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Wednesday, May 7, 2008


A busy fish today. He has jumped—a fat, plopping sound—twice in five minutes and, of course, gives me no warning beforehand so that I can see him. He disappears so quickly. And I, immersed in Rudolf Otto’s The Idea of the Holy, can only hear him. Why do fish jump?

I suspect True Heat begins today with the predicted 88 degrees and I hold out slight hope for more days like yesterday and earlier, days of sunshine and cool breezes, and low humidity. I was close enough to last year’s Bugaboo Fire that I now realize low humidity has its downside, but only an idiot could fail to appreciate these glorious green and gold days of new growth on every limb and branch along which caterpillars—yellow and orange, horned and not—creep, the cries of birds both far and near, the house of twigs hanging from the nearest palmetto frond.

I must sound like I’m on vacation, sitting here with binoculars, books, and coffee, writing it all down, even the small olive lizard who has stopped before me and marvelously inflates the orange goiter on his throat as though to warm me the hawk is coming, the river will rise, this ethereal weather will wane. Why am I writing all this down, anyway?

I describe this scene because doing so intensifies its effect. Putting it on paper mirrors the inscription of it on my brain, which is why I scribble. This is the reason I encourage others to write. Doing so brings the sharp tips of the palmetto’s fans into focus as I look more closely. It sharpens my hearing so that I know a bee approaches, though it is still out of view Here comes an interesting bird, batting its white wings, a bird with a voice like a slide guitar—more than one long note, something more complicated, bluesy.

I got interrupted, reading the Otto book. Found it pretty dense and, anyway, isn’t it possible either that everything is holy or nothing is?

Last night I saw a wild hare in the driveway, also one on the county paved road. This evening I went out onto the deck just before dark, sat down, and observed directly in my line of sight a female deer, frozen in position on the opposite side of the river. She stared at me for all of 30 seconds, then snorted and flew, springing from one place to another in leaps that took her six feet off the ground.

Now I am working on “pupa” and “chrysalis.” I am trying to find out what creature lives in the minute twig basket that dangles from the very tip of a palmetto’s frond here at the edge of the deck.


Sunday, May 4, 2008

Blue Needle


Beside the deck where I am drinking coffee, a fish jumps. Across the way, a blue needle of a bird appears on the opposite bank, stalking deliberately along, one slow step at a time. He could be counting steps, but he is staring steadily at the water. As though he has just heard “about left,” he turns, dimples the water with his bill, stands straight, shakes his feathered head, threads his way between the roots of a cypress tree, and resumes his march. When I move, he rises into the sky, curves over me, and flies away. I go inside for a second cup of coffee, come back with binoculars just as the bird’s double appears, flying upriver, wings beating, black head pointed straight east.

At this early moment of the day it is near-wondrous to picture the hours ahead as fully conscious ones, gifts as pristine as the white beach Blue Needle strides along, as mysterious as the furred caterpillar climbing my chair’s front leg toward a destiny he is not thinking of, lost as he is in the moment. What I don’t like to slip into is the unconscious part, when the brain goes numb with clerical tasks and I plod on, forcing myself to complete paperwork, slit anonymous envelopes, record information while the day drops away; it happens. Just as any friendship is forever informed by one’s initial impression, this one morning on the deck plays within the context of mornings that have gone before. The birds’ medley twists through these newly green trees, knotted with the all the dancing lights, squirrels, otters, and fish I've seen over more than ten years.

I sit on, under the delicate, white bells of the Highbush Blueberry, Vaccinium Corymbosum, surrounded by a United Nations of birds: “I told, I told you, I told you” says one and, hardly audible, an answer comes-- “Wait, wait, wait,” followed by the sharp warning of a red-tailed hawk as his shadow crosses the deck. The birds keep on, sprinkling their songs through bushes and trees.

The second fish of the day jumps, and circles within circles appear, casting mirror-like shadows onto the lowest limbs of the trees leaning out over the river. There goes Blue Needle, headed south, one step at a time. At the foot of the bank a wild dark wisteria twists its way toward a hummingbird. The river is low, maybe at about 52’, not worrisome at all (since 77' is flood stage). The relative humidity is the lowest it’s been this year; this is Eden, you understand, Eden where leaves of plants I could label pinnate, palmate, bipinnate, and tripinnate flourish between my chair and the river. One of this morning’s messengers, a small dark bird with a black bill, appears. He is unknown to me, nameless. I wish I knew his name but I can’t throw nets of words over every single aspect of Nature. And perhaps that’s a good thing.