September Joy

September Joy

I love the fall season. As a September baby, I remember planning birthday parties for both warm and sunny outdoor or chilly and rainy indoor activities. Around the fall equinox, it could go either way.

The cricket outside my window, trilling short police whistle blasts on a branch of the dawn redwood tree, summons no response on colder nights. Then last night, warm again, it received many return calls and the katydids in the woods beyond had no pause in their “Katy did, Katy didn’t “conversations.

This morning I wrote another haiku.

Arising thunder

Lightning flashes, rain falling

Close my small window

Rejoicing in berries, I have spied, white, red, purple, green and golden orange ones hanging on bushes and vines. Pine trees drop scaly cones, the cattails have turned into soft fluff, and the fallen mallow flowers have burst open their dark brown star pods. Plants leave us in so many diverse ways with their future regeneration assured. How and what will I leave when I go?

A hallway neighbor just turned one hundred and two today. Chronologically, I am the baby in this assisted living area though my neighbor is more physically mobile than I am. We all carry on with what we have as best we can.

Large swathes of the world mourn particular people, the state of politics, and the ongoing decimation of our planet. Within, I look for the root of all joy and delight in blueberries on my oatmeal, the first sip of hot Earl Grey tea, the song of Happy Birthday resonating from the dining area, the smell of petrichor in the newly wet soil, and the ability to share thoughts and words with you. If joy was not alive in the core of my being, how would I recognize joy in my quotidian life, given how much dire news is delivered to us every day?

Cultivating joy is not driven by my self-will. Curiosity, and an intention to focus on any small happiness that appears, helps to shift chronic pain to the background. These little reflections of pleasure emanate from a greater bliss within. I am learning to live through storms and birthdays with greater equanimity. I keep an LED tea light switched on all day, every day, on my bureau to remind myself that the light of joy is always burning.

August

buttonbush in bloom

End of Summer Insects

By day cicadas

By night crickets and katydids

Where did summer go?

Cattails

Thicket of cattails

A breeze rustles them to song

Green, brown, gone to seed…

I have been adding to my pages of haikus whenever they strike me. At last, the nights are just chilly enough to hint at the coming fall. Early morning bird songs are already greatly diminished, and insects fill in the chorus. Flowers are luxuriating and lawnmowers growl whenever rain clouds disappear.

Where did my summer go? Well, it isn’t gone yet, and I am getting outside on my scooter to enjoy what is left of it. July was me in my room, recovering from a fractured sacrum, so the ability to sit up long enough for 30 minutes on my scooter is a real joy. Fresh air and my daily vitamin D are inhaled with the smell of ponds and woods that I pass by on the paved paths around Kendal. Having grown up in, and then Richard and I building our house in the forests of the Catskills, I am nostalgic for the smell of northeast trees. It smells different here in Ohio, and I miss lying on the ground feeling tree roots entwining beneath me and walking on my own two feet next to a mountain stream.

There is a covered walkway here, a wooden bridge that connects the perimeter road around Kendal to a pathway that leads into the main building. It cuts through a patch of woods before it crosses a swampy vernal pond surrounded by buttonbushes. (see photo above) I often pause my scooter and sit on the bridge within the shaded leafy woodsy area that lies beyond the side rail fencing. I turn off my electric motor and breathe. Sometimes there is surprise- the forest floor hops away as a tiny bunny, a fawn lies in its mottled nest, a woodpecker drills above my head. Or I hear the call of “Birdie, birdie, birdie.”

Convocation of Cardinals   8/1/22

Three male cardinals

Pecking on the forest floor

Know the pope is ill?

I move on towards another larger pond and the stress of our world softens in the wide expanse of sky and water. Allowing my peripheral vision to encompass the big picture reminds me that healing is possible, probable, when given the chance.

This is also the month of my 52nd wedding anniversary. Hard to remember being 18 years old and entering into marriage. What it meant then, what it means now- I am still learning from all the years of materializing partnership, parenting, and beyond into the growth as the widow I now am. Gratitude for it all.

“April, c0me she will”…

“April, come she will…”

Simon and Garfunkel’s song comes to mind as do so many others (I used to sing madrigals and well remember John Dowland’s “April is in my mistress’ face… but in her heart a cruel December). This invigorating seasonal change for those of us who live in a temperate zone is always a thrill. I have often said that we tend to think of spring as two or three days of perfection. The sky is blue, the sun is warm but not too hot, gentle breezes are waltzing with the daffodils, the multi-colored tulips, and fragrant lilacs while the season unfolds within a palette of myriad shades of green. Of course, spring also means snowstorms, icy roads, buds frozen never to bloom until next year, and endless dreary rainy days when even the dogs are quick to do their business and just want to stay inside.

We hold ideals of spring up to the reality of the unpredictable nature of the lions/lambs of March and the rain/snow showers of April. As with all ideals, we prefer the gentler kinder version compared to a prolonged seesaw of temperatures producing crocuses and astonishing wind gusts of tiny blizzards. (On the other hand, yesterday we were graced by a sudden rainbow.) We need to keep all manner of outdoor clothing accessories close to hand in our overstuffed closets and entryways to suit all weather whimsy. Now if you are living in a temperate zone of the southern hemisphere, you are well into the beginning of winter. Your shorts and sandals are sleeping, and you are anticipating the delights of the cold weather activities that we here in northeast Ohio have gratefully left behind.

Ideals and reality become sharply illuminated whenever there is a crisis to draw our attention to the current level of threat to our beloved preferred values. Our fearful attention is being drawn every day by headlines and news reports that are revealing massive changes in our world right down to significant ripple effects affecting our daily lives. We are forced to pay attention to these dramatic events. Helpless, horrified, outraged, giving what we can, paying attention to as much information as we can safely ingest without self-harm, filtering truth from fearful speculation- we each are struggling to find hope in hearts already broken open by our personal lives and now, more and more visibly, by our collective lives.

