Category Archives: Nature

Spring Interim

March. Despite what the calendar says, Spring usually starts where I live earlier than the “first day of Spring.” My crocus and snowdrops have already shown their faces, and the daffodils are not far behind. Still, we are just getting over an ice storm that hit two weeks ago!

Ice storms, for any who are unfamiliar with them, are what happens when the temperature plummets while it is raining. It is absolutely gorgeous, and very dangerous. On the gorgeous side of things, everything, and I do mean everything, gets coated with a thick layer of perfectly clear ice. The pictures below may give you some idea, but they are nothing to the whole. Imagine the world is coated in glass and you will have some idea.

On the dangerous side of things, traction on packed and re-frozen snow is hard enough. On a solid sheet of ice, one needs cleats on one’s shoes, and the cars, here, simply aren’t equipped to deal with this kind of thing. We need tanks with spikes on the treads. I took a tumble and was lucky, I caught myself on my elbows. Painful, but it could have been worse.

Another problem is that ice is very heavy. Not all trees can handle it, nor all branches. Snow can weigh down a tree to breaking, but it can also fall off the tree a lot easier than a thick coat of ice. Power-lines come down. It’s all very exciting and worrying.

I might get tired of the danger if this sort of thing happens more often, but so far my primary reaction was “wow, this is gorgeous!” We may be in for another one this week (though hopefully not as long-lasting as this one, the last of the ice just melted last weekend), but still, Spring is hot on its heels and won’t be held back. There will be a few more frosts, no doubt, but there’s no stopping the momentum.

And that brings me to my scarcity. Spring planning, house-work, writing, and, unfortunately, tax season, are upon me. I have a long list of upcoming blog posts, and a desire to catch up on the blogs I read, but it must wait!

I have the follow up posts for Unlikely Treasure in the wings.

I still owe you all pictures of my newest masks.

I have long overdue Hobbit movie reviews.

And Stephen Winter has nominated me for a Dragon’s Loyalty Award for Excellence!  So, look for that forthcoming.

Until then, enjoy the pictures. Some look a little odd because I had trouble with my camera and had to do some adjustment after the fact.

Closeup of a Crape Myrtle, Image by Jubilare

Closeup of a Crape Myrtle, Image by Jubilare

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My porch-dragon looks pitiful, Image by Jubilare

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So cold my dog willingly wore a coat… Image by Jubilare

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Magnolia leaves complete coated, Image by Jubilare

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Broomsedge, too, Image by Jubilare

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Cloud 9 Panicum turned into an icefountain, Image by Jubilare

icegrass adjusted 4

Cherokee Sedge is still green… Image by Jubilare

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More icy grass, Image by Jubilare

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My Gray Owl Juniper looked like a frosted Christmas tree and pieces broke off when they were touched, Image by Jubilare

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My poor Wax Myrtle was bowed to the ground, Image by Jubilare

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Porch Dragon sporting an ice-beard, Image by Jubilare

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Junipers weighed down, Image by Jubilare

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Prairie Coneflower casting shadows on the snow, Image by Jubilare


Unlikely Treasure

As a child, I had little stashes of treasure. Translucent plastic beads, water-snail and mussel shells found in the Harpeth River, glass marbles, a ring with a little blue-glass jewel my brother gave me, a goat skull found on my godmother’s farm, a teardrop-shaped prism that filled rooms with tiny shards of rainbow, dried reindeer lichen, cheap pot-metal ornaments painted gold and set with faceted rainbow-glass, a lop-eared rabbit-puppet named Hazel (cookie points to anyone who gets the reference), an army (I’m not kidding, if they were alive and feeling militant, they could overwhelm you) of plastic horses.

Green Glass Marbles by George Hodan http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=25338&picture=green-glass-marbles

Green Glass Marbles by George Hodan
www.publicdomainpictures.net

All things that are nearly, or completely, worthless in a monetary sense. But I think most people will easily understand that they are anything but worthless to me, even today.

Along with these objects, I kept, and still keep, deeper and even more precious hoards. Memories, words, emotions, pictures of places, sounds, smells, anything and everything that has struck a certain note in me. It is a very specific note. I can feel it vibrate, and it is always the same, though the things that cause it are so utterly disparate that even I cannot see the connection. I only feel that there is a connection.

I hunt for something, constantly. The very fact that, having these treasure-troves already, I am still hunting, tells me that these things, while they touch what I am looking for, are not the thing itself. Smoke on the wind, pine sap, limestone boulders… almost, almost! But the moment passes as soon as I know it has come. I’ve tracked my quarry and won a glimpse, but it has disappeared, again, amidst the trees and all I have left are tracks.

