Tamerlane

Nov. 26, 2013: The bare ground is giving way to snow. Our lives are changing and slowing down as the landscape freezes into place. During the gray days of fall, before the snow came and illuminated our lives, I was reminded of Edgar Allen Poe’s writing. He seemed to completely understand darkness and ruminating. Just how I feel in fall, as the days shorten, the skies cloud over and the air feels damp. Below are some passages from his poetry.

....A route obscured and lonely
 Haunted by ill angles only.
               from Dreamland

...This land of Eldorado?"
 Over the mountains
 of the Moon,
 Down the Valley of Shadow.
                from Eldorado

...Deep into that darkness peering, 
        long stood there wondering, fearing,
 Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever 
        dared to dream before;
 But the silence was unbroken, 
        and the stillness gave no token.
                from the Raven


In watercolor on newspaper by Mary Champagne

Tamerlane Tree
watercolor on newspaper
by Mary Champagne

 
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A folded song bird.

A folded song bird.

October 10, 2013: Post first written: October 1, 2013: I noticed today the song birds have left on their migrations. I have not seen a humming bird in a couple of weeks, the gold finches are no longer at my feeder. I can spot flocks of black birds and starlings. In tribute to the colorful song birds that are traveling south, I have folded a little paper bird and made us a little poem to enjoy in their absence.

Origami song bird by Mary Champagne

A little paper bird for you and shared with love from me,
It was folded up one summer day under a graceful swaying tree,
It called to me from a longing of loveliness 
           and realized itself right here,
Its only purpose to bring thoughts on song birds, for you and me.

Contemplating the Bad Lands and Humming Birds

Contemplating the Bad Lands and Humming Birds

September 28, 2013: Post first written: August 26, 2013: I like quiet time to contemplate ideas and put things into some sort of order. But, even after quiet thought, the thrill of discovery still blows my mind. For instance, the grandeur of the Bad Lands in South Dakota. I know it is made up of unconsolidated/loose earth that was laid down and through processes of erosion, make up the beautiful and almost unnatural landscape I saw a couple of years ago. They are impressive in such a way that is absolutely amazing. And to experience them is made even more precious with the knowledge that they will someday be gone, completely eroded away. We get a glimpse into the past while enjoying the absolute present.

Badlands in South Dakota

Badlands in South Dakota, I took this picture about three years ago while traveling through South Dakota during the winter.

It is at just such formations we have learned more about our former earth partners, the dinosaurs. Reminding us we weren’t the first to trod here. With life being finite, time seems limitless to such creature as myself.

But even with knowing all this there is a large gap in my understanding of things were. There is more than one thought that birds have evolved from dinosaurs. What that means, I don’t know, but I like to think what that might mean. Just such thoughts had occurred to me, when I was reading a book of poetry that my friend Becky had sent to me through the mail. “On Wings of Song, poems about birds”. Various poets are featured in the book, but one poem in particular by D. H. Lawrence got me thinking.

 
I can imagine, in some otherworld
Primeval-dumb, far back
In that most awful stillness, that only gasped
and hummed,
Humming-birds raced down the avenues.

Before anything had a soul,
While life was a heave of Matter, half inanimate,
This little bit chipped off in brilliance
And went whizzing through the slow, vast,
                succulent stems.

I believe there were no flowers then,
In the world where the humming-bird flashed
ahead of creation.
I believe he pierced the slow vegetable veins with
                His long beak.

Probably he was big
As mosses, and little lizards, they say were once big.
Probably he was a jabbing, terrifying monster.

We look at him through the wrong end of the long
telescope of Time,
Luckily for us.

D. H. Lawrence

Unlike the musings in the poem, the humming bird in life is not a formidable creature. Small in size and hardly a threat. The poem sets us up for some fancy and wonder, separating ourselves from the here and now. Perhaps it is possible to have such a world where it is possible to have such a hummer? How impressive it would be. I like how the poem is filled with wonder and yet grounded in how we all have our place and time.

Thanks for the book Becky! It is a great read! It was very kind of you to share it with me.

Well after talking about humming birds here is a picture of a humming bird. It is of the everyday variety! It was a quick, late night painting so please be kind. 🙂

by Mary Champagne

Timeless Humming Bird, painted in water color by Mary Champagne

Two Butterflies help bring meaning on Memorial Day

May 27, 2013: Memorial Day weekend is coming to an end and is a contemplative time for me which I shall share here. I was in the Iraq War and much of it was survival, following orders, long periods of boredom, death, terror, friendship, hope for the future, determination, and at times maddening. There was the kind of sweating that made your clothes scratchy and hard from body salts. The smell of diesel. It was noisy, unless it was silent and then the silence would be interrupted by gun fire and the low vibrations of mortars. The sound of the wind over vast desert. The sand scraping at your exposed skin. The penetrating sun. At times I fell to sleep, exhausted, while watching firefights and hearing the pops and whirls of bullets. On other occasions there would be a connection made with people from a faraway land, remembrances of family and freedom, and kind acts extended to those without or suffering. I am sad for those who die during their military service and for their families. I am thankful to military personnel for the private on guard duty and for those whom preform jobs requiring selfless service.

