Eating yoghurt and blueberries
in the company of
a single swan attending to its morning toilette.
Theme: objects hanging in trees or trees otherwise adorned.
At the skateboard park in town there’s a tree hung with sneakers in memory of, and to pay tribute to, a lad who died… while skateboarding or not is not clear. But the tree, heavy with sports shoes shouts a certain kind of respect.
There’s the dressing with ornaments of woodland trees in winter.
And just recently I met a man who is stooped and walks with a cane, but it’s like he doesn’t notice these minor impediments, who has a giant something or other tree in his backyard, from whose enormous (and very high) branches he’s suspended a variety of odd birdhouses from ropes on clips, which he removes and cleans annually, and stores over winter. All of which requires a ladder moved about a dozen times. All begun, he told me, when his brother came to visit many moons ago, from Belfast, bringing as a gift a birdhouse in the design of some historical Irish landmark, possibly a lighthouse, I’ve forgotten because as he spoke the details were less important to me than the animation and passion of the telling. He said he thought it was a stupid gift. And then he didn’t. Once he hung it and birds nested there he was hooked. He put out food. And now his yard is a bird sanctuary with feeders and twenty or thirty hanging-from-a-giant-tree birdhouses, most of them occupied, he said in the midst of much feathered to-ing and fro-ing.
A poet in Winnipeg adorns city trees with poems.
I’ve seen a collection of wind chimes in trees, and masks, and a woman who taught me how to work with cement had a few trees hung with glass bottles, dark blue ones and white frosted ones and strings of fairy lights. I didn’t ask why she hung the bottles. They were beautiful. The answer seemed obvious.
There are easter egg trees, and trees on which you tie little flags containing hopes and dreams, ,the clootie wells of Scotland, and in Kamouraska a few years ago I saw my first tree wrapped (so not technically hung) with knitting, which I’ve since seen many more versions of.
All of which makes me wonder why trees? What is our thing with them? Feels wonderfully druid, this veneration of nature and all its magic. And then I think… don’t question it, just embrace the lucky fact there seems to be a lingering, primitive something in our dna… when we’ve lost so much else.
Other (not always) wordless friends:
Red winged blackbirds. Darting in and out of reeds, returning sometimes with nesting material. Sometimes I think they just go out for smokes.
Morning pond air chock full of chittering, occasional grunts from somewhere in the bull rushes behind my boat. I tend not to worry about strange sounds on the water… it’s only what’s on land that’s worrisome.
Kingfisher. Flies like she means business.
Seagull. On perpetual holiday.
All this singing, chittering, trilling, cawing. Is it a band or a choir?
[Every time I don’t bring a sandwich, I regret it.]
Yellow finch flits to the accompaniment of frog solo bass.
Have lodged my boat among lily pads and stare at opposite shore wondering what it must be like to understand nature, to know what tree that is or what everything’s surviving on, what kind of fish is it that keeps jumping here, and then here… to have some idea of how to move through the world less clunkily, to disturb little, to be still. I ask these questions then open my tupperware container of market blue berries and eat them with inelegant fingers.
[The lily pads work extremely well keeping my boat in place. I wonder if the voyageurs knew this trick.]
Water level too high for egrets, herons, both blue and green, cormorants too.
Deer. First one, then two. I paddle gently, watching them on the woodland side of the pond but they must see me because their nonchalance suddenly turns to startled and then they turn into the woods. And, poof, they’re gone.
A kind of elation, mild ecstasy, maybe not even so mild… arrives if I stay in one place long enough. The opposite of boredom. The pleasure of being somewhere long enough to have questions, to understand… something…
Two cardinals. I may have caught them in a picture I was taking of the light that has turned lime green yellow bright on this summer morning.
Or maybe not.
Once upon a time I used to spend hours trying to arrange the garden so that the tall blue things would grow behind the shorter yellow things but not bloom before the red things and I’d get frustrated if it all didn’t work to plan.
We had just moved into our house. There was still a lawn then, and a couple of tidy but boring flowerbeds with unloved plants. (The beds were boring not because they were tidy but because they were unloved. You can always tell.)
We planted a veggie bed and took up the lawn and enlarged the boring beds and laid down some stone paths (that become a labyrinth in winter) and although I was still trying to control the reds and the yellows, I began to notice things moving around on their own. And instead of fighting it, I eased up a little and watched the changes, the way the joe pye weed took over the space that was once thick with lupins and though I love lupins and missed them, the joe pye weed brought new pleasures. And dragonflies.
