the joy of stopping

 

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.

And before I know it…

…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.

 

 

 

things we go looking for and things we find

 
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…

somewhere.

 

.

see glass

 

All winter it’s been almost impossible to walk the beach. So much forever-never-melting ice this year. And when it did melt, it just froze up the next day even icier. So, yes, it’s been impossible to walk the beach.

But… the ice is now gone, mostly, and the snow is being slowly replaced with snowdrops…

… and just the other day I was at the beach and it’s all sand and pebbles again, and ridges of stones where a recent wind storm has pushed them several metres from shore. (Given the size of stones one wonders how that is even possible.)

Seasonal differences are extraordinary but, even more extraordinary is the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) transformation of every day, the way the water changes colour, the size and sound and movement of waves, their connection to moon and tides and us.

 

And beach glass.

And whatever it’s connected to. (Sometimes cartwheeling along the shore with my nieces… those who know me… I can hear you laughing!... we imagine the maybe-stories attached to the glass we find. And sometimes I do the imagining on my own, in which case pirates with a penchant for expensive olive oil very often figure into things.)

The type of glass found in various places (these things are predictable to a point), on different shorelines, is fascinating. For instance, my Lake Ontario beach offers up big numbers of small pieces. I used to think they were a good size, but they’re really quite tiny compared to pieces I’ve since seen on PEI (though I find much less of it there; it’s possible I don’t know where to look and no one’s telling me); also small compared with what I understand is found on the shores of the St. Lawrence, and elsewhere, which begs a Why?… what makes the difference in what washes up? Not that it matters because a piece of smooth glass winking at me from the sand is a joy, no matter the size. And if it’s not quite ‘cooked’, i.e. entirely smooth, I toss it back into the water. Apparently to be fully cooked takes decades, between fifty to a hundred years on average.

If you’re still reading this it might be that you have some small interest in beach glass, or maybe you haven’t quite finished your tea yet. In any case, here’s some glassy trivia gathered from various sites for glass nerds—

Lavender glass is called ‘sun glass’ because it’s glass made with manganese, which, if left in a sunny window, will turn various shades of purple. (And can be dated to around the time of WWI, when the bleaching agent used to make it clear couldn’t be sourced and manganese was used instead.)

Red and orange are rare because gold was required to make red and orange glass, resulting in much less being made in those colours.

And that frosted look? Comes from lime leaching out of the glass over time.

But my FAVOURITE bit of sea glass trivia is that the cobalt blue pieces could very well come from bottles once made to contain poison. (Also possibly Vick’s VapoRub; Evening in Paris perfume [oh my god, the very mention of which takes me back to my family’s bathroom shelves, home to a small bottle of EIP I’d given my mother for xmas and which I pray she never actually wore though fear she did]; Noxema, and a certain brand of either Milk of Magnesia or Bromo Seltzer.) The poison angle is so much better though. Apparently when lights were dim and not everyone could read, a trip to the medicine cabinet (where, unwisely perhaps, both medicines and poisons were kept)(poisons being useful for ‘some’ things) mistakes were made. Move the poison I say but, no, someone thought it simpler to change the colour of the poison bottles, to cobalt blue, as well as the shape (triangular, etc.) so they could be both seen and/or ‘felt’ in a dimly lit room in the once-upon-a-times…

And should you be out glassing, here’s a list of glasses from the book Pure Sea Glass, by Richard LaMotte, who is some kind of travelling guru on the subject, giving seminars and talks all over the world and about whom much can be read. (And whose job wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.)

From most rare to most common:
Orange
Red
Turquoise
Yellow
Black
Teal
Grey
Pink
Aqua
Cornflower Blue
Cobalt Blue
Opaque White
Citron
Purple/Amethyst
Soft Green
Soft Blue
Forest Green
Lime Green
Golden Amber
Amber
Jade
Kelly Green
Brown White (Clear)

Happy cartwheeling/beachcombing!

 

 

morning seens

 

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.

Ice.

More ice.

i prefer walking quietly, alone, however…

 
I make exceptions for certain people.

And dogs.

And always birdsong.

But this morning I would welcome the company of a serious bird brain, someone who could tell me who’s singing from the top of every tree, following me with very obvious intent to serenade.

The sound is too big for a chickadee dee dee dee.

And it’s not a robin, or a cardinal (& so ends my song recognition repertoire).

A botanist would be handy too. I’d ask what is this shrub in pink bloom that every year I swear I’ll make a note to go back and find when it’s fruiting so I know what kind of shrub it is and then always forget to check…

But the only person I see is a guy standing at the creek, facing the morning sun, just standing there, and then he raises his arms in salutation.

I recognize the impulse.

And so I walk very quietly by…
 
 
 

so a guy walks at the beach…

 
 
…and I’m at the beach and I see the guy walking there.

And I watch, hoping he’ll walk right past the gulls, disrupting them for a minute so I can get a shot of that feathery disruption.

And he does. 

But I’ve been watching him for a while, waiting, and in the watching a story idea has hatched.

Unexpected.

So I walk away, along the beach, alone, where I don’t watch anything.

 

I mutter out loud, unraveling this idea, repeating and layering and repeating the layers.

I make a few notes but mostly walk and mutter until the idea is pretty solid in my mind.

And then I go home and write it all down.

Turns out it’s a good story… that in itself a small miracle.

…sometimes that’s how they come.

 

 

evening air

 

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.

 


You know that kind of night?