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The Day’s Delight: Cat’s Cradle

There’s a delight in pulling the string. In unraveling a little– a little more. In talking with another real live human and asking-without-asking, what do you see here? And then, in a life-sized cat’s cradle, reaching in and around their fingers, pulling back, lifting up, and discovering a different shape to that mysterious and never-ending tangle of the Self.

The Day’s Delight: Beautiful Noise

Music and words and falling snow.

Candles on the concrete.

Silence for George Floyd and the hope that we as a country and a community are making things better, however terribly slowly; that we are turning this abominable ship.

Maya Angelou’s words claimed and blessed with passion and guts.

And me doing A Thing that was once Too Much, Not Allowed, and a whole slew of other Be Small admonishments.

I sang for people. I wasn’t as fluid, as good, as open, as easy as when I practiced on my own. But I think I was better, because I was There. In it. Present. And proud– to show up and share and offer imperfection and feel the goodness of it, the betterness of honesty.

The snow fell outside the pavilion while we sang, me with these people who left their warm homes and stood outside for half an hour together because it matters what we do. It matters that we try. It matters that we show up imperfectly, and that we do it Now.

The Day’s Delight: Too Much

A dozen lifetimes in one day: hope, despair, redemption, new possibilities. How many layers float, “unseen” above us? If we are willing to be overwhelmed, to see too much perhaps the veils aren’t lifted but we see them: sacred weavings hit just so by the light.

As a kid I was sure ghosts were real, and I ardently wished not to see them because it would be too much: this mortal realm was plenty to try to keep hold of.

I think I’m ready to admit that although I look around uneasily, wondering if it’s allowed, what others will say, too much is not too much anymore, and it hasn’t been for quite a while. It’s harder and harder to deny that too much might be just right.

The Day’s Delight: Gavia Immer

The first loon.

All spring I’ve squinched my eyes up and tried to imagine various black and white ducks (and even mergansers) into loons. But this time there was no doubt:

That spear-tip beak, that elegant throat, that lacy cape.

I paddled my kayak on Northern Light Lake– the first paddle of the year and the first time on a lake I’ve only viewed from above.

I flushed ducks (accidentally): frantic whirring, an explosion of wing beats out of the brushy shrubs that softened the shoreline in the shallow water. Every duck was PANICKED! Like deer unable to pick a side of the highway: Oh, shit, we’re gonna die! Go, go, go!

But the loon, not unlike a fox, only glanced at me as I glided closer. It knew where I was, and found me nearly irrelevant. It was fishing. It was doing loon things. And pretty soon it did that elegant, rippleless dip and disappeared, diving deep rather than scattering to the sky.

I turned around and paddled back to the landing after that. There’s a satisfaction in knowing when you’ve reached what you were aiming for, in discovering just what that magnetic north was all along that had you dig out the lifejacket, load up the kayak, and head out to that particular lake at that particular time.

We make meaning and spin narratives constantly: that means this, this led to that. Who’s to say they aren’t true? Who’s to say that loon didn’t call for me, and from miles away I heard and answered with action? Who can prove to me the wild universe isn’t up to something marvelous all the goddamn time?

Just try. I won’t believe a word of it.

The Day’s Delight: Mirrors

Last night I told the children, “I might go for a hike in the morning, so if I’m gone when you get up, feed yourselves.” They mumbled yes without really listening to anything but their sleepover movie, but that’s the thing about 11-year-olds: they can fend pretty decently for themselves.

But the do still need you, contrary to what I’ve been telling myself and other people.

This evening I asked Ennis to strip the beds and tidy up the “kid cabin” because we’ll be moving to town in a couple of weeks, something that has wound me up for a while now, and which only finally settled down earlier today.

But it seems we’re taking our grieving in turns. He came out to the kitchen where I was washing dishes (another triumph of self-care), and said, “I’m sad. I don’t wanna leave the lake house.”

I hugged him, peeled off my rubber gloves, hugged him some more. I said, “I know, I don’t want to either. But I know that it will feel good to get settled and actually unpack stuff. And it’ll be nice for you to be in town so you can just go home after school.” But I didn’t push it– none of that made me feel any better through all the body-angst, even though it’s all true.

“I read your blog post– the one about ‘In Between,'” a friend said. I had to look it up to remember what I’d written: The beauty of the liminal space. The sacred transition. Being at home in the unknown.

Well. Here we still are, aren’t we?
It’s good to have mirrors, in kids and friends, and daily practices– to be reminded of what we know, and what we are still really, really learning.

When I feel most anxious about moving (and then getting thrown out and having to figure this all out again, because the Old Law is Good things can’t last), I remind myself that everything is temporary. A year-long lease does not actually secure me a year of certainty any more than a month-to-month lease does. There’s only Now: the dishes, the sad and silly child, the thoughts and feelings that, it turns out, I can loop back into myself like some solo tantric practice.

I don’t want to be afraid that what comes next won’t be as good as what I have now. And mostly, I’m not. There’s a lot of light, a lot of hope, and certainly a good share of curiosity that balances out that fear. And I’m pretty sure every hard thing so far has, eventually, led to something better.

It’s a little easier to remember all that when I have to (want to) step up and model it for someone else.

The Day’s Delight: Glacier

When the glaciers melted, did they candle like a lake in spring break up? The sun boring weak and watery channels, the ice acting as its own magnifying glass (isn’t that a metaphor these days?: Focusing and intensifying whatever shines through.)

