Posts Tagged ‘Nature’s secrets’

Out of all the agreements, this is one I strive to keep. It’s also the hardest. I woke up from a dream in the middle of the night. I dreamed about Ely, Minnesota, the deep forests of the North Woods, where most everything is impeccable with its word. The black bears, Lily and Hope, are busy being bears. They hibernate in Winter, fluctuating between restless activity and long naps. They may have cubs in January. It’s not something that is up for debate. They emerge in the Spring and seek a mate, roam the forests of red and white pines, gangly cedars, and rough-hewn milkweed, and pluck fruit off of agile chokecherry trees which they bend across the path and navigate with their tongues.

In my dream, I was walking through the woods, similar to the nature walk back behind the Bear Center on Saturday night. It was humid and wet, the ground soft underfoot. A long line of people skirted the trail through tufts of mosquitoes; they quietly listened. What I’ve learned about impeccability is that it is different for each person. If you are a bear researcher, you report back to the public from the angle from which you study the bears. Each person’s approach is different. One is not less impeccable than the next. They may start out with different beliefs, seek to prove or disprove them over years spent in the woods, watching and recording black bears.

I was thinking about how that applies to every day life. We tend to hang around people who are most like us. It takes great effort to understand those we might disagree with. To be willing to have our opinion changed, based on fact, based on what is right — that’s a form of impeccability. To deep listen. Again, impeccable. It takes work to listen to what people have to say without already forming what your response will be when they are done speaking. There are many different versions of right and wrong. Not black and white. Gray. If you get to know the facts about any one subject, person, place or thing, there is a lot of gray.

I learned at the North American Bear Center that what might have been believed true of bears 20 years ago, may not be true now. With more research, comes a deeper form of truth and understanding. With age comes wisdom. The same is true in my own life. I recently ran across an old journal from the time period when I was turning from 21 to 22. I had recently moved to Montana from Pennsylvania and my life was topsy-turvy. Over the course of a year, I ended one relationship, began another with a woman who had a toddler. That relationship would end in three years. The toddler is full-grown; I’m only a blip in his life.

What I believed when I was 20 is not what I believe now. The way I was impeccable with my word is not the way I try to be impeccable today. I work harder now to not make commitments I know I can’t keep. I also fail. But I feel more willing to accept the failures. By fessing up. Apologizing. Asking for forgiveness. There can’t be too much forgiveness in the world. There can’t be too much love.

I’ve learned the hard way that impeccability is something that is earned over time. It doesn’t show up on your doorstep and beg to be let in. It is proud, strong, forgiving but demanding. The white pines are impeccable. They catalogue the seasons and provide protection and nurturing for black bears in the North Woods of Minnesota. The lumber barons who nearly wiped white pines off the face of the planet? I wouldn’t call them impeccable in their commitment to the sustainability of our world. But things are more complicated than that.

Maybe they were impeccable with their word to those they did business with, to the communities they helped build and make thrive. I don’t know. I don’t share their values. But I shy away from condemnation. I try to understand their shortsightedness. Sometimes it’s just greed. Pure and simple greed that drives people to break their word. Fortunately, I still believe that it’s not the greedy who shall inherit the Earth. But I’m not so sure it will be the humans either.


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Bear At Sunset, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Winter Solstice, December 21st 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Got Your Back, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Winter Solstice, December 21st 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Circling, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Winter Solstice, December 21st 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Burning The Yule, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Winter Solstice, December 21st 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Fire & Snow, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Winter Solstice, December 21st 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Shadow Fire, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Winter Solstice, December 21st 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Bear circles Yule fire
drumming sunrise to sunset
gift of tobacco

cool blue snow cave hides
monks of the animal world
heartbeat disappears

long sleep of Winter
cubs born in hibernation
lean fat of the land

Winter Solstice past
contemplative Void lingers
the promise of Spring

American Spirit, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Winter Solstice, December 21st 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Bear Meat In Ritual, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Winter Solstice, December 21st 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Cool Drums, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Winter Solstice, December 21st 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Cool Drums, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Winter Solstice, December 21st 2008, all photos © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Promise Of Spring

New Year’s Eve approaches. Black-eyed peas are soaking in a pot on the stove, awaiting the bone of ham. Taking a much needed rest, I’m reminded of the hibernation of Bear. We learned on a wind chilled, -18 degree Winter Solstice that bear cubs are born during hibernation in the black cold of January.

