Time-traveling tortoise

 

We can time travel, but nobody writes about it.
It’s not what you think.
When you put me down on the floor back in the winter, you said I didn’t move for days.

It seemed like 5 minutes to me.

Summer is my favorite time of year.

I like to eat the Grandpa Ott morning glories. The bright purple flowers produce hallucinations, though the effect wore off after they became a regular meal. They told me their name, the first plant name I learned. Now I eat almost everything and I wait for it to tell me stories.

I don’t like cilantro.

Some plants tell folk stories using a specific dialect of their native language. Others connect to satellites and at certain times, play international news shows. This is sometimes what I am doing when resting under the blueberries.

Other times, I am meditating. By meditating, I mean I am exchanging qi with the universe, which is currently called qi gong. T animals, the tortoise and turtle are masters. We process the scattered qi that people are constantly flicking around. It’s a little bit like recycling.

Back to time travel. I don’t know how to explain it to you.

I come and go. It mostly happens when I relax. I sink down, drop out of my shell and wiggle down through soft slippery fibers. When I get to the bottom, it becomes the top.

I pop up out of water. I am washed onto a rocky beach where I hear birds singing and humans have not yet arrived.

This is one place I go when I’m not here.

 

Flowers wave at the traffic going by

I practiced 20 different introductions as I walked toward the Flower Garden of Mystery. This is a large plot of sunflowers and nasturtiums on the corner of Hilyard and E. 25th.

“Hi, my name is Mary Ann and I love your garden and I wondered if I could interview you for my blog, which has very few readers….”

“Hi, I’m Mary Ann, your neighbor, and I write about stuff, and I like your stuff, wanna chat?”

I walked up to the door and knocked twice to no answer. I felt hopeful as I looked at gnomes, a small plastic draft horse, and other fun odds and ends in the flower bed off the porch. As I walked away on the sidewalk, a woman opened the door and called to me. She said she is often hesitant to answer her door, but she saw me and decided to open it. It wasn’t her garden. She said it was her landlady’s plot. “Bonnie just turned 80. She is sort of a legend around here, I think she’d love to talk to you.” I was directed to walk two houses over, to Bonnie’s house.

Turns out, this booming flower garden is entirely volunteer. Nothing was planted. By now, it blooms by habit. It’s 50 years old. “I love the feel of dirt and the fairly amazing concept that a little piece of nothing turns into something magnificent,” said Bonnie Brunken, the one behind the garden. She moved into the neighborhood in 1949. At that time, the land was swampy and cheap; flooding was a regular thing.

Zinnias are her favorite flower. Next, she likes nasturtiums and sunflowers because “they want to live!” My faves too.
Several years ago, I was inspired to have the audacity to plant a huge zinna patch by yet another 80+ year-old neighbor!

Bonnie said she learned to grow things through mentors. “I was mentored by Wilma Crowe, who is in her 90s now.” Wilma and her mother, Mrs. Zahn, taught her about “moon planting and all kinds of things.”

The big patch of flowers cycles like this: tons of mulched leaves from her  Carolina Poplar trees are piled high on the bed in the winter. They are tilled into the soil in the spring. Next, she adds straw as the top layer. With some warmth and water, the soil pops to hundreds of flowers. After they are done, it all begins again.

What I like the most about the flower patch is its sole purpose is to be enjoyed. The flowers aren’t sold or eaten. They’re just there. The profit is in the eyes of those who notice.

Back to moon planting. Mrs. Zahn came by one day and checked in with Bonnie who had planted carrots about two weeks before. Mrs. Zahn gave her more carrot seeds and said, “plant these about 6″ out from yours, in the next row.” Bonnie said, sure, but why? “Because today is the right moon day to plant carrots.” In no time, the moon planted carrots grew stronger, faster, larger and didn’t have as much problems with bugs. Bonnie said, “I was a convert after that.”

Her mentors were organic farmers. She also read Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson in the early 1960s. Carson stands out as one who brought forth awareness about the harm caused by pesticides. She is credited with starting the environmental movement. At 56 and dying of breast cancer, she testified in front of the senate, “our heedless and destructive acts enter the vast cycles of the earth and in time return to bring hazard to ourselves.”

