What remains is precious

What remains is beautiful

In Arizona, both in the desert climate of Phoenix and at higher elevations like Sedona, pomegranates, those expensive jewels of the supermarket, thrive. I’ve seen hedges of pomegranate bushes, so full of delectable red fruit that the branches sink with the weight.

This one I liked, because the remaining fruit seemed almost a hand-carved bird feeder, serving up the sweet pips to all comers.

It reminds me that something doesn’t have to be whole and beautiful to be perfect.

The act of putting into your mouth
what the earth has grown is perhaps
your most direct interaction with the earth.

~Frances Moore Lappe,
author of DIET FOR A SMALL PLANET

 

Sometimes what you see is not there

Not a dead owl

At first glance, this appeared to be a tragedy: soft downy fuzz, longer tail feathers. Had an owl met its match with a bobcat? Oh, no!

And then I took a second look. Not tail feathers at all, but rather, Eucalyptus leaves. Not down but cottonwood tree cotton. Whew!

I like owls. And I like bobcats. I’m glad they didn’t meet here.

Silence is the absolute balance
of body, mind and spirit.
Silence is the cornerstone of character
and its fruits are
self-control, true courage, endurance, patience, dignity and reverence.

~Ohiyesa, Santee Sioux

Useful trials and errors

Gila Woodpecker Nest

I was walking one morning and discovered in an old sycamore snag, this entrance to a Gila woodpecker nest. The birds are opportunists and will dig out rotten bark to make a soft, protective nest for their young.

What struck me about this opening, though, were the number of false starts that surround it. The bird didn’t immediately say, ah, here, I will build my home. Instead, view the number of beginnings and first attempts that surround it.

Perhaps we should be more like the woodpecker. For each creative endeavor that we try, there will be several tentative jabs and pokes until we find our true stride!

Sculpture is the art of intelligence.
~Pablo Picasso

 

Book Review: Dawn McKenna – Forgotten Coast Florida Mystery Series

The forgotten coast series Dawn McKennaBecause I write mysteries that strongly identify with place, I am on the alert for other authors that do the same thing. The best I’ve found recently is the author of the Forgotten Coast Florida Suspense Series. I’d like to give a shout-out to Dawn McKenna!

For example, here is a selection from the beginning of LOW TIDE: “The seagulls bounced around him, lighting just long enough to snatch up the pieces of bread, then hovering in the air, wings whipping, to wait for more…To his mind, it was one of the few places left that actually felt like Florida, with its century-old brick and clapboard shops and houses, the marina filled with shrimp and oyster boats and people who couldn’t care less about Disney World.”

Ms. McKenna takes an interesting approach to her series, in that the first four books take the time you rarely have with a mystery series to introduce you to a unique set of characters who live on the Florida coast, a romance that delights with its unfolding, and enough suspense to survive a hurricane!

You can buy each of the first four books of the series, LOW TIDE, RIPTIDE, WHAT WASHES UP, and LANDFALL separately. But if you’re like me, you’ll be hooked after the first one. Save yourself some money and buy the set.

Writing teacher Donald Maass in THE EMOTIONAL CRAFT OF FICTION says the way to pull readers into your writing is to engage them emotionally. Ms. McKenna does just that.

Highly recommended!

Odd man out

picture of 3 ducks on a pond

Two ducks deep in conversation. A third trying to horn in. The odd man out.

I was delighted to see Google list so many variants for this term: oddity, nonconformist, maverick, misfit, fish out of water, square peg in a round hole.

One by one I tried them on for this little duck. Definitely not a fish out of water. A square peg in a round hole? I don’t think so. But one term, maverick, definitely seems to fit. This duck strikes me as someone who speaks his own mind, who will not conform, no matter what the odds.

We all need to be that odd duck out of water sometimes. It’s good for the soul!

The cure for boredom is curiosity.
There is no cure for curiosity.
~Ellen Parr~

 

 

Falling into presence

The spire at Castle Rock

There once was a flock of white doves that lived in the ledges at the top of the Spire of Castle Rock, near the Village of Oak Creek.

Each morning I would watch them circle the spire once, twice, and then disappear into the sunlit clouds. I waited for them. Their gentle flight set my world in order and welcomed me into the day.

Sometimes moments of beauty can be anticipated, and that makes them even more rich and unforgettable.

When you do fall into presence, you know it instantly, feel at home instantly. And being home, you can let loose, let go, rest in your being,
rest in awareness, in presence itself,
in your own good company.

~Jon Kabat-Zinn~

Slow down, you move too fast

Bosque del Apache

In the winter months, migrating Sand Hill cranes and snow geese flock to the area near Bosque del Apache, drawn by the water and forage.

If you are lucky, you can climb to the top of the observation decks and be surrounded by thousands of beautiful birds. It humbles me to think that these skilled aviators flew their migration paths long before we were here to establish preserves to encourage them.

The birds were there, in a field across from this water. But I paused here instead, entranced by the interplay of reeds, flowing currents and sky. In that moment, the solitude became a cradle holding me.

There is more to life than merely
increasing its speed.

~ Gandhi ~ 

Who ever said life would be easy?

