Saturday, November 2, 2013

Not grand

We're in the midst of a beautiful autumn here, all blue sky and bright leaves. It won't last long, and I got up this morning determined to get out and enjoy the splendid day. Just as I was headed out the door I felt a sort of mantle of resistance settle over me. My desire to go hiking became a desire to do something, anything else, and I considered opting instead for a morning at the computer. I kept moving, though, mostly from force of habit. All the way to the park I thought about how much I didn't want to go there. Turn around. You're sick of these walks. You need to take a break from them. Go home and make some other use of this day. But I pressed on, and once I got to the park it seemed stupid not to do at least a short turn down one of the trails. After about a half hour of steady walking, the pleasure kicked in. I knew it would. It always does. I call it pleasure, but I actually mean something much more intense than that word suggests. I'd call it bliss or joy, but those don't seem quite right either. It's a quiet surrender of the self that happens. There's no loss of the self, no transcendence — I am very much present and entirely *me* — but I feel connected and somehow permeable to everything around me. Even though I'm aware of a few annoyances and the handful of actual dangers, I feel at odds with nothing. I resent nothing. Maybe the word for this state is "undefended" — not a grand word, but there's nothing grand about the experience. It's extraordinary, but not grand.

Photo by Maria Browning. Click on the image to enlarge it

Thursday, October 10, 2013

This morning...

...I heard a noise in the leaves, and it turned out to be this cicada in its death throes, buzzing its last buzz. I feel horror when I see a dying creature—any creature, even a small, strange, absurd one. The sight of death accomplished can have a somber beauty, but dying, the transition from one existence to another, seems awful. There are moments when I find a sense of peace with it, even a love of the mystery, but most of the time I encounter it as a cruelty. That is a failure on my part, I think—a failure of both reason and imagination. I hope to walk beyond it someday.

*Photo by Maria Browning. Click on the image to enlarge it.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

"Water is taught by thirst"

Water is taught by thirst;
Land, by the oceans passed;
Transport, by throe;
Peace, by its battles told;
Love, by memorial mould;
Birds, by the snow.

~ Emily Dickinson

Photo by Maria Browning. Click on the image to enlarge it.

Sunday, October 6, 2013


“Thus you can throw yourself flat on the ground, stretched out upon Mother Earth, with the certain conviction that you are one with her and she with you. You are as firmly established, as invulnerable as she, indeed a thousand times firmer and more invulnerable. As surely as she will engulf you tomorrow, so surely will she bring you forth anew to new striving and suffering. And not merely ‘some day’: now, today, every day she is bringing you forth, not once but thousands upon thousands of times, just as every day she engulfs you a thousand times over. For eternally and always there is only now, one and the same now; the present is the only thing that has no end.”

~ Erwin Schrödinger, from My View of the World

*I used this passage in another post, years ago. I can't think of one more suited to repeating.

Photo by Maria Browning. Click on the image to enlarge it.

Monday, September 30, 2013

"low-lidded soft sky"

No vulture is here, hardly a hawk, 
Could long wings or great eyes fly 
Under this low-lidded soft sky? 

From "The Low Sky" by Robinson Jeffers. The complete poem is here.

Photo by Maria Browning. Click on the image to enlarge it.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Soul dwells in a swamp

Whitman understood:

In the swamp in secluded recesses,
A shy and hidden bird is warbling a song.
Solitary the thrush,
The hermit withdrawn to himself, avoiding the settlements,
Sings by himself a song.
Song of the bleeding throat,
Death’s outlet song of life, (for well dear brother I know,
If thou wast not granted to sing thou would’st surely die.)

Photo by Maria Browning. Click on the image to enlarge it.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

"At dawn, in mist"

One day I stood, small shoes upon the sand,
and looked across a park through frozen trees;
the thorn and sky drove through my soul;
a whistle blew; I heard the end of things.

They told me while I stood, suddenly alone,
looking over the earth, not knowing what to say:
"Nostalgia," they said, "nostalgia,
a feeling men have; you will know it, later,
all your life…at dawn, in mist…
you and all men, lost, even in the sun's brightness."

Today I stood alone among the men;
a whistle blew…the thorn and sky…
"Nostalgia," they said, "nostalgia."

~ William Stafford, "At Roll Call"

Photo by Maria Browning. Click on the image to enlarge it.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

A few words

I’m not sure why I quit writing this blog back in 2010. I didn’t decide to quit. I certainly didn’t stop walking or trying to follow Jeffers’s advice. I wanted to write posts—in fact, I did write them in my head, all the time. If you scroll back a bit you’ll see that I made an attempt at actual words on the screen in 2012, then promptly wandered off again. Somehow, I had nothing to say. Or, to be more precise, I had nothing to say that didn’t seem to run counter to the premise of the blog. There was too much introspection. Too much turning inward, not outward. So now I’m back, with (pretty much) images only. I used to resist letting a camera guide my walks, but I’ve gradually surrendered to it over the past couple of years. Perhaps I feel the world less now because of that, but I think maybe I see it better. Seems a decent trade.

Photo by Maria Browning. Click on the image to enlarge it.

Monday, September 23, 2013

"The feeling one has cannot be described"

"I noticed, on my early walk, that as the sun rose higher and higher in the heavens, the earth passed through a number of sudden and visible moods. Instead of that peaceful mood of midsummer which accompanies the progress of the forenoon, the countryside grew restless and melancholy in turn, almost taking shape and action, giving one the impression that Nature had assumed wild, faun-like emotions. In the glinting sunlight you could almost see the troubled, alert eyes of a faun; and woods, hills and valleys were as its shaggy limbs, trying to evade some mysterious spirits. The feeling one has cannot be described; one can only make fanciful conjectures. There is little that is so illusory about the coming of autumn. The tinge of sadness which everywhere touches the ripeness of things, gives a tone of vibrancy to Nature which is provocative. Its effect upon human emotion is thrilling, though in a subdued key. "
~ William Stanley Braithwaite
Photo by Maria Browning. Click on the image to enlarge it.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Almost there

The moon now rises to her absolute rule,
And the husbandman and hunter
Acknowledge her for their mistress.
Asters and golden reign in the fields
And the life everlasting withers not.
The fields are reaped and shorn of their pride
But an inward verdure still crowns them;
The thistle scatters its down on the pool
And yellow leaves clothe the river—
And nought disturbs the serious life of men.

~ Henry David Thoreau*

Photo by Maria Browning. Click on the image to enlarge it.

*The rest of the poem is here.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Moon over Tennessee

The moon is a sow
and grunts in my throat
Her great shining shines through me
so the mud of my hollow gleams
and breaks in silver bubbles

~Denise Levertov, from "Song for Ishtar"

Photo by Maria Browning. Click on the image to enlarge it.

Elusive one...

I've been trying to photograph this bird for the longest time. I know his favorite hang-outs, and I try to sneak up on him, but invariably he takes off before I can snap a shot. This rather blurry pic was taken this morning from across the lake, after he eluded me again. At least he posed nicely against the red leaves.

Photo by Maria Browning. Click on the image to enlarge it.