Song for Autumn

In the deep fall
don’t you imagine the leaves think how
comfortable it will be to touch
the earth instead of the
nothingness of air and the endless
freshets of wind? And don’t you think
the trees themselves, especially those with mossy,
warm caves, begin to think
of the birds that will come-six, a dozen-to sleep
inside their bodies? And don’t you hear
the goldenrod whispering goodbye,
the everlasting being crowned with the first
tuffets of snow? The pond
vanishes, and the white field over which
the fox runs so quickly brings out
its blue shadows. And the wind pumps its
bellows. And at evening especially,
the piled firewood shifts a little,
longing to be on its way.

Mary Oliver

Who else but Mary Oliver can show us the way into the heart of Autumn with lines like “Freshets of wind” and “Tuffets of snow” and that celebratory last line that makes me happy for the piled firewood “Longing to be on its way”?

How do we enter into the change of seasons and especially the transition from summer to autumn? We may begin to notice new weather systems running through our lives as the days grow shorter. How do we settle into the mystery once again, relax with the change, and enjoy it? Do we resist and become nostalgic for the past or embrace the change? Or maybe a bit of both?

I may be from the “Bit of both” camp. Dragging my feet a little I am already lonely for the crickets happy serenade each evening, the back door standing wide open to the dark warm night.

Then turning towards the change like Mary Oliver’s brilliant poem I find the excitement in the overhead shifts and inward shifts. Almost before my eyes, the green ash tree in the corner of the garden has begun to turn from green to brilliant gold right near the top branches. The light has changed to that special autumnal slant and the temperatures have permanently dropped, leaving summer behind.
Two nights ago, we had our first fire of the season in the pot bellied clay chiminea. The Milky Way hung in the moonless night and cold gusts caused us to pull our sweaters a little closer and draw nearer to the fire. Just yesterday, traces of fresh snow appeared on the higher peaks of the Sangre De Cristo Mountains.

Again, like the poem suggests, this noticing can uncover the unique energy Fall is bringing into our lives. It urges us even closer to the beauty of the season.
May we all find our way into our own Song for Autumn!

The Way of Haiku

In late July I happened upon a super inspiring interview between Tara Brach, the psychologist and prominent teacher of Buddhist meditation, and Natalie Goldberg, the author of the classic bestseller, Writing Down the Bones. The interview, if you are interested, is easily accessible via YouTube and the title is Writing and Haiku as Spiritual Practice. http://www.tarabrach.com and www. nataliegoldberg.com
In this lively and entertaining exchange, the focus was Natalie’s new book, Three Simple Lines, A Writer’s Pilgrimage into the Heart and Homeland of Haiku. Traveling to Japan twice, Ms. Goldberg seeks to discover the Haiku masters, Basho, Buson, Issa and Shiki. Through visiting their homes, shrines and graves and delving into each master’s unique history the reader becomes familiar with each poet’s voice all conveyed with a freshness, joy and excitement for these ancient poems.
As a deep dive into the history of the subject the book is a beautiful companion on the path of haiku. It begins with the following insight, “Haiku is a refuge when the world seems chaotic, when you are lost, frightened, tangled and nothing is clear.” These simple poems can offer clarity, focus and comfort in just a few lines.
Answering the question, “What is the way of haiku?” the author writes, “Bare attention, no distractions, pure awareness, noticing what is only in the moment. Being connected to the season, unconnected to self clinging. And then, out of that, composing your experience in three lines that go beyond logic, that make the mind leap. In the center is a taste of emptiness. A frog, a crow, a turnip—the ordinary right in front of you is the realm of awakening. Pure Zen but not Zen.”
Then I had the good fortune to take a class in Haiku offered thru Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe with none other than Natalie Goldberg.
In this class I learned is that haiku is deeply rooted in seasonality and there are even specific words that correspond to each season. These words are collected into a season word almanac called a Saijiki. Usually, the first line of a haiku starts with one of these words. Summer words include: wildfire, lizard, cactus flower, canoe or kayak, shade tree and cross breeze. I also learned that the Japanese have seventy-two seasons compared to our mere four… an amazing thing to ponder.
It’s been a few weeks of discovering what this ancient writing practice is about and putting pen to paper to see what magic can happen with just seventeen syllables. It is comforting to know that even the master’s wrote a lot of bad haiku before a “gem” coalesced into form!
Haiku is simply a beautiful way to follow nature and one’s own life thru the year.
The post today is a sampling of haiku from Three Simple Lines and a few of my own since the class. The photos are shots of simple beauty found close to home.
Please enjoy!

