Friday, 31 August 2012

Autumn Sunshine

We have been blessed with glorious sunshine today and 93 degree temperatures, just as Tornados loom in the Ohio valley.

The gardens here are gorgeous, filled with colours, shapes and forms that all change gradually as the seasons move on.
Our hummingbird feeder is empty after only three days. Admittedly, I only filled it with 2 ounces of sugar water but its a joy to see the beautiful little bird feeling so at home.

And alongside the beauty of the gardens in summer...the first hints of change...
In the hills surrounding Dryden and Ithaca are the initial bright flashes of gold and russet that later will become so astonishingly beautiful as the green landscape gives way to spectacular autumn. 

My excitement at being back in America at this time of year is palpable in my spirit. Autumn was always my favourite season, crisp and refreshing after the long, hot days of summer, with it came the beginning of a new school year, the smell of bonfires, joy of hayrides, and tastes of pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg and apple cider. 

In so many ways, autumn seemed liked the beginning of the year for me much more than January 1st ever did.

So, we are poised for a change of season, a deepening of beauty, and a reminder that this is an opportunity to let go of all that is no longer needed, in order that we might be open to the new growth awaiting us. 

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Patient waiting...

This afternoon Judy and I walked around Sapsucker Woods, one of the world's most prominent ornithological research institutions, linked to Cornell University. Our walk was a quiet walk, softly treading along marked out paths... and then we came to a lookout place beside the pond and spotted a gaunt tree in which a hawk sat, waiting.

And, as if this is a metaphor, we are waiting for news about our mortgage, without which we can not proceed.
It is a time of patience and trust.


And, as though I needed some kind of image to remind me of the incredible patience and strength of my is the moment he photographed at dusk this evening...

The previously camera-shy, reticent, winged hummingbird not only arrived at the feeder we have provided for it, but decided things were comfortable enough on our deck for it to dine and then on a thin twig of wisteria and have a little scratch...

This moment has allowed me to breathe in a very real way.

Seems odd, a tiny little winged creation should have such an effect, but it has.

Nicholas has a deep sense of security and tonight, I will metaphorically pause and scratch all the doubt and fears away.


PS It also helped so much to raise a glass of bubbles with Paul and Cindi, the absolutely incredible man and woman who had the vision to see the possibility of Maple Ridge, the development in which we just bought our land...thanks Paul. Thanks Cindi. Thanks hummingbird.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Emerging Light

This morning we watched the sun rise up to the East, sending bright lights through the pine trees and emerging, gloriously into a sunlit day.

And then, this evening we saw a near full moon rise up above the horizon, peeping through the trees.

We are still, anxiously waiting for a mortgage approval for our house... and, at the same time selecting flooring, tiles, windows, furniture and so on. 

This season has been a sequence of long waits...
But, lets hope, that just as the moon rises in the East, so also, our waiting will be worth every minute.


"Once in a blue moon..."

In two night's time there will the the second full moon of August, it is a rare and beautiful occurrence...and it is called a blue moon, thus the phrase.

From the deck of our cottage, this was the view of the near-blue moon rising through the treetops. 

It is mysterious, pending, reflective light, illuminating shape and form, casting a glow that gives us an outline of what stands just before its orb. 

We have much before us, emergent, half-formed, not quite fully visible.

I am grateful to have an image that holds the tension of that with beauty and grace and calm serenity.


Tuesday, 28 August 2012


I spotted the red cardinal feeding this morning... it has a characteristic tweeting sound as it flits in and around the wisteria bush that hangs over the deck.
But it is very shy and dashes off at the slightest movement.

Tonight, the Gulf Coast is braced for a storm surge with Hurricane Isaac. It's hard to imagine such ferocity and I can only hope New Orleans manages to defeat the flood waters.

One of my closest friends on this earth reminded me last evening of the magical nature of the origin of my love story with Nicholas, the 72 hours of communion, on a small 3 1/2 mile island off of the coast of Scotland, the Isle of Iona.

Perhaps because of this conversation, Iona was on my mind and my heart at different moments throughout the day.

Iona is only reached only by ferry, this ferry. 

