I’m in familiar forests today. A trail that I’ve walked several times before is just visible amidst a jungle-like chaos of weeds and wildflowers and undergrowth, the river is misty and lazy down a cliff on one side of the path and a canopy of green and birdsongs overhead obscures the sky, but not the sunlight. And best of all, I’m not wandering this thoughtful spot on my own. Chattering along the trail before and behind are my family, the best people to share in a thoughtful walk.
Flowers were the sun and fiery spots of sky strewn through the woodland.
-Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine
Countless daisies (Leucanthemum vulgare) bloom along the way, and purple explosions of wild bee balm (Monarda fistulosa) are dotted in little clusters. That surest scent of spring, the perfect harmony of moss, wild privet, and honeysuckle are in the air. All three plants line this trail in abundance, the viney honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum) and privet shrubs (Ligustrum vulgare) almost touch across the path above my head, creating an archway of flowers. I wish I could blend a perfume of that scent!
And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.
— F. Scott Fitzgerald
Indian Pinks (Spigelia marilandica) in yellow and scarlet pop up here and there, tucked in little rocky crevices rocking into the steep slopes or in between the gnarly roots of old trees. And Mum has made a new wildflower discovery- a small bell-shaped bloom on a vine, perfectly shaped with thick yellow petals turned back at the tips like a fuchsia, in the loveliest shade of pink. It’s a wild clematis variety, (Clematis pitcheri) and not a very common one. Its vine and leaves look similar to its cultivated relatives, but its unique blossom, with thick, sturdy petals, give it the common name Leatherflower.
…there are so many things that I have never seen:
Then was winter shaken, and fair was the earth's embrace.
Chickweed (Stellaria media) and henbit (Lamium amplexicaule) and blue creeping speedwell (Veronica repens), nestled deep in oft-overlooked obscurity, herald in their tiny, joyful way the sunny days and warmth ahead. And a single, bright faced dandelion (Taraxacum officinale,) on a tiny stem is the first brave one of its kind to emerge in this little thoughtful spot.
Nothing ever seems impossible in Spring, you know.
Glory be to God for dappled things!
It was one of those days when...
it is summer in the light and winter in the shade.
... a new year, full of things that never have been...
Though ice still clings to the grasses around the mouth of a little culvert nearby, and the bushes are still white with frost most mornings, still it seems that perhaps, slowly and happily, the world is indeed beginning to quicken.
Along a stream that raced and ran / Through tangled trees and over stones,
That long had heard the pipes o' Pan / And shared the joys that nature owns,
I met a fellow fisherman, / Who greeted me in cheerful tones.
We stumbled upon the foundation of an old home beside the trail. It was settled in a perfect corner between large trees, and just a few steps down the path away from it a bridge led over a small waterfall. What a pleasant place to live it must have been. The dried flowers of the wild hydrangeas still look as though they're blooming, and the mountain laurel is everywhere. In the spring this path must be overwhelmed by their pink and white blooms.
An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.
These are also the sort of woods which provide fairy-house trees in abundance. Hollowed out trunks with tiny violets sprouting at the base, and little ribbon streams leading to puddle-sized lakes. And, oh, the mushrooms! Ruffled white tree ears and tiny toadstools that look as though they've been lifted straight from the illustrations of Beatrix Potter, and dainty umbrellas nestled in the soldier moss.
Fairy places, fairy things,/Fairy woods where the wild bee wings,
Tiny woods below whose boughs/Shady fairies weave a house...
The landscape sleeps in mist from morn till noon;
The morning mist is frosty. The dried seed heads of the iron weed are encased in a feathery shroud of white, and they glitter in the early morning light. The air is cold and bright, and all the world seems awake and gleeful and scattered with twinkling dust. I'm in somewhat unfamiliar woods, I've walked them before but I don't know them like my woods at home, so there's an air of discovery around every turn: a little bridge to span a marshy patch of trail, a bramble of wild roses covered in hips, a little grove of cattails. They all come as a surprise, little gifts of wonder on this most stunning of frosty mornings.
The frost flowers have bloomed in abundance this morning. The delicate tendrils and ribbons that cling to the dead stalks are utterly marvelous, and every one unique. I wonder what it would be like to watch them form, to see that thinnest, most delicate layer of frost twist and curl out from the stalk and create these magical little clusters of ribbon-like ice.
November has always seemed to me the Norway of the year.
Autumn is a second Spring, when every leaf is a flower.
As long as autumn lasts, I shall not have hands, canvas, and colors
enough to paint the beautiful things I see.
Four young ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) trees, resplendent in drooping branches of brilliant yellow leaves stand there, to walk beneath them is to enter a great hall of golden arches, with a golden carpet underfoot. I've always loved ginkgo trees. I love their tenacity and longevity even in harsh environs, their legendary benefits for the mind and memory are fascinating, and their graceful, almost willow-like branches, which earned them the common name "maidenhair tree," are stunning. But I think my favorite thing about them is the curious fact that these leaves must not be harvested while green and thriving, as one might expect, but now, in all their golden glory, just as they fall from the tree.
Lo! I am come to autumn / When all the leaves are gold...
Along the tops of all the yellow trees,
The golden-yellow trees, the sunshine lies;
I cannot resist gathering up a great armful of these brilliant leaves and tossing them into the air to watch them tumble down. This cheerful little thoughtful spot is chilly but bright on this glorious, final shout of color day. What a perfect ending to autumn.
So join me on this new adventure of searching for a little hermitage, surrounded by the beauty of nature, to study and observe and marvel at, every month. Whether it be an old log in the hundred acre wood, a mossy rock beside a waterfall, or a path to the grocery store through maples that are just beginning to turn, these thoughtful spots must be sought after and discovered, wondered at and then shared, as they teach us to never take for granted the glorious minutia of daily life, and the overwhelming beauty with which God has filled the world around us.
- J. R. R. Tolkein
Great is the sun, and wide he goes /Through empty heaven with repose;
And in the blue and glowing days /More thick than rain he showers his rays.
A few quiet corners of New England beach and bike path became my Thoughtful Spot this August. The colors struck me the most, just the endless, shimmering shades of blue would be enough to instill wonder, but then there is the neon pink of the beach plum flowers and the dusky red of their fruit against deep, green leaves and many-hued pebbles and fallow sand and suddenly this seaside world is a vibrant, exuberant tumult of of perfectly clashing colors.
In small proportions we just beauties see;
And in short measures life may perfect be.
Do You Have a
Many current trends in natural health focus on ecotherapy and shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing, reiterating with scientific studies and medical terminology something that Winnie the Pooh taught us many years ago: we all need
a "Thotful Spot".
We need a little corner surrounded by nature where we can sit and be still, ponder and pray, and observe closely the beauty around us.
These posts are musings and meanderings from my Thoughtful Spots, recorded once every month, and interspersed with occasional ramblings about my favorite medicinal herbs.
I hope you'll join me in finding a Thoughtful Spot, visit it often, record the things that make you marvel, and remember,
"the world will never starve for want of wonders..."
- G.K. Chesterton