Saturday, June 27, 2009

Evening of Flowering Trees

Friday evening, it is still plenty warm when we set off after 9:00, down to 81 degrees after being in the 90s during the day. The light in the sky is still a bright slate blue behind us, reflecting off the glass towers of downtown as we approach River Road. At the Stone Arch Bridge, many people - families, couples, friends - are also drawn by the evening's relative coolness to stroll over the water in the darkening evening, a slender newish moon hovering over the condominiums and improbable-looking, asymmetrical new Guthrie Theater, its slender vertical marquees spelling out bright neon names of the three Tony Kushner plays being offered (none of which I have managed to take in).

Two women walk past, with their mismatched dogs, a tiny terrier and a happy young bulldog; the women lean toward each other, their perfume wafting past.

A large, sagging, shapeless man surges by on his motorized wheelchair, headlights beaming.

Three young adults sit on the stone ledge facing the walkway, drinking from a large jar of something orange - laughing and silly. (They are still there when we walk back.)

The evening deepens as we cross the bridge and turn around to walk back. I'm out of shape. We don't talk much. I have forgotten my camera, so take some pictures with my cell phone (fuzzy but capturing a bit of the late evening scene, still not full night though close to 10 o'clock).

When we get home, the air around our house is full of a light perfume. I spend a while outdoors just breathing it in. The smell triggers memories of the summers a few years ago when I was on a 10-month contract, from late June to late August off. Those summers were spent diving back into work on my Endless Dissertation, which allowed me to go to my tiny rented office and spend long afternoons and evenings, reading, journaling, pacing the hallways of the converted high school now home to small enterprises (alternative medicine, ecological study centers, lawyer and therapist offices for people doing it as an extra job). The Bookhouse was a half-block away, home to a large collection of used books, including women's studies, religion, and philosophy. Because I was researching popular feminist spirituality, it was a good source of material - and a great place to lose any sense of time.

Somehow, the academic work I needed to do could proceed only when I kept up to date with sleep, dreamwork, and meditation. It took me a while to figure that out. At the end of each summer through those years, I would reluctantly go back to my job, and despite my best efforts, the whole creative gestalt of the summer would grind to a halt, and I would be stalled out until the next summer.

The evening smell of the trees brings back memories of my dissertation summers, because I was sleeping during that time by an open window, with the fan upstairs pulling the hot air out and the night air in across my face. I smelled the perfume in the night and couldn't for the longest time figure out where it came from. Finally it dawned on me it came from the boulevard trees, those slender trees put in by the city after all the elms died.

Now, they are spreading wide, shading both the street and much of the yard, joining branches across the street, and stretching out over the roof. I hadn't noticed until recently that they had grown so big. They are loaded with the little white blossoms now that fill the air all around the neighborhood with a smell something like lily of the valley, only not so cloying. They started blooming just after the solstice, and are now at full bloom.

Something about the light perfume filling all the air around us, something about the memories, perhaps because it's Friday evening and the weekend still stretches out as an unbroken lake of possibility, puts me into the edge of a state of kairos - the kind of time very different from chronos, where it's business as usual, work-a-day, clock time. Kairos edges out chronos, too, when life is broken open, by birth or death, or by some unexpected gift. When I'm writing from a place of truth, I'm in kairos. Meeting for Worship, when it's truly "gathered" or "covered," shares this quality, a still, waiting, listening - time-out-of-time. It's walking through the cupboard into Narnia (or the place between the worlds). It's akin to Buber's I and Thou encounters, face to face with ultimacy in truly meeting a loved one, a piece of art, or, for Buber, even a cat or tree (Buber had to stretch quite a bit to allow for cats and trees, but I don't).

Here's a picture of one of the boulevard trees taken this morning - click to expand. I'm sure there are other people who would be able to identify what it is, but I really don't know.

(Later: I looked it up here.)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Some awards - and happy solstice to all!

A while ago, I was pleased and surprised to find I had been awarded my first-ever blog award by Mel of "From Clutter to Shine" (the award described here). Thanks, Mel! I've really enjoyed your blog, finding out about "unschooling" (I'll do a post sometime on why I kept my kids in school, and about experiences with the first years of Friends School of Minnesota). I especially loved Mel's story about how her little dog Oscar came into the family.

I still feel much like a newbie, and I'm not completely familiar with the folklore and protocol of blog awards, but they are good fun. Here's the award:

Now I have to say something about watermelons, before proceeding with my (drum rolls) awards forward. That is - there's a certain easy rhyme between the fruit and my name which my younger brothers exploited early in life (e.g. "Mary Ellen, watermelon! Mary Ellen, watermelon!). I can't catch any more of the memory than a certain taunting exuberance in their voices. So, yes, I have an affinity for this award, and beyond the "#10 for excellence" I am also attaching to it the meaning of "rich, ripe, juicy, and fun." With that in mind (further drum rolls), I pass this award along - in the spirit of "no obligation blogging" - to a few peeps (and reserve the right to pass it on to more if the fancy should strike):

Leone and Kim, for diving back into the juicy work of painting, committing to doing it for the long haul, and bringing up treasures from your creative souls. (I also wanted to introduce you to each other.)