This was taken in early spring a few years ago, the ocean was choppy, the ferry had to approach the dock from a long distance to the north in order to safely allow passengers on and off, and intermittently, during our entire stay, the sun broke through the cloud illuminating the earth in spectacular fashion.

Life feels like this to me in this season. My journey is choppy, navigation requires sensitivity and patience, these waters are not easily crossed.

And yet...on many days, the light breaks through, often at unexpected moments, revealing a splendour and a glory that take my breath away.


Monday, 27 August 2012

Deep Reflections...

There's something about water and  reflections that captures the imagination in ways that are difficult to describe... its as if the reflections of the outer world are transformed into an inner recollection of a dream.

So what is it about this watery place?
A chance to reflect and recollect?
Perchance to dream?
Today we signed our builder's contract... and now wait, a little anxiously, for a mortgage approval. 
Step by step we will step out upon uncertain waters.

When the night has been too lonely
And the road has been too long
And you think that love is only for the lucky 
And the strong

Just remember, in the winter
Far beneath the winter snows
Lies the seed, that with the sun's love
In the spring becomes the rose

These words, written by my beautiful friend Amanda McBroom, speak to me this day, partnered with this picture of the flower outside our front door.

I am reminded in both, that life is often brutal, painful and lonely.

And, in her tender lyrics, lie the path I know to surviving this kind of pain. 

Amanda, in her great wisdom, reminds me that underneath the frozen and unmoving earth, often there is something hidden, something pending, something about to be born.

In this I find great comfort and encouragement.

Life is incredibly transient and precious.

Today, I found out that the husband of a friend from my high school days, also a friend, died suddenly, tragically, in his 50's. 

I pray for her comfort, for their children, and their grandchildren.

And I pray that, in her winter, she will feel the warmth of spring.

Blessings Eileen.


Sunday, 26 August 2012

Those other moments...

Early today, I spotted a Blue Jay on our suet feeder ...

I am reminded again of the privilege of being  so close to nature here..

The South East is poised, waiting for a potential Hurricane to landfall somewhere between New Orleans  and Pensecola, FL.
And, as I write, the birds carry on regardless...

These Rudbeckia Autumn Colours seem a perfect image for me this day.

We are so thankful for the many beautiful, varied flowers that meet us as we walk in the gardens of our rental home. In particular, these have caught my eye since we returned from England.

The colours I have always loved, but the name matches what I am feeling today.

At 88F temperature today, I was aware I was still in the last days of summer, but as I spent my last weekend before Labor Day (the US holiday which signals the beginning of school for most children) working at the massage school, it became really real that we have been here for our first summer.

These floral creations, part golden, part russet, hold my spirit in the reality that some moments have been bright and others less so, that their is new growth alongside decay and dying, that there is nothing so constant as change.


Saturday, 25 August 2012

A Fabulous Moment...

This morning, I spotted the hummingbird flitting about amongst the Bee Balm plants and reached for the camera. I was thrilled to capture this beautiful creature (a Rufous Hummingbird) as it hovered, sipping nectar from the blossom.

I am so grateful for that moment and for the fabulous camera (the Nikon D800) which helped me capture this...
This evening, Judy and I sat on our deck and listened to the crickets and watched the bats fly about the pond.

Moment to moment, this place enriches our life.

"A few minutes ago every tree was excited, bowing to the roaring storm, waving, swirling, tossing their branches in glorious enthusiasm like worship.  But though to the outer ear these trees are now silent, their songs never cease.  Every hidden cell is throbbing with music and life, every fiber thrilling like harp strings, while incense is ever flowing from the balsam bells and leaves.  No wonder the hills and groves were God's first temples, and the more they are cut down and hewn into cathedrals and churches, the farther off and dimmer seems the Lord himself."
John Muir

Surrounding our lives are extraordinary trees, tall, majestic, inspiring. It brings to mind the great visionary from Scotland, John Muir, whose life's mission was to protect the pristine wilderness of the United States, to shelter the landscape of America from development and greed. He is so much to thank for the creation of the National Park system, Yosemite in particular.

