My Lavender Clouds: Purple Asters

For the month of September every year my land is graced with sprays of purple asters. This delicate color comes before the burst of autumnal gold and orange of the sugar maples and poplar trees in our forest. These tiny asters are all over my land, and I have to be extra careful to not weed them out of my flower beds in late spring. They are volunteers. Wild, wistful and so welcome.
Large bush of purple asters

Living in Vermont up high – 1800 feet – offers sweeping views of the Green Mountains and the 35 acre emerald green field in front of our house. There is fog cupping the valleys early mornings and coral clouds at sunset. These vistas are a perfect backdrop to my flower gardens that are dense with flowers in the summer. They grow close and crowded. I like it that way − less to weed and prop up. They do it themselves by twisting and twining together in my flower beds. Most of the flowers I don’t know their names. They’ve been given to me by gardeners that divide up the roots of their flowers and thin out their beds. I do neither, preferring my land to have its way and grow thick and lush.

And those asters. I did not plant them. They are a gift of the wild, along with the tiny white and purple violets and yellow trout lilies dotting my “lawn” in early spring. I say lawn but it is really a bit of grass with a hell of a lot of clover and moss and wild flowers intermingled. I especially like the delicate trout lily with its bobbing yellow dangle – a miniature lily. Another wild flower that is a summer visitor is the tall yellow lupine that I leave in groups and carefully mow around. And the beauties of all wild Vermont flowers, the stately orange day lily that I have many circles of. In another ten years on my property, I won’t have any more grass to mow. The wild flowers will have taken over. I hope so.

For now, I’ve got my lavender clouds of asters everywhere on my land. The nights are frosted and the days crisp with the smell of apples in the air. Many of these apple trees all through Vermont are nearly wild too. Years ago they were planted, some a hundred years or more. Now the deer and raccoon and woodchucks can gorge themselves. Every other year, we all get to have a bumper crop of apples. But every year I get to love my delicate purple asters.


Auhtor PhotoDian Parker is a freelance writer for a number of New England publications, including Art New England, the White River Herald, OpEd News, and many others. She is the gallery director for White River Gallery in Vermont and an oil painter. Parker has written about porcupines, old growth trees, architecture, artists, inventors, and immortality. She lives in the backwoods of Vermont at 1800 feet; snowshoeing and working on a short story collection. Photo by the author of flowers from her garden.

View her work at the links below:
Sustaining-Ecstasy
Porcupine Courtship: A Raucous Affair
Stones in Translation
Five Paintings
Artificium
Back of Beyond
The Art of Falling

It is Solved By Walking

Dear Rebekah,
(A letter to myself, from myself, as written by my subconscious)

“Have you ever been to Camp Long? It’s a spectacular park out in West Seattle. It’s got five miles of trails within the park, foot bridges, an obstacle course, fire pits, and rustic cabins,” I say to my companion, convincing him this should be our adventure for the day.

“Well, that certainly sounds like a great place to spend the day,” he tells me.

Thus, I packed essentials: water bottle, a couple of pens, my notebook, a few letters (for inspiration), and though I don’t plan on using them, I bring my earbuds. I want to wander, reset my frazzled mind. Work has been unbearably stressful and I’m finding it difficult to balance my life with each passing day. Today will be a day that I wander some trails and let go, and you, my companion, will put up the hammock in the trees next to the small creek. The weather is chilly enough to wear a hooded sweatshirt and warm enough to hike in shorts.

stone steps through forestWhen we arrived at the entrance to Camp Long, we were greeted by an old brick house made into a ranger station. We walk down the ADA ramp, lined with tall pines, and find our way to a narrow trail head that leads to the perfect hammock spot. The sun dwells just behind a veil of grey clouds, grasping at every opportunity to shine through. The wind is chilly as it whispers through the leaves, weaving a heavenly scent of pine, cedar, Douglas fir, and musky earth. I left you curled comfortably in the hammock as I took to continuing the path. While I have no purposeful destination, I seek to embed myself as deeply into this park, this trail, as these woods will allow. Intersections of trails are frequent; each time I allow the trail to choose me. I don’t think much for the first twenty minutes of this walk. I breathe as deeply as I can, soaking in the crisp air of leaves, dirt, and an unnamed sweetness. It is so peaceful here.

Finally, my mind begins to unwind. I pull one of the bottles from my backpack, and take a gulp of water. Still cold. I must have walked that brain of mine into meditation harder than I thought. I stopped walking and found a couple of roots running parallel, giving the illusion of a small set of steps, just off the beaten path. I sit, feeling fully submerged in the greenery surrounding me. I imagine that if I sat very still for as long as I possibly could, I would blend in with the forest, become one with it. Disappear among the wild.

