Land Lines is pleased to share the following guest blog post from Christine Morro, made up of field notes and images inspired by her visits to Sagg Pond, Long Island.
Sagg Pond is the southernmost link in a chain of glacial ponds on the eastern end of Long Island. Groundwater streams in from Solomon Creek at its northeastern edge. Pulses of sea water from the Atlantic wash naturally over the sandy beach merging with pond’s freshwater. When the narrow stretch of shoreline is open to the ocean, a let, the pond mirrors the ocean tides. It is dynamic, never fixed, a sustained integrity attracting wildlife and shorebirds that probe the mudflats in search of small mollusks. Along the shore, stands of Phragmites reach skyward. Their velvety seed heads sway in the wind. Here the propensity of meaningful utterance. Birdsong blends with reedsong. We witness again red-wing blackbirds enlivening the brittle stems of the reeds in early March. Great Blue Heron and Belted Kingfisher endure the harsh winter months. Come late October witness Ruddy Ducks, Bufflehead and Merganser. By mid-April elegant White Egrets return. In the refrain of nature alewives are running and so the Osprey follow.
THE WAY IN
We can enter landscape through authority, arrogance, wounding —
We can enter through inquiry, curiosity, innocence and beauty.
To enter landscape as with entering the human heart requires humility
humility derived from humus meaning earth, ground
To enter landscape ~
An invitation — we recognize kinship
Awake as WATER, REEDS, KINGFISHER, WIND swell, WING snap, BIRD song
I began coming to Sagg Pond in 2012. I was seeking the way in —
My imagination influenced by the textures and forms of the landscape surrounding Sagg Pond, by the precision of flight of migrating geese, the patience of the Great Blue Heron, in the midst of this complex dynamic of a brackish pond.
Radiance is life, taken by wildness and beauty, a part of nature’s refrain
I am possessed by Sagg Pond.
Introduced to the work of photographer Edward Steichen…he was possessed by light…by the liminal transitions of the day….dawn and dusk — a certain mystery the paradox of translucency and opaqueness.
Stirred by a resonance and awareness that connects to something ancient.
In the twilight just before daybreak with notebook, pen and camera I cycle two miles to Sagg Pond.
Landscape leads outward. I as witness.
Landscape leads inward to the self. We internalize the landscapes we live and love
and sometimes the two are one.
Excerpts from Sagg Pond Notebooks
As night shifts layer by layer and the sun’s first glow spreads across the horizon — Sagg Pond awakens. 5:45 a.m early April
From the silence and pregnant stillness of dawn Herons wings meet air, a strange croaking sound accompanies his sudden departure. He lets out another frawnk suspended momentarily between heaven and earth. Here at the seam of day and night…light enters
The soft band of buttery light that stretches across from the east to the west broadens. I can hear the ocean.
Many times I have been too eager — arriving with compressing expectation —rarely do i see, rarely can i receive.
I slow down, dropping the expectation to be wowed.
The slow unfolding of life on S P and all its magic reveals itself – wonder, a repeating grace
“To join the larger moment with the world” – Gary Snyder
Cycling, late January. The temperature dips below freezing. Dawn held by a soft pink light. I want to maintain this luminous, spare quality as I approach Sagg Pond. Embody this silence, a prerequisite for invitation, passage and entrance.
A mellow drama unfolds in the small quiet hours of morning. The tracery of passage. An animal’s tracks made during the night.
A delicate calligraphy extends across the ponds frozen surface.
Attention is a form of prayer ~
A cold morning Sagg Pond.
My arrival breaks the holy silence. Great Blue Heron moves westward on slow deep wingbeats.
For a moment there is a sense of emptiness. A diminishing. I refocus as if adjusting a lens and begin to see again. Despite the absence of Great Blue I feel the aliveness. The clouds like sea anemones spreading tentacles across the sky.