I worry, sometimes, that these hoards are of the world, and perhaps, in a sense, they are. They, themselves, that is. But the chord they strike, that is of such power and purity that I cannot imagine it having its source anywhere but in God. Perhaps I, and all my fellow creatures, are in danger of mistaking the source of the want, for misunderstanding what we are hunting. I could spend my whole life believing that I am seeking the things that reflect the light, and find once I have them, the light is gone. But at the same time, if it were not for the reflections these things give me, what would I know of the light?

Maybe I am wrong. But it seems that if so, at least I am not alone in my error.

I’ve been listening to an audiobook copy of The Problem of Pain, by C. S. Lewis. Something he says near the end, in Chapter 10, made me think of my strange dragon-hoard.

I’m not sure, yet, how this is going to work, but I feel the need to explore the passage and my reaction to it. I think it will take at least one more post. It may take several. We shall see.  In the mean time, here is the passage itself. I’ve whittled it down a little for brevity’s sake, but I recommend picking up a copy of the book and reading the whole chapter (or, for that matter, the whole book, it is very interesting).

Warning, Lewis speaks about Pantheism, below. From what I know of him from his writing, I think his words are not intended to insult, but simply reflect his view. After all, he introduces this chapter as nothing more than his personal speculation. Still, it is possible to take it as an attack on pantheistic religions. I am not a pantheist, I believe that Lewis’s words are probably correct, but I mean no insult to anyone in posting this. If your beliefs differ from mine, feel free to express them (politely, please) in the comments below.

You may think that there is another reason for our silence about heaven, namely that we do not, really, desire it. But that may be an illusion. What I am now going to say is an opinion of my own…

There have been times when I think we do not desire heaven, but more often I find myself wondering whether, in our heart of hearts, we have ever desired anything else.

You may have noticed that the books you really love are bound together by a secret thread. You know very well what is the common quality that makes you love them, though you cannot put it into words. But most of your friends do not see it at all, and often wonder why, liking this, you should also like that. Again, you’ve stood before some landscape which seems to embody what you have been looking for all your life, and then turned to the friend at your side who appears to be seeing what you saw, but at the first words a gulf yawns between you and you realize that this landscape means something totally different to him…

Are not all life-long friendships born at the moment when, at last, you meet another human being who has some inkling, but faint and uncertain even in the best, of that something which you were born desiring and which… year by year, from childhood to old age, you are looking for…?

You have never had it. All the things that have ever deeply possessed your soul have been but hints of it… echoes that died away just as they caught your ear. But if it should really become manifest, if there ever came an echo that did not die away, but swelled into the sound itself, you would know it. Beyond all possibility of doubt, you would say “here, at last, is the thing I was made for.” We cannot tell each other about it. It is the secret signature of each soul, the incommunicable and unappeasable want… While we are, this is. If we lose this, we lose all.

This signature on each soul may be a product of heredity and environment, but that only means that heredity and environment are among the instruments whereby God creates a soul. I am considering not how, but why He makes each soul unique. If He had no use for all these differences, I do not see why He should have created more souls than one. Be sure that the ins and outs of your individuality are no mystery to Him, and one day they will no longer be a mystery to you.

The mold in which a key is made would be a strange thing if you had never seen a key, and the key, itself, a strange thing if you had never seen a lock. Your soul has a curious shape because it is… a key to unlock one of the doors in the House with many mansions. For it is not “Humanity” in the abstract that is to be saved, but you… God will look to every soul like its first love because He is its first love. Your place in heaven will seem to be made for you, and you alone, because you were made for it…

It is from this point of view that we can understand Hell in its aspect of privation. All your life an unattainable ecstasy has hovered just beyond the grasp of your consciousness. The day is coming when you will wake to find, beyond all hope, that you have attained it, or else that it was within your reach, and you have lost it forever. This may seem a perilously private and subjective notion of the “Pearl of Great Price,” but it is not. The thing I am speaking of is not an experience. You have experienced only the want of it. The thing, itself, has never actually been embodied in any thought, or image, or emotion. Always it has summoned you out of yourself, and if you will not go out of yourself to follow it, if you sit down to brood on the desire and attempt to cherish it, the desire itself will evade you.

The door into life generally opens behind us, and the only wisdom for one haunted with the scent of unseen roses, is work. The Secret Fire goes out when you use the bellows. Bank it down with what seems unlikely fuel of dogma and ethics, turn your back on it and attend to your duties, and then it will blaze…

Such is my opinion, and it may be erroneous. Perhaps this secret desire, also, is part of the old man, and must be crucified before the end, but this opinion has a curious trick of evading denial. The desire, much more the satisfaction, has always refused to be fully present in any experience. Whatever you try to identify with it turns out to be, not it, but something else, so that hardly any degree of crucifixion or transformation could go beyond what the desire, itself, leads us to anticipate. Again, if this opinion is not true, something better is. But “something better,” not “this” or “that” experience, but something beyond it, is almost the definition of the thing I am trying to describe.

