Loons on a Cool Summer Night

I am cranky and my friend kicks me out, go for a paddle, get out of here.

I paddle the edges, working my arms in long strokes to get away from the camps.  I come upon a mother and baby duck swimming, we startle each other, because I am paddling quietly, looking in the water.  Listening to the quiet of the trees creaking on the hill, watching the sunlight from the water as it refracts on the green boughs of the trees, and paddling through this place I call the Tree Graveyard.  The incense of the pine boughs sends prayers up to the heavens, and I quiet my mind, contemplative, meditative, prayerful, respectful in this silent place.

Jtreegraveyard treegrave5 treegrave4 treegrave2 Tree Graveyard

I quiet my thoughts, and simply  am on the water, weaving my way through the broken stumps and fallen trees, paying attention only to the pathway straight ahead, watching for things that will catch the canoe, and leave me out of the water, or in it.  I see a bird splashing in the water, and I paddle closer to watch thinking it is a duck, but maybe not, because it was making a croaking sound, do ravens swim?  Is the bird stranded in the water?  I see a flash of white, a bald eagle?  As I get closer it is a loon.  I am astonished, I thought they were shy.  I rest my oars on the top of the boat, just marveling in this beautiful sight.  It dives down and I paddle on but I am shocked to see it come up somewhat close to me, I thought they could dive for long long spaces, and I do not understand why he is so close.  I continue to paddle as he dives again.  I have no idea where he will come up but continue on my lazy haphazard direction, again he comes up too close, what is he doing?  The next time he dives, I angle sharply away from him and then see he is behind a stump.  How did he get there so fast.  Then I notice two babies, and I am between the original loon and this new grouping.  Oh.  I am cautious, I do not want to move, I have to move to give them space, I cannot move because I would have to paddle backwards and I am concerned, will they attack?  I sit still and take pictures, eventually they move off but not before they call a few times, and I mimic the call, and then as I finally turn away from them, they parallel my path, at a distance, for a few seconds.   Note you are not supposed to harass loons, they are notoriously shy and will abandon their nests if pressured by lookers, this encounter was purely my not realizing it was a loon until I was several canoe lengths away, and then trying to get away only to run smack into the mama and her large babies.  I apologized to them as I paddled away.

male loon

male loon

female loon and two chicks

female loon and two chicks

loon and chick

loon and chick

goodbye loons!  sorry to bother you!!!

goodbye loons! sorry to bother you!!!

Wow.

Soon I see a big doe and two fawns on the shore, drinking from the lake.

Wow.

It pays to be really quiet, to have no goal, to have no intention.

Glamping at Home on Wintergreen Hill

I am working diligently on studying and learning more about herbalism, using a correspondence course binder full of lessons, that A. has allowed me to peruse.  Each day I look at two or three more writing each down in my journal and drawing pictures to go with it.  It is cooler today and windy, so there are no bugs on the porch, and I sit in quiet contemplation for a couple of hours, reading, meditating, watching the wind blowing the birch and pine.  I am at first annoyed by a loud buzzing sound which I take to be ATV’s in the woods, but soon discover instead a ruby throated hummingbird, and later a grey throated female, which he promptly chases off, he visits the lavender Hosta flowers several times as I sit in the cloud filtered sunlight.  On a quest for golden seal, I have to ask her daughter to show me the fairy garden, where Lady’s Slipper and the herb I am looking for grow, though not with a great deal of lushness.  The last several dry days perhaps have not been good to these shade loving wooded plants.  I tell her, since we are out here, take me up to the glamping sight.  Glamping being glamorous camping, as if there is such a thing.

On the way up I spot this toadstool.

toadstool

And then the tent in the woods, looks ordinary on its raised platform, but it is not until I open the tent that I am visibly impressed.  Heavenly.

glampingtent glamping

 

As her daughter is using the battery operated air pump to make the bed harder, for a future stay, which I am now keen for, I explore the patchy sunlight around the sight, where I discover this plant.

 

Oh!

I remember a walk up the mountain behind my grandparents’ house, my grandfather leading the hunt, my brother and I behind him, and my father behind us.  He bent down and handed us a stick which was mildly flavored of what to me was Lifesavers candy, but to him, was this wild plant.  I pluck a leaf and crush it in my fingers, yes, the fine mild scent of wintergreen.

wild wintergreen

My friend is excited at this find, another medicinal plant right at her finger tips.

