The Hedgerow

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Sunset, facing east, in winter

 

A hedgerow is a marvelous thing–the edges of a field. Remnants of this year’s rows of corn are visible through the gaps. At this moment, the hedgerow is still. Sunset dapples yellow on blue snow, like the summer glow fading on ocean sand.

The hedgerow’s few trees are weighted down by grapevine and other plants so that the far view has not been impinged by thick or tall trunks. Bushes create hiding places for year-round birds as well as travelers.

There is space inside this edge, the hedge-edge, as well as on both sides.

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Staghorn sumac against the sky

Dark shadowed limbs create a picture frame for the world on the other side of the hedgerow. Deer travel the dawn field; wild turkeys jut heads and flash feathers at each other.  On this side, cars slide in and out; owners and dogs walk each other. Snowplows beep and scrape in the night and later, when day comes, the hedgerow’s birds flap to the feeders.

Which edges do you cherish? Which do you chafe against? What life can be found inside the edges?

 

Ask Questions–Wait and See

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Bubbles that look like coins and holes. Off Tubbs Pond dock, Partridge Run WMA, East Berne NY

Some of my nature mantras:

Stop and notice.

Be aware of distractions in your head and in the outside world.

Don’t divide your attention. 

Ask questions when something seems unusual. 

Wait and see.

Take it in.

***

In a funk, I walk over to the pond on a quick outing, to see if there are unusual ice formations or quirky fallen over plants or any of my other usual photographic thrills. For several days, the temperatures have hovered just above freezing; a thin sheet of whitened ice rests over mostly liquid water.

Often ice is marked by little shapes or lines where objects have struck or steps been made by pads, claws or boots. Much of it melts, refreezes, and reshapes until it is unidentifiable except as blobs and stretch marks. My heart races to find perfect captured bubbles in a column, breathed upward: exhaled perhaps from winter-slow fish or turtles, or gassy plants at the bottom.

On the ice this time, an odd dark shape on the white—how funny! how curious! Random melting and re-freezing? I move to walk on, but hear quiet gurgling sounds. Could it just be my imagination, or a sound carried from elsewhere? I hear it again.

If I wait, I bet I’ll see something! I hope I’ll see something!

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Pond ice near the Mohawk River

***

The cattail stalks are dry and pale yellow this time of year, the seed heads exploded white out of grainy brown-toasted hot dog buns. I squint to see between them.  Carefully skirting crumbling piles of dog doo, the urban menace to mindless wandering, I move down a bit closer. 

Was that rock there before, in the open water? Time to zoom in with the camera. 

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Curious, what appears among the plants….

A motionless anvil-shaped brown fur head, whiskers spangled with drops of pond water, an eye that looks straight, avoiding my glance. Nothing to see here folks, nope, keep on a-goin’. 

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No, not a rock.

A blink. Then a double blink.

***

We saw a passel of muskrat babies last year, in the tiny stream that feeds the pond. They were well hidden in the green reeds and overgrown plants there, a parent teaching them to forage. Much like I taught my children to travel the train in Chicago: at first with me and in a group, then the group without me, and finally alone, self-reliant. I wonder if this animal is one of the babies or the parents.

***

I could stay there longer at the pond to see what else might happen but chores call, along with a waiting lunch. When I turn my head, SPLURG! SPLUSH! away it goes, a trail of trembling water behind it. Closer, in the cattails, there it is: a fresh muskrat home of knocked over stalks hidden in the standing ones.

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Beavers use sticks, grasses and mud to make lodges; muskrats prefer cattails with their mud.

Off the wet grass, my boots grate and crunch thick salt crystals on concrete. Cold February air nuzzles my exposed cheeks. Wind brings the smell of mud and muck and someone’s wood stove. I smile to glimpse another creature inhabiting its life, like a secret I got to share. I am grateful for the patience with myself–to stand motionless and allow the natural world to reveal itself, doing what it does when I am not here to see.

***

Stop and notice.

Be aware of distractions in your head and in the outside world.

Don’t divide your attention. 

Ask questions when something seems unusual. 

Wait and see.

Take it in.

***

(In re: animal identification–If the ears protruded more I might say it was a beaver–since I can’t see the body’s size. If the nostrils were more rounded and flared I might think river otter. I know that a muskrat is pretty fluffy under the chin, but this animal is soaked. I might be “all wet” myself, in my identification, but I enjoy asking the questions, and absolutely aware I could be incorrect.)

 

Feeling Your Senses in Photos, Part 2: Curls and Wisps

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These dried leaves held together against the wind and temperature changes of fall-into-winter.

Without distracting myself with research to identify this plant, I want to sense it through the photograph.

The leaves are not summer green but brown with aged cell walls. Before the days shortened, fingertips could have felt the transformation of rain absorbed through roots and pulled upward into firm outstretched greenery.

