Sandhill cranes ~ Brazoria County, Texas
I call my wife outdoors to have her listen,
to turn her ears upward, beyond the cloud-veiled
sky where the moon dances thin light,
to tell her, “Don’t hear the cars on the freeway—
it’s not the truck-rumble. It is and is not
the sirens.” She stands there, on deck
a rocking boat, wanting to please the captain
who would have her hear the inaudible.
Her eyes, so blue the day sky is envious,
fix blackly on me, her mouth poised on question
like a stone. But, she hears, after all.
January on the Gulf,
warm wind washing over us,
we stand chilled in the winter of those voices.
“The Cranes, Texas January” ~ Mark Sanders
Rough, raw — nearly indescribable — the sound of their call alerts me to their presence. On the open prairie, they tease even the most dedicated seeker, bobbing and bending among the grasses: oblivious to our longings.
Still, they comfort. Their hidden voices echo grace and beauty; the rhythms of their beating wings carry on the wind. “Listen,” they seem to say. “We have come, and soon will leave, but for this time, we offer you our world.”
Comments always are welcome. Unless otherwise noted, photos are mine. Thanks to reader Bob Freeman, who pointed me to the poem.
Snow-envy is easy when you’re not the one shoveling a path through five-foot drifts or having to thaw door locks on a car.
Even so, when the photos arrive, sent along by friends determined to gloat or complain about their shimmering worlds, I’m surprised by how quickly I become transfixed. Glinting in the sunlight, piled high along fenceposts and streets, whorled into intricate, complex patterns against window and shed, the still-pristine drifts of freshly-fallen snow dazzle my eyes and my imagination. Always, they make me envious.
My envy is partly nostalgia, the remembered pleasure of snow angels and sledding. But snow also stirs to life a favorite fantasy – the possibility that life might be willing to grant us, if only occasionally, a perfectly clean slate. By reducing the physical world to the twin realities of sunlight and shadow, snow creates an illusion of purity and simplicity, tempting us to imagine a human world equally free of complication and regrets. Watching snow cover the remains of desiccated autumn with a blanket of perfection, it’s easy to imagine life’s disappointment, pain, conflict and loss blanketed with similar layers of beauty and peace. Continue reading
It seems there’s no help for it. Despite last night’s frontal passage, a twenty-degree drop in temperature and cloudy skies, the wisteria continues to bloom. For that matter, some sweet evening primrose are blooming, along with loquats, redbuds and azaleas. Coots are massing to head north, and baby ducks already are waddling about on the grassy banks. It’s an early spring on the Texas Gulf Coast, and winter-lovers are morose. Our last chance for a frosty, freezing blast – perhaps for even a flake or two of snow – has passed.
This is when neighbors come in handy. I was raised to believe it’s perfectly acceptable to knock on a neighbor’s back door, measuring-cup in hand, and ask for sugar or milk. This time, I was a little short on winter, so I went knocking at the door of Gerry Sell’s house up in Torch Lake, Michigan. She and her neighbors just received a good dumping of snow, and I was sure she’d be more than willing to share. She was, and as you can see from the photograph, the view from her Writing Studio and Bait Shop is lovely. I’m sure her woods can be dark and deep at times, but after this storm they were all sunshine and glimmer. Continue reading
Anyone living in the swath of snow now stretching from Oklahoma to Illinois to New York, anyone who still is digging out from the storms that affected hundreds of communities across the country, could be forgiven for calling us crazy.
While they cope with feet of snow and the problem of where to put it, we’re fixated on breathless local forecasters and their obsessive reports on our “winter blast”, a weather event capable of bringing Life As We Know It to its knees. We’ve already received freezing rain. There are suggestions we may receive an inch – even two! – of sleet and snow in a few more days. They suggest we pay attention, and pay attention we do.
Of course we look silly to the outside world, but we know our limitations. Many of us don’t know how to drive in snow. We don’t know how to walk on ice. Our pipes are exposed to the weather and our plants begin to shrivel when temperatures dip below 40 degrees. We don’t have ice scrapers for our windshields or snow shovels for our walks. We don’t carry kitty litter in the trunks of our cars and we certainly don’t have de-icer for locks. Not only that, we don’t dress right and we get cold. We’re the very definition of “wuss”. Continue reading
New Year’s Eve parties and New Year’s Day resolutions sparkle in the post-Christmas darkness, tied to one another like binary stars orbiting some common, celebratory mass. For the observer, determining which tradition is primary and which exists as its secondary companion requires an occasional squint. With true star pairs like Algol (an eclipsing binary) or Sirius (a visual binary), objective measurements can be taken. The relationship between New Year parties and resolutions is more complex and subjective. Judgments about their importance relative to one another depend upon a person’s vantage point, and judgments necessarily change from year to year.
Like most children, I first associated the New Year with parties. Dressed for the evening in velvet and jewels, my mother was dazzling. Resplendent in his cummerbund, my father gave her his arm and they vanished into the night, my Prince and Princess leaving me in the charge of Mrs. Wilstermann, an aged babysitter who obligingly fell asleep, leaving me free to forage through the cupboards for cookies. I never found the cookies and I never heard my parents return, but every New Year’s day I awoke to a dining table overflowing with paper streamers, silly, glittering hats and cheap tin noisemakers. They never forgot. Continue reading
Grown to middle age, my calico is placid and content. She spends her days searching for perfect napping spots, occasionally indulging herself in bird-watching at the window. Long past the enthusiasms of kittenhood, her favorite excitement is shredding cheap tissue paper. She prefers white, although she’ll work with colored if forced, and each Sunday morning she gets a dozen sheets. For the next week she rolls in it, hides under it, buries toys in it and claws at it, until nothing is left but ribbony shreds and bits of paper.
Despite her increasing years and even temper, she dislikes every sort of storm. Lightning brings her to electrified attention. Thunder triples the size of her tail in a flash. The approach of a winter cold front sets her pacing for days. Once a low crosses the Red River, she begins to move restlessly from room to room. By the time it gets to Dallas, she’s tearing full-tilt through the house, circling around and around until she collapses in a panting heap.
She’s survived several tropical storms and two hurricane evacuations, and what she lacks in scientific knowledge she makes up for in pure instinct and experience – she knows storms are bad. When her people begin to fuss and mutter about systems still hundreds of miles away, she’ll head to her carrier, snuggle down into her sheepskin and wait it out: wide-eyed and anxious, uttering the low, undeciperable sounds she reserves for rising storms. Continue reading