Neglected garden




Even if I neglect my garden disgracefully it goes on with its own heedless life.  I am just a visitor here.  What do I have to do with the persistent teeming life that proceeds with or without my presence.  My part is to try to control, to clip , to weed, to fertilize and water.  Nature doesn’t want to be controlled or modified except by its own rules, it’s own needs.  There is much beauty in this uncontrolled growth, blooming, decay.  Weeds that entwine like convolvulus or deadly nightshade clamber over my clematis.  The hollyhocks outgrow their supports and bend to the ground.  Insects munch on the rose leaves and my poor lilies are almost stripped of their leaves by red lily beetles.  But the whole place thrives somehow.  It becomes more beautiful and mysterious.  My little city garden when left to itself shows my the folly of my illusion of control.  Like a naughty teenager I love it all the more and find it all the more beautiful.



One angel, two angels





Here are two images of angels.  One is the original of the angel of the golden tresses presently in a museum in St. Pertersburg.  We don’t know where it came from originally but it spent some time in the bell tower of  the Kremlin during the reign of Ivan the Terrible.  The other is a modern copy.  I found both images in an interesting book about how to copy icons by two artists, Andre Fischer and Agnes Raynaud.  I picked it up in the gift shop of the Faberge Exhibition in the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.  The book sets out in detail the technique of making a copy like the one below.  I want to discuss here what is appealing or not about both images.  If we look at the older icon, it has the beauty of the ages imprinted on it.  It is also, as far as we know, the original creation of an artist.  While it is true that iconography demands that the originality of the artist be subordinate to the requirements of rules, a “truth” about what is being depicted, if you will, still the artist here has imbued the subject with personality.  The large eyes are ringed with shadows.  Sadness?  Reflection?  The idea of a “bodiless power” having shadows under his? her? eyes is intriguing, is ‘t it?  I love the little jewel in the hair but the traditional ribbons are a faint vestige only appearing as a dark line on the left side.

if we look at the modern copy we have a totally different rendering of the subject.  Of course it is more vividly coloured. Somehow it seems more formal.  A new element is the naming of the angel.  High on the left the little oval that means saint and then on the right the two letters for archangel and his name Gabriel.  Once again, I am puzzled by that question, why is Gabriel a he?  I love the treatment of the hair and the obvious halo.  The tilt of the head is almost the same but to me the mouth and even the eyes are different.  To me the original is like an old friend whom we meet over and over again.  The new one reminds me of an introduction by name and with the vivid impression a new person can make.  Comparisons, are they so odious?



Birch Veils




A chipmunk was was planning her wedding

Beside the dark cool summer lake.

She’d already collected her bedding

Delivered by Sidney the snake.


To set up her household so tidy

Deep down in the roots of a tree.

The wedding was set for next Friday

And who would make music?  A bee!


She’d plates of the finest flat pebbles

And pine twigs for furniture too

The froggies would sing – they were trebles

Just one thing was making her blue.


“My eyes are as bright as two pennies.

I’ve brushed up the fur of my tail.

My stripes are as pretty as any.

But what shall I do for a veil?”


The spiders heard chipmunk’s sad worry

They worked all the dark silent night.

They wove delicate veils in a hurry

To be sure the bride might look just right.


For the bridesmaids, the ducklings all fluffy

Were some smaller veils delicate white

And so that the groom didn’t get huffy

They coached him and helped him recite


His wedding vows up on the hill top

And while blue jay was ringing the bells

All the woodland folks toasted with tear drops

And drank dew out of little nut shells.

Into the lake


Stepping into the lake at early morning
No other bather and no boat,
No bird but lake silence.
Stepping into the water, the cool water.
Stones and sand beneath my feet.

Ripples, sun-ring ripples ring my legs,
stepping into the lake.
Expanding gentle ripples in early morning sun.
Stepping into the cool water
The sun faint, bright, touching the crests
of the sun-ring ripples.

Stepping into the silent cool water,
ripples advancing before me
spreading out before and after me.
Around me the sun-burnished crests of ripples
Stepping into the darker, deeper water,
Indrawn breath as the cold water
draws me in, stepping off into the cold lake morning water.

Green woodland spirit

Green woodland spirit with your thousands of soft green hairs
Standing guard in the cool green forest.
Day, with its dappled light, with its sun patches,
Day with its cloud and rain
sees you standing low and firm.
Night, the cool misted night,
Night of an orange crescent moon, the brilliant stars
Falling stars or steadfast stars that will never fall.
Green and greening woodland spirit,
Who sees you?
Mushrooms, fireflies, moths and quick night creatures
under the fixed eye of the owl who will not fail.
A startled porcupine, scuffling in the rotting leaves
sees you and wonders and passes by.
Who sees you, green spirit?
The eye of the owl, the eye of a star, the lens.
And who do you see in the still heat of noon,
In the starlight of night, the dawn mist
In the frost, snow and the dry pine needles?
Who ruffles your fine moss hair?
Who cracks a twig beside you, forest spirit?
Do you sit watching in the rotted wood, in the cool shade-fed moss?
Are you there, woodland spirit?
Are you safe on my camera roll, in my iPad
Are you there, green woodland spirit?

Shakespearean sonnet on climate change



The sky is clear. No clouds appear, and yet
We call for heat and burning sun aloft.
As though a winter harsh and cold is debt
That gives us rights to summer breezes soft.
What makes us sure that summer must be hot?
That we can swim or play upon the sand?
What is our part that cannot be forgot?
For weather comes no longer from God’s hand.
All that he makes and all that he destroys
Means weather and the seasons are man’s toys.
Learn then to live with summer cool and wet
We wrought this. Learn to smile and to accept.