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“If you are ever tempted to wonder why you’re doing this,” one character says to another, after the first of a series of life-changing experiences: “This is why.”
In a life that can seem, at times, very isolated and forgotten, this gift out my window…the first thing I saw this morning: an eagle splashing down into the river after a fish.
To the other lives that have come to share this space, this little gift passed on from me….
Glass of wine and almonds.
A temperature cooler than the mercury tells it.
Oldest clothes. The company of the day’s late birds,
frantic before the night comes.
This place is no longer my parents’ only.
It is mine. It is me.
The poetry that lives in grateful eyes.
Water, hill, sky: not the same for others as for me.
I have the language of it. The remaking of it in my head.
From memory to keystrokes.
The rare moments in which I see through rare lenses
the thing that I have been given;
the gift that lets me share it.
Poetry in the head. Not Charles Wright-exquisite, but my own.
Mine to live in a forgiving January,
In the conceits of peculiar sight.
I sing Radiohead to myself in 5/4 time.
And the rest of it, the silence…it belongs to me.
The gift of parents’ lives, alive in its next incarnation.
The writer’s life.
What it is to be me.
On this crisp, bright, altogether magnificent day, those four words are as much a question as a statement.
Okay, I’ll admit it: I am feeling slightly sorry for myself this morning, the mockery of sunny days.
The world seems indifferent to my presence. The boxes that still clog the garage certainly are. The tasks that need doing have retreated from urgency, to the realm of out-of-sight-out-of-mind; have reduced themselves to a box-by-box evaluation of what’s needed, what’s necessary, what’s still confused and refusing to find a niche. The cats are, I think sometimes, all about what’s in it for them. Selfish little boogers.
The book doesn’t need me. Or doesn’t seem to. With The Spiritkeeper, the emotional wellbeing of the characters was something I carried in my hands, sheltered with all the love and warmth in me. They loved me, those creatures of Word, and I them. This book, less so. I am small compared to the greater presence of the cosmos where the characters’ eyes are turned. I am invisible.
It’s okay. It is. This is a maudlin self-indulgence that will pass.
I have the stillness. The birdsong. The prism-rainbows that dance on my walls, mornings. I have shelter and enough to eat. I have happy cats that sleep in the sunshine. I have friends whose love I treasure, even from a distance. I have this book. And the next one. And possibility for both, despite self-doubt.
That the book, the professional world, the things and people I love are not clamoring for me…that my voice is the only one I hear…that my characters are not whispering for me to give myself to them…it’s okay.
It’s a low-barometric-pressure day for me emotionally. The signal of a change in inner weather. And the change will carry me with it. It always does.
A writer sees with writer-eyes. Eyes that make snapshots of everything. Sometimes those shots are full of joy; sometimes, full of tragedy.
I had both kinds of kept-images this weekend. Life and death in 48 hours.
On Saturday evening, an unfamiliar whistle called me out into the approaching dusk. A rising birdcall, over and over. I looked up to the side of my little Arkansas stone-clad ranch house. Something was clinging to the stone. Something that flew to the ground five feet from where I stood.
A baby owl.
The thing was adorable. Wonderful. A little greyish thing, streaked with brown, maybe eight inches tall. Still full of baby fuzz and just-fledged clumsiness. He sat on the ground for several minutes, seemingly uncertain about what to do next. Then he lifted on owl-silent wings and flew to my one remaining peach tree. Started calling again. Called all night. Called all the next night. An explanation of why I’ve seen the female out at unusual hours: baby-owl mouths to feed.
Yesterday morning, then, the downside of natural wonder.
The rancher across my little go-nowhere road has been haying the field. Doing it in sections, one swath, then another, one day then the next. A cattle pasture is left to grow tall when the cows are moved to another field. Perhaps that was the reason for the tragedy.
Two uncommon things, there. Both were telling. A massive flock of vultures. A gathering that only appears when something is newly-born. Or dead. The little bones, the tawny bits torn between the scavengers, the tiny rib cage suggested the sad thing that dinner was.
Beside the buzzards a doe, standing. Watching. Mourning. If I had ever doubted that an animal could mourn, I will doubt no longer. This strong brown doe looked stunned. Her mouth was open, an approximation of human grief. Her tail lay low, not its characteristic white flag. She didn’t seem to know what to do with herself. As a person might not.
A few times, as I watched, she would come back to herself. Charge the gathered birds. Challenge them. Try to run them off. As if she held on to the hopeless hope that she might save the little thing that was, even at a distance, so clearly beyond saving. Deer, like people, can find the acceptance of death impossible.
No way to know whether the fawn was lost to the hay mower or to the birds that wait for newborns; that have been known to kill fresh calves. But this…I couldn’t watch any longer. I couldn’t make the image go away.
That’s why this post is about nature, not writing. It’s a writerly tribute to a sadness and a joy. The things that happen in the turning of a day.