holidays, travel, writing

shiny, used, temperate blues

upon leaving Manhattan
the Christmas tree at the curb
wearing tinsel like a greenstick girl
who is showing her silvery gray
and beside it after midnite
a Champagne bucket.

the Holidays are over . . .
and now the winter
truly begins.

but I will find myself
in Tucson in 4 days,
stomping through the desert
sweating & trying to make sand
and cactus flower
visually appealing.

~ Andrea E. Janda

books, nature, writing

The Force That Drives the Flower

Years ago i read “Death of a Moth” by Annie Dillard and was so struck by its communal feel for nature and humanity and mortality. The essay appears in a collection called “Holy the Firm.” One interviewer described Dillard’s themes as “beauty and cruelty, intimacy and horror, extravagance and waste” and i think that puts it succinctly. There is ecstasy and suffering in her fluid, lyrical, mystic and intensely contemplative words. I think about that now as the seasons change and I find myself saddened by the images of nature dying off and bedding down for sleep. I want to tell of it, reflect on it, write it – not take its picture . . . but i may reconsider if the composition calls out.

Annie Dillard was stricken with a near fatal attack of pneumonia in 1971. Years after she recovered, Annie decided that she needed to experience life more fully and so spent four seasons living near Tinker Creek, taking up residence on an island in Puget Sound in a wooded room furnished with “one enormous window, one cat, one spider and one person.” For the next two years she asked herself questions about time, reality, sacrifice death, and the will of God.

She spent her time outdoors, walking and camping, being there with nature in an area surrounded by forests, creeks, mountains, and a myriad of animal life. When she was inside, she mostly read. After those four seasons, Annie began to write about her experiences there by the creek (challenged to write a book herself because the one she was reading at the moment was particularly bad).

She started with a journal, then transposed it all to notecards until the journal reached 20-plus volumes. She was timid about presenting what would become her book publicly and even considered publishing it under a man’s name. It took her about 8 months to turn the notecards into the Pulitzer-Prize winning Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. She was so absorbed that she spent 15-16 hours a day writing, cut off from society, world news, living on coffee and coke. She lost 30 pounds and all of her plants died. After her Pulitzer win, all those who had rejected her works before she was famous, now clamored for her poems.

Seeing as how much i do love my winged creatures, and how much I admire Annie Dillard and her experience with nature and writing, i thought i would share the above linked title to the short story and the excerpt below, written in 1973 and printed in The Atlantic Monthly in 1977.

ENJOY!

…..

The Force That Drives the Flower
by Annie Dillard

…..

I wakened myself last night with my own shouting. It must have been that terrible yellow plant I saw pushing through the flood-damp soil near the log by Tinker Creek, the plant as fleshy and featureless as a slug, that erupted through the floor of my brain as I slept, and burgeoned into the dream of fecundity that woke me up.

I was watching two huge luna moths mate. Luna moths are those fragile ghost moths, fairy moths, whose five-inch wings are swallow-tailed, a pastel green bordered in silken lavender. From the hairy head of the male sprouted two enormous, furry antennae that trailed down past his ethereal wings. He was on top of the female, hunching repeatedly with a horrible animal vigor.

It was the perfect picture of utter spirituality and utter degradation. I was fascinated and could not turn away my eyes. By watching them I in effect permitted their mating to take place and so committed myself to accepting the consequences—all because I wanted to see what would happen. I wanted in on a secret.

And then the eggs hatched and the bed was full of fish. I was standing across the room in the doorway, staring at the bed. The eggs hatched before my eyes, on my bed, and a thousand chunky fish swarmed there in a viscid slime. The fish were firm and fat, black and white, with triangular bodies and bulging eyes. I watched in horror as they squirmed three feet deep, swimming and oozing about in the glistening, transparent slime. Fish in the bed!—and I awoke. My ears still rang with the foreign cry that had been my own voice.

Fool, I thought: child, you child, you ignorant, innocent fool. What did you expect to see—angels? For it was understood in the dream that the bed full of fish was my own fault, that if I had turned away from the mating moths the hatching of their eggs wouldn’t have happened, or at least would have happened in secret, elsewhere. I brought it on myself, this slither, this swarm.

I don’t know what it is about fecundity that so appalls. I suppose it is the teeming evidence that birth and growth, which we value, are ubiquitous and blind, that life itself is so astonishingly cheap, that nature is as careless as it is bountiful, and that with extravagance goes a crushing waste that will one day include our own cheap lives. Every glistening egg is a memento mori.

