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img_9997Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? 

Mary Oliver, “The Summer Day”

I no longer remember whose post it was that first introduced me to Mary Oliver, but, I am forever grateful for it and the moment when I first experienced her words; words so well woven that they continue to ring the clarion call to nature and life for me.

It was the quote above that captured my attention, probably six or so years ago. I am still trying to form an answer. Perhaps, for me, what I plan to do is what I have always done; searching for meaning and purpose in my wanderings through the pathways of life.

On a recent pleasant, clear and less humid evening, I had an itch to be out and about in nature. Not quite dusk, I knew it would soon be, so needed to move with some purpose and plan, which led me to Lake Katherine and the mile or so walk around the lake.

Isn’t it funny how a place can sometimes beckon us?

I am glad I answered the call.

My reward was a time to reflect after a busy day and time to clear my head of details and worry. As I walked, I could feel the beat of my heart and the echo of my steps. A gaggle of local geese held a conference and two small children crept close to a pair of black ducks. Runners slipped past me and young lovers toward me as the sun slowly swallowed the shore and a lone Great Blue Heron waited patiently in the reeds for his next bite.

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Mary Oliver’s birthday is today.

While I am still not clear as to what is my plan, I am clear that I will continue my brief but meaningful wanderings in nature as my steps creep all the closer to my own setting sun.

So it was on another day’s walk-about that I came upon a field of gold. I thought I could hear the “goldenrod whispering goodbye” as I marveled at its bright, yellow color; a mass of madness in nature’s closing performances as one season sets into another. Here’s to Mary Oliver and to each of our own wild and precious lives.

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Song for Autumn by Mary Oliver

In the deep fall
don’t you imagine the leaves think how
comfortable it will be to touch
the earth instead of the
nothingness of air and the endless
freshets of wind? And don’t you think
the trees themselves, especially those with mossy,
warm caves, begin to think

of the birds that will come — six, a dozen — to sleep
inside their bodies? And don’t you hear
the goldenrod whispering goodbye,
the everlasting being crowned with the first
tuffets of snow? The pond
vanishes, and the white field over which
the fox runs so quickly brings out
its blue shadows. And the wind pumps its
bellows. And at evening especially,
the piled firewood shifts a little,
longing to be on its way.

From “New and Selected Poems Volume Two”

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Walden:Oct.

Aug. 9. Wednesday. —To Boston.
“Walden” published. Elder-berries. Waxwork yellowing.

Henry David Thoreau’s journal entry of August 9, 1854

On August 9, 1854, “Walden, or Life in the Woods” was published. While not a best seller of its time, the book was favorably received and  the 2,000 published copies eventually sold. It has remained in publication since 1862. Thoreau was an early environmentalist, attune to nature and living simply. “Walden” continues to be a source of inspiration and Thoreau is often quoted.

I have posted the photo above before in my ramblings here on the Cutoff. It was taken one crisp, sunny, perfect October day a decade or so ago. That day remains one of the best days in my life. Tom and I ordered a lunch from a deli in Concord, Massachusetts then headed to Walden Pond, where we took a long walk in the woods of Thoreau, and ate our lunch sitting on the sun-warmed stones along the pond’s shore, watching rowers and swimmers and shorebirds as we soaked in the brilliance of time and place.

I thought about Walden Pond this morning after reading of today’s anniversary of the publishing of “Walden” and found my mind, then myself, wandering in nature.

As I pulled into the parking area of Lake Katherine, my cell phone rang. It was Tom wondering if I wanted to join him at Maple Lake, where he was headed. It’s interesting how our unspoken ideas often intersect. Tom said he would meet me instead at Lake Katherine.

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I started walking around the lake, stopping to look at the beauty around me. A large congregation of ducks were taking their afternoon nap, close to the shore. I stepped a little closer, hoping not to disturb them, when something fluttered in a nearby tree.  Can you see it on the far right branch?

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I watched for a few minutes before it swept down, slipped amongst the ducks, then wandered to the water’s edge. It wasn’t a duck. It looked like a heron, but, was much smaller and I could see a crop of molting head feathers.

The ducks continued their nap while I inched closer to this shorebird, which reminded me of a black-crowned heron,  with long still-like legs moving slowly through the shallow water and grasses.

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This bird was surely a youngster, just getting his feet wet, not at all concerned with my closeness (and I was less than a yard away at times). At one point, the bird grabbed at a reed of grass and looked surprised when it didn’t budge or taste as expected.

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It walked along the edge, sometimes hidden by the tall grasses, other times perched upon a rock. A gaggle of youngsters in bright pink shirts came by, looking for clues on a summer camp adventure. A trio of men walked by, white shirts and ties loosened, taken a walk on their lunch break, wondering, I’m sure, at what I was intent on photographing.

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I think this is a member of the Bittern family. The photos are a bit dark, but, if you click on them they are easier to see the bird.