Upon this read, Bonnie said, “o.k, I’m not going to add to the problem.”

Besides seeing the results of moon planting, she saw a study done about 25 years ago by the University of Iowa. The final analysis ended up being about 500 pages with the conclusion: we understand a little bit about it; we don’t understand most of it; we just know that it works.

Sometime before this study, Pliny, the Elder, the first-century Roman naturalist stated that the moon “replenishes the earth when she approaches it, she fills all the bodies; while when she recedes, she empties them.”

Moon planting is also referred to as agricultural astrology as it relates to moon phases and astrological signs.

Bonnie has two great dogs: Dandelion, the Parson Russel terrier, and Sage, the very soft beagle. Before I left, she wanted to show me the third pet, who lives in the back yard.

Perched in a patch of dragon lilies, snap dragons, daises, and other grasses and flowers, was a huge metal dragon! Bonnie named it, “Joyful.”

Joyful

For more about organic and biodynamic farming, check out my article featuring draft horses:
http://ezine.takerootmagazine.com/HTML5/Duhn-Associates-TAKE-ROOT-Magazine-Fall-2016?pageNum=18

From email to poem

This is what happened when I wrote an email to a friend. He turned my words into this poem:
body aches and spirit moaning,
in the name not of love, but of dodge and shame,
held back, or only allowed to burn in the same fields
how can we nurture and flow
transform resentment into liberation?
hungering for intimacy
for those here and those not here
it’s a bit of a sparse playground
what an eye-opening situation!
leave the boat at the bank, after crossing the river
Thanks for the creative collaboration, Corbin Sweeny. I love the poem!

New territory: The Colonoscopy

“Think of it as a cleanse,” a friend advised.
I had already thought of this. But, I liked hearing it from an outside source. The colon is the exit, the place to discharge things from the body. It’s the solid waste disposal. What else could be disposed of?

Is there a holistic angle to a colonoscopy?

I decided to use this as a cleanse and purge, additionally, for internal things like emotional/spiritual beliefs that I don’t need to keep within. The top of the list: discharge disempowering perceptions. Out, bye-bye, be gone!

I also decided to restart my eating habits, get back on track to a more mindful diet.

Part 1: The Consult
It’s unsettling to me to take a drug so that my awareness is off wandering the lawn of my unconsciousness. I am not really “there,” yet not all the way gone. Instinctively, this feels not good in my gut. But, that’s what they suggest before you belly up to the colonoscopy bar.

I asked the PA who was arranging this thing if she could explain a little more about this state and why I should be in it. She said matter-of-factly, “it’s conscious sedation.” New phrase for me, I had not heard those two words put together before.

Does this make me like a fish on ice at the market, frozen, eyes wide open, but nobody’s home?

I agree to a light sedation with a shot of something to reduce nausea, because most drugs make me nauseous.

I’ve asked several people about their colonoscopy experience. They often say, “I dunno, I don’t really remember,” with a slightly askew grin and a far-off expression of fish on ice eyes.

The fast begins
It started out boring. Drinks are limited, reduced options as they say no red, orange, purple, or blue. No pulps. I have ginger ale and some correctly colored Gatorade.

I rest, listen to podcasts. I go into my slow moving frog Zen state. I feel as if immersed in a still pond, just my eyes and top of head peak out of the surface. This is how I chill when I’m scared.

Photo credit: Tim McMahon. Thanks!

The purge
About 30 minutes after starting the drink… I feel the promise of the first movement. It feels hopeful. A slight stirring at first, a low vibration of change from deep within.

I am a little impatient for things to begin.

Not impatient for long: first discharge occurs and is swiftly successful! I can now feel and hear my bowels singing the song of Suprep bowel prep.

The gates have opened! The purge has begun!

Near a path on Ashland’s Lithia Park

Part 2
They are all really nice at the Colonoscopy Station.

