equinox - 9/22/2018

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Last Saturday morning I was working in my summer journal. When I came to the last page in the book I realized it is time to start a new one. I have been fooling myself that it is still summer, probably because it has been so wet and green here in Virginia. Last week we picked beautiful Asian pears at a local farm and the stalks of my okra have fallen over in the wind. When I harvested my measly sweet potatoes I had to cut off large branches of marigolds that had grown through my protective fencing. The late yellow and orange petals are radiant, perfect in the September dew.

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To the Light of September

When you are already here
you appear to be only
a name that tells of you
whether you are present or not

and for now it seems as though
you are still summer
still the high familiar
endless summer
yet with a glint
of bronze in the chill mornings
and the late yellow petals
of the mullein fluttering
on the stalks that lean
over their broken
shadows across the cracked ground

but they all know
that you have come
the seed heads of the sage
the whispering birds
with nowhere to hide you
to keep you for later

you
who fly with them

you who are neither
before nor after
you who arrive
with blue plums
that have fallen through the night

perfect in the dew

By W. S. Merwin

#21 summer summit 2018

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We have reached the summit of this year's project, the longest day for 2018. Before I began this year's series my cousin wrote to say she looked forward to seeing how our trip to Tasmania would influence my work. The sky has given me empathy for continents unknown and tasting little bits of a new hemisphere has me thinking about not only the longest day but the shortest day in the same moment. Through travel I gained new vision and inspiration for materials both distant and local. Looking at piles of sand and clay and rock has refreshed my appreciation for what is close to the bone, whether it is available materials or what grows close to our house. The challenge is always how do we reframe our vision and grow new skin.

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the sky a map for continents unknown,
the sky close to the bone, always new skin.
--Peter Cooley, from "Morning Prayer," World Without Finishing: Poems (Carnegie Mellon, 2018)

#20 summer summit 2018

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STARS, SCATTERSTILL. Constellations of people and quiet.

Those nights when nothing catches, nothing also is artless.

I walked for hours in those forests, my legs a canvas of scratches,

trading on the old hopes--we were meant to be lost. But being lost

means not knowing what it means. Inside the meadow is the grass,

rich with darkness. Inside the grass is the wish to be rooted, inside the rain

the wish to dissolve. What you think you live for you may not live for. 

One star goes out. One breath lifts inside a crow inside a field.
--Joanna Klink, from "3 Bewildered Landscapes," Excerpts from a Secret Prophecy (Penguin Poets, 2015)

#19 summer summit 2018

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I can't celebrate a birthday without thinking about my mother and all the things she taught me. Today I sorted through a series of boxes of my pottery that she saved. I don't need to keep them any more but her attention and love of these objects taught me so many great, great lessons. Always have plenty of vases on hand for flowers for the table or for whomever else might need some color. Always fill a bowl with a peach and a vase with a flower. Always pause for a drawing, a photograph, or a poem.

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What I Learned From My Mother
By Julia Kasdorf

I learned from my mother how to love
the living, to have plenty of vases on hand
in case you have to rush to the hospital
with peonies cut from the lawn, black ants
still stuck to the buds. I learned to save jars
large enough to hold fruit salad for a whole
grieving household, to cube home-canned pears
and peaches, to slice through maroon grape skins
and flick out the sexual seeds with a knife point.
I learned to attend viewings even if I didn't know
the deceased, to press the moist hands
of the living, to look in their eyes and offer
sympathy, as though I understood loss even then.
I learned that whatever we say means nothing,
what anyone will remember is that we came.
I learned to believe I had the power to ease
awful pains materially like an angel.
Like a doctor, I learned to create
from another's suffering my own usefulness, and once
you know how to do this, you can never refuse.
To every house you enter, you must offer
healing: a chocolate cake you baked yourself,
the blessing of your voice, your chaste touch.

#18 summer summit 2018

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I remember the night before I turned eleven. I was so excited I went to bed at dusk. My family had rented a house for the summer near Georgica Beach in Long Island and there was always a great gang of kids to play with. They were still playing on the lawn outside my window as I tried in vain to go to sleep so I could turn eleven.

