes sear our hearts.  How death and pain and suffering can uproot our trees, our sense of security, our confidence.  And how, if we let them, the ferns and the wildflowers and the trees grow back.  The landscape heals.  Perhaps slowly, but it heals, if we let nature ease our sorrows.

Up close and personal

Up close and personal

I am glad the land heals.  New seeds sprout.  New flowers bloom.  New life bursts forth from the wildfire ash and the ancestors smile in their graves as the cycles of life turn again and again.

Lost?  Found?

Lost? Found?

Let’s face it.  If you live in the middle of the woods and like to wander…you’re going to get lost.  Sometimes a little bit lost and sometimes you start wondering if you’ll ever find your way home. Sometimes that fear of being lost begins to rise like the inland tides and you suddenly remember the Wizard of Oz.  Like Dorothy clicking your magic red heels together you begin to chant, “There’s no place like home.  No place like home.  No place like home.”

They say the mineral deposits beneath our Keweenaw earth will confuse even a compass at times.  Your trusty reliable compass might suddenly go wacky, refusing to point to True North.  What can you depend on when the compass fails you?  Or, worse yet, when you’ve stupidly left the compass at home pointing to True North in the cluttered desk drawer? 

You gauge the sun (if you’re lucky and the sun is out) or the slant of the ravines.  All of our ravines near the house run down to the bay, so you’re pretty safe if you remember this.  You listen for far-away cars.  This can help identify the location of the roads.  This helps when there is ocassional traffic.  Doesn’t help much when one car crests the hill every half hour.  You become alert; you look for signs.  You try to remember the landscape.  You remember that you know how to build a debris hut out of leaves from your Wilderness Survival class.  You know somebody might come looking for you if you’re not home to cook dinner. 

But, best of all, you can surrender to a Higher Knowing.  And let that Higher Knowing guide you out of the woods.  Thank goodness we have that!

Yesterday.  Enjoying the turning leaves...just before I got lost

Yesterday. Enjoying the turning leaves...just before I got lost

Just so you know…I haven’t been lost walking in the woods…at least not in the last month or so.  But yesterday came another encounter with Being Lost.  Sigh.  Do we ever get used to it?  Do we ever simply laugh and say joyfully, “I’m lost!”  Hasn’t happened yet to me.  Usually you have to deal with low-level fear, even if it never blossoms to full-fledged panic.

One lone tree at end of road to...where are we now?  Hmmm.....

One lone tree at end of road to...where are we now? Hmmm.....

It started because I was looking for photos of stunning leaf colors.  Trees turning red and orange and yellow.  The color-changing season is upon us.  The trees are starting to zing!  Just beginning to peak, but I wanted to document the way the woods is starting to shimmer.  Especially when the sun shines bright between rain showers.

So the car turned here, and there, and around this corner, and up that way, and down this hill.  I thought I knew exactly where I was.  Isn’t that always the case?  Until suddenly the road petered out into a muddy two-track and it became apparent…I only vaguely knew where the car might be.

Road and shadow, and what is that in the distance?  Is it the lake?

Road and shadow, and what is that in the distance? Is it the lake?

Then some niggling thoughts began warning, “It’s been so rainy, what are you doing back here in the woods without four wheel drive?  You’re going to drown in a mud puddle!  You’re going to be shot by hunters!  You’re going to be lost here FOREVER.”  

Oh honestly.  Here’s what you say to reassure niggling thoughts, “Calm down, you guys.  I think we’ve been here before.  I think that’s the lake up ahead.  We’re somewhere near Pike’s Peak. We thought we were on Ford Farm Road, but we must have turned on Haataja Road.  There really aren’t any challenging mud puddles and since when do we worry about hunters?”

So the thoughts calmed down and I didn’t even have to start remembering how to build a survival debris hut.

Deep in the backwoods, cattails and trees

Deep in the backwoods, cattails and trees

And ten minutes later, there was hard pavement and familiar houses.  I was “found”, yet once again.  The magic clicking heels or the Higher Knowledge or the road had wound its way back to comfort, a sense of safety, a Knowing of Where I Was.

But truly, folks, do we ever know where we are?  Is it possible to simply relax and know that we’re always lost and we’re always found?  Ooops…getting way too philosophical on this outdoor blog!  I’ll leave you with a photo I may have already posted on this blog.  Can’t remember.  But Jessica of Jessica’s Nature Blog asked to see some photos of pebble-faces or shell-faces.  This is the only one I have.

We shall call it “The Scream”.  How we sometimes feel when we’re Lost.

