Alpine Lady

Honoring the natural world through prose, poetry, music, sounds, photographs and musings.


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Reflecting Once More on the Universe within the Sol Duc Rainforest

Reflecting Once More on the Universe within the Sol Duc Rainforest

Streams of warming sunlight penetrate through the old-growth canopy of green, slipping down hundreds of feet to the sparsely-strewn understory. Tiny, brown Pacific wrens creep among brush piles, scamper over upturned roots or along downed logs searching out spiders and insects. Their tinkly, trilling songs are joined by the cheerful, whistling melodies of robins greeting the dawn sky. Ravens echo in the distance and Steller’s jays let all the world know they have arrived.

Sunlight greets the forest floor.

Sunlight greets the forest floor.

Entranced by the forest’s beauty, we silently walk the duff-lined trails witnessing a scene complete unto itself as the sweet odors of spring embrace and envelope us. Below ground, billions of fungal strands connect and branch off, securing moisture, minerals, medicinals and starches to nourish and enliven the forest’s intrinsic gifts.

These ancients stand in witness to journeys made up and down the Sol Duc River Valley. Like whales in the oceans that carry the history in their bones and songlines in their blood, the trees along the river hold history in their wood and sap, in their roots and mycorrhizal connections.

Ancients of the Sol Duc River Valley.

Ancients of the Sol Duc River Valley.

Some Douglas-fir trees, Sitka spruce, Pacific Red cedar and Western hemlock stand tall and majestic, many lean; others already on the ground offer their rotting trunks to nurse a plethora of emerging seedlings, living microbial communities and countless insects and spiders. The older deciduous, Bigleaf maples hold tons of epiphytic plants eking out a rainforest existence in meagre soils atop lichen-strewn, mossy branches.

Ringed by elder trees, skunk cabbages and ferns, a spring pond mirrors back days of blue sky, nights of slivered moonlight, canopies filled with stars and mysteries cradled in waters cold from chilling autumn rains and snow melt.

Sol Duc Reflection Pool in the Ancient Groves

Sol Duc Reflection Pool in the Ancient Groves

Perhaps human ancients trod similar duff-lined trails among forest beings, taking in the history, storing it in their bones, giving it witness as they traveled through the universe. I like to think their reflections helped form the beauty way… and through all of us, may it continue.

Until our next journey, peace be unto you…

And a special thank you to Michael for his awesome photos of the reflections!


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Artistic Impressions: “A Gold Talisman” and “Still Water Runs Deep”

In a search for a way to incorporate my love of the natural world with photos, prose and poetry for reasons of brevity and space, I have come to appreciate the many Japanese forms of poetry. My interest in haibun is fairly recent, yet I feel the form fits me well and I enjoy writing it. The westernized version follows traditional rules to some extent but allows for a great deal of latitude.

Haibun is a combination of prose and poetry popularized by the poet monk, Matsuo Basho, in the late 1600’s, made famous in his book, “Narrow Road to the Interior,” containing four of his travelogues. Writing in “How to Haiku,” Bruce Ross states, “If a haiku is an insight into a moment of experience, a haibun is the story or narrative of how one came to have that experience.” I hope you enjoy the following haibun, its essence captured on my way to a recent spring equinox mandala meditation and drawing retreat. Following the haibun is the actual mandala I made with an explanation of how it came about.

 “A Gold Talisman”

My breath quickens as I clamber over the graveyard’s uneven grounds, eyes feasting on golden sunlight reflecting off the snowfields, glaciers and peaks of the Olympic Mountain Range to the south and silvery-white trumpeter swans still at rest in the greening fields below. 

On reflex, I retrieve the camera out of my thigh pocket and snap a few photos as a reminder of the prairie’s verdure and mountain snowpack mid-March, 2017. Slipping it back carefully, I reach for my grandmother’s necklace dangling from a thin golden chain, nervously reviewing my way up the ridge in case it fell off. The pathway is strewn with moss and lichen-encrusted headstones of the early settlers to the Sequim-Dungeness Valley. I touch the pendant’s reassuring presence.

Grandma’s gravesite lies several hundred miles east of here overlooking Lake Pend Oreille and the Green Monarch Mountains. A Welsh lady, she is buried amid pioneers in a small northern Idaho community of farming, railroad, logging, fishing and mining families. She and I were bonded to the natural elements and made many a stroll on hillside trails of the community visiting and sharing stories, pointing out wildlife and wild fairy orchids, watching storm activity, a snake shed its skin, and honeysuckle vines grow.