At the ancient pond
a frog plunges into
the sound of water
—-Basho

Ah, grief and sadness
the fishing line trembles
in the autumn breeze.
—-Buson

The pampas grass
waves, good by, good by
to departing autumn.
—-Issa

Who can be
a stranger
under the cherry blossoms?
—-Issa

Ocean and mountains
way beyond
seventeen syllables
—-Shiki

Winter camellia
using all it’s strength
blooming red
—-Shiki

I go,
you stay;
two autumns
—-Buson

The first wild geese
coming
still coming
—-Chiyo-ni

This evening!
since the crescent moon
I’ve been waiting
—-Chiyo-ni
( a poem about the full moon)

Lightning, then thunder
hummingbird moth seeks flowers
fat rain soaks the ground.
—-MH

Violin music
rain falling this afternoon
my husband’s wood shop.
—-MH

Honey Balsamic Roasted Figs

Today’s post was supposed to be about Haiku. A subject that has me excited lately. However, I am preempting that idea to bring back a recipe posted late last summer. Ok…I may sneak in a few Haiku’s too!
Yes, back by popular demand is the Honey Balsamic Roasted Fig recipe!
The author is Ciao Florentina and was originally posted on Pinterest. Those who tried it really appreciated its simplicity and deliciousness.
Figs are around now at our local Whole Foods and Trader Joes but it’s a short season so I hope you have time to grab some and roast them up. It’s the perfect “transitioning to Fall” recipe.
After roasting I put them on a good cracker with a dab of goat cheese on top and a drizzle of honey….Super good!
But they can be served on pizza with goat cheese or over whipped ricotta or frozen yogurt as a dessert sauce. You can’t go wrong!

Honey Balsamic Roasted Figs

2 lb. purple figs
3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar, aged
2 tbsp. honey
1 tbs. coconut sugar or brown sugar
1 lemon, juiced
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp. butter, softened
fresh basil leaves and lemon strips for garnish

  1. Preheat oven to 400
  2. Use the softened butter to coat a 9×11 inch roasting pan.
  3. Rinse the figs and cut off the stem. Slice them in half lengthwise and add them cut side down to the buttered roasting pan.
  4. Sprinkle with sugar over the top. Mix vinegar, honey and vanilla extract together and pour over the figs. Add juice of one lemon and gently toss everything. Try to arrange figs in one layer cut side down.
  5. Roast the balsamic coated figs for 20-25 minutes until caramelized to your liking and the sauce has reduced to a syrupy consistency.
  6. For serving garnish with basil leaves and lemon strips if desired.

Sitting on her eggs
the chicken
admires the peony
—–Issa

Brushing the lavender
the bees black body
floating fragrant
—–MH

Happy herd of goats
running swiftly
distant thunder
—–MH

Brown deer
wades thru Rio Chama
cool legs emerge
—-MH

Spring
remains
in the iris
—-Chiyo-ni

Pink cloud at sunset
melted now into evening sky
trees await the night.
—–MH

Wishing everyone a wonderful wrap up to August.