The Scream

The Scream

Before dawn near the Baraga Marina

Before dawn near the Baraga Marina

Have you heard how the Australian Aborigine people go “walkabout” when they undertake a vision quest?  They undertake a spiritual journey to renew their relationship with the landscape and their Dreaming.

We modern-day folk here in the U.S. of A don’t usually “go walkabout”.  But recently I felt called to do a “driveabout” through the Copper Country, following random roads, letting the inner spirit guide the journey.  Wherever the spirit pointed, I drove.  Up hills and down.  To the lake and the coffee shop and the Goodwill. 

The secret is to listen intensely and deeply to where you are suppose to go next and what you are suppose to do.  Without letting the planning organizing Mind take control.

Dawn on the Keweenaw Bay, behind the Pow Wow grounds

Dawn on the Keweenaw Bay, behind the Pow Wow grounds

First stop:  dawn meditation.  Watching the sun rise over Lake Superior.  Many insights and visions and thoughts and knowings arise as a driveabout happens.  Your inner voice may share, teaching you many things.  Sometimes Silence teaches.  Sometimes you watch what appears:  the trees, the lake, the hawks, the stones.  You always stay alert to glean what the Universe may be attempting to teach you.  Sometimes you can’t figure it out, but a lot of the time you can. 

Why is there a crutch leaning against that stop sign and what does it mean...?

Why is there a crutch leaning against that stop sign and what does it mean...?

OK, there were a LOT of stops along the way.  I was guided here and there, there and here.  Bought a lot of strange and cool clothes at Goodwill in styles that I have never worn before.  Delightedly sipped lattes and coffee at two coffee shops along the way. 

Heed what the coffee cup says

Heed what the coffee cup says

Ended up along a mostly-deserted stretch of beach near Gay, Michigan.  I haven’t been to Gay since 1997 and it was a definitely spiritual experience back then.  Today I found myself exploring the rock beach (it’s so amazing how every beach is so different with its own individuality and colors and textures!)  Spent at least a couple hours alongside Lake Superior gazing our to sea, eating a picnic lunch from the Keweenaw Co-op, picking wild blueberries, meditating.

Expanse of rocky beach

Expanse of rocky beach

It would take six blogs to share everything I’ve learned today.  It’s been such an incredible day.  One of the best days of my life.  (I know, I say this all the time.)

Swirl of stone

Swirl of stone

Rock and shadow

Rock and shadow

Red rocks with designs everywhere...so beautiful

Red rocks with designs everywhere...so beautiful

So tonight, after a day of following my heart in its many directions, I am resting (complete with wireless Internet!) at a lovely motel in Calumet, Michigan.  Two of the final events of the day involved (a) swimming in the motel’s saltwater pool, after thanking all the powers that be that I remembered my bathing suit and (b) eating chicken fajitas with rice and beans at Carmelita’s restaurant.  The spirit of the the driveabout insisted upon both.

View of the saltwater pool (first one I ever swam in)

View of the saltwater pool (first one I ever swam in)

Jeez, I have 53 photos I could show you.  But this shall have to suffice.  One final photo before departing.  It turns out that Carmalita’s Restaurant boasts that it is the home of the original Thimbleberry Margarita!  A thimbleberry margarita, can you imagine that?  I might have had one if I had noticed the sign…but that might have been a bit too much of an experience for the driveabout.

Heading up to Copper Harbor tomorrow.  You might want to get out your map to see where that is.  It’s waaay up here.  Waaay up at the very tip-top of the Upper Peninsula.  You can’t go any further.  In fact a sign along the way will declare that this is the “Last Place on Earth.”   Hmmm, I wonder what that means??  Hope to see you tomorrow!

All photos today courtesy of Nancy's gardens

All photos today courtesy of Nancy's gardens

People wonder:  “Who is Centria?” 

“Why are you calling yourself Centria?”

“Why aren’t you calling yourself Kathy in your blog?”

Sigh… It’s time to tell the whole story.  The truth and nothing but the truth.  (Except the truth is always a strange thing.  It kind of shifts shape in our memory, doesn’t it?  You think you’re telling the truth, but what you’re often telling is simply the memory of a memory of a memory, which may or may not resemble the actual happening.)

Why is the author of this blog calling herself a strange name like “Centria”?

Black Eyed Susan, methinks

Black Eyed Susan, methinks

It goes back at least ten years ago, to my wild and crazy youth.  (ha, ha, a story already!)  It wasn’t my youth and I wasn’t that wild and crazy.  Umm, was I?