I silently finger the ornate pendant, turn and hurry along to spend the day participating in a spring equinox mandala meditation and drawing retreat nearby, feeling all the more richer for spending a moment in the sun.                                       

gnarled fingers clasping

pearl seeds and violet gems ––

an eagle’s shrill cry.

 

My grandmother’s necklace of gold filigree, seed pearls and amethyst.

 

“Still Water Runs Deep”

This is my first-ever mandala, the result of the Spring Equinox Mandala Meditation and Drawing Retreat led by Ruth Marcus on the lovely grounds of  Dungeness Barn House B&B, Two Crows Farm, overlooking the Straits of Juan DeFuca.  Done on black paper, the drawing of the mandala is specifically to show us how we can begin a journey as one dot of white in a pre-creation state of blackness. And with the placement of that dot of whiteness, with each breath and at any given moment, to radiate light and weave a rainbow of color throughout our lives.

“Still Water Runs Deep,” my first-ever mandala done on black paper.

At the retreat, I titled my mandala “Still Water Runs Deep” and had in mind the importance of water and my support of the Standing Rock Water Protectors and others around the globe. Michael pointed out to me when I came home that it was a “Sparkle Drawing in the Round.” I find that extremely interesting in that “Sparkle Drawings” are universal impressions I get in the moment that I express on white paper with colored pencils, never to be repeated quite the same. I’ve been doing them for about thirty years, finding them as a means to observe nature’s insight and practice compassionate grace, all in one.

At the Celebration of Spring Retreat, which took place in the afternoon, a holistic therapist mentioned that it was the last day of “Winter’s water element, a time of greatest stillness.” Unbeknownst to me as such and with the coming of Spring, we entered into the wood element represented by Hun, the wood element in Chinese Medicine. Now, through that lens, I see my mandala being very much about water and the influence of its impulses throughout the year.

The Triskele in the center signifies movement and the casting off of drops of water, the wavy lines and dots represent the different aspects of water through the seasons…dots for snowflakes, the wavy clouds for mists and gentle spring rains, the heavier dashes for summer hail/heavy raindrops, and the clouds for the heavy buildup of clouds, storms and thunderstorms of fall time. The rainbow brings in the sun and warmth aspect and is represented in the colors of the center circle, and in the developing buds of the vine as it circles the seasons. Guess what the red hearts surrounded by the golden rings signifies! The stems on the vine represents the shift from water to the material of solidity…hence pre-wood.

Today I feel if I were to draw one, it would begin centering on shrubs and trees. Very humbled by the process and interested in how I will finish out this mandala and what I do with the next. Perhaps I will try on dark, forest green paper.

Below is an example of a “Sparkle Drawing,” done in the moment. I found it far different to draw on black paper and get the light to radiate forth from the white dot when doing a mandala. Which do I enjoy drawing more? I’m not sure at this point but I may incorporate more of the “Sparkle Drawings” with poetry and see where they take me.

A rainbow of light lies within each seed we cast.

Blessings to one and all. Until we meet again, may our journeys be on paths of balance, beauty and beauty. ~ P

 

 


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4th Friday Writers on the Spit Readings

4th Friday-October, 2016

Once a month, about forty to sixty authors and listeners gather together in a conference room at “The Lodge” in Sequim, WA listening for an hour and a half to readings of prose and poetry. The authors have five minutes of uninterrupted time to read aloud their works. Applause is generous and since many of us are seniors, there is a level of gracious awareness for less than perfect delivery. Many of the readings are from life experiences gleaned around the world working on pipelines, sailing, military maneuvers, battling forest fires, breaking horses, treks into the wildernesses of by-gone days, heart-break romances, kidnappings, etc. shared with tearful or maybe belly-laughing descriptions and clarity of thought. Some readers are published authors, others who just do it for the pleasure. We welcome young readers, too, and I admire and am humbled by their talents.

What follows is my “Play List” for this Friday. Since my name was drawn but I didn’t get called due to lack of time at the September reading, I get to be among the first to read on the next 4th Friday. Mine tend to be theme-based and this group is about autumn. I’d like to try out my experimental Triune of Haikus, a threesome of haikus centered around a subject or season. From the following poems, I will read perhaps five with maybe a haiku if the 5 Minute Bell hasn’t sounded. These poems are all new to Writers of the Spit but regular readers of this blog or my public Facebook page may find some of them familiar; however, most have been reworked.