It seemed the garden knew how to be.
And it occurred to me that it didn’t need a foreman or a director orchestrating the blues and the reds. (It needed a maintenance manager for sure, but not a lot else.) The garden knew what to do all on its own.
It knew that this grows well here and that doesn’t. No matter how much you try to force the issue… this will grow and that will not. And it knew that the daisies didn’t want to grow in a clump and somehow they became willy nilly singles and twosomes in places of their own choosing.
So I surrendered to the wisdom of the garden, accepted the job of maintenance manager and let the plants pretty much decide what works.
The result is a chock-a-block, semi-naturalized space with a variety of things, some planted by me, many pooped by birds or self sown and appearing in areas of their own choosing. The dragonflies rest in the sun on native solomon’s seal and the flutterbys flutter by and everything is hale and hearty because nothing is there against its will. *Nothing requires extra watering to stay alive (except the veggies), nothing needs fertilizer. Just the maintenance of clipping and weeding and the joy of daily walks to see what’s new and — oh yes, very definitely yes! — commentary en route. (Plants love a bit of chat.)
Every year it’s the same but different… a drift of bee balm has slowly taken over from black eyed susan while the black eyed susan has moved in among the grape vines and the prairie sunflowers have nudged out the yarrow but make room for the salvia… and the pleasure I get from watching these changes, the symbiosis of the plants, is beyond measure better than anything my wee human mind trained in symmetry could ever plot out.
Perfection is a myth in all its forms.
And even if some form of it were achievable (the gardens of Versailles? the hanging sotsits of Babylon?), I’d opt for the imperfection of happy surprises around every corner. Every time.
For which I take no credit.
Following my instinct I stop at a playground early, early, in the morning with the sun up only an hour, still inching above the treeline. I surprise myself as I stand in mountain pose a moment and feel the warmth of it.
I do not go on the monkey bars because I do warrior I and II instead.
And I do not go on the slidey thing but use the vertical posts either side of it for balance in king dancer pose.
I do a version of sun salutation and the breathing is exceptional.
…I’ve been there long enough for the sky to turn blue blue blue.
And then I climb up the ladder and slide into the day.
The ice has finally melted and walking is once again possible in the ravine and woods and parks without cleats or sticks or fear of sliding down some never before noticed incline.
I go in search of signs of early blooms.
I know where to look for coltsfoot and bloodroot, banks of bluebells and trilliums but those aren’t up yet. It’s mostly very brown and then a sweet surprise among the scruff, a different kind of sign, one that indicates I’m not alone in my thoughts.
For a while the only bit of colour I find is dog poop bags and I wonder (and I’m forever wondering this) what’s the point of bagging poop if you’re just going to leave it hanging on a fence or tossed under a tree or someplace you think is out of sight? (Not a rhetorical question.)
I rarely pick up this kind of litter.
There’s plenty of other stuff but I’ve forgotten to bring a litter bag and so I make little nests of what I find with the idea of picking it up and carrying as much as I can in my hands on the way back.
But it’s soon obvious there’s more than I can carry so I need a bag, and I know I’ll find one because it’s like magic… it’s like the universe is saying thank you for cleaning me… and, oh, I hear you need a bag… here’s one…
And then… presto bongo… there one is.
So I walk and pick up litter and wonder why there aren’t more garbage cans and who are these people dropping stuff all over the place because I never actually see anyone do it…
and then I notice the way spring has this sound, the birds, like they have a whole new repertoire and the light is different and then I see a red-winged blackbird and I remember something I read earlier this very morning in Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek…
about how she was once startled by the hundreds of red-winged blackbirds that flew out of a tree and how the tree didn’t look any different when they were gone because it’s like they’d been invisible in there, and still were… because even though there were hundreds a moment ago, there was suddenly not one to be seen anywhere…
and how this reminded me of the very same experience when I was kayaking one morning when hundreds of red-winged blackbirds flew out of the reeds at sunrise… and just as quickly disappeared…
Have added this video I found (is there nothing that isn’t google-able?) of what looks like exactly the same kind of spider I saw recently in a deeply SNOWY forest. Anyone know why they come out for a stroll?
Other (not always) wordless friends: