Rock Arrangements

Arlington Heights, Massachusetts, USA where I live, like Boulder Colorado, and a number of other places, has rocks in all sizes. In fact, a major reason I bought the house where I live is because the turtle-shaped top of a large glacier-scraped granite outcrop was visible through the kitchen window.

Once I found the courage to climb to the top of an outcrop in Menotomy Rocks Park, looking down I could see Hills pond through the trees. The contours of this secluded high up spot, with blueberry bushes and natural rock arrangements scattered here and there made it feel quite magical.

Any number of these rock arrangements could be the highlight of a Japanese garden, or for that matter, arranged in a bowl of sand for indoor viewing.



Longing for Ripples and Reflections

The ducks and turtles did not seem to mind the algae (first photo below), but I missed what the light could do playing on the pond’s once clear waters (lower photos). When I wrote about trouble at Menotomy Rocks Park a year ago, I felt sure my town would invest in maintaining the health of Hills pond. But the green scum kept spreading, and I began to worry.

This morning as I walked around the pond, I noticed a sign stating the pond had been treated. When I looked to see if the waters were indeed clearing, a bullfrog croaked as if in confirmation.

Horizon gazing

One of the more accessible mindfulness practices is “horizon gazing.” You simply sit comfortably in a place where you can see the horizon. Then you bring a soft, wide mindfulness and a gentle gaze to what is in front of you.

Nearby Robins Farm Park, with its grassy slope seemed ideal. But where you do this practice is far less important than just taking it in. At any time of day, and in all weather conditions, the sky is there for us. While these photos do not provide the full sensory experience, they do hint, I think, at the wonder, peace and even awe that horizon gazing can provide.

Looking Through Windows

Gazing out the window

All is stillness in the garden

What does my cat see?

When my Japanese tea ceremony teacher, Giselle Maya, told me that the poetic word for 2022 is “window,” I thought it might be time to revisit “Dream Window” by Peter Grilli. He had metaphorical reasons to choose that title for his poetic film about Japanese gardens. But it is also true that gardens are often viewed through actual windows – Such sight lines are an important consideration in garden design. What do you see through the windows where you live?

Whether another building, a field, undisturbed nature, an empty lot, busy sidewalk or a garden, looking through windows can bring out the poetry of this world. A limited view into space-time somehow makes the ever-changing wholeness of everything “out there” easier to relate to.

Ice Opportunities: Sounds & Images

Once I came across a child beating icy Hills pond with a stick. It made a most appealing bonging sound. Later I heard haunting chirps and zinging at the same pond. I was the only one there, so I had to assume the ice was making that music all by itself. Searching online, I found Jonna Jinton’s videos with the other worldly, yet peaceful sounds and the visual beauty of the varying crack patterns that ice can make as it first freezes.

Fascinated, I decided to review Jonna’s numbered vlogs. Such vivid aliveness, and joyful creativity! And with deep appreciation for the changing seasons in her unspoiled part of the world. At the same time, Jonna makes clear that living in northern Sweden with few other people around involves sacrifice, a great deal of hard work and a willingness to accept dark times – quite literally unavoidable in winter that far north.

Jonna’s creativity makes it possible for her to live on land where her ancestors lived 400 years ago. Her online business selling silver jewelry, photo prints and paintings grew to support several family members and friends in a part of the world where jobs can be scarce.

Her videos convey what it would be like to be with her as she plays with her pets, renovates buildings, paints using pigments she makes from local materials, celebrates with family and friends, sings to the cows, and captures breath-taking still and video images of nature in many moods. As it turned out, following up on strange ice sounds led to some quite special opportunities indeed!

Jonna hopes her videos and other creations can convey a measure of the beauty, and inspiration she finds living surrounded by nature to those living in apartments. But she does not invite envy; rather she shares her world in such a way as to invite others to consider going after what would be optimal for them to have in their own lives.

As for me, I am grateful to live near a park with a pond where children make bonging sounds by banging the ice with sticks. That pond ice was singing today as I went looking for image opportunities inspired by Jonna’s passion. The ice images below were captured in Menotomy Rocks Park this and last year:

Woodland Magic

It is natural to notice when a muskrat is chasing quacking ducks on the pond in Menotomy Rocks Park, but the woods has a quieter energy. There is a lot going on, but it is easier to miss.

The trees with their roots wrapped around granite outcrops or buried beneath fallen leaves and mounding needles are the backbone here. Slanting sunlight can suddenly create all-embracing wonder and the woods in winter reminds us that resting nature adorned by snow and ice can be magical too.

Imaginary Creatures in the Woods

As we walked along the trail, a friend told me that her grandchild loved pine needles. He also liked looking for hollow logs that would make good houses. My friend seemed to share her grandson’s delight in the magical quality that can be sensed just below the surface in many forest settings.

Perhaps because children can be particularly sensitive to the intelligence of other species, or because of their vivid imaginations, looking for or constructing “fairy houses” seems a perfectly natural thing to do. I thought of the troll that my Aunt brought back from Norway at my request. I promised my friend that I would take photos of him in the park.

Indeed, this eager little fellow seemed to be quite at home in these woods far from his native land.

A Boulder Around the Seasons

A boulder perched at the edge of Hills Pond when I started the photo series. It became an island as the waters rose. Then ice linked it to land again. In spring, geese and ducks perched on its strong back. There were signs of trouble as algal bloom sullied the water and all the birds left.

Waiting unperturbed, the boulder bore silent witness to ducks returning as brilliant colors in shades of yellow, orange and red mixed with the greens. Though all of this, the boulder sat with perfect equanimity. It had me wondering whether I could be more like that. Probably not, but that I could appreciate (and hopefully remember) its still presence seemed to count for something.

A Bumper Crop of Edible Mushrooms

When I was out taking mushroom photos, I came across two people with a basket full of hen of the woods as well as a bag of honey mushrooms they had gathered from the base of oaks. They told me that the number of edible mushrooms you can collect in Europe is limited so as to leave some for others. Here there are no such limits and they had gathered so many mushrooms they would need to give some away. As they explained, the best way to learn which are safe to eat is to go out with an expert local guide, although books and online resources (like this one) can be helpful.

Like many, I find fungi’s beautiful diversity and complexity fascinating. In addition to their use as food and medicine, mushrooms can have profound cultural significance. Those with psychotropic properties are used in healing rituals. A lovely jade pendant (below) bears witness to the significance the Chinese place mushrooms that play an important role in traditional medicine. The Maya carved wonderful anthropomorphic mushroom stones.

Fungi support the health of forests in a variety of ways. They can survive fire and have been used to control insect pests and to clean up plastic and organic waste. No doubt our appreciation for what fungi do for us will increase as we learn more about their many roles in various ecosystems.

Mushrooms After Rain

Nature is constantly shifting and not just with the normal seasonal changes these days. This early fall, I would certainly welcome some quiet green time on my morning walks in Menotomy Rocks Park (Arlington, Massachusetts, USA), but nature had its own ideas. After abundant rain all summer, amazing fungi were popping up everywhere and calling out to have their portraits taken.

I sometimes moved into contorted positions to capture the fascinating diversity up close, and in one particularly lucky shot, spores falling from a cluster (last photo below). My walks extended to two or more hours and I was off on another adventure, discovering how important fungi are to us as well as so many other forms of life on this planet.