heart & soul

soul

We learned about souls in the first or second grade, not long after we learned about God. Maybe it was part of getting ready for our first confession. Preparing…that’s what they called it…preparing for our first confession.

There’s a soul in us, they said, in the middle of us, and it wasn’t our heart. Other than that, they were fuzzy on the details. They didn’t tell us how it looked, like they might if it was an arm or leg, or even a stomach or brain. What I do remember was that we are born with a clean soul. Before you got old enough to sin, your soul is clean. Perfectly clean.

Then you sin, and it’s not so clean. If you sin a lot, if you commit a mortal sin, or even multiple mortal sins, your soul turns. Then, if you go to confession, and say your penance, it gets washed clean again.

Back then, I pictured the soul like a circle. It wasn’t in my heart, and it wasn’t in my head, but somewhere else inside me. It was a very nuanced part of our being, although I knew nothing of nuance and I had a very mixed up idea of what it was to be a being. So I pictured the soul like what I would describe now as a pie chart. If you’ve been good, you have a nice clean circle, and if you’ve been bad, well, you can picture that pie chart.

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2021, forsythia, spring

waiting for spring

Tall trees stand stubborn, dark straggly lines against a soft blue sky. It could be the middle of February. We … the humans … watch. We tap our toes and wonder. Isn’t it time for spring? Some small, discernible bits of newness? Some buds, or some green, some encouraging signs of a new season.

No, the trees look back, offering nothing more than a confident sway, as the uppermost branches, leafless, bend in unison.

They’re mostly oaks and a few poplars. And it’s like they’ve become defiant, adamant at least, about who’s in control. Plain, unadorned branches, move slowly left and then right in the breeze. Shouldn’t they be working on some green, some buds, even some pollen? I’ve watched this slow drama play out so many years, and yet I wonder impatiently what happens first. Tiny sprigs of green, or those long strands of gold pollen?

The trees, though, the trees stand stubborn, and they sway when they feel like it. They move with a swagger, resistant to every human wish for spring. We’re all used to waiting now, aren’t we? But It feels like it will be the 4th of July, and still those big old trees will be standing there looking like they looked in February. We … the humans … restless, watching, waiting for them to green up. And waiting for a life that resembles something like it used to be. Any day now, maybe next week, maybe in a few months.

snow, winter

aligned



It’s about lines. Sometimes it’s about the lines.

Absent-minded, I look outside, and my brain works to pair long lines, from trees, with vertical panes, from the window. I like it when they’re perfectly parallel. When I take pictures in the woods, I angle the shot so trees naturally slanted to the sun come out straight up and down in the picture. Flowers too. And within the compulsion of these mental confines falls the nuisance and distraction of utility lines. Struggling to aim up over the lines so they don’t pull your eye from the clouds, or the sun, or the trees on the horizon. Sometimes, though, lines are inescapable. Sometimes you can’t take out the lines and have the same picture.

© Etikser. All Rights Reserved.

All photos and images here are my own.
They may not be used elsewhere or reblogged.

Please visit my other blog, Clover & Ivy, https://cloverandivy.wordpress.com.
I post mostly nature photos there.

life, memories

1963

When I was little, we went to 12 o’clock mass on Sundays. That’s what it was called, 12 o’clock mass. Back then Catholics didn’t sing the same songs as Protestants. I don’t think singing Protestant songs qualified as a sacrilege, but some songs were Catholic songs and some were not. My recollection, anyhow. Like the Catholic Lord’s Prayer was different from the Protestant Lord’s Prayer. Although we called it the Our Father. In the confessional box, the last words from the priest were always, “For your penance, say five Our Fathers and three Hail Marys.”

It so happened that while we were getting ready for 12 o’clock mass on Sundays, there was a cartoon show on TV called Davy and Goliath. Davy was a little boy with a dog, Goliath, and the show had a religious theme of some sort. I liked the show but I never got to see the end because we left for church about fifteen minutes before it was over. The intro music for that show was A Mighty Fortress, and since then I’ve always loved that song. I think as a kid I found the words impressive. Mighty and cruel hate and Sabaoth. Abideth and doth. And the melody was sort of compelling. But I knew it wasn’t a song we ever sang in church.

One Sunday in November, Davy and Goliath was pre-empted, or maybe it was interrupted. It was that weekend when almost all the shows were pre-empted. Back then, breaking news was truly breaking news. As it turned out, that week, the previous Friday, my parents had to go to the funeral home because one of my uncles had died. I suppose I was young enough I didn’t have to go with them. When it came time for my parents to return home, some aunts and uncles were with them. I guess to pick up their kids, my cousins, who stayed at our house too that Friday. With the oldest in charge. When they walked in the house, in their Sunday best funeral home clothes, all the kids, including me, and the cousins, were jumping up and down on the beds. I don’t know how it started. I guess it just looked like fun. The grown ups were so angry. I’m not sure this is important, but it is the context for me that following Sunday.

My memory is that we were getting ready to leave for church on Sunday and the TV was still on. I think we all looked at the screen because they were going to show the guy who killed President Kennedy. We were standing in the living room watching and could see a lot of people in camera view, and they brought a man out in handcuffs. I remember thinking something like, “Is that him?” It seemed seconds later, one of the men on the bottom of the screen moved toward the prisoner, poked a gun into the suspect’s waist, and shot him. Right there, on TV while we watched.