That memory was like a vein of honey that tracked through last night's sleep between dusk and the possibility of the future. Last night I dreamt I was in a rowboat. As I pulled the oars I went back in time, one decade at a jump. First I was fifty and our daughter was just graduating from high school. Then I was forty-ish and having been sick I saw the tentative nature of life. At thirty-ish I was learning what it was like to be a mom. At twenty I was painting in the south of France feeling I had met my tribe. The final jump was all the way back to eleven when there was no question about past or future. I could dance and run and paint and make pots and choreograph and swim and paddle and pedal as far into the ocean as I dreamed.


18 summer 2018.jpgDusk: a blade of honey between our shadows, draining.
--Ocean Vuong, from "On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous" in Night Sky with Exit Wounds


#17 summer summit 2018

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One of the things I really enjoy about social media and holidays like Father's Day are all the family pictures that friends post. I love to see how we look like our parents or how someone's children take after a grandparent or how photos convey information about changing times. I love the pictures of my parents in kayaks and the memories of  family adventures on the water. Today in honor of Father's Day Warren and I replaced the paddles for the kayak that we take out on the pond. We took a few moments to float and stroked around the perimeter of the pond. The days are still climbing towards summer. We noted the trees that have died, the others that have sprouted, yet each tree speaks the same language of water and roots.

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and still when spring climbed toward summer
you opened once more the curled sleeping fingers
of newborn leaves as though nothing had happened
you and the seasons spoke the same language
and all these years I have looked through your limbs
to the river below and the roofs and the night
and you were the way I saw the world

--from W.S, Merwin, Elegy for a Walnut Tree

#16 summer summit 2018

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The Raspberry Room
by Karin Gottshall

It was solid hedge, loops of bramble and thorny  
as it had to be with its berries thick as bumblebees.  
It drew blood just to get there, but I was queen  
of that place, at ten, though the berries shook like fists  
in the wind, daring anyone to come in.  I was trying  
so hard to love this world--real rooms too big and full  
of worry to comfortably inhabit--but believing I was born
to live in that cloistered green bower: the raspberry patch  
in the back acre of my grandparents' orchard.  I was cross-  
stitched and beaded by its fat, dollmaker's needles.  The effort  
of sliding under the heavy, spiked tangles that tore  
my clothes and smeared me with juice was rewarded  
with space, wholly mine, a kind of room out of  
the crush of the bushes with a canopy of raspberry  
dagger-leaves and a syrup of sun and birdsong.  
Hours would pass in the loud buzz of it, blood  
made it mine--the adventure of that red sting singing  
down my calves, the place the scratches brought me to:  
just space enough for a girl to lie down.

#15 summer summit 2018

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Although it had been suggested that we bring a small step ladder none was needed on our cherry picking excursion. We leaned into the shade of the trees to pick our fruit. The view and light all chimed in to  create the chords of a great experience.

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I lean like a ladder and with my face
reach into the second floor of the cherry tree.
I'm inside the bell of colours, it chimes with sunlight.
I polish off the swarthy red berries faster than four magpies.

--Tomas Transtromer

#14 summer summit 2018

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It was one of those days when each thing I did was more beautiful than the next--picking blueberries before breakfast, taking a break after lunch to pick cherries and raspberries at a friend's farm in the north end of the county, and then an outdoor dinner and lingering in a more central section of the county. Even the weekly task of mowing the grass went quickly. We are finally home to pause with the dog and the fireflies. Last winter, when we were in Tasmania our friends (partially joking) asked us not to tell folks at home how beautiful it was. They suggested that when we posted images online we should mark them with the hash tag hideous. So I guess it was one of those hideous days here in Virginia.

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The most beautiful thing in the evening are the fireflies. They arise on all sides in droves of millions. Once I paused while down the creek; I looked westward and gasped with the beauty. As if by some preconceived plan they all flashed simultaneously. It was like some wonderful strain of music. They rivaled the starry night in splendor. Blackness of night accentuates them.
--Charles Burchfield, June 13, 1914

#13 summer summit 2018

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Lovage cut from a friend's garden followed me home with a barge of celery-like fragrance.

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"When we walk in the sun
our shadows are like barges of silence."
--Mark Strand

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