Chunky and noisy,
but with stars in their black feathers,
they spring from the telephone wire
they are acrobats
in the freezing wind.
And now, in the theater of air,
they swing over buildings,
dipping and rising;
they float like one stippled star
becomes for a moment fragmented,
then closes again;
and you watch
and you try
but you simply can’t imagine
how they do it
with no articulated instruction, no pause,
only the silent confirmation
that they are this notable thing,
this wheel of many parts, that can rise and spin
over and over again,
full of gorgeous life.
Ah, world, what lessons you prepare for us,
even in the leafless winter,
even in the ashy city.
I am thinking now
of grief, and of getting past it;
I feel my boots
trying to leave the ground,
I feel my heart
pumping hard. I want
to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.
“Starlings in Winter” by Mary Oliver, Owls and Other Fantasies: Poems and Essays
I just finished reading The Salt Path by Raynor Winn and I’m halfway through The Wild Silence which is equally engaging. Raynor and her husband Moth have been whiplashed by circumstances out of their control: betrayed by a friend, they are evicted from their beloved home after a three-year legal comedy of errors--which is catastrophic--but dwarfed by the news that Moth is dying of an incurable degenerative disease.
What to do whilst figuring out what to do? As they are packing up their home they come across Paddy Dillon's guide to The South West Coast Path and they think "why not?" In their youth they were avid hikers and wild campers and the 630-mile Salt Path is calling to them. As Raynor recounts their physical and emotional journey along the Salt Path, you are drawn into their encounters with the seabirds and meadow animals, people on the path and in the villages, and the odd and unusual occurrences that she and Moth experience as they navigate their grief and plot their future.
Bookends: two years ago I discovered two books by Cheryl Strayed which came into my life at a critical time--Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail and Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar. Together, these four books have been like good friends supporting me on my own salted path. I am grateful for these women who write of loss, love, betrayal, truth, healing, and the transformative power of nature. "Loss sets you free. In the empty void it leaves anything can happen." R.W.
Note: I listened to the audiobooks which are read by the author(s). I also purchased the books and Raynor Winn's covers are illustrated by Angela Harding.
According to Ancient Greek mythology winged and clawed bird-women lured sailors to destruction through the power of their song...How and why did these monster bird women get transformed into sexy mermaids?
"Avian symbolism in the Greek imagination was relatively common. In ancient mythology, birds were used to represent everything from oracles, enchantresses, messengers of deities, and mediators between the human world and the supernatural realm." C. Hastings 2/11/19
Intrigued? Check out Audubon's Sirens of Greek Mythology were Birds not Mermaids and
this from Vice: Sirens Are Actually Bird-Bodied Messengers of Death, Not Sexy Mermaids
Keep Asking Questions!
A thick plume of smoke is beginning to blanket Puget Sound for the weekend. It is eerily quiet and I have seen no birds. The sun did not come up today, not even the red ball that we could see through the haze yesterday. It is a sickly yellowish and thick looking sky, i.e. something out of a dystopian movie. The levels of pollutants is in entering the very unhealthy-hazardous range. This, on top of everything...and for us it is just smoke, not raging wildfires, in our backyards.
Another week of this before we get a bit of rain to reboot our atmosphere which means no going for my daily walk or tending my garden---because it's too dangerous to be outside breathing the air! until then...quarantine within the quarantine. Sigh.
I am knitting to soothe my soul and enjoying catching up on some good reads, including:
To find out what Annabelle is knitting-click here
I was delighted to have the opportunity to preview A Natural History of Fairies by Emily Hawkins and illustrated by Jessica Roux. A Natural History of Fairies takes these elusive creatures into a truly wondrous realm with scientific information presented in a playful manner--a cross between Cicely Mary Barker’s Flower Fairies and The Magic Schoolbus.
The Natural History of Fairies is presented as the field journal of Aunt Elise, a botanist who traveled the world from 1890s-1920s. Under the guise of learning about fairies, readers are drawn into the very real and varied natural histories of a host of flora and fauna. We are treated to scientific drawings, observational charts, and notes as we are given a peek into the lives of fairies.
The Natural History of Fairies reminds us that we need to be aware of how our actions impact the natural world, and it does this without being cloying or pedantic. Instead, it invites fairy-finders to enjoy the beauty and wonder that is hiding in their backyards and neighborhoods. This book will entice you to venture into the magical realm.
The Natural History of Fairies will be published soon, on September 29...so, since I cannot share images, here are two other fairies I have loved: the Blackthorn fairy by Cicely Mary Barker and an update version of the classic midsummer eve by Edward Robert Hughes.
We do not have Satin Bowerbirds in our neighborhood, but they are distant cousins of our crows and ravens. I am entranced by their bower building and use of color to attract a mate.
Satin Bowerbird by Bert Kitchen :: from And So They Build
The bowerbird especially loves the color blue and will make use of discarded bottle caps and plastic straws, as well as toothbrushes, clothespins, and other garbage. An amazing bird that is able to turn trash into art .
Australian printmaker Rachel Newling has lovely linocuts and engravings; while looking for artistic rendering of bowerbirds, I came across her flying foxes...she has cards available too.
Today is Lughnasadh, the beginning Gaelic harvest festival which historically was observed throughout Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. I will be celebrating by tidying up my garden boxes, harvesting the last of my spring kales and Swiss chard, and replanting for the fall season.
Where did July go? Our mornings included drinking coffee on the patio and enjoying our resident Spotted Towhees, Bewick's wrens, and hummingbirds--(not so much the antics of the voracious and vociferous fledgling crow who continues to create endless ruckus).
Photos: August calendar by Linnea, super-tiny cilantro flowers (whose centers turn into amazingly large coriander seeds!), and our manzanita (Arctostaphylos) Towhee playground
Eleanor Lutz, of Tabletop Whale, created this animated butterfly chart in 2014. I think she is brilliant, and love her application of art and digital technology to science illustration. Be sure to click the link to watch the butterflies in motion!
Then, pop over to Pacific Horticulture to find my inquiry research on "Where Are the Butterflies?" Plus, tips on how to make your garden butterfly-friendly with these Eight Essential Elements.
~illustration by Roger La Borde