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Monthly Archives: January 2015

A Few Wild Apples

The few wild apples left hanging in the tree have wizened with age and look quite comical now capped with conical hats of snow.

Our lives unfold. Time collapses. Today I see a sliver of silver on the horizon that is Lake Huron, a world of ice, the silence a ‘deep profound’. It is time to fold our tent and move on; this place has grown beyond us.

January 27, 1996. Weather blows from cold to damp and mild to bitter. The ice is in and out, daily a different picture. One day ice to the horizon, a good blow the next day no ice visible.

January 10, 1998. Rounding the corner of the drive shed the smell of apples fills me. The wonderment is there are no apple trees. Was the shed built over an old orchard? The trees ghosts rising on the still night air?

A wild apple tree now grows where once there was only the perfume.

February 3, 1996. Very, very cold, the tap froze in the studio. The great horned owl was hooting tonight, I could see him perched on the barn from the studio window.

February 28, 1999. The world turns balmy and windy. The male redwings are back in the hundreds, the ash tree alive with their singing voices. Spring is heralded.

Time will change us if given any incentive at all. Some things we continually have to relearn. The taps froze again this year. Yesterday with the warm spell upon us it was a mad dash once the whooshing sound penetrated my awareness. A fountain of water cascading onto the light fixtures which turned it into a waterfall.

March 3, 1998. The swans are back.

Our first year here we realized we were on a bird migration route. Many hours were spent watching them tear through the leaf litter turning up bugs. This was a great event. We no longer felt guilty about not cleaning up in spring and fall. Our way was clear, the birds would go hungry if we did clean up.

We decided that with planning and hard work, we could give them habitat that would keep them around a little longer. Other things quickly followed.

March 30, 1998. The ditch is full of spring peepers. Their singing tonight pure enchantment with the bark of a bull frog as counterpoint. Lying under the walnut tree, the leaves rustle and rustle all over, not jumpy but an all at once kind of sound. Flashlight reveals nothing. I think they are earth worms dragging leaves underground, so other worldly, watching the stars move overhead to the music of frogs and rustling leaves.

The pattern of bird migration remains consistent but everything else is flux and chaos here. Tired of the view of beans and corn, in 1994 we started to annex some of the twenty five acres to plant trees and bushes.

Our first day out was to plant a hedge of wild roses. There were a hundred small twigs with a few hairy roots attached. The book said (and I am a great believer in books) ‘stick the spade in the earth at an angle. Stick the stick in, close the gash with a good foot stomp’. My helper asked; ‘Wasn’t I going to give them a drink?’ The book left out that important bit of information.

April 6, 2001. Tree swallows back.

April 25, 2001. First barn swallows today and wren and cedar waxwings, thrasher, flicker. I saw another unidentified bird, oh well.

May 20, 1995.The first peach blossoms opened. In two years the herbs have swamped each other. I should have realized that being essentially wild plants under cultivation they would be full of rank growth with energy to match. The book never said why they needed separate beds.

I did expect such fervor from the mint, planted around the wild plums, but it languishes from some black spot and is now totally absorbed by the grass which flew itself in as seed and quickly out grew everything else. The loveliness of that spot will be all the suckers rising everywhere from the wild plum. Who knew that trees could sucker to such abandon? They look unaffected from the aphid attack last year, every twig covered and an army of ants climbing the trees to dispatch them.

May 13, 1997. Saw my first male hummingbird yesterday, zooming into the back porch attracted by the pink ribbon. Hovered so close we got a good look at one another. Only when he arches his neck is his red throat visible. That surprises me. The wrens are back, put up two new houses for them. Has been a cold windy wet month. Planted the peach tree cuttings too soon I fear but the willows and elderberries should take.

May 21, 1997. That miserable task of getting all the grass out of the mulch with two layers of plastic underneath was memorable, (how the roots can grow between the layers to pop up or down to air and soil is a real bewilderment). Six cedar waxwings alighted to feast on the high bush cranberries left over from winter.

