My annual ‘love seen in unusual places‘ post — re-posted with updates.
Love loves reminding us it’s everywhere…
I’m often racing out the door in the earliest a.m., sometimes still partially clad in pjs, heading to the ravine where the sun rises behind an embankment of spruce cedar pine larch maple and birch that look down on a creek running through town.
I’m a sucker for that still-darkness when horizons hint at crimson bursts of red sky madness to come, though the red flash is always momentary, easy to miss, but followed (thankfully) with the burnt caramel of a slowly evolving main act, which (thankfully) lasts longer, has the consideration to build intensity before fading, gives you enough time to take off your mittens and point your camera.
Easy to miss the bare branched ancient tree you’d never guess grew wild apples unless you’d seen it in spring covered in blossoms and bees and later in fruit that makes an excellent crumble.
Easy to miss a small gathering of chilled Queen Anne’s Lace or the footprints of someone not you, and their dog. Easy to walk right over frosted grass without noticing the crackle and crunch.
The couple in the parking spot in the alley behind my dentist. They must be in their nineties. He standing outside chatting to her through the driver’s window. She in the driver’s seat. The car parked at an angle across the only two spots reserved for the dental office. Me wondering what they are doing. He looking at me and asking if I want to park there. Me saying yes I do… and then him explaining that they are just there to get a xmas tree and his wife is going to stay in the car and me saying, well, okie dokes, but could she park so that she takes up only one spot and I can use the other? And he, finding this a reasonable request, turns to tell his wife in what feels, even in this alley on this cold day, like such a gentle manner and her face all sweet and agreeable and she moves her car back and I move mine in and I get out and by this time he has gone to the xmas tree lot that’s just there and I can see him, slightly hunched, hands clasped behind his back, looking for just the right tree and me thinking how I was so quickly prepared to be annoyed by the parking situation until their kindness and tenderness, especially with each other, and the fact that they, despite the difficulty of getting around this city, are looking for a tree on their own at some funky Yonge Street place and the whole alley and street corner smelling like pine and she happily waiting in the car and as if all this isn’t enough (& I’m not making this up…) the music playing through speakers at the tree lot is Percy Sledge’s When a Man Loves a Woman.
Click on the song, inhale some pine, and it’ll be like you were there too…
Wee moments as gifts.
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.
A woman with wet hair comes out into the cold morning without a coat and starts her car then goes back into the house leaving the car idling and I’m sorry I don’t have a note handy, something I can put under the windshield that says you’re fine to come outside with wet hair and NO COAT but you have to warm up your car?? (I’m often sorry I don’t have a pocket full of notes with various sentiments.)
The plastic salad container that obviously fell out of a recycling bin but makes me wonder a) why didn’t the garbage person just pick it up when it fell out, and b) even more curious—why didn’t the homeowner pick it up when they brought in their blue bin? (Again pre-printed notes would be so handy.)
A guy walking a dog and every so often bouncing a tennis ball for the dog to leap up and catch.
Cardinal singing figaro! figaro! figaro! from a treetop.
People eating in passing cars, breakfast presumably, and before I get all judgey, may I remind myself that I used to be the banana queen of the Don Valley Parkway.
The horrifying and surely destined collision of a school bus barrelling along a narrow street and a car backing out of a driveway, and the miracle of timing that has the driver of the car look up at the crucial last second when the bus is but a millimetre from slamming into it.
The guy working in a construction pit with a drill and a toque over which he wears a headset/ear protector thingy and as I pass I say good morning and of course, even though the drill isn’t running at that moment, I realize he can’t hear me… but he nods anyway, as if he can.
In summer I swim.
In the spring I remember how my dad said spring is the best time in the garden because everything is just starting, every bit of green is a gift, a surprise, a joy… unlike in summer when there’s just too much… everywhere, too much colour, too much muchness. He was right of course.
In winter I traipse a labyrinth in the snow.
But it’s this time of year, before winter, when it’s no longer really fall, when the leaves are mush but the snow hasn’t come yet, that it’s easy to think there’s nothing left for you to see in the garden.
You’d be wrong of course.
Because it’s only now that a certain sun becomes visible again after being hidden behind the foliage of a giant dogwood.
