Me & Mary, Captured by the Light

Below the waterfall, April light in Lightspring Glen

We are nine days into April and today’s temps, promised to soar into the low 40’s, are a much yearned for, very long-awaited warm-up and hopeful heralding of Spring’s full arrival. By this date each of the four previous Aprils, I’ve already thrilled to the Spring peepers’ evening chorus here at Lightspring Glen. This year I’m imagining these wee amphibians are only now starting to stir out there behind the still-snowy hemlock woods. On a brighter note…literally…the recently returned and persistently optimistic song sparrows were singing this morning in the 20-degree chill air.  Ah, and as I write this, Simon and Garfunkel are softly reminding me, “April…come she will…”

Like countless other Northeasterners who’ve been experiencing advanced cases of Spring fever, I’ve chafed at being cooped up far too long. The salvation has been the annual enchantment of the growing light and rapidly lengthening days. Although I grouse for a while each year at the artificial “clock adjustment” of Daylight Savings Time (I love the very early morning), there comes an evening when suddenly I am astonished at how light it still is at 6:30 pm and how beautiful the afterglow lingering on the western horizon.

Then at last there are sunny days like today and the open woods shimmers with moving, singing water bubbling up from the hillside springs, flowing merrily in little brooks to the ponds, cascading down the waterfall and chortling off through the Glen. This week’s promised rain will wash away the remaining snow and deepen the waterfall’s voice. When I turn off the light at bedtime how I love to lie listening to it in the dark.

April is also National Poetry Month and I so enjoy the mini-celebrations here and there on social media. Two years ago I paid a Spring-time tribute to Mary Oliver, “Again, the Dazzling Question” [] In her poem simply titled, “Spring”, how she conjures such evocative, mesmerizing images and soul-stirring reflections through her newly-wakened black bear. So, “in the brisk and shallow restlessness / of [this] early spring” once again I welcome this beautiful One back to the blog-space of this Earth Pilgrim, me. Once again She rises from her winter’s sleep and comes down the mountain through Mary’s stanzas, bringing us her dazzling darkness. And once again, I linger over these lines: There is only one question: / how to love this world.

How indeed.

Thank you, beautiful Bear! And again, thank you, Mary Oliver….for everything!


a black bear
has just risen from sleep
and is staring

down the mountain.
All night
in the brisk and shallow restlessness
of early spring

I think of her,
her four black fists
flicking the gravel,
her tongue

like a red fire
touching the grass,
the cold water.
There is only one question:

how to love this world.
I think of her
like a black and leafy ledge

to sharpen her claws against
the silence 
of the trees.
Whatever else

my life is
with its poems
and its music
and its glass cities
it is also this dazzling darkness
down the mountain,
breathing and tasting;
all day I think of her —
her white teeth,
her wordlessness,
her perfect love.
~Mary Oliver



September at Lightspring Glen



Earth Pilgrim report:

It is more than a considerable blessing to live on these seven acres tucked into the northwest corner of the Catskill Mountains. With a conscious shift of my focus the too-often thunderous cacophony of the news-of-the-world can be muted to a tolerable rumbling. Here this late Summer’s important news is how magnificent the fruit crop is, especially the apples. Four years ago I was impatiently waiting for the bank closing on my new home. When I paid surreptitious visits to walk the land that was not quite-yet mine, I was thrilled to discover three or four venerable apple trees from the farm’s long ago orchard, trees likely over 50 years old. Their branches that year were heavy with delicious apples. Weather vagaries in the intervening years resulted in far fewer and nearly none at all last fall. This year once more they are laden with heirloom apples whose names I’ve pledged to discover. How marvelous to be present to fully enjoy them.

One of the two apple trees just uphill from the barn

And even more wonderful news, the incredible resurgence of the Monarch butterflies making their graceful way South. The alarming decline of their numbers these last few years triggered an outpouring of concern and assorted remedies including simply planting milkweed, their favored plant, anywhere and everywhere. In mid-August when I began to see lone Monarchs fluttering in a field or crossing the yard, I was delighted that at least a few were again making the annual migration. But then I began to see more and more, sometimes several in one day, and heard that other people were seeing them and in numbers too. And all who are paying attention to this near-miracle are thankful and even a little awed. It is heartening to think our human efforts may just have made a difference. Or maybe the Monarchs are somehow giving us a vote of confidence. Which ever it is or neither, seeing these amazing and seemingly fragile-yet-intrepid creatures delights the eye and spirit.

