The Magic of Cherry Blossoms

While I was visiting my 92 year old mom last week, the cherry tree along her front walk started to bloom – a happy sign of spring bursting forth, right on schedule. My mom walks slowly with a cane, usually looking down to make sure she doesn’t trip on anything. One day we were leaving the house and she stopped and stood under the tree then looked up to see the puffy pinkish white offerings set off by the clear blue sky.

“Thank you tree!” she said. “You’re so beautiful and you make me so happy.”

Two years ago, my mom broke a vertebrae in her back and had to spend the better part of spring in bed. We didn’t know if she would ever recuperate, and there were many moments when we questioned whether she would even survive (on many occasions she told us she was ready to go so we set up hospice). Hopped up on pain killers, she stared out her bedroom window at that cherry tree for hours and hours, watching the buds open into delicate flowers grouped like families on the limbs.

We had many conversations during those two months, and she often commented on how appreciative she was of that blossoming tree. This didn’t seem too unusual to me since my mom has always been a nature lover. But her praise of this tree was different – it’s beauty transfixed her. She never seemed upset by her accident or annoyed that she was bedridden (again, probably the oxy), but I think deep down that tree kept her in this world, grounded and blooming.

Amazingly, she has healed nearly 100% physically, but the trauma (and maybe the painkillers) turned her forgetfulness into full-on dementia. A layer – the one that caused her to worry, made her feel like she had to constantly be productive and direct the whole show – dissolved. Now she’s content to watch the birds and squirrels on her back patio instead of feeling the drive to clean, volunteer or strive. Life is easy and pleasant for her now; she lives in the moment because that’s all she has.

I wonder what her life would’ve been like if that layer had dissolved while her memory was still intact. Don’t get me wrong, she was always good-natured and positive, but like all of us she’d get swept up in the doing instead of the being. Deep down I think this happy-go-lucky mom was always there, hoping to pop out but waiting patiently till all the chores were done.

When I visit my mom these days, I like to watch her watch the world. Her delight is a reminder to me to bask in what’s truly important while I still can. Also, now I know where I get my proclivity for talking to nature and thanking it for its beauty; my marveling at simple pleasures makes more sense. I guess the cherry doesn’t fall far from the tree.

butterfly on cherry blossom PIC_YES

It’s not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanates from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.
– Robert Louis Stevenson

The Maine Event: Coastal Beauty & Soul

A recent trip to coastal Maine reset my beauty barometer and invigorated my soul. It was waves crashing onto craggy rocks and forests glowing with yellow and orange foliage. It was an owl nearly grazing my head as it swooped by. It was crying over the lavender sunset light and marveling at divine timing, my lost gold ring found, and the freshness of local seafood. It was perfection, in it’s own craggy way.

I now understand why artists love Maine: breathtaking beauty, sublime light, unlimited inspiration. I took over 300 photos and I’m eager to use many of them in new collages. Here are a couple glimpses of the raw photos:

sunset with rainbow smallFrom atop Cadillac mountain in Acadia National Park. I think my point-and-shoot was feeling the divine spirit as well – no idea how that rainbow happened!

beach view 1Sand Beach taken from the climb up Great Head trail in Acadia.

Bubble PondBubble Pond. (Acadia)

sunset leavesCadillac Mountain sunset. Even the professional photographers were saying how spectacular the colors were that night.

balance rocks

Balanced rocks near a balanced rock, in Bar Harbor.

seed pods I got a little lost near Yarmouth and ended up on a beautiful island. I had a conversation with a local who had been digging in the bay for clams, and then I saw these angelic seed pods.

flower wavesBeauty and the sea at Cape Elizabeth lighthouse. According to a marker at the site, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow would walk here from Portland, and it’s where he likely derived inspiration for his poem, The Lighthouse.

Sit in reverie and watch the changing color of the waves that break upon the idle seashore of the mind. – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The Pink Moment

For many years now I’ve had reverence for “the magic hour” – that brief time before sunset when the light becomes golden or amber or pink. It’s the photographer’s sweet spot, providing a boost of glowing color and shadowy definition to natural scenes. A friend once said it makes us look like “Italian goddesses,” and sometimes when it bathes my surroundings I feel like I’ve been transported into a Maxfield Parrish painting.

My latest collage – “How Do You Spot a Blessing?” – was inspired by how this magical time seems to calm me down and make my soul smile. So, I was thrilled to read the paragraph below in a Conde Nast Traveler article on Ojai, California (the state is a slight obsession of mine):

…Ojai has been a cherished place for any number of California cultures over the years: the Chumash Indians who first settled the valley; citrus and avocado ranchers; theosophists; Krishnamurti; and Hollywood stars, who’ve long owned discreet retreats here… All of them are drawn at least in part by the town’s famous “pink moment,” a fleeting period before sunset when the jagged Topa Topa Mountains that frame the northern edge of this fertile valley take on a dusky-rose hue: It’s an enchanting time that draws the eyes up and clears the mind.

