But I cant stop now
A shallow copper bowl rests on a white birch stump left behind after the ice storm killed the tree. It was a crow tree, where princelings came to find food and water, watched clouds gather over the butte, and bickered from the branches. From the birch outpost, the crows defended their rookery from red-tailed hawks and falcons, while providing cover to the neighborhood doves and chickadees.
During the August moon, young crows audition before their elders stationed at the top of nearby oaks to compete for their place in the tribe: scout, gleaner, nanny, or warrior. Some rare years convocation arrives, a great gathering of the entire clan called together. Perhaps they are summoned to mourn the passing of their Queen and anoint a new one, perhaps to draw new boundaries, affirm alliances, or arrange marriages. When the full August moon sets the morning after the assembly, the raucous cawing chorus across the valley falls silent. The ritual ends.
The copper bowl weathered to a green patina. It balances aslant on the thumbprint-ringed stump tipping down the hill. It is dry by morning, the bottom scattered with tiny locust leaves, wind-blown fluff. The basin catches plunked rain drops, arcs of water raised over blown snapdragons, misty rainbows shed from dark rhododendron leaves. The water-filled bowl reflects the waxing moon when she is nearly full and Venus when she sets as evening star.
The surface is still, yet to gaze beneath is to read ripples stirring under water just as old glass moves and flows in thickened panes set in ancient window frames. Under water, through the glass, there is harlequin and halfling, spokes of ever-turning wheels and swords set in stone; there is blood for certain bled from both birth and murder, Kraken storms at sea and high castrato hymns, ribbon streamers dyed with elixir distilled from violets and roses, endless seasons of windfall fruit from heirloom apple. To scry is to watch as a windowpane, seeing both forward and backward, time ever present and ever spiraling, but it is not a threshold to walk. There is no door.
“Had a dream
You and me and the war at the end times
And I believe
California succumbed to the fault line
We heaved relief
As scores of innocents died”
Pea vines gone to paper, I pulled them this morning and sorted through the last snaps: supple green steamed for supper, coarse corky pods spread to dry for seed.
Four head of lettuce pulled before bolting, leaves stripped, washed, waiting ready for the bowl.
In March there was only wanting, only walking, planting seed and trusting because there was nothing else to believe.
What to do with this knowledge that our living is not guaranteed?
The corner of the top deck leads south-southwest, a prow of an old sailing ship leaning into harbor. I drink morning coffee under the awning, even in the winter, even with my down coat zipped and a slippery mug gripped by fingerless gloves. Unless there is typhoon, when even the crows and jays are grounded, and instead I pace at the window.
Barefoot on soft cotton July mornings, the plants that wintered the darkness flower and tiny seeds planted in April now sprout fruit. A chorus of black-eyed susans lean and nod as I tell them secrets learned during the night. Outside the kitchen door are pots of dill, parsley, tarragon, thyme, mint, and oregano. Rosemary is wild and refuses to be bound. She grows in the ground, tosses her hair against typhoon.
In March there was nothing but bones.
Perhaps we are only the reflected magic of what we cultivate, a passing breath blown on a silver mirror. Cross Quarter Day comes, a reef to bank and tack against, halfway between solstice and equinox, the feast of first fruits. In other years there would be fairs, music and contests, and young couples hand-fasting, but not this year. This year we offer up the grain on a solitary alter after Lugh of the long hand.
Days grow shorter. Light leaks away more spilling sand.
It’s nearly my birthday
A found poem:
What’s hilarious about covid, whether youre antivaxx, anti-mask, believe its a hoax, believe somehow you’re special and exempt cause 1% and all and no one you know has it…
…Thing is. Whether it’s your family members, loved ones, friends, everyone you interact with even for two seconds, or just someplace you just placed your wee little hand. Whether you’re high up in life or down in the streets. Don’t matter. There’s no hiding from this game. You don’t know how many of them right now are rolling that pair of dice. Over. And. Over. And the funny part. They won’t know if they’ve won.
Just imagine it. You walk in the house. The entire family is sitting at the kitchen table. Rolling dice
My father still lives in the house I grew up in, lives alone since my mother died twenty years ago. For twenty years, Dad kept the last Mother’s Day fuchsia I gave her alive until the old knot of roots finally failed. I repotted it twice, each time doubtful. He brought it inside each winter, placing a plastic yellow bucket underneath to catch the watering runoff. I cut stems before it faltered, grew new roots, grew two new plants. It’s not the same, I know. It’s something.