Inside My World

 

 

“We’re so engaged in doing things to achieve purposes of outer value that we forget the inner value, the rapture that is associated with being alive, is what it is all about.” ~JOSEPH CAMPBELL

island duckies beach3 beach2 beach

My inner world, this place inside me that is sometimes filled with self loathing and angst, finds peace, finds a serene place to rest in which the warm winds blow and the sun is warm, and the moon rises over quiet small lakes, and streams flow over broken rock, dragon flies dive float at eye level, inspecting me and finding me worthy.  These moments of quiet, these days of learning, this life of self discovery, I am held aloft by the arms of angels, how lovely I am here, in this place where no one else’s love, or absence seems to matter.

We walk each morning up the climbing hill, and down again.  He panting old and reluctant behind me, but never really leaving my side, loyal friend, best friend, I could never leave you, you with your salt flavored fur, you with your joyful smile upon my return, you with your charming hugs upon my knee, I could never leave you, just as you would never leave me for long, not for long.  The other dogs thunder up to me, the scouting dog cutting in front of me and him repeatedly, you dogs whose DNA is so similar to his.  The other, shyly approaches, shy affection, and I can see, a degree of loyalty, which I will have to work hard to continue to earn, when I rise you are the most excited as you leap in the air and spin in circles.  And she, the scout, chasing turkeys cutting back around to me, but on the way home, my own stands by me, she goes ahead, and he  peeks around curves to make sure I am there, before journeying forward.

And this is all a salve, an ointment, made of air, and abiding friendship, of laughter, of years of loyalty, of going away, but coming back because we must, because the love is too strong to leave behind.  It smells of rosemary, for truth, of rose geranium for mental clarity, of citrus lemon, or grapefruit for refreshing quality, and juniper berry for some unnamed spiritual purpose, something akin to being deeply ones self in this increasingly homogeneous culture, a salve to sooth all the broken places, to replace all the empty places or perhaps to make the emptiness bearable.

A moment of quiet here, with its rustic gardens, its mountainous vista, its island of cool, its balm of loving loyalty, friendship, acceptance, its quietude of spirit and centrality of purpose.

I am not an artist in residence so much as a spirit in flight.

Gift.

Gift.

Gift.

Endless gift.

Anti Itch Herbal Salve

I look down at my foot just a few hours after I put the first coating of the Calendula Salve, first it looks like an oozy mess (sorry for those who did not grow up with a nurse as a Mom, nothing turns my stomach) then the ick turns to what appears to be a new growth of skin.  This after several days of raw red flesh.  The next day there is literally a few millimeters of new fresh skin I continue to add the salve, foregoing the antibiotic cream and band aids that I had been wearing on the sore on my ankle.  And I continue to show steady, HOURLY improvement.  Okay, I am hooked, the herbal medicine did more for me than the commercial ointment.

If you spend more than a few minutes in the Adirondacks you will know the most voracious predator here is not a mammal, or a reptile, but is insects.  As if mosquitoes were not bad enough, you have the deer fly which seems to like flat wetlands, the horse fly, larger and with a painful vicious bite, both of which circle your head endlessly, annoyingly like the tweety birds in old cartoons when you hit your noggin.  I have been known to swing my hat, my water bottle, or pick a pine bough and swing that over my head, and over the dogs, to the point where they come to me and ask for it, when the flies are stuck fat with blood on their snouts.  But also the bane of Adirondack living is the hated black fly which leaves large intensely itchy bites, usually on your ears, eyebrows and neck, spawned in fast moving water, unlike mosquitoes which breed in any standing pool of water.  The environment is perfect for bugs, rife with lakes, mossy bogs, swamps, wetlands, rivulets, streams, creeks, rivers, and lots of rain, there you have it, biting bugs mosquito, black fly, deer fly and horse fly (and don’t even get me started on deer ticks).  When I was in South America I was astonished by the many open windows sans screens, and open bus terminals and open markets, how can you have such a thing, open windows, NO SCREENS?  The screened in porch, the screened outdoor tent, designed just for sitting out of doors on a warm summer evening, absolutely ubiquitous in the Adirondacks.  Air conditioners are not so much needed, because the temperature at night drops considerably, so as long as you open your windows at night (with screens) you cool what little heat there is in the house and there is little worry of night time visitors of the criminal variety, although there are bears, raccoon and fox which avoid houses with barking dogs, but love camper trash.  Plus with the distance from large cities, you avoid the heat island effect, a trip to town may show a full 10 degrees or more temperature difference, the woods and lakes and streams keep it cool.  Unfortunately in the Adirondacks, the insects have a blood thirsty predator which manages to slip through the small holed screens, they are called No-see-ums, and you don’t  need to see them to know they are there. OUCH.

