Pomegranates & Pussy Willows

pussy-willowwmWe gathered around a table where Mrs. Straub showed us what she’d brought in this time. She gave each of us a branch to hold and observe with our eyes and hands. While they didn’t taste as good as the pomegranate seeds she brought in, the softness of the pussy willow is embedded in my memory. Though I know they can grow in other parts of the United States, I don’t recall seeing them in Missouri where my family moved after Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

 

And so, as I run past them in my new home in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, a pang of joy wells up in my eyes. I was blessed by a first-grade teacher who understood the importance of hands-on science learning. When we weren’t able to get out of the classroom, she brought nature to us in the form of pomegranates and pussy willows.

This morning I paused on my run to peer at the pussy willows clustered in the wetlands. I made another scientific observation: rain beads up on pussy willows as it does on my rain jacket. Thank you, Mrs. Straub for helping me to appreciate our world.

Heaven

 

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Heaven. Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/
Hope of the Earth
Earth’s Hope. Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/

East of the endless retail, and
the keeping it weird of Portland,
lies a land forgotten.

Far from the fir & fruit trees,
the nation imagines,
is another Oregon.

Beneath the infinite sky,
the sage grows wild, and
wheat, wind, & warmheartedness sustain.

In the arid landscape,
the rare rain & tree are treasures,
as beloved as family and history.

The tiny grocery, the pub,
& soda fountain are the venue
for a shadow vibrancy unseen by passersby.

Beyond that neighborliness,
using only my feet and legs to carry,
I step along a rocky path once walked by rancher.

Deep in the canyon,
beneath the hot spring sun,
my ears are baptized with silence.

Beside the deep blue river,
and beneath the azure dome,
my thoughts come easily.

Purifying sage reaches my nostrils,
the Spirit descends,
and divine love & clarity permeate palpably.

The rocks beneath & sky above are me.
My toes hug the rocky soil,
and my spirit soars among fluffy clouds.

I am one. We are One.

Beetle Strikes a Pose

Candid shots are my preference but the things that move on the trail do not always want their photos taken. So today, I tried to gently coax this beetle to pose for its portrait on all legs. Instead, it rolled on its back. Then it stood on its head. Repeatedly, it stood on its head. I suggested one last time, “You’re portrait will be engaging if you stand on your legs!” My friend stood on its head once again.

I interpreted this to mean it was striking a pose.

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Bug On Head. Photo taken by Tim Graves at Cottonwood Canyon State Park, Oregon. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/

When I’m Ready

When I’m Ready
Oasis to Come
Oasis to Come. Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License, BY-NC-ND 3.0

On the trail,
all alone,
I’m not.

On the trail,
a partner,
sometimes silent.

On the trail,
a sojourner,
always present.

On the trail,
a voice,
a companion.

***

My companion,
listens,
as I cry & yammer.

My companion,
encourages,
free thought.

My companion,
appreciates,
randomness.

My companion,
smiles,
and love and hope hug me.

My companion,
speaks,
in word, sign, & through vistas.

***

When I deny, avoid
and question,
the companion waits.

In my confusion,
along the other paths I find,
my companion marvels at slug & frond.

When I worry,
and the world wounds my soul,
my companion points to  the lilies.

When I avoid,
choosing the present,
my companion warms me in the now.

When I push  back,
shouting “I hate you!”
my companion sticks around.

When I yearn & crave decision.
my companion offers a word or sign,
wrapped in hope, love, patience, & a hug.

***

A decision,
an issue,
flutters inside.

A decision,
interacts with,
bud & puddle of mud.

A decision,
an issue, pros & cons,
take turns deep within.

A decision,
with each step,
floats to the surface.

A decision,
is apparent,
and I lack trust, & confidence.

A decision,
eludes & hides,
behind fear and angst.

A decision,
waits patiently,
until I choose to hear.

***

On the trail,
all alone,
I’m not.

