Friday, May 16, 2014

Transcendentally speaking.

The Rhodora

In May, when sea-winds pierced our solitudes,
I found the fresh Rhodora in the woods,
Spreading its leafless blooms in a damp nook,
To please the desert and the sluggish brook.
The purple petals fallen in the pool
Made the black water with their beauty gay;
Here might the red-bird come his plumes to cool,
And court the flower that cheapens his array.
Rhodora! if the sages ask thee why
This charm is wasted on the earth and sky,
Tell them, dear, that, if eyes were made for seeing,
Then beauty is its own excuse for Being;
Why thou wert there, O rival of the rose!
I never thought to ask; I never knew;
But in my simple ignorance suppose
The self-same power that brought me there, brought you.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

We have a Rhododendron in bloom down by our woodland stream, a brilliant flash of elegant pinky-purple blossoms set amid the greens of forest and water-iris leaves. I photographed it today and thought of Emerson's poem. I suppose it was the same flash of thought we both shared across time, although of course I would probably edge away from 'selfsame power', an expression he himself had no problem with, transcendentally speaking.

Yesterday, another sign of Spring arrived at my doorstep, an elderly couple of Jehovah’s Witnesses came along to spread the word. I have been occasional acquainted with them for many years and they never give up showing up. I welcome them, sit them down in the sunshine and we have a long chat about the troubles in the world and how God has it all figured out and will rescue us in the end.

Once perhaps, I might have used my Bible knowledge and verbal skills to poke around in their beliefs a little, but now that would seem merely arrogant. Besides, as we talk about the peace that flows from the leafy landscape around us under the warming sunshine I'm no longer sure at all that we are are not pretty much on the same page. They no longer object when I refer to humans as animals and I no longer object to the formula of good and evil that comes from the Adam and Eve story. Really we are that rare thing, people who have known each other for a long time and value this meeting for its and life's transitory nature; that, like the Rhodora's falling petals, this might be for the last time.

...if eyes were made for seeing,
Then beauty is its own excuse for Being;

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Spring at Burgoyne Bay. 'Make and mend' .

This bay on the wilder south-west side of Saltspring Island was once a stopping point for early coastal steamships that provided transportation links before roads, railways, and aircraft were developed. Not so many years ago an abandoned house nestled into the run-riot garden and non-native decorative trees beside the beach. Today this coastline and the old farm fields and barn that lie just behind the forested slopes are a provincial park and at this time of year it is spectacular, with its spring blossoms, mossy rocks and fresh leaves. Beautiful, but somehow sad with its echoes of farming long abandoned. I walk for pleasure amid the results of so much earnest labour; the fields being reclaimed by alder, the barn sagging with its milking parlour long since abandoned.

The old home-site near the beach has been 'remediated', but the trees planted long ago still please our eyes; the magnolia, the Japanese maple, the redwood and the laurel hedge are strong healthy specimens. The original settler's plantings amid the 'wilderness' are our link to time past but so much continues and is our link to time future. The stream that once burbled past their door and provided drinking and irrigation water still flows down from the hills and through the fields and swamps. The tide still rises and falls and produces seafood for the gathering. Geese still pass overhead on their way north, ravens soar on the updrafts against the mountainside and owls patrol the night skies where the same stars patterns show themselves between drifting clouds.

The interesting aspect I am noticing today, amid this blend of old and new, is that all this is harmonious. Even the old fallen cedar posts with their tangled fencing wire are on this Spring day inevitably part of death, decay and renewal. Human structures and farming practices are being repaired by powerful new growth.

One can acknowledge the passage of time and the sadness of the ruin of human dreams but be thankful for the bigger picture; for nature's relentless 'make and mend'.