the vernal solstice

At 9:24 this evening, the sun reaches its highest point of the year at the Tropic of Cancer. The solstice, from the Latin “solstitium, meaning “the standing still of the sun.” We’ve had such a long grey spring, with rain and low skies, but this afternoon the sky cleared and is now blue and cloudless. I’m hoping it’s not too late for beans (I’ve had to sow them three times because of slugs…) and that the tomatoes will come out of their sulk to put on some growth. The salad greens (vernal!) are lovely and so were these sprouts a few weeks ago, playing in spring grass in Edmonton.

weeds and grandma's shadow.JPG

That shadow in the bottom corner? Their grandmother, who misses them all.


Tenderly will I use you curling grass,
It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men,
It may be if I had known them I would have loved them;
It may be you are from old people and from women, and
from offspring taken soon out of their mother’s laps,
And here you are the mother’s laps.

This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old
Darker than the colorless beards of old men,
Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mouths.

—Walt Whitman


postcard, the Nicola Valley


On a clear day, you can see forever. And this is what it looks like. Suede hills, aspens just turning,Ponderosa pines so particular and iconic that you could look at each one and never think you knew pines in general. The scent of sage. The sound of magpies. An osprey overlooking Stump Lake, the waters green and dusted with the hatch of some insect that had a few flyfishers excited as well as the fish themselves, mouthing the surface of the lake.

And did I say the other day that the road up through the Fraser Canyon was my favourite on earth? Today it’s 5A, from Kamloops to Merritt, winding by the lakes, the creeks, the roads leading off to remote ranches, the Lieutenant-Governor’s home ranch at the head of Nicola Lake in good shape despite her absence, the store at Quilchena as enticing as ever (and this time I had to resist tiny cowboy boots, two-tone, with sensible heels; though if a grandchild asked for a pair, I’d go back in a heartbeat…). So I’m fickle about roads. So I’m contradictory. I have as my model in this the wonderful Walt Whitman, a poet I always think of in the kingdom of grass (lines of his thread through my novel Sisters of Grass…):

The past and present wilt—I have fill'd them, emptied them.
And proceed to fill my next fold of the future.
Listener up there! what have you to confide to me?
Look in my face while I snuff the sidle of evening,
(Talk honestly, no one else hears you, and I stay only a minute longer.)
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
I concentrate toward them that are nigh, I wait on the door-slab.
Who has done his day's work? who will soonest be through with his supper?
Who wishes to walk with me?
Will you speak before I am gone? will you prove already too late?

on strands of silk

P1100316We were on the deck, enjoying a glass of wine in the late dappled light of June, when John noticed that hundreds of tiny spiders had just hatched on the underside of a (much-repaired) table against the side of the house.

P1100310What kind of spiders are these? I have no idea. No sign of the parents, who might resemble something in the Audubon Field Guide to Insects and Spiders I keep on my desk. These are the size of the head of a pin, golden and brown. When I blew gently on the mass, a whole lot of them drifted down on strands of silk.

P1100311Though we didn’t see the mother who’d prepared the sheets of silky material where eggs were laid in a sac and developed, it was strangely moving to see the spiderlings drift down to the wooden deck board, the earliest to leave, while the others stayed close to the underside of the table where they’d hatched without us ever knowing. I thought of Walt Whitman, much in our minds these days as we remember his poems about grass and the dead and the soul and yes, spiders.

A noiseless patient spider,
I mark’d where on a little promontory it stood isolated,
Mark’d how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,
Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.

And you, O my Soul, where you stand,
Surrounded, surrounded, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing,—seeking the spheres, to connect them;
Till the bridge you will need, be form’d—till the ductile anchor hold;
Till the gossamer thread you fling, catch somewhere, O my Soul.

“I will take an egg…”

“I will take an egg out of the robin’s nest in the orchard,
I will take a branch of gooseberries from the old bush in the garden,
and go and preach to the world…”  Walt Whitman, from Leaves of Grass

Yesterday we went to pick up some promised duck eggs from friends who live nearby. Their ducks are laying well and we’ve been enjoying the results. Favourite way to eat them? Cooked in a little butter for three minutes and served on a bed of steamed spinach. But yesterday Jay said they had some extra pheasant and quail eggs and would we like a couple of each? Oh yes.

So here they are, duck eggs, the smaller pheasant eggs, and two mottled quail eggs, in a oak bowl on the counter, waiting for me to decide what to do with them. I’m going to spend the day in the garden, planting out cabbages given me by June last evening when we went to have dinner with her and her husband John, and I’ll take some time to admire our gooseberry bushes which survived the garden reconstruction nicely and are in bloom, attracting bees and hummingbirds. And our dinner tonight will be these beautiful eggs.