And so it’s here again, September’s annual summons to release summer’s treasures. This week I saw a photo online of someone holding a handful of beautiful autumn leaves with the meme, “The trees are about to show us how lovely it is to let things go.” ::: sigh :::  Wisdom, yes, but so much loveliness to relinquish. A few such lovelinesses for me are my morning Tai Chi routine by the pond; hours of leisurely porch-sitting with the cats, the three of us  musing on the beauties of the day-in-progress (at least I’m musing…not sure if they are but they always look content); tending my small veggie patch and watching its progress (which required extra vigilance this summer from a sneaky kale-loving deer or maybe it was a woodchuck?!). And…BIG sigh…having to put on my shoes more again, surrendering summer’s barefoot bliss. (Some of you are nodding in sympathy to this last, I so know)

Still, this is familiar territory…soon newly-arriving Autumn will begin to beguile me with her irresistible charms. The trees’ glorious green canopy will do its mesmerizing shape-shifting, the splendid treetop-fire igniting across the wooded hills. And soon here at Lightspring Glen it will be the second anniversary of the installation of my solar panels. Their arrival was featured in this post of Notes of an Earth Pilgrim when its location was at BlogSpot. You can link to it here:

So the news from here this September offers its earthy, homespun comfort and hope over and against the larger scene. The apple trees continue in their quiet presence, some fifty seasons of bud to fruit to winter dormancy….to bud again. The Monarchs signal their persistence and steady faith in the mysteries of migration and ongoing life.

Let us take heart….

Autumn Blessings to all from Lightspring Glen and from me, the Resident Earth Pilgrim.

Peach jam made with my granddaughter, Brianna, Bartlett pears, and a few of the wild apples




Lush…Mid-Summer’s Abbondanza & Mary Oliver

July pond…Lightspring Glen

In the dark and drear of January, it’s summer days like this we dream of…..

Chalice Pond is a serene mirror of the woods here at Lightspring Glen, a gentle breeze is adding just the coolness needed for the day’s low-80s, (with the humidity blessedly comfortable so far ) fair-weather cumulus clouds are sailing their impossibly huge white galleons across the sky’s brilliant blue depths.  Given the news of terrible heat in the West of the continent, here in the Northeast we have been enjoying a most clement Summer with the (mostly) moderate complaint of too many rainy days. And in truth there’s been enough rainfall to cause some flooding problems, especially around the Great Lakes. But since we passed the Fourth, warm, beautiful, abundant Summer has arrived in its fullness so that now making sure to bring along the sunblock is at last a necessity.

Our damp May and June’s silver lining has been what so many comment on when talk of the weather comes up smiling as we say, “…but haven’t the flowers been so lush this year?!” And oh my, how true this is, both wild and garden-flowers lingering long beyond their usual date. The apple trees were thick with blossom and fragrance promising an excellent harvest  Already on my morning walk the wild trees are showing branches increasingly heavy with new green apples. The deer and I are going to enjoy this mouth-watering abundance come Autumn.

I am delighted that the birds are still singing so late in the season, no doubt due to how the cool, rainy Spring delayed nesting. Both mornings and evenings, but especially the mornings, I am still thrilled by so many voices: robins, cat birds, the wood and Hermit thrushes, the oven bird, and a variety of warblers. The cardinal’s young have just fledged in the past week and the three brightly-feathered juveniles are trailing their parents about the shrubs, already strong flyers. And the chickadee family is making the rounds of the yard too, the young ones talking amongst themselves with their adolescent, slightly buzzy-voices, chick-a-dee-dee-dee. When they at last grow silent which will be soon (and as they must in the order of things), it will be the song sparrow I will probably miss the most. Father-sparrow has been offering his song so exuberantly here in the yard starting early in May. This year, more than others, with the birds still singing….at this very moment a wood thrush offering its exquisite flute tones from the woods…I am of the mind that at least some of the time they sing for the sheer joy of it.

And then there’s the stream and waterfall here in Lightspring Glen, their voices usually a low murmur in Summer’s dryer weeks. So a last blessing to note making for this season’s generous abbondanza is the still-sounding silvery and merry water music offering its magick to all of us fortunate to frequent this special corner of the world.

But beyond my own praise song, it’s Mary Oliver poem, “A Summer’s Day” that to me strikes exactly the right note….so this, and then following her beautiful last line with its provocative question, a photo of the stream.

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?



Earth and Sky are Dancing – Summer Solstice 2017

Below Richardson Hill, Willow Brook Watershed, mid-June 2017

And so the year’s Wheel has spun us gently from Winter’s cold and darkness through Spring’s gradually-lengthening days to June, sweet June. The Sun rose in the Solstice skies at 5:24 this morning, though with Richardson Hill to my east it was nearly 7 before its first rays touched the tree tops here at Lightspring Glen and shafts of golden light began to flicker down into the woods. The huge cumulus clouds sailing past are offering their counterpoint to the long, languorous hours of Grandfather Sun’s light on this Summer Solstice day. Tomorrow will be nearly the same as the sun-stands-still in the sky. Our ancestors knew this phenomena well and celebrated its annual return with fires and fine celebration.

