Some Houston Birds

The Brown Thrasher was having a dust bath on the trail at Houston Arboretum, the rest were found at the bayous around town. Never caught such a low angle on a Great Blue Heron before.

Full Metal Jacqueline

This illusion in which we had dwelled for so long suddenly had a hole smack in the middle of it, revealing what appeared to be another establishment of illusion on the other side. The rough hewn opening hovered before us, its edges glowing like fog caught in high beams. Totally daft. Must be the drugs, I thought. Jackie took the cigar from her mouth and spit a fleck of tobacco to the side. “What kind of Lewis Carroll horseshit is this?”

So she saw it too. Dang. Like my mama used to say, “tripping is as tripping does.” Jackie was an orphan and regarded my parental references with disdain. The reality appearing through the portal looked daunting, but I have always felt that doors were an inducement to forward motion.

I considered for a moment that if William Blake had used windows instead of doors in his famous line, then Huxley’s book would have been called The Windows of Perception, and Jim Morrison would have called his band The Windows, and Microsoft would have had to fork over a tidy sum to his estate for licensing. What a tangled web. Jackie caught my eye just then and said, “whatever you’re thinking about just forget it.” She knew me pretty well.

Grumbling, she grabbed her beat up old Telecaster and made for the opening. “Are you coming or not,” she said, cigar smoke fuming from her nostrils. Reluctantly I followed, hoping that the folks on the other side shared our fondness for dope, raves and thrash metal.

Photo-composite, metal objects and flower.

The Nocturnal Habits of Daylight

Light, upon young skin
I noticed you by the grace of it
and the rays of it glancing off
of everything you touched.

Radiance beyond
the duality of particle and wave
we, spinning and wobbling
like fresh formed planets
in a steady stream of it.

But the Sun of these better days
had yet to rise:

It was dark the hour we met
and that poor Sun probably burns
knowing now that I had seen you first
and by its own light
that it had carelessly loaned
to the Moon that night.
No hearts were harmed, or even moved for that matter, in the making of this love poem.

A Scattering of Light

Clouds break up the monotonous blue expanse above and the light, illuminating it all down to the last wispy puff, has yet to deal with the billions of serrated leaf edges awaiting its arrival down here in the thick of nature, whose every quality owes much to humanity’s rare neglect.

Did not see many birds on my walk yesterday. Ruby-crowned Kinglets are here for the winter and I caught sight of a Tennessee Warbler. Early morning light makes the myriad details of a Texas prairie erupt in a festival for the eyes. I walked the trails in silence, slipping my mask back up over my nose when I encountered other people.

I did see and photograph a mute Mockingbird contemplating something relating to life as birds would have it. She sat still for it, which is the only way I can grab a bird portrait at distance. (Idea for a camera feature: button that emits a silent signal heard only by wildlife that says, “stay still for a moment, it’s important.”)

Mocking-Bird                         
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Then from a neighboring thicket
    the mocking-bird, wildest of singers,
Swinging aloft on a willow spray
    that hung o’er the water,
Shook from his little throat
    such floods of delirious music,
That the whole air and the woods
    and the waves seemed silent to listen. 
Plaintive at first were the tones
    and sad: then soaring to madness
Seemed they to follow or guide
    the revel of frenzied Bacchantes.
Single notes were then heard,
    in sorrowful, low lamentation;
Till, having gathered them all,
    he flung them abroad in derision,
As when, after a storm, a gust of wind
    through the tree-tops
Shakes down the rattling rain
    in a crystal shower on the branches.

Bothered a little by some lower back pain, I cut my walk short and was soon racing along on Houston’s 610 Loop, in sync with the speeding hordes, light scattering off of pavement and chrome bumpers, and nature somehow accommodating it all. I feel like a voyeur, sneaking peeks at the beauty of the world from a little hiding spot not quite in it.

Away

Mother, where were you?

On that fateful day when we
eyed the sonograms of past performance
and like card counters tried
to outthink the music
and our feet got carried away.

You remember that day?

Well, it's gone now, away
a set-loose shout in the canyons
of this endless ambition, but
comes back after some delay
the eerie echo, "away."