July

Let’s talk about blessings. How they surround us daily and come in all shapes, sizes and disguises. The random act of a stranger smiling at us and offering a friendly greeting, the skittish hummingbird frequenting the feeder these days, and the summer monsoon we are now enjoying. The tricky part is in noticing and naming them when they arrive.
For written blessings, some of the best I have found come from the likes of John O’Donohue, David Whyte and Jan Richardson.
From the book Circle of Grace by Jan Richardson she writes, ” Within the struggle, joy, pain and delight that attend our life, there is an invisible circle of grace that enfolds and encompasses us in every moment. Blessings help us to perceive this circle of grace, to find our belonging within it, and the receive the strength the circle holds for us”. I highly recommend exploring the works of these three authors to discover for yourself the poetry, mystery and deep support contained within a well-written blessing. Again, from Jan, “A blessing taps into our longing for what lies beyond our experience and understanding, helping us to recognize how mystery make’s it’s home within the familiar contours of our life.”

There is also the blessing of the natural world. The poetry of the much awarded and phenomenal poet Mary Oliver is written with such profound beauty. Her love of the Earth and the minutiae of nature were her life’s work and continue to bless a grateful readership long after she has left us. I have included one of my favorites here today. I might add that choosing just one is harder than it sounds!

We took a little day trip into the Jemez Mountains near Santa Fe and found the perfect stream. Unlike our dryer home only miles away it must rain here everyday judging by the tall green grass growing everywhere. The stream’s water cast wavy reflections on the large boulders overhanging the banks. Little natural waterfalls gurgled and splashed here and there as we walked beside the water’s edge. It was especially hot that day, so we lingered awhile near to the cooler air of running water…a delicate blessing in this small oasis in the mountains above the desert.

Flowers are among some of the nicest blessings in life. Offering their beauty in color and scent, they enchant. I have included some photos of unique Southwestern flowers that decorate our landscape this time of year. The flowering agave reminds one of an alien life form with a gigantic asparagus like stalk and what appears to be a golden coral formation on top. These unfurl into yellowish orange blossoms much to the hummingbirds delight!
The happy hollyhocks are flowering around town now as well. They prefer the dry alleyways where they lend their tall-stemmed beauty loaded with saucer-shaped blossoms to mid-summer.

Wherever you find yourself these days. I hope blessings are surprising you with frequency and bringing an extra dose of joy to your life.

Messenger

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—-
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.
Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be
astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,
which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.
Mary Oliver

The following stunning photos were taken near the Battleground Monument in Eastern Colorado. They are of a special ceremony done yearly by descendants of the Cheyenne Chief Tall-Bull. The tribe gathers to chant to their fallen ancestors and commemorate the Battle of Summit Springs which occurred on July 11th 1869.
Native Americans also offer beautiful spoken blessings as part of their ancient spiritual traditions. One such simple one is said to come from the Apache people

” May you walk gently through the world and know it’s beauty all the days of your life.”

Photos by Linda Smart



Summer Friends

Happy Summer Solstice! I hope you are finding some cool moments within our collective heat wave.
At our place, early morning breezes blow thru with welcome coolness on the back flagstone patio. The fountain bubbling in the background offers an antidote to the oncoming heat. Two hummingbirds have been regular morning entertainment with their little aerial dance above the feeder. Fat bees lazily fly then disappear inside the perfect cone-shaped flower of foxgloves. These tall, stately delicate pastel flowers surrounded by lime green lady’s mantle remind me of an English cottage garden against the stucco wall. This is a rare, welcome and short-lived sight in the Southwest. But, for its brevity, it is appreciated all the more…kind of like summer itself.
The post this week is about the beauty of light, the Summer Solstice and friendship.
Is it just me or does summertime conjure up memories of childhood adventures with good friends? We rode our bikes everywhere all day long and had our first lemonade stand with neighbor kids. This was our first lesson in power plays within the world of high finance and business. Let’s just say there was a LOT of drama! We had all ironed out the kinks and we were ready for our first customer when chicken pox struck our little community. Several weeks later, after having recovered, we all sensed the shift from midsummer to late summer and with it our dreams had moved on to the reality of getting ready for another school year.
What is it about friendships forged under the summer sun? Just remembering them can bring back such sweetness, innocence and renewal for life.
If we are lucky, we have a few special friends to companion with us thru life.
Having set up house in Santa Fe only two years ago, we are in the process of making new friends. This has been a delightful exercise in risk taking and developing new connections.
How is it done? Making friends can be a forgotten skill in a way and one I am rediscovering.
Whether old or new, near or far, good friends bring such beauty and joy to our lives. After the last year and a half of forced hiatus from friends many of us are relishing the chance for long overdue reconnection. For me, there is a heightened awareness now of the gift of friendship. Included today are some beautiful quotes on the subject.

