Morning Fog

Morning Fog

September fog hangs low in the morning sky,
shrouding the lake in gray forms
that move slowly over the deep blue water.

Darkness unfolds into light.
What was unseen is seen,
secrets illuminated when the rays
of the early morning autumn sun
filter through the clouds.

Surprises await beneath the parting fog–
a fisherman in a small boat sitting patiently,
lost in his own personal reverie,
a line of ducklings
following their mother in precise formation
as they glide across the smooth surface.

A momentary glimpse within the fog
until sunrise spreads its colors in shimmering splendor
over the glassy water,
beginning a day full of morning possibilities,
like life.

© Barbara Flass 2011

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Mirage at Midnight

Mirage at Midnight

Unfamiliar darkness on a familiar country road
Where the pine trees provide shade in the August sun
Now lonely and deserted, eerily silent.

A mirage—an optical phenomenon—occurs.
The grass, summer green in soft daylight,
Now white in the headlights,
The silvery dew like summer hail
Beneath pine branches edged in white lace.
Snowstorm’s beauty, summer night’s winter mirage.

Illusion almost missed without this
Midnight ride between fear and security.
Nature once again balancing reality with what could be.

© Barbara Flass 2011

Summer Night Symphony

Summer Night Symphony

Darkness begins its descent,
Enveloping the woods behind the house,
And then it begins—
The rhythmic trills of the tree frogs
Breaking open the serenity of the night.

Hyla Versicolor—the northern gray tree frog–
Its color changing with the temperature,
Light green to dark gray,
Clinging to the bark of the pines
With its large sticky toe pads,
All but invisible in the light of day.
Impossible to ignore in the blackness of night.

The tree frogs were apparently there last April,
Having emerged in secret from their burrows
After hibernating all winter under logs and branches,
Freezing until spring.
Then in May came the mating as they left the trees,
Laying eggs in pools of water,
Froglets appearing in the warmth of the summer sun.

Now in late August they fill the night
With their monotonous sound,
And I stand at the open window and listen,
The trilling taking me for a moment back in time
When I was a child of ten, tucked into my bed,
Bedroom windows open to the cool summer night air,
Listening to the peepers in the swamp across the road
Soothed to sleep by the lullaby of nature.

Just before dawn the summer symphony ends,
The sweet night sedative gone for now.
Soon the cold will follow,
The tree frogs will be gone until next spring,
Their frenetic energy stilled,
And the winter nights will be silent
As we wait for the certainty of nature’s music to begin again.

© Barbara Flass 2011

Why should I buy chrysanthemums in August?

Why should I buy chrysanthemums in August?

This morning dawned chilly, the air no longer feeling like summer, more autumn-like with dawn coming minutes later each day now.  How does it happen that mid-August often signals the end of summer instead of mid-September?  I like cool mornings, but I prefer those steamy summer mornings with bright sun poring through the windows instead of the filtered sunlight of August.

Mid-August signals summer’s end in other ways, such as the ads for back-to-school clothes and supplies, articles on healthy kids’ lunches and how to manage frantic school morning routines.  This morning’s ad from Lowe’s featured mums on sale.  Mums!  Aren’t they a fall flower?  Why do I need to buy them now?  Actually, I rarely buy mums.  They make me sad, signaling the coming of winter, and with a brief growing season, they hardly seem worth the effort or the money.

During the summer months, I know why I live in upstate New York.  I can even find wonderful moments in September and October, with the glorious colors of autumn leaves and pumpkins and squash at the farmer’s market.  But I know on the heels of autumn will be the first winter snows, exciting only in the first few flakes.  The cold, biting winds and icy roads now seem too much to bear, and I often wonder how I have endured these northern winters for so many years.

Good Morning America is doing a series on the ten most beautiful places in America.  I voted for Sedona, Arizona.  I think I long for Arizona at least ten times a day, remembering the colors, the majesty of the buttes, the pure blue of the sky, and the cleanness of the air.  There are seasons in Arizona, depending on the part of Arizona you visit and the time of the year, but the snows are short-lived, the cold temperatures replaced quickly by sunshine and warmth, the incredible scenery making anything glorious.  The June morning my oldest daughter graduated with a Master’s Degree from Embry-Riddle University in Prescott dawned sunny and a little cool.  Sitting on folding chairs on the athletic field on campus waiting for the ceremony to begin, we began to notice ominous dark-gray clouds boiling up above the mountains rising in the distance, and before the diplomas could be given out, hail was upon us, pelting down on heads and the bare arms of those of us expecting a warm day.  Within an hour it was over, bright sun and comforting warmth in its place.  Arizona is like that.  New York is not.

Maybe the day will come when I can leave the certainty of cold and snow in New York for the impulsive storms of the southwest and the glory of the aftermath.  Until then, I will breathe in the diminishing warmth of summer, take in the beauty of the few remaining roses, soft-blue hydrangea blossoms, and rosy-pink impatiens still flourishing in the gardens, and reject those ads for chrysanthemums a little while longer.

Rhythmic Waters

Rhythmic Waters

Morning arrives with the neighbor’s sprinklers
automatically timed to come to life with the break of day,
susurrant, rhythmic spurts spreading out like spokes
on the July blades of grass, slowly awakening life.

These humid mornings force a fatigue even before energy can stir.
Memory connects me to a cool morning in Jamaica years before
when I awakened to the ticking of the sprinklers
as their soothing cool waters hit the bases of the palm trees and garden leaves,
their sounds mingling with the rhythm of the blue-green waters of the Caribbean.