The thing you long for summons you away from the self. Even the desire for the thing lives only if you abandon it. This is the ultimate law. The seed dies to live, the bread must be cast upon the waters, he that loses his soul will save it. But the life of the seed, the finding of the bread, the recovery of the soul are as real as the preliminary sacrifice. Hence it is truly said of heaven: “in heaven there is no ownership.” If any, there, took it upon him to call anything his own, he would, straight-way, be thrust out into Hell and become an evil spirit. But it is also said: “to him that overcometh, I will give a white stone, and in the stone, a new name written, which no man knoweth save he that recieveth it.”

What can be more a man’s own than this new name which, even in eternity, remains a secret between God and him? And what shall we take this secrecy to mean? Surely that each of the redeemed shall forever know and praise some one aspect of the Divine beauty better than any other creature can.

Why else were individuals created, but that God, loving all infinitely, should love each differently? And this difference, so far from impairing, floods with meaning the love of all blessed creatures for one another: the communion of the saints.

If all experienced God in the same way, and returned Him an identical worship, the song of the Church Triumphant would have no symphony. It would be like an orchestra in which all the instruments played the same note… Heaven is a “city” and a “body” because the blessed remain eternally different, a “society” because each has something to tell all the others: fresh and ever-fresh news of the “My God” whom each finds in Him whom all praise as “Our God.” For, doubtless, the continually successful, yet never complete, attempt by each soul to communicate its unique vision to all others, and that by means whereof earthly art and philosophy are but clumsy imitations, is also among the ends for which the individual was created.

For union exists only between distincts, and perhaps from this point of view, we catch a momentary glimpse of the meaning of all things. Pantheism is is a creed not so so much false, as hopelessly behind the times. Once, before creation, it would have been true to say that everything was God. But God created, He caused things to be other than Himself that, being distinct, they might learn to love Him and achieve union instead of sameness. Thus He, also, cast his bread upon the waters. Even within the creation, we might say that inanimate matter, which has no will, is one with God in a sense in which men are not. But it is not God’s purpose that we should go back into that old identity… but that we should go on to the maximum distinctness, there to be reunited with Him in a higher fashion.

C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

Note: this is a transcription from audio. I cannot vouch for the punctuation, spelling, or even the exact wording, but I have done the best I can under the circumstances.


Autumn in Tennessee

Autumn opened its eyes, smiled, still half asleep, and rolled over.

At least, that is what it felt like.

We had a spell of cool weather, unseasonably, bizarrely cool, but lovely. Right on its edge, I thought I caught the scent of Autumn. There is no smell like it, no smell that quickens my blood that much. It is like the breath of God entering my lungs and enlivening the spirit He once breathed into me.

August, in my hometown, is hot, oppressive, and usually muggy (though we are in a mild drought this time). 30+ years living here, and indeed, further south where it is worse, have not helped me to like summer weather.

There are things I like about summer. The food is great, the greens of the landscape are rich, some of my favorite wildflowers put on a show and there are awesome insects and migratory birds everywhere. The other day I saw a clearwing moth, and just yesterday, I watched two female ruby-throated hummingbirds compete over coral honeysuckle, native salvia and a feeder.  And cicadas. I revel in summer cicada-song! But the heat and humidity wear me down quickly, and I run inside to escape.

The three other seasons, though, make up for the heaviness. For one thing, our seasons are pretty evenly spaced, around 3 months apiece. Spring, instead of being a brief link between winter and summer, is a long stretch of flower successions, greening, warming, and rain. It smells of sap and clean earth and breaks through the grays of winter with sharp, vibrant splashes of yellow, purple and white. Then, as the green begins to show, red, orange and blue mix in with the first colors, like a Fauve painting.

Winter, here, has little in the way of snow or persistent ice (though we always get some) but it is filled with opalescent grays, fawn-browns, and frost. A hillside covered with mostly deciduous trees looks like the speckled flank of a sleeping beast with a long, soft, gray-brown winter coat. It is subtle, and yet beautiful, like the many grays of the limestone sky. And in the morning, as I go to work in the dark, the street-lights set lawns and leaves sparkling with frost. It is as if every surface of the world is covered in glitter, and the smell of frost quickens the cold air.

But autumn. It leaves the rest behind. For some reason, the season of dying is life-giving to me. Sumac is the first to turn, a brilliant scarlet, brighter than flame or blood. The sugar-maples, perhaps the most spectacular, create a spectrum that runs from green, through yellows and oranges and into red, all at the same time. They look like shards of living rainbow. Sweetgums turn dark crimson, purple and black. Each tree species (and sometimes each tree) has its pattern and its method, and we have well over 100 species here. Some non-evergreens even retain their dead leaves to whisper through the winter, shedding them only when the new growth arrives in the spring.