After the Winter cave of silent dreams, we move into 2009 with the promise of rebirth — Spring.

The Bear Facts

To learn more about the winter habits of Bears and other hibernating animals such as squirrels, groundhogs, chipmunks, bats, rattlesnakes, and hedgehogs, visit these links:

-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, December 30th, 2008, with gratitude to my friends Carol, Susan, and Gail

-related to post:  haiku (one-a-day)

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Passion Flower, Augusta, Georgia, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Passion Flower, (Passiflora Incense), Augusta, Georgia, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

raw beauty rises
from pine needles and sandspurs
ground dry as a bone

purple passion blooms
not a flower but a vine
wilting Georgia heat

veined leaves swallow sun
digest light into flowers
one day of glory

Life Blood (Of The Passion Flower), Augusta, Georgia, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Not A Flower But A Vine, Augusta, Georgia, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Not A Flower But A Vine, Augusta, Georgia, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Life Blood (Of The Passion Flower), Not A Flower But A Vine, Augusta, Georgia, July 2008, all photos © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Post Script:  I feel fortunate to have gotten these shots last week. I had never seen a Passion Flower up close; I found out later that many species only bloom one day a year (much like the Prickly Pear cactus). If Mom had not turned her head out the car window that day, I would have lived another year without experiencing this beautful flower in the flesh.

I am grateful that Mom knows her flowers. (Thank you, Mom. Oh, and Happy Birthday, Sis and Uncle B.!) Here are some other secrets of the Passiflora from different sites (the Wikipedia entry is excellent with photographs of many of the different species):

  • ABOUT THE PASSIFLORA:  9 species of Passion Flower (out of about 500) are native to the United States, found from Ohio to the north, west to California and south to the Florida Keys. Most are vines, some are shrubs, a few species are herbaceous. The fruit of the passiflora plant is called passionfruit. The bracts are covered by hairs which exude a sticky fluid that sticks to insects. Studies have suggested this might be an adaptation similar to carnivorous plants.
  • ONE DAY:  In Victorian times the flower (which in all but a few species lasts only one day) was very popular and many hybrids were created.
  • HERBAL REMEDIES:  The leaves and roots have a long history of use among Native Americans in North America. Passiflora edulis and a few other species are used in Central and South America. The fresh or dried leaves are used to make an infusion, a tea that is used to treat insomnia, hysteria, and epilepsy, and is also valued for its painkilling properties. Some contain beta-carboline harmala alkaloids which are MAOIs with anti-depressant properties.
  • POLLINATION:  Decorative passifloras have a unique flower structure, which requires a large bee to effectively pollinate. In the American tropics, wooden beams are mounted very near passionfruit plantings to encourage Carpenter bees to nest. Some species can be pollinated by hummingbirds, bumble bees, wasps; others are self-pollinating.
  • WHAT’S IN A NAME?  Passion Flower does not refer to love, but to the Christian theological icon of the passion of Christ on the cross. In the 15th and 16th centuries, Spanish Christian missionaries discovered this flower and adopted its unique physical structures as symbols of Crucifixion. The radial filaments which can number more than a hundred and vary from flower to flower represent the Crown of Thorns. The 10 petals and sepals represent the 10 faithful apostles. The top 3 stigmata represent the 3 nails and the lower 5 anthers represent the 5 wounds.
  • KNOWN ACROSS THE WORLD:  In Spain, Passiflora is known as Espina de Cristo (Christ’s Thorn). In Germany it was once known as Muttergottes-Schuzchen (Mother-of-God’s Star). In Israel they are referred to as clock-flower (שעונית). In Japan, they are known as clock plant (時計草 tokeisō). In North America they are also called the Maypop, the water lemon, and the wild apricot (after its fruit). Native Americans in the Tennessee area called it ocoee, and the Ocoee River and valley are named after it.

-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, August 10th, 2008

-related to posts: WRITING TOPIC – NAMES OF FLOWERS, PRACTICE – Summer – 20minhaiku (one-a-day)

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Tracks, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Tracks, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

March winds rock the house
the writer sits at her desk
unearthing old bones

-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, March 6th, 2008

-related to posts: haiku (one-a-day) and snow flying on ice (sound haiku)

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The Full Snow Moon was bright, then blood red, the last Total Lunar Eclipse until 2012. There are many names for February’s Moon: Sleet Moon, Goose Moon, Coyote Moon. I even found a reference from the Sioux, Raccoon Moon. I thought of our resident raccoon. I bundled wool over exposed skin, stood outside in no wind, -6 degrees of chilled air, watched the shadow of Earth fall between us and the Moon.

