GNL number 27


a report of doings at meeting #27, Sunday October 11, 2009
including liturgical notes, major themes, and other odds and ends


The moon is full, the autumn nights grow longer,
In the north forests, startled crows cry out.
Still high overhead, the star river stretches,
The Dipper’s handle set to southwest.
The cold cricket grieves deep in the chambers;
Of the notes of sweet birds, none remain.
Then one evening gusts of autumn come:
One who sleeps alone thinks fondly on thick quits.
Past loves are a thousand miles farther each day,
Blocked from my drifting and my sinking.
Man’s life is not as the grass and trees;
Still the season’s changes can stir the heart.

—–Wei Ying Wu, Chinese poet of the T’ang Dynasty


To start this conversation on SEASONAL CHANGES, Nancy quoted a note from Chris, who was sick and unable to come. She said she’d found that many of the major events in her life had occurred on solstices or equinoxes: first kiss, first divorce, marriage to Paul (9/21 — which he refers to as the Fall of Paul), and her conversion to Judaism on the winter solstice!

For her own part, Nancy said she wouldn’t choose to live where the seasons don’t change so clearly. She loves the beauty of each, and that all this helps us see change as natural, necessary to life, and so gives a model that can prepare us for inevitable changes more personal. She noted too the cycle shows life as ongoing drama with every player large and small counting; all is interconnected, and playing out in an ebb and flow, like breathing. All right in our face, our most vivid teacher. She also read from Wendell Berry. For this and other notes, see Afterwords.

Anna, echoing appreciation of our distinct seasonal changes, recalled her lovely trip years ago to San Francisco, but remembered more how delighted she felt to come back to her vivid four seasons in Schoharie County. And she remembered with special fondness, spring up in Summit and her maple sugaring days—how unforgettable that feeling of knowing when spring life was moving.

A longtime observer of trees and other wildlife, Ann spoke of leaf coloration difference in Colorado where she went to school—scenery very beautiful, but the trees, mostly aspens, became golden almost uniformly and not as satisfying to eyes used to the Northeast riot of color. She also noted differences in coloration from year to year, and how this is a matter of chemistry, frost, and climate change. More notes in Afterwords.

Sue said she had noticed as a student of Judaism, that the Judaic year begins in a slowed down time— fall/winter—like the Sabbath begins, with the quietiing, closing of the day. She referred to her gardener’s perspective as the way she perceives not just the seasons but the world and life.
And she suggested that if we lived in a more monochromatic climate and farmed it, we’d come to appreciate the more subtle changes there too.
She also brought quotes, which we invite you to read in Afterwords.

Adair again cited a favorite naturalist-writer, Edwin Way Teale, author of a classic four-volume set of season books, and especially, the first of these, North With the Spring, which is her favorite. It’s an account of a trip he and his wife made following spring as it moved north (and found it moved 15 miles a day. She also recommended his (true too) Naturalist Buys An Old Farm. She and Nancy have copies—somewhere.

We were also delighted to have Adair’s daughter Robin with us, at the end of a week-long visit with mom. Robin, who lives in North Carolina on Albemarle Sound, not only has a horse and loves animals like her mother, but kayaks regularly on the Sound and spoke of seeing wonderful wildlfe details then–insects, snakes, osprey, eg., on these trips among the cypress. (Fitting she was sitting next to another kayaker-natureobserver, Ann!)

Cynthia added a different aspect of our subject: the seasons of life, which she said had been called by some: Bloomers, Matures, and Boomers, but that she would add the fourth season, Wise Elders. While she granted most of us were probably boomers, she did bring a special offering of flowers in bottle and a fall leaf bouquet for our wise elder, Jack. She also read a message from Vijaya, current in any season.

Jack responded to the seasons of life idea too, with a recollection of struggling in young manhood and again in his thirties with loss of self-confidence and depression, then finding his maturity in the spiritual growth that came out of those dark times. He spoke of himself as having arrived in his 80’s and 90’s in good health, Parkinson’s or not, because of his MH (mental health and merry heart).