Play List – 10/16

“An Awakening unto Autumn”

What colors you ask?
I’d say rust and amber…
for I no longer carry red inside
to enrich generations unborn.

Rust, the stain of oxidizing iron,
the central molecule of blood
and amber, the color phase of youth
before the ivory of age.

Rust and amber
mineral and resin
releasing and encapsulating
awakening muses of poetry.

The beauty of rust an amber leaves piled together begging to be shuffled through.

Rust an amber-colored Bigleaf maple leaves just before shuffling.

“October’s Melancholy”

Shaken loose by autumn’s gales,
washed with copious rain drops,
apples and pears lie strewn upon the ground;
the tang of their sweet fermentation fills the air
reminiscent of a champagne cider
but melancholy plucks my heart strings,
for even Indian Summer must end
when winter signals its approach
on the distant mountain tops.

October bounty

October bounty

“The Weaver Archetype”

The Weaver spins the mythos of our lives,
into tapestries rich with sensual awareness;

from our nightly dreams and daily visions
she plucks wistful strands, hopeful strands,
stringing them on looms
framed by our personal stories;

she threads them with silvery rivers and creeks
from tears shed, joys shared;

she weaves colored strands into sunrises, sunsets,
fields of wildflowers under brilliant blue skies
embellished with smiles and laughter;

she weaves evocative poetry
into breezes carrying exotic aromas
of cedar and cottonwood, a sagebrush prairie;

she weaves vibrational thread sounds into the music
of birdsong and quivering aspen leaves;

the rhythms of movement and the passage of time
into dance and labor;

taste into sweet, ripened fruits
and the comfort of a full belly;

touch into safety and a loving embrace;

and she also weaves in threads
of tolerance to language and habits
amid humans diverse in culture, nature and form
all sharing a greater mythos journey;

from birth until death, the Weaver watches over us
helping to weave our destinies into living tapestries
full of potential, beauty, gratitude…

and she waits for us at death’s door catching our last out breath
spinning it into the mythos of our new incarnation
along the spiraled path.

The Weaver plucks threads from our life stories to add to our personal mythos.

The Weaver plucks threads from our life stories adding them to our personal mythos.

“Grandmother Cedar and the Lilliputians”

Behind a living screen of shrubbery and brambles
Grandmother Cedar remains at rest
becoming one with her wetland community.

A gigantic spiraling opened running her full length
exposing wooden flesh to the elements
when she collapsed onto the silty, storm-drenched river soils.

Inherently armed blackberry canes hold her steadfast with
Lilliputian diplomacy; their slender vines exploring Grandmother’s trunk
with territorial rights to festoon clusters of purpling summer fruits.

The matriarch’s displacement from the skyline not noticed
save by eagle and raven seeking her familiar snag top
and the wandering soul coming to offer prayers.

Grandmother Cedar held by the blackberry canes' Lilliputian diplomacy.

Grandmother Cedar held by Blackberry Cane Lilliputian diplomacy.

“Dusk”

Imagine dusk ascending the mountains
becoming the backdrop for the valley filling in
with mists and haze, the smell of burning leaves.

Dusk ascending the mountains and filling in the valley.

Dusk ascending the mountains and filling in the valley.

“Autumn Triune of Haikus”

A wet, sodden leaf
assisted by gravity
onto ground below.

Litter piling up,
detritivore community
breaking, ingesting.

Autumn’s legacy:
decaying vegetation,
enrichment of soil.

A wet, Bigleaf maple leaf

A wet, Bigleaf maple leaf

“Frost Fairies” Haiku

With frigid fingers
frost fairies nip autumn’s fare,
the chill has begun.

Fairy-Frosted Fare

Fairy-Frosted Fare

“Evidence of Change” Haiku

Wind changed directions,
red rose petals south of fence
yellow on north side.

Frosted Fall Roses

Frosted Fall Roses

Thank you and for more of my work join me at https://www.facebook.com/patriciamay.demarco
May your journeys be filled with beauty and your walk peaceful.