We could only stand to be outside for 5 or 10 minutes. Then we would quickly roll inside, warm up frost-fried fingers, fumble with camera buttons to see if we got a good shot. Blurred, no tripod. Back outside again. Even near a large city, it was silent, clear, you could see a spattering of stars through crimped branches of oak and elm.

The Eastern Cherokee call February the Bone Moon. Food grows thin, sometimes runs out. The Ancients gnawed on bones, made soup in steaming black pots over wooden tripods on fire. The white Bone moon disappeared, slowly eaten by Earth’s shadowy darkness. And in its place, indirect sunlight that still managed to bounce off the moon, turned into red, blues filtered, sucked out by the Earth’s atmosphere. The red moon is warm. We stood staring, not wanting to talk.

February is a lean month. I am restless, can’t stand to be in the house. I have moved to a coffee shop close by. I’m staring out at what is left of Winter’s dress – dirty brown snow. Cars fly past on their way to Rainbow Foods. There are only three of us left inside. I slow-drink a latte (skim), set Natalie’s book out on the table next to my headphones, cell phone, a black caribou jumping through a turquoise hoop. Is it a Snow Moon caribou? Or have we crossed a line into March.

I fattened up over Winter. I can feel a lumbering, I like the word lumbering, in my Soul. And my body aches to run, screaming through the wilderness. I guess that’s what I loved about freezing my butt off, staring up at the Snow Moon. The wildness of it all. I heard the dogs bark down the street. I wanted to scream. I don’t think I said anything to Liz, but they were barking through the whole 3 hours of the eclipse.

I wonder what the Ancients thought, standing around, coyotes circling, staring at the moon disappear behind invisible shadows. How did they make sense of it? A god, a goddess, another force to be reckoned with.

I have not seen the raccoon paws again. But water was dripping off the shingles when I left the house. Puddles splash across the sidewalk, rubber treads throw themselves into muddy thaw. I passed a stone office building located in the middle of a bog. There it is, all alone, in the middle of a swamp. It was empty for a long time, finally bought by a company with a wave logo and hydraulics in the name.

I told Liz I wish that was my studio, a building floating in the middle of a cattail bog, floating on a swamp. But why do people build in Nature’s drainage system, the places she uses to purify her water? I swear, if there were not zoning laws, state and national parks, every single square inch of space would be covered in concrete, tar, brick and mortar. There would be no Snow Moon to stare up at on a February winter night. Yeah, we tried to take over the Moon, too. But there was no air, no water, no food.

Man, so limited in his ability to adapt to physical hardship, fights the elements, refuses to honor the past. I’ve gone off on a tangent now. I guess there is something to be said for a good rant once in a while. I could tell by my writing practice this morning that I was edgy and unforgiving. Mostly of myself. I come here to stare out the window, guilt-free, to work on my projects without flinching or running over to add water to the cat dish.

I remember Natalie saying, “You’ve got to get out of the house. It’s too distracting.” I guess if a home was big enough, you could create enough space, your own wing, off from the rest of the family. But I am so used to sharing space that isn’t really there. It appears and reappears, Poof!, out of thin air.

Like the eclipsed, disappearing Moon. Only to surface hours later, no worse for wear, revealing a few more of her secrets, in coded shades of red. Nature’s secrets, they keep the dark mysteries alive. And in the morning, more Sun.

-posted on red Ravine, Monday, February 25th, 2008

-related to posts, winter haiku trilogy and PRACTICE – Wolf Moon – 10min

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Snow Flying On Ice, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Snow Flying On Ice, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

thick lumbering lake
bristles at the crackling sound
snow flying on ice

Lake Ice Booming – 1min
Recorded by Audio Producer/Editor/Mixer, Curt Olson at Track Seventeen

More sounds of Winter at: The Sound of Snow and Ice – Various Artists at Gruenrekorder

-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, February 24th, 2008

-related to post, haiku (one-a-day)

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Our assignment: find an object and hold it in your hands for ten minutes. Feel it. Move it along the surface of your arms if you wish. Don’t smell it or taste it. Allow the object to tell about itself through the sense of touch.