One of my favorite species, eastern red cedar (which is actually a juniper) is an evergreen, though it takes on a winter sheen of dark bronze.

But if it were just about visual wonder, Spring and Autumn would be equally loved by me. They are not.

Spring breaks into winter just when I am weary of the gray. It is welcome and enlivening. But there is something about Autumn air. It blows across my mind, causing the embers there to redden, dusting away the white ash until flames flicker to life. It sparks my creativity, my well-being, my life. The taste we had recently whetted my appetite for that rare wind. I am never satisfied, it is never enough. Even in this place, that has a long autumn, it is too brief.

But for that short time, every year, I seem to touch something beyond myself. Perhaps it really is a time when the boundaries between worlds grows thin. I do not fear fairies, or the dead. What I feel coming near is different from that. It is the Christian song. I feel like I breathe in eternity, that eternity that is already here, present within me, but that I do not fully understand. Not yet. Not yet, but one day. Until that day, I have the contradictions, the mystery, a keyhole through a door.

Autumn, dying and living, curling up to sleep, comfort in fear, but not a vulgar fear as of being afraid. I am not afraid, but my heart is racing. It is so hard to express.  I think C.S. Lewis and G. K. Chesterton are right about that desire. The desire I feel that is soothed a little in this world, but never satisfied, the hunger for the excitement of adventure coupled with the comfort of coming home, that contradiction in my soul during Fall, fear and comfort, excitement and peace, thrill and balm.

I think of Bilbo Baggins. That journey at my feet, the road tugging at me, that song in the wind. Maybe that is why Bilbo’s song always brings me tears, good tears, and makes me think of Autumn.

Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains of the moon.

Roads go ever ever on
Under cloud and under star,
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green
And trees and hills they long have known.

The Road goes ever on and on,
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

-J. R. R. Tolkien: From Bilbo, in The Hobbit and (the last stanza) Lord of the Rings.

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*I’ve been told that this post can easily be taken as disrespectful to other beliefs. If you find it so, I apologize. That was not my intent.


While I Ruminate

There are several posts brewing in my brain. A couple focus on my experiences writing and my opinions on writing theory, one on my current theological study, my thoughts on the recent Tolkien Fanfiction film, and perhaps one on recent personal experiences.

None of them are ready for perusal, and so I plan to share a few random things and then bore you with my plant-nerd ravings. It is winter, here, and the coldest we have had in some time. In short, it is the time when gardeners dream.

But for those who are indifferent to plants, I will leave that until the end and offer you a few new links in my sidebar.

The humorous: From the makers of that Wolverine Music Video I posted, I give you Glove and Boots! If you need something light and silly, filled with puppets, and made for nerds (especially those spawned in the 80’s, like me), then you will want to spend some time watching.

Art: In the last post, I also linked a post about Joel Cooper’s Origami masks, but I failed to link his blog. It is filled with astounding!

For Writers: I’ve had the link to this rabbit-hole on my sidebar for a while, but one of my upcoming posts will focus on the subject of tropes and cliches, so it is worth pointing out. This is a very useful post for writers, storytellers, and story-lovers everywhere, but I warn you, it is highly addictive. Another useful link for writers and curious minds, a blog by someone in my own profession of Government Information Librarianship, is the Writer’s Guide to Government Information.

For Linguaphiles:  My fellow word geeks, I offer a link to the Online Etymology Dictionary and the Phrase Finder, which has more than just phrases.

For history and story-telling geeks, like me, there is a website (one among many) with collections of American folklore and stories. It is further broken down into sub-categories, and yes, it includes all of America, not just the United States of.

Do you like critters? What about photography? At work, I keep my desktop cycling through beautiful images, and I get a lot of them here, at the National Wildlife Foundation. A bit of plant nerdiness… If you like animals and want to help them survive the constant changes in our landscapes, consider turning your yard into a certified wildlife habitat. If that is too much for you to bite off, then you can still do little things, like keeping a clean bird-bath, adding some native plants (which do a better job of supporting wildlife than exotics) to your garden, or building a brush pile, which supplies both food and shelter for many.

Plant and story nerd combine: This is a book on the Folklore of Plants.  Fascinating stuff, at least to me.

Now I start talking about plants and gardening.

My interest in gardening (late to develop, even though my mother is a brilliant gardener) was born out of my fascination with my local ecology and the native plants it rests on. Thus my current obsession with the cooperative blogs Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens and Beautiful Wildlife Garden is no surprise.

This is what has me daydreaming.

