And the Earth Breathes…

Photo: Road RainRain. It’s been quite plentiful in North Texas this last year or so, which isn’t historically common. Certainly feels like a different place, whether the weather is on a truly new cycle or it’s merely a blip in the cosmic scheme of things, and my traveling-companion and I marvel every time we’re out and about at how strangely, beautifully green the region is for this time of year. It helps to take the edge off of the heat, as well, and I can’t help but smell that magical eau-de-vie perfume exhaled by the world when it’s rainy and feel renewed, myself. What a calming effect it has.Photo: The Grey that Leads to Green

I know that many parts of the world are being treated less kindly by the rains and getting swamped in floods, and hope that mother earth will find a balance that harms none, helps all to flourish, but can’t help being grateful for our gentler and more nourishing version of the weather thus far. Our road trip to Santa Fe and back in late July/early August not only provided further evidence in its proliferation of green and growing things along our route but treated us to the beauties of stormy summer skies and perfumed earthy air quite a few times, as well. While storms do bring their troubles with them, those that do kindly leave us unharmed are a magnificent show of power and spectacle and beauty beyond human invention and remind me to show my respect and appreciation for nature more often.Photo: Well-Fed Landscape

Petrichor
The scent is all; this haunting
fragrance takes, in perfect synchrony,
my breath away and gives it back again,
back in electric rush as though
I’d leapt from ocean’s-depths
straight into air again—
This moment, this aching, longing,
gorgeous spark
of miniature infinity, this marks the time
when I find myself renewed, reborn—
The atomized eternity
that I breathe in, that I
pull in through every singing, sharp
electron of my frame, makes me go racing
back into the origins of time—still
fleeting, pass through iron gates
to death, and just as suddenly,
burst forth and know the spangled joys
of present life again

***************************************************

Santa Fe Afternoon
(A Breaking Storm’s Baptism)
Ochre and indigo, shadows and fire,
and in the far-off pines, a chanting bird
insinuating secret things is heard,
then joined by other birds, whose hearts’ desire
Is that the fulsome, clouded, darkling sky
should soon release a feathered shaft its own:
the lightning, thunder echoing with groan
and shout, to rout the perching birds to fly,
For they all wait, as we, gravity-bound,
wait under porches’ purple-gloaming eaves
for when the rain shakes us out of the leaves
to chase again the richness of this ground,
For water always wakens us once more,
Resuscitating all with petrichor.

Photo: The Veiled Desert

Even in the desert, the earth rejoices when the sky lets down its veils of rain.

With this little photo-essay and pair of poems, I’m reflecting on those joys, but also giving you a little preview: my books #2 and 3 should be published in good time for winter gift shopping, whether you’re interested in giving something to someone else or treating yourself! One of the books is a second volume sharing additional adventures in Miss Kitty’s Fabulous Emporium of Magical Thinking (or, MiKiFEMT-1), and the other will be a more grownup book of my poetry and visual images. Both in full color, this time. Not to worry, you can still get copies of that first book of nonsensical delights shipped directly to you any time you like, just by visiting good old Amazon online. You should have plenty of reading material handy in case the rain comes to visit again…

Photo: A Good Day for Reading

It’s always a good day for reading.

The Long and the Short of It

The short hours of winter daylight in northern climes have been known to drive some folk to madness. Such a visible reminder of brevity can be frightening. But it has its magical, lovely characteristics, too, not least of all in the extended reach of dusk backward into daylight hours, when the encroaching dark of a long night is preceded by a wash of sweet watercolor lengthening slowly, easefully across the sky. It begins barely past noon, the sun clinging to the horizon’s edge while rolling at this seasonally low angle to other parts of the globe. It often ends, it seems, with a snap of the sky’s lid into full darkness, but until then the whole afternoon has been suffused with yearning and attenuated gleam, the sky a pearl rather than the flat, undifferentiated blue of its cloudless expanse often seen on longer days.Photo: Sunset Begins

Sunset Begins

Sunset begins as dawn is barely ending,

The day a secret known to but a few

Who see such light without yet apprehending

That their mortality is old while new,

That death will follow birth in shorter seasons

Than anyone admits or likes to know,

Yet even such tight brevity has reasons

For relishing the afternoon’s brief glow.

 

Say this, if you would savor for its beauty

A life as short as sorrows make it seem:

That recognizing light remains a duty,

And relishing the colors of its gleam

A pleasure that entrances more compactly,

Succinctly, for the smallness of the day,

And teaches us to see such joys exactly

Within their span, before they fly away.

 

The moon, appearing ere the sun has faltered,

The sun chasing her tail toward the moon,

And all the stars that follow them, are altered

In sight because I know they vanish soon,

And I with them, but dream that time will lengthen

Enough to let me see another day,

Wiser for seeing afternoons that strengthen

And nourish me by coloring the way.

 

Sunset begins as I was barely crying,

Newborn, and night appears and quickly wins,

Yet even as I feel I’m fainting, dying,

I know life’s