The IV insertion was what I dreaded most. The nurse was expert, got it on the first try. I felt fine, it wasn’t bad at all and yet within moments I started to feel weak, not good. Suddenly, I was like a stunned sparrow just bounced off a window. I had to lean the recliner chair all the way back and have the light off and breathe and concentrate on not fainting. I guess I am a frail bird in these situations. Things going into or pulling out of my veins bug me.

I felt a little sorry for myself. I then asked myself how often am I in a hospital gown, sitting on a recliner, hooked up to a bag of fluids while staring at geometric print fabric curtains? Very rarely. It was simply my turn. I’d be free and out zipping around on my bike again soon enough.

Poster from Rena Fitness

Part 3
I am asked to walk a short distance while carrying my bag of IV fluids along to the next place. This place has the scoping gear, TV screen, and a poster of the colon near the foot of the treatment table. The doctor is friendly, perky, and gives a brief description of what we are doing. He remarks on my tan, saying he would like one too, and I told him to just get out on the water a lot.

The procedure suite looks efficient, tight, though not crowded. Sort of like an Oil Can Henry shop, but in a medical way.

I don’t remember anything after I am told to turn on my side.

Part 4
My parts show no wear or tear; no signs of anything happening. Yet, the film shows the journey from start to finish! All the way to the terminal ileum! That’s the start of the small intestine. What a funny thing to look at- your colon. I didn’t feel any relation to it, which is sad as it works hard for me.

At the initial consult, they had three names to choose from for the procedure. I didn’t know any of them. I asked, who is the kindest one, the sweetheart from this list? Without hesitation, she pointed to one.

“Put me on his schedule.”

He was excellent. I’ve been hearing that kindness matters in the ways of healthcare. Once these people learn the insertion and driving the gadget, which looks a lot like a fancy video game set-up, it’s on. I figure they can all do this, so I want the kind one.

Humor is important always, and this nails it:

For a great and more serious illustration of What Happens, this is helpful:

Always good to have this on board

The Maiden Voyage

“You ate your dessert first!” She said, stating the obvious as the fudge brownie was already half gone.

“Yes. I do that,” said I. The sandwiches were taking forever. I have little self control.

We were having lunch at the Metropol to celebrate the first paddle of the new kayak. Mariann, my friend and paddle partner for the day, was pretty stoked about her new sit-on-top inflatable kayak.


Mariann wanted a clean run-through, to go through all systems, work out kinks, sync with the kayak and water elements. She is a Virgo. So am I. We understand each other. Yet, are quite different.

Her: “I need to attach my leash for my paddle.”

Me: “You will not lose your paddle in this reservoir. Let the fussing begin. No worries, I will practice my breathing exercises!”

Her: “Your commentary will not be helpful.”

Me: “Ok, understood. This is gonna be great!”

She: “Do you know what this is? It is the maiden voyage!”

A woman stopped to talk with us about the pros and cons of the paddle board vs. the kayak. We gave her feedback.
She: “I like to have a place to sit, to be, defined and with back support.” Me: “I like the freedom of movement, unrestricted, free form.”
She: “That pretty much sums up our personalities.”

We carry our watercraft toward the ramp.
She: “What if I have a panic attack?”
Me: “Do you have panic attacks?”
She: “No. But what if I did?”

We hit the water at the perfect time. Soft gentle motion on top, no wind. Ideal.

After a couple minutes on the water, Mariann smiled. “You have to be like when you’re on a plane and you are just there in that place and not worried about what’s above and below.”

“I like it!”

This is fun!
Going under a bridge for the first time

The weather changed. The wind came up and the water got tossy. We were getting pushed around. After being blown downstream, we decided to turn around. She made good time, got ahead of me. When I caught up she said, “I got a tad panicky. There were white caps!”

We made it back and explored a little more- I wanted to go under the bridge and into a protected canal.

She: “You’re going to make me go under a bridge?”
Me: “Yes.”
She: “You are pushing my limits!”
Me: “Someone needs to.”
She: “Yes, but most don’t.”

The reedy canal was peaceful. I pointed out a red-wing blackbird. Mariann said, “oh yes, I’ve seen those in the store- you squeeze them and they make that sound!”