Can you feel the chilly breeze dry your hand as it reaches out to touch the curls? Can you smell the damp moulder of meadow plants soggy in the snow? Can you hear the raspy crackle of the ringlets of leaves, one against another, barely able to be heard over the wind?

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From another angle, the dancing leaves.

Look closer at the soft furry surface in the sun. Feel warmth on old bones.

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Closer still.

Look even closer and see the seed fluff from another plant hooked on those furry edges. Caught temporarily, it will either blow away again in a stronger wind, be washed down by melting snow, or wait further and sprout when this plant falls to the ground.

What would it be like to rest, like this tiny seed, nestled in softness?

 

 

 

Snowshoe at the Plotter Kill–An Interlude

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Waterfalls in the gorge at the Plotter Kill Preserve, Rotterdam, NY

Before high winds in the afternoon–and between bitter temperatures the day before and after–we raced out. It had been three years since I’d wrestled on my snowshoes and gotten to trod on piles of snow.

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Along the Red Path above the creek, under the dark trees and before more snow fell in the afternoon.

Only deer and squirrels had gone before us.

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January hemlocks hang over the Plotter Kill (Creek), a tributary of the Mohawk River.

What a gift, what a gift.

 

Solstice Sun

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Frost sparkling over a creek, Scotia, NY

Just some simple images today, light in the darkness. To meditate in the midst of what for many folks is frenzy and for others, sadness.

Allow the magnificence of nature to be your sanctuary; let it creep into your soul quietly and sweetly, and inhabit your senses.

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December sunset over grasses, Saratoga Spa State Park

 

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Sunset over the fields, Glenville NY

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Solstice sunset over farmer’s field cornstalks and the hedgerow.

Enjoy the glow, and the light increasing!

Snowflake Cookies, Snow and Ice and Stars

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Last week’s snowflakes on star shaped buds of ruby red stag-horn sumac

The photo post is late this week because I was up on Monday night until 10:30 pm making holiday cookies.  Actually it was only part one of three, of cookie making sessions. 

My friend Jenny and I have finally realized—after several years of exhaustion—that we can’t do the baking and decorating all in one crazy marathon that goes late into the night and morning. I don’t do well past 7 or 8 pm most nights! Tuesday morning I was self-compassionate (see last week’s photo thoughts) and knew I had to sleep in instead of post.

So until we finish sessions two and three, here are some photos of last year’s Modern Art sugar and gingerbread cookies. The icing is colored with natural dyes and therefore are more pastel than bright, more pink than the red of the sumac or holly berry.

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Snowflake in cookie form

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Stars in blue

Here’s one of my favorite ice photos recently, of frozen bubbles rising from a scarlet or red oak leaf. I can really feel the submersion, the weight of ice above, yet the air lifting like tiny beams of starlight from its surface. The leaf rests on the frozen water below, as well. 

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Suspended in frozen water and surrounded by visible air

Can you think of a time you felt support where you didn’t expect it? Sweetness or rest when you needed it or actively chose it? Beauty in a moment that popped right out in front of you? Especially when you were tempted into frantic movement? (None of that going on currently, no, no.)

Blessings and fruitful meditation to you, as we head toward more cookie baking and self-care, and into this weekend’s winter solstice.

 

December Ahimsa (Self-Compassion)

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Almost-winter sun sinking behind the trees at Saratoga Spa State Park.

I woke way before dawn today, hips aching from a wondrous snow walk the other day. 

Breathe in. Breathe out. Move.

A few days ago I had tromped along under the tall pines at Saratoga Spa State Park. The crunch of our steps muffled by hats and jacket hoods, I thought about snow and holiday lights, about ice and clouded days and the sun that came out just in time for a 4:30 sunset. Also about the color we so desire in winter—winter which has not officially arrived yet, just two feet of early December snow. The two feet of snow we were stomping through and sliding in and laughing over, as we searched our way back to the warming hut.

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Snow on a paper wasp nest, high in the trees at Saratoga Spa State Park.

I woke way before dawn today to practice yoga, to pay attention to my body that so often in the day job gets ignored, put aside, pushed to physical limits with repetitive keyboarding and staying too still.  I wanted to move with eyes closed, minimizing outside stimulation. I wanted to listen to the craving for movement and beauty. I wanted to hear the tiny voice that guides me day to day, when I listen. 

The yoga concept of ahimsa–a nonviolence that includes self-compassion, gentleness with self–is part of what drew me to Kripalu yoga years ago. I want to live ahimsa with simple concepts:  Breathe in. Breathe out. Move. Stretch. Feel. No self-judgment or chiding voice. Breathe in. Breathe out.

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Sun, trees, snow, shadows: simple joy for me.

Today I will continue self-compassion into the dawn, into the daylight and through this misty foggy forty-degree Tuesday, looking out the office windows at the far view, standing at my work station and taking breaks for my body’s sake, through the dusk and commute and into the dark of night, when holiday lights sparkle.

Move. Stretch. Feel. Breathe in. Breathe out.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Feel.

Gentle self-compassion.