“Stay close to people who feel like sunshine”
—-www.we-go-wild.com

A friend is someone
who knows the song
in your heart and
can sing it back to you
when you have
forgotten the words.
——Power of Positivity

No friendship is an accident.
—–O Henry, Heart of the West

“See the light in others
and treat them as if
that’s all you see.”
—-Mayastar.net

From an old favorite book, Pocketful of Miracles by Joan Borysenko, comes this reflection on the Summer Solstice, “Summer is the season for appreciating the abundance of life, the reality of both the physical and spiritual Light and of recognizing the unique gifts we have to share with the world”.

The next two poems are from the book Earth Prayers, edited by Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon

To be of the Earth is to know
the restlessness of being a seed
the darkness of being planted
the struggle towards the light
the joy of bursting and bearing fruit
the love of being food for someone
the scattering of your seeds
the decay of the seasons
the mystery of death
and the miracle of birth.
—-John Soos

All are nothing but flowers
In a flowering universe.
—-Nakagawa Soen-Roshi

I wish you long light filled days, sweet summer memories and a cool spot of shade someplace beautiful.

Coastal Beauty and Blooming Roses

Two weeks ago we traveled to the rainy, windy, rugged coast of northern Oregon. The tall grass and wind twisted trees lined the path to the beach. We sank ankle deep in sand on our daily trek to walk the wide beach and view the expanse of ocean just a few blocks away. Morning mist and fog gave way most days to pristine sunlight reflecting on the blue water.
Hunting for whole sand dollars at low tide and watching the white capped waves roll in became a contemplative ritual. Soaking up the vast oceanic beauty, we sat warming ourselves by a roaring bonfire at sunset. At a favorite place, Indian Beach, we explored tidal pools with sea urchins clinging to the pools edges and watched people hunting for mussels in the cold water.
We returned to New Mexico to enjoy a few days of scattered showers and roses exploding into bloom! The yucca and small flowers line the trails and native grass is unusually green with the increased rain.
I am grateful for this rare time away at the ocean and rarer still the life-giving thunderstorms in our desert home.
I have such gratitude for water…witnessing the massive body of the Pacific Ocean, hearing a gentle rainfall from the sky and watching how quickly life responds to it’s touch is humbling and encouraging.
I hope you enjoy these stunning photos of our trip taken by our daughter Emile Elias.

These lovelies in June!

“Looking at Beauty in the world
is the first
step in purifying
the mind.”
—-Amit Ray

For the beauty
of the rose
we also
water the thorns.
—-African Proverb

Haystack Rock is an iconic Oregon Coast landmark. Home to colorful sea stars, anemones, crabs and many intertidal animals it rises 235 feet from the edge of the shoreline and is part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge and a State protected marine environment.

May’s Muse

May has arrived in all her glory. It’s the season of scotch broom and lilac in full bloom in our area of the world. Their fragrance, carried by gusty winds, blends with sagebrush into a special distillation in our high desert home and comes rushing down the arroyos.
The earth and all her inhabitants take a long breath in May and relax with the beauty coming alive around us.
In May the muse, or personified force that inspires, draws us into the creative power of nature for renewal and sheer delight in a more colorful, warm world.
I wrote a poem about May this past January 17th. We were far away from the season of warmth and color and I needed this reminder. The poem was inspired from a dream now 20 years old.
That seems to be the power of May’s ability to enchant. Months and even years later we can still bask in her warmth and beauty.