You may or may not know that, apart from roofs and pavement, a lawn is one of the most barren areas created in our developments. It’s close-woven, often exotic, and is shorn to where it offers little food and no shelter to anything.

Basically, more lawn = fewer animals, arthropods, and birds. It’s a sad equation.

I’m not saying we should eliminate all lawns and cropped fields. I like playing on a lawn as much as the next girl, and my dog does, too. However, in the grand scheme of things, I don’t use much of my lawn, and that unused part could easily be turned into something prettier and more useful to critters.

So, this summer, I am going to start the process of eliminating my front lawn.

In order to prevent my neighbors from having a conniption, I have to keep things under some control. I am going to build a path and be very mindful of what I plant where. Both for beauty and wildlife-value, I need a succession of blooms. I want some things that look nice in winter, too. It’s easier on birds and bugs if I don’t cut down my plants for the winter, so things that look particularly messy are probably not the best choices.

I want mostly native plants, because my birds and beasts and bugs are adapted to them, but I have my favorite non-natives as well. Daffodils, cultivated iris, crocus, a peony and even a non-native morning-glory (there are native varieties).

I want to attract birds of various kinds, including hummingbirds (which, by the way, eat insects), and cedar waxwings. Also, I want to provide not only adult food, but larval food for various butterflies, moths and bees. I’m the sort of person who also loves spiders, snakes, lizards and other creepy-crawlies, so the more the better.

To this end, I have some things already planted. A southern wax myrtle, black-eyed susans, butterfly weed, false indigogoldenrod, Mistflower, and native honeysuckle among others.

My list of plants to acquire is long. I want more kinds of milkweed, for butterflies, yarrow, and most of all, yaupon hollies.

Hopefully, in a few years, I will have many more critters to see and enjoy in my yard, the good, the bad and the ugly. Then, I will turn my furious attention to my back yard, where I hope to install a small pond and a bat-box.

One more thing. If what I am talking about is all Greek to you, maybe this post will give you a little idea: Vivian’s Meadow.

I will now stop tormenting you with my musings. I hope you found something interesting in this post. Peace be yours!


Ballooning Part 2

It has certainly taken me long enough to post this. It has been months since my successful flight in a hot air balloon, but I have been dragging my feet in sorting through the pictures. Anyway, I wanted to give you guys some beautiful shots before I take an internet break (for those of you who talk to me through e-mail, I will still check it. I just may be slow in replying).

Every time I say I am going to take a hiatus, people seem to worry, so in advance, let me assure you that everything is fine. The coming month is going to be a busy one, and I need time to read, write, and do odds and ends around the house and with my family. I will probably be gone a month, maybe two.

When I come back, I promise to post pictures of more masks including the ones I am currently working on.

On to ballooning!

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

For those who missed out on the first failed ballooning attempt, there are details here. We had one more failed attempt (making, I think, three for my dear friend) but finally, luck was with us! The basket was very large, made to hold at least eight normal-sized people.

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

Here is the balloon which was called, if I remember rightly, Spirit of Africa. The first stage of inflation is done with a fan.

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

Once the fan has blown up the balloon enough to where the flames won’t burn it, the spurting fire thing is used.

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

I found the colors quite beautiful.

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

My fear of heights made takeoff a bit nerve-wracking. There was someone on board with a worse fear of heights than I have, though, and that helped calm me down.

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

Once I was over how high we were, I found the flight soothing and I enjoyed the patterns I began to see below. Balloon flight is very smooth.

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

This is some of the countryside relatively near where I live. There are some farms left, though not many, some large estates owned by people whose wealth is beyond my comprehension, some forest, and encroaching subdivisions.

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

On the whole, it is pretty, though it makes me a little sad to see how it is changing.

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

One of the real farms! Those red-ant things are cattle. We flew over horses and deer (who really did not like the roar of the balloon’s blowtorch thingy) and a blue heron in flight, but my shots of them did not come out well.

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

Looking up into the balloon!

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

And my best shot of that lovely flame. It is loud, and close, but really beautiful. I would not recommend a balloon flight in hot weather, though. It was cold when we flew, and that was the only reason I could bear the heat above me.

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

We had some beautiful clouds that day.

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

Every time we went over water, we saw the balloon’s reflection.

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

Even with the blur, I find this shot lovely.

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

Sycamores are as dramatic from above as below.

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

I think the trees below look almost like moss and lichen. Beautiful.

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

Even the horrible subdivisions with their monster houses and boring yards look nice from this height. Great patterns. Notice the interrupted sidewalk.

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

The skyline, of course, was gorgeous. All those tree-covered hills fading in the distance to meet the sky, and echoed from above by the clouds.

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

Mmmmm

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

And so, in failing light, we landed. We landed in enemy territory (people who are hostile to balloons) out of necessity, but fortunately no one was home. The team and our pilot broke down the balloon quickly, and we called it a night.