The ease of the inflatable watercraft loading
I like to be close to the water to listen to it and smell it

It was the perfect maiden voyage. The weather was good and not good, which made for excellent practice. We had most of the lake completely to ourselves. We talked about how lucky we are to live here and take part in the nearby nature as often as possible.

I helped her with boating, as she helped me with Nordic skiing this past winter. Both things made us smile and be happy and grateful!

Stand-up paddle the urban Willamette

Sellwood bridge, just south of the launch site

I pushed off at Sellwood Riverfront park. The plan? Paddle the board toward the city. I wouldn’t make it all the way, but the journey looked good. I parked on a street nearly under Sellwood bridge and headed toward what I thought was a boat launch. It seemed that it had been one a long time ago. As I approached, I saw a vague hazard sign. It didn’t explain much and there was no fence. I couldn’t see anything scary, so I went in. After launching, I looked back over my shoulder to see a warning sign about a cable and 11,000 voltage! I paddled much faster. Note to self: don’t exit this way.

Between Sellwood and downtown Portland

Going north toward town was a push against current and wind. The water was a little choppy, not too bad, no white caps. I dropped to my knees a few times when I came upon cross currents, water stitches, surges, and bucks. I absolutely did not want to fall in. Too cold. This was more of a workout paddle, not a cruise. I really wanted to get a good view of the city and the first bridge, so I didn’t take the side route through calmer water that diverts east, just off the yacht club.

Also on the east side, just before the yacht club, is Oaks Park. Sounds of people screaming on the roller coaster bounce out and off the water.

I was glad to not have my chihuahua mix hood ornament dog with me. She would have hated the water splashing across the front of the board.

After close to an hour of paddling, I pulled into a small gathering of snags in the middle of the river. A perfect rest area and a place to sit down and take a few pictures of the still far away city. I noticed a small board held between roots and branches. I plucked it out- my next sign! It was imperfect in perfect ways- part lumber, part river wood. It had aged and ripened in the river.

From the river: Holy. Sacred, divine, blessed, nature.

The only other boaters out were people fishing and kayaks. I like to throw a friendly wave and hope that doesn’t cause me to pitch off my board.

Evening on the water- almost out

It was getting late or I might have pushed it farther. I needed to get off the water before dark, and that meant I needed to turn around. Two hours of solid paddling is enough anyway. Coming back was faster with the wind and current; however, the river still had surprises in movement. For example at random times, there would be drops and surges, or it felt like the board was goosed and pushed me forward toward the nose. No idea what that was but it made me laugh.

The way out? Just take the stairs. Right before the last dock prior to Sellwood bridge, dart left, and there are two different sets of steps leading out of the water. Incredibly civilized. Sort of like Venice, only concrete rather than marble. Close enough to make for a magical water outing.

Easy access to Riverfront park

 

Be the tree, strong and flexible: spring is in the air.

Wood is the element of spring. What are the conditions of spring and how do we notice, align, and incorporate with this season? This blog churns up a few notions about Chinese medicine from an elemental/seasonal perspective.

This is the time!

We are all of this earth, so we have earthy elements. Studying the elements is a way to integrate with nature. It’s a way to channel the current element, thus align and sync with the season.

Spring sun warms the shell to bring forth movement

Each season gives us a chance to notice where we are, how we are moving, where we are going, and generally what is going on. What is our place?

A long time ago, in China, they talked of wood and fierce growth. It quickly got a little more detailed.
To see the elements of spring through the lens of this theory, look at the list below.

The featured organ of spring is the liver.
season: spring
direction: up
planet: jupiter
weather: windy
direction: east
sense: vision
flavor: sour
secretion: tears
orifice: eyes
tissues: ligaments and tissues
color: green
wild animal: tiger
instrument: compass (direction)

Buttercups! A free spring flower!

pathology of this time of year:
pain in chest or sides of chest
redness, swelling of eyes
depression, anger
muscle/tendon inflexibility
irregular menses
vertigo

Personality of wood:
We have the wood element in us all year long, some more than others. Strong wood personalities are often leaders, people who get things done.