Once, Only Once
The word ichi-go comes from the ancient Japanese proverb ichi-go ichi, meaning “one lifetime, one encounter”
Kingfisher poised on a mooring. The cold holds tight to the landscape. Moon edging closer to full. 8 a.m. sun low in the sky casts a mellow bronze light over the reeds. At what point does Autumn let go and Winter exhale into being. Where will I be in that moment?
Kingfisher releases from his post, circling above the surface. His abrupt rattling voice escorts us deeper into this kingdom. 12.20.18
The passage of seasons
entrance, mutuality, reciprocity.
The Osprey are long gone.
returning, here on the circumference at the edge of the world.
Cold enlivens morning
Time moving so slowly the way i imagine water moves as it is freezing. Trust yourself to the moment, to these vast blue skies.
Sagg Pond meets the waters of the Atlantic crossing the boundary into the exquisite realm of wildness.
“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper” – Yeats
here something small but infinite
in the wild grasses the impression of deer
here is where they had passed the night
Sagg Pond 6.13.17 early morning
Osprey, citizens of air, water, earth.
Drawn into its world hooked by the beauty of wing-flap and then effortless majestic sky circles.
I am pulled outward, dropping in. A turtle slips into the dark waters of Sagg Pond. With each expanding ripple I send an apology for disturbing this dear being. The reeds a dense bed made of slender bodies part of this aggregate of sibilant voices in the morning breeze. Late spring.
The sun intense before 9 am and yes, stillness supports right relationship with wildness. To listen, bear witness, attend and somehow speak for beings who don’t have words. The gentle drifting of sweet perfume ~ small, white five petalled beach roses. By next week their delicate scent will fade, even sour…a part of the cycle, a circular way that affirms the refrain of nature. Entering, accepting, letting go effortlessly and sometimes not so. In these brownish green waters – dark here, translucent there the morning sun revealing all of the ponds tender flaws. Dappled highlights send a twinkling on the wind ~ a thousand reflecting solar bodies.
The pond contains an underside, a beneath – the unseen world, spawning growth, a kingdom of unnamed things…this world also carries us.
The striking red amulet of the black-bird brings me back above surface into the landscape of blue and green – inspired and inclined upward.
Waking up dropping into the grace of noble egret – Alert! Long neck stretched outward on an angle of huntress she embodies not aggression, nor violence but the precision of this present moment. Only that which is essential. She strikes the water. I cannot see if its success, if she will swallow the wild mind of morning whole.
Fog masks pond, time, sky.
The land not yet fitting into the idea of form. Space liminal.
Something breaks the mirror-like surface of Sagg Pond. The movement speaks grace, not hurried but intent on passage. Who are you? You who travels Sagg Pond has not wing. Muskrat? A sleek Mink?
The temperature in the air, warp of cold winter with the weft of coming spring. To the east Sagg Pond lidded with ice. The reeds still. Ocean silent.
As morning breaks witness the landscape coming into form. Just beyond Sagg Pond Whites Field lies fallow.
The latch on the old horse stable not locked. I haven’t entered since the closing ceremony, a respectful bidding goodbye to what was our former zendo. A bow. The same bow I make before leaving Sagg Pond. I head southward. The author, naturalist and zen priest Peter Matthiessen turned the former stable into a place to meditate. The black robes of monks swishing as we moved mindfully in kinhin. Walking meditation ~ the expression like the graceful passage of geese.
“It is finished in beauty
In beauty may I walk
All day long may I walk
Through the returning seasons, may I walk”
– excerpt from a Navajo Prayer
May we remember ~
by Christine Morro – Writer, Photographer, Printmaker, Earth Guardian
I am interested in place
The language of wild places
I am drawn into what my eyes see and what is not visible to the eye
A tree has shape and form. It has rhythm that is connected to the movement of wind, of the waters that flow and the bird that passed a moment ago
My work honors presence and the animistic quality of Earth. It is a celebration of where the soles of my feet touch and what my eyes see
It is commitment, it is love, it is passionate reverence
All photos author’s own, used with permission