Monday, April 19, 2010

Another View From the Yellow Table

The snow falls gently on our mid-April landscape, melting quickly on the ground. Some crystals last longer, landing on cold wooden decking or nascent leaves at the tops of tall trees. We know that won't last, either, as the temperature climbs today and even more tomorrow.

From my chair at the newly-placed yellow table (it had been at the western wall of the living room for fifteen years; now it looks out the eastern windows of the dining room) I see the mound of the island covered by thick brown thatch of last year's luxuriant growth of new grass, seeded lovingly during the worst heat of August when we could still walk onto the island. No spring grass has shown through the thatch yet; we're reasoning that it will take the new spears more time and energy to get through last fall's unharvested hay.

We await its arrival, not wanting to have to seed that ground again. The opportunity will not present itself easily. We've no boat for reaching the island. Even if we could, we wouldn't want to disturb its peace just now, for a pair of Canada geese have been playing on the water, feeding and mating, and we suspect that they will tend a clutch of eggs on the island for the next month. We anticipate a line of goslings swimming after their parents in May.

Before the rearranging of dirt last August, when we celebrated our wedding with a rented excavator to dig the pond deeper, what we looked out on each day was more of a marsh, filled in with silt and grown over by aquatic plants. The island was not completely separated, and another goose couple lost its clutch of eggs to varmints that easily crossed over, on the prowl for just such tasty morsels as nearly-hatched goose eggs...dinner on the half crushed shell...and we were witnesses to the broken shells of the abandoned nest.

This is a new year, a new spring, with safe nesting places for geese, and mallards too, if they are not scared off by the larger geese who make a big noisy show if the ducks happen to appear. Another pond downstream is a good place to hang out, but has no island, no effective fortress for avoiding non-aquatic predators. The two breeds, goose and duck, will settle their conflict without our intervention, but still we watch with interest. Ducklings, too, make a nice picture out of the east windows.

Our resident red wing blackbird, affectionately named Rex, as he is clearly the king of most of the backyard for a month or two in the spring and summer, made an appearance last week. He is probably still fuming over the unavoidable loss, during the wedding excavation, of some of his favorite small trees. He delights in clicking at us, as we eat al fresco on a summer evening, from his many perches: bramble patch, apple tree, high up on the sycamore, guarding many nests, probably.

We have read about his promiscuous mating habits (a nest in every cattail clump, or something like that), which might upset some sensitive folk. Despite his philandering, he is a courageous mate with plenty of heart and chutzpah. It is Rex who flies high up and puts on an acrobatic show whenever a hawk comes by looking for an easy meal from a nest. Rex badgers any raptor who comes near, makes sure every nest and female is guarded. He is ever vigilant, a constant companion who is probably glad that we have no earth-moving machinery about the lawn this year. We have missed him.

At the farthest corner of my view from this table, I see the bubbling inlet, channeling water from the hills and springs upstream to keep our new, deeper pond full for ducks, geese, salamander, frogs, and feet that want to dip in cool water. Fingerling fish will slide down from the upper pond soon. Water that represents and overabundance will pour over the stone spillway built in the months after the wedding until the heavy rain of last October brought the water to its upper lip.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Eternity stretches on. I can faintly see the sphinx smiling her soft rubbed rock face at me through waves of brown blown sand.

She says, "Keep going even when it seems time will end. We felt it would end at other times, too. In the middle of a plague of locusts, and in the time of famine we sensed the end so near. When firstborns across the land died -- Aiee!-- parents knew the end had come, and yet they -- we -- lived on, survived for another generation, and another, building more monuments.

"Armies swept across the plains on strange animals and many were killed but many more went on to found a new people. Armies crossed oceans and sent their particular plagues out over a new land. Not all died. Those who lived became stronger and their blood flourished after them. Mighty machines, conceived and built by armies of people, have crashed, or have ground to a halt, yet the builders live on, as their children's children. Explosions mark the ground and then their effects disappear under the grass that eventually grows after every scorching.

"Shock and awe come and go with each new set of ideas, of weapons, of desires. Still humans walk about on the earth making messes, sometimes cleaning them up, forging new tools and breaking or discarding them, birthing babies and burying them at whatever age. Still the sun shines down, the wind blows, water flows from rock to river as this force, this life persists.

"We write down our thoughts about all these movements, all this chaos and disorder and fearful presence, and we are soothed or moved to action: both in the writing and the sharing with others. Through these words, spoken, written or preserved in bursts of electronic energy, we survive the most horrible deadly, fearful, even evil events. Just as you look now at the vastness of desert stretched before you, the human race stands before an eternity of ideas not yet expressed, ideas waiting for the one unique individual who will combine symbols in such a way that the wind will shift or subside, the sun's brightness will grow or diminish, the wave will ebb or flow further. Such is the power of the ideas in your mind that come to expression.

"Express them. Develop your skill at expressing them. Use that power that is otherwise locked in your brain to diminish the power of the fear you feel when you perceive darkness and sense the end times. Those are false perceptions. You can dispel those appearances, because you and your words can dispel the causes of such appearances of evil."

The sphinx ends her speech, her stone face becoming immobile once again, sand blowing around nostril and chin and curve of haunches with no visible effect.

Appearances are deceptive; things are not what they seem -- with words she has dispelled the hovering clouds of worry, the images of darkness that threaten my soul. With words she has encouraged me to take pen in hand, to assemble powerpoint presentation, to post and blog, publish and just write, write, every day generating two pages and then more, more each day. So many anxious clouds to dispel, so many actions to urge, to argue, to stop or start by the power of the right words to the right audience at just the right time.

Truth seldom presents a clear face to us, but rather a face worn by the power of age, veiled by shifting sand, eroded by trickling water, baked by sun. Heed the sphinx's words.