My companion,
listens,
as I cry & yammer.

When I deny, avoid
and question,
the companion waits.

A decision,
an issue,
flutters inside.

***

When I’m ready for joy,
the word or sign,
wrapped in hope, love, patience, & a hug await.

 

Bridge of Breath & Dust

Bridge of Breath & Dust
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Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 3.0 

Beside the fir’s olfactory balm,
I step and step again.
Pausing I breathe in Mama Gaia.

Healed.

The silence and chittering creatures,
lose their dominance as I continue.
Trickles and gurgles become roars.

Curious.

Beneath the green canopy,
the end of tunnel light beckons.
Emerging solar warmth embraces my skin.

Energized.

Hopeful yellows, purples, & reds
dot the spring shoreline beyond the roaring.
The icy danger disrupts my forward journey.

Yearning.

In the mountain’s domain,
far from she and far from he,
I stand beneath the blue skies.

Flummoxed

Beside the rushing waters,
I gaze beyond the treacherous sea.
No steel or human-crafted expanse facilitates my journey.

Decoding.

Fear and desire compete.
“Maybe here. Maybe up that way.”
Turning around feels like giving up.

Trepidation.

“There!” I spy rudimentary clues.
Those who’ve come before point the way.
Challenge, skill, and hope lure me across the rushing risk.

Cautious.

A little muddy, damp, and chilled,
I look back to where I’ve been.
Ethereal kindred united self with me.

Bridged.

In the mountain’s domain,
the breath of divine wholeness reveals,
the dusty camaraderie of humanity.

Droughts, Abundant Rain, & Being

Droughts, Abundant Rain, & Being
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Dry Bones (September 2012). Photo by Tim Graves Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0

Awhile back, I was inspired by the abundant life still present in the parched late summer at the Tom McCall Preserve near Rowena, Oregon. The dry conditions were not unusual that year. I confess the sound of the hot wind blowing through the dry grass and crinkling leaves brings me peace when I hike there in the summer months.

Instead of the Columbia River Gorge’s hot breath, I experienced its bitter winds on my early February hike. There was no crunching to be heard, only the sloshing sound of my  (thankfully!) waterproof hiking boots on the muddy and floody trail. There was subtle beauty in the winter moisture just as there was in late summer.

Last fall, much of this area was under a drought emergency. Mt. Hood was rapidly losing its snowcap. Areas I hiked in July had the same lack of snow that is typical of late September. This winter we’ve been blessed by moisture falling as rain at the lower elevations and snow in the mountains.

Certainly we need to be concerned about climate change; we should be taking more drastic actions than we have been taking. Nonetheless, spiritually we  need to remember that the very nature of existence is change. What is now, will not last forever. Droughts become an abundant winter of snow and rain.

Writes Buddhist teacher Pema Chödrön, “Impermanence is a principle of harmony. When we don’t struggle against it, we are in harmony with reality.” I confess that I’ve recently been in a funk. I’ve been struggling with the wilderness, the “no-man’s-land” as Chödrön refers to it, on and off for some time.

The result of course is I’ve been out of harmony with reality. By allowing myself to resist and struggle against the impermenance, failing to be in the present, I allow myself to be out of sync with the joy, the contentment — the divinity — within myself and others. So, I confess my sin and pledge to continue the wandering, the learning to be. 

___

Below are photos of the moisture from my recent trek through McCall Preserve. The image that looks like a small stream? That’s the trail.

Such a Tease

Such a Tease
Tease. Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/
Tease. Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/

The butterfly is such a tease.
She flits. She sits.
I focus my lens, she’s gone.

The butterfly is a such a friend.
She’s here. She’s there.
I need her, she doubles back.

The butterfly is such a dancer.
She box steps. She moon walks.
I’m unimpressed, so she pirouettes.

The butterfly is such a joy.
She sparks smiles.  She enhances meadows.
She brings hope through her short-lifed presence.

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