Sunday, August 21, 2016

Seasoned - Late-Summer Notes

Just down the hill from Lightspring Glen
The Green Corn Moon has reigned serenely these past few nights, her silver radiance shimmering down on us from dusk till dawn. Last week's Perseid Meteor shower, August's other celestial show, fortunately happened enough ahead of the full moon that those who rose in the morning's wee hours got a good show (so I'm told!).

It's been a fabulous wildflower season. For the last few weeks Queen of the Meadow has been reigning in ditches and fields' damp edges accompanied by the sister-royalty of Queen Anne's Lace. And in shadier places, orange and yellow jewelweed has been incredibly lush, especially here at Lightspring Glen. Its use as an instant antidote to mosquito bites is something I've little need of since their numbers are blessedly low here.

Perhaps it was July's heat and dryness that kept me from these observational writings. Truth to tell, a blog or two occasionally rattled around in my thoughts, especially one to capture the delights of my bird neighbors. So, a few belated bird-notes... 

Perhaps due to a cooler than normal June, nesting season stretched longer than the previous two summers. Once again the enchantment of the thrushes--oven birds, hermit and wood thrushes--filled the woods with exquisite songs for long weeks. I'm always a little sad when at last they fall quiet, though they've earned their rest.

For much of July I was captivated by the song sparrows and juncos who both chose nesting spots on and beside the front porch. Just a few feet apart, they came and went in easy bird-neighborliness. My job was keeping track of Tiger Lily, the younger cat, who tried scaling the porch column a time or two. Angus seemed to take little notice and even took naps on the porch in full view of the juncos who seemed to know that he wasn't a threat. Cat / bird dynamics sorted themselves out just fine ultimately, and as far as I know the three junco fledglings and the unknown number of sparrow young all got off into the world just fine.

August is essentially bird-vacation time when fledglings gain their full independence and their hard-working parents no longer need to hustle raising them. Now the adults are molting and resting up for migration. I'm pleased to catch glimpses of some of them when I'm out in the woods. Bird chorus has been replaced by the more subtle insect chorus, a pleasant, constant background hum 'round the clock. The one bright spot, literally, is the huge thistle I let grow next to the vegetable garden. As I knew it would, it's become a magnet for gold finches whose twittering delight in it livens up that end of the yard. And while it's a bit too woodsy for swallows here, whenever I pass a farm in my travels, I'm treated to the sight of them filling the air with their graceful ballet. Soon they'll be gathering in larger flocks and starting off South. 

So somewhat complete with my avian tribute and happy enough with it, it's time to post this and wander off to see if there are still any black berries out behind the barn. It's been a good season for them too!

The juncos just a day or two before they fledged.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A-Maying ... Third Spring in Lightspring Glen

Fern-Fairy Ring beside Emerald Pond
As a passionate lover of the four seasons and their slow, unceasing spiral dance, it comes down to Spring if I had to choose my favorite one. This year's extra-slow-motion emergence from Winter allowed the most delightful  savoring of its arrival, even if at times we got antsy to shed clothing-layers and stop needing to turn on the heat in the morning to throw off the chill. So given this pace, we're barely past that point where the season's first dandelions begin releasing all those wee seed-wishes. The lawn's taken on the appearance of a miniature Truffula Forest (The Lorax!). While not all may be fond of dandelions, those first cheerful, sun-struck flowers always make me smile. I rounded the corner of the house last week and surprised a half dozen goldfinches that had been feasting on those puffy seed-heads. Decked out in their Spring plumage of brilliant yellow and jet-black, they rose up in a twittering cloud of seed-fluff, like so many dandelions taking flight.

It's as wondrous a blessing to be witness for a third time to this Grand Return as it was the first year. In that May, 2013 post, I tried my best to capture what it is to witness the re-kindling of what to me is the land's green fire, Gaia's vernal-essence marvelously offered to us once again. As I sat down at the key board this morning to record some Spring-thoughts, I realized I could do no better than that post, so a bit of it offered a-new:

"Every year at this time of leaf-bud and tender new leaves, the overnight greening of fields and lawns, I go around for days stunned by the infinite shades of green, each one luminous in the sun's strengthening light. It's an amazingly vast palette that delights my eyes and fills my senses. And though I often try, my best writing efforts prove inadequate to offer a fitting description of this visual feast." (

Being the Resident-Human of Lightspring Glen is a role I've embraced from the beginning both whimsically and earnestly.  Over these May weeks it has been my privileged delight to again celebrate this magickal Return.

Though I often turn to Mary Oliver to round out my thoughts, it is the Transcendentalist poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins, whose poem sings in my heart this day....


