Saturday, May 2, 2020

The Coming of the Summer................

"SO SOME OF us are now learning to listen in to and maybe even converse with the elemental utterances of things that don’t speak in words, tuning our ears and our skin to the discourse of multiple other-than-human beings: each redwing blackbird or storm cloud or naked chunk of sandstone jostling with the rest of existence." ......David Abram

The long, hot, introverted summers of Tucson are, like the long winters of the North lands, a time to go inside (quite literally), to  retreat.  With the Pause and strange Silence of the Covid19 Crisis, this seems particularly apt.

It is true, the advent of Summer can sometimes be rigorous, but life here has its own rythems, and just like living in a very cold climate, you adapt.  Then, and provided you have a good cooling system, you can quite learn to enjoy this time.  There are so many plants, flowers, and animals that come forth in the summer - they are citizens of the desert, and it is their time.  Yesterday, for example, I saw a tortoise on my walkway!  Everybody is up by 5:00 when it's cool, and by noon you're inside.  After the sun goes down people emerge again.   The hot desert moon hangs, intense in the heat, over all, and walks in the desert can be very magical indeed.  Just bring water, water, water, because one quickly learns here that without water, there is no life.

A truly Ambitious Agave getting ready to Bloom
Hot or not, it is still almost summer, and the adapted life of the desert is responding.  May is hot and yet, it is still Spring.  

The giant saguaros produce a  crown of beautiful white flowers which quickly become sweet purple fruits (native people make wine and preserves from them) and you see la Paloma, the desert doves, feasting on them. The doves make their mournful call, but actually it's a mating call. 

Agaves shoot up enormous once in a lifetime blooms, a pole of flowers that, when finished and gone to seed, marks the end of their lifetime, their one and only Masterpiece. 

Suddenly I find my garden and feeders full of baby birds as well, and busy finches.  The males sit on the fence glaring (if that is possible) at my cats, chirping over and over:  

"CAT!  It's a CAT!  CAT!  Watch out!"

My cats ignore them, although the Kamicaze swoops of the bigger and more aggressive Mockingbirds they find hard to ignore, and often hide under a chair or two to escape his vigilance.

 As May advances into June, the veneer of greenery in the desert dies back, waiting for the monsoons to come in July, when suddenly,  the vast storms roll in every afternoon, thunder and lightning, pour down floods that disappear within an hour or two...............and almost overnight the desert greens with seeds that have been dormant all year, waiting for this time.

It's easy to live inside of apartments, cars,  cyberspace and televisions today, immune to the subtle voices of nature, the "great conversation".  Because I'm a gardener, I seem to always have an ongoing wonder at my rooted "friends".   I remember when I was living in upstate New York, and suffered from asthma.  Every morning I would walk out into my garden and there would be mullein plants, springing up in very odd places I had certainly not planted them.  A herbalist friend remarked, seeing this phenomenon, that the spirit of the plant was trying to help me out.  Mullein is specifically useful to people with lung problems, both as a tonic and as an herb to smoke that clears the lungs.  A true Medicine Plant, a generous plant, responding to my need.   How often do we take the time to thank them?  We don't even notice............but our ancestors did.  

I had that same experience with "fairy circles", also in New York.  We lived on 40 acres, and I remember, being very involved in Pagan spirituality, I was eager for "signs" in the fields of Devas.    I left offerings, I talked to the trees.  And sure enough, there were a number of times when I would take a walk and see grasses grow up in pretty clear circles.   Fantasy on my part?  Maybe, but other people saw the  "circles".  I like to think the fey folk were saying hello.
Mushroom Fairy Circle (not my picture)
The Desert too has its spirits, its Numina, and if you listen, you can converse with them.  Friendliness has much to do with opening the conversation.  Every season I am honored when my  my Night Blooming Cereus cactus put on such a spectacular show.  I pat the cactus in the morning, thanking it for giving me such beauty.  I am often astounded to see buds, even a rare fruit, in what seems to be out of season on it.   Coincidence?  Maybe the cactus just likes me, and is responding to my great appreciation for its artistry.  Why not?  As an artist myself, I know I respond to appreciation.  What is a flower, but the Masterpiece of a plant, a great big shout of Joi de Vie?

Night Blooming Cereus
The Chance To Love Everything
by Mary Oliver

All summer I made friends
With the creatures nearby –
They flowed through the fields
And under the tent walls,
Or padded through the door,
Grinning through their many teeth,
Looking for seeds,
Suet, sugar; muttering and humming,
Opening the breadbox, happiest when
There was milk and music. But once
In the night I heard a sound
Outside the door, the canvas
Bulged slightly – something
Was pressing inward at eye level.
I watched, trembling, sure I had heard
The click of claws, the smack of lips
Outside my gauzy house –
I imagined the red eyes,
The broad tongue, the enormous lap.
Would it be friendly too?
Fear defeated me. And yet,
Not in faith and not in madness
But with the courage I thought
My dream deserved,
I stepped outside. It was gone.
Then I whirled at the sound of some
Shambling tonnage.
Did I see a black haunch slipping
Back through the trees? Did I see
The moonlight shining on it?
Did I actually reach out my arms
Toward it, toward paradise falling, like
The fading of the dearest, wildest hope –
The dark heart of the story that is all
The reason for its telling?
Found Poetry:"The Barbed Heart Finds Refuge Among the Palos Verde Forest"

1 comment:

Trish MacGregor said...

You really give a sense of living the desert life!