It sounds like Home. For real though; the song is Nights (I Wish I Could Be There). I know I am aiming for an unaltered experience, and at this moment I need something a little different. With earbuds in, I pause in my wanderings to eat a granola bar and put music to my ears as I am with my eyes. I sit for three songs, inhaling deeply and closing my eyes.

I feel a pang of homesickness: back in a different park, in a faraway location, where it was sweltering and miserable, we were swatting at mosquitos and apologizing for whosever plan this was. I read my letter, one line sticking out, “I’m sorry if there are any typos, there are several ants destroying my leg.”

I remove the earbuds before the ants in this reality begin to devour me, and stand. I listen. A few birds chirp in the distance. I’m not sure what kind they are; the birds listed at the trail head said there’d be warblers. Maybe that’s what a warbler sounds like. I read another line of my letter and safely fold it back, “My whole world is brighter, everything I do has more meaning to me. I’m forever grateful and excited to challenge whatever life throws, together.”

Shuffling along the trail among leaves and overgrown shrubs, blackberry bushes, and ferns, I see a weird looking leaf? Twig? I kneel closely for inspection. It’s about eight inches long, and yellowy-green with a few dark freckles. Sort of like a slimy banana. While banana slugs are nocturnal creatures, today’s mild and moist conditions are perfect to find one, well, slugging around. I’ve heard that banana slugs are the second largest slugs in the world, and though they come in other colors, they are named for their shape and color, characteristic of a mature banana. You know, the one you’ve been avoiding eating. This slug is a little more green than yellow and the dark brown spots give it an appearance of a pickle, rather than banana. I take a stick and gently prod at it to see if it’s alive. It moves slowly, curling up, crinkling leaves and debris with it. The forest pickle and I have a short conversation about our plans for the day, then I wandered off without a goal or destination.

“I don’t know where all this will go; all I know is I want to spend time with you. I want to make memories, share experiences, laugh, and just be, enjoying your company,” words of my letter echo through my mind.

I am reminded of the Wander Society, an anonymous organization of writers, philosophers, and general people who find walking as humble as it is noble. This tradition has been in existence for over a hundred years; though I’ve recently been introduced to it. This art form of meditation and rejuvenation is beneficial for myriad reasons, including stress relief and inspiration. Since moving to Seattle, it’s been my primary source of transportation. Most people are surprised when I tell them my walk to work averages about 40 minutes, and they’re shocked when I tell them I enjoy it. I’ve gotten to know a city by walking it; that’s something I’ve never done and now I feel intimately connected to where I live and work than I would if I drove through it.

Authors such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau were avid wanderers. They wrote poetry and essays about walking in nature. I think about them as I follow the trail through the trees, a low rumble of traffic heard from a distance. The opening between the trees reveals a soft blue sky and a few white clouds. I keep an internal compass on my journey and before I know it, I arrive at cement steps leading up and out of the forest.

I’ve come to the end of the trail. This last trek will lead me across a manicured field, and back to the trail head where I left my companion lazily swinging in a hammock. “I’ve never been the type of person that truly believes in everything happens for a reason, I guess that’s because I was too busy ignoring it. Then I met you.”

“Give your heart to a wanderer, who found your soul and called it home,” (Unknown) for “not all those who wander are lost” (J.R.R. Tolkien), and it is often a meditation in losing oneself that will bring one back to themselves. An unintentional walk will put things into perspective and return what you haven’t given yourself the proper time to think about.

Sincerely,
The Wander Society
Solvitur Ambulando


Rebekah Ramsdell recently moved from Florida to Washington state, leaving one home to find a new one. This journal is part of that story. Photo by the author. (Solvitur Ambulando is a Latin phrase that means ‘It is solved by walking.’

The Tip of This Floweret

Mornings are magic here. The whinny of a screech owl, the vibrations of bullfrogs. The garrulous squawk of the blue heron mingling with the wind chimes at the screen door. The song of my wood thrush (mine, you see) and twitters of other songbirds waking into the day. The sun hasn’t come over the ridge yet but there’s light on the pond and a soft light on my hives with its backdrop of Queen Anne’s lace. Their taproots reach deep into the earth. Holding on. For dear life. Stems, straight and strong, bend toward the sun. Dividing again and again, each one ends in a flower, and each flower bursts into flowerets. I follow a stem in my mind to arrive at the tip of one perfect tiny floweret.

So, so much here. Charles M. Schultz said that adversity is what makes you mature; the growing soul is watered best by the tears of sadness. I question my existence in this particular time and space. Often. On the path I’ve taken, a step either right or left could have sent me tangentially off, deeply angled from that moment. Every choice was met with yet another choice and of all the places I could have landed, I blossomed in this little nook and cranny of the world. I’ve harvested richness from adversity. This is where I belong today, stepping forward from a point of reality, not from some point of fantasy.

