Tiny Stories, Tiny Tales

The equinox occurred last night at 11:29 (CST). This was when the sun shone directly over the equator. After last night, the days for the northern hemisphere will shorten and the beautiful balance of equal days and night will tip over the edge towards darkness.

The autumnal equinox is also known as the Second Harvest (where everyone takes a break from the first harvest rush before pressing on) and more recently, Mabon (a Wiccan name and a male figure from Welsh mythology).

I’ve been considering how to observe this equinox. I’ve been poring over magazines, hunting for images and phrases that speak of the coming winter and darkness, a time of the year I take great solace in. Woodcuts from fairytales leap out, as do leafless trees twining over paths. At some point this week, I’ll make a collage but I wanted to do a small observance for the day and prepare myself for how the light will be changing.

In the end, my observance was born from observing changes. Yesterday was the first day I wrote a to-do list and didn’t feel ashamed or frustrated I didn’t get it all done. Yesterday was the first day that I wrote and thought hard and then let myself rest with a walk and a short nap. Yesterday was the first day I observed that I was balancing work and rest without guilt or self-flagellation for not getting more done. This was a huge balance that came from years of emotional work and rocky ongoing struggles.

Creation and depletion is balanced by play and rest. And the equinox is all about balance, two equal sides. It’s a natural time to honor the balance in life and notice the areas it’s occurring. I chose to look at the areas where I was successful rather than not. It’s harvest time, after all. A time to count, savor and enjoy one’s riches. I don’t have a pantry (nor did I do canning this year) where I can walk in and gloat over my jars of preserves and jams. So I walked into my internal pantry instead and gloated over the new preserves and jams nourishing my internal world. It’s a new chapter for me—enjoying what I have rather than lamenting over what I don’t. Work is always pressing onward but it’s good to take a moment and celebrate what is working out and what is in balance. It’s a beautiful and sweet time, a moment of deep breath taking before the last lingering days of autumn come to an end.


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The Willows Converse Among Themselves

I look across the river and catch sight of the willows, lost in their own world. They have no regard for me. They are speaking to each other in whispers so I hear nothing clearly but I see their long golden-yellow chains wavering over the water. It reflects their light.

There are presences in this world that are not human but sometimes, a human being comes across one of these presences and this is when poetry happens—when we interact with the strange divinity that moves through the world.

I caught sight of the willows and so complete were they within themselves, so beautiful to behold, that my mind stopped dead in its tracks and my heart eased. In the presence of an Other, human commotion becomes impossibly silly and pointless. The past and future converge into the present and there is only now.

I exhale the stress I’ve held this morning as I watch them. The willows, their long hair hanging over their faces, disregard me totally and completely and talk in their slow tree way, something to do with the air, water, and earth. I cannot hear much but what I do hear makes me recall there were other beings on this earth other than myself, older than myself. They exist in this time, in many times, living, dying, always reappearing. The willows hang their hair over the water as they have done for centuries, listening to the currents and moving with the breezes and eddies of the wind.

With a gratefully diminished self, I thank the universe for the ancient poetry that is the willow tree and move forward, reborn, into the bright day.

 

茶の煙柳と共にそよぐ也

the tea smoke

and the willow

together trembling

Issa

(Trans. David G. Lanoue)

Beautiful Dirty Summer

The thick green groves of cup-plants (silphium perfoliatumare) stand eight feet tall and are in their late summer glory. I look up at their bright yellow ray flowers and shield my eyes, the bright flowers sway so high and run so close to the sun. When I squint, the flowers darken into forms without color like the outline of the sun beating through closed eyelids.

I take a step nearer and peer into the leaves. Tiny pools of still water collect where the thick cup leaves meet the stems. It has not rained in the last few weeks and I’m surprised there is any water here at all. For leaves that are not broken or rotted, thimblefuls of water weigh without movement, rimmed with the detritus of summer: a fly’s wing, a wad of spider web, bits of dead grass and portions of pollen.

These tiny pools are water for goldfinches, tiny birds that flash by like rays of light. It hasn’t rained for weeks and this is left, tiny pools of water full of dirty summer. I consider drinking it. With one quick gulp, I’d drink the essence of a passing summer, imbibe what August means, and taste the bitter part of the growing season. This is living but rotting part that underlines all our lives but that no one likes to see, much less taste.

I shift my weight from foot to foot. The sun beats heavily down. The yellow flowers tumble in overhead breezes and the goldfinches live nearby, finding water where they can as the dry weeks pass. My hands drop to my sides and I pass back through the grass, ready for the shade. Perhaps when it rains and all the cup plants are full, I’ll take my drink along with the many others.