Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Field of Change

Walking among the plants on this slope in mid summer it would be easy to not notice them at all; simply a sea of grasses we wade through and leave a thin wake where we have brushed them aside. We focus instead on views of mountains and seacoast, or we are preoccupied with inner thoughts. To actually look down at our feet is a big step, to observe that grasses are really but one element in what once was a farmer's field.

In parts of this field with deeper, moister ground the grasses are still tall and of one community, but high on this slope above the sea the moisture is long gone from the thin soil. Specialist plants well adapted to these particular conditions have gathered: plantains with their yellow flowers and white puff balls, Queen Anne's lace, thistles, brambles, daisies, hawthorns. All the plants that do not make good eating and have deep roots and ways of shrivelling up and waiting for rain to return in the Fall.

This assemblage of plant life has taken over once the farmer departed, and it is reassuring somehow that nature has such a range of possibilities once humans stop forcing their opinions about the use of the land. Once over a hundred years ago this would have been deep forest laboriously cleared away for fields and one can now see the trees encroaching once more from the edges, sending lone individuals ahead into the most favourable pockets of soil. How the ground must contain roots pushing into the clearing, how the air must be full of seeds seeking a place to take root. Every living thing relentlessly seeking light , moisture and soil, juggling for a place to live.

We wander on, find a definite path over the hill to the main farm road, and forget about this field. We turn to other things, but here, still plain to see for those that look, is written among the grasses a complicated history of evolution, the continuing story written by the most successful, the most adaptable to change. Thistles, weeds, hardy trees and brambles, holding the soil together until the forest takes it back completely once more.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Sailing lessons

For one week we had three of our grandchildren staying with us and taking basic sailing lessons down in the bay. Each morning I would drive them to the yacht club and pick the up again in the afternoon. The first day they learned what the boom was, as for all of them it hit them regularly. BOOM! The second day too, BOOM!

Concerned that they might get put off, one morning I set up the table fan, made a simple little boat with a sail and demonstrated that there were certain times when that pesky boom could get them. DUCK!

On the morning drive I would give them quizzes on boat parts to keep them entertained and if the truth be known, give them an edge in class. I really wanted them to shine and finish their week self- satisfied and confident.

Near the end, parents and such were invited to the dock to watch the students sail around the harbour in their little dinghies.
 It was a pleasure to see their concentrating looks in the afternoon sea breeze. Back and forth, round the buoys, with me recording the event with a telephoto lens.

Time to pack up, put the masts, sails and booms, the rudders and centreboards away. And of all the things we saw that afternoon that made us proud it was the way our kids pitched in, helped others and did final checks. And here I had thought it was succeeding at sailing that was important.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

I am Shiva

There are stories in all religions about the gods walking among us in disguise. Here is a true one of my own.

I am Shiva

Beside the road going South,
thumb out, a young woman with
multi-coloured hair and bags of stuff.
Where are you headed I say cautiously,
as she opens my car door.
She replies, Wherever you are going.
and hops in.

I find that she is ferry bound,
back to the city and her gardening work.
We chat about things vaguely,
trees and fields zoom by, and then
she allows as how she writes...
- a journal, poems - but not going so well.
Oh, I write poems too, I say.
Recite me some, she replies.

I laugh and say that I don't recite,
and so we have broken the ice
and then speak of the loneliness of being,
about who we are - observers, travellers through life.
How seldom we meet our true companions along the way.

At the ferry dock she hops out again,
sticks her paw back in for a shake.
I am Shiva, she says, you made my day.