Saturday, March 29, 2008

Down by the River

Walking down by the river the sun is bright but the air is a cold 29 and the wind goes right through the fleece and sweater that I thought would do it today. But is is beautiful. The river runs quickly, swollen with the run-off from the north. At the boat launch where in a few months I will slip in my kayak, the tall grass at the river's edge is matted down from the snow and earlier seasonal floods giving this wide open view that is lost in the summer;
remnants of a beaver meal chopped down, signs of buds on a few bushes and trees.

Around the area the sound birds are returning, mother bears have been spotted with their cubs walking the neighborhood in search of food, daffodil green is appearing along the southern sides of stone walls and in the yard.

Spring is here!!!

Feeling the Presence

Each morning when I leave the Berkshires for work, the highway does its usual ups and downs until it reaches a certain place where it just goes down and down for quite a while. The walls get higher and steep and block out the sun and are covered with massive waterfalls of ice and the temperature drops noticeably. On the other side of the road is a cliff plunging deeply to the river below. Yet it is in this somewhat foreboding spot I always feel a reassuring presence emanating…..Then shortly thereafter the walls part at a glorious gorge and the light floods in and I am on the flat lands.
I believe it is in deep valleys that you can feel this presence the most whether these valleys be those in nature or those we find ourselves in emotionally. The presence is there and we just need the stillness to let it settle in us.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Changing Seats

I am a person who doesn’t like to sit in the same place over an over. I like to try different views or sit on a different side of the room when taking a class or at church. I find it boring to do the same thing over and over. Perhaps it is a carryover from years of teacher assigned seats but actually I think there is an advantage to sitting in different locations.

Different locations provide significant and subtle changes in perspective. The light is different as it the view. Sometimes it’s no better or sometimes even worse but it’s different. In a large space the sound changes depending where you sit and music has a different sound; you notice different things about what is going on or different things about the place such as the architectural features or the furnishings. If it’s a large place that you frequent, such as church or a community event, then you come in contact with different people. Because many people never change location.

People have different reactions to me doing this. Some find it amusing, as they never know where I will pop up, some find it interesting but admit that they couldn’t do it themselves because they always sit in the same place, some find it annoying [sorry] and there are those who just don’t seem to notice, which is fine with me. I really do it for the reasons I have already said above, in fact it I find myself sitting in the same place I will get up and move.

I was speaking with someone about this today and he shared that he once worked on dairy farm and the cows always returned to the same milking station and stall. Have you ever noticed that many people are total creatures of habit? Are you? Going to a meeting, or to church or a local event, many people will sit in the same place over and over. When someone sits where they usually sit then they can actually become unsettled and they sit right next to where they always sit or in more extreme cases, they tell the person that they are in their seat.

Being unsettled is sometimes good. It keeps you aware, it keeps you present and it keeps you from being mistaken for a dairy cow. Try a different seat sometimes!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Tilling the earth of the soul

This is a time of the year that I try to focus on being more mindful, meditative and contemplative. Forcing myself to slow down, I try to be especially observant of my surroundings and of all the very small pieces that make it up; regaining vision through the eye of a child.

Reflection is not always an easy process as it often digs up "old stuff" that is much easier and simpler for me to keep buried. But tilling the earth of the soul is good and exposing feelings and hurts that lie deep adds air and nutrients for new growth. I totally enjoy the stillness; of being part of the presence that is around me and the process is always restorative.

The change in seasons and the awakening that occurs brings encouragement that out of dormancy and death can come something new and the ability to change and adapt and grow never ends regardless of age.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

So where is spring?

The 16th of March- the light is changing, the newspaper stories of potholes abound, the calendars of cultural events that draws the visitors here are out, the ice on the lake shows a little thaw near the boat ramp. But this morning it’s a light snow.

We are starting to enter mud season, which is warmer but is definitely not spring. The rabbits are out and about. Pairs start to appear in just about every yard in the neighborhood and with yards of over an acre surrounded by woods.

The temperature may get warmer and sun brighter but it is not unusual for the daffodils to be blooming in May at the same time the ash is be just sprouting its leaves. Walking around today it is hard to find a sprout. The forsythia shows nothing anew, no bulges are showing in the garden, an opening for the shoots. The kayak really wants to come out, but the frozen ground and snow barricade the door it must come out.