…..

for the rest of this story . . . go HERE.

language, writing

let’s pretend . . .

you have a new name
you NEEDED a new name
and maybe the old one
hung off you like a bad suit.

so did you ever wish
you were named differently?

or just gimme nonsense.

books, writing

tell me a story . . .

do you remember your favorite book as a child?
either one you liked having read to you,
or impacted you as you read to yourself?

i liked pretty much EVERYTHING by Shel Silverstein:
The Giving Tree
A Light in the Attic
Where the Sidewalk Ends
and i enjoyed Judy Blume.

you?

photography, writing

lyrical snapshots

while my camera is charging
while i am re-charging.
i’ll just start scribbling the words down,
and deliver prose.

i always liked writing.
pictures are not provided –
well . . . they are coded in symbols
that make words
that hang together in sentences
and create meaning
one has to invent the image in their head.

i hope you can see
what i saw.

friends, health, relationships, writing

weighty repetition

everyone you come in contact with needs something from you.
they don’t always know what it is,
but they know you have something for them.
the balance occurs when you learn to embrace
that which will move you forward
those who will genuinely love you
and inevitably to learn to say NO.

education, writing

scent of Jungian anal(ysis)

thank all the gods and goddesses and collective unconscious that i am done done done with that 14-page monster i just gave birth to.

holy fucking archetypes, Batman!

well — it’s all right and the world is a fine place ‘cuz boy/girl-howdy do i have some ideas for photos.

and now … sleep on it.

humor, nature, writing

Deerly Beloved

It’s September. It’s an unusually temperate afternoon and I’m driving from work in Annapolis to home in Friendship. Yes — I live in a town called Friendship, and yes, it’s as charming as the name boasts. I’m driving down a southern Maryland “one-lane going each way” country road, and the trees are leaning in, casting off brown, yellow, and red whispers.  Van Morrison is on the radio, singing about fishing holes and stoning me to my soul when ahead in the road, both directions come to a dead stop. As I approach something is flailing around in the road ahead. A large bird — (Albatross!) I think poetically like Samuel Taylor Coleridge and then comically like Monty Python. But no, more likely a goose or a turkey vulture, too greedy to move and struck dumb with its belly full of some other unfortunate roadside creature.  As I edge closer, the wings become hooves and I see it’s a mid-sized deer just exiting fawnhood and just short of becoming the adult Bambi version, perhaps around 80 or 90 pounds.

My mind begins to chatter and I think,”Oh Christ, if I have to look at a dying, bleeding, suffering creature with cars stopped to watch I’m just gonna freak right out!”

There is no blood, no glass, no tire-tracks, no smoke, no wrecked car or any sign that something bad has just gone down, just this beige, many-legged thing in the road trying to right itself and get on its feet. It does, then falls, gets up, scrambles and kicks some more in a circle, and goes on repeating this for a good minute or so. It struggles and reels and lurches like it’s just been born.  I have the sudden urge to just get out of my car and do something.  WHAT exactly, I don’t know, but SOMETHING.  Finally, a man in a white utility van swerves from behind me, pulls over, and gets out, crossing the road and the stopped traffic.  What happened next was one of the most endearing actions I think I have ever seen between man and animal.

A big, brawny, lumberjack looking young man in blue jeans and boots and red plaid goes out to the deer.  His hair is shaved close to his head like a military man and he walks, almost trudges, like he has a lot to carry; his arms bow out at his sides like whale bones. Like they’ve grown that way. Like something rotund and invisible, two rolled sleeping bags perhaps, are tucked beneath each arm. He doesn’t cautiously approach the deer or walk around it looking for an angle or a way to avoid being injured in the process of trying to help.  He simply bends down, scoops the deer into his arms with its hooves up and cradles it, like a child that has just wiped out in a neighborhood bicycle crash.

He carries the deer out to the opposite side of the road, bends at the waist, and sets it down lightly, like an offering. Once it stands up, he tries to chase it up the forested embankment so it might run to freedom.  The deer looks like it’s up and running, then sadly, just as the man turns to go back to his van, and traffic attempts to resume, everything stops again.  We watch the deer slides helplessly back down the hill, through the brush, pulling a tangle of roots and leaves with it, and back out into the road where it proceeds to do its “flailing” thing once more. Its leg must’ve been injured, I think to myself.  Perhaps it WAS hit, or maybe it broke its leg this way the first time it fell down the hill.

The man turns back to pick the deer up — again. By this time I decide to pull over and watch the whole thing transpire.  The minimal effort with which the man hoists this creature up amazes me. The deer looks too big to be handled. It struggles a bit, and I hear the man telling it to “quit fussin'” which makes me think this looks rather like managing a 14 year-old adolescent having a temper tantrum.

Another motorist walks up the length of stopped cars and presents the deer-man with a cellular phone.  I hear them discussing calling the city or animal control and they decide to call 911 to get the numbers or at least some initial help.  Meanwhile, the man holds the deer, cradled, upside down with both hands collecting two hooves apiece to hold it still. Hog-tied, as it were. The deer’s breathing is quick and light, like a mother giving birth, and the panicked breaths of fear. Its eyes are large and deep and dark like an alien child. As absurd as the situation looks, everything appears to be under control, traffic begins to crawl along and people call sentiments out of their car windows as they pass.

“YEAH!!!!”
“That was GREAT!”
“Thank you!”
“God Bless you!”

No one honked,  (they might’ve frightened the deer further) they simply waved quietly and smiled.  The deer-man held the animal like a proud father and I drove the rest of the way home, feeling pretty good about the natural world for a change.