Those that preform their jobs well and with sacrifice, I think, is what we want to memorialize on Memorial Day. We especially observe those that pass away from us during the height of their independent youth. A great loss is felt. Like a song bird now silent in the woods or a butterfly that leaves our presence or a soldier sent to war and is never seen again by family and friends. They were beautiful and important and are missed and remembered. With that I present a poem from Emily Dickinson’s poetry collection, Two Butterflies.

XVIII

By Emily Dickinson from The Complete Poems Part Two: Nature 1924

Two butterflies went out at noon
And waltzed above a stream,
Then stepped straight through the firmament
And rested on a beam;

And then together bore away
Upon a shining sea, -
Though never yet, in any port,
There coming mentioned be.

If spoken by the distant bird,
If met in ether sea
By frigate or by merchantman,
Report was not to me.

The butterflies in the poem were a grand sight. Looking for the right words, I saw that Paul Evans has said, butterflies seem to draw the world around them into their dance. I think he is right! It is important to note the use of noon, the height of the day, alluding to the crescendo of the butterflies’ life. The butterflies flew away from Dickinson, to journey to the unknown and alas are lost to her. They can no longer be seen, touched, appreciated or admired. In the butterflies’ absence they are remembered and memorialized in the form of a poem. Oh Memorial Day.

Longing for ‘The Veery’

May 17, 2013: My mom had given me a book, ‘The Oxford Book of American Verse’ (1927) last summer. I love some old print books as the content simply cannot easily be found today. One of my favorite poems in the book is ‘The Veery’. I think on this poem often.

The Veery by Henry Van Dyke (1895)
The moonbeams over Arno's vale in silver flood were pouring,
When first I heard the nightingale a long-lost love deploring.
So passionate, so full of pain, it sounded strange and eerie;
I longed to hear a simpler strain,—the wood-notes of the veery.

The laverock sings a bonny lay above the Scottish heather;
It sprinkles down from far away like light and love together;
He drops the golden notes to greet his brooding mate, his dearie;
I only know one song more sweet,—the vespers of the veery.

In English gardens, green and bright and full of fruity treasure,
I heard the blackbird with delight repeat his merry measure:
The ballad was a pleasant one, the tune was loud and cheery,
And yet, with every setting sun, I listened for the veery.

But far away, and far away, the tawny thrush is singing;
New England woods, at close of day, with that clear chant are ringing:
And when my light of life is low, and heart and flesh are weary,
I fain would hear, before I go, the wood-notes of the veery.

To me this poem speaks about desire and longing. A special personal longing, whether it is a loved one, a paramour, a call to the outdoors, or a woodland companion, the veery. Dyke’s poem takes a sad and almost desperate turn at the end. “And when my light of life is low, and heart and flesh are weary, I fain would hear, before I go, the woodnotes of the veery.” Dyke points out to us that time is limited and that the things that we cherish, that we have carried a torch for, if they do not leave us, we will leave them. By the last line I am always so sad and it makes me reflect.

Observations at the Feeder

Today was one of those rare days. The house was quiet and everyone was gone. My husband had gone to work this morning and when he returned at lunch, had agreed to take my daughter to school and went and worked on his projects elsewhere. He asked me if I wanted to go. I did not, but instead seized the opportunity to have some quiet time. After they had left, I was sitting in the kitchen where we have placed a small round table beside the kitchen window and on the other side of that window there is a bird feeder that my daughter and husband had made earlier this spring. Beside the feeder and on the corner of the house is the sort of tree that flowers in the early spring. With each passing breeze, it is losing its small delicate pedals in a sort of flowery rain in whites and pinks. Watching the pedals fall away was like marking time. The tree will soon be bare of flowers and full of leaves. Perhaps there will be a bird nest? The birds were coming in to feed on the sunflower seeds in the feeder. I poured myself out a second espresso and sat with the window open. It felt like bliss!

“Observations at the Feeder”
By: Mary Champagne
Flutter
   Flutter
   Flutter
   Peck
Flutter
   Sit
   Eat
   Spit

The pleasure of daffodils

Because it is spring, my daughter picked daffodils at grandma’s house. Her grandma is an avid gardener and has many, many daffodils this time of year. My daughter was *delighted* that she could pick to her heart’s content and could bring them home to keep. She brought home a large bunch. They sit on our table and remind me of the daffodil poem by Wordsworth. I love this poem! Every time I read it; I am struck with how beautiful it is. Here is the poem in its entirety.

“I wandered lonely as a cloud” (Revised version)
By: William Wordsworth
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed-and gazed-but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

I think those last two lines are stirring. When writing, I like to think that is where Wordsworth started from. He seems to be having such a deeply personal experience. While personal, it is a feeling felt by anyone who has been awestruck. Wordsworth does a great job capturing that moment.