 


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The Augustness of August

August bares a poignant truth
that summer’s on the wane;
thunder storms announce the news
and hail stones chill the rain.
Summer apples, soft and sweet,
jar loose and plummet to the ground;
bald-faced hornets hone in and eat voraciously
the rotted morsels that can be found.
Cornucopia gardens fill to overflowing,
best intention’s weeding falls behind;
harvesting takes a bow at center stage
with preservation methods clearly now in mind.
Yellowed grass stalks hang richly-seeded
upon which herds of cattle graze;
seeds that fall upon the ground
may sprout come warm spring days.
Fields lie strewn with tightly-bound bales
for hay cutting and curing have been good;
the bucking crews quickly shift them to the barn,
stacking cut-ends-up under weathered wood.
Countless bird nests lie hidden and empty
from whence noisy fledglings took to wing;
mornings and evenings are filled with songs
their species instinctively yearns to sing.
Passerines and waterfowl practice flying in formation
for the flight young ones cannot comprehend;
it seems everywhere the natural world prepares
to feast and fatten before the season’s end.
And so the yearly spiral spins
moving forward in time;
another summer progresses
into autumn’s cooler paradigm.
What better plant to exemplify August than the prolific zuchinni squash?

What better plant to exemplify August than the prolific zuchinni squash?

Until we next journey together, may your travels be peaceful. ~ P


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July’s Capricious Skies

Atop capricious skies of gray,

July waits with flickering tongue

to melt plants water-fat with June rains

and desiccate hardy lichens.

Water-fat lichens and mosses on old stump.

Water-fat lichens and mosses on old stump.

The earth reacts naturally

beckoning hues of rich color

to adorn larkspur and lavender

in renaissance blue and purple.

Honey bee savoring nectar on lavender blossom

Honey bee savoring nectar on lavender blossom.

The deep green of summer leaves

hide raspberries and cherries,

but not their ripening odors

from children, wasps and hungry black crows.

Ripening cherries on the old McComb Cabin cherry tree.

Ripening cherries on the old McComb Cabin cherry tree.

I prefer the cooler days

away from the blistering heat,

but you might want the summer flames

to ripen deeper fantasies.

Neighborhood fig fruit filled with hawthorn -infused honey!

Neighborhood fig fruit filled with hawthorn -infused honey!

Until we meet again on our journey around the spiraling year, may your summer be filled with peace and plenty. ~ Patricia


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Strawberry and Rose Full Moon Summer Solstice, 2016

Cascading cluster of just-opening Ocean Spray blossoms.

Cascading cluster of just-opening Ocean Spray blossoms.

Throughout the day,
June’s full moon gathers energy
spawned in cascading clusters
of ivory ocean spray
and other wild land blossoms,
softly-fanned butterfly wings
and ripening strawberries.

Wild woodland strawberry.

Wild woodland strawberry.

Throughout the night,
the silvery dandelion seed heads
speak in tongues ancient,
of medicines for body, mind and soul,
but have you seen them
dance and whirl about
when the moon turns full?

Silvery dandelion seed head.

Silvery dandelion seed heads casting their seeds into the summer breezes this Solstice night.

Throughout the month,
solar and lunar forces
weave undulating dances
as earth’s waters
caress and withdraw
creating sensual  rhythms
in color, fragrance
and thorn.

Summer rose.

Summer rose.

 Until we journey together next time,  may your summer be enriching and peaceful.


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A Poetic Offering: Prelude to Summer

A Prelude to Solstice: The Birthing of Summer’s Rhythm

The cold, wet, blustery days of June
soak into my bones and psyche,
perpetuating countless cycles of melancholy.

Its dense, grey clouds blown by a restless, taunting wind
scud across the darkening skies,
obliterating my soul’s source of warmth.

Hidden deep, prickly nuances of feeling
form an edginess of conflicting guise,
surfacing to scatter my emotional tranquility.

The herbs and flowers in the valley meadow
lie doubled over, bereft of grace and beauty,
cringing at the duplicity of false starts and cold rains.

And into that moment seemingly most bleak
delivery of its finest gift
pulsing with new life, wobbly in knee.

Summer’s newborn
joins a landscape adorned with sun rays and rainbows
adding its vigor of life and light to the rhythm of the season.

Elk Calf photo courtesy of Judy Hutchins.

Elk calf photo courtesy of Judy Hutchins, Heron, MT

 

Willow Fluff

My eye catches sight of a spider’s silk
caught on the lip of the watering can
trailing a wispy piece of willow fluff.

The fluff twists and turns,
then settles against the side of the can
before it, again, is caught
by an invisible breeze and rises,
unable to break free of the strong webbing
designed to hold hapless insects.

