Modesty

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A friend and I were shaking our heads over the antics of “president” Trump the other day and he made an unusual request. He said, “write about modesty”. Right away I knew he didn’t mean anything to do with bikinis… or burkinis. The idea simmered in my mind for quite a while. After all, even writing for public consumption is hardly an act of modesty. Do I believe I have something interesting, enlightening, amusing to say? Surely that rules out the modest approach. Modesty is not much appreciated these days.  All the advice columns tell us how to “sell” ourselves, how to “boost” readership, how to “be best” – oops, can’t keep that family out of anything!

How long ago was I taught in what seems now like a medieval Catholic….and British…ethic, not to boast, not to draw attention to one’s own accomplishment, not to be “vain”, “proud”, “a show-off”. Those reproaches were among the worst that could be levelled against anyone.

Then I thought about nature. The way the seasons repeat, the way plants follow a natural progression of what looks like death, rebirth, blooming, seeding and retreat into a mysterious slumber is inexplicable. Animals, that look at us with a certain understanding, an understanding that we, who boast of being the highest form of life, cannot fathom. The sea, wind, stones, planets and stars, simply go about their business without drawing attention to themselves, in their modest way. Even in its most spectacular moments such as volcanic eruptions, tornados or blizzards, nature just is. There is no heralding that “This is the greatest eruption, folks, trust me!” There is, in these great demonstrations of nature’s power, an inherent modesty.

So I must be vigilant. A little less, “fantastic, amazing, incredible” in my writing, and in my thoughts. Let’s have a big round of applause for modesty, folks. After all, it’s the greatest quality!

 

 

 

 

At Last

Today in my garden.

HARD SPRING

Spring in Montreal

is a breech birth.

We can feel it coming.

We can feel the earth groaning,

absorbing the ice and snow

of months of frigid darkness.

The sun, it’s warmth

no longer faint, fickle, theoretical,

coaxes, wheedles the first snowdrops, crocuses.

These are never picked.

Now come the shoots of daffodils and tulips

and grass, that universal miracle

appears.

The sound of hardy birds, but still not a leaf.

A few closed buds along a twig

and heavy rain – the waters breaking

cold and painful.

The brave yellow blooms

stand against a meager unkind frost one night

and then, sap drips from a vine

and the whole city knows

a long warm day

with magnolias, pink or white like waxy cups or earth

stars opening on the leafless branches.

The moon rises soft and silvery

over the city blessed by newborn Spring.

 

poem from ” Northern Compass” available on Amazon

 

 

 

Homesick for my garden

 

  
How strange to be homesick for a grey sky. I was under an unfailing blue sky for months this winter – never shovelled a flake of snow, didn’t have to battle ice like my dear friends and relatives here in Montreal. Yet, in April I got restless. I longed to hear the sound of geese returning, to see frail green shoots breaking through the wet cold ground of my little garden. The Spanish camellia bush full of pink blossoms was impressive. The purple bougainvillea tumbling over a wall made a great photo op.  Yet, the yellow mimosa made me long for forsythia. Yes, there is nothing like the humble snowdrop to make you realize how strength resides in the delicate things. The crocus that is the first draw to bees is a sign of hope. How can the victory be worth anything if there was no battle.

The downside is that I have a very ambitious fritillaria  that is almost ready to bloom and I heard rumours of sleet tonight. Time to make a little newspaper had for my darlings that waited so faithfully for me.

Mysteries – Do you know?

OK this is my week for asking my readers questions. I am posting a few pictures that have me scratching my head. One is of a tile depicting a saint – well, he has a halo! He seems to have a falcon on his hand as he rides his horse. Any idea who he is? Then there is a weird rock formation. The picture was taken looking at a cliff face. Obviously water has worn a channel down the rock but I wonder why it is that pink color. Next is a lovely plant that is blooming everywhere.  Is it Mimosa? Finally, this machine on the beach had me puzzled. I presume it is to haul boats up the beach but ….is that a car engine? Curiouer and curiouser as Alice would say!

Mystery plant

Those of my readers who love plants will know the frustration one experiences on finding a plant and having no idea what it is. Perhaps someone out there knows? It is shown here at the end of March in a mountain environment in Spain. So, it is able to thrive in cold snowy mountains and very hot summers. Please comment if you know what it is. Thanks

Spring morning in the Sierra Nevada

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Alpujarras Region of Spain 

Legions of hills and beyond, mountains stretch along the horizon. Large cumulous clouds lie above – mighty emperors reclining on rocky couches. Near our little cabin sits  a terraced farmers plot. Almond blossoms of white  and of a shocking neon pink bless a chicken coop. A yellow and white cat treads along a narrow plank between the coop and a grassy bank. Her own private bridge?

The sun is direct and hot even at an early hour but it is easily vanquished by the mountain breeze. We can hear many nesting birds, little finches, quite a flock of what look like large house sparrows, robins and this morning – a story-book pair of blackbirds. Their feathers glossy, their beaks sun yellow.

They fluttered about their business, tilting their broad fan-like tails upon alighting on a branch.

The dog barked and pulled on the lead and it was time to go back to coffee on the terrace.

Jewels of the Volcano

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Yesterday we went jewel hunting – and we found some! On Wednesday we met some very kind Germans who were parked in their camper out in a wilderness just down the ravine from a volcano caldera. Now, there’s a something you don’t read every day! These two people were shuffling around in the dust with their heads down. It turns out they were looking for garnets…and finding them! I was very interested and so today we came back with a pick and a bottle for our treasures. As you can see we found lots of garnets and even some lovely crystals. All this bounty is the result of volcanic action that took place about 10 million years ago. This area (Cabo de Gata in southern Spain) is full of volcanic hills and calderas. After we had picked up quite a lot of garnets, Joe wanted to go into  the caldera. The path doesn’t look too difficult, does it? The picture is deceiving. As one approaches the lip of the crater, the path becomes steep and, of course, it is composed of unstable pebbles. As soon as we embarked on the top part I knew I would have trouble coming down but I certainly wasn’t going to give up when I was almost there.

It was so inspiring to stand about half way up the wide depression that forms the crater and look across to the other side. All around there are crags but the bowl of the crater is quite flat except for a little hill. Think of dropping a pebble into a glass of water and how the water flies up. Probably that was how the little hill was made. It was a wonderful sensation to stand there, totally alone since at this time of year, hikers are rare enough. The wind was whistling through the “bite” in the caldera wall and the sky was perfectly clear. There were large boulders all over the place and smaller stones scattered around. It just made me think about the millions of years that had passed since everything was in a turmoil and how surreal it was that we could turn around and see not far away a modern highway and the awful plastic greenhouses that cover a lot of Andalusia.

Now, the coming down part was less enjoyable. I have a bit of a problem with my right knee. My usual tactic is simply to ignore the pain and take care to go up with the good leg. Going down with the bad knee was rather perilous. To handle my deathly fear of falling and truly smashing up my knee I simply sat down and scooted down on my butt for the steepest parts. Needs must. Good thing I was wearing an ancient pair of jeans.

I am thrilled with my “Jewels” and even more so with the memory of climbing up to the caldera and looking over the extinct volcano.

The pictures – one shows the garnets just sitting there waiting to be taken home (down at the bottom of the pic)

. One shows the path up to the volcano lip, One shows the garnets and crystals after they had been cleaned up.  I can hardly wait to find some crafty type who will make them into jewelry for me and my granddaughter!