I am very glad my friend gave me the opportunity to do this. I hope you enjoy the pictures!

Farewell for now. I’ll be back soon.


Phoenix

Be-kind-rewrite’s Inspiration Monday nudged my muse in a terribly melodramatic way. Apologies in advance for the levels of angst, but the prompt was “can’t stop crying” so it was bound to be either angsty or filled with onions.

In the Center is a thing that weeps. In the darkness surrounding her now, her feathers and her tears are light. Her children return when their fires burn out. It’s over their corpses she weeps, folding them beneath her wings like eggs.
And there, against the mother flame, their life returns only for them to leave again; flying off into the void, bringing heat and light, but leaving her in the Center with her tears.
We have light and life because she can’t stop crying. Yet I have to wonder if one day we will learn the meaning of life without pain.
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From The Four Loves

“Say your prayers in a garden early, ignoring steadfastly the dew, the birds and the flowers, and you will come away overwhelmed by its freshness and joy; go there in order to be overwhelmed and, after a certain age, nine times out of ten nothing will happen to you.”
The Four Loves by C. S. Lewis

I’ve been busy, and I will probably be taking an internet hiatus soon. I recently finished The Four Loves, by C. S. Lewis. As always, when I read him, I was overwhelmed by his ability to express himself. Over all, I found the book fascinating and enlightening. I also wish I could get in touch with the man and debate some things with him, but ah well.

The above quote is something that struck me, when I read it, for I’ve had just the experience he is talking about. My relationship with God effects every single aspect of my life, even the ones that, on the surface, would seem to have nothing at all to do with spirituality, religion or faith. Prayer effects the taste of an apple and the sound of my cats’ asking for breakfast.

There’s another quote I will share, soon, but I figured I would go ahead and post this one.


He is Risen!

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

Some beauty in celebration of the day of liberation.

Glory to the Lamb of God!

Blessings upon us all.

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

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Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

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Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

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Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare


Khazâd Part III: Creation

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

Ever since I was a child the three dimensions, our perception of them, and our ability to change things within them have fascinated me. Texture, shape, matter, color, shadow, highlight, space, distance! And that is only where the realm of the physical touches two of our five senses.

Stop. Right now.

Wipe your mind of all that you take for granted and try to understand how bizarre and wondrous the material world really is. Consider the possibility that nothing has to be, yet here it is. Think about the space between you and the nearest object and try to feel how strange your perception of that space, and that object would be if your senses had only been awakened this moment.

If you haven’t tried this before, it may be hard at first. We’ve been swimming in the physical from our earliest memories. We are so used to this that anything else would seem strange and exciting to us, but we are capable of realizing how awe-inspiring this world is.

Think about the things you see every day. Your bed, a blanket, a cup of water, a tree with texture so meticulously detailed that it stretches from a forest to the atoms of its inmost ring. Your own body, even with its flaws, so knit together that you live and move, with cells constantly dying and being reborn. How shadows change a surface, and light can make things glow.

Photo by Jubilare. Often it is the simple things that awe.

Photo by Jubilare. Often it is the simple things that awe.

If you think about this too long and too deeply, it can overwhelm you.

It’s best to find a balance where you neither take the physical for granted, nor allow yourself to be overcome by the incomprehensible vastness and detail of it all. I think it is good for us to pause and run our hand over a desk, or breathe in winter air, taking time to feel, taste, smell. So many gifts are wasted on us when we don’t pay attention.

You may be wondering what this has to do with J. R. R. Tolkien’s Dwarves.

I think (and yes, I may be projecting) that the Dwarves, in general, share my instinctual wonder of the world. Tolkien’s words suggest a people who, while rugged and shielded in other regards, are hyper-sensitive when it comes to the properties and beauties of the inanimate part of Arda. Even though they lack my passion for trees and plants, they appreciate them enough to use them as common themes in their works.

From the outside, fascination with the material can look a lot like materialism. Now, some Dwarves from Tolkien’s writing are avaricious and materialistic. There is no denying that. After all, love of matter can become materialism if taken too far. But I believe there is a pure and healthy love of the physical that is not possessive, or hedonistic, or materialistic, and I believe that love is an underlying theme in the character of the Khazâd.

My theory is supported by one of the Dwarves’ most well-known traits.  It is a short step from loving creation, to wishing to create. I find myself compelled, through my awe of matter, to shape small pieces of my world. This is why I identify so strongly with the Dwarven love of craftsmanship.

In the Silmarillion it is clear Aulë and Melkor have a great measure of Eru’s creative spirit.  In Melkor’s case, that spirit becomes grasping and possessive, but Aulë remains free and generous. Even in his clandestine making of the Dwarves his actions stem from a desire to share the wonders of Arda, his knowledge, and joy in existence.