Another piece of fluff floats by
and I watch it twist, rise upward,
sail across the lawn, and turn,
before disappearing into the greenery
of the windbreak to an unknown fate.

I watch as more fluffy remnants,
each holding clumps of tufted seeds,
float into the bird baths,
onto the pebbles of the rose beds
and lawn grasses.

Lost in the reverie of the moment,
a swallow startles me as it darts closely
in front of my face,
its coloration, shape, and agility
having been honed by centuries
of genetic expression
into an efficient insect hunter
of the skyways.

And as I stand pondering
the evolution of the spider’s webbing,
the swallow’s ability
to catch insects in mid-flight,
and the willow’s seed dispersal,
I marvel at their complexity
wrapped in seeming natural simplicity.

Willow fluff for efficient manner of seed dispersal.

Willow fluff for efficient manner of seed dispersal.

 

 Aerial Acrobats

Thin, wispy strands
of feathery-white cirrus clouds
grace the blue sky,
heralding an approaching weather system.

As the eventual rains threaten,
insect activity picks up
energetically zipping about
providing fodder for the
barn, tree and violet-green swallows.

Iridescent shades of cobalt blue,
orange-tawny, olive, steely blue, purple,
white and greenish-bronze
color these feathered aerial insectivores
as they cruise, scoop, glide, soar,
dart and snatch on the wing.

With insatiable appetites,
they make for good neighbors
eating thousands of bugs per day,
hundreds of thousands during nestling times.

What a simple pleasure it is
as my eyes trace their supple, acrobatic maneuverings
through barnyards, neighborhoods,
o’er rivers and wetlands,
coming to a perching rest on wires and branches
before sailing off once again.

I eagerly await their arrival in the spring
and am sad to see them go come autumn;
one day they’re here, everywhere,
and when they’re gone, they’re gone,
with no advance warning either time
except for a certain innate anticipation on my part.

Barn Swallow above pond.

Vintage print of Barn Swallow.

 

Nettles and the Red Admiral Butterfly

The hedgerow is filled with
sensuous clusters of pea green, immature seeds
hanging thickly from stout nettle stalks
whose leaves bear scars of being eaten
by voracious red admiral caterpillars
immune to the acids within.

Green nettle seed clump.

Green nettle seed clump.

While watching the Red Admirals flutter onward,
I pop a cluster, or two, into my mouth and chew,
releasing the seeds’ mucilaginous properties
which impart a tingling reminder via the tongue
that they are supplying vital, energetic, and
trophorestorative nutrition to fuel my day.

Red Admiral Butterfly

Red Admiral Butterfly

An Early Morning Visitor to our Backyard

Munching rose petals
and nibbling sowthistle buds,
the yearling departs.

Yearling buck nibbling rose petals.

Yearling buck munching rose petals on rambler.

 

Born to Speak

We are of this earth,
born to speak the language of her waters,
skies and soils, and all who dwell upon and within;
she teaches us on her own terms,
in her own time what the meaning is
of the duck feather floating at the edge of the pond,
the patterns of clouds drifting across the skies,
the changes in bird song before a rain storm,
and why dew collects on the spider’s web at dawn
if we remember first to listen.

Born to Speak

We are born . . .


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Earth Speak and River Song

For many years, I have been exploring the concept that everyone is indigenous to this earth and capable of speaking her language. Fortunately I have had the opportunity to spend a great deal of time in the natural world and working with indigenous peoples. Recently I began putting my experience and sensual impressions in poetic form which I call “Earth Speak and River Song.”

Two Haiku poems that reflect earth speak:

Verdure, springtime green
bursting forth upon the scene,
ending winter’s keen.

Bracken fern newly emerging.

Bracken fern newly emerging.

Feral apple tree
blossoms for red-winged blackbirds
heralding with song.

Feral apple tree.

Feral apple tree.

Three poems reflecting the wisdom of indigenous values:

Gaia is alive
and suffers humanity
blind to her beauty.

The Thorn of the Black Hawthorn Tree.

The Thorn of the Black Hawthorn Tree.

“We’re all indigenous to this earth”

Let’s all try to be more compassionate
toward those we perceive as different
recognizing that every creature
is indigenous to our planet
regardless of place of origin
identified by our DNA,
and when this day is done,
may we bring it forward again,
and again, and again
until it becomes a cherished value
where upon the seventh generation
looks back and remembers us
as the compassionate ones.

Elders at Howard Luke's Tanana River Camp. Pat is the tallest one in back row.