Later comes the itch.

Which is where my next salve comes in.

herbsbest

I have to put on a long sleeved linen shirt and the ever attractive net hat (literally the burka of the ADK’s – worn by men and women alike) and amidst picking the herbs for the salve, there is a steady sound of slapping bugs off bare legs.  Fresh rosemary – grown in pots on the porch, lemon thyme, comfrey flowers and leaves, I raid her basement of a jar of dried plantain leaves, and ginger and tea tree essential oil.  The smell of the herbs in oil reminds her husband of stuffing though to me it lacks sage which is the essential herb of stuffing;  it has a heavenly fresh smell, a unique perfume that we both ooh and ahh over rubbing the oil on our arms.  My friend watches me, while giving instructions, the first salve was more hands on from her, but not too much as she sits in a chair with her crutches propped up against the counter.  But this is perfect, because I learn best by doing, ‘watching memory’ fades quickly for me, ‘doing memory’ fixes quickly.  But she says to me, as I sniff the hot oil and beeswax, with the strong smell of tea tree and then hold the ginger up and sniff both, that I have a gift for this.  I feel warmth from this compliment a deep warmth, that isn’t just from the ice cold chocolate vodka we are drinking, and laughing and chatting in her kitchen, while the children sleep with fans on upstairs.  This is something I have always thought of doing, and spent hours as a young woman pouring over pocket herbals, and planting the right herbs in my garden, though I never did anything with them.  The cauldron in my brain is bubbling. . .

I do not know, yet, how it works on itching, but it is made, and it has a lovely scent, and marvelous pale green color, but I already have plenty of bites on the backs of my knees, presumably after yesterdays 2 mile walk, and hour and a half quiet, solitary paddle.

No Itch Salve

No Itch Salve

Creek Water Lullaby

I fall asleep to the sound of water, napping on the sunporch in the afternoon, in the dark cool bedroom at night, waking to the sound as the sun shines in the window by my head at dawn.  There is something soothing about this constant sound, something quite unlike the constant hum of traffic, and electricity and sirens and the exclamation of the occasional gunshot that is city living.  Creek water lullaby, better than the hum of my own mind, the noise it makes inside my head.

creek

And there is something else here, in this vacation designed as a way to make art, but instead I see the light of other things entering into my consciousness.  Things I am afraid to speak of, for fear of the corruption of corporate education latching on to my intellectual rebellion, and finding salvo in my words.  I am quietly absorbing words like Waldorf School, Coyote Education, Unschooling, Homeschooling, Earth Arts, Creative Pursuits, and a distinct absence of dependence on the trappings of modern culture, things like commercials, television, DEET, Twinkies, Common Core and Facebook sound foreign coming from my mouth, and my mind is tonguing the taste of something of my youthful idealism; how exactly did I move away from food cooperatives, medicinal herbs, naturalism, and environmentalism?  Where did I turn wrong, and now that I see it like an anti billboard how can I look away from it.  This hellacious year did its number on my psyche, and I am rebelling in the only way I know how, trying to find a five year plan that gets me out of it, because I suspect it will otherwise eject me from it, vomiting me out or tossing me in the trash with my archaic notion of learning for the joy rather than the pedagogy, of making art for the pleasure instead of some measurable objective tethered mercilessly to the common core.  Teaching children to think for themselves is an expense that cannot be afforded in the era of consumer capitalism, people who think for themselves will not buy into eat this and you will be thin, buy this and you will be rich, wear this and you will be beautiful, play this and you will be popular, the sponsors of our cultural solicitude cannot bear the outsider.

borageflower2 borageflower

My friend grows herbs and makes medicinal salves and ointments, and today, I gathered blue starred borage flowers, lemon yellow mullein flowers and fragrant lavender flowers for her, and laid them on a screen in the upstairs bedroom to dry.  We took the mullein flowers and put them in a double boiler with olive oil to make an ear ache medicine.  Then we put pre-prepared calendula oil, sitting on the shelf for 2 months and shaved beeswax stirring frequently until the beeswax melted and then added a few drops of lavender essential oil and poured it into small jars.  I took notes and enjoyed the exploration of the garden and learning about various uses of these specific herbs.

calendulaleaf calendulalavendersalve

We apply the finished salve, A. to her post surgical foot, me to bug bites and an odd abrasion on my ankle that is not healing particularly well, specifically because it seems to be a magnet for the toe of my other shoe to kick, regularly, and quite unexpectedly, for no apparent reason.  I have removed band aids which only seem to keep the wound open further, salve on.  Tomorrow morning I shall report the results!