As I begin work here in Ithaca, at the Finger Lakes School of Massage, I am reminded daily of Chinese medicine and massage. In 5-element Chinese medicine, the Wood element is all about transformation, new beginnings, the season of spring and the tension necessary to hold strong...digging deep for water and nutriment into the darkness of the earth, while simultaneously reaching for the sky.

The secret to healthy Wood element...flexibility...thank you beautiful American sycamore tree with your gnarled bark and your new growth...your light informs my living this day...


Friday, 24 August 2012

Sounds in the woods...

Early one morning a few days ago, we were woken by a strange barking sound in the woods across the way... gradually we realised it was a deer calling out.

They are delicate creatures, shy and always on the alert and we can see them feeding by the roads early in the morning.  We have to on the lookout though because every now and then they dash into the road.

Its a fabulous part of living here, to be so close to the stories of the natural world... yesterday I spotted a woodchuck mooching about in the underbrush beside the road to Lansing...
 Taughannock Falls State Park is one of many state parks with beautiful waterfalls and trails and overlooks that are within 10 minutes drive of our cottage.

Waterfalls have always attracted me, from the grandeur of Niagara to the smallest, gentle tumbling of a creek over a collection of river rocks. When water moves over the edge of a rocky surface, the energy released is incredible and at times almost overwhelming...

Life is like this too. At some moment in each of our lives, there is an inevitable end of the solid rock as we know it, we continue on...but what was once beneath us is no longer there. Our once contained selves, burst forth, unfettered, unformed, no longer defined by the shores we once travelled.

I am taking the plunge, on a whole lot of levels...


Thursday, 23 August 2012

Bright Moments in unexpected places...

The other day I spotted a bright flash amongst the trees across the way above the pond... and, looking at the leaves and branches I could barely make out the shape of a bright red cardinal sat there for a moment as I reached for the camera.
Taking a photograph with my new lens (70-200mm) on the Nikon, I was staggered to be able to enlarge the image... this is about 5% of the original!

This is a reminder to be always alert for the unexpected and the unforeseen... 

This is a picture of the building where I am now employed.
Let me introduce you to the home of the Finger Lakes School of Massage...

This was taken last October when I had two separate interviews for a potential teaching post. Shortly after moving here in June, the Campus Director, who initially interviewed me, offered me a different job, which I have accepted.

I am co-coordinator of all the elements of the part-time program in massage therapy. This is kind of like a guidance counsellor position, helping students with all the transitions which can occur in the lives of individuals studying this incredible work. I will also eventually be a supervisor of clinics as students work to bring their studies into practical application, firstly with one another and then with the public. 

Even after less than a month of working here, training here, meeting colleagues and students, I know that this is the correct move for me professionally and personally. The way the school presents on paper, in their prospectus, is how they actually conduct themselves, with creativity, authentic communication and a deep respect for one another, faculty, staff and students. It is rare and I am honoured.

On a little side note, it is comforting that this building sits like a little castle on the west side of Cayuga Lake, that it reminds me of England, that it creates a through line for my life on numbers of levels. For anyone office (yes I have one) is through the green door in the front and up two flights of stairs, overlooking the back of the school. It's like I am in a little treehouse office, reminding me of renewal and growth and the wonder of change.


Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Hidden Smiles...

Yesterday, walking in the gardens here at our rental I spotted this wind chime hanging from a bush. I've seen it before but never noticed it smile like this!

Its a reminder to keep our eyes open at all times and be on the lookout for the unexpected.
The gardens are looking a little tired this late in the season, but are still beautiful for all that. Huge tomatoes hang from their vines in the vegetable plot which is protected by an eight foot fence because of the deer. 
As we walked three or four Robins danced around on the grass and the pigeons fluttered out in their dovecote.
In the morning, mist hangs over the pond, drifting gently in the breeze, lending an air of mystery to it all.

Just outside our front door is this rock garden.
Even though it is bordered by flowering plants, fundamentally its beauty lies in the solidity of form provided by the boulders positioned on its finely pebbled base.