Elders at Howard Luke’s Tanana River Fish Camp, 1979. “Elders and youth on the River-passing on old knowledge-keeping the connection with the land alive.” Patricia stands in the back row wearing a bandana.

“Born to Speak the Language”

I am of this earth,
born to speak the language of her waters,
skies and soils, and all who dwell upon and within;
she teaches me on her own terms,
in her own time what the meaning is
of the duck feather floating at the edge of the pond,
the patterns of clouds drifting across the skies,
the changes in bird song before a rain storm,
and how spiders sip rain drops from their webs.

Silken Threads

Silken Threads

What follows is a lesson on observing, listening  and reflecting on earth speak and river song:

“Grandmother Cedar at Raven’s Bend”

Raven’s Bend,
so named for our raucous cousins,
birds of mystery and myth,
who raise families in the tall cottonwoods
along a wide bend in the river
close to where Grandmother Cedar
now lies at rest.

Her gray, weathered top branches, though long since dead
and noticeably higher than surrounding trees,
remained a visual reminder of her position;
once they roosted eagles and ravens
fleshing life off still bones,
held jousting birds in territorial claims,
fledglings practicing take-offs, landings
and vocalizing their first clamorous croaks;
but now the spires lie splintered
where the ancient cedar fell.

Spires of Grandmother Cedar.

Spires of Grandmother Cedar.

Offerings sometimes hung
from her green, feathery lower branches––
a handful of wildflowers, twisted-grass hearts,
bead-embellished talismans of human design,
handkerchief prayer flags whose weathered blessings
were carried aloft by mists and winds.

Grandmother Cedar’s bark lies infused
with words spoken aloud or in silence,
some quite poetically, others anguished
and some as youthful jibberishness,
words ushered from the lips of us drawn
to the river over the centuries
to caress her rough bark, rest our backs,
soak up the surroundings, share her wisdom.

The elder’s trunk leaned more with each passing season,
until the shallow root structure and rotting heartwood,
with the aid of heavy rains and strong winds,
gave way to the mysterious force of gravity
pulling her down to rest in the wetlands adjacent to the river
among the prickery salmon and blackberry canes,
wild roses, and stinging nettle clumps.

Grandmother Cedar at Rest.

Grandmother Cedar at Rest.

It seemed as if the towering ancient knew
to grow where one should not tarry long
in the entanglements we navigated to get close,
but rather to withdraw and
put her sharing insights into practice.

Grandmother Cedar’s trunk already anchors
leathery lichens and bright green mosses,
and now stretched out on the sandy soils,
she’ll host a richer variety of
ferns, herbs and tree seedlings
taking root and blanketing her rotting body ––
unless one day the wild flood waters
wear away the gravels now separating
Grandmother Cedar from the river’s bed,
and ferry the ancient’s body down stream
to lodge and help form log jams,
where fish and playful humans might swim
in the protection of her bulk.

Other cedar giants climb skyward along the river
although not as old or wide of girth;
perhaps one of these ancients
will draw us close to ask questions,
cast prayers and share wisdom.

In the meantime, rest well, Grandmother Cedar!

Within a short distance of her, another cedar towers over the wetlands.

Within a short distance of her, another cedar towers over the wetlands.

Onward to the next journey. Blessings to one and all. ~ P

Fragrant Bigleaf maple blossom clusters good eaten raw, in pancakes, muffins, etc.

FYI: My header page at the top is of fragrant Bigleaf maple blossom clusters  which are tasty eaten raw in pancakes, muffins, etc.


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Center Stage ~ Papaver, the Poppy

The crowd grows impatient but according to an innate schedule, the stage lights dim, the crowd hushes and the spotlight comes on as the deep maroon-purple velvet curtain pulls back revealing its main performer center stage. So begins the late spring season of “Papaver, the Poppy.”

Center Stage ~ Papaver, the Poppy

Center Stage ~ Papaver, the Poppy

It wasn’t until I moved to the drier climate of Sequim, WA, on the Olympic Peninsula that I began to truly appreciate the Papaver, the poppy. This area’s long, warm, late spring and early summer days encourage a rich bounty of poppy varieties to display their colorful blossoms. The sprightly flowers set atop grey-green lobed or dissected foliage and others with bristly, divided foliage help enhance formal floral settings and enliven many neighborhood flower gardens. Popping up in the most unexpected places, they provide a bright addition to the edges of sidewalks, along river dikes, and even the more impoverished soils along the curbsides sprout miniature versions in white, pink, red, orange, orange-yellows and purple. Some folk give over to not mowing their lawns and just let the poppies take over until they have run their course.

