A view from a doctor’s waiting room.
Walking and breathing muttering under my breath the names of great cities of the world London, Tokyo, New York When your only tool is a cement truck, everything looks like a metropolis New Delhi, Amsterdam, Paris That blue tent is still pitched in the wooded patch by the freeway New Orleans, Toronto, Sydney I take cuttings from my babbling stream of thoughts and cast them in concrete Berlin, Cairo, Los Angeles All the surfaces are soon spattered with the stain of life busy covering up the mess I've made Body, Speech, Mind
Up in a tree near my car at the park. Condiment packet had a blue label so I don’t think it was ketchup, maybe mayonnaise? Tore it open and chowed down, he did. I next saw him perched on the rim of the nearest trash barrel, appetite whetted, ready for more.
Featherless freaks thin skinned fur poachers look what all we traded to be brainy enough to have worries. Shivers are the hoarse song poking in to the tune of life where our molecules shudder and shrink and malfunction in the sluggish low frequencies that will withdraw the very beats from our hearts should our adaptations fail.
Here in Texas we are maneuvering our way back to normal after a shock of extreme weather knocked things about. The agency here that governs power grid management is more aligned with Enron-style market games than it is with the public good, so wish us luck.
Photo: Northern Mockingbird on a cold morning, (CC-BY-SA) 2021, G. Paul Randall
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.
When I said I was feeling chipper
I didn’t mean cheery, like a dandy squirrel
with a cache of ripe pecans, no.
I meant like that groaning, shrieking
grinder box that sucks in green oak limbs
the size of Sam Houston’s neck and erupts
in a volcanic, yawning siren like
a Mississippi bigot shouting “frown!”
at a blind beggar, who can’t see his face.
And splinters it, bark and heart, leaf
and bud, into shattered, whip-torn
little pieces piled neat, like bones.
And the air, in the silence bound to follow
every violence, patiently cataloging and
filing all the sawdust that’s gotten up
in its face, is what I meant.
So, you’re probably wondering, “who pissed in this guy’s cheerios?” so let me explain. I wrote this, more or less, in the middle of the night a few days ago, after arriving home the previous evening to find the sprawling live oak in the alley behind the garage had suffered a kind of vivisection at the hands of the power utility. They had removed a third of its grand canopy, right down the middle, leaving it splayed in its remaining two thirds, parted now to make way for the high voltage wires. It now looks like a midshipman flagging a desperate semaphore. Mayday!
For the last two years, Cooper’s Hawks have nested in that oak, and now I can finally see the nest on the edge of the newly opened cavity. I’d seen one just that morning fly down the alley and pause in that tree, making that ca-ca-cawing call that I associate with courtship rituals for that bird. Well, I doubt they will keep a nest so exposed to the sky. The good news is that the migrant songbirds that come through here in good numbers will be easier to spot and photograph.
Anyway, that’s why I’m feeling chipper.
You can see the hawk’s nest in the upper right corner. There’s another large oak down the alley that they frequent, so perhaps they will nest there.
Here’s a yellowthroat I caught in the aforementioned oak a few years back. The tree has been a real bird magnet and I sure hope it remains that way.