For Pop and Ice, for being - well - so danged funny and sharp and full of juice.

And for my first-day, first blogger-sister Minka - far away but close at hand. Thanks for introducing yourself that first day of my blog. I enjoy peeks at your days, your travels, and your dedicated teaching of lively ninth-graders (here's the photos from their school trip to Venice ).

Yes, I know I'm supposed to tag six, but I'm not one for the rules. And - again - rules are made for breaking, guys, so take this award and do what you will with it, split open a couple and spit the seeds out far onto the lawn. That's the right thing to do on a hot, muggy, longest day of the year.

Happy solstice - and may our planet be healed and healthy for our children's children and far beyond.

(No obligation blogging, remember!)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

More to come . . .

I've come to the end of a busy week, focused on providing support for my #2 young adult son (Ben) to finish an intensive 3-week (May Session) course. He never quite hit his stride, and by the third week, when things were already winding to a close (an oral final exam, short papers due, labs due), he was a fair ways behind. So we launched into Mom-Homework-Helper mode - in some ways, my primary identity back when he was in high school, but little needed through the three years he has been in college. Mostly, I made sure he was fed, got him to (finally!) make a dental appointment, and printed out the articles he needed to read (his printer is out of ink). And I hosted him while he studied into the night, driving him home to his off-campus rooming house in the early hours. (He was able to study without as many distractions at our place.)

A complicating factor in the week was that Ben's dental exam resulted in two long stints at the dentist over the following two days getting a number of fillings. Also, we needed to drive out to a far suburb to get a camp physical that we could afford (because my health insurance wouldn't pay for a physical if it was a "physical with form," according to his clinic - thus costing us over $200 - she suggested a MinuteClinic instead where these were $30).

One early evening this week, when I brought Ben home to have dinner and study, I noticed something strange out of the dining room window - too big for a cat - loping along the sidewalk on the other side of the street. I called Ben to watch with me as the animal (half cat, half monkey) strolled unhurriedly to the telephone pole at the corner and started hitching himself up, arms reaching up, then pulling up his body, the way people shimmy up a pole. At the top, though, he got stuck for a while, and also wary as we came out to watch him and take some pictures. Note - we live within the city limits of Minneapolis, but close to some parkland that hosts deer, fox, and other wildlife.

(Click on the picture to see him in more detail.)

This marathon study week was all to get Ben through in time to drive him to Wisconsin where he will be a camp counselor at Camp Woodbrooke, a small, very simple, woodsy Quaker residential summer camp for kids. Did I mention that Ben is studying to be a kindergarten teacher?

I took Friday off to shop and pack for his two months at camp, and washed a large number of his clothes. The night before we drove to Wisconsin, Ben stayed up all night (fortunately at his place) doing the on-line labs, and then finished one of the his summary papers on the drive down. Somehow, he does manage to come through. I'm proud of him -and exasperated - and extremely tired (and sore from driving the little borrowed gas-sipping Saturn with the stiff steering wheel and clutch).

What's more to come will be some reflections I did on the drive back through "unglaciated" (that is, hilly and woodsy) Wisconsin. I love road trips, especially through beautiful country.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The meaning of my blog name revealed

I looked on Google for my blog name and found this skit (for boy scouts):

This Skit is meant for Boy Scouts, Webelos scouts.
Decide for yourself if it is appropriate for your younger scouts or not.
Required:3 scouts
Preparation:Largest scout stands center stage with arms raised like a tree.
Script:Scout enters stage, pretending to drive a car real fast. He swerves around, drives over a cliff, falling, falling, ... and then jumps onto the tree and hangs on tight.

Scout : Oh no, my car is totalled 500 feet down there in that canyon. I was sure lucky this tree was growing out of the side of the cliff. The road isn't too far up there. But, there's no way I can climb that cliff.

Scout : Man, my arms are getting tired. (squirm on the tree)

Scout : Help! Heeeelp! Is anyone up there?

Scout : Help! Heeeelp! Is anyone up there? My arms are killing me. (squirm around on the tree)

Deep Offstage Voice: I am here. I am God and I will help you.

Scout : Cool! What are you going to do? I can't hold on much longer.

God: Let go of the tree.

Scout : What?!? I'll fall 500 feet and splatter all over the rocks.

God: Do you believe in me?

Scout : Well, sure.

God: Then you have nothing to fear. Let go of the tree and I will save you.


Scout : Is anyone ELSE up there?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

In June the Moon is Growing Soon

This week has been busy, busy, busy. But there have been occasional evening moments when I could take in the wonderful depth of the dark blue sky-sea with the moon hoisting its billowing sail and sliding across. I tried to capture that depth of evening light the other day - still lingering twlight when the clock said it should be deep night. But I'd need a tripod and delayed timer to avoid the smear and blur that come with late evening pictures even when I steady the camera against a tree. This one came out the best, but it's not exactly crisp:

Tonight, though, I caught the moon near full without too much blur:

That's it for me tonight! Except - isn't this an intriguing flower (if it IS a flower?) . . .