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Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

These clouds gather
Sandpaper rough
Tinged with regret
Heralding the storm.

Sam

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071dc4f8b0101a81903a1265c72f1748Atop a razor thin wire thirty feet above my head, nineteen blackbirds are perched, resolutely, zombie-like, side by side by side, as if waiting for the bus. Their balance is perfect, so self-assured that most appear to be asleep standing up, the skimpy thread bowing under their combined weight but under no threat of ripping. Forked talons curve artfully around the wire, one by one by one in a straight line until no more talons are left to be seen, and I wonder why there aren’t an even twenty of these beasts.

I count again.

Above their heads the sky is a dusky¬† blue, shot through with pale sunlight, in places hollowed out by the expanse of creamy clouds. There is no breeze as I sit on a park bench looking unabashedly at these denizens of the air, but they sit in place, content to play possum instead of spreading their wings and taking flight. I want to make a loud noise just to see if they will react. I want to scream them into action because I can’t do the same in my own little insulated world.

I sit here silently instead.

Are these birds ravens, like the storied birds of literative lore, or the much maligned crows that often darken doorsteps with their shadow-like precision? Or maybe they’re the infamous birds of the apocalypse, the souls of demons dressed up in outer ebony plumage, waiting patiently for the world to end. I watch as other birds drift past, but not one stops to join this horizontal conference thirty feet above my head. I wonder if this is evidence of some kind of winged etiquette, or a collaborative clique, a nearly extinct class system come home to roost.

I wonder if they will ever move.

I know I have somewhere else to be, something in my world that requires a particular kind of attention, but that doesn’t seem to matter right now. Instead I am engaged in a waiting competition of sorts, an intricate game of chicken where my opponents are actual birds. Quite rare indeed. They might as well be dead up there; they’re certainly dressed for it without even trying, these harbingers of a world bereft of color, sitting stolidly, impossibly, on a tiny wire.

I too am black.

Slowly, almost imperceptibly, the one on the far left shakes a tail feather, then two, then its entire tail is in motion, a plane motor kicking into gear. Seconds later it is gone, taken to the air in a blur of feathers and a sudden motivation that is impossible to gauge. The next one in line begins to stir moments later, an echo of its brother, already lost to the air, and the clouds, and the rest of the sky. Then he too is gone just as quickly, and I have already forgotten what he looked like, even though he was here for what seemed like an eternity. Seventeen blackbirds on the line, but they are no longer still.

I watch them take flight.

It is dizzying, staring up into the sky for so long, neck craned back to take it all in without missing a beat, but I couldn’t move if my life depended upon it. This is my world, and I am world leader pretend. And I can’t help but feel like a part of me is fracturing as one by one by one they leave, as everyone has always left me before, as they will all leave me again. It was a false comfort, those inattentive birds, as they sat like stone for so long, but they were never going to stay. Just like the raven iconically quoted, “Nevermore.”

The wire vibrates as the last blackbird releases its grip, hurtling itself into the cloud-strewn sky like a rocket taking flight. I follow the line as it undulates in a rhythmic pattern, then begins to slow down the longer the birds are gone, until it stops completely, as if the winged creatures were never there.

I open my eyes and realize they weren’t.

Sam

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Saving Daylight

twilight_sky_by_ren10sei-d4rnun6

image by ren10-sei

The sun disappears too soon
Fading beyond the frayed horizon
But the stars don’t want to play
Locked into a self-imposed jail
Hiding beneath this dark canopy
Of undeveloped sky
While the moon sits high
Looking down on a humanity
It can’t help imitating
In its competitive stance
In this unrepentant dance
Between fractured souls
Dreaming under a great abyss
Breathing in perfect rhythm
With the ebony angels, skeletal,
Shallow like the shadows
That embrace before dissipating
Bringing with them a second day
A second sun that tempts and teases
Unencumbered by the passage of time
Lost between a shudder and a sigh
Like saving daylight in fall
When the light fluctuates by design
Coloring in the shy twilight
With broad brushstrokes
Pushing aside the twinkling stars
Like thick curtains in a house
Where voices echo forever.

Sam

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This Endless Refrain

friday-night-storm

These storms come heavy
Moody like jazz
Fat drops in rhythm
Pounding down steady
A slash of lightning
Brilliant as day
But only for a moment
Before thunder booms
Like a pounding bass
Echoing for miles
Desperate to get home
But lost along the way
This Oklahoma swoon
Shackled to night’s shadow
Haunting in its familiarity
Giving up the ghost
That shuffles down stairs
Into the street-slick city
Calling my name
A staccato beat
That drums like rain
This endless refrain.

Sam

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I walked today for the first time in a long time — just walked. Maybe it’s the weather, or maybe it was just time, but I got out there with no destination in mind — me and my camera — seeing what I could find, but really just to get a breath of fresh air. Now, I’m not an outdoors person by any stretch of the imagination, quite the contrary, but there’s something about mindless meandering that appeals to me.

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The tennis court at the compound

There were others out, but no one else was just walking. I passed by a porch where three ladies were sunning themselves and chatting as if they had been sitting there all day long. Maybe they had. Porch sitters are pretty popular around here, especially in the springtime. An older man drove past on his motorcycle and waved to me. At least I hope he was waving to me because I waved back. And a teenager passed me on the bridge and said hi. He was definitely talking to me because I was the only other person around.

