Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Each day the dawn chorus rings out more richly.  This morning the towhee has arrived: "Drink your tea!"

Sunday, April 26, 2009

I spent a weekend camping with the boy scouts -- and came down with a malicious head cold.

April's blackflies gave the forest a relentless flicker and my head was over-stuffed with an intrusive pulsing.  For reading, I'd brought Kosinski's Being There, a satire that plays on the charisma of Chauncy Gardiner as an archetypal wise fool.  Sexless, without ambition or self-regard, Gardiner perplexes and seduces the strivers in the story.  All in all, a strange book to read amid the clangor and striving and violence of camp with four men and 17 adolescent boys.  I envied the calm, cool, dewy emptiness of the fool's mind.

We hiked five miles in sudden mid-80's heat, which I guess kept the mucus from settling too much in one place.  Leafless trees gave only pale striation of shade and the boys were quickly out of water.  The Scoutmaster lets them make their mistakes and learn from them, but we helped them plot a shorter route back to camp.

The scouts cooked their dinner with a clamorous mix of hilarity, recrimination and greasefire.  I slouched off to sit on a rock and watch a pair of chickadees homesteading in a stump.  The bird would enter the old woodpecker cavity, vanish for a moment, then flit out to a nearby hemlock.  If you looked close you could see it drop a fleck of sawdust from its beak before it flicked back into the hole.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Philip and Jacob were over in the afternoon.  The four boys played in the backyard -- killing each other again and again.  They called it man-hunt; when I was a kid in our neighborhood we called it army; my father and grandfather probably called it cowboys and indians or cops and robbers.  The rules always are simple -- when someone is in sight and a person makes the right call -- some version of bang you're dead! -- another person has to fall to the ground (with greater or lesser degrees of theatricality) and count down the required amount.  Then they revive and it begins again.

But the simplicity of this play can't obscure the real game, which is of politics and power.  The nuances of rule and rule-break are negotiated at every turn and every boy (do girls even play this?) -- every boy tries out their strategies and tactics, from violence to argument to cajolery to tears and the threat to quit the game.

Everything important that I know about power and its limits, I first learned at play with other boys and girls.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The warm-blooded skunk cabbage is the first to shrug off the winter leaves.

Vernal pools are alive with arthropods.
 The midges, with their innocent, feathery antennae,
swarm from the earth at my every step.

A mourning cloak emerges faded from hibernation and basks on a sunny rock.

I startle a pair of blue jays from an apple thicket and they fly off -- oddly silent.  
Do jays fall mute at nesting time?

The hawks are not quiet -- a red-tailed screams at me in annoyance and rides the wind away to the south.

Friday, April 10, 2009

With Nico the chessmen escape their rigid hierarchies and make unfamiliar moves.

Today they rode the carpet sea on a ship: and a silk scarf sail billowed from their flashlight mast.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

His abuela said she didn't want to see pictures of long-haired Porter, but here they are . . .

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

I heard the discordant call of a phoebe in the yard today.  If the flycatchers have arrived can spring be far off?

Sunday, April 5, 2009

I'm bothered by things that I can't comprehend as a whole -- at least after I've tried and failed to grasp them. 

It's like that with electricity and electrical devices for me. I just don't understand how electricity works.  There seem to be too many properties at work or something.

I just take their word for it that it's best to connect the ridged wires to the silver screw and the smooth wires to the brass screws -- but I don't like it.

The house graveyard of dysfunctional lamps was growing, and so I had to take up my wire strippers and needle-nose pliers and start swapping parts around to get a few going again.  And when I plugged it all in nothing caught fire, though I couldn't tell you why not.