Agathla Rock

I’d looked forward to seeing the immense rock on the Navajo Reservation near Kayenta, Arizona. I wasn’t disappointed. This volcanic monolith rises over 1500 feet, straight up.

Agaathla Peak, meaning “much wool” in the Navajo language, is so named because of the tufts of deer and sheep wool caught in its sharp rock edges and deep crevices. In the summer with the thunderheads building, there is nothing more beautiful. The eagle was lagniappe.

Then I got to wondering. Had ever anyone climbed to the very top? If I asked a Navajo wise man, he would probably look at me as though I’d lost what few brains I had left and shake his head. “Bilagaana,” he’d mutter.

You’re probably on the right track if it’s uphill.
~ Anonymous ~

 

Wanting to fly away

West Fork, Sedona, Arizona

Bird flight is a miraculous event. I once had the privilege of watching two golden eagles in mating flight over the Red Rocks of Sedona. They swooped and swirled, and at the very last moment the female turned on her back in mid-flight and they joined, the male carrying both of them with his strong wings. That numinous vision has remained with me to this day.

I sat on the back porch at dawn the other day, watching the sparrows dive in to the feeder, while the hummingbirds performed aerial acrobatics overhead. Even the pigeons, so clumsy on the ground, soared and gyrated in the morning air.

As a species, humans have always wanted to fly. It’s the only motion of the animals that we can’t do ourselves: we can walk, crawl, swim, climb—but not fly. And we want to. But it is a particular type of flight—the flight of the angels. Not for us the flittering, bare-skinned flight of bats and pterodactyls.

No, we want wings! And feathers! Or better yet, nothing at all. Think of the magic when Peter Pan first shows Wendy how to fly, just by holding on tight. Or when Superman gives Lois Lane that first breath-taking ride over the city.

My heart stopped at that sword fight among the bamboo branches in Crouching Tiger, Flying Dragon. They had to be sorcerers, to stop time that way, in midair. Yes! That’s what I wanted, too.

We’ve tried to copy it the best we can, through airplanes. But traveling enclosed in a metal cocoon with windows that don’t open is like comparing a sedate freeway bus ride to swooping down Highway 1 along the coastline of California at 90 mph on your Harley with no helmet!

We know what we want: That startling adrenaline rush of being in total control of our own destiny. We yearn to soar through the air on the wax wings of Icarus, and yet we crash just as inevitably to the ground. We want the ability to fly. And that’s just what we can’t have.

Some people cope through complacency and forgetting. Peter Bruegel once painted a picture of Icarus plunging into the sea while a plowman nearby focused on his fields and the ships continued to sail by as though nothing important was happening.
Some people cope by dreaming. We fly only in our dreams, in our imagination, in our flights of fantasy and creation.

Maybe wanting what we can’t have is a good thing. And maybe that’s why we can’t fly.
That inability becomes both a lesson in humility and a rainbow to the future.

As long as that desire exists, the hoping and the wishing that is the most quintessentially human of virtues continues to vibrate through our species.

It pulls us forward, helping us to grow, allowing us to dream of the someday when perhaps we can fly!

The usefulness of not–How empty space becomes powerful

Red Rock sedona

“Thirty spokes
 meet in a hub
Where the wheel isn’t
is where it’s useful.”
~Ursula Le Guin, Lao Tsu, Te Ching

 

I am working my way through Ursula Le Guin’s translation of Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu. She had loved this classic epic, and learned Chinese so that she could portray the work from a more feminine, less patriarchal, perspective.

Le Guin’s Tao is not a book that you can skim through, and I relish that in our frenetic Internet environment.

This morning I came across a passage describing the “usefulness of not,” the concept that what is put into the empty pot is more worthwhile than the container, or the way that an empty house is enriched by its inhabitants.

Wind can be such an empty space. What it touches will change visually and perceptibly, yet the wind itself is invisible.

For instance, I once lived on a hill above the mouth of a canyon. Each morning before dawn the air was still, holding its breath, waiting. The sun rose, dusting the red rocks on the canyon walls with light, and the wind started to move.

It touched each tree in a different pattern. The young bamboo outside my window shifted in the sunlight, each leaf dancing to its own rhythm.  At the end of the yard, a cypress and the old junipers were measured and deliberate in their approach, their branches ponderous in the wind’s wake.

The wind sound had an ebb and flow, like the ocean waves, only slower. It gathered momentum far away in the canyon, mixing with the murmur of the creek, low now after the winter snow melt. And then it gathered speed like a train rushing to make its next destination, roaring towards me.

Birds caromed off the wind’s currents, banking like a race drivers entering steep curves. Their flight accelerated in the wind as their wings became billowing sails. The sunlight glinted off their bodies before they disappeared against the backdrop of dark rocks.

Higher in the sky, the wind current divided a flock of bluebirds, then pushed them together once more, in a symphony of theme, motif, and recapitulation. Ravens lifted to greet the morning sun, their heavier bodies braced against unexpected currents.

And then the wind gentled, having had its morning gallop, and the life around me settled to a morning peace.

Our lives are like the birds and the trees, blown off our planned course by currents we sense, but cannot predict.

Sometimes it may be wise to suspect the obvious that we see and rather embrace intuition of what we feel.