Inhaling the Essence

We had a big alder fall down over our creek a couple of days ago and my husband cut what he could on the vehicle accessible side of the creek and then scratched his head for a moment about how to get the rest out safely. He’s become accomplished at winching in the years he’s spent salvaging wood (his hobby) and he told me of an elaborate plan that involved his tractor, his pick-up truck, two standing trees and a long length of logging cable. This kind of 3D trigonometry is not my forte so I smiled and nodded as he told me the plan, let him head out the door and then thirty minutes later decided I ought to go and check on him. After all, as accomplished as he is at thinking up ways to make a log move—but not on top of him—all it would take is for the alder hung up across the creek to decide nope, it’s not going that way, and . . . well . . . I’m sure you can imagine the rest. I know I can.

Anyway, rather than find him later pinned under a tractor or something equally gory I stepped out into the gloriously sunny April afternoon and ambled up the path from the house to the creek. One of the advantages right now to not having our little shop open is I don’t have to worry about someone pulling in when I’m not close to the house, which gives me the time to amble rather than race up to the back of our property. The sunshine felt good on my face and my easy pace allowed me to notice the flowering plants coyly flirting with anyone that cared to notice them. The single, creamy yellow tulip standing proudly at the edge of our garden like a singer on a stage:
Single tulip
the purple vinca blossoms fluttering onto the path from the banks where they’d been planted as ground cover:
Vinca
the flowering quince that we keep threatening to cut down because it’s devilishly thorny but, but . . . look at those heavenly blossoms.
Flowering quince

I meandered my way up to our grassy playground and crossed it to get to where my husband was working. As I approached I saw big rounds of freshly cut alder in a jumbled heap alongside the creek Alder roundsand my husband in the bed of his truck, weaving the logging cable back around the headache rack. He turned and grinned at me. “You arrived just in time to miss all the work,” he teased. He gave me a detailed description of how easy it had all been and then, as he chugged back down the hill on his tractor, I cut through the area he’s been replanting behind his pottery studio and kiln.

There I was stopped in my tracks by the sight of the two flowering thundercloud plum trees. They looked like giant ice cream cones covered in pink hundreds and thousands held aloft as if to say, “Look what we’ve got!” If that weren’t treat enough, to the right of one there was an abundance of forget-me-nots, ornamenting a bank like tiny beads of turquoise on a bridal train. The little blue flowers are not big and showy and bold like the tulips I’m so used to seeing at this time of year, but as I stood staring at them I decided they are the stuff of which sighs are made.

I got out my phone and snapped some photos of both the trees and the forget-me-nots only to be disappointed that the pictures didn’t convey at all what I was seeing. Something about the color and light and perspective, especially with the forget-me-nots, which, from a distance, looked almost like a whisper of blue on the louder green background.
Thundercloud plums
Forget-me-nots 2
Forget-me-nots 3
It made me think of a blog I’ve been following (another advantage of our present situation: the time to read more blogs)—Martha Kelly’s (Almost) Daily Quarantine Journal. Martha is a visual artist and I could immediately picture her doing a quick, colorful sketch of what I was seeing and capturing the essence of it in a way my photographs could not.

I was about to start down for the house again when one of my dogs cocked his head, seeing something. I turned to see what and caught a blue heron lifting off into the sky from the trees to the left of us. I watched it flap away in that awkward, seemingly impossible way, and realized that I’d never seen a blue heron taking flight from our property before. And when I thought about it some more, I realized that if I’d been going at my usual pace I probably wouldn’t have noticed my dog pointing me toward such an incredible sight.

I ambled on, down past the hellebore that my husband planted last year Hellebore

and around to the magnolia tree behind his pottery studio. MagnoliaA friend gifted us that tree as a sapling about twenty years ago, to plant on the grave of our dog Magnolia, who spent 17 years as my husband’s faithful companion and about half that time sharing his affections with me. We buried her on a bank overlooking the studio so she could see him at work and now, every spring, the tree puts on a showy reminder of the dog that once played there. This spring I’ve had time enough to watch the entire show, from thick furry buds forming on the ends of her branches to the slow release of bright white stars.
Magnolia
As I stared at the tree’s floral offering I wondered if they looked brighter this year because I was seeing them in the afternoon sunshine rather than the usual, after work twilight, or if, as another blog I’ve been reading—Cambridge Imprintssuggests, the reduction in traffic, even in our rural area, has cleansed the air so nature can shine. Of course I don’t know the answer to that question. It’s just a lingering reflection I find myself having and writing about in one of my plays; that there’s a gift for all of us somewhere in our present situation.

I trotted the rest of the way down to the house to check on the only visitors in our shop right now—some new baby chicks.
Baby chicks
then ended my journey over at my little rose garden.
Rose garden
I always buy potted tulips at this time of year to set inside my husband’s big stoneware planters that I sell down at the Tulip Festival. After the Festival is over, I bring the potted tulips home and plant the bulbs somewhere on our property later in the year. Last year I added them to the rose garden. Looking down at the yellow ruffles made me miss being out in the fields. Not just for the lost income but for all the friends I usually see there and the colorful array of flowers I get to drive past on my commute to the fields. But if I had to miss it, I thought, I was glad it was so I could inhale the essence of our own springtime flower festival.