And how would you ever find the bluebird that fell from its branch on the burning bush, a bird you never see in summer through the green leaves or in the fall through the bright red ones but now in the naked season, and only if you walk close enough to think: hey where’s that bluebird?? —there it is.
Every year you swear this moss is new.
And every year you are reminded at least once of something that that will grow next year for the first time.
Or see tiny footprints outside tiny doors?
Would you remember patriotic moose (not to mention extremely quiet mice)?
What blows your mind every year is how it’s all there all year round, buried in snow or hidden by show-offy leaves turning orange and gold, not to mention being upstaged all summer long by purples and blues, yellows, reds and pinks… oh my god, don’t even talk to me about reds and pinks… so needy… look at me, look at me!
Those pinks. Such hams.
Fred excepted of course.
There is a framed series of photos on my kitchen wall. Clouds scudding across a Florida sky. Each photo shows the exact same square of sky above a couple of palm trees, as seen from a poolside chair so many years ago I was still using 35 mm film and my trusty Pentax.
There are only four shots. But they represent the whole morning and my idle joy in having nothing to do but read… no idea what I was reading, but possibly The Portable Dorothy Parker (I remember her from around that time) or River of Grass, by Marjory Stoneman Douglas, about the almost decimation of the Everglades. In other words not a novel. Am guessing my mood couldn’t have been focused enough for a novel if I was able to take notice of the sky changing every so often and carefully positioning the camera to take precise shots (film was expensive) between and above those precise palm fronds.
Those aren’t the actions of someone engrossed in a novel.
The first photo in the frame shows a clear sky with only a wisp of cloud. The second, a larger, but still small, cloud moves in from the left. By the third shot, the sky is mottled with cloud cover, though wispy still, and by the fourth, heavier clouds have moved in and I probably decided it was time to gather my pool toys and go have lunch.
I love these pictures, the memory of a holiday, yes, but also a reminder of how this follows that, how time is passed and passes, and continues…
Someone once told me they rarely look up. I was astonished — how can anyone take the whole sky for granted? But it occurs to me that maybe it comes from our habit of looking *for* something… something useful, or unusual, something to compare ourselves with, as in looking at people, or something beautiful, as in a sunrise or sunset or rainbow.
Each morning I stand outside in approximately the same place to greet the day and every day I look at the same slice of sky above a cedar hedge in the space between two very tall spruce. And every day the sky is never the same. Sometimes the colour of Laurentien pencil crayon Peacock Blue, sometimes another shade. Sometimes speckled or fluffed or water-colour-streaked with cloud. Now and then picture-worthy… most often not. Over the years I’ve seen flashes of lightning in that space, the occasional plane on its way to Toronto, and one year the Snowbirds performed for a local school named after a fallen comrade and I stood in my backyard and watched, in awe, as they swooped and ducked and dived in that very bit of sky.
It is also, apparently, part of the Trans Canada Flight Path for geese.
There’s nothing magical about that slice of blue, it’s just the one I happen to most often look at. Not from a lounge chair and never for an entire morning as you do on holiday, but just as habit. Sometimes I go outside and look up, without realizing it even, with maybe a question on my mind…
And a cardinal flies by in answer.
The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Happy seeing-with-heart day…
Other (not always) wordless friends:
The kind of night where red sky darkens under slice of moon as you walk, a hand-knitted scarf around your neck, just the right size to tuck into a pocket once the walking warms you up, and gloves, too, come off… and over there a cat sitting on its driveway staring at another cat across the road on a driveway of its own, each sniffing the air—territory is a scent; and from an-open-window-who-knows-where, in one of these already-lighted-for-xmas houses, someone’s dinner is cooking… and you think: sloppy joes and onions.
Open-eyed meditation this morning as I watch through the window and a break in the trees a cardinal preening, waiting for his date to the cardinal ball.
They fly off together and then a man in pale turquoise shirt and dark jeans gets into his car and flies off to work.
Nothing else for a while and cat #1, curled up at the very top of her indoor climbing tree facing the window, slowly closes her eyes while cat #2 finds a spot on the carpet to attend to her tail.
Ears perk up, mine too, when suddenly on a not so far away treetop the music of the cardinal ball begins… but it’s merely soundtrack to the contentment of a belly full of tinned turkey and kibble, and soon ears relax and all eyes close.
p.s. and yes, that’s a tulip in the pic
A happy long weekend to you!