Saturday, August 29, 2009

Willows for a King

Weeping Willows (Salix Babylonica)
The willow's weeping stance reflects its association with grief.

Everyone is born a king,
and most people die in exile.

~Oscar Wilde

After watching the many tributes to Senator Ted Kennedy as well as his funeral mass and burial at Arlington National Cemetery, I believe he was one of the lucky few to be born a king and to die one, too. May he rest in peace.

Edward Moore Kennedy
February 22, 1932 ― August 25, 2009

Friday, August 28, 2009

A Time That Was

As the last days of August slip by, I am taking stock of the summer season, which began with loss and is ending the same way. A good friend just lost her 14-year-old German Shepherd and here in Massachusetts the death of Senator Ted Kennedy has hit many of us hard. His passing marks the end of an era, a time that was and will never come again. In grieving for him, we also grieve for those who went before him: Jack, Bobby, John, Jr., and other members of the Kennedy clan.

These losses have been like companions as I continue on my own grief journey. It is almost three months since I lost Rachmaninoff'; the reality still seems unthinkable. Lately, I have been dreaming of willows, sentinels of grief but also trees of enchantment. The Wind in the Willows was one of my favorite books as a child. Now it too seems to belong to a time that was and will never come again.

Kenneth Grahame's love for his son and the natural world inspired his writing, but the story of how the book came to be published does not have a happy ending. Grahame also grappled with loss. The following is from 'Wind in the Willows' at 100, written by Madeline Lewis for The Chicago Tribune, May 7, 2008:

In 1907, author Kenneth Grahame wrote a series of letters to his young son Alastair about the exploits of four small anthropomorphic animals along the River Thames. Conceived merely as bedtime entertainment for the little boy, these adventures went on to become the basis for one of the most unique and influential children's books ever written: "The Wind in the Willows." Today, after a century on the bookshelves, Grahame's novel remains a story that enthralls children and adults.

Alison Price, one of Grahame's biographers, suggests that the author learned to venerate the environment as a parentless child living with his grandmother on the banks of the Thames. The outdoors was then a source of great comfort and happiness to him. "It was not the Christian God that stirred Grahame," she said. "He looked at nature as the thing he could worship."

As a grown man, Grahame weaved his love of the environment into bedtime stories for Alastair. The book's success represented a high point in Grahame's life. Twelve years later, in 1920, his son, then a student at Oxford University, committed suicide. Grahame then began traveling and never wrote another novel.

Click on the photo for a detailed view.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What Is Lovely

What is lovely never dies,
But passes into other loveliness,
Star-dust, or sea-foam, flower or winged air.

~T.B. Aldrich

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Princess and Daisy Are Happy

These two sisters were resigned to spending the rest of their days in a crowded city shelter until Fate stepped in and our paths crossed. In less than two months they have settled in nicely; it now seems that they have always been with me. Though I continue to mourn the death of my Rachmaninoff and feel his absence keenly, Princess and Daisy have been an enormous comfort and I have truly come to love them. Their antics bring anyone who is grieving the best medicine there is: laughter.
Top row: Daisy loves sitting in the windowsill and she has a very silly side, too.
Bottom row: Princess is an adorable munchkin and can be devilish and extremely curious. I forgot that I had some cat treats in the bottom of my canvas bag. In no time at all I caught her digging for them!
Click anywhere on the collage for a better view.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Digger and Spike

Digger, the owl, and Spike, the duckling, have become inseparable; both six-week-old chicks are quackers for each other.

(Photo: SWNS)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Shades of Green ― Conifers

"Open your eyes and see those things which are around us at this hour."

~Richard Jeffries
For detail and depth of color click on the photo.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Shades of Green ― Malachite

While God waits
for His temple
to be built of love, men
bring stones.

Malachite is a semi-precious stone that is said to create calm and peace. Considered a stone of mystical power, gazing at Malachite or holding it can also bring harmony, knowledge and patience.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Shades of Green ― Glass Frog

Costa Rican Glass Frog (Hyalinobatrachium valerioi)

Not only the days, but life itself lengthens in summer.
I would spread abroad my arms and gather more of it
to me, could I do so.

