Ramble Across the Sky


Even on the most blustery day, the mountains are steady

Learn the lessons of the wind and earth

Walk between the two

Let your breath ramble across the sky

Let your body feel the slow pulse of the land, the cool solidity of stone

Learn to be weightless and grounded

To be pulled and anchored

Learn to live between the two

to be achingly alive and free

Beauty Explains Nothing

sunset, friday night

“Beauty can both shout and whisper, and still / it explains nothing.”

—Mary Oliver, “Leaves and Blossoms Along the Way” from Felicity

These lines caught me immediately.  I’ve been rolling them around on my tongue for days, though part of me wants to erase the second half and still, it explains nothing.  Until this morning, I couldn’t tell you why, exactly, I wanted these words gone, except I didn’t understand what she meant; I wanted to say back, yes, beauty can explain everything.

And then this morning, I read this from Thich Nhat Hanh’s How to Sit

“If you ask a child, ‘Why are you eating chocolate?’ The child would likely answer, ‘Because I like it.’  There’s no purpose in eating the chocolate.  Suppose you climb a hill and stand on top to look around.  You might feel quite happy standing on the hill.  There’s not a reason for doing it.  Sit in order to sit.  Stand in order to stand.  There is no goal or aim in sitting.  Do it because it makes you happy.”

There is no purpose.  There is no goal or aim.  Do it because it makes you happy.  And yet, beneath this is the understanding that the meaning is in the mindfulness.  That beauty or action alone explains nothing.  That they are not, in fact, trying to explain anything anyway.

Amidst the industry and utility of this world, I easily forget the simplicity of being.

I forget that we aren’t meant to explain so much as to experience.

Beauty has its way of catching us and bringing us into presence.  Beauty has its way of bringing us beyond the explanation and into the heart of experience.  And so beauty has no duty to explain.  And neither do I, except to tell you what I’ve learned:

Beneath beauty is breath.

You don’t have to explain anything.  Just breathe.  Do it because it makes you happy.

All the News I Need


The forest floor is littered with maple flowers.

Look down anywhere and you’ll see the pink with purple specks brightening up the leaf litter.  Waylon and I spent ten minutes in one spot just last week, picking up flowers and placing them on our open palms, counting.  It was only a promise of more maple flowers up ahead that loosened his wonderment enough to move along the trail.

Yesterday I set out with the dogs alone, no toddler slowing my pace to that of constant discovery.  I needed to get into the woods, up the steep old logging road, over the brook and small pool that releases into a fall, across the elevated traverse among ash and maple and beech before I slowed.  I needed to let my legs move so that my mind might begin to move, too—it was my morning for writing, and no words were coming out.

Instead, all I could I hear was Paul Simon in my head, singing The Only Living Boy in New York.

Over and over one line repeated: I get the news I need from the weather report.  I can gather all the news I need from the weather report.

It occurred to me that part of the weather report is in watching the sky, in walking in the woods, in learning how to smell the change of air pressure.  It occurred to me that the weather has been bombarding us with news forever.  Long before satellites and the weather channel, the wind carried information, clouds grew into mountains, maple blooms fell to the ground.

Right now, wind is carrying information, clouds are growing into mountains, maple blooms are falling to the ground.

Right now, a coopers hawk hunts over our field.

Right now, it’s raining and seeds are softening their shells to sprout and the air is moving slow.

It’s all I need to know.


Living Like Weasels

“We can live any way we want.  People take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience—even of silence—by choice.  The thing is to stalk your calling in a certain skilled and supple way, to locate the most tender and live spot and plug into that pulse.  This is yielding, not fighting.  A weasel doesn’t ‘attack’ anything; a weasel lives as he’s meant to, yielding at every moment to the perfect freedom of single necessity.”

— Annie Dillard, “Living Like Weasels”


I haven’t yet learned how to yield.

In her essay, Annie Dillard recounts a story of an eagle shot out of the sky and found to have a weasel skull attached to it’s throat; the weasel having had fought back against the eagle and almost won, never letting go despite its defeat.  The weasel dying as it lived, yielding to its single necessity of being.

I haven’t yet learned how to yield.  More accurately, I haven’t unlearned bias and motive and endless thought.