One leaf left on a branch
and not a sound of sadness
or despair. One leaf left
on a branch and no unhappiness.
One leaf left all by itself
in the air and it does not speak
of loneliness or death.
One leaf and it spends itself
in swaying mildly in the breeze.
—–David Ignatow, from his New and Collected Poems, 1970-1985
(and quoted in Earth Prayers, Roberts and Amidon, ed.)


Sunday, November 8, 2009 (1030), at Adair’s. The topic: GRATITUDE. Also Cynthia reminds us to bring some recipes for the fabulous COOKBOOK. (And please keep the fabulous food coming too.)


from Nancy

Sowing the seed,
my hand is one with the earth.
Wanting the seed to grow,
my mind is one with light.
Hoeing the crop,
my hands are one with the rain.
Having cared for the plants,
my mind is one with the air.
Hungry and trusting,
my mind is one with the earth.
Eating the fruit,
my body is one with the earth.

—–Wendell Berry

At the start of spring I open a trench
in the ground. I put into it
the winter’s accumulation of paper,
pages I do not want to read again, useless words, fragments,

errors. And I put into it
the contents of the outhouse:
light of the Sun, growth of the ground,
finished with one of their journeys.
To the sky, to the wind, then
and to the faithful trees, I confess
my sins: that I have not been happy
enough, considering my good luck,
have listened to too much noise,
havebeen inattentive to wonders,
have lusted after praise.
And then upon the gathered refuse
of mind and body, I close the trench,
folding shut again the dark,
the deathless earth. Beneath that seal
the old escapes into the new.

—–Wendell Berry

And some October not-poems/maybe grazzi:

Tense with new fall’s chill,
then memory strikes me warm:
Ahh, to make some soup!

Walking through October cold,
nose running and body tight,
then smiling—Yes—
to smell, to taste, the luscious air.
How can it be—this sweetness
amid fading, drying, decaying, dying—
Yes. This.

Now I know why I have all these books.
My children have known for years:
“So you have places to put all those leaves, Mom.”

Call them grazzi or grazies
(did I make that up—a Latinate root with an English plural—for “thank you note”?)
These grazies can’t be called poems;
I haven’t learned to speak in forms,
I’ve hardly learned to speak at all,
much less in lovely rhythms.
Am trying to learn to see though.

from Ann

Why do we use seasonings in our food? Seasoning make something different, out of the ordinary. Without seasons, things would be so blah.

Often seasonings need time to meld the flavors and enhance the overall taste and enjoyment. Aging and ripening allow for the possibility of the food, life, to be better. Yet if over ripe the food, or life, begins to rot, the leaves are stunning for a short time, the leaves fall, and then the tree seems barren – until the next season.

The process of life is cyclical, always moving and changing; birth, life, death, rebirth….

Burning leaves always reminds me of fall, and also the return to school, apples from the local apple orchard, and dad’s whining chain saw (it was always dull because he didn’t know how to sharpen the chain). It was a family (mom, dad, and me, siblings all elsewhere) ritual to rake up and burn leaves as a family.

from Sue

“Autumn…makes a double demand. It asks that we prepare for the future–that we be wise in the way of garnering and keeping. But it also asks that we learn to let go—to acknowledge the beauty of sparseness. ” ~Bonaro W. Overstreet

“Change is a measure of time and, in the autumn, time seems speeded up. What was is not and never again will be; what is is change.” ~ Edwin Way Teale

“I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape — the loneliness of it — the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it — the whole story doesn’t show.” ~ Andrew Wyeth

There is an appointed time for everything.
And there is a time for every event under heaven –
A time to give birth, and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.
~ Ecclesiastes, 3:1-2

“Help us to be ever faithful gardeners of the spirit,
who know that without darkness nothing comes to birth,
and without light nothing flowers. “
~May Sarton (1912-1995) American Poet and Novelist


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