Fallen limbs from winter ice storm transform into feeding structure for hungry spring birds

Like all the elements, it helps when wood is in balance. If out of balance, it can lead to extremes on either end. Too much wood: argumentative, short tempered, overbearing, inflexible. Too little wood: lack of drive, direction, vision, and hope.

Time to look at new flight patterns

People who lack woodiness are looking for a plan, structure and vision for them to feel the strength and flexibility inwardly, to then manifest outwardly. They need to harness direction and movement forward.

Those with too much woodiness, can be overly controlling and pushy; therefore, could use softening, flexibility, and a willingness to not demand so much control.

Imagine we are all trees. Different trees, tall, short, bushy, bare, smooth, rough. Our human bodies and tree bodies are blended in this season, and one message is: be strong, yet flexible. Allow your branches to bend. Bending is favored over breaking. Try not to snap.

Trees and humans are both seen as connecting heaven and earth, dirt to sky. Branches and limbs are like tendons and sinews. We want to have a good supply and flow of sap, like healthy trees. This goes for emotions too. We can see and touch rigid sore muscles, but what about rigid attitudes? Short tempers? This makes for a dry and brittle personality that turns to fiery anger quickly (extreme anger is called “liver fire”).

In school, we were taught that it is best to be moveable, changeable, bendable. How do you balance growth, or try new things, while also maintaining a way of creative adaptability- to thrive more readily with what is. For us trees and people, we need unobstructed fluid/sap circulation, bendy limbs, flexible attitudes, and branches that let the air and light flow through.

Try to encourage supple muscles/ supple mind.

This is an active season. Growth! It is not a passive or reflective time of year.

Questions and tips of this season

  1. what makes me feel alive?
  2. what can I do to be a more fully alive person?
  3. Am I moving my body enough? It’s time to move and disperse stagnation.
  4. If you feel you are off-track somehow, it’s time to get back on. Don’t worry too much about mistakes, just try things and move on.
  5. Stretch your tendons and sinews. Move stagnation, yet remain stable.
  6. Organize and restructure routes or habits that are inefficient, or no longer effective.
  7. Grow toward the light. Follow light like plants do. Be aware of your direction.
    * List from Thea Elijah, LAc., from her wood integration series.

Spring is the season of birth and growth…. it also has its share of death and decay. Yet, in spring, grief and fear are overtaken by the sheer force of optimism and vitality.

It’s a great time to make massage oil with spring elements to soothe tendons and sinews. Soften the limbs, relax the attitude.

Mood boost massage oil:
Base: sunflower oil
Add: bergamot, lemon, and orange essential oils. Amount added depends on amount of oil. If it’s 8 0z., I’d recommend 10-20 drops of each. Experiment. Start small if you don’t like a strong smell.

Balance massage oil
Base: sunflower oil
Add: orange, patchouli, and ginger essential oils.

I chose sunflower oil as the base, but you can choose something else. I love sunflowers, their booming vitality, color, and sunniness. They provide beauty, pollination for bees, and fuel for birds. Sunflower oil is also rich in vitamins A, D, and E.

In conclusion, I’m told that horses do these three things the most in the spring: buck, fart, and roll, sometimes as a sequence. Go for it!

References:
J.R. Worsley, Classical Five-Element Acupuncture
Thea Elijah, LAc.

Tend your life

The fuzzy gray blooms are called catkins.

It’s pussy willow season, did you know that? I’ve been out the last two evenings collecting gorgeous bundles along a nearby creek. I like harvesting them because you have to notice them, time it, pay attention. It feels old and sweet and real. While slogging around in my rubber boots tonight, I noticed two hawks, several ducks, very crisp air, and two guys smoking pot, also next to the creek.

I’ve been thinking about the importance of tending one’s life. The last post was about living with inspiration, living with passion.
Where does it come from?

I think it comes from tending. Tending what? What you love or like; what calls to you.