There have been moments.  Glimpses of the yielding, when my body has laid on the earth and the hard barriers have melted away until the movement of breath came not from my lungs but from the ground; moments when experience overtook thought.

But the weasel.  How it held to the eagle’s neck.  Have I held to the eagle’s neck?

Haven’t there been times when I’ve dangled from necessity?  Times when thought played no role in decision, times when I felt the pull of life beyond choice, and followed.


But I’ve let go.

At least, I’ve unhinged my jaw and questioned.

Is the process of unlearning the same as the process of learning?  For so long I’ve thought that letting go was what I was after.  Letting go of bias and motive and thought.  Letting go of assumption and comparison and judgement.  I’ve leaned so long on the phrase “to let go” that I’ve let go, too, of living like weasels.

The weasel doesn’t spend so many words on something like living.

Of course.  And I’m not a weasel, though I can learn, or unlearn, in order to live like one.  To yield, to grasp, to dangle from my one necessity and let myself fly to wherever it takes me.

The Wildness and the Wild


6:12 am — A periwinkle sky, soft and bright and so translucent it seems to levitate above the mountains.  Which of course it always does, but only now do I see just how the horizon is born from light.

6:22 am — The sky drifts into pastels, pink and peach.  Waylon sleeps curled next to me as I read, and I think I am happy, content, peaceful, except none of these words are right.  It’s something quieter, deeper, something nameless that fills me.

It eases the urgency of doing.

6:32 am — The light has cascaded from the sky onto the mountains themselves.

The mountains are like a farm woman: strong, steady, curves around the muscles.  Sometimes they’re merely noticed, but eventually truly seen, causing the observer to stop and breathe in the beauty, the wildness, the stateliness, the pure bedrock of life at once tangled and ordered; a being large enough to hold contradictions and surprises and still offer comfort in the sheer mass of her embrace.

When I hold my son, I imagine the mass of the mountains in my hug.

When I hold my son, I feel his energy and I realize how much slower I’ve become.  How motherhood necessitates that.  How the wind, which once directed me, now flows through him.  How I’ve come into conversation with the roots of trees.  How I’ve learned to match the pace of mountains.

He is the wildness.  I am the wild.

When I hold my son, I realize I have become a home.

6:38 — He sleeps.  I write.  The light pours down the mountainside.

In another few hours it will reach the west-facing hillside and be upon us all.

The Huntress

Murphy Robinson, with her first buck (photo courtesy of Murphy)

I never imagined myself as a hunter.  I still have never shot a gun in my life.  But that will change this fall, when I take Mountainsong Expedition’s Huntress Intensive, led by Murphy Robinson.

Read my latest article in Vermont’s Local Banquet to learn more about the program and the history (or more accurately, herstory) behind it.

What it all comes down to for me is this:

“I think we should hunt so that we will know how fully integrated we are in our environment and in nature, and we will experience those vivid moments of deep aliveness and deep connection [when we’re] making choices that truly matter in the moment in the woods. I think that when we experience that, we come into a deeper sense of ethics and responsibility within ourselves and all parts of our lives.” ~ Murphy Robinson

Local Banquet: The Huntress

Good Medicine


March came in with a bluster of sustained wind and strong gusts, dropping the temperature 40º in the course of one night.  The house trembled against the gusts, and I laid in bed, my stomach hollowing with each shudder of the posts and beams.  All night I breathed and drew my breath to the earth, to the roots of trees.

On the first of March I woke tired but thankful for the stillness after the storm.  Thankful for the space that comes after struggle.

Subsequent nights have been calmer, the mornings warmer.  On Friday I woke at 5:30 and watched the dark of night soften into a blue twilight, the mountains shifting in shades of blue from persian to azure to lapis and finally to a dusty french blue before reaching the lightness of day.  It was only 20º at 6:00, but when I opened the door to let the cat out, the air whispered of spring and I lingered in the doorway listening to the clear notes of a chickadee calling fee-bee.  

Those simple notes.  Can I describe to you how they woke me up?  Can I tell you how the day before I felt struggle, for no reason except that that I did?  And how this one moment at the door, when the air felt just a half ounce heavier and smelled just a few degrees warmer, when the chickadee whistled two clean notes, how in this one moment my chest flooded with space.