Lite Birding, Houston | Galveston

A few bird photos from here in Houston and down in Galveston, where the mosquitoes, as Shakespeare famously put it, “come not single spies, but in battalions.” I have rarely seen the watery lowlands of Galveston so swarmed with them. Must be the recent rains. This is a Great Blue Heron, unmistakable large wader seen commonly everywhere in this part of the country.

I’ve misidentified this one as Solitary Sandpiper before, but it’s a Spotted Sandpiper in non-breeding form.

Cormorants down on White Oak Bayou. It looks like the cops have ordered them to raise their wings and don’t move. Well, they are black, and they weren’t doing anything but existing which is what passes for probable cause these days. A couple of Snowy Egrets in there too, both abiding by the law as far as anyone can tell. I could take this racial angle here and run with it, but I think I’ll just spare you and let it drop. I trust you get it. Black Lives Matter.

Low angle of morning sunshine at the bayou. There’s a busy paved trail for walkers, runners, and bikers not shown in the foreground. I literally had to wait for a gap in traffic to get this exposure.

Brother Rabbit is not like these other birds, indeed, what is he even doing here? Unlike country rabbits, this city boy could not have cared less about the people passing by a few yards away.

Not much bird action down in Galveston, which was the main reason I drove down, but I did get some banking done and had breakfast at Mi Abuelita’s so I can’t complain. A Black-bellied Whistling Duck and a White Ibis are #BFF at Lafitte’s Cove.

Some Mottled Ducks, same locale.

Caught this Reddish Egret at East Beach, fishing a big puddle remaining from our recent brush with the downgraded TS Beta. At the ship channel I noticed a large bird diving for fish and registered pelican but then I saw it had a forked tail. (Warning: this vehicle brakes suddenly for bird sightings.) It was a Magnificent Frigatebird that I was able to observe a few minutes at a range too distant for a photo attempt. At Corps Woods I found an unusually gregarious Brown Thrasher that repeatedly perched out in the open just long enough to almost get a photo, but no longer.

Intensive Care

Plain-bellied Water Snake, non-venomous denizen of the Southeastern US.
I walk in these woods
nestled deep within a
tangle of highways

The hum of traffic
beyond the treeline elaborates
what a calm clouded day
could have settled completely
without raising its voice

Fire and storm, unrest
flood and calamity, all at some
distance now, a stunning calm
as I rest on a bench

Cooper's Hawk swoops
low through the canopy
and finds a perch nearby

A female Common Yellowthroat
works a boggy shallow near the parking lot
as young mothers stroll
with infants in carriages

Snakes uncoil in the
tan water by the boardwalk
in the heart of this sprawling city
and in the pit of my stomach

Restaurants and business offices
and butterflies, the damp
forest floor, tree shade, the air

I surrender myself to the sum of it
to the expert nursing staff
here in intensive care
Gulf Fritillary
Monarch

The Houston Arboretum at Memorial Park, Houston, Texas.

Spidered Man

Up in the wee hours having a bit of a snack attack and I find half an order of french fries in the back of the fridge from four or more days ago. One ketchup pack in there too, so I microwave them for thirty and indulge. Tasty, but a little leathery. Like if you made jerky from potatoes.

Then I go into the bathroom and my forehead and eyebrows get netted with spider webbing right there by the toilet. (This is where the photo above comes in.) So that’s always a weird surprise, to catch spiderweb with your face. It’s like thousands of tiny little fingers reaching in from another dimension and just touching you inappropriately.

But I like spiders and this guy seems to know it because he’s just sitting there looking at me with at least a few of his eight eyes, and I’m wiping my face and head with my bare hands like a man suddenly evacuated from the ordinary reality that decent people routinely enjoy as a God given right. It’s a bit humiliating, like having your credit card declined in front of people you are eager to impress. And I still have to pee, which always lends a note of emergency to any situation, no matter how mundane.

Next I find myself standing on the toilet seat with my camera in macro mode and it suddenly occurs to me that there’s just no reason for anything at all. So we should all stop worrying.