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Tom found me and we walked the mile or so around the lake, sat for a bit while he ate his lunch, enjoying the gorgeous day, before we parted, each of us having a place to be. As I drove away, I thought of Walden and Thoreau and of how his legacy of actions and words resonate even today, and I thought of his essay, “Walking”, and of a simple walk, full of discovery, in nature today.

I wish to speak a word for Nature, for absolute freedom and wildness, as contrasted with a freedom and culture merely civil—to regard man as an inhabitant, or a part and parcel of Nature . . . from “Walking” by Henry David Thoreau

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IMG_8347Never lose an opportunity of seeing
anything that is beautiful
for beauty is God’s handwriting
– a wayside sacrament.
Welcome it in every fair face,
in every fair sky,
in every fair flower,
and thank God for it as
a cup of blessing.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

We have an abundance of potted plants. They fill the nooks and crannies in the garden and soften the landscape the sometimes seems to go on and on. They bring much-needed color into the hardscape of pavement and wood.

Potted plants need more water than those who are rooted in the ground – and they need to be fertilized from time-to-time. That time had come here and so it was on a close to perfect morning that I set about with a watering can and determination to feed my potted plants. I must admit that I was a bit like Mary, Mary quite Contrary as I went about this task. The watering took me away from a chore I was not enjoying; editing submissions for a newsletter , late-comers that were not to specifications. I needed some time to clear my head and the pots needed tending, so there I was, doing it slowly for all the backside bothers I’ve had, putting powder in the watering can, filling it to the brim, then watering, pot by pot by pot, doing the deck first. By the time I was through, I swear there were blossoms smiling at me in mass appreciation.

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The watering can full again, I took to the steps and tended to the pots on the driveway. These are larger pots and they were very thirsty, so, I needed to make a few trips up and down the stairs, then off I went to the front, hauling the watering can, which was easier than lugging the hose all the way up front, which is where I spotted Emerson’s “wayside sacrament”. A hummingbird was darting about, up and down shrubs and in among ferns. She was so busy that she did not notice me, nor the fact that I had just watered the fuchsia where the hummingbirds usually go for sweet nectar. I finally realized that this little wonder was looking for the blossoms of Rose-of-Sharon.

As you might imagine, in my excitement, I spilled the fortified water all over my feet. I wonder if it will help my toenails grow?

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I love hummingbirds and am delighted that they have returned and are usually found  sipping on the fuchsia, which is dscn8860-e12785074643571strategically positioned just outside our living room window. They also frequent bee balm out in the prairie and even come up on the deck. Yesterday, one stopped for a sip on a single stem of bee balm I had cut for a small vase.Tom has noticed them on the blooms of  Zeus and Aphrodite – drinking from the flowers of the gods.

I took it all in; the fair faces and flowers, feeling  very thankful for my “cup of blessing”.

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“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts…There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature—the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”   –  Rachel Carson

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There is some fretting hereabouts; too much rain, not enough sun, cool weather, stiff winds, etc. All true – but, then there are those “repeated refrains of nature” that slow us down, still our souls, give us pause to cast away our worries.

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I have been fascinated lately with the way Mother Nature bends the water , the trees, the floral tones of flower petals and pine needles.

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We are often frustrated with the cool, cloudiness of our recent days , yet, it is this coolness that has kept a long, sustained performance of daffodils  and tulips, apple blossoms and bluebells.

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Spring has been more of a slow waltz than a jitter bug. I find myself enjoying the tempo this year,  with some gentle dips in the winding paths I dance upon, and Mother Nature wearing her softer, more subtle shades of green and purple and blue. I marvel at the bend of light in water and the slow turn of the earth as I find myself reveling in “the repeated refrains of nature”.

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The Dickens

It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade. 

Charles Dickens

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Spring comes slowly in this fickle climate.

March is a mercurial month with spits of sunshine and snow and a gasping wind that catches its breath, holds it, then blows with all its might. Those leaves of Autumn we thought we raked are tossed about like a a newly dressed salad and one is often playing a muddy game of pick-up-sticks after 50+ mph winds.

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So it is here on the Cutoff. A waiting game. Anticipation.  Those of us who have lived our lives hereabouts know that several feet of snow can still fall down. It is tornado season and rivers can rise. Hard freezes can cruelly halt the growth of blossoms and Mother Nature can stomp her feet and proclaim “No. Not yet!”

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Still-in-all, Spring brings hope and joy and childlike glee. We toss off our wraps of winter when we can. We muck about in the mud and we have a Dickens of a time on the first day of  Spring, knowing IT is coming.

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Irish Blessing

“May you have warm words on a cold evening, a full moon on a dark night and a smooth road all the way to your door.”
Irish Blessing

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day

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Love is an active noun . . .

“Love isn’t a state of perfect caring.

It is an active noun like struggle.

To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.”

Fred Rogers

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Happy Valentine’s Day

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