Outside the sliding door of my room
peacocks were strutting on the stones of the patio.
A walk took me on a path that wound through the wet grass
and gardens of bougainvillea, red hibiscus, and ginger lilies,
ending at the edge of the ocean where a native sat in his rowboat at the dock
singing and skillfully arranging shell jewelry and wood carvings
on the aged gray boards.

Curiosity brought me to his side.
He grinned and greeted me with his distinctive Jamaican accent.
“Everyone here is so happy,” I said.
“When you are not sick, you are happy,” he said.
“Always be happy.”
So simple
, I thought.  Life here was so simple.
He did not pressure me to buy his jewelry.
He just smiled and laid out his wares on the dock.
I walked back along the wet paths
to the rhythm of the waves and the sprinklers
and his voice telling me to be happy.

Memory fades and I’m listening again
to the nearby sprinklers
soothing me in a new way now,
memory having freshened my thoughts,
rhythmic waters healing my soul.

© Barbara Flass 2011

Aloysia triphylla

Aloysia triphylla

Lemon verbena nestles among
my showy crimson roses and vibrant blue hydrangea,
its white-nearly-lavender flowers inconspicuous in the greenery.

It comes to my garden with a long history,
discovered long ago in Argentina and Chile,
brought by Spaniards in the 17th century to Europe,
named after Marie Louisa, Princess of Parma, wife of King Carlos II of Spain,
a royal crown its heritage.

Loved by writers of poetry and prose,
it came alive in the pages of books,
in L. M. Montgomery’s  Anne of the Island,
William Faulkner’s Unvanquished,
Louisa May Alcott’s An Old-fashioned Girl,
favored by Scarlett O’Hara’s mother in Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind,
its literary heritage only part of its existence.

Its invigorating, lemon-scented green leaves and white flowers
flavor teas, sorbets, cookies and cakes,
scent perfumes and sachets,
infuse vodkas,
refresh our lives.

Yet there it is nearly unnoticed
amid the splendor of the roses
and the breath-taking blooms of the hydrangea,
accomplishments multitudinous,
providing immeasurable daily joy.

Subtlety, it says, brings its own rewards.

© Barbara Flass 2011

Is this place on your bucket list?

Occasionally, I hear someone talk about making up a bucket list of things to do before they die.  I don’t really have a bucket list, at least not on paper, but I do have a number of things floating around in my head on days that seem especially difficult.  My mental list includes places I have been to and loved, places I want to return to.  One of my favorite places is Arizona, especially the area from Prescott north to Sedona and up to Flagstaff.  I know everyone’s bucket list is different, individually tailored to their interests in life, but I can’t imagine anyone would not love to have Sedona, Arizona on their bucket list.

Several years ago while driving my oldest daughter to college in Arizona, my family took a drive down from Flagstaff  through Oak Creek Canyon to Sedona and down to Prescott.  It’s a harrowing drive, a near-frightening drive in fact, but so exhilarating, one wants to do it over and over, I guess like people who love skydiving or jumping from cliffs.  When we returned home, I wrote this description of our trip so I wouldn’t forget it, but truthfully it’s not easy to forget the beauty of Arizona.

 Oak Creek Canyon

The drive down to Sedona from Flagstaff took us miles over a narrow road to Oak Creek Canyon, one of the most beautiful places in Arizona.  It was a 2000 foot drop from the top of the canyon through the Verde Valley to the bottom of the canyon floor and the town of Sedona at the base.  The red, sandstone walls of the canyon were mixed with muted purple, gold, and bronze and create rock formations resembling castles with cones and cylinders reaching toward the cloudless, deep blue sky.

Along the way were lookout points, and several times we stopped the car, got out, and tried to capture on film the brilliance and the magnitude of the canyon.  The edge of the winding, sharp-curved road was precipitously close to the drop off to the base of the canyon, causing our hearts to beat rapidly.  Near the top of the canyon we entered the town of Jerome, an historic, copper-mining town with cobblestone streets and renovated structures that balanced precariously on the sides of the cliffs.   Gift shops, pottery and craft shops, art galleries, and restaurants filled the buildings which once housed miners and their families.  Steep steps led from the road up to and down to the shops and galleries.

As we neared the bottom of the canyon, the trout fishing stream wound its way in front of resorts, cabins, and inns set back from the road.  In several places flat, slate-gray rock ledges jutted up out of the clear blue water, forming areas for tourists to sunbathe as they sprawled on colorful beach towels and blankets.  Tall pinon pines towered above the road and the fragrance of the pine forest permeated the air and wafted in through the open car windows.  As we neared the base of the canyon, the picturesque town of Sedona came into view, the main street lined with art galleries, shops, and restaurants.  The courtyard in front of the adobe chapel surrounded a variety of small fountains and colorful gardens.

From Sedona we could look straight up to the top of the canyon, where we had started our descent a few hours previously.  I felt a sense of relief mingled with awe as we drove out of Sedona on less treacherous roads through the hot, desert sands of Arizona.

I’m not sure why anyone would care about my trip to Sedona, but I hope everyone has a place like this they can visit, even if only in their minds, when life gets a little rocky.  I wonder what places are on other people’s bucket lists.  I especially wonder if Sedona is on anyone else’s list of favorite places to find peace and beauty among the rough spots in our daily lives.

photo credit:  billandkent’s photostream