For 21st century folks, especially those of us in the Northeast, Grandfather Sun’s warmth and light is being all the more savored this year after an often dreary and chilly Spring. Winter jackets were a necessity off and on well into May. We can be forgiven if we grumbled. (And for many the unsettling news of the larger world made for a tiring, dispiriting slog many a-day.)

A consolation in those months was the abundance of bloom in our gardens, roadsides, and meadows as spring flowers lingered well beyond their usual time, their colors all the more stunning against the gray. And the spring peepers had quite the long season, perhaps a record one, of night-time chorusing in their over-filled ponds and wetlands (which just maybe they liked a lot!). But Spring’s migration went on as it always does bringing our wonderful feathered-residents home for a new season of nesting. Grandmother Moon waxed and waned no matter what was going on down here at eye-level, with June’s full moon, the Rose Moon, particularly splendid. Such comfort in this ceaseless solar / lunar pas de deux.

I am pleased beyond the telling to be celebrating my fourth Summer Solstice here at Lightspring Glen. The fields and woods are bustling, bursting with life as the season’s Green Fire ripples through the valleys and hills. Not far from the porch where I sit pondering and reaching for quick-silver thoughts for this post, the song sparrow is offering his upbeat notes, and farther back in the woods the ovenbird insists again, “Teacher! Teacher! Teacher!” Last night when I turned out my bedside light, a firefly winked at me through the screen and lured me out of the house into the earth-scented dark of the back yard. Like so much else this year, the fireflies are in abundant number and so I was treated to a magnificent dance of flickering, golden patterns against the wood’s darkness, the silvery cascade of the waterfall and stream brimming with the day’s showers providing the perfect accompaniment.

By Friday, the moon will have come to its dark time, the New Moon in Cancer gliding unseen through our day-time skies. Then over the next few evenings, reappearing magically in its glistening crescent, the cycle begins anew. Though the daylight hours will start their inevitable decreasing not long after, for long weeks the Summer sun will reign, ripening our gardens and shoring up our spirits and hopes. This year more than ever, we so need to feel and be embraced by the rhythm of this seasonal, grace-full pulse, the Wheel of the Year lumbering all slowly, steadily, and reassuringly on.

On this notably pagan-inclined day, (Stonehenge was humming and thrumming just hours ago) these words to close: So Mote It Be.

Lady Slipper, Lightspring Glen




April, come she will

DSCN5547When I woke yesterday, the first day of April, it was to light snow falling, the ground, trees, and woods once more arrayed in lacy-white. Here in these Catskill foothills, we’ve only recently emerged from the remnants of the Blizzard-named-Stella of three weeks ago that paralyzed a good deal of the Mid-Atlantic and New England for several days. Already quite Winter-weary, it was hard to keep from being discouraged at this newly-imposed, longer wait for Spring. There was a frustratingly slow dwindling of the several feet of snow. Finally by the end of last week rain reduced the snow drifts lingering around my house to only a few dirty white piles and in the woods the snow blanket showed signs of tattering at last. And then near dark on Thursday I opened the door to let the cat in and was greeted by the unmistakable notes of a robin tentatively offering his Spring song. I gasped with delight and hurried down the steps to hear it more clearly as it called twice more and then a last time. I breathed in the magic of it deeply, the first Robin-song of the year.

But as a friend said yesterday, “Spring will not be denied much longer!” Bright blue skies reign this Sunday afternoon, and the moving waters of the many streams and rippling ponds of Lightspring Glen are everywhere sparkling in the sunshine. And as I rose yesterday morning it was to Simon and Garfunkel singing in my Inner Ear, “April, come she will / when streams are ripe and swelled with rain…”, a song I had not thought of in a very long while.

I have always been delighted with my country-life where there are four such distinct Seasons. In the interest of full disclosure, the rigors of Winter sometimes seem more demanding as the years move along. But I will never tire of this inevitable, magical shift from Winter to Spring and how it brings rejoicing…re-joy-cing…as the Earth warms and life quickens once more.

A few days before Stella arrived in her snowy fierceness, news reached me of the passing of the poet, Derek Walcott. He left us on March 17th at the age of 87. His poems have touched my life at several points with their singular and beautiful messages. In the tributes I read that weekend I discovered one new to me. It feels a perfect tribute both to him and to this always-wondrous and mesmerizing turning of the Wheel of the Year.


Let the day grow on you upward
through your feet,
the vegetal knuckles,

to your knees of stone,
until by evening you are a black tree;
feel, with evening,

the swifts thicken your hair,
the new moon rising out of your forehead,
and the moonlit veins of silver

running from your armpits
like rivulets under white leaves.
Sleep, as ants

cross over your eyelids.
You have never possessed anything
as deeply as this.

This is all you have owned
from the first outcry
through forever;

you can never be dispossessed.

~ Derek Walcott ~
January 23, 1930 – March 17, 2017
(Sea Grapes)