Fermentation brings forth the goods

I tend a garden. I didn’t start out a gardener. The head gardener was my mom. It took years before I actually felt compelled to create my own garden. Now it is my grounding, my tether to the earth and seasons. It is my balm when pleased or not pleased with events around me. It is not necessarily a passion, but more of an inspiration, a reason to be present. For me, gardening helps me simplify my intent, and clear the path for other thoughts or feelings to come up.

Poet Mary Oliver says: attention is the beginning of devotion.

I once dug in the dirt every day for weeks and it was neither passionate or inspiring, but it settled me down, put me in a more pliable mood. It caused me to be more open to input, and more willing to dispose of unnecessary burden.

Tending just takes interest, focus, and care. You have to notice what you are tending. Does it need water? Food? Protection? Care? Love?  This is beyond plants, now we are talking mammals. I think we learn to care, and even to love by tending.

Tending flat-out leads to more tenderness.

To get to passion and inspiration you have to start somewhere, with something or someone. Maybe it’s a lover or a loved one. Or it could be painting, singing, swimming, cooking, animals, hiking, reading, writing, paddling ….. O.k., those are my things. Find your own things. And then, here’s the big thing: MAKE TIME FOR IT. Whether a hobby or a person, make the time. Ultimately you’re investing in yourself, your own heart.

Tending to what calls to you makes you more alive and more aware. Rumi put it best, “Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love.”

Tend, as a verb, means to stretch, extend. It became a word around 1300-50. It means to attend by action and care. Another example used it in a different way, as in, “the particles tend to unite.” I’ve got it: I wish to unite my particles to attend to my life and those in it with action and care. It is one way to find purpose and direction to recognize and awaken the passion within.

Recently, at a Quaker garden work party, we shape shifted dirt into new raised beds. We wanted them to be level and true. Have you stood in wood chips and mud and known for a fact if your surroundings were plumb and level? What is true? Brian brought out two glasses of water, which were set on opposite sides of the frames. This was illuminating! We were all wrong as to what actually lined up with the laws of nature.

The water levels in the glasses led us to what was true. I think tending helps us to find our own truth, our own nature. Finding threads to personal truth is exciting. It makes a heart beat with more aliveness.

 

 

Field trip for the soul

A place with room to wake up.

I was feeling a little bummed out. I needed some different scenery. I had some things on my mind and they weren’t all happy things. What to do with a melancholic half day off? Leave town. First stop, the bird refuge. My spirit needed a rinse of water, sky, birds, rain.

This is a story with pictures about moods, inspiration, letting things be, and beer. There might be some Buddhist stuff squeezed in here and there.

This represents an empty mood.

This is how it feels to me when things don’t work out. I saw it from the highway and knew it was the perfect shot to illustrate melancholia. Here is a structure that was a home, a base, but now it’s abandoned and not functional. When I am dealing with my own perceived tragedies, I am forced to go through loss and pain. Oddly enough this is a good exercise.

Through reading The Way of the Bodhisattva, I kept hearing the same message: self-absorption is the main source of suffering. How to get out of self absorption? Expand expand expand. I was constricted in my thinking. I was thinking small. The ancient book recommends that we connect with our expansiveness in order to gain access to tenderness and compassion. This can move us beyond a self-centered point of view.

I pull from all directions for guidance. Yesterday I listened to a vlog about lots of cosmic things, but the best part of it, for me, was: Live with passion! Live inspired! I immediately felt my recently repressed passion awaken. I can do this. How could I forget this?

He also emphasized letting go of the superficial. We are bombarded with the superficial ALL THE TIME. Chuck it.

How to expand? Go outside. I laced up my kick-ass boots and hit the road.

You need the right footwear to balance the mood, sturdy the spirit.

In a short time, I was at the bird refuge. Grass, mud, and water was in every direction. Clouds and sky and the sound of singing frogs and red-wing blackbirds filled the moist air. That was more than enough, but then I got to see a bald eagle, a kestrel, and a swarm of killdeer. I know they’re not technically called a swarm, but I like it.

Next stop, a small town. It is small but there is room for poetry. If at all sorrowful, one must hit up poetry. It just works!

Soul waves must be a good thing

Love the imagery of the erosion of rigidity. I can see the salt and water softening the rock and soil, from millions of waves.