I was camping out in Montana with a tent beneath the stars in a meadow filled with women on a spiritual quest.  We were given an assignment:  choose a name to represent the qualities we were attempting to bring into our lives in the next year.  Everyone was happily getting into the assignment and picking names which symbolized their deepest desires and yearnings. 

Except I was being stubborn again.  Refusing to come up with a name off the top of my head.  Instead, I decided, a name would have to drop out of the Montana skies and announce itself.  The Spirit of the Land or Sky or whatever would have to choose my name.  (Told you it was a wild and crazy youth.)

The trip happened to coincide with my birthday and I had a strange dream in which some dream-character of a voice announced very clearly:  “Your name is Centria.”

When I woke up, almost gasping at the strange synchronicity, I remember thinking:  “That had better not be the name of a car!”

So Centria it was for that retreat.  Everyone wanted to know what it meant, but I could only mumble something like perhaps being centered, the new century, the female version of the trinity.  Everyone was invited to guess as I had no idea.

Friends from that Montana visit would send cards and packages to the house for years after addressed to “Centria.”  The kids would look askance at the letters and at least one child was known to inquire, “Is that suppose to be YOU, Mom?”

Well, Yes.

The inner world of a hibiscus

The inner world of a hibiscus

Years later (when the Centria era was almost, almost, forgotten) I discovered an on-line world of blogging.  And you needed a name to describe you.  So what name popped up from the recesses of the brain?  Of course…Centria.  She could be resurrected.

Because, of course, at that time, I had heard horror stories about writing your full name in Internet Print.  You weren’t suppose to tell your name.  People could track you down and…well, it wasn’t safe.  So we were told.  (And maybe that is still the case.  I don’t know.  But I see lots of people sharing their full names and contact information on blogs everywhere.  And on Facebook my name now stands out in black and white to 100 friends, three quarters of whom I’ve never met.)  The fear of those early days has abated.

Yet the name Centria remains.  When it came time to write this wordpress blog for 365 days of outdoor commitment it seemed more natural than breathing to type in “Centria”.  The name from that dream, all those years ago, before the new century birthed itself. 

So now you have the full story.  You can call me Centria or you can call me Kathy.  (Or Mom, or daughter, to some of you!)  Or “Hey, You!”  Or maybe even the name some of the Ojibway (Anishnabe) around here call me.  But that’s another story.  And it’s just as strange as this one. 

P.S.  Looks like it’s Day 243 of the commitment. Kathy or Centria spent lots of time in the garden, some time with her mother-in-law on the phone while outside and sitting on the deck with Barry in the sprinkles before dinner.

Don’t read on if you don’t like trash.  Please.  Find some other blog upon which to linger.  I’m not even posting pictures until you’re gone.  Because this is going to be one of those wild and crazy trashy blogs.

Here we go.  First picture:

The first trash find:  a jar of....applesauce???

The first trash find: a jar of....applesauce???

Yep.  Today was Trash Day.  Time to fulfill the annual Earth Day pledge and clean up the litter along the road.  A week late, due to our foot of fresh snow April 22nd. One mile of road, more or less.  You walk up the road carrying little plastic bags and fill them with whatever trash human beings have tossed from moving vehicles onto the grasses and weeds and streams and snow.  Because the bags soon become too heavy to lug, you place them alongside the road, unfurl another, and continue to collect beer cans, beer bottles, pop cans (that’s soda for you non-Michiganders), cigarette packages, Styrofoam coffee cups, liquor bottles, and just about anything else you might imagine.  Later you drive your car back and pick up the 5-7 smaller bags and dump ’em in one huge blue Waste Management garbage bag.

I was not imagining finding  applesauce.  What a shock for the first trash discovery of the afternoon!

A child's pink sock

A child's pink sock

Then again, who would have imagined a pink sock just showing up on the road?  Did a little pig-tailed girl sitting in the back seat fling it out the window of the car, just because she could?  Did it blow out the back of a pickup truck?  Was she eating applesauce and threw both out the car window, mad at her mama?  There’s so many stories hiding in this litter.  From negligence to stupidity to ignorance to strange humor to under-aged minors wanting to get rid of evidence…the side of the road tells its strange trashy stories.

Tender but resilient greenery pushes up to reclaim the earth!

Tender but resilient greenery pushes up to reclaim the earth!