It’s an enchanting time that draws the eyes up and clears the mind…

Sunday evening I was sitting on a bench overlooking the Delaware River sharing a tall Negro Modelo (leftover from our byob Peruvian lunch) with a good friend. We were deep into a meaningful conversation when puffy pink clouds started to float over the mountain across the river. A few of the trees were just starting to exhibit the golden leaves of fall, and the pink light made them glow a vibrant orange amidst their green neighbors. The puffs turned to streaks and soon the sky, the river and my friend and I were all bathed in lavender light. I stopped him mid-sentence and told him about the pink moment. We were silent for a bit, looking up and appreciating the beauty. Soon everything greyed out into dusk and we finished the warming beer. Our conversation continued, but we both came back to it with a slightly heightened sense of awe about the beauty and magic that appears, and disappears, with each day.

Blessing blended small
“How Do You Spot a Blessing” is a digital collage I made from photos I took in New Orleans, LA; Rhinebeck & Woodstock, NY; and my own backyard (the pink sky and dark trees). May it bring you some clarity. And, remember to look up.

A Different Beauty

winter brought greys & tans & silvery taupes

hawk at harper's ferry

that’s how nature intended it

no outlet

so we would have the opportunity

grateful

to see a different beauty

sky from train

that otherwise

The Ramble 3

we might not notice

devoted

distracted as we get by the bright-colored things

butterfly

but it’s all beautiful

deer

and spring unfailingly comes around

spring toes

Nature is made to conspire with spirit to emancipate us.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Embrace the Mystery

In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks. – John Muir

The Ramble 1

 

 

 

“[The Ramble was intended to be an] intricate disposition of lights
and shadows [to] create a degree of obscurity not absolutely impenetrable, but sufficient to affect the imagination with a sense of mystery.”
– Frederick Law Olmstead, co-designer of New York’s Central Park

 

 

 

 

The earth has music for those who listen. – George Santayana

The Ramble 2

There’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be.
– John Lennon

Are you ready to receive the messages whispering from the
beauty that’s around you?
Are you listening to the music of your life?
Be where you are: receive, listen, embrace the mystery.

Josh Ritter: Preacher & Poet

Josh Ritter and The Royal City Band at the Trocadero, 5/16: 

Josh 7
I went to a secret service in a wooded grotto and held the steamy hands of strangers as we gathered in a horseshoe shape around some ancient mossy rocks. Josh summoned the forest nymphs who sprinkled gold rain onto our leafy heads. He sang of love and beauty and nature and light.

Josh 6Josh 4

Then he leads us out of the woods and into a sunny meadow where we laughed at the dandelions and waded through the hula waves of tall grasses. Clouds race by like sailing ships, and we danced with the can-can tree tops in frilly skirts… kick, bounce, knee, bounce, kick, bounce… till they showed their petticoats and took a bow. I blew milkweed fluff and wondered how my bare feet could never before have been so connected to the damp earth, while my soul mingled so freely with the sun’s rays. Josh offered a blessing and the dandelions smiled.

Josh 3

(Josh is also a novelist – check out Bright’s Passage. I’ll write about it in a future post.)

Wisdom Via Dementia

I had the honor of driving an elderly woman 1.5 hours to the airport so she could go visit her sister. She talked the entire time, telling me stories (the same ones over and over with slightly different variations) and capping each one with what she had learned. By the time we arrived, she had repeated each of the following lessons numerous times. I realized I was being given some valuable advice from someone who had lived well. I hope she’s having a wonderful time with her sister.

  1. You teach others how to treat you. (Dr. Phil adopted this but she learned it from her parents.)

  2. Treat your body well. (“Don’t get sunburned.”)

  3. Let your children know you have their backs. Be their advocate.

  4. Stick up for what you know is right, and respect others in the process of doing so.

  5. Treat your home with respect and don’t allow others who are in your home to be disrespectful.

  6. If you can’t get along with the other children, go find another group to play with.

  7. You’re never too old to find true love.

  8. Having a garden, even a small one, is one of life’s pleasures.

  9. Nature is revitalizing to the spirit.

  10. Don’t ever be violent, with your children or anyone else. Make them sit in a chair and think about what they’ve done. Then talk about it.

and my favorite…

  1. Trees are their own special thing.

trees

wavy tree