Friday, December 26, 2008

God's Reading List

Last spring, sometime around the end of March and beginning of April, I was driving home from work, full of the frustration and craziness of another working day, when it suddenly occurred to me that I was sick of my job, sick of the city and really quite sick of people. I was inspired to take a quick detour, stop at a bookstore, and pick up a copy of Walden: moving from the sudden thought of the book as perhaps having some answers for me to buying the book about fifteen minutes later.

Most of the time I feel like my life is a meaningless tangle of frustrated actions that are pretty much guided by nothing; but, occasionally there feels like there is another hand at work. That day in the spring was one of those days. The thought of Walden came out of nowhere and the need to go buy it and read it was strangely urgent, and I felt strangely present and awake during the whole process. Who knows if there is a God? Who knows what God is? I certainly don't know much, but I do know that going and buying that book that day felt divinely inspired and the the results of it have changed my life.

A book can change a person's lifeand Walden has certainly changed mine. It brought a keen awareness of nature into my life for the first time and it revealed to me a way of thinking that is utterly foreign to the culture I live in. Reading Thoreau lead me to other writers: Emerson, Annie Dillard, Stephen Graham, Edwin Way Teale and on and on until it started to feel like God was giving me a reading list specially designed to help me make my soul.

It's my plan to start including quotations from the writers on "God's Reading List" here. I will start at the start of it all with one from Thoreau:

"The very simplicity and nakedness of man's life in the primitive ages imply this advantage at least, that they left him still but a sojourner in nature. When he was refreshed with food and sleep he contemplated his journey again. He dwelt, as it were, in a tent in this world....but lo! We now no longer camp as for a night, but have settled down on earth and forgotten heaven."

Friday, December 19, 2008

Saturday, November 29, 2008


Cirrus clouds are the highest clouds. The name Cirrus means "lock of hair", but to me they look more like feathers than hair. The sky was full of Cirrus clouds today, different ones in each direction that I looked.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Cumulus Mediocris

Cumulus Mediocris are as tall as they are wide. These clouds don't cause precipitation.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Cumulus Humilis

Cumulus Humilis clouds are just one of the many types of Cumulus clouds. They are wider than they are tall and they do not cause precipitation.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Cubist Days

The building I spend my days working in is a 1,716,500 square foot, postmodern, modular, concrete structure.

The basic element of its design is the cube, which is most obvious when you look up at the fire-escape route schematics and see how the building is one cube abutted by another cube abutted by another cube and so on and so on.

When you are busy working it is not immediately clear that you are in a cube because all of the cubes have been endlessly subdivided. There is a main set of four hallways on each level and these four hallways form a perfect square linking all the cubes. Whatever square or rectangular room you happen to be in was reached through one of a seemingly endless series of identical corridors. It's hard to remember that you are in a box inside a cube inside another cube. It's both cubist and labyrinthine.

The building uses colour as one of the main orienting systems and you can tell where you are by the colour of your door: red section, blue section, yellow section, purple section.

There are also courtyards interspersed through out the building but we aren't allowed to use them - all the doors are locked and the courtyards are empty except for old concrete paving stones - but if you go up to one of the big courtyard windows, press your cheek against the glass and look up, you can see a small square of the sky.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Special Plates

Notice how each particle moves.
Notice how everyone has just arrived here
from a journey.
Notice how each wants a different food
Notice how the stars vanish as the sun comes up,
and how all the streams stream toward the ocean.

Look at the chefs preparing special plates
for everyone, according to what they need.
Look at this cup that can hold the ocean....

from "Special Plates"
by Rumi


Monday, November 10, 2008

Winter Blowing In

I woke up this morning to the first snowflakes of the year. They started slowly and meandered down like feathers, but within five minutes the wind was blowing so hard that the flakes were flying horizontally by my kitchen window. It was a winter wind and it kept blowing all day. You could see it in the clouds blowing past, see the different layers of cloud moving at different rates.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Cloud

I am the daughter of Earth and Water,
And the nursling of the Sky;
I pass through the pores of the ocean and shores;
I change but I cannot die.

from "The Cloud"
by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Sunday, October 26, 2008

North, South, East and West

This was the view at six o'clock tonight, looking in each of the four directions. There was also a rainbow in the south but I wasn't quick enough to catch it.
Looking up at the sky on any day reminds me of how much the world changes, from moment to moment, around me, but on days like today ... well what can I say. Change, beauty, power displayed differently every direction you turn your eyes. Here it is in order of North, South, East and West.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Last Clouds of the Day

Armada of Clouds

I think I'd like to make a photographic list of things I'm grateful for and fill the list with pictures of clouds in the sky. Today there was an endless procession of clouds marching across the sky like a great armada.

Walking Stick

Is he bug or is he twig?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Autumn Evening

Autumn evening
There's joy also
In loneliness

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Perfect Saturday

In her book Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard wrote about her childhood habit of hiding a penny along a sidewalk so that a passerby could find it. She goes on to say that the world is full of marvelous surprises (pennies) that we can find if we choose to look for them and see them as the gifts they are: "There are lots of things to see, unwrapped gifts and free surprises. The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside from a generous hand."

All I needed to do today was look up and there was my unwrapped gift, my "penny" from heaven, waiting for me in the sky. There is something beautiful happening in nature every single moment of every single day but if I want to be rewarded with these gifts, I have to be willing to open up my eyes.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Ramble in the Woods

Today I went for a ramble in the woods. I left work and got in my car, drove out of the city and into the country, away from the world of work and people and expectations and into my own world -- the world of the self and solitude. I came home. Trees are beginning to change colour, starting with yellows and pale oranges and browns; that distinctive wet leaf and mud smell of autumn has returned.

Change is everywhere. Everything is in a heightened state of flux. Some of the trees still have the look of summer, but some already have the deep reds of autumn. The trail was muddier than it was in the summer. It was quieter, too. The sky was a volatile mix of dark and light, sun and clouds, summer and winter. Looking to the west I saw a huge storm cloud obscuring the sun and, when I looked to the east, I could see a sky that was as blue as a summer day. I stood halfway, with my camera, and felt the wind blow one sky into the other

Sometimes I think God speaks to me through the desires and impulses of my spirit. Today that impulse was to get out, get moving and get into nature. I don't know why I so often ignore God's voice because God always knows what I need better than I do. Today the need was clearly to be outside, to not only see and accept the constant change in the world but to also acknowledge the beauty in it.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Autumn Skies

The morning sky.

Two Autumns

I took a friend to the bus station last night. She's headed way down south for a month and it's not just any vacation or tourist adventure-- it's a long overdue change of venue that she's been looking forward to for months. She was so nervous and so excited that it was contagious -- I almost felt like I was going away, too. She said it was 30 degrees where she was going. It's 15 degrees here! My favourite Haiku poet said it best:
I go,
you stay;
two autumns
-Buson -
It drizzled all night long and is dark and overcast today. When I went out to fill the bird feeders all the grass, the flowers, shrubs and weeds were covered in tiny beads of water. The world was alive and exhilarating. The corn is fading and drying, the flowers in the garden have put out the last of their blooms and everything is vivid.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Sunset View

In this journey through the clouds, I want to begin where I am. I live in an area that is rich with sunsets, and though I've always given them a quick and passing admiration, I've never taken the time to really look at them or watch them change. I've spent so much of my life either looking down or looking away, that I've managed to miss most of the beauty of the world. This past summer things began to change for me and I began to finally see the beauty in nature, especially the beauty in the sky; I began to look up and I began to see.

This is what I saw when I looked up tonight.