Whether the creative nature of the Dwarves comes from Aulë or from the spirits bestowed on them by Eru, there is no doubt that they posses it. Throughout Tolkien’s work we see the intense and sensitive appreciation for beauty in the Dwarves. None of the other industrial or quasi-industrial races have this eye for beauty or the smoldering desire to carefully enhance it.

Ultimately, the Dwarves are lovers of nature and that love manifests in their works. Many of their number even abandon all other pursuits, devoting themselves to their craft with monk-like singleness of mind.  They are industrious, both from a practical standpoint and from a creative one. It boggles my mind that this focused creativity is sometimes perceived as prosaic and even dull. But then I suppose the makers of illuminated manuscripts of ages past are sometimes seen in a similar light by modern society. Have we lost some of our ability to appreciate that kind of focus?

In my recent delving into Tolkien’s work, I kept a record of the objects and places shaped by the Dwarves. I have chosen a few to mention. Some you may know. Some might surprise you.

Angrist: the knife Beren used to cut a Silmaril from Morgoth’s crown

Narsil: Sword of the Númenórean kings, broken in cutting the One Ring from Sauron’s hand,  later to become Andúril

Menegroth:  a cooperative effort of Dwarves and Elves

The pillars of Meneroth were hewn in the likeness of the beeches of Oromë, stock, bough and leaf, and they were lit with lanterns of gold. The nightingales sang there as in the gardens of Lórien; and there were fountains of silver, and basins of marble, and floors of many-coloured stones. Carven figures of beasts and birds there ran upon the walls, or climbed upon the pillars, or peered among the branches entwined with many flowers. – Quenta Silmarilion, Chapter 10

Nauglamír:

It was a carcanet of gold, and set therin were gems uncounted from Valinor; but it had a power within it so that it rested lightly on its wearer as a strand of flax, and whatsoever neck it clasped it sat always with grace and loveliness.  – Quenta Silmarilion, Chapter 13

Dale:

You should see  the waterways of Dale, Frodo, and the fountains, and the pools! You should see the stone-paved roads of many colours! And the halls and cavernous streets under the earth with arches carved like trees; and the terraces and towers upon the Mountain’s sides!  -Many Meetings, The Fellowship of the Ring

And that is just a smattering. Pay attention as you read and you will find more. I would love to step into these stories, if only briefly, to see and perhaps touch some of the marvels Tolkien imagined.

Last, and perhaps most telling of the hearts and minds of the Khazâd, I mention their own idea of what lies in store for them.  According to the Silmarillion, they believe that when Arda is remade they will work side by side with Aulë in the reshaping of the world. Imagine the beauty and wonder, care, imagination, focus, and labor involved in such a feat. I am glad Tolkien included such a beautiful legend in his tales of Middle Earth.

We are near the end of my ramblings on this subject. I will have worn it, and myself out, I think, but hopefully I will have achieved my goal. One post left.

For the rest of the series, look here:
Of the Free Peoples of Arda
Contrariwise
Khazâd Part I: Aulë
Khazâd Part II: The Deep Places of the World
Khazâd Part IV: The Road Goes On

Photo by Jubilare. Water showing how to carve a rock.

Photo by Jubilare. Water showing how to carve a rock.


Khazâd Part II: The Deep Places of the World

If you are claustrophobic, remind yourself that you are free in the open air where you may appreciate, from afar, beauty that you never need see in person.

PublicDomain-Pictures.com

PublicDomain-Pictures.com

The Dwarves of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Arda are closely associated with the caves of their world. If you delve into the Silmarillion, you will find that they (the caverns as well as the Dwarves) were originally shaped from stone by Aulë of the Valar.

In some ways, the Khazâd are very like the caves in which they dwell. I find that both are often misunderstood and dismissed as unlovely. Now, I am a lover of nature; of forests, flora and fauna. I can understand that, from a cursory look, caves seem dark, cold, dull, and confining to people who share my love of sunlight and living things. However, one only has to take a closer look and the subterranean world becomes a place of overwhelming wonder and beautiful fascination.

If you do not already know what I mean, follow these links to the National Geographic website and browse the photographs of caves.

The Dwarves, like their underground homes, seem one thing from an outside perspective, but have quite a different character when one delves deeper. They remind me of geodes. On the surface they are hard, rough and unlovely. Within at least some of them (or more likely most of them) there is astounding beauty. If you do not believe me, take a closer look at Gimli in The Lord of the Rings (the books, not the films. Gimli’s character in the films just represents the stereotype most people expect from fantasy Dwarves). He is, after all, the Dwarf we come to know best and we witness more of what is precious in him than in any of his kin.