And so I listen to this bullfrog serenading me at first light. I watch this heron winging by, its prehistoric silhouette dark against the silver misted waters of the pond, from the tip of my floweret. There are no shortcuts to a different life and there is no retracing of steps, no turning back time. The measured hum of the bullfrog, leaving only echoes, and the pulsating wingbeats of the heron moving it only forward, tell me so. They are wise and that settles my heart.

Floweret of Queen Anne's Lace


Janice Sina, former biology teacher turned veterinary assistant, observes and writes about nature, human and otherwise. She lives in East Haddam, Connecticut, US, where she strives to tread lightly on this Earth with her husband, her pets, and several thousand honeybees. She is currently putting the finishing touches on her first book, Songlines in the Key of B. You can find out more at janicesina.com

Photo of Queen Anne’s Lace by the author.

Sky Vision

Twilight is near, the air is still and hushed, a few birds are winging by, intent on settling away for the long night ahead; seeking a place of protection and privacy. Simply, rest. I stand and watch ― the birds ― the sky ― both competing for my eyes to linger on.

Do they see it too, the sky, the sun-washed colors floating with ease there in the west? Do they notice the great stage that is now set above earth’s darkening horizon? See it as I do? Taking pleasure in some hurried, even careless way? I want to believe they do.

As they ruffle about on some secluded branch checking feather tips, curled claws and spiked beak; perhaps, they pause to appreciate the melting mauve streaks, glowing trails of scarlet, and faint wisp of teal spreading far out before them; such subtle hues mixing with that familiar ageless blue.

Living as they do, constantly racing in the sky, diving and twisting, experts at maneuvering any tricky type of airwave; maybe only they know the true colors out there. Air and atmosphere, rain and sleet, dew and snow, mist and cloud.

Seeing every dust particle, like a cat in the dark, the detailed depths of relative space belongs to them, familiar as the back of their own tail feathers. Sensing the tiniest change in every wind current, still comfortable with evening vapors clinging gently to their delicate bodies. So, I keep wondering…

Can a swirling sunset enter their perception and bestow a kind of peace and blessing on the remains of their day, just as it does mine? Does it ever enter the mind of a common sparrow to appreciate incredible form and beauty thrown abroad for all to view? For all to be enthralled, for just a moment?

Yes, I believe it does. Any eye can behold this rich splendor of living color. Here and now, even forever. Open your eyes, along with a bird. See the sky. Sing for joy.

 sparrow on branch amid colorful leaves


Photo of the authorRuth C. Rehberg lives with her family in the hills of western Wisconsin, daily reveling in the bounty of beauty around her Garden Valley home. Some of her happiest moments involve walking the roads and woods, scooting on her petunia-pink moped, porch-sitting every minute possible, breathing in the joy of the twilight-golden hour, and reading until her eyes can’t stay open. Gratitude to God for the beauty of the earth is her life’s work.

Photo by of sparrow by Globalphoto

Summer Music

5:10 am. The song of the wood thrush sounds a little forlorn, blending as it does with dreams not quite remembered. Sharing coffee with the internet doesn’t change my perception of its tone. I snap my laptop shut and harness Wally; we’re out the door by 6 am, hoping natural news will find us.
song thrush singing on branch,
Mist rises up from the hayfield, dissipating the scents of the night. Wally’s nose twitches. A cow has wandered outside its pasture, tasting freedom in the tender greens. We wander through the local nursery in the quiet before its gates swing open. Wally waters the hydrangeas, roots stretching from the confines of buckets, waiting for a home. I calculate how many creeping thyme plants with their delicate purple flowers will blanket my rock wall. The “cheer, cheer” of a cardinal coaxes the wood thrush out of its mood.

Back home, I find my way to the garden and let it work its magic while I free tomato plants from weedy neighbors. Dirt finds its way under my nails and mama spiders carrying pure white orbs scurry into recesses. Early bumble bees lumber by, pulled by the scent of milkweed drifting over the fence. Dream remnants evaporate in the morning sun. Slowly, the song of the wood thrush brightens. I am ready for the day.


Janice Sina, former biology teacher turned veterinary assistant, observes and writes about nature, human and otherwise. She lives in East Haddam, Connecticut, US, where she strives to tread lightly on this Earth with her husband, her pets, and several thousand honeybees. She is currently putting the finishing touches on her first book, Songlines in the Key of B. You can find out more at janicesina.com

Photo of Song Thrush by Michael Lane