I climbed to the Height of Land. Sat on a rock shaped eons ago by ice. (And patted a boulder set down by a heaving behemoth).

The lake below, visible between the white pines and jack pines and balsams and scrubby birch, was mostly open, white, porous ice pushed to one side by the wind.

I’ve hiked there before. Once with Jay and Ennis, once sinking thigh high with my snowshoes, trying to navigate the decision to be done having kids. It was a shorter hike than I remembered, but most familiar trails feel like that now, after a year of long dog walks in the woods.

I sat for a long time in the sun at the edge of the bright green moss. I saw a hawk, or maybe a falcon, briefly circling, the tips of its wings curved gently back. Ravens dove and flew, calling in a tone I’d never heard before, falling silent when the spring ritual was done.

An eagle spiraled out over the lake, and a float plane crossed the sky below it. I was above and below, between. I like looking down at the tops of trees. I appreciate the solidity and self-knowing of rock. I love the slow growth of lichen, the wild strawberry leaves that are miraculously revived though edged with spiky frost. I traced the trails out and back, unsure at times if I’d reached the end, or if the path had simply grown over. I found the lake access and promised myself I’ll take my kayak out there– soon.

It was a two lake day– one from afar and the second up close. I rocked the ice shelf. I broke it up with a stick, with a sound like tinkling glass, the sugar panes they use in movies so no one gets hurt. I thought of the way this corner of the lake would melt differently because I’d interfered, and that pleased me: a homo sapien drawing a channel through the dirt to divert water, harvesting ice to keep things cold all summer, cutting down trees and putting up boards, shaping this nest of a life around me as I go.

Maybe I’m a kind of glacier, too.

The Day’s Delight: Yellow Tulips

To force tulip bulbs, you have to keep the pot in the cold and the dark for three months, then bring it into the warmth and the light.

(To save peonies until August, you have to wrap the buds in newspaper and keep them in the fridge, then release them and put them in water, and all that early summer will come blooming out.)

Bright yellow cups with feathered black lines in the middle and a dusting of black pollen. I took them home with me and in the time they sat in the sunny warmth of the car the petals opened, opened, till I feared they’d fall off by this evening.

But now, stood between the other new plants, the tulips have recalibrated and found some equilibrium or alignment… or maybe flowers, too, can only take so much growing, expanding, opening and, once they find their heart’s home, they relax, stop worrying about the top of the stalk, and bring energy back to the roots instead.

The Day’s Delight: In-Between

Peeling back the layers. In conversation and questions: Why doesn’t this thing work? And should I have seen it coming? And then talking to an unseen speaker via cards and images: the six of swords, the hanged man, the star:

Look to the sky, to the horizon. Take your bearings; this is a liminal space. A holy moment– don’t rush it.

The delight is the liminal. The sacred scarlet chord that — (I wonder if) — we look for from the moment the umbilical connection is severed.

It is the space between the cards where the Magic shows itself to me, a note passed from hand to hand beneath the desks, written in code. It is the spring-rain-cloud-weighted pause potency of the air when a question is turned on its head and is lobbed back to me as gentle-but-relentless teacher.

If I can make a home in the In-Between, the unknown becomes my dearest friend.

We Are Here

“We are here on the planet only once, and might as well get a feel for the place.”

Annie Dillard, The Jungle

“Leaves are the verbs that conjugate the seasons.”

-Gretel Ehrlich, A Storm, The Cornfield, And Elk

The Day’s Delight: Horticulturalist

I met someone today who said, “Oh, you’re THE Rose! The horticulturalist.”

I just looked at him, because of all the labels I’ve had and claimed– storyteller, writer, singer, actor, mother, and others that had nothing to do with my accomplishments– nothing has ever been remotely close to horticulturalist.

“The botanist?” he tried again.

I mean, I love gardening, but that seemed quite a stretch.

“You’re the person who knows about local flora and fauna,” he tried, both of us getting progressively more befuddled at this confusion. “Well, that’s who you are to my family anyway.”

“Oh! The trees! Yes, I guess so.” I’d showed his wife and kids how to tell the difference between a balsam and a spruce, a white pine and a red pine, and how jack pine cones only open by fire. “No one’s ever called me that before.” But he was not to be convinced otherwise.

I was just repeating what I’d heard, what I’d picked up while living in the woods with people nerdier than me about these things. And then I lived with those trees as my constant neighbors, so I knew them; they weren’t abstract, and the information became more than bullet points or trivia.

It became like memorizing my grandma’s phone number by the feel of the yellow rotary phone that whish-chuck-chuck-chucked under my fingertip.

Or knowing how to drive the back roads to Spectacle Lake but not being able to write down the directions: I only knew it while barefoot and in my swimsuit, already smelling faintly of the water.

Or the body-knowledge of making a pie crust. The ancestral alchemy that is both nature and nurture and has me do the right thing without knowing why.

What if all knowing is like this? What if all learning is overhearing, listening in, repeating, contributing your own individual encounters: the burst of a blister of balsam sap on your fingers and its sharp deciduous scent, the fox you saw beneath the boughs, the jack pine that creaked by the bridge (saved from wildfire by the helicopter and buckets of lake water long ago).

And now, just by playing telephone, just by saying, “Oh, I see it– look, there!” I am someone else, someone more; another Me I hadn’t yet named, just the way those kids hadn’t yet named the trees.

I thought I was just Rose. But an erstwhile scholar has come with a book of Latin, rich as spells, and given me a whole new string of names to call the forest of myself.