Poppies growing alongside the Old Olympic Hwy.

Poppies growing alongside the Old Olympic Hwy.

Given all the variety of colors, textures, and tones of poppies in our area, I am most captivated by the lavender and the maroon-purple ones. Perhaps it’s because I am going through a purple phase of my life but they bring up mystery, the intrigue of royalty, and the exotic lands far to the east. The darker maroon ones especially remind me of childhood visits to our local Panida Theater in Sandpoint, ID,, with its unique Spanish mission style architecture, subdued wrought-iron lighting fixtures with parchment shades hanging from the tall ceilings, its stuccoed walls with golden highlights; but most of all, the poppies remind me of the the purplish-maroon velvety curtains from behind which the much-anticipated cinemas and performers appeared. I never tired of watching the lights dim and the heavy curtains swoosh open and take a few moments to settle into place and again, to swoosh close at the end, their golden trim sparkling in the houselights.

Unfurling in the warming sun.

Unfurling in the warming sun.

Another one of my childhood memories in the 1950’s involving poppies is of the Veteran’s sale of Remembrance Day poppies in our grade school when patriotic music was played extra loud on the record player and our primary classes would line up at the bottom of our steep staircase, kept immaculately clean and smelling of sawdust and floor wax by our janitor who mysteriously appeared from the boiler room between classes to sweep the playground debris off the treads. We’d ascend the steps and drop our silver dime in the donation box at the top, receive our paper, red Flanders Field Remembrance Day poppy with green floral tape wrapped on its stem from the American Legion volunteer and then descend the opposite side of the staircase and march back to our classrooms.

Remembering the fallen soldiers of WW I

Remembering the fallen soldiers of the Battle of Verdun, WW I

My mother and grandmother had a few  pinkish-lavender pom pon poppies growing in their gardens that self-seeded and which we found ourselves thinning heavily each year. Some of our friends had the bright red or orange Oriental poppies whose bristly stems and leaves seemed unfriendly to me when I bumped up against them while weeding out the grasses that favored growing around their bases. Our clay soils often times coupled with rainy springs seasons just didn’t favor the more exotic and colorful varieties.

According to my research, the wild poppy spread from the Western Mediterranean area, perhaps having been domesticated over 8000 years ago. Its medicinal properties found in the seeds were utilized by early peoples to relieve pain. Mothers added red poppy juice from the petals to babies’ food to put their tikes to sleep or made it into a child’s simple cough syrup.

The whole plant of the California Poppy Eschscholzia californica has medicinal properties and herbalists either dry the herb for later processing or while fresh, chopping it fine and mixing it in an alcohol menstruum or solvent to extract its healing properties. When I see the California poppies which grow profusely on the Dungeness River dike in the warming days of early summer, I am reminded of our stay in New Mexico during the late 90’s when both Michael and I trained as herbal apprentices. We’d travel to a Mexican border town, cross over to get 95 proof ethanol alcohol and dump it out into a five-gallon water jug clearly disguised as water, securely tape the jug shut and drive back across the border in order to have a medium to tincture our herbs, one them being California poppy which we gathered at the edge of the Apache Reservation. At the time, this seemed right out of a western smuggler’s history. I can also remember the foot hills being covered for miles with bright drifts of their yellow-orange blossoms.

California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica)

California Poppy Eschscholzia californica

Poppy seeds harvested mainly from Papaver somniferum remain a favorite culinary ingredient. Who hasn’t enjoyed their unique flavor and crunchiness in cakes and muffins, cookies and bagels, jelly roll fillings, cheeses, noodles, sauces, curries, and breads, etc. Besides enjoying their flavor, the seeds are a strong source of minerals and heart-healthy essential fatty acids. They are an active ingredient in some skin conditioners and scalp treatments, having the reputation for helping to regrow hair.  An extracted oil from the seeds softens the skin by properties which improve hydration and elasticity finding value in hair care products, skin creams, lip balms, and body butters. For the culinary industry, poppy seed oil adds a smooth and subtle-tasting flavor as a salad oil and for dipping crusty breads. The oil is also popular with oil paint enthusiasts because it takes longer to dry and can be blended with other paints for wet-on-wet paintings. Within the medical profession, it is utilized for its carrier capacity to help diagnose and contrast specific procedures.