I’ve lived in this village for nearly 13 years now so it’s interesting how most people I ran into today were people I never recalled seeing before in my life. Maybe that’s testament to how often I simply drive through instead of taking it on foot. Or perhaps that’s because I honestly don’t get out much. A while back I used to jog, but that was probably 7 years ago, and the people who would have been sitting on the porch are probably inside by the TV while the next generation has moved onto the porch.

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The old factory

By the time I got down to Main Street my legs were tired, and I walk all day, but someone told me once that if you walk the same course every day your body gets used to it. So my walking a bit extra, at a different time, on a different tack, woke up my legs, and they were not very happy with me. But I breathed in the air, and exhaled it, and I felt good. I wanted to stay out there and soak up the sun some more. Don’t tell my wife because she will try to get me to do yard work, but you know what I mean. I felt ALIVE.

Maybe it’s all this talk of death lately, or maybe it’s just me getting older, but I savored the experience, and I took photographs of several spots along the way that spoke to me. I think I might do it again later this week, or I’ll talk the kids into doing it with me like we did on a nice day a few weeks ago. There’s nothing quite like it.

Sam

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4110175102_fb99a86197“And I know it aches, and your heart it breaks. You can only take so much. Walk on.” ~U2

I went for a walk this morning for the first time in it seems like forever. It used to be a regular occurrence a few years ago when I started in the early summer and stopped in the late fall, just before the snow began to fall hard and heavy. At first it was because my doctor told me I needed something that resembled exercise to help my general health. It was about the same time we bought the treadmill, but I think that was a coincidence.

Regardless, I prescribed myself a regimen of walking for at least half an hour every night, like clockwork. This was before we had children so there was no babysitter to pick them up from, nor a time limit before bath time, so I could wander. And for a while I did just that. I started out north, generally, sticking to the sidewalks and the straight lines they provided, turning when a street intersected the one I was on, the direction a last minute decision.

On my journey I would pass by places I had never seen before, interspersed with familiar surroundings and houses that grew even more familiar the more I traveled at dusk. Others would be out and about, too, quite unlike the emptiness of a Ray Bradbury short story, playing and talking, and even just sitting on porches. They would smile and wave at me as I passed, and I would acknowledge them in return. I’m sure I became a fixture in their evening lives as they became affixed in mine, that guy who always walked by as if he were on a mission.

I would wear my headphones to block out the sounds, though, so I was never sure if birds were chirping or dogs were barking, all I knew was that they appeared and disappeared as I approached and eventually passed, opening and closing their mouths as if they were trying to tell me a secret. I would nod at them, too, as if they were old friends, even the occasional cat sitting in a yard yawning. I was equal opportunity. Then I would walk on.

Sometimes I took a different turn and found myself in wooded areas where there were more trees than anything else. And sometimes the music in my ears would match that atmosphere, all acoustic and insular but wide open at the same time. I loved those times, even though they frightened me as well. I guess I never thought about how much seeing other people comforted me on my journeys, as if they grounded me to the world in specific ways that nature couldn’t replicate. Now, looking back, I find that ironic in a way I could have never appreciated back then.

I walked to forget, and I walked to remember at the same time: to forget all the tedious moments in my day, and to remember that beauty is what I make of it, wherever I choose to find it. Perhaps it’s in the pile of leaves that crunch underneath my boots in the fall, or in the smile on the little girl’s face who waves to me from her bike, or maybe even in the early Christmas lights on the house down the street, all lit up every night promptly at 7 o’clock. It’s in the moving, the shifting, the drifting through my world and realizing that it doesn’t just belong to me.

It’s in walking on.

Sam

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102f3f02bd384c93353599d209aeaa02Dear Journal,

I used to hate autumn because of the uncertainty. You see, I like extremes, probably because my attitude and personality lend themselves to hot or cold but never lukewarm. I believe there is something in the Bible about that too, not that it’s important, but it did come back to me right now. Anyway, I hated autumn, so when the days started getting just a wee bit shorter, when daylight savings time came and everything went backwards, I would cringe and hope to be able to hibernate until winter came.

Then I moved to Tennessee, and autumn is just an extension of summer down there, the line clearly delineated when it became winter time, and only then. That’s when the leaves finally dropped and bloomed into so many different colors on the ground. It was weird that first winter because I’m used to leaves in October, not December, but I guess with the lack of snow it made more sense that way. I would walk through the park, and on the sidewalks, shuffling my feet and reveling in the leaves so late. It was like Tennessee knew exactly how I felt about fall and stole the best part of it for my favorite season instead.

If Tennessee knew how I felt, then New York state thought it was funny to toy with me. Leaves in August. Leaves in September. Leaves in October. And the colors weren’t nearly as bright and vibrant. It’s almost as if someone told the New York Autumn Leaves that they were dead, and that they should resemble that after they fell. These browns and dark oranges quickly got boring as the months dragged on and they were still underfoot. They did absolutely nothing to stem my hatred for this temperate season.

But I saw a painting a few months ago, or once upon at time — I don’t recall which it was anymore — that showed the vibrant colors of the leaves that I remembered from my youth, when everything was a mystery and I knew absolutely nothing about chlorophyll and the glory of the natural universe. All I knew is that the autumn leaves were beautiful and I wanted to be as beautiful as they were. The painting reminded me of that simpler time, when extremes weren’t all to be praised, and when temperance was as glorious as taking a deep breath of that sweet, chilly air.

Sam

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