Tuesday, January 15, 2013

One Brilliant Day

The stratus prevailed.

This morning, half the sky was an amazing flying circus of cirrus clouds, swooshing this way and that, combining with altocumulus in a holy mackerel circus, and even jollying a pallet of gray cirrostratus undulatus. It was quite a show at eight a.m., and the sky was a wide-eyed arena of barnum and bailey blue. I was glad I'd given in and driven Matt to school just to see that madcap chalkboard from a stoplight ringside seat.

But now it's three twenty-three and the sky is all pale gray, all stratus, vast as an elephant's backside. Betokening change. The meteorologists can read the signs. The rest of us are dumbfounded gawkers and sky illiterates, except for a field guide knowledge of the basic Latin names paired with a page of photos. Except those don't show the change, and weather is an ocean of change. An ocean of Chang. A sea surface full of changes, like that great poem by Wallace Stevens, "Sea Surface Full of Clouds."

Yesterday's notes:  

The thaw continueth. Must be close to sixty today. We are 
grinning our way into global warming like frogs admiring the roomy quarters of an alligator's maw. 

Me too. I've got my soup and corn muffin outside of Jam 'n 
Java on a picnic table for all to see as an advertisement of the day. Though someone might justly tell me, "Don't encourage it." Like the mother I passed on the bike path who was telling her child: "Old Man Winter says, 'It's not time for spring 
flowers!' "  Which in turn reminds me of a line in a poem by 
Antonio Machado, translated by Robert Bly. It's the last line:

The Wind, One Brilliant Day     
The wind, one brilliant day, called to my soul with an odor of jasmine. 'In return for the odor of my jasmine, I'd like all the odor of your roses.' 'I have no roses; all the flowers in my garden are dead.' 'Well then, I'll take the withered petals and the yellow leaves and the waters of the fountain.' the wind left. And I wept. And I said to myself: 'What have you done with the garden that was entrusted to
Have we woken our garden up when it should be sleeping?
Will the four inches of snow
tomorrow lull it back to sleep?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Nature calls

Maybe I'm ready to visit here again. I'm missing nature. In a dream, a tiny ocelot causes mayhem. In my real day, a goose stumbles. And my friend Marjie sent me a poem by Robert Frost that begins:

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain -- and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

So here are two to slide into the new year.

Dream Menagerie

In my dreams, it’s the fierce hawk in the tree and the lion trying to get in the window. It’s an elusive spring trove of songbirds or migrating flocks like a windstorm of leaves. There are vermin—mice in the kitchen, fearsome insects in terrariums. And wolf packs, large herbivores, even giant yeti-like humanoids. All, I suppose, are my personal fauna: the nature I used to pursue like an ardent suitor, trying to decode its inscrutable messages; the predatory obligations that pursue me through life; the physical world itself of which I am an atomic anatomic reorganization.  

Last night it was a tiny ocelot chasing I’m not sure what, a rodent or a bird, moving unbelievably fast around a wooded backyard similar to the one of my childhood in Connecticut. My sympathies were with the prey, but the little ocelot, no bigger than a finger puppet, matched it twist for twist, turn for turn, finally catching up with it on the branch of a bare tree that came crashing down.

This was deeply upsetting to the hostess of the party and lady of the house. These were her rare and precious trees. Somehow I was to blame; I and others had released the tiny ocelot, had not reckoned on its destructive ferocity. But the dream was also about creating.  In attendance at this party—the guest of honor—was my mentor, Frederick Busch (novelist and former teacher of mine who died seven years ago). We talked. He urged me to become a tavernier, a tavern poet. (This troubadour, never before named—a kind of folk/Beat bard of coffee shops—has been appearing regularly in my dreams for the past year or two.)

Trying to be a tavernier is what I am doing here, I suppose: releasing the little ocelot, to see what happens.


The Indecisive Goose

Gray day today. January thaw. Snow shrinking to blebs. I go out on my bike to drop off a bag of bottlecaps (dials for prop washing machines in my son’s play). That done, I ride home along the Mystic River.

15 Canada geese grazing the riverbank between the muddy path I’m on and the roadway. They mainly ignore me, with a few periscope necks popping up now and then: the designated sentinels. One lone goose in the river is coming ashore. I walk my bike ahead to give it room, then look back. It doesn’t join the others but hangs out on the shore. Then I see it stumble and half roll down the stony bank! Never saw a bird lose its balance before. It returns to water, perhaps to restore its dignity. Then it makes for shore again, steps over the small rocks, meaning to join the others, maybe. Who knows? Anyway, thinks better, goes back to water, swims one way, then another, in an indecisive circle. Two geese come flying down to the river with some ado. To help? Harrass? Neither. Splashing down, one of the new geese honks repeatedly from further downstream and I turn to see the rest of the gaggle of geese filing down to the river in a line like a disciplined troop. Hard to avoid the interpretation that one bull goose summoned the others. The indecisive goose does not exactly join them, but swims along at a short distance. Very far downriver I see two swans, bright white against the dark water. I mosey along to see if anything will happen when the geese reach them. On the way, I intercept a flock of probable goldfinches but they are awfully small. Kinglets? No. Redpolls? Wishful thinking. Whichever, a nice convivial flock on a drab day. I’m just upstream from the swans. The geese seem to give them a respectful berth, but no interaction. “Swan.” “Goose.” Just a quiet afternoon on the river.