Gallery, July 2020

Here’s some photos from a brief visit to the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center, and a few around the Hive, all taken in the last week of July, 2020. My latest obsession is the High Pass filter which, when abused, gives that smokey, dreamy look. Both bird photos taken at home. At the nature center I saw no birds at all, as in none.

Catwalk

Catwalk grating with treatment.

it's nice when things are smooth to touch
our fingers like this very much

and good when walkways claw and grip
our feet don't like it when we slip

especially when we're way up high
as we could fall and maybe die

before we've had a chance to mend
our evil ways: we meet our end

Chakra

The Wheel

Behold the wheel as motion incarnate. Inventor of the metaphor. Roundation is its pride, spokes the whispering of its ministers, its axle the secret grief. Turning until the grease dries up, then burning.

A mechanism, its gears a-turning. In thinking, wheels turning, turning. Spheres of influence, around, around. Circles have no need of ground. Sanskrit chakra has a sound like wheels knocking cobbled lanes. Strike and clap again, again. The arc, a portion of the round, its back is bent. It makes no sound.

The curve that sneaks in fluidly all paths and motions, blunts the angle, rounds the bend, transcribes the swing. It does its thing. It snugs the rim of hat and crown. Same as same when upside down! Once gone, just wait, it comes around.

Self, the center of conception, the spokes relate in rays the scenes. The never was but could have beens. What comes around, will go around, in startless parts, no stops or starts. It turns upon its secret grief. The axle happy in its grease. How does it make its way, by feel?

The ship, it has a steering wheel.

Birding

Cooper’s Hawk

Birding can be difficult to understand for the uninitiated. I have many times spoken excitedly with coworkers about a bird I’d seen that morning and sensed that they were feigning interest while quietly wishing I’d just hurry up and finish my story. (I do the same thing when people talk excitedly about their favorite team winning a game.) If you haven’t made the connection yourself, it is hard to see what the fuss is about.

There are two main types of birding: planned and unplanned. Unplanned is the best—it’s like getting an unexpected bonus. A third kind is a blend of the two, just noticing local bird-life as you go about your day, the no-big-deal birds because you see them all the time. This is still birding, but not the kind you write home about. So between the three, we are always either birding, or ready to be birding on short notice. Sometimes we eat and get some sleep.

I was taking a small bag of garbage out to the receptacle on the street the other morning and noticed a bird, startled by my presence, flush from the ground in the empty lot across the street. The lot there is cleared for new construction and I see doves, pigeons, and sparrows there all the time, but this bird was bigger so I stopped and focused. It was a hawk of some kind, with prey in its grip, flying straight into our property.

I went back in the gate and looked around, but could not spot it. Then a few minutes later I heard the Blue Jays start squawking and crying. This is reliable hawk-alert behavior for jays. They hate raptors and are fearless in their efforts to expel them from their territory. They will scream and dive-bomb a hawk until it gets fed up and leaves. This I have seen many times now. So I followed the noise and located the bird, halfway up an oak, perched on a thick branch and dining on its prey. I could see the striped tail and for sure had a Cooper’s Hawk up there.

On the rooftop.

This tree happens to be located next to the apartment building so I grabbed my camera and headed to the rooftop with the intention of sneaking up and getting a photo. There’s plenty of foliage between myself and the oak up there, but I did find a gap that afforded a nice view, without the hawk noticing me. The above photo is the result.

I watched for a while as the jays kept at it, the hawk ignoring them and picking away it is victim. I could not see what unlucky bird it was, but statistically most likely a White-winged Dove, the most plentiful hawk prey around here.

So there you have it: I was minding my own business, doing a mundane chore, and all of a sudden I’m birding. I know what you’re thinking and you are right: we birders are all nuts. What we do borders on the sort of compulsive behavior that some would think needs treatment. Maybe so, but as maladies go this one is pretty enjoyable.

Refraction

The light that we see by
provisioned as much by sight
as by a persistent radiance

Has little angels dancing
on the heads of all its little pins

Seeking always the refraction
that fans it all out
into rainbows

How is this different
from visions of the Blessed Virgin

Appearing again, and again
in unexpected places
to the solace of the faithful

The wonder of the crowds
and expectation of the Absolute

The Trajectory of Our Lives

Our garden scarecrow, whom I have named Malcolm Eubanks, has masked up. Malcolm used to work in a department store, modeling fashionable clothing for would-be buyers. Now, his hollow head is being scoped out as a possible nest location by a pair of Carolina Wren. Such is the trajectory of our lives. But you should have seen him in his day. No one could make a pair of Dockers and a cardigan look more desirable. He had the gift.

Cardinal Rules

At the very break of dawn
they rouse us from our bed

Their calls addressed to everyone
awake, asleep or dead

You know us in the daylight
by our bright and piercing red

In the dark you know us
by the noise we make, instead

Dealing with thick stands of bamboo is a new birding experience for me. The property here is surrounded by them. Birds enjoy excellent protection within the maze of vertical shafts: no Sharpie is going to swoop in there, that’s for sure. No telephoto lens will penetrate either.

I hear cardinals all the time around here, but rarely see them. I was on the fourth floor, the roof of the stacks, when I caught this one, and still I’m aiming up its skirt as it sways on a bamboo pole some 20 feet above.

The Arbiters of Moonlight

An amortization as periodic table
        as a protractor stabbing pinholes
        in the charts of a then comes wonder

These are the geometries of heaven
        the wavelengths of moonlight

The scholar studies it, a merchant
        ponders its returns, a poet
        lurks in its blue shadows, scribbling
        charcoal rubbings from the reliefs

These are the trade guilds of heaven
        the arbiters of moonlight

What seeing saw, the feelings felt
        are the joins and fittings
        where everything that comes together
        in congregation, parts


(Graphic: Selectively tinted photograph of temporarily arranged steel scraps.)