Papaver somniferum for culinary seeds and seed oils.

Papaver somniferum for culinary seeds and seed oils.

Most papaver are grown for their natural beauty of adding accent to yard and garden. I recently discovered a blue Himalayan poppy growing in a neighborhood plant nursery. I had seen postcards and paintings of them in Victoria, BC, at the Butchart Gardens when a friend and I visited a few summers ago, but by then it was past flowering. Nevertheless, I came back with an urge to have the plant, picking up several postcards adorned with this beautiful blossom at the gift shop to remind me of it until then. The blue poppy Meconopsis grandis is a unique flower in Butchart’s floral history, having been grown there since the 1920’s soon after its discovery by Captain Marshman Baily in the Himalayas. It’s fussy and takes finesse to get it to sprout and grow successfully. So you can imagine how pleased I was when one day two summers ago as I was walking past the bordering shrubs of the nursery to spy it growing in a garden bed. I scampered right in for a closer view and and came back the next day for a camera shot.

Himalayan blue poppy

Himalayan Blue poppy  Meconopsis grandis

Of course, its greatest reputation revolves around it being the source of opium for anaesthesic and ritual purposes dating to ancient sources where it was extracted and utilized by early surgeons to perform prolonged surgical operations. Historically, its more notorious use as the source of addictive smoke and the illicit drug heroin is unfortunate but predictive given human nature.

To the Innocent Gaze

To the Innocent Gaze

“To the Innocent Gaze”
To the innocent gaze,
one might see only beauty
and miss entirely the lovely,
richly-hued maroon petals
resembling exquisite fabrics
surrounding silvery,
pollen-covered chokers
adorning drug-laden seed pods
filled with the allure of
mysterious, darkly-induced
journeys to far off places.

 So many uses for such a tiny seed wrapped up in its own shaker head. Perhaps tonight, I’ll add some seeds to the lavender and mugwort in my dream bundle as Morpheus, the Greek dream messenger of the gods, who is responsible for communicating divine messages to us via dreams, slept in a cave of poppy seeds. Sweet dreams everyone!
Shaker Heads ~ Poppy seed pods soon to dry and little flaps will open around the brim and spill seeds willy nilly.

Shaker Heads ~ Poppy seed pods soon to dry and little flaps will open around the brim and breezes will help spill seeds willy nilly upon the ground.

~~~

Papaver with husk still attached

Papaver with kirtle (husk) still attached

“Purple Poppy Haiku”

The purple poppy
shed her kirtle in the breeze
and danced happily.

A chorus line of poppies

A chorus line of poppies

“A Chorus Line of Poppies”

On my morning walk, I am drawn to a chorus line of poppies flowering along the fence, their necks curved like swans which straighten upward holding aloft gray-green buds beneath husks that split apart revealing crinkled petals stretching and smoothing out in the warming sun, attracting my eye to their gloriously rich bosoms and ear to the buzzing of bumblebees. Another day, their distinctive seed pods now devoid of petals, wear flat-topped skimmers.

Blessings on your journeys fellow travelers. Until next time, peace to one and all.


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A Winter’s Spider

A Winter’s Spider

A a few days ago,

a black, jumping spider

hanging quietly

from its drag line

over my desk

in front of me

in the middle

of a sunny day,

alerted me to note

naturally occurring signs,

only because jumping

spiders aren’t likely

to simply hang

by a dragline;

The red dawn

of this past night’s moon,

alerted me

and the landscape

to the likelihood of

a probable

major storm event

on the horizon

approaching within

a day or two.

The night winds

created lots of

titters and tappets,

whirrings and clangs,

whooshes and whines

as moving branches

played hide and seek

with the neighbor’s

motion lights

keeping me

from deep sleep

and in that trance state

of almost remembering,

but forgotten

until the appearance

of a real event today

hitched it back to

that elusive memory.

I witnessed the

gray northern skies

unbroken save for

a white gull,

wings steady,

soaring through

the arches

of a double rainbow

gracing this morning’s

pre-walk dawn.

All of which culminated in

the night’s pouring rains,

splattering and splashing

onto the branches of

the shrub out front,

festooned with

small intimate lights

contrasting

darkness and light,

akin to the universal impulse

that begat the

Grand Wheel’s seasonal

turnings now in

celebration of Winter.

Winter Solstice Fun '14

Winter Solstice Celebration of Fun ’14

Merry Solstice everyone!