May’s Muse to Behold

The snow is melting on the back range again.
The blue bare patches emerge on the higher peaks as I drive in this evening.
What was that the old man said on the phone today? I asked him, “Did you order this beautiful day?”
He hesitated and with a folksy, whisper replied,
“No, no, a much greater authority than I”.
His words settled my exuberance into a quieter joy.
I slowly turn again to that long, tall back range. Spring run off swells rivers. Life is waking up green in itself once more.
The poppy, defining orange, nods in the breeze against grasses by the waters edge.
Yesterday, a perfect orb, tightly bound to itself. Loosening day by day as the suns warmth gently urges it into a saucer shaped blossom. Protected, it’s rough hairy shell defends the soft petals beneath.
The next moment brings a hungry deer who devours the entire flower with a noisy chomp. The ray of light in flower form now ingested walking slowly thru the forest. Gushing steams to delicately cross.
The snow is melting on the back range.
The rivers gain speed and hurl themselves relentlessly downwards.
It’s May and where would the world be without it?
What would the chrysalis do? An interminable wait inside a day-by -day smaller hanging lantern. Finely spun wings, wet and rolled, wait for release.
I imagine the new butterfly as remarkably huge. As big as a baby’s head, it slowly unfolds it’s great fragile wings into May’s waiting arms.
This is a butterfly from a dream long ago. Old, rare and now extinct, it’s remains lived in a museum in Paris. Wings folded accordion style were held within a Chinese octagonal box. The curator led us thru dark passageways with brass lanterns to the butterfly’s resting place. Even now, it’s wings, by some alchemical process would still emit a highly curative fine brown powder. The powder, a potent muse distilling a perfect day in May.
The snow is melting on the back range again.
The muse, now a fine mist, rises from the wild waters.
Infusing this day with her graceful mystery.

The butterfly
counts
not
months, but
moments
and has time
enough.
-Tagore

Radiant Season

Last week we made our biannual trip to the Denver Botanical Gardens. The trees had their early spring green halos, spring bulbs were in full bloom and several pairs of ducks flew between the ponds, reflecting pools and streams throughout these beautiful gardens that were just waking up for another season.
By happy accident we wandered into the newly opened Freyer-Newman Gallery.
The gallery is currently exhibiting a stunning display from Denver artist Kevin Sloan titled Radiant Season. These botanical works were created during the height of the pandemic. The focus is flora and plant life in conversation with human made objects and environments and the resulting works draw one into this reverent beautiful world.
In the artist’s own words he states, ” My great focus has always been to look into the world outside which I find a great source of inspiration and solace. The word that I come back to when I talk about my work is ‘quiet”. I’m attracted to objects that embody a sense of quiet. It’s almost a radical idea because it’s easily overlooked and forgotten these days. I like to believe the idea of quiet is a cherished quality in a piece of art.”
Expanding on this theme the Garden’s website offers this description of the exhibit:
“A reverie on the imperiled natural environment Radiant Season invites you to to observe the silent inhabitants with whom we share our world. These works transform the quiet denizens of the natural world into mysterious icons-radiant and quietly powerful.”
I am honored to feature photos of these brilliant works and quotes from the artist in the Thread of Beauty post today.
The exhibit runs thru July 11th and is a collaboration with K Contemporary Gallery in Denver.
Denver Botanic Gardens
1007 York St.
Denver, CO 80206
720-865-3500

“Assuming the role of ‘compassionate witness’ I explore themes of fragility and strength, sorrow and wonder, loss and resiliency. These works are a testament; an attempt to give shape to the feeling of this moment.”

“Now, perhaps more than ever, empathy, wonder and reverence directed toward the natural world-the world, ‘out there’ are essential as a guide forward”.