Life includes all of the above, every single day of spring and winter, gentle and disastrous. It is seasoned by human ignorance, by we who are both so resilient and creative, as well as so very cruel and destructive. What personal ideals of yours have been tarnished or trampled these last few years? What was a final straw? Was it the pandemic, the shooting in your neighborhood grocery store, school, or concert, the virulent wildfires and tornados, the evidence of rabid hatred and denial that keeps uncovering how broken our most basic systems are? It is not hard to find multiple wrongs and defilements of my wistful illusions about the well-being of my state, my country, and my world.

I summon my ideal spring day from past memories but trust that this year, there will be at least a few new ones to add to and refresh the imagery I love. When it arrives, I will recognize it and abandon myself to its delight as best I can. How grateful I am that I do not have absolute dominion over the weather. The desire for control is dictated by fear. There is such rampant fear abroad in our world that autocrats everywhere are offering their rigid exclusive controls as the only salvation from chaos. I choose not to feed my or anybody else’s fear but rather acknowledge that spring will or will not arrive whenever or however it chooses. I choose to embrace all of life’s adventures as best I can. We are asked to trust that we have what is needed to meet each new day, in each new season, no matter our inherent preferences.

I wrote this song over thirty years ago but could only remember the chorus and the first verse. I recently wrote two verses to complete it anew. (It is rather breathy because my posture is very poor lately.)

New Leaves by Judi Bachrach

1) New leaves are growing everywhere

    Down on the ground up in the air

    I know, it’s for us to share.

Wrapped up tight against the sun

They will unfold them everyone

Until their growing is done.

Chorus:

Higher than the year before

Greener, grander, more and more

Changing ’til the very end

Then falling to return again.

2) Palest yellow, deepest green

   Every color in between

   April is painting summer’s dream.

Leaves of every shape and size

From the mud up to the skies

The earth is inviting us to rise.

Chorus:

3) Spreading roots beneath the ground

   Tendrils sprouting all around

   Wherever the light can be found.

Over ruins, over walls

On mountaintops, by waterfalls,

We grow towards the light, as it calls.

Chorus:

Seasons

In northeast Ohio, the days are lengthening, the ground is warming and birds are returning. The nights are still chilly and a cloudy day sets us back into warm jackets, but spring is springing forward a little bit more every day. There is comfort in this cycle. No spring is ever the same, and more often than not these days, there is even less certainty about the weather patterns and timing we have been accustomed to. The perfect spring day is a mirage that lies within dark, wet, muddy days, snow filled tulips, and then a miraculous day inviting outdoor games and picnics with the scent of flower and tree buds unfurling above and below.

I sat outside in the enclosed courtyard garden and melted with the snow as it watered the green leaves poking up from all the bulbs planted last year. When no one joined me there, I could take of my face mask and breathe the unencumbered freedom of fresh air. I live in a section of Kendal where we are still under nursing home mandates and are restricted to to stay masked inside our hallways and the courtyard. I am now allowed a one half hour visit with my daughter in another building in a room divided with a plexiglass wall between us, masked and throughly sanitized before and after the visit. Today my daughter arrived after a day of teaching on campus at the college which is a few minutes away.

We felt we covered a lot of ground talking together, free ranging our adult topics while Max is at his nanny share. On Saturday, he is allowed to come unmasked as a first thing in the morning visitor but is not supposed to touch everything in the bare room on his side of the clear wall. It is an experiment given that they have a forty-five minute drive to and from home just to see me. I have lined up a lot of songs to sing, some paper and markers to make stick figure illustrations to show him as I sing, and we’ll see how he does. I will plan to go stay with her family again when her semester is over. Other residents on the larger campus will have shorter quarantines after their away from Kendal visits, taking a Covid test, etc. but the two week safety zone is still a requirement for me. All worth waiting for as spring evolves around me.

A silly song I wrote for Max given his four favorite things to vocalize this week:

Max’s Song at 15 months

Max wants to fly like an airplane

He wants to fly up so high

Higher than bees

the birds up in the trees

Higher than clouds in the sky

Vroom vroom vroom

Max wants to play with a lion

And maybe a tiger or two

The big cats will roar

And Max will roar more

They’ll all take a nap when they’re through

Roar roar roar (snore snore snore)

Max wants to play with a doggie

The doggie will chase his red ball

She’ll bark and she’ll bark

All over the park

But she’ll always come back when Max calls

Bark bark bark

Max wants to swim with the fishes

He’ll sit in the water and play

The fish go *smack smack

And he’ll go smack smack

Say bye-bye at the end of the day

(*Fish sounds) smack smack smack

And this from pondering in the courtyard:

As Long as we Both Shall Live

March 1, 2021   

The sun and I lean in for a closer embrace

in this part of me

ice is melting

beneath my clothing

small green shoots are tickling upwards

birdsong layers my soundscape

warmth spreads

deepening

reaching even the hearts

of those suffering blindness

the loss of Love’s evanescence

Into the dark and frightened child

the starving greedy needs

of those in power

and those with none

the violent and violated

those who harm

and those in harmony

with my disappearing landscapes

all those who dwell there

pillaged and stuffed with waste

my clogged veins and arteries

muffling the heartbeat of Love

Still, we lean towards one another

the sun and I

this beneficent cycle

as we have done for millennium 

the dead make room for the living

the living make room for the dead

seasons of silence, seasons of song

as long as I live

for as long as we both shall live

we are inherent rhythms of Love

Judi Bachrach