Friday, June 21, 2013

Be still and contemplate

by Zinta Aistars
Copyright 2013

Looking across the back field of Z Acres toward the sun

It's morning of the first day of the summer solstice, and the forecasts foretell that today and the days to come will be hot and humid. There you go: the reason why summer is my least favorite season. But spring this year has been so delightful, mild and with just the right mix of rain and sunshine, that I've decided not to complain, just enjoy the milder days when they come my way, and batten down the hatches and enjoy my cool red farmhouse on those days that the temperatures soar.

Living at Z Acres has connected me much more intimately to the rhythms of nature. Since I work from home, I almost always begin my day, now that we are in the warmer season, with my coffee and my morning reading out on the deck. Call it my commute to my work day.

Guinnez always accompanies me, although he may not always be fully awake when he does so. Age is slowing him down, and he moves his nap from indoors to outdoors, with a long, contented sigh, and waits through dreams for me to stir.

I have to confess, a great many mornings, or evenings, when I take my book outside to read, I don't get very far. The garden is so inviting. The woods with its hidden wildlife, the back field with its flowers and grasses, the pond with its burping and galumphing bullfrogs, and everywhere, everywhere, the birds, the deer, the shimmer of hidden life looking back at me.

I have to get out there.

First stop this growing season is the garden to check on my vegetables, and then, to the flowers. It's a routine I've developed, a way of centering myself for the day, a walking meditation.

Something so deeply satisfying about checking on the garden. The radishes are already nearing the point of harvest. Kale and lettuces, too. The kohlrabi are plumping up, large and pale and spiky round. The peas are showing tiny white blossoms. Yellow blossoms dot all the tomato plants. Green pepper blossoms are still hard green nubs. Spinach and chard are being stubborn, and I've had to do some re-seeding.

I water. Part of my meditation. Switching the spray of the garden hose from full on to mist to shower to a circle of in-betweens, I wash the garden with droplets of magic, making it all grow. Or pretending I do. Nudging along the natural processes of nature, and that's what I try to do most of all: not get in the way. Organic and true. When the creatures and the bugs take a bite, I don't mind. They belong here, too.

The apples, the little green apples, they excite me. Last year, they rounded out only in my imagination. Hard frost took them from me. This year, look, a tree full of them, heavy with them, branches dropping low with them, hundreds of little green apples to someday ripen to a rosy blush.

The red currants are, almost. I remember these from childhood summers, ripening tiny strings of tiny tart berries growing in the family backyard. Pluck a string, put the whole cluster in my mouth, and pull the string out. Tiny berries rolling around on my tongue, puckering lips, and suddenly it is summer. Currants, along with Janu siers, the caraway cheese that Latvians make at the summer solstice celebration called Jani. This, the longest day and the shortest night, is the day that my countrymen celebrate perhaps more than any other. We celebrate with fire, and brew, and flowering buds, and wreathes of oak leaves and daisies, and laughter and love.

I pick daisies from my fields, bunches of them, bees buzzing around me, drunk with nectar, pollen bags heavy on their back legs. The daisies bring the outdoors in, bunched in a Mason jar I spare from my jam-making and place in the center of my kitchen table. Simplest of flowers, wild and shamelessly pretty. I yam what I yam: a daisy.

And more, lilies and Campanula and irises and roses and mock orange, great shrubs covered with white four-petaled blossoms of purity.

Flowers frame my little red farmhouse, and I stand and gaze at it as if seeing it for the first time. I do that. Every day. Every evening at that magic moment when the light slants just so and goes translucent, golden, transient, I catch my breath and say thanks. My eyes never tire of this pleasure.

My coffee is cooling. Morning is oozing into noon, and I'm still wandering. Guinnez wanders with me, and I follow him up the hill, through the woods, down the curve of the path, watching the rays of sun tangle through the tree tops.

Finally, we are down by the pond, coming full circle, and Guinnez picks up a trot, a slow jaunt, traveling just along the edge of the pond and making the frogs jump. Plop, plop, plop, into the soup. I giggle. Who hears, who cares, but I chortle.

I tour the perimeter, throw my head back to the skies, slosh my coffee, sing a little. Fine morning, this. Even if I can feel the temperatures climbing, the air thickening toward noon, humid mists creeping into tree tops, I am loving the day.

A lot of noise I'm making. In the middle of all that dance, I notice the frog. That one. Sitting so still on the rock along the pond's edge. He slows my dance to a tap, and it's then I hear a sudden crashing around at the pond's end. A deer? A deer. A small one, more than fawn but still slender and slight and young. And still curious. She leaps across the pond's far end and into the next field -- but then stops. Too curious to run.

I come to a complete standstill. Freeze. Catch my breath and watch her through the trees. There she is, very center, at first only the tips of her rounded ears up over the tall grass, but then up, up comes her head, then her long and slender neck, and she is watching me watching her.

I see deer here every day. Sometimes in great number. But this little one has me smiling. She saw me coming, heard my racket, turned for the horizon, but then stopped to check me out. In fact, she starts to come back. A few steps, and she stretches her neck to take another look. But then I lose her again. She walks behind a clump of bushes and disappears.

I get it. I enjoy the heck out of this place, day in and day out, but I'm missing a lot. How could I have come up on her with such a racket and not notice how close? If I'm just still a bit more often, like that frog, there's a lot more to experience than I've been taking in. I'm learning.

To be still. To be quiet. To sit in silence.

I sit down on the wooden bench under the trees, pondside, and just listen. Just watch. It takes a moment. But then it's almost like a switch gets flipped. All around me comes to life. I watch a pair of yellow warblers swoop up over the pond and across it, over my head and past. I hear a Woodpecker rattle out a rhythm in the tree behind me like I've never heard before. The frogs jump back out of the pond and sun themselves on the edge. A moment there, and they begin to rumble. A chorus begins. In some inexplicable synchronicity, they all sing as one, in perfect harmony. How do they do that? I don't know. But I can listen, and I can be filled with wonder.

I've been seeing my world through my own noise. Just beyond that, just, is another one that I am only now beginning to see.

Happy Summer Solstice.