Having said that, it is an entirely mutable space. This, because of the relationship of the sun's position and the rock faces. The shadows cast create a near constant changing pattern of light and dark, revealed and hidden.

I am finding it a particularly restful place for my spirit this week.

Sometimes it is more about getting my mind clearer, letting grief be grief, joy be joy, struggle be struggle. It seems it has gotten easier and easier to distract myself from the deep essence of the Now. And even if those distractions are enjoyable, this garden reminds me every morning that less is almost always more.


Tuesday, 21 August 2012

A walk by the lake...

This afternoon, after I picked Judy up from the Finger Lakes School, we walked along the newly established Lake Cayuga trail to Stewart Park. At first the trail was uninteresting, although we saw a woodchuck scuttling about in the bushes, but then we crossed over two suspension bridges and were in the park itself. A splendid breeze came down from the north and there were hundreds of seagulls and geese scattered about.
I spotted a group of cormorants sitting patiently on a stranded branch of a tree...

Today I have obtained my New York State permit to drive... and next week or so I will do the five hour  instruction course before taking my driving test. 
One more piece of the puzzle about becoming fully established here.
Its cooler now and we can sleep easier at night without the fans going non stop: the crickets create a backdrop of sound that is fabulous.

I feel like a whirlwind has lifted my life from its once relatively predictable day-to-day occurrences and plunged my into some sort of limbo-like place. 

New country, new housing, new home, new car, new friends, new get the picture. And, just as this was beginning to really get to me (that and the jet lag) the other day, this truck pulled into the grocery store parking lot, right in front of us.

A bumper crop of epithets to remind of much, the expressive, expansive nature of the American people I love. The humour and wisdom that come, in just a few well-chosen words adhered to the back of a pick-up truck, sometimes is enough to get me through a bumpy day.

"Well-behaved women seldom make history" 

So, thanks to this lovely Floridian, now resident somewhere near our cottage, I am encouraged to keep my mind open and my spirit unleashed.


Monday, 20 August 2012

Back home to America...

Its been a long two weeks... 
Judy and I flew back to the UK, arriving on the red eye at Heathrow and that afternoon, we visited my father in hospital. I whispered 'hallo'. My father's eyes flew open and, wordlessly, his eyes met mine. It was to be for the last time.
The funeral was a quiet, dignified service which honoured his remarkable life.
I am grateful for all that he has given me.

Now, we are back in our cottage by the pond. The hummingbird is back, sipping nectar at the feeder... and at night the crickets create a backdrop of sound that is both soothing and lulling, all at once.
I am beginning to realise that I am comfortable being here in America. I feel no sense of exile, it, and for me is like coming home to a land of new beginnings.
So I am excited to begin dreaming again of new creative possibilities; of ideas in film, writing and paint that can begin again at the beginning.

I love this land of vast horizons...


So our flight from Heathrow was delayed and I had a little anxiety about making the connecting flight in JFK. There was a lot of turbulence on the return journey and we were informed that we were delayed because of big storms on the east coast of the United States. At one point our pilot came on the PA system, apologised for the bumpy ride, explaining that someone had to ride the top of the clouds at 30,000 feet and it turned out that someone was us...

We raced through arrivals, immigration (with a brand new green card for Nicholas) and claimed our luggage, walked at speed to the air train, got to Jet Blue's terminal with less time than I would have liked, only to find out that our flight to Syracuse was also delayed. Hmmm...seeing a little pattern here.

Everything was not as I thought it would be, it had not exactly followed the schedule I anticipated, and yet...all the connections were made, we arrived safely, it was bumpier and slower and much more tiring that I had hoped for...but we are home, in our little cottage on the pond once more.

After three very full days of training in my new job at Finger Lakes School of Massage this weekend, Nicholas said he wanted to take me on a little drive to show me something beautiful he had discovered over the weekend. 

On a little road between Ithaca airport and our cottage was an entire field absolutely full of sunflowers, there was no house nearby, no obvious business or garden centre, nothing...just a huge field of golden blossoms. 

After an exhausting time full of sorrow and loss and sadness, I was reminded of the possibility of unexpected beauty often found in unlikely places...