Ephemeral

There are transitory moments

between seasons

when the world

comes out of its dressing room,

so stunning we lose our balance.

This moment of spiritual frenzy

does not wait to be discovered.

It comes and goes like a fire

of dry kindling,

and can be easy to miss

depending on one’s latitude.

 

Light spills through antique bottles

on a sunken windowsill,

stones and tree-roots

are less discreet than usual.

We feel our fingertips more closely,

an un-namable itch turns over inside us

and we want to know everything.

 

It is my job to point this out,

as I pointed out the copper-plated bar top

while you gobbled up your crustaceans,

swimming in a sauce of cream and brown roux,

sopping up the last remnants with grilled bread.

Planets may rotate and stars explode,

but earthbound as we are,

we listen for warblers.

 

We look ahead to coffee,

meals, holidays, weather.

 

Olympic Mountains

Jagged white peaks rose, totems of winter: Earth’s Master Carver.

I was merely an apprentice spoken to in passing, on one of those Seattle days when darkness comes at 4:30 in the afternoon and mantles your whole life.

I listened to Van Morrison’s T.B. Sheets as I trundled along the pier, just up from where the cruise ships dock when they pass through Elliott Bay, tourists de-boarding only long enough to get coffee and smoked salmon, see the Needle and the Market, through the sad tourist lenses of not knowing.

The wind cut into me like a halibut’s teeth, oysters moped in brackish sludge, aquatic hermaphrodites fascinated with themselves.

The mountains and I fell for each other, both of us northerners by birth.  Both wreathed in mist, starved for sun.

 

Sitting Still, Listening, Spring Evening

A warm May evening startles me with its beauty, as you often do.

The birdsong, an affirmation.

Laughing water, a meditation.

 

Wine is soft. My cravings relax their grip.

A ripple in the grapefruit moonrise.

Medicine in the moment.

 

Now and Again

Now the giraffe-like lily, turning its head to look northwest out the window in graciousness.

Now the blackberry – summer’s thimble – is incubating, its exquisite shape perhaps philosophized over at a celestial seminar where Father Sun and Mother Moon are merely attendees, two out of ten-thousand apprentice magicians. The fruit will not be on a bush beneath a tree in some faraway land, but here, now, staining my skin with its potent nectar, nestling among the tissues in my hands, softened by enough olive oil to last many lifetimes of a home cook.

Now the argumentative weather, now the three, four, five, six (no, seven!) hawks circling overhead, descending as if taking a circular stair. Now the clean birth of plants, not the messy one of animals. Now the mystic light whose source is unidentifiable, falling – like you – into the category of mysterious beauty.

Now and again, the contemplation of time and how it doesn’t exist, confused by the human mind with earthly cycles and a construct of our own devising. Now and again, the world seen as a poem.

Now the sound of the woodpecker seeking his morning meal, same as an egg frying. Now the grain of the wooden beams that are the rib cage of this house. Now us, the heart of the house. Now us, always at ease but still wrestling with everything. Now us, always going to new places without ever leaving the room. Now us, rocking gently on calm waters after the typhoon.

Now the ghost of the cat returning, following me from room to room, both of us always eating, sleeping, always doing the dance of sitting then standing then sitting again, always looking out the window, he in graciousness while I just try for it.

Now we return to the lily.

 

Witness

Again, I rose early and walked in shale gorges both smooth and jagged, by the wild water and evergreens.  I moved through the day like an athlete though my feet are broken, my throat so sick of onions.

Again, I sense the presence of a bear, and wonder if that is your animal spirit – vast, warm, strong.  Steam rises from a bowl of soup, the wind sways the treetops, and I long for company.

Again, I long to burn, a flare in a dark wet cavern.  I long to illuminate, pluck at the beaded web, reach for a single strand of – not transcendence – something earthly, simple.  Fill my rib cage ordinarily, break my back over the knee of witnessing the world.

 

Signs Of Life

The ice is melting, the eaves drip.  We’re tipping back toward the sun.  A mouse appears suddenly, bursting like an outlaw from the seam joining the edge of the woodshed with pastures of white.  He vanishes back through his hidden door, a brown streak, almost an anomaly after so many weeks of soundless, lifeless cold.  I picture him returning to a sleeping bag, a lighted lamp, a stack of books and dreams of April.

An almost indistinguishable pattering of yet another mouse nibbling at a cookie left exposed on the blue-and-white tiles of the kitchen counter.  Hoof-prints at the back of the house this morning, on a furrowed path that runs through a valley in miniature between waist-high banks of snow.  March is underway.  Everything eases up slightly.  Things have been draped down over themselves, now they have their hands on their knees and are beginning to rise.

Groundhog prepares her tea, relaxes in her chair, thinks of the old fox who lived there before she moved in.  Wonders how he’s doing these days.  She always liked him.  She had imagined, many times, the two of them slow-dancing, burning a candle at three in the morning, her head against his fiery chest.

Back above ground we long to see beneath the snow, we long for the latch on the northern door that will soon open.  Back above ground, there go the geese again.  The geese who – like us – have been around all winter.

 

Late January Things

The cardinal, for one, content to go about his business.  The fox, for another, at ease in his auburn jacket.  The groundhog, still putting off the errands she needs to run.  The soft gaze of the doe regarding you, not for long, yet seeming for a brief moment to consider you as a being of great importance.

The frozen arteries of streams drawing lines to the lake that is the heart of this place.  A cascade of water stopped dead in its tracks by earth science.  Snow turning almost blue just after the sun slips behind west hill, like that framed photograph of Sweden in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, its top edge dusted once a month to the barren sound of an occasional cough, the next name called exactly as the last name was, a clean copy of how all future names will be called, unless the ratio of consonants to vowels tips the scale too far in a given direction.

Standing beneath spruce boughs watching snow flakes fall, unhurried, particles of ash or feather.  Standing in close to the heart of the tree while wind sways the limbs, as if you have been welcomed aboard an evergreen ship charting an imaginary course up to Canada, or Nova Scotia.

Another storm warning issued, another mug of hot liquid slurped, welcomed into a body cocooned inside many layers of fabric, some woven by hand, some by machine, another silent halleluiah spoken either way.  An obsession with time and temperature, forecast and calendar, with saying we know the new year will be a great one – this last among so many other unfounded claims, clothed in a largely American propensity to keep one’s chin up.