The sky is dark and soft, and the air is filled with the scent of a brewing storm. But the grey of the cloudy sky has its magic, for, in the absence of the blinding summer sunlight, I can look straight upward at the sky. Dozens of songbirds and their fledglings are scattered in a crowded, busy silhouette against the grey. I don't know if there are always so many at the edge of the woods when I walk here, but they are remarkable today.
Here at my thoughtful spot the dark sky is hidden by the engulfing, dancing shades of green and growing things. Not a flower bloom is to be seen - the jewelweed is late this year - everything is all rich, deep, multi-hued green. Even the oddly handsome little fellow who has decided to sit next to my mossy rock blends almost invisibly into the green around us. He looks like some sort of Katydid, but I can't seem to identify him concretely.
The earth has donned her mantle of brightest green;
The ground is hard,
And yet the world,
And November goes,
With the last red berries
And the first white snows.
With night coming early
And dawn coming late,
And ice in the bucket
And frost by the gate.
The fires burn
And the kettles sing,
And earth sinks to rest
Until next spring.
- Clyde Watson
O hushed October morning mild,/Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,/Should waste them all.
- Robert Frost, October
From where I'm sitting I can see a bramble bush covered in tiny red rose hips (Rosa canina). These bright little herbs are one of the highest plant sources of vitamin C, and they are ready to be harvested on these cold October days and dried for use in teas and syrups throughout the winter. The wild persimmons (Diospyros virginiana) too, are ripe, and even sweeter now after a frost. While walking this morning I came across a bewildered bunch of blooming violets (Viola papilionacea), who must have mistaken these chilly, sunny days for the beginning of spring. A few of their little purple blossoms are pressing in my dictionary at the moment, waiting to be sent off in letters in the middle of winter as a cheery promise of warmer days.
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
- John Keats, To Autumn
O hushed October morning mild, / Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief. / Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know... / Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst. / Slow! Slow!
- Robert Frost, October
Here at my thoughtful spot, the waterfall drowns out most sounds, certainly the gentle sound of rustling leaves, but not all. A woodpecker is keeping up a happy knocking on a tree across the creek from me, too far away and high up for me to tell what kind, but he's small and I see a little splash of read, so I'm guessing he's a downy. He's hopping in circles back and forth and up and down the trunk, high above me in the yellow leaves where the sunlight hits, he must be quite a happy little fellow.
the earth seeking successive autumns."
Between the moss and fallen leaves on the forest floor around me, dozens of miniature wonders have sprung up. Patches of delicate, pale pink Lady's Thumb are every where, its new shoots in the spring are edible, and songbirds love the seeds in the autumn. The tiniest toadstools grow in little clusters, they seem very fitting in this setting that is full of the scent of decomposing leaves and rich, damp earth warmed by a companionable and gentle sunshine. Though perhaps they would look more at home in the mists of these early autumn mornings, rather than the warmth of late afternoon. I remember learning once that Beatrix Potter, though best known for her beloved watercolors of rabbits in jackets, was a mycologist, and loved to paint fungi. She would have been very happy in this little thoughtful spot, I think, with such a plethora of interesting subjects to paint. One day I hope to distinguish with confidence between the poisonous and nutritious varieties of of these odd little plants, but for now I believe I shall content myself with attempting to sketch them in their native habitat, rather than bringing them home for dinner!
But, in this quiet hamlet of rural pastureland, late August is purple.
But if you don't it's a beautiful sight. / Asters are purple, and there's purple ink.
Purple's more popular than you think, / It's a sort of great-grandmother to pink...
- Mary O'Neill, What is Purple?
Perhaps I've been delighting in this magic color for a bit too long today... for as I read over this page in my notebook I begin to fear my prose themselves are turning rather purple!
Sometimes my thoughtful spot isn’t very conducive to thinking.
Or Froggie's arm has come to harm, this herb will never fail.
The fairy's skill can cure each ill and soothe the sorest pain;
She'll bathe and bind, and soon they'll find
That they are well again.
- The Song of the Self-Heal Fairy
Cicely Mary Barker
"Thro' crofts and pastures wet with dew / A living flash of light he flew."
The Two Voices, "Today I saw a Dragonfly"
On my walk here I passed a flourishing elder tree (Sambucus nigra), another herb to harvest when October comes. But now this delicate tree is fully abloom, the ethereal lightness and scent of its lace-cluster petals make the legends about it easy to believe. The elder tree has a long herbal history, every part of the plant has been used medicinally, and the flowers and berries are among my favorite herbs, for they have wonderful flavors and healthful benefits to match. But the history of this herb is not only medicinal, its wood was once prized for making harps and flutes of peerless tone. An old English rhyme says that summer begins with elder flowers, and ends with elder berries, and if one waits patiently under an elder bush on midsummer’s eve, legend claims one might see fairies dancing at their midsummer’s feast.
There is something very magical about a summer rain, for the air feels golden more than grey, and somehow in this gentle light every shade of green looks greener still, as though moss and grass and fern and leaves are all somehow more alive. And this afternoon, in these moss softened trees, with the cheerful call of a little waterfall and the faint, peach and honeysuckle scent of the false mimosa trees in the air, a very joyous summer has met me in this peaceful place.
Summer met me in the glade,
With a host of fair princesses,
Golden iris, foxgloves staid,
Sunbeams flecked their gorgeous dresses.
Roses followed in her train,
Creamy elder-flowers beset me,
Singing, down the scented lane,
Summer met me.
Summer Met Me
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 herbal happenings at the Greenhouse and monographs of 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