It is said, in the Silmarillion, that “since they were to come in the days of the power of Melkor, Aulë made the Dwarves strong to endure. Therefore they are stone-hard, stubborn, fast in friendship and in enmity, and they suffer toil and hunger and hurt of body more hardily than all other speaking peoples; and they live long, far beyond the span of men, yet not forever.”

This is the rough, tough crust of the Dwarven geode and gives us insight into why all their strength and hardness is apparent, while their beauty is hidden. This is what we see most often as we read Tolkien’s writings. Dwarves in battle, hewing their enemies with axes, Dwarves being insular and secretive, or pragmatic or greedy and most of all, stubborn.

There is good rock here. This country has tough bones… Give me a year and a hundred of my kin and I would make this a place that armies would break upon like water. -Helm’s Deep, The Two Towers

The above is Gimli, and an example of the kind of talk most people seem to expect from Dwarves. But see, this too is Gimli:

…when the torches are kindled and men walk on the sandy floors under the echoing domes… gems and crystals and veins of precious ore glint in the polished walls; and the light glows through folded marbles, shell-like, translucent as the living hands of Queen Galadriel. There are columns of white and saffron and dawn-rose… fluted and twisted into dreamlike forms; they spring up from many-coloured floors to meet the glistening pendants of the roof: wings, ropes, curtains fine as frozen clouds; spears, banners, pinnacles of suspended palaces! Still lakes mirror them: a glimmering world looks up from dark pools covered with clear glass; cities such as the mind of Durin could scarce have imagined in his sleep, stretch on through avenues and pillared courts, on into the dark recesses where no light can come. And plink! A silver drop falls, and the round wrinkles in the glass make all the towers bend and waver like weeds and corals in a grotto of the sea. Then evening comes: they fade and twinkle out; the torches pass on into another chamber, and another dream. There is chamber after chamber, Legolas; hall opening out of hall, dome after dome, stair beyond stair; and still the winding paths lead on into the mountains’ heart. … Happy was the chance that drove me there! It makes me weep to leave them.

Strange to see such different speeches from the same character… or is it? When characters, and with them fictional races, are people rather than stereotypes, then it becomes possible for them to be this complex. And if you think that Gimli, being a Dwarf, is too biased towards subterranean beauty to be a reliable witness, here is the reaction of Legolas, the Wood Elf, after seeing Aglarond in The Return of the King:

…he was silent, and would say only that Gimli alone could find fit words to speak of them. ‘And never before has a Dwarf claimed a victory over and Elf in a contest of words,’…

Tolkien gives us only pieces of the subterranean glories of Middle Earth, with the above being, as far as I am aware, his longest description. But if Arda’s caves are anything like the world we live in then the Dwarves are in love with cathedral halls stone forests, underwater chambersliving ghosts, minerals waiting to flash or glow, skies with living stars, natural murals, tunnels, rivers, artistic colors, stone lace, smooth “pearls” and infinitely more.

Now, the underground of Arda is not a safe or gentle place. It harbors ugliness, fear and death as well as great beauty. As Gandalf says in The Two Towers, “The world is gnawed by nameless things… but I will bring no report to darken the light of day.” Just as the woods of Arda hold beauty, ugliness and terror, so do the Deeps. The Dwarves have need of their rough exterior to survive in such places. Yet they are often well-rewarded for their endurance, and I do not simply mean by wealth. Too often are the Dwarves charged with valuing only gold, jewels and mithril. Gimli speaks of how he expects his people to react to Aglarond in The Two Towers:

None of Durin’s race would mine those caves for stone or ore, not if diamonds and gold could be got there. Do you cut down groves of blossoming trees in the spring-time for firewood? We would tend these glades of flowering stone, not quarry them. With cautious skill, tap by tap-a small chip of rock and no more, perhaps, in a whole anxious day-so we could work, and as the years went by, we should open up new ways, and display far chambers that are still dark, glimpsed only as a void beyond fissures in the rock. … We should make lights, such lamps as once shone in Khazad-dûm; and when we wished we would drive away the night that has lain there since the hills were made; and when we desired rest, we would let the night return.

Could a people with such feelings possibly be prosaic or ultimately materialistic? I think not. No.

Yet, how often are they represented as such? Many readers of Tolkien’s scribblings see the hard surface of the Dwarves and look no deeper. They do not realize the world of imagination they are missing. They cast a geode aside, assuming that something so plain and rough could not possibly harbor anything extraordinary within. The other races of Arda often do the same.

And yes, I am well aware that I have dived into the deep end of the nerd pool. Onwards! Next on the list is my take on the Dwarven drive to create.

For the rest of the series, look here:
Of the Free Peoples of Arda
Contrariwise
Khazâd Part I: Aulë
Khazâd Part III: Creation
Khazâd Part IV: The Road Goes On


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