Hey, Lookit What I Found!

Crows are a great source of pleasure to me. I admire their bold, graphic good looks: wiry legs and strong beak, shining eyes, and smooth feathers accented with iridescent shine. I enjoy listening to their noisy announcements and conversations, knowing that whether one is broadcasting his name in braggadocio or informing the rest of the neighborhood of what she’s discovered, there is often more brainy expression and interaction going than in many a text-messaging flurry from a pack of attention-deficient humans.

Crows can be aggressive and mean-spirited like humans, too, as I well know from working many years on a heavily treed campus where nesting season was Open Season on certain passersby whom the crows chose to bully. But for the most part, when they’re not busy trying to defend their territory they devote a goodly amount of time and energy to exploring and problem-solving and even humorous play, that is also surprisingly easy to see through an anthropomorphic lens. If I see a crow taking a particular interest in anything, chances are pretty good that I’ll find it interesting myself, should I follow its lead.
Digital artwork from photographs: Curious Crows

Shore Enough

I am too smart for you by half; you think you’re bright? Don’t make me laugh!

You think me infantile and boisterous, but cannot crack an oyster

With no knife? Ha! Silly chums: no fingers, no opposing thumbs,

And yet, I’ve dined on oysters thrice before you’ve opened one. How nice

That you consider yourselves wise to have your thoughts and synthesize

Them into action, yet still fail to see that mine makes yours seem pale,

When you consider that you’ve got advantages that I have not,

And still I’m able, while you strive and strain to merely keep alive,

To caw this jeering little poem at you from this, my beachfront home.

Huntin’ ‘n’ Fission

I’m told that it’s both fun and useful to have hobbies. There are certainly plenty of books, magazines, news articles, classes, clubs and social organizations devoted to leisure-time pursuits, all of them trumpeting the value of such avocations. Some of them are decidedly age-specific: I haven’t seen a large number of free solo rock climbing promotions aimed at senior citizens, for example. There are hobbies considered preferable to persons of certain economic strata, fitness levels, sexes, nationalities and any number of other identifying categories, some active and some quite passive or spectatorial, some of them expensive to learn and requiring extensive training and practice and others free and simple to master. Regional favorites abound, like, say, noodling (catching catfish by hand), which would be hard to enjoy in desert climates unless you happened to be both a big fan of the sport and dedicated enough to stock your own evaporation-protected pond. Some of the more intellectually stimulating hobbies, like competitively designing robotics for cage fights or nuclear plants for home use, are highly entertaining to their practitioners but utterly escape the attentions of us more modest-brained folk as either too highfalutin or just plain incomprehensible. Sudoku, popular with millions of people cleverer than I am, falls into that too-challenging category for me since I’m so mathematically unfit, but I do like some kinds of word puzzles reasonably well if I’m in that rare mood.

Should I take up golf, having decided to move (when my spouse gets around to retiring) to a place on a golf course partly for its–surprise!–affordability and its location in a great town in a great part of the country, and in no small part as well for its great view into the green and leafy first fairway of the course? That would require my learning which end of the club is the grip and which the head, not to mention a whole bunch of other stuff, and on top of that, paying dearly for the privilege.photoWhile I’m still living in Texas I’d certainly be in a logical place to take up hunting, but that doesn’t appeal to me at all, unless it’s with a camera. For that matter, I’m more inclined to practice target shooting with a longbow, something I’ve enjoyed briefly in the distant past, than with a gun as well, being mighty skittish about those things. Being on the fast track to old age, I could probably pick up something more sedentary like knitting and crocheting if I had the patience. My single brief fishing moment post-childhood actually garnered me a cute little throw-back bass (as a kid I never caught anything but one big scary looking White Sucker that even my older boy cousins wouldn’t touch) and was enjoyed in good company while sipping a fine Texas brew; maybe that should inspire me to get busy with fishing.photoThat’s the thing, though: I just don’t enjoy games and sports, puzzles and pastimes much at all. Whether this arose or was reinforced by my longtime social phobias, perfectionistic fear of being seen as incompetent, dyslexic inability to keep anything I’m doing on a standard track, hilariously hideous sporting skills or any combination thereof is probably irrelevant. You see, there’s no separation of church and state in my life. I spend my days and evenings doing the very things that lots of folk can only do on an occasional basis and to fill their free time.

If I took up drawing, concert-going, reading and writing, cooking, DIY projects, gardening, photography or collecting weird bits of Stuff as a so-called hobby, what would I do with my day job? The truth is simply that I’m a fully fledged frivolous person. If eccentric creative activities and ways of thinking are on the periphery of real life, then I am a bona fide fiction, an imaginary character myself. If on the other hand art is, as I’m convinced it should be, central to existence and well-being, why then I’m just ahead of the curve; I won’t need to retire to any old rocking chair or go in a desperate search for something to keep me occupied, because I already have too many fun and pleasing things to do. Either way, I’m keeping busy.

Rare Beasts & Royalty

Sunset over the Serengeti & a Slight Belch from the King of the Beastsgraphite drawing

It happens sometimes on the plains, where Splendid Starlings and the strains

Tok-tokkie knocks create a song that’s just as rhythmic as it’s long,

Where Shongololo rolls and runs ‘tween rise and setting of the suns,

Where the hyenas sing their tunes betwixt midnight and morning’s moons:

It’s there the leopard’s race was lost–surprise–at noon, and at great cost,

To one old lion whose good luck dovetailed with leopards run amok,

To the degree that one loud crunch announced the end of it at lunch.

