Monday, March 21, 2011

Round and around

 We got out for a family hike on Saturday, and it was like a treasure hunt...the spring ephemerals (wildflowers whose coming and going are brief) have begun appearing above the leaf litter. What we only guessed at a week ago on the women's hike was in full stride this week; it's so easy to miss them at this time of year!
 As I photographed every leaf I came across, pausing several times to make sure I wasn't mistaken about their identity, (to make sure it really really is ramps!), I experienced deja vu.  Sure enough, I have photographed the very same flowers the past couple of years, and have undoubtedly shared them on this blog.  My photo archives are duplicated every year as I record this year's leaf color, summer growth, winter skies and spring explosion of life.
At first I felt a little let down - what is the point of repeating this process of identifying, documenting, and sharing something that happened last year and the year before that, something that will happen next spring and the next?
Cutleaf Toothwort
There is something that drives me to do this, over and over again, to engage in the changing of the seasons in this way. It fills me to notice the arrival of a new bird, to hear my child shout, "a springtail!!" from her spot in the grass, to see the first bees buzzing around our garden. The first night we hear the peepers, the first good thunderstorm, the first frog eggs, the first dandelion.
 Far from feeling redundant, these experiences seem to anchor me, binding me to the current year in a way that both celebrates Right Now and nods to the timeless cycles of changes.  
My beautiful family
 I remember one fall, before my kids were born, before we were married, the fall my grandmother died.  She was the first of our grandparents to leave us, and I have vivid memories of what the weather was like the week that we gathered to remember her; it was November and unseasonally warm in Wisconsin, enough so that my cousins and I lay in the backyard, exhausted from mourning and enjoying the chance to be together, the ground warm enough to work the earth with our hands as we spread gramma's ashes in the garden.  I remember returning to Seattle and being so so sad, but in my grief noticing that the trees were still dropping brilliant leaves to the ground, where they looked like bright stars against the dark wet pavement.
  The steady cycle of the seasons is a comfort 
when the rest of life feels out of balance.
So I indulge in the cataloging of our days, which carries me forward from day to day, offering us small moments of celebration, stunning moments of discovery, and reassurance that although so much of life is unpredictable, the geese will continue to gather at the river, the peepers will explode into their spring cacophony...
...the maples will bloom before the redbuds, and the dogwoods after that...
One HUGE crayfish!
 ...and a walk in the woods in March will be full of treasure, promise, and mud.
  Lots and lots of mud.
 Awareness of natural events... provides simple mantras for daily living, and the whole swell of the year becomes a koan or scripture for contemplating time and place, for puzzling out a personal space ... finally, perhaps, for breaking through and participating in [a place's]  soul.
Poor Will's Almanak


Reba said...

I do the same thing! Although I admit I don't take as many beautiful pictures as you do! I think part of being aware of the changing seasons, I mean being really aware, is part of living in the present....part of being thankful for life. I LOVE looking at the photos you shoot, even if they are the same plant as last year!

Stacy (Mama-Om) said...

Oh, so lovely!! What a perfect quote to end this post with... our mantras of everyday. I often have this experience but haven't really known how to describe/explain it.

It is as if living is our prayer...