Nothing is so beautiful as Spring –         
   When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;         
   Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush         
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring         
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
   The glassy pear tree leaves and blooms, they brush         
   The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush         
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.       

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Again, the dazzling Question

     We're poised to turn the calendar from March to April, now eleven days past the Vernal Equinox. Sap rising is bringing on the soft red blush of maple bud, a gauzy veil over-laying the wooded hillsides, soon to be accented by pastels of gold and sea-green. Robins, song sparrows, red-wings, grackles, starlings, and phoebes are newly-returned. This morning a cheery mob of goldfinches swarmed the two feeders, good-naturedly jostling each other for the sun-flower seeds. Their subdued winter colors are rapidly brightening to yellow-gold, a transformation that never fails to amaze. Soon the fiddlehead ferns will be poking tightly-curled heads up through the leaves. Just beyond the barn there's a fairy-circle of them that I'm eager to step inside of once more and feel the tingly buzz standing quietly and happily among them. A few days ago a pair of wood ducks visited Hemlock Pond here near the house, perhaps sizing up the prospects of a nesting opportunity. The two previous Springs they've enchanted me in the same way, gliding about the dark water, the male resplendent in his handsome white- and black-outlined harlequin plumage of cinnamon, gold, and dark-green. Maybe this year they'll settle in! Though today's breezy 60s make me want to find my sandals, three to five inches of snow are forecast for a few days from now. Nothing to be discouraged about. After all, many will tell you that the Spring Peepers (who I heard for the first time last week!) need to "freeze in" three times before full Spring can arrive. And when it melts it will set the streams and waterfalls to singing all the more, songs that have echoed in these hills since long before any house stood here. It is the perennial do-si-do of Winter giving way to Spring.

I am a much-blessed resident of these seven acres, as enchanted with this third Vernal shift as I was three years ago. It was that first Spring when I discovered Mary Oliver's poem about this tender time, these emergent wonders. It's become part of my Spring ritual to read it aloud, savoring its delights. Her black bear enthralls me once more, and when I come to these lines, I ponder them anew.... 
"There is only one question: how to love this world."
The answer is often elusive though I've felt I've come close to it at time or two. What I can say for sure though is that it awaits me through the open back door.


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 ~

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Cut Down ... Multiplying

Felled maples of the Holleran Family Farm, New Milford, PA

The mild El Nino-influenced winter brought on the maple syrup season early this year. About the time I was starting to see tap lines strung through woods, news of what was happening near New Milford, PA reached me. For the Holleran family whose sugar bush had been in annual use since the 1950s, it was a race with the chain saw crews at work along the proposed route of the Constitution Pipeline. If it ever clears legal obstacles in New York, it would pass within two miles of me here in Lightspring Glen, carrying gas from Pennsylvania's fracking pads through five counties of Upstate New York to a terminus near Albany. While New York frack-tavists succeeded in bringing about a fracking ban in December, 2014, the build-out of fracking infrastructure, primarily pipelines, is still a very serious threat...and a threat not just for New Yorkers. This insidious octopus of pipelines is reaching out its tentacles all over the Northeast.

A bit of background:  In order for the Constitution Pipeline to be built, it needs the NY Department of Environmental Conservation to issue water quality permits. As can be imagined, there's been a heated campaign to oppose this and to date these permits have been stalled. With this go-ahead far from guaranteed, Constitution went ahead anyway (essentially illegally) and began clearing trees in Pennsylvania, much of the land of its 25-mile route there taken by eminent domain. To give the devil its due...minimal though this may be...they were doing so in compliance with the regulation of felling trees before March 31st so as to not impact Spring bird migration. A few landowners had opposed the seizure of their land including the Hollerans whose livelihood was threatened.

[An article that covers all of this in excellent detail is here: ]

The story of the Hollerans' plight and that of their endangered maples began to spread and dozens of people came to hold daily vigils through most of February. I so wanted to go but was recovering from a fractured tailbone, and so could only send supportive thoughts and prayers and keep up with news via social media. One night I left a note for Megan Holleran, the family's eloquent spokeswoman, thanking her for her valiant actions on behalf of her trees and told her she was an Earth Warrior. The story garnered national and international attention. Ultimately all legal appeals were exhausted and the chain saw crews were given the green light. The wholesale carnage of the family's maple trees took place on March 2nd and 4th. Megan requested that only a few chosen people come to hold witness with her. Hundreds if not more of us held our own distant witness on that mild late-winter day. I took my drum and went out among the hemlocks and hardwoods of my own small woods giving voice to our shared sadness and grief. 