We might save our lives but not our flagrancy.
Dad finds dogs on sale with varying outcomes, lost causes in need of rescue and rehabilitation, German Shorthair or Brittany Spaniels. Emmy is the prize. He found Ben up the valley on a farm, a food- jealous, resource-guarding bright Puck unable to make eye contact.
I started him on a leash around the little block of the old neighborhood using Mercy’s hefty retractable that we run through fields after pheasant scent, though Ben is half her size. (You can never be a bigger asshole than from the beginning.) I landed him like a Chinook at the end of the line when he bolted. Then we talked.
For two years Ben and I walked the old neighborhood, under old trees with leaves and without, in rain and fog and steaming July heat.
A woman we met walking told him he carries Buddha’s thumbprint on his forehead.
Another woman gave him a plaid bandana to wear around his neck.
Ben catches my scent out back when I tend Dad’s garden and calls for me to come, it’s time to walk.
“This harmful road into the New World, quickly became a ruthless, angry search for wealth. It set a tone in the Americas. The quest for personal possessions was to be, from the outset, a series of raids, irresponsible and criminal, a spree, in which an end to it–the slaves, the timber, the pearls, the fur, the precious ores–was never visible, in which an end had no meaning.”
–Barry Lopez, The Rediscovery of North America
Barry Lopez lives upriver, below Sahalie and Koosah, close by the landing at Finn Rock. I believed it was mine, this river; these were my own moss ferned trails down to rock and rapid. I read Lopez’s River Notes.
Each spring I ranged over stone deltas along the river channels to study the flow, after winter floods remapped the current, before wading into the water and letting snow melt wash me down stream. The black dogs walked up river beside me and then floated along behind, waves of August bleaching the bend where we would land.
I was young and proud in presumptive possession, but long years teach, even if one does not learn: I belong to the river, bearing the same nativity as heron or trout, not the other way around.
A green university town, emptied of students in March, ordered under curfew two nights, a text alert announcing the second restriction was delivered eight minutes after it was already being enforced. Windows broken in Starbucks; fires set.
Traffic stopped Sunday over the Ferry Street Bridge, made way for crowds marching north to the river front park, mostly masked and carrying signs, a young woman riding her small gait horse bareback, so many people so close together after so many weeks, panting for breath.
“We would have to memorize and remember the land, walk it, eat from its soils and from the animals that ate its plants. We would have to know its winds, inhale its airs, observe the sequence of its flowers in the spring and the range of its birds…To be intimate with the land like this is to enclose it in the same universe we occupy, to include it in the meaning of the word community.”
Craving early bitter greens, pea shoots and breakfast radishes, roots and leaves, first spears of mint and feathered dill fronds, thick red rhubarb stalks sliced and simmered in cinnamon, mossy handfuls of parsley, spinach and early arugula, of earth, from earth.
Recite the alphabet, a silent sing-song recitation, roll hands one over sudsy other, digits and thumb, up the wrist, rinsing and turning. Zed. Omega. I try it backwards. At night, when the doors are locked and the shades drawn, I rub ointment into my knuckles.
Water makes small choices; a pebble might turn a flood.
Raccoons wash their food, roll muddy tubers and tuna fish sandwiches one paw over the other down on rocks next to the stream. They dip digits in a can of stolen shortening and gobble handfuls of greasy fat, sneak into the house through the cat door and look for crackers in the cupboard, a time after Rogue died and before Mercy was whelped.
I faced a raccoon nearly as big as the dogs, spit-sapping shock at the size of it, looking for a weapon without shifting focus away, settling for the broom at hand. It came in June to pluck ripe strawberries along with the crowns. I let it.
A group of raccoons is called a gaze. After dusk one summer night, a gaze in the neighbor’s backyard killed their cat while they stood at the door and flicked the porch lights on and off and, stamping wailing thrashing, watched.
Hail comes to hammer the gutters, applause of thunder, rivulets run down the roof of the shed and pool in the strawberry bed.
Water makes small choices.