Visiting Pirate

What a day it was yesterday, my whole body is feeling well used, my muscles are sore, but a good sore, literally every single one.  The pirate joined me up here, late Wednesday evening, I had been watching W. while her parents went out for dinner with friends.  It had rained nearly all day, but I squeezed in a short walk to gather yarrow for medicinal purposes and a good weed in the garden before the sprinkles and drizzle led to a full rain.  I sat in the sun room and taught W. some embroidery stitches; she is a quick study and I love that about her.

embroidery wscolors

 

Yesterday was a picture perfect day, not too warm, some light clouds in the sky and sunny.  Maybe the first day with no rain at all in weeks.  The pirate and I went out to the lake and paddled and fished for three hours.  Nibbles on every cast, perch, pumpkin seeds, sunfish, and he caught a big pike, it is a temptation to fish there, throwing back every fish, but knowing you catch one frequently, it is like an exercise in desire, in wanting, the next one will be the big one, and you are there not noticing that two hours have passed.   I noticed my legs were getting burned and even though he wanted to stay out a little longer, I turned my boat and headed back to the car, good thing too because he has a vicious sunburn.  We went into town for a sandwich and to stop at the roadside stand for a dozen eggs and then drove around trying hard to get lost in the woods with a different route home, eventually we made it back, and after a short rest headed up the hill for a walk.  The sun was still up but under the shaded road it was cool and we were protected.  He spent much of the walk moaning and complaining about the rubbing of his wool socks on the burn.

chasingducks

 

 

 

The light of the afternoon sun on the side of the mountain was beautiful, the dogs scared up turkeys and chased them up the side of big hill and then they splashed across the creek to rejoin us.  We continued up to the base of the hiking trail, up the side of the mountain, where the cave is, a spot where the creek cuts through rocks going under on one side and spilling out the other.

pmbarn

 

TREE stream SUNSUSAN

Garden Fresh

There is something about this community here, part poor uneducated people, part intelligent (not to say poor and uneducated are not) artisan, hippy types.  Up here most of the women my age are grey, not colored hair and giving generous people.  Oh you don’t have a roof rack, grab our kayak at this dock, use it.  Oh your dill did not come up?  Here take this giant armload full of dill from the garden.  Oh before you go, would you like some lettuce?  Here are 5 giant bunches.   Oh you spin, come join our group on Wednesday nights, this is where me meet, bring your wheel or your knitting or a drop spindle, come!  Do you need a ride? Meet me here.

Ah.

I tell my friend my fear of judgment from others, my narcissistic leanings, I have known her for years, I trust she loves me anyway.  She tells me, that is the thing up here, there are those that judge you, and you just smile and nod, but the rest, for the most part, don’t judge at all, are welcoming and want to work together.

I love this.

She has this giant garden, well more than one, and her veggie garden has been raided so often by her dogs that she had to build a fence, but rather than do so out of lumber, she has raided the forest for long branches.

gardenfence

 

And to go with my last post:

Dustin Hoffman Interview

Aborted Paintball and Morning Constitutional

I have discovered that I despise paintball.  It took about five minutes.  First I did not like the mask over my eyeglasses, it was uncomfortable but it made them feel stretched out, or something, and I since they are on my face while I am awake, stretched out glasses, no.  I also was poorly dressed, I knew it the minute we got there and the only people in shorts and a tshirt were three teenaged boys, and I.  I am pretty sure I hit people right off, but then, I got hit, in the neck, the bare neck and it was so painful that I literally could not catch my breath, in the next second another hit to my left knuckles, that was when I started crying and swearing.  We gathered in the safe zone, I put down my paintball gun and mask and walked to the cooler of beer and sat in an Adirondack chair for the remainder.  No thanks.

This morning I was achy and spent about a half hour talking myself out of a walk, but then once I got up, I decided, I should, I had to.  It is this thing where I want to use this time, to walk, which is a mindful practice for me, but it is so many other things.  It is good for my mental health, for my overall fitness, and I suspect in there someone will say calories in, calories out, you are walking everyday, though I suspect the scale will not budge.  It never does.  I am eating healthier, since my friend here is a whole foods, low carb, fresh foods, fresh fruits and veggies, and herbal medicine kind of person.  A thing I am envious of, because I started out wanting this life, and lost it somewhere around the time my daughter was born.

I think about how my morning yesterday was all about doing it my way and the satisfying feeling of competence, and how it ended with a stinging smack that reminded me that I am weak and wimpy.  So much for that confidence, so much for my belief that I can do it.  Yay.  No.  Fail.  I am embarrassed.  More for crying.  More for not expecting the sharp breath sucking sting of that ball on my tender neck.