Our reason for moving here appeared straight forward, the desire to have larger working space for our growing art practices. Initially the drive shed was to be our working art studios, but once we got the estimates for insulation, hydro and plumbing the poultry barn (which had all of those things) didn’t smell quite so bad after all.

With ownership we felt a certain responsibility to the land and the inhabitants of that bit of dirt. Although, personally speaking, who actually believes they can own part of the earth?

June 16, 1997. Black irises, peonies, daylilies in bloom. After last night’s rain the peonies are once again decorating the grass. They are so overblown, the Dolly Partons of the flower world. Also in bloom angelica, high bush cranberries, red elderberries, all lovely scented. The blood peach blossoms very delicate, it takes a warm still day to release their perfume.

July 26, 1996. Seeing many baby toads this year. A hatch of praying mantises discovered in the (still) unplanted herb pot.

The cornelian cherry a bad choice, the birds do not eat them. The mice however gather the pits; they have found my rubber boots a good storage place.

We have learned to pay attention here. Events unfold some never to be repeated.

August 8, 1998. Pulled weeds today. The cornflowers and black-eyed susans are after four years colonizing by the creek. The trees beginning to break the surface of the weed height. Gooseberries ripe. Highlight a sighting of a yellow billed cuckoo.

It was a real thrill when the plantings became visible over the weeds, which we decided to call a meadow of wild flowers. The thistle and ragweed of the first year were displaced by asters, golden rod, clover, milkweed and wild strawberries.

September 10, 1995. In the garden there were hundreds of monarchs clustered in the trees, an ethereal experience being surrounded by dozens of hovering butterflies. Three days of torrential rain follows. The potatoes are scabby, the tomatoes small and split.

September 8, 1996. A flock of about two hundred swallows move through the field, so close to the golden rod their wing tips beat the weeds, then they dart ahead catching the insects they disturbed. They went the length of the field, then turn in mass take to the air and start another row. They did this four times before flying behind the cow barn. They are not our swallows though. They left two weeks ago, just after the big black and yellow garden spiders appear.

October 6, 1997. All of my beautiful green squash turned into bright orange pumpkins. What a surprise, about forty of them. Time to read my book about crosses and start fresh.

November 7, 1995. Planted Narcissus poeticus, two hundred around the orchard and seeded with meadow mix this time, not bird seed. Who knew bird seed was sterilized?007_e006_e005_eBones

December 22, 1999. Felt late last night that I am a miner. I dig and delve, the physical activity uncovers, reveals the art. Much like the excavations of the stones and boulders buried behind the cow barn. I stumble upon a few rocks, collect them up only to unearth a bonanza of riches beneath.

Much like our life here. Time collapses. Often we lose track of the days, we are so absorbed in the world that is around us, here present in the moment but on a plane of existence that feels outside of time.

Tomorrow will be soon enough to hammer in the for sale sign at the end of the driveway.

Everything has a voice

I was visiting a friend who was teaching in a relatively isolated northern community in British Columbia.  They had piped water but no electricity and the nearest gas station was an hour’s drive away.

One of Coby’s students came to her cabin for breakfast every morning. We were all sitting at the table, Coby and I still catching up when her young friend said, “Shhh, I need to hear my cereal”.

One of the things I have always believed is that everything has a voice, yes even inanimate objects.

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Although I have lost sight of the lake from here the sound still carries. It roars, bangs, crashes and howls depending on the season. It is a noise that lodges at the base of your skull, a sound that permeates skin and burrows into bone. At first exhilarating but after a few days the experience wears away your sense of self, no longer knowing where the sound ends and I begin.

How did Turner survive his contact with the sea, being bound to a mast through a dark night of storm and high seas? Maybe he was deaf.

Turner’s paintings are remarkable, his ability to render light unparalleled, a feat of observation with understanding often overlooked in today’s world.

J.M. Turner b.1775 d.1851

British Painter

How can a lake howl? In winter with ice built up to six feet on the shore line the interaction with water creates caves and tunnels, that eerie noise somehow emits from there.