Spring is a very short season blending quickly into summer. In the Berkshires we wait for spring and when it arrives it disappears quickly into summer. The seasons are special, they are worth waiting for…….. but I am impatient for spring.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The light at dawn

There is something about the light at dawn. The air is quiet and still and seems to be pausing for the arrival of the day. The sun begins to come up over the mountains, sharing the sky with the stars and the moon. Guarding their watch throughout the night they seem ready to recess. A warm glow of yellow orange adding spikes that at first dance low in the sky and then spread like ripples across a still pond. The sky is ablaze in orange and red announcing that the day has arrived. The ripples spread wide and are replaced by the gentle yellow of the rising sun. The light is soft, the shadows begin to disappear and the sound of feeding birds begins to fill the air.

Another day has begun… untouched by the past….full of promise and possibility.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The sounds of the woods

This past weekend was great for walking in the woods. Alone and not another person in sight, the sun was bright, the air was cold and the wind sharp. Everywhere there were remnants from the intense rain of the past few days and signs the that winter was beginning to release its grip. The snow was patchy, the ice gleaming and slick.

Walking through what many would think to be a quiet place, especially given the distance from the nearest road and absence of people, there is actually a lot to hear.

The crunch of snow under foot, each step sounding a little different depending on the consistency of the snow; the cracking sound of the ice melting from the rain again hardening in the cold wind; the wind rushing across the meadows and tall grasses and whipping through the trees, sounding so much like the wind and waves at the ocean; the creaking, clicking and groaning of the trees and their branches and the occasional thump of a rotting branch hitting the ground; the trickling and gurgling run off and melting layers of snow; the seasonally dormant brooks coming alive to carry water to the river; the occasional flutter of a bird startled from its bushy roost; the call of the birds to one another.

Then the wind calms and for a moment there is a sudden stillness, an emptiness, a change in air pressure ….. and the smaller quieter sounds come through. The drips of the tiny stream running through brambles, berries dropping from bushes having held out for the long winter and survived the feasting birds, the squirrels dashing about.

And then there are the signs of sounds that once were: the woodpecker holes, proof of their distant sound; the tunnels through bushes and matted brush marking the trails of deer, turkeys or bear.

Whoever says the woods are quiet, isn't listening.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Life along the ridge line

I live along the ridge line that is pictured frequently on this site. It is one of several that starts in the green mountains of Vermont encompasses Mount Greylock, which is visible to the north on a clear day, and runs south to Connecticut.

The ridges also run west to east, which means that at times you can find yourself traveling with hills on two sides. The portion near me is called October Mountain. It is very much a presence and its size makes it seem much closer than it is, though it is still only a mile or so away. At the bottom of the valley is the Housatonic River. A small sized river that meanders from the north to the Long Island sound. When I kayak the Housatonic and meander in and out of the many oxbows and outlets it is the landmark of the ridge line that keeps me from becoming completely turned around and lost. The trails are great for hiking and cross country skiing and off road biking and run along the river and across the terrain. Since there is an abundance of limestone here I am told that this area was an ancient ocean, a fascinating concept to consider.

Each morning when I venture out for the newspaper the ridge is there, as it has been for millions of years. As it is to the east the position of the sunrise changes with the seasons and the seasons change the view. Soft green in the spring and vibrant in the fall and just pleasantly there in the summer, at this time of year the trees are bare and the contrast of the snow on the ground makes the trails visible. At night the lights and sounds of snowmobiles can be seen crisscrossing the sides of the mountain. At certain times of the year the sounds of hunters can be heard in the predawn hours. One some mornings a foggy mist covers the river and fills up the valley, at least from my view from above. Driving down by the river it just seems overcast.

Mostly state park with lots of wildlife: deer, bear, coyote, wild turkey and much more run free and occasionally make their way through to the neighborhoods around. The alert of "bear in the neighborhood" sometimes becomes routine in the spring and early summer as they forage for food and can sometimes cause a spook when they get too close, but that is another entry.

Weather also travels differently in its presence. The temperature is usually 5 degrees cooler here than the suburbs to the east and west, usually attributed to the elevation and the air is often breezy, which means that the need for air conditioning at home is rare. Storms usually travel in from the south and the wind howls and whistles at the windows and moves on to the north. A natural pipeline. In the summer it will occasionally rain here but not elsewhere. The coolness of the mountains?

The ridge lines are one of those thing that make this area special. Often overlooked because they are always there but full of beauty and character year round.