The destruction was horrible enough as the five acres of maples, 90% of the sugar bush, were brought down. But as Megan posted that evening, as much as she had steeled herself for it, it was nearly impossible to bear the sight and sound of the chain saws and the maples crashing to the ground one after the other. Adding to this excruciating grimness was the presence of three armed security men toting rifles, fingers on the triggers. Given the several weeks of peaceful protest and the Hollerans' always-civil and cordial interactions with authorities and Pipeline personnel, this militant presence was both an outrage and insult. I sat looking at all these images coming through Facebook deeply shocked and almost sickened. In all my years of environmental advocacy, I had never seen anything close to this.

How I wish this was the only story to tell here.
In the early hours of March 3rd far to the south in Honduras, the internationally applauded environmental and human rights advocate, Berta Carceres, was assassinated in her home. Just last year she received the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for her thirty-plus years work on behalf of the native Lenca communities fighting for their territorial rights and combating environmental assaults to their land including illegal logging. One of the reports described her death as her having been "cut down".

While we here were still reeling from the news out of northern Pennsylvania, on March 7th, the day before International Women's Day, Berta Carceres' funeral was held in La Esperanza east of the Honduran capital. A Facebook post showing her family bearing her coffin on their shoulders included this caption:
The Honduran people in the thousands celebrated her life and protested her death. They shouted: "Berta Carceres Vive- la Lucha Sigue sigue, Berta is alive, the struggle continúes. Berta Carceres no morrió, se multiplicó. Berta is not dead - she multiplied."

Berta Carceres is an Earth Warrior who is no longer among us. To be an Earth Warrior requires fortitude, persistence, bravery...and hope. Megan Holleran exhibited all of these and more during the weeks of struggle to save her trees. The end result perhaps was inevitable, but the story of this valiant effort by her, her family, and hundreds more of us, continues to ripple out. 

Let us not lose heart. Let us multiply.

Berta Carceres, Earth Warrior


Saturday, February 27, 2016

Falling to Earth

Lightspring Glen's vintage dairy barn built in 1900
Just one week away from celebrating the second anniversary of arriving here, I had a rather unexpected set back. And while this is somewhat a departure from my usual blog post, I want to honor this un-looked for experience, part of my now two-year residence here at Lightspring Glen.

December 9th was an oddly mild day for this time of year and Angus-cat had been missing for most of it. The worry got to me by 3 o'clock. And with only an hour until it would get dark, I went out to look for him going first to check a favorite spot of his in the hayloft on the barn's upper floor. The photo shows just how far I managed to tug the heavy door open when I lost my balance and sailed as gracefully as I could to the ground, a good eight feet below. As soon as I knew I was going to fall I did my best to go limp, a quick recall from long-ago horseback riding days. The more relaxed you can be when you hit the ground helps to minimize the impact.

I landed sprawled heavily on my right side and for a long moment lay stunned gazing at the gray sky and the barn above me. It was the weirdest sense of disorientation lying there looking up at the world. Flattened. I felt strangely compelled to yell loudly several times, a sort of guttural outburst, half mad at myself, half just to register my distress. That done, I took some deep breaths and began to carefully assess what parts of me were working okay and not hurting. Actually nothing hurt for a while, the likely effect of shock. I sat up dizziness...then managed to carefully stand up and lean against the barn keeping all the weight on my left leg. Immediately I knew that something was really wrong with my right hip and leg and that walking was not possible.

I lowered myself back to the ground. With absolutely no one around, my neighbors away, I needed to do something. (And no Angus appearing to offer sympathy....good thing he didn't show up just then!) I determined to try crawling gingerly towards the house, a sort of slow-motion crab-scuttle that got me to the backdoor steps and inside in about fifteen minutes. I was pretty exhausted but able to boost myself into a kitchen chair and reach the phone to first call my daughter and then 911.

With my daughter for company on the phone, I waited patiently for the ambulance to arrive still blessedly feeling no pain. It is my absolute belief that there are no accidents and even this literal one was going to be bringing lessons and gifts. The first gift was the welcome appearance of the four fabulous EMTs, all Sidney Center neighbors. They came into the kitchen with their warm smiles and calm reassurance that I'd be well tended to. My healing journey was underway.

It would stretch out to two months and more and is still not entirely complete as I come to write this at the end of February. There was such a flurry of medical care in those first 24 hours as I came under the care of a dozen and more nurses and doctors, nurse's aides, orderlies, and hospital staff at two hospitals. Because of the concern of possible internal trauma from my severe fall, I was transferred to the hospital in Cooperstown and was seen by both orthopedic and trauma doctors. I was grateful to every one for both their professional and warm-hearted care. So many commented that I was lucky to have not suffered worse injury than a fractured sacrum (tail bone) and minor pelvic fractures. Yes, I knew I'd been mightily blessed. And there were also lots of compliments for my general fitness that had also "helped". I very much liked hearing that too!