I sleep fitfully, awake alot, thinking about how this comes around again and again, how just when I think I am doing it right, I get a good solid smack.  I am not doing anything right.

At least the morning is beautiful, and my walk, despite the very itchy quality of my legs and feet, is peaceful and mentally, very healthy, probably physically too, although, it is marvelous to not weigh myself, and to not give a damn what my naked body looks like.  Why are men such judgmental assholes about women’s bodies?

rose swallowtailbest grasshopper alldogs wildflower

Day 3 and a Morning Paddle

It is a challenge, getting a canoe on top of my car which does not have a roof rack, but after several tries, I am golden.  It isn’t a long drive to the place where I am going to flat water canoe, and I drive there slowly, but I have done it well.  I almost fall in the water getting into the canoe, almost but not.  And then from there on, I am blissful.  The day is overcast, so I am concerned it will rain, but thankfully it doesn’t.

The water is calm and after I paddle away from the camps, and into the little coves, it is deeply quiet.  Loons call to each other, but far from where I am, the lilies float as peacefully as I.

Hidden

Hidden

waterlily betterrock

Canoeing

Canoeing

I worry, when I am with others that I am not confident, and I become concerned that I am doing it wrong.  I know where this comes from, the critical voices of so many, including myself.  The odd thing is when I am out here alone, I know I am not perfect, but I am okay with it.  What I mean is, that I have a less critical view of myself, when others are not nearby.  I don’t care if I dribble water on myself, and my shorts are wet in the seat.  I don’t care if my paddling is uneven, I don’t care if I get there quickly, and ironically the boat almost steers itself, and I am deeply at peace.  And also, I take the time to play with turning the boat, stopping the boat, all to take pictures, but it helps me to learn to try it, and not to hear judgment.  And yet somehow in this life, I find judgment from so many, but it is in the absence of this negativity that I do my best.

underthesurface

An hour, perhaps two, my shoulders ache as I pull into the shore, and loading up the canoe is so much easier, on the way home, I think I must have a goofy grin on my face.  This. Now. This. I. Can. REALLY. Dig.

Day 2

I sleep fitfully, the rain and thunder wake me, the dog panting and thirsty, I worry about things from civilization, things I cannot control, 7 days of heavy metal that I cannot fathom after a day paddling and fishing for perch in the lake.  And in this case more than half of what I cast in gets a nibble and I catch a half dozen perch and a couple pumpkin seeds.  I throw them back when they are little, but the ones I kill by ripping out their throats via a hook I keep, soon I am covered in fish guts and worm blood, I love it.   And later I gut them myself, and then skin them, flour them, and put them in brown butter with the caramelized onions, and cover a bowl of brown rice with them, so simple, so delightfully delicious, and best of all the fish so fresh the house does not have any odor of fish.   But as I toss and turn in bed, my decision to keep my word, to maintain the integrity of that word, I know is the right one.  Still it bothers me.  In my sleep I dream of the ex, again, and I wake apologizing for falling apart when he left, though it still brings tears to my eyes.  I wake a bit later than I did yesterday, and do not want to get up.  I want to walk, but I am tired, my arms and legs ache, my back is surprisingly not hurting.  Come on buddy I say, lets go for a walk.  He remains at his place at the foot of the bed.  He hesitates as I put on my hiking clothes, he hesitates on the stairs, he hesitates at the door, he hesitates on the lawn.  My friend’s dogs, who refused the walk yesterday, are halfway up the first section of the hill, I cannot take the short walk this time.  And by the time we get to the turn around, I am happy we have taken this path.  The dog is slow and stays by my side, the male of A’s two dogs stops and waits for us always, never quite getting out of sight.  I begin to notice the smaller things, the small rivulet by the road the sound of the water under the swampy clumps of grass, the long vein of pink granite that flows down the center of the road, the gravel on the mushy parts of the road, the rocks near the beaver dam.  I will be bored, I think, in time, of this walk.  But I also want to love the exercise, the health of my body, the health of the dog’s elderly frame.

windingroad

barn2

We are nearly out of veggies and fruit, and the garden only has fresh greens ripe for the eating, I take her daughter on the long trip to the nearest large town and we buy from locally grown (no dumpster veggies here) and small but charming market.  I buy an empanada, the best one I have ever eaten, and I have enjoyed them fresh in South America.  This one is filled with brown rice, spinach, black beans, something spicy and it is phenomenal.