Struggle and space.  Breath in and out.  The cycle can happen so fast.

Sometimes I want so much to do something good that I forget the goodness of caring for myself, of tending to my heart.  Sometimes I want so much to do something good that I feel only the struggle of trying.

Then I remember the medicine that is always at hand:

Waking early is good medicine.

Reading poetry is good medicine.

Letting myself be inspired by others’ creativity is good medicine.

Being in awe is good medicine.

I come back to breath.  I come back to grounding, to the lessons offered up by trees, to the strength of roots.

I come back to the stillness after the storm, to the chickadee and the texture of early spring air.

I come back to the tending of my heart, and I know how fiercely beautiful this world is.

And I know how wonderfully beautiful it is to see it.



A New Story

photo by Katie Spring

I’ve been thinking about stories lately, about the larger story of our society that plays out over and over again, and about the undercurrents of alternative stories that whisper through the static.

At a Hanukkah celebration a few weeks ago, our host stood to give his yearly toast, and he said, “I’m having a hard time celebrating the myth of Hanukkah this year.”  He went on to tell the story of Hannah and her seven sons, all slayed in front of her as they refused to denounce their faith to the invading army.  Eventually the Jews won, and the story told was one of martyrdom and the birth of Hanukkah, and so we celebrate the victim overcoming the enemy.

And this is where the tiredness came into Harlan’s voice.  He spoke of the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernadino.  He spoke of the whole of written history with all its beheadings and wars and conquering of one group over another.

“It’s always the same story of victim and martyr.  It’s not getting us anywhere.  We need a new story, and I don’t know what it is.”

I was quiet as a discussion ensued.  His emotion swirled around inside of me as I herd his plea and understood the depth of yearning for change, for peace, for a future that will hold our children safely after we have gone.  In the weeks since, that one statement has gone through me over and over as I try to answer it: we need a new story.

As his words resound in my head, others come in to answer.  I think of my friends who run Earthwise Farm and Forest, and how Carl said, “Our lives are not a rehearsal.  We advocate for the life we want by living it.”

I look at their lives and see another story: one of resilience, of interdependence with their land and community, of activism balanced with the steady building of a home and family and farm.  I look at their lives and see how true their words are, how they are living the story they want to bring forth into the world.

I think of Harlan and the weariness in his voice as he said I don’t know what it is.

While I may not have the complete answer, either, I do know that while the world is bigger than any individual, change is not.  Sometimes we all feel small, and that is okay.  Sometimes we all feel defeated and frustrated, but still it is important to witness.  It is important to feel.  The only true defeat is in thinking we are too small to matter.  You are not too small to matter.

Every beginning, every story, starts out as a seed.  Some of us are the seed sowers.  Some of us are pollinators.  Some of us are the wind and birds that scatter the seeds wildly across the land.  Some of us are seed savers that carefully and tenderly carry the story into the next generation.

You do not have to play every part.  Only your part.  You do not have to be recognized with a Nobel Prize or a plaque or anything at all.  Just discover your heart.  Discover what makes you feel light and do more of that.  Share it.  Most of the time you will have no idea how many lives you are touching by simply living in a way that brings you more alive.

This is what brings me alive: touching soil, planting a field of vegetables, growing flowers, feeding others, writing.  In my personal story, I’m a seed sower, but in the larger story of the world I think of myself more as a pollinator, helping a new story bear fruit and flower.

Think of pollinators: insects, bees, butterflies, birds.  They are so small.  And we need them.

Don’t wait until you have more money or a better car or more time.  Create the life you want by living it.

That’s the only way a new story will take root.



My New Blog: Cooking in Good Heart

P1060448Thank you all for the kind words and continued encouragement to create.

One of those projects I wrote about in my last post has come into being, and I’m excited to announce my new blog: Cooking in Good Heart.

You’ll find posts on food and farming, plus some “recipe improv”–check out the blog for more on this.

I hope you’ll join me over at this new blog.  If you have any food or farming questions, please send them my way!  You may see the answers (and the journey to the answers) in a new post.

Happy Sunday~