Tuesday, March 27, 2018

After a rest

Winter is slowly loosening its grip. The hardiest flowers are coming up, shaking off the last of the snow. Birds are nesting.

The trees are still bare of leaves. But inside them, we know the sap will soon rise. The earth wakes up after its rest. I've always believed that the sleep of winter is essential to the beauty of spring, just as I often have a burst of creativity after a fallow period.

Sunday, March 18, 2018


Most of yesterday I spent away from gadgets, outdoors in nature. As a friend and I were discussing today (during more time spent in nature), there's something about nature, about greenery and living things, that is profoundly nourishing. 

This has always been an essential part of my life, and I want to make a more conscious effort to remember that, to make time for this even more often. There are fragrant carpets of pine needles and secret woodland pools waiting out there.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Good enough

"The only end of writing is to enable the readers better to enjoy life, or better to endure it."
--Samuel Johnson*

I like this statement from Johnson--it's so concise, punchy even. It's such a nice answer to the question of why people should ever bother with a task as uncertain as writing.

On this topic, I'm also partial to a line from Sylvia Plath. The poet narrator of Plath's The Bell Jar defends her avocation (in her mind, in response to a condescending remark from her med-student boyfriend) as "writing poems people would remember and repeat to themselves when they were unhappy or sick and couldn't sleep." It struck me the first time I read it, and has remained, one of my favorite explanations for what writers give the world.

Opening doors. Providing illumination, or comfort, or knowledge, or recognition. It's a good enough way to spend a life.

*from Johnson's review of Soame Jenyns' "Free Enquiry into the Nature of the Origin of Good and Evil," per Apocrypha, the Samuel Johnson Sound Bite page

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Spring cycles

We have been out greeting the spring this weekend.

Despite the fact that the weekend began with a blustery dose of snow, spring is definitely creeping  up on us. The snowdrops are up; the witch hazel is blooming; the crocuses and early cherry trees are starting. I've even seen daffodils and one brave, early dandelion.

We heard young frogs croaking, and birds are pairing up and working on nests. The sun is warmer, even if the wind is cold. You can smell the earth again, as the slushy snow melts into the mud.

We visited an eagle's nest today, because at this time of year we usually see them tending to eggs or nestlings. But half the nest was wrecked by winter weather, and the birds weren't there. According to the park ranger, the eagles are hanging around and have done some repairs, but they may not produce young this year, an eagle's nest being a major construction project.

On the other hand, there's hope for the red-tail hawks at Cornell this year. After years of successful nests, last year brought tragedy: the sudden death of the male right at the start of mating season. The female found a new mate, with whom she is working on one of her old nests, and maybe we will see more young this year.

The rituals of nature are comforting. Plants and animals face change, adversity and loss; they don't always have happy endings. But they keep blooming, nesting, feeding. They live out their own stories, of which we catch occasional glimpses.