Beauty surrounds
us, but usually we
need to be walking in
a garden to know it.
—-Rumi

Winds of Change

Spring in New Mexico means a lot of wind!
The wind here rarely brings rain or snow but sends high clouds scurrying quickly across the bright blue sky.
Wherever you live, wind seems to be part of these springtime shifts which bring us ever closer to the warmer months.
As I “deal with” the buffeting tumult it helps me to think of the wind as part of these forceful, vital changes being ushered in once again. Change can often be quite dynamic and dramatic and the windy part of spring is at the very heart of spring’s true nature.
Before all the local blossoms were cast adrift on these winds I went out on a neighborhood stroll to grab some photos of beauty close to home.
The lime green tender leaves are unfurling rapidly on all the trees and roses forcefully explode with tender green and red leaves. The vibrant flowers popping up from the sandy New Mexican soil are once again bringing their unique beauty to our dryer part of the world.
As we journey towards a calmer, warmer time we can be thankful spring has finally arrived, wind and all!

Slowly spring
is taking shape,
moon and plum.
——Matsuo Basho

I am the wind
dancing with
the bamboo flute.
——Soen Nakagawa

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Be faithful in small things
because it is in
them that your
strength lies.
——Mother Teresa

Celebrate Spring Soup

Back in the day I was the happy reader and creator of the many delicious recipes included in the awesome Vegetarian Epicure cookbooks by Anna Thomas.
One I really loved making and serving to delighted family and friends was the Cream of Carrot soup. My old book has the yellowed and stained pages to prove it was well loved and used.
To my way of thinking this is the perfect “transition into spring” soup and that is when I usually made it. The sweetness of the carrots and silky texture make it super satisfying. There’s a lot to like about this soup but in reviewing it recently I discovered the 1970’s version was rather heavy on the fat. Good old 1970’s!!
I went looking for an updated recipe that kept the best parts but skipped the cream, butter and whole milk. I discovered this great new version of an old favorite and after a few edits I am happy to post it here.
This new version was originally posted on a blog titled The Kind Life and is called Immune Boosting Carrot Coconut Soup if you would like to refer to the original recipe.
I omitted the garlic and added the Indian spice, garam masala and honey to taste.
The recipe brilliantly combines the carrots and coconut milk which compliment one another perfectly. Best of all the texture is the same as the old recipe…nice and creamy.
The garam masala and ginger root give it just the right amount of spice for interest. Sprinkle with a bit of nutmeg before serving to really bring it all to life!
The labor intensive part is the scraping and cutting of carrots but after that let the whole thing boil, when the veggies are soft blend in stages until smooth and adjust spices to taste.
Hope you get a chance to enjoy this delicious springtime favorite!

Celebrate Spring Cream of Carrot Soup

1 tbs. coconut oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 inch piece of ginger root, grated
2 medium sized red potatoes, diced
1 lb. carrots, scraped and diced
1 can full fat coconut milk
1 tsp yellow curry
2 tsp. garam masala, divided in half ( find at Indian grocery stores or specialty spice shops)
3 tbs. honey
salt to taste

  1. Melt the coconut oil in a large pan. Stir in the onion and ginger root until fragrant and translucent.
  2. Add the veggies and 1 tsp of garam masala plus curry. Stir to coat and add enough water to just cover. Cover and bring to a boil. Boil until veggies are soft ( about 30 minutes).
  3. Remove from heat and after cooling a bit blend the soup until smooth ( I used a Nutri-Bullet).
  4. Add the coconut milk and adjust seasonings.
    This is when you can add the other tsp of garam masala, honey and salt. Taste first and add as your creativity moves you!
  5. Sprinkle with nutmeg if desired.

“No seed ever sees the flower”
Zen proverb

But your solitude will be a support
and a home to you, even in the midst
of very unfamiliar circumstances , and
from it you will find all your paths.
——–Rainer Marie Rilke

“This is the
first, the wildest
and the wisest
thing I know:
that the soul exists
and is built entirely out of
attentiveness”
—-Mary Oliver