You wouldn’t believe what I found next.  Lottery tickets!  Yes, bits and pieces of a half dozen Michigan lottery tickets.  What if we won?  I pondered how to split the winnings with you blog readers.  Unfortunately, those of you who don’t comment are out of the loop, because I don’t know who you are.  Thus, the winnings will have to be split among commenters.  I’m really good at figuring out numbers and budgets, so this is the scoop:  we’ll add the number of comments, divide it by commenters and figure out a percentage.  The more you comment, the more you win!  We didn’t really win on these tickets, but there’s still hope for the rest of the year.  Keep commenting.  You may get lucky.  🙂

Did we win a million?

Did we win a million?

Oh there are so many other photos you could see.  The Ryan’s Irish-Style Cream Liqueur almost looked good enough to sample (NO Mom and Dad, I DID NOT SAMPLE IT!!) The shot gun shell (empty) seemed like a possible good north-woods piece of trash, probably discarded during bird hunting season.  The Grizzly chewing snuff package…well, I guess you have to see the snuff package.  Lots of our guys chew this stuff.  Don’t ask me how or why!  It’s one of those north-woods things to do.  No, Barry doesn’t. And I didn’t sample this either.

Grizzly Snuff:  for your chewing and spitting pleasure

Grizzly Snuff: for your chewing and spitting pleasure

Oh, yes.  I had a spiritual experience in the midst of the trash, as well.  Three quarters of the way through the up-and-down-aerobic exercises (where are those pointed sticks the highway department gives out to help people spear up trash like sensible folks?) I realized…oh no!…I was out of plastic bags.  What to do?  The only thing possible.  You say a prayer.  It goes like this, “Please, I need another plastic bag to show up along the road, soon, if possible.”  The secret is to completely release expectation.  Be prepared to walk home.  But then praise the Universe mightily when the first bag of the day appears.  Hurray!  It actually appeared.

(can't believe I'm actually posting a photo of a Walmart bag...but it's a spiritual Walmart bag)

(can't believe I'm actually posting a photo of a Walmart bag...but it's a spiritual Walmart bag)

Something else really exciting happened today, but you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to hear.  Hint:  a wild creature appeared among the trash.  Can you guess what it was?  Stay tuned!  Until tomorrow then…

Snowshoe, hopefully not broken

Snowshoe, hopefully not broken

The Annishnabe (Ojibway) of this Lake Superior region call the April moon “Broken Snowshoe Moon”.  I’m imagining this is because Winter is in fast retreat, or slow retreat, and the natives look at their worn snowshoes and think, “wow, these need to be fixed before next winter”. 

I could be wrong, but it seems like a good time to look at our snowshoes and skis and determine what needs to be repaired before the next heavy snows settle upon the land. 

The natives of North America called this moon of April by many names, depending on their locales.  Here’s a handful:  Sugar-Maker Moon, When They Set Indian Corn, Moon of the Big Leaves (obviously not around here), Ice Breaking in the River, Frog Moon, Flower Moon, Moon when the Geese Lay Eggs.  You can study them for yourselves at http://www.americanindian.net/moons.html

If I named this month’s moon it might be:  Mud Moon, Moon of Spring Dreams, Moon of Melting Lakes, Snow Melting Moon, Moon of Pussywillows, Moon of the First Green.  Just think!  All around the country and world, we’re sitting under the same full moon, but our conditions and weather patterns and details are all different. 

Our April moon, isn't she beautiful?

Our April moon, isn't she beautiful?

I have no idea how to take a stunning photo of the moon.  What you see is what you get.  She’s overhead about 9 p.m. these days, a little to the south and east.  Out the bathroom window.  Here’s my plan tonight.  I am going outside a little after dark (9- 9:30 p.m.) and confer with the moon.  We’re going to have a little pow wow.  Discuss things.  Get serious.  I suppose, get thankful about life.

So today’s outdoor adventure will be AFTER the publication of this blog.  You guys must simply have faith that the outdoor commitment will happen.  (It’s happened already, really, when Barry and I sipped drinks on the deck in the 40 degree weather this afternoon. I was wrapped in a blanket donned with hat and jacket on our lawn chair.  One of enjoyed a hot bouillon cube and the other a glass of wine, but I’m not telling who enjoyed what.  When the sun shone through the clouds, it felt actually pleasant.)

Because it’s impossible to photograph the full moon in its shining glory, the maple trees decided to offer an imitation of the April moon. 

How did the moon get in that maple tree?

How did the moon get in that maple tree?

I’m happy to think we’re all sitting beneath the same moon.  For all our differences, for all the ways we call things different names and tell different stories…we still sit under the same April moon.  Maybe that knowing can bring us closer together as people.  It’s all the same moon…  (And maybe I’ll tell this same story, except for different names, every full moon for the rest of this year!)

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