Kennedy was just killed a few days earlier. Now, there we are in our living room, the guy who shot Kennedy was already caught, and some other man walks up to him in the middle of the press and the police, and shoots him dead. It seemed nobody even moved to stop the shooter. It was surreal. I’m sure I didn’t know that word back then. But it was the feeling we’d all had that whole creepy weekend. Surely, someone would come on TV and tell us some story other than Kennedy was dead. I think we expected them to say they got it wrong. It was a practice or a drill maybe, or somebody else was killed and they just thought it was Kennedy. Or they thought Kennedy died, but he was really still alive. Well, that didn’t happen. Now it was two days later, and they were saying this guy we just saw on TV got through the crowd and shot the suspect. The suspect who shot the president. Huh??

I was thinking, “Can we all go back to Davy and Goliath and A Mighty Fortress?”

But no, we turned off the TV that Sunday, piled in the car, and went off to 12 o’clock mass.

seasons, time

transitions

I’m no good at transitions. A few days after Christmas, people are ready to move on. They throw out the wrapping paper, they recycle the boxes, they take down the tree. January 23rd, and I’m still trying to squeeze in every moment, every song, every note I missed.

That cricket. That damn cricket. The last cricket.

He had to be in the house. Sometimes I walked in the kitchen, and he’d stop, and then seconds later he’d start back up. That cheep was always good for a tug, or a smile, somewhere back in the emotional part of me. It was the sound of something vaguely reassuring. I don’t know, a warm muggy night? You go outside and it seems the whole neighborhood is asleep. Maybe a lazy pause in the dark, on the cement step at the end of the walk. He sounded like the moment you were alone with the trees and the stars and the balmy air and the sounds of the last bits of summer.

It’s one of those microseconds when you look up with hopeless hope that somehow there’s still some summer left. And that’s all it lasts. A microsecond.

That’s what blinks are for.

embers, fire, smoke

smoldering

Embers flare and trail to the dark. A darkness thick and quiet.

Intermittent quiet … sporadic cracks flicker and pop. An abrupt smack, and another, and then another, catapult the burning sparks up into the emptiness above. 

I look up and follow the trail of random lines and tiny lights. It could have been the smoke hanging above a campfire on a summer night. Or the puffs of smoke at a Christmas tree lot in the middle of December. But this was no campfire, and there was no festive holiday music. The smoky fog hovering around me fills the air with a mood that makes you want to hide, tuck your head, wrap your arms around your legs. Hide.

Heat distorted air around the fire whips into smoky remnants and a transparent film snakes its way up, part of the wind. Higher. And even higher. Past the shadows of the trees and past the yellow crescent form of the new moon.

I could feel the chill in the air, and the damp mist, not freezing yet, but oppressive. A strange fusion of cold and warm. I’m sitting close enough for heat to reach my face, but the rest of me feels pale and sickly. Overheated and chilled at the same time. As if I was getting a fever, first the chills, even as a fever brings a warm flush to the face.

The scent of musty, maybe even acidic. Smoke. An onslaught to my sensors. Sizzling burnt wood and fiery embers.

Smoldering.

moon, night sky

strange times

Such strange, strange times.

It was cloudy for weeks on end, it seems, and I couldn’t remember the last time I saw stars in the sky. And the moon? I think I saw a pretty crescent around twilight a week or so back.

Thursday night, I shut down my computer and switched off the lights, and the patterns on my desk took me by surprise. The old familiar lines and squares angled across the wood. So bright it lit up the dark room. My response was something like, what’s that? oh, the moon. Then one of those feelings that come with a smile, like … oh, the moon.

My eyes followed the trail of light out the window and upwards to the almost-full moon high in the sky, shining bright behind the leaves at the top of the trees.

It’s high up there, over 100 feet, and you wouldn’t think I could see the silhouette of individual leaves from so far. But I could see them, the ones at the top, the highest ones, reaching upward, and with the aid of a bit of a breeze, swaying and dancing around in the night sky. For a minute or two, the bright beautiful almost-full moon was right there with them, surrounded, framed, almost decorated.

Me? Well, I should not be surprised, should I, to see moonlight coming through a window. It’s a rather regular event. My days are full. I’ve got projects, plenty to do, exercise, walks. Life. And there are weightier issues, for sure. But this sameness, day after day, after a while, it dulls some kind of sensors in us. Well, in me, anyhow. Some strange malaise of the brain.

I looked out the next night. I guess I hoped to see the moon again. It was cloudy and I couldn’t see the moon. But … I saw a single star out a side window. Yes!

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This is an old photo of mine from last year.

life, nature

change

Evening walks feel different now. Sundown comes earlier, for sure. But it’s more than that.

Is it the seasons? People? Maybe people are tired of walking the same paths, the same trees, the same curves and dips in the surface. Parents tired of getting their kids and their bikes down to the trails, skinned knees, everybody trying to get along and enjoy nature. Or maybe it’s the kids who are tired of it. Maybe they’re getting ready for school, however school is going to work this year. I think there are fewer people walking the trails.

But it’s not just people. What was alive, thriving, robust, a month ago is starting to fade. I’m avoiding the words.

I look around and I see sad. Maybe lonely. Past the prime. On the way to a harsh reality I’m not ready to deal with.

There are fall flowers, but the brush is almost down to leafless sticks in many places. It can make you careless because there’s still poison ivy among whatever is growing. Already in September, trees are skimpier. Not bright fall colors and dropping leaves en masse, but leaves are weathered, and when you look up now, you see more sky than lush green. In July I could only hear moving water somewhere behind all the green, but now I can see right down to the creek.

Even the dirt looks pale, anemic. Surely the dirt doesn’t change.

September sunsets are lovely. Pale bits of amber light make it past the lowest branches. And September’s pretty wildflowers let you pretend. For just a little longer. But, ready or not, change is on its way.