~ Richard Jeffries

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Shades of Green ― continued

"Keep a green tree in your heart
and perhaps a singing bird will come."

~Chinese Proverb

Saturday, August 8, 2009


Only two months have passed since I lost my Maine Coon cat, Rachmaninoff. He shared my life for 18 years and our bond was very strong. The sorrow comes and goes.

When the crickets rise up in song these late summer evenings, my heart yearns for him, and when the Little Brown bats do their aerial dance as day turns to night, I wish he were here to see them with me. These were his favorite months; his time spent in the garden and woods his reverie. It seems that he should still be here, that I should still be calling and calling as I sometimes had to do when he took his time coming in for dinner. But then I remember how he spent his last days and how grateful he was to come to the end of his life.

The Bluebird’ Rose of Sharon is absolutely studded with blossoms this month. As some fade and fall onto the grass, they seem like great, spent tear drops.

Being in the garden for any length of time has simply been too painful; this was and still feels like Rock territory. His favorite catmint, which I now think of as ‘Rockmint,’ is more lush than in all the years he knew it, literally overflowing from its planter. The fact that he isn't here to enjoy it makes me especially sad. I think of a quote from Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, born this day in 1896:

“Sorrow was like the wind. It came in gusts.”

Rawlings spent many years on a 72-acre orange grove in Florida named Cross Creek. Today, she would be considered an early environmentalist and nature writer. The following passage is from, CROSS CREEK, published in 1942:

"Who owns Cross Creek? The redbirds, I think, more than I, for they will have their nests even in the face of delinquent mortgages. And after I am dead, who am childless, the human ownership of grove and field and hammock is hypothetical. But a long line of redbirds and whippoorwills and blue-jays and ground doves will descend from the present owners of nests in the orange trees, and their claim will be less subject to dispute than that of any human heirs. Houses are individual and can be owned, like nests, and fought for.

But what of the land? It seems to me that the Earth may be borrowed but not bought. It may be used, but not owned. It gives itself in response to love and tending, offers its seasonal flowering and fruiting. But we are tenants and not possessors, lovers and not masters. Cross Creek belongs to the wind and the rain, to the sun and the seasons, to the cosmic secrecy of seed, and beyond all, to time."

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
August 8, 1896 ― December 13, 1953

Friday, August 7, 2009

Shades of Green ― Purple Queen

(Setcreasea pallida) ‘Purple Queen’

Continuing a series about the color green…
The hero came to a crossroads where there were three signs:
“He who travels down this road will return unharmed.”
“He who travels this path may or may not return.”
“He who travels here will never return.”

Of course, he chose the third.

~Norwegian fairy tale

For detail and depth of color click on the photo.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Shades of Green ― Maidenhair

(Adiantum capillus-veneris)

This post continues a series about the color green. In Roman mythology Maidenhair fern (Adiantum capillus-veneris) represents the hair of the goddess Venus when she emerged from the sea. When dipped in water fronds of Maidenhair fern do not appear wet.

This is a fern of great delicacy and beauty and a wonderful example of the softer, more tranquil qualities to be found in the color green. For detail and depth of color click on the photo.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Shades of Green ― Peridot

“The August born without this stone,
`tis said, must live unloved alone.”

This post continues a series about the color green, begun on July 23rd. Peridot is a stone of lightness and beauty and is one of the few gemstones that come in only one color. The depth of green depends on how much iron is contained in the crystal structure.

Peridot is the traditional birthstone of August, associated with love, truth, faithfulness and loyalty. Metaphysical properties for peridot are fame, dignity and protection.

Peridot is also used to enhance prosperity, growth and openness, and some believe this gemstone attracts love and can slow the aging process. Used in a necklace, peridot is said to protect against negative emotions.

The ancient Romans were fond of peridot and its radiant green luster, which does not change even in artificial light. For that reason they nicknamed it the 'emerald of the evening.' The word peridot is derived from the Greek word peridona, which means 'to give richness.'

Peridot is best suited to spiritual or clear-minded people. Some believe that those with too many earthly problems will not be able to understand its beauty.