A-Hunting We *All* Go

graphite drawingThe Blue Lacy

He’s of a faithful breed, my dog, a hunting hound, a clever beast,

a lean and hungry Cassius, but faithful all the same–

He races me to the rotting log and runs to ground the boar at feast

who’ll soon be ours–Alas for us, the boar knows his Wild Game!

He lunges up in fear and rage: his tusks are aiming for my throat,

and I have tripped into my grave on roots as strong as sin–

But Blue has taken center stage, leaps on the boar’s mad, bristly coat,

gives me the breath my knife to save, hangs on as it plunges in–

The boar falls back with a bloody scream but turns on me his fiery glare,

and then, in an instant, strikes once more, for he means my dog to die–

I yank the roots, trip him into the stream! and Blue and I tear away from there–

and we relish our supper of beans–no boar–my faithful hound and I.digital paingting from a graphite drawing

Competitive Edginess

Who really wins or loses when there’s a competition of sorts in hand? Seems there’s usually ample opportunity for both sides to get the better of each other, and even more so, for both to end up battered and belittled by the ordeal. I’m all for battling against one’s own failings and worst characteristics, but by George, I’d rather not have anyone else taking advantage of my myriad weaknesses. I feel a certain–possibly smug–contentment right here on the sidelines, watching all of the other snarling and smirking dupes work themselves into a froth by attempting to best each other all the time, knowing as I do that as long as it is a competition, somebody’s bound to come out on the bottom of the stack.

graphite drawing

Join Me for Dinner

The beast that ate the hunting dogs

Was fatter than a hundred hogs

But oddly still was hungry when

The hunters chased him down again

So dinnertime—you’ll be delighted—

Found dogs and masters reunited.

digital painting from a drawing

Whistle a Happy Tune & Sit in the Catbird Seat

About six million starlings

Roosting on the overpass

May pass the evening pleasantly

By dumping on the grass

While singing chirpy little tunes

Of evening’s charming cheer,

But just remember their first task

If you should drive too near.

Their cat companions lie in wait,

Meanwhile, beneath your couch;

When you come home, they like to roam

Right in your path, then crouch,

Paws up, complaining with a scream

If you should chance to trip

Upon their fine reclining place;

They’ll fly right off to rip

That couch to ribbons, smithereens,

On this remote pretext,

And if you scold or turn them cold,

They’ll turn and rip you next.

The Early Bird Gets the Worm (But Don’t Waste Your Pity on the Late Bird)

photo

You mockin’ at ME?

That old saying has transcended life-directional, generational and international boundaries so widely and deeply that it’s practically accepted as the absolute Truth. Don’t get me wrong, for many it is indeed an operational reality. But as someone who not only loves to sleep in but craves, nay, needs large quantities of sleep regularly if not constantly, well, I have come to accept my own version of this truth, or one I think is a more completely accurate version.

Yes, the early bird gets that proverbial worm more often than not.

But every birdie that gets out there, raring to go, in the earlier hours of any given day is not inherently smarter or a better hunter or more wonderful than the one still tucked neatly into the nest, storing up strength for her own burst of action, no matter what either’s pace or style or M.O. happens to be. For one little thing, the Law of Unintended Consequences can indeed be a nasty spank on the flank to anyone not paying proper attention, but in other senses, it can also lend a lovely surprise ending, a positive twist unforeseen: the worm that the aforementioned early bird unceremoniously cheated out of another day’s orchard-munching left an untouched, pristine apple hanging there. This glorious apple would otherwise have been unavailable to Miss Sleepy-Cheepy, who has finally arisen, seen the sweet orb of the fruit eclipsing a late-morning sun and surrounded by its celestial aura with a sense of angel choirs bursting into cinematic soundtrack song, and eaten her fill of juicy, energy-producing (and doctor-evading, if we are to believe all old sayings while we’re in this groove) goodness. Hopefully, thanking in her heart her early rising cousin for rescuing a tidbit that she secretly prefers to eating boring old worms anyway.

This, of course, is one microscopic scenario in the universe of possibilities. Many of those alternate realities are terrible, many grand, and many, just as on the millions of days before them, unremarkable. Except as they are experienced by us quirky, crazy, individual beings. We have our own filters and will always know life’s ups and downs through those; even though our filters must change as we change-or-die in life, we will never cease to experience a filtered life as long as we do live. We find our own realities. We shape them and understand them as best we can, and we let our own compulsions and desires and beliefs keep pulling us into the new world of tomorrow, whether we get up at the blink of its dawn or lie somnolent well into the middle of the day.

I am no bird. But I can fly, too, despite my urge to sleep a very long time while nestled in my safe places, and despite my natural resistance to learning new and seemingly impossible things. And it doesn’t have to be before a certain hour of the clock for me to stretch my wings. Maybe I’m a bat. If so, that makes me the early one, I guess.

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Me, ‘flying’. Thanks to the filtered reality of a 777 flight simulator plus an *actual* pilot brother-in-law doing the real guidance while I attempt a second landing of it in ‘Memphis’. I didn’t crash it, but I do apologize about those blown tires; guess that’s just a consequence of my being such a latecomer to the whole flying thing. But it felt real, in its own way, and gave me a sense of both exhilarating and terrifying freedom and an even deeper appreciation for the people who make Flying Humans a reality in such amazing ways. Whoa, there! Gotta go lie down now.