You must be prepared. Sometimes it’s really o.k. to stop.

I’ve heard recently of a concept that we have to empty ourselves. This could mean many things, but I think the idea is that we clear out internal space. It’s a little like spring cleaning or Feng Shui for the head and heart spaces.

I’m reading Ilene Cumming’s book, The Truth is at My Front Door. She talks about her experience as a hospice volunteer. Among the tools needed–compassion, presence, emotional stamina–what stands out to me is “the courage to simply enter the room empty.”

I was a hospice volunteer. I was on the roster to supply acupressure touch and acupuncture. I remember arriving at the door, just before knocking, and having a holy shit moment. What can I possibly do to help this person? Oh no oh no oh no oh no oh–what have I done?! Too late, I have to go in.

I think I’m going to practice being empty more in regular life. Just show up. And that takes expansion. It takes remembering the sky is really large. I don’t need to contract because of my own, or others’ expectations.

I wrapped up the field trip with beer. There are no pictures of the beer. I was at Sky High brew pub in Corvallis with a window seat looking at clouds and light.

I’m just passing through
Should I expand or contract
I choose my next breath

Spring is coming. Be inspiring. Be passionate.

 

Be slightly ridiculous

Madrone branches from ice storm make great winter potted features.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it, but I pick up sticks. I collect them. I see them everywhere. Usually they are on the ground. I don’t go around poaching live branches off trees. Some of the best places to find them are on the borders and edges of reservoirs. Roots, limbs, branches, and even lumber pile up and roll around on each other from the waves and wind.  They end up soft and smooth and weathered like driftwood. They are no longer alive. At this point, they have become art.

Found in mud after a swim at Lookout Point.

In the beginning, I just placed the sticks around my yard or deck. They enhanced any space. Then I found more purpose, like making trellis for plants to climb. This gave way to more ideas, like making twig sculpture towers. Things really took off when the towers started to host humming bird feeders and suet.

One thing led to another.

I made suet the other day, for the first time. This was in response to a  friend saying to me, well, can’t you make that? I’d never thought of doing such a thing. The Farmer’s Almanac had a recipe that looked simple and honest and wholesome, so I made it. That exciting story might be another blog!

I put the fresh suet on my older wobbly curly willow twig bird and squirrel tower. Birds didn’t seem interested. I joked that at least the raccoons would like it. That night, the raccoons held a rave, and knocked the structure down leaving it badly beaten. Most of the suet was eaten.

I needed to build a new twig structure habitat! All the birds, mainly hummingbirds, counted on this thing. They have their hummer poetry slams here every Saturday at noon!

I looked at my backlog of sticks. Not enough good ones.

We had just had an ice storm that left a lot of tree limb casualties. About a mile away, along a running trail, I spotted a yellowish colored, smooth barked, very long, snapped-off elegant branch hanging by a tiny thread of fiber.

I hopped on my bike with my ratchet loppers in the saddle bags. This branch was destined for purpose. I hoped it was still there and that I could discreetly harvest it. That turned out to be the easy part. Snip, it was down. It was around 11 ft. I couldn’t ride my bike with it and risk impaling a jogger, or skewering a bicyclist.

I had to walk, looking balanced and normal with this very long branch. I only fell over once; managed to just dropped the bike and stick. Most people didn’t seem to notice. I passed a dog park, and there behind the fence staring at my great find was a very excited dog. His face lit up! His eyes said, “I love it!” In those few moments, we connected over this perfect and elegant wild-crafted branch.

The walk toward home was tiring but I didn’t show weakness. About a third of the way there, a man asked, “so, what are you going to do with that stick?” A fair question, and I told him the truth. Just then, another man called out my name and offered to deliver it to my house. It was my neighbor. He had a truck!

I told him that would be really great, and that I was feeling like I was looking weird. He picked up the stick, hoisting it across his shoulders and strode off, exclaiming, “now I look weird!”

The point is, it’s fun to be a little weird or ridiculous toward a creative goal. It makes for a more interesting day for you and others.