Beach Meadows, January 5, 2021
(cell phone photos)
Happy New Year Dear Philip,
I titled this blog post from a quote taken from that incredibly beautiful piece on the solstice and winter you sent from The New York TImes. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/12/20/us/how-to-survive-winter.html?referringSource=articleShare
What gorgeous writing and story-telling alongside images that inspired a kinship with the deep quiet of winter. I had entertained a post of images rendered black and white from the garden (no kidding) but decided against it after reading The Times piece. They would pale by comparison. If any reader would like a treat, hit that link and read about darkness. And light.
Hardly seems like winter at all
I’d planned to close off the year – and the blog*- with a December 31, 2020 visit to Port, a neat and tidy wrap and recap of the year in our gardens. So why am I not surprised that the waning days of 2020 would have me sick with and felled by a stomach virus and a headache that laid me out flat? Fitting. This year never ceased to shock: a pandemic that broadsided humankind in myriad ways we are only beginning to fathom and understand; a mass shooting that rendered this province stunned and winded as the day unfolded; a long-coming racial reckoning that started south of our border with the murder of George Floyd but became a resounding, clarion call world-wide; and then the ongoing farce of the presidential election and Trump presidency which, hopefully, will be put out of its – and our – misery soon. Add to this any amount of other misery on the planet (shall we start with with Yemen? Ethiopia? Is there no end? There is no end…)
Lots of various moss I know absolutely nothing about…yet.
I find astrology mildly entertaining but intriguing enough and it might not surprise you to know my birth sign is an earth element. When it comes to dirt, I am credentialed from birth. The stars have ordained it. Okay, my moon sign is in Pisces which explains why I might have ended up by an ocean or why I cry easily at soppy commercials or both. Okay both. But back to the earth thing.
A deer blind on what I thought was my land. And a new spruce.
I don’t think anyone had to venture far in 2020 to find any one thing to keep you up at night and I was no exception. One of the sleep tricks I discovered which worked for me was a mental trek of the trails I’d forged on my land. I wouldn’t ever get very far before I was fast asleep, eyes closed, imagining my boots along paths I’d become intimate with, diligently intimate because my sense of direction is terrible and prone to getting lost, I had to be an astute observer of terrain (and then follow up with lots of survey tape). Walking the paths became a mindful act of noticing. So feeling marginally recovered on December 31, I took to the woods in lieu of that final year-end garden visit for some forest therapy.
Black spruce are short lived and the scraggliest of trees but fascinating to me and they make a great seat for your lunch break!
I embarked on the trails about five years ago when I decided to carve out the boundary lines on the 20 acres back of my house. Using google maps and government property maps to pinpoint the lines, I’d venture out daily, days on end end in late autumn and early winter with a brush saw and loppers, chain saws and sharpeners, gas cans, water jugs and a thermos of coffee and a lunch. I discovered early on that what I thought was my land wasn’t which brought some dismay: I believed the land ended in an erratic zone, a massive glacial out crop. One boulder in particular became a regular Sunday destination and so I called it Church Rock. You’ve been there, Philip. Nearing the end of the first leg of the boundary blaze, I became depressed: Nothing like Church Rock to be found. On about the fifth day, and looking at my gps I realized I had about 50 yards to go through some dense bush. I dropped the tools, anxious nearing the end of the line as it were with no spectacular outcrop in sight and there it was: The end, demarcated by a large bluff (well, large for these here parts) and then a basin scattered with massive boulders.
Church Rock. In summer, a sanctuary under a canopy of maple and oak.
Years and subsequent trail blazings later, I have forged paths which crisscross the land to coincide with boulder out crops. They have become contemplative waystations; a perfect place to spend the last days of a particularly emotionally fraught and psychically grueling year.
L-R: Hidey-hole Rock (great storage place for tools): Two photos of the bluff which don’t do the scale much justice.
Table Rock, Jay Rock, Boundary Rock, Church rock, Meditation Rock, The Hidey-hole, Scout rock. I look at these monoliths, thousands and
thousands of years old and though I’m not overly prone to anthropomorphism, it has occurred to me that these tumbled boulders, pushed and shoved by glaciers to come to rest here might have seen a lot if they had eyes. Who else has been here over the centuries? What else has transpired in their presence? Have other wayfarers thought of them as I do? Sat on them, mused, dreamed, dallied? Troubled out problems? Prayed and had a drink? Played and had a drink? These boulders prove scale to me, physically by their enormity and spiritually by dint of their temporal endurance and by contrast of my short stay here.
This year has made me think that I do not know a whole heckuva lot about a lot of things except that life, as I live it, can change in a blink of an eye. I guess I’ve known that for a while of course but this year underscored it and also that trying to wrest control over a lot things in life is a mug’s game. I may be gone tomorrow. Or tonight in my sleep; mere mortal drifting off while imagining a walk, full-stride on a beloved plot of land where trees grow, tumble and fall. Where there may be fire or flood. Where things are ever changing and nothing is permanent. And yet, those rocks…
This boulder, in a basin of erratics at the end of the land is over 24 feet long.
Yours is a beautiful, reflective, meditative essay, a fitting way to close out a year of our blog. It tells our readers (and me) a lot about you. It tells us a lot about your complex and admirable relationship to the land, nature, and life. Thank you.
And now we are in winter, you there in Port Medway, me in downtown Toronto. You listen to the susurration of wind in the trees. You walk your trails, in fact and in your mind as you drift off to sleep. You sit on Church Rock (once, we sat there together) and other rocks. You muse, dream, dally. You enjoy winter’s deep quiet on your land and in our garden. I listen, not to waves breaking on the beach as I do when I’m in Port, but to the rumble of the 506 streetcar making its way down College Street. We both look forward to spring, although, as entries a year ago in our 2020 blog show, the garden in winter is a living thing as well, with its own personality and beauty, deserving to be appreciated and cosseted for what it is, which is much. And that we will do. Winter in the garden is more than just wishing for spring.
Eastern Larch or Tamarack. Tamarack loses its needles but not before turning a dazzling yellow in autumn.
*I’m glad we’ve decided to continue the blog for 2021. After all, we must please our small but dedicated band of readers! Soon, in this new year, we will walk the land and laugh.
Happy New Year!
Almost home: The barn