The next day I was released to my family's care and an incoming torrent of good wishes, prayers, and long-distance healing from friends near and far. My Facebook page hummed with dozens of messages of concern and loving thoughts. I knew my job at that point was just to lie back which of course I literally did for a while, and receive all those sweet and healing ministrations that at times left me teary with gratitude.

I'm still learning more about why this happened and will be for a while. Certainly an initial gift was receiving such loving attention and care from so many wonderful people, family and friends. Though there was considerable physical discomfort for a while, nearly from the first day I was and am grateful for this journey.

Lying there in those first moments, feeling the ground beneath me, there was a keen sense of being embraced by the Earth. These two wonderful years here at Lightspring Glen have brought many encounters with the marvelous non-human residents...and some of them were certainly present to offer help and comfort that afternoon. More on that in future musings.

For now, I offer Mary Oliver's poem to capture some of my unfolding understanding:

Sleeping in the Forest

I thought the earth remembered me,
she took me back so tenderly,
arranging her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds.
I slept as never before, a stone on the river bed,
nothing between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated light as moths
among the branches of the perfect trees.
All night I heard the small kingdoms
breathing around me, the insects,
and the birds who do their work in the darkness.
All night I rose and fell, as if in water,
grappling with a luminous doom. By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.

Post-script for you Cat-lovers:
Oh yes...Angus returned from his adventures the next morning,
no worse for wear! My son-in-law who let him back in the house
told him, "You are such a naughty boy...!!" 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Lovely Luna-cy : Reflections for the Snow Moon

The moon came to me last night
With a sweet question.
She said,
“The sun has been my faithful lover
For millions of years.
Whenever I offer my body to him
Brilliant light pours from his heart.
Thousands then notice my happiness
And delight in pointing
toward my beauty.
Is it true that our destiny
Is to turn into Light
And I replied,
"Dear moon,
Now that your love is maturing,
We need to sit together
Close like this more often
So I might instruct you
How to become
Who you


Image by Cathy Contant
The February full moon is called the Snow Moon in Native American tradition.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

A-blaze....Catching Fire at Lightspring Glen

With weeks of dry, hot weather through much of August, there was some thought that perhaps this year's autumn would be devoid of much color. But in perfect timing, rains arrived in early September and by month's end came the annual marvel of the leaves turning off their chlorophyll and switching on a stunning array of yellows, golds, oranges, and reds.  (click on photos to see full-sized)

Soon the hardwoods will be slumbering in well-deserved rest, the days and months of gathering in the sun's complete for this season. This year it feels as if they're passing a certain torch over to me. Early in June I availed myself of an opportunity to learn more about solar power and the possibility of bringing it here to Lightspring Glen. A wonderful mostly all-volunteer group, Southern Tier Solar Works, was hosting information events and it took no persuading at all to attend one to see what was possible.

The process has been exciting from the start partnering with Taitem Engineering of Ithaca who gave me the green light for going solar (pun intended!) a few weeks after their initial visit here. Beyond their being a regional company to whom I was pleased to give the work, how could I not do business with a company of the name "TAITEM" which stands for Technology As If The Earth Mattered?!!

The hardest part has been practicing patience over the summer months as the September installation date slowly drew closer. How entirely perfect that it turned out to be the day after the total Lunar Eclipse. Bright and early on the 28th, Dan arrived in the Taitem truck joined soon by Luca and Mike. With Angus-cat offering his supervisory skills, by Tuesday afternoon the 12-panels were all in place on the car port roof and the initial test of the system a success.

If I thought it required patience until the installation, it was really a challenge to wait out the two plus weeks for the last steps of the process to happen before it could be powered up.  The glory of the leaves reached peak-color a few days ago here in this part of New York. In tandem with this Autumn extravaganza, the call from Carina at Taitem came on Thursday that I could turn the dial to ON. I hurried out to the panel mounted on the garage wall, turned the dial, heard a few clicks and I do think a hum above my head, and the panels (that I think also had had a hard time waiting!) began their work gathering the October afternoon's brilliant sunshine. I stood watching the display showing it all happening, and yes indeed, I was beaming!

There's more to write about solar power.....enough for another post that I will add soon.* For now, it is pure delight to step outside and look up at the panels gleaming in the Autumn sun.
How I love being part of this particular Revolution!

*An excellent article is here at EcoWatch dot com