And don’t worry, I didn’t miss out on all the work with the downed alder. The next day my husband split those rounds and I stacked them in the truck to sell as cord wood. Because, as my sister would say, when times are tough—“a girl’s gotta do, what a girl’s gotta do.”
Truck loaded

Stay safe, everyone.

24 thoughts on “Inhaling the Essence

  1. A lovely trek thru your springtime woods that I’d never have had the opportunity to enjoy were it not for our “quieting quarantine” which we desperately needed for multiple reasons. Thank you sweet heart!!💓💜💕🙏🏼

    • Awww, thanks, Betsy. Glad you’re staying safe. And I agree with your perspective that we needed this “for multiple reasons.” Not the least of which is the time to embrace what we already have. Love and hugs. xoxo

  2. Nicola I just loved this. I could feel that soft air. Do you have trilliums and flags (wild iris) in your yard or woods somewhere? There was a magnolia like this one right at the west end of Newhalem. It had a gorgeous, tropical fragrance.  think of you often, love ya.

    • Yes, we have an abundance of trilliums, Gerry, which are now turning that lovely lavender shade as they sundown. There’s a photo of one of our trilliums at the end of the last blog post I wrote, Eat Your Pickles, so you can see it if you want. And I think we have wild iris way in our woods. We also have a lot of bleeding hearts interspersed with the forget-me-nots. Did you have those too in Newhalem. I’ve loved your recent photos of working in your neighbors yard. xoxo

  3. Loved it

    On Sat, Apr 25, 2020, 12:39 PM Musings from the Mountain wrote:

    > saukwriter posted: “We had a big alder fall down over our creek a couple > of days ago and my husband cut what he could on the vehicle accessible side > of the creek and then scratched his head for a moment about how to get the > rest out safely. He’s become accomplished at winchi” >

  4. Love your “musings”, truly “on your mountain”! And the pictures make me feel like I am there, in the middle of your magnificent nature! Thank you, Nicola!

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  5. Thank you for this memory of the NW mountain woods, Nicola. The great thing is that you realize what a wonderful life you have and are grateful for it. Chickens, hellebores, chopped wood – I can smell and savor them all. Wish I were there…

  6. I loved every word especially “ like a whisper of blue on the louder green background”. I’m glad you have this time to discover treasures in your own backyard and share them with us. I felt like I was right there beside you. Love Always! Ginny

  7. I love the tiny wild purple bleeding hearts mixed with the forget me nots. We had a whole meadow full of them every spring years ago in my former life. They were magical! Enjoyed touring your beautiful property. One expects to see fairies and gnomes up there!

  8. Wonderful!! Jay would take so many pictures with the idea of painting them. I would encourage him to take pics of sunsets – there are so many beautiful ones right outside the front window. But his response was always the same ‘there is no way I can capture what God makes in a sunset’. He felt the paints were never as vibrant as the real thing. I thought of that when you talked about the flowers and how the pictures did not do justice to seeing them with your eyes.

    I, too, am enjoying less traffic when I go to town. People in the bigger cities are commenting on less pollution. I, myself, would like to be driving northward heading into Seattle and seeing if I REALLY can see the buildings rather than that dense gray yuk….and then when driving through it, wondering what poisons I am inhaling. What that all makes me think of is how great so many things were in the past. Going through all the old photos does the same thing to me. Today I even had the thought that I should write down things I recall from my childhood now that I have the time….and can actually make comparisons to today.

    Take care….one of these days I will be heading your direction again….and hopefully we can meet somewhere as well. TTUS

    • It’s funny, but I thought of Jay a LOT when I wrote this post. And I think of him when I read Martha Kelly’s Quarantine Journal. Her art is different than Jay’s but there’s a similar “flavor” if I can put it that way. I think because of the colors. Stephen’s glazing pots to fire the kiln. Maybe you could come for a social distance appropriate opening. Just you. And if the weather’s fine, we could sit outside afterwards and visit. It surely would be lovely to see you.

  9. Your musings were my very early morning wake up correspondence. A lovely way to start the week on Sunday morning. the plum trees look really amazing out there in that very green green I look forward to seeing you again soon.

  10. What a lovely read this morning, dear Nicola. The next best thing to being there. You are a marvelous example of making this “slow time” count and then sharing it to spread the blessing. Brings you into my quiet time and sharing a beautiful scene with you. Thank you.

  11. Nicola, i had to wait till today to read this post (my g-grandson came today to fix the computer) and I thoroughly enjoyed your narrative………..you have the ability to carry the reader along with you on your ambling, so thank you for the walk in your woods and the beautiful peaceful energizing blooms along the way. Erma

  12. “The sunshine felt good on my face and my easy pace allowed me to notice the flowering plants coyly flirting with anyone that cared to notice them. The single, creamy yellow tulip standing proudly at the edge of our garden like a singer on a stage”. First thought: I wish I could write like that. Second thought: I’m so happy to be reading and enjoying this.

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