I walk around my house. It’s a small space filled with too many objects. I could pick up a piece of my beloved folk art, which I keep on a set of floor-to-ceiling corner shelves. There, the wooden and tin retablos, Santa Rita cradling a white skeleton against her black nun’s robe, or Omnipotent Hand spewing blood into a small golden chalice. I could hold the long carved cow I picked up on a back road in Costa Rica, its black-and-white body flashing as we sped past tropical greens and blues.

But I don’t pick up what’s familiar. Instead I am drawn to the crystals and fossils and shards my husband and daughters have collected from their many rock-hounding expeditions west of here on the dry Rio Puerco. Maybe it’s because I under-appreciate these objects or know so little about them.

I pick up a big rock, almost too heavy to hold in one hand. I keep it in both and it’s a minute into my holding that I see the subtle crystal formations at the rock’s ridge. This is a geode, a wedge of a geode. Not the kind of beautiful specimen you’d pay money for in a mineral shop but a found rock, demure and prehistoric.

I sit on the warm tile floor in the late morning. The rock is cold in my hands, and it seems that no matter how long I hold it, it remains cool and lifeless. I touch it to my cheek. The outer edge is almost sandy like limestone. Everything about this rock is ancient looking and seeming. The yellow-brown color, as if it’s been buried absorbing clay-sand earth for millions of years. I will it to tell me about itself. How long it is in this world? What has it seen?

I close my eyes and picture an ocean where the desert is now. I see a kind of Jurassic Park scene of big dinosaurs chasing smaller ones across the land, and I know it’s popular culture and Cinemax that speak to me more so than this silent, solid mass.

This is the problem with me and things of the physical world. They tell me more about me than they do about them. My husband would be able to say how geodes are formed. Why this particular one is not hollow on the inside, why its crystals are yellow and not clear with purple veins. Me, I notice that the lower layer of crystals look like water bubbles or plantars warts, the growth going inward not out. It’s only the top of the wedge where the pyramids break surface.

After my ten minutes are up, I look up geodes on the Internet, read about why some form with the interior hollowed out like beautiful quartz-lined bowls. Why others, like mine, fill up completely. I see words: “chalcedony,” “silicon dioxide,” “dolomite,” “limey sediments.” I say the words over and over. None of it sticks. Here’s how my mind plays tricks with those words. Cacophony. Silicon implants. Dolmas. Blimey!

I picked Geology as one of my high school science concentrations, but only because earth strata seemed solid compared to Physics. I don’t even remember who taught Geology. He or she was nowhere as memorable as goofy, gap-toothed Mr. Grunner, my Biology teacher, who started each class by picking up a ruler, pretending it was a microphone, and announcing, “Testies, testies, one-two, one-two.” I consider it testimony to how much I enjoyed Mr. Grunner that my vocabulary from that time still runs somewhat intact: Paramecium, Amoeba, Gonads, Mitosis and Meiosis.

I also remember Mr. DiNello from Chemistry, although it’s only because he was a curmudgeon of a teacher. He hated that I whistled while I worked. Considered it a base form of insubordination. What he didn’t realize was my dad whistled whenever he was happily preoccupied with making Cream-o’-Wheat, shaving, doing taxes. Dad’s was a soft half-whistle, the sound you get when you blow hard over a bottle opening.

Like Dad, I’d settle into contented concentration following directions on how much of Element A to measure out and mix with Element B in order to raise resultant vapors, and wa-la, there it came seeping out: my whistle. By the time the semester was done I barely made it out of Mr. DiNello’s class with a D, my only grade other than an A or B.

The thing is, I have this picture of myself as someone who never understood chemistry when, in fact, chemistry was never that mysterious to me. I have this picture of myself as a mental, not physical, creature. I put my husband into one category, me into another. That explains why we sometimes don’t mesh. Why he constantly plays the stereo or has on the TV while I seek quiet inside my head.

Maybe my settling on a geode is my subconscious saying precisely this. That none of it is so mysterious, so misunderstood, that I can’t grasp what it has to tell me. I held that geode for ten full minutes. Felt its coolness. Ran my fingers over the bumpy crystal top. Maybe I was drawn to the geode for what it represents. Something exotic and beautiful inside an otherwise nondescript outer shell.

I don’t think now that my geode and I couldn’t speak the same language. It seems to have told me quite a lot.

-Based on a 10-minute writing practice on WRITING TOPIC – OBJECT.

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