Tag Archives: nature

The Cure for Modern Life

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I lie at the end of our swimming dock, face down. My forehead and nose and thighs and shoulders press against the rough boards.

The silvered wood has seen winter and summer, summer and winter. I have scrubbed it on hands and knees and let it dry and brushed on Thompson’s water seal. Then droplets of water bead upon it like tiny jewels, holding a spark of the sun.

Through the cracks in the boards I see the glint and swish of shadowed water. Tiny waves lap against the rocks piled in the crib, which supports the dock. On my back is sun, tussling with the breeze, as one tries to warm my bare skin and the other raises goose bumps along it.

A dock spider nearly the size of my hand, gray-furred like a mouse with so many more legs, guards a marble-sized, silken ball of eggs. Out on the water, the pair of loons that nests, year after year, on the island in the portage bay sails past, cooing the way they do. Those small sounds of love.

This is my place. This is where I go when I need to remember the important things.

In TRUE NORTH, Elliott Merrick writes:

It is the land, the long white lakes, the forests and mountains and rivers, the space and the northern lights and the cold and beauty.  Nothing within the scope of our comprehension is as worth knowing as the heart of that.  Even if there were no reason, no benefit, even if it were not an antidote for every poison that complex living distills, even if it were not strengthening and sparkling, this would still be so.

His North is blanketed in snow and ice. Mine is held in the arms of summer. But the answer is still true–the cure is in the wilderness.


Why writers need empty spaces

For those of you who follow me on Twitter or are my Facebook friends, I know I’ve been annoying you with pictures and pithy quips from the sandy, sunny beaches of Hawaii.  I’m back to the doom and gloom of a Portland winter so I’ll stop being an irritant.  However, I hope you’ll bear with me for one parting thought about my vacation.

Vacations are important and amazing for all the normal reasons. We don’t work or clean our houses or do our laundry.  We don’t set alarm clocks or exercise or make grocery lists.  We play.  And there was lots of serious play on my trip to Hawaii, but there was also something else–EMPTY SPACE.

During the last week, I had chunks of time with nothing to do.  I didn’t reach for a book or a pen and paper.  I didn’t even let my mind turn toward the next scenes I need to write in the Angel Punk novel.  Honestly, I didn’t think about writing at all.

Instead, I watched people.  I got lost in movements, gestures, voices.  I stared at the sea and sky and sand and twisted lava.  I got drunk on textures and swooping lines, the way stillness and motion merge at the horizon.  I dove into my senses: the feel of wind and blowing sand, the scent of wet earth and papaya.

A whole universe was born inside a 1987 Westphalia Pop-Up.  My family of four lived for a week in the lovely Hula Wahini, cruising the islands and inventing new phrases for our own personal family dialect.  “Going Pahoa” and “Ghetto Wahini” and “Happy Camper” will forever be part of our shared story.  I rolled around in the new-oldness of my little team.  I revisited myself (because she’s been too busy to even grab coffee lately.)

Evolutionary biologists like to say that “Nature abhors a vacuum.”  (Variously attributed to Aristotle, Spinoza, and Parmenides, but I’m too lazy to track down the real source.  Sorry.)  What we mean is that any empty ecological niche will eventually be filled by the adaptation of some species.  There are no empty places because life is cramped and crowded on this planet and any chance of freedom from competition will be exploited.

My mind is often a cramped and crowded planet.  It’s jammed with to-do lists and calendars and works-in-progress and family needs.  We keep a wicked pace.

Yet, empty spaces enveloped me last week.   And, as the philosophers promised, the empty spaces proffered by Hawaii were filled–and filled with riches that I’ll draw on for a long time.  Now if I can just remember to go Pahoa, I’ll be fine.


The Curious Garden by Peter Brown @itspeterbrown

Today I read Peter Brown’s delightful book to my son’s class.  I told them there was a curious garden quite close to our school.  They made me promise to take some pictures.

I’ve always been fascinated by how quickly nature overwhelms our puny human structures once we get out of the way.  This bridge is a case in point.

In the story, Liam helps his garden transform an entire city.  I love it!