Sunday, March 25, 2012

Where the Lawn Meets the Meadow

Spring is here and the red-winged blackbirds have returned, having arrived outside my kitchen window some time last week. They fly to the feeder every morning, flaunting their red and yellow shoulder pads, then leave it to the finches and several others that congregate there for the remainder of the day, not returning until early evening.

Several trumpeter swans flew over again yesterday followed by sandhill cranes, too high to see beneath a gray flannel sky, but not so much that I couldn't hear their distinctive sound. And last night, just after dark, I stepped out onto the porch in time to hear Canada geese passing overhead. I could almost feel their wings pressing them onward through the night.

The deer have gotten a little braver and I now see them browsing in the backyard just before sunup. Their droppings in the meadow behind the house, along with signs of a red fox I believe may be living nearby, have been joined recently by fresh bear scat. The path that the animals all seem to use behind the house, where the lawn meets the meadow, have more than a few indications of its return.

Buddy and I continue to take our walks in the meadow, then follow the fence line looking for crows in the field and on through the plantation of smaller Norway pines, most of which are now between fifteen and twenty feet high. They form a nice canopy for the deer where they bed down at night. I love seeing those little ovals of grass formed by their warm bodies. When the smallest of the ovals show up, I know that fawns have been born. I can well imagine the protection the small family of deer provides for them in case the coyotes venture too near. They all seem to have developed a respect for one another, no signs of otherwise, so I will continue to see it that way and hope they will, too.

Spring also means a return to yard work, but my friend, Anne Robey, from New Mexico, suggested we see this ongoing work as the work of eternity, which is really suggesting we keep it in the now, all that really exists. Having no constraints of time, except those we foolishly impose upon ourselves, allows us to let go with no expectation of anything but our growing awareness of the ever-unfolding beauty all around us.

Our mutual friend, Jamie Ross, an uncommonly fine poet, wrote last evening of his impending return from San Miguel de Allende to the cold, clear waters of the Vallecitos River that runs through the Carson National Forest near his home. He wrote of listening to our instincts and allowing the form of our writing to simply emerge. It's the season of returning.

For the past few days, I've had a song stuck in my head, a song from my much younger days, when George Jones was on every jukebox, as well as our turntable at home. I've been singing it to Buddy and, so far, he hasn't started howling. He has, however, spent an inordinate amount of time out on the porch. I'll spare you my version. Here's George:

Monday, March 12, 2012

Pink Lightning Over the San Juan

In the spring of 2001, JB and I were exploring the southwest, living out of a van and trying to keep from doing each other bodily harm. We'd spent the day on Cedar Mesa before heading to the Mokee Dugway, a dirt road (not for the faint of heart) that snakes its way along the edge of the mesa and down to the Valley of the Gods below. We'd taken this road many times and each time we said, 'Never again.'  But, there we were, arguing over who would drive and who would ride shotgun. Truth be told, I like to drive. And, if we were to go over the edge, I'd have no one to blame but myself.

Eventually, we arrived at the bottom, all in one piece, then took a break to check out a habitation site JB had spotted from above. In canyon country, that's what riding shotgun is all about, spotting habitation sites and the ruins of cliff dwellings tucked into canyon walls. He's better at it than I am. But then, he's had more practice.

Note: JB has been living in Moab, Utah for five and a half years now. During this time, he's been on 423 day hikes - he's a Virgo, he keeps track - several of them ten miles long. This is in Canyon Country. And he's almost 65 (he told me I could say that). Darn his desert hide.

Back to my story ...

A little further down the highway that runs through this valley, there's a side road which leads to Goosenecks State Park. There, at an overlook, the San Juan River winds through a gorge with a view that's almost a mirror image of the beautiful and breathtaking road we'd just come down. We arrived late in the evening, in time to take a look before dusk settled in.

Aerial View of the San Juan, not at all unlike the Mokee Dugway.

We walked down a small, rocky path leading to a ledge and a somewhat closer view of the river. One could say we like living on the edge, or our version of it, anyway. While we were there, a storm started brewing. We could see it developing on the mesa across the river and, despite having some concerns, decided to watch for a few minutes. Awestruck by the pink lightning (that might be a poor choice of words), we stood there a bit longer than wisdom would dictate, proving Mr. Shakespeare right:  "What fools these mortals be."

Hugging the rock wall, we followed the path back to the top as quickly as that path would allow. By this time, we could feel our skin starting to tingle from the electrically charged air. Once we were safely ensconced in the car, we sat in silence and watched as, all across the distant mesa, deep pink lightning flashed again and again and again, against the darkening sky.

P.S. Today would have been Jack Kerouac's birthday.  You might think me mad (I won't refute it), but, sometimes, I feel as though he's here and we silently talk. Today, I touched a book of his poetry and ... I started to cry. I heard him say, "You can cry a thousand tears, sweetie, and it's still going to be just perfect."

 Images from Google, unattributed.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Standing in Awe of the World

For the past couple of weeks I've been feeling a call to spend even more time in the quiet of life, thinking less, reading less, speaking less. I even told a friend while visiting on the phone, "I'm tired of hearing my own voice. I find myself wanting to be still, to just listen and witness, to simply be present to the beauty of this world."

Last Sunday morning, as I was walking to the kitchen to put the coffee on, I paused at the living room window to look out and see what new tracks had been left in the freshly-fallen snow. Every day I'm rewarded with a variety of fresh animal tracks showing me they've been here but have become rather surreptitious in their timing. Which is to say, when Buddy's sleeping. In that moment I was able to condense this wish for quiet witnessing of the world into a simple phrase or two asking for more opportunities.

A short while later, I could hear something calling in the distance. Knowing there was no time to waste I flew out the front door and quickly rounded the corner of my house. There they were, coming towards me right above the treetops: six trumpeter swans moving as one, trumpeting as they passed. Their beautiful white wings against the deep blue sky seemed to be moving to the rhythm of life itself.  I stood in the snow, watching.  As they flew past me and down the driveway I could see their black bills, a flicker or two of their tongues as they called out, their black feet tucked in and held steady. And then, those luminous wings banked to the left and followed the river, in a perfect triangle of light.

Friend, you have read enough.
If you desire still more,
Then be the poem yourself,
And all that it stands for. 

~ Angelus Silesius  (1624-1677),  from The Cherubinic Wanderer

The photograph, taken yesterday, is of the river that runs along the edge of my home here at Lonewolf.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

"I Won't Abandon Him to Mortality"

It seems like a lifetime ago, when I danced to the music of the Monkees in our high school gymnasium. I was wearing a plum colored, "poor boy" sweater, with plum and pink, windowpane checked bell bottoms, an image that has inexplicably remained with me for a long time now.

You've probably heard that Davy Jones, one of the Monkees, passed on a few days ago. As these things go, the news brings with it reactions from those closest to him, or most often associated. So, we heard from Mickey Dolenz, Peter Tork, and Michael Nesmith, his fellow Monkees. I've been an ongoing fan of Michael's and am especially fond of his beautiful and haunting song, "Joanne," something I've written about previously. I was struck by his statement regarding Davy Jones' passing, which seems to mirror my own thoughts about this thing we call death. Michael Nesmith's statement:

"While it is jarring, and sometimes seems unjust, or strange, this transition we call dying and death is a constant in the mortal experience that we know almost nothing about. I am of the mind that it is a transition and I carry with me a certainty of the continuity of existence. While I don't exactly know what happens in these times, there is an ongoing sense of life that reaches in my mind out far beyond the near horizons of mortality and into the reaches of infinity. That David has stepped beyond my view causes me the sadness that it does many of you. I will miss him, but I won't abandon him to mortality. I will think of him as existing with the animating life that insures existence. I will think of him and his family with that gentle regard in spite of all the contrary appearances on the mortal plane. David's spirit and soul live well in my heart, among all the lovely people, who remember with me the good times, and the healing times, that were created for so many, including us. I have fond memories. I wish him safe travels."

Closely tied to this memory of dancing to "I'm a Believer," is another memory, a gift I received from my mother about the time of that school dance. There was a store in the small mid-western town I grew up near, just north of where I'm now living. It had a soda fountain with tourist items in front, along with some magazines and books. A gift area, with slightly higher-priced items, was towards the back. Occasionally, I would wander through that part of the shop and sometimes a particular object would catch my eye. It was on one such visit that a vase, sitting on a glass shelf, captured my attention. I recall standing in front of it, admiring it - the colors, the shape, its smooth hand-painted exterior - imagining how it would feel tucked into the crook of my arm, as though it might contain my secrets, my dreams, the things I held close to my heart. I came back to re-visit it more than once.

My mother knew the woman who owned the store (this was a very small town), and would herself shop there from time to time. Perhaps my mother asked her if there was something I had been admiring, perhaps this woman offered what she knew. Either way, it became my gift for my sixteenth birthday. That this woman would be paying attention and be able to offer this information to my mother, that she cared enough to do so, well, how wonderful is that?

I still have it, carefully packing it for every move that came my way in life. It now sits on an upper shelf of my bookcase where it might well remain for a very long time to come. For some reason, it's been crossing my mind lately, the memory associated with it, the love that my mother brought to her gift-giving, the care with which she selected each of them.

A few weeks back, I came across a poem by the 15th century Indian saint and mystic poet, Kabir. Although the clay jug is referring to the universal memories we all share and carry inside of us - the canyons and mountains, the stars and the oceans, the universe itself - I keep coming back to the vase my mother bought for me and what it means, this vase I can see but really lives here, inside of me.

"The Clay Jug"

Inside this clay jug
there are canyons and
pine mountains,
and the maker of canyons
and pine mountains!

All seven oceans are inside, and
hundreds of millions of stars.

The acid that tests gold is there, and
the one who judges jewels.

And the music
that comes from the strings
that no one touches,
and the source of all water.

If you want the truth, I will tell you the truth:
Friend, listen: the God whom I love is inside.

~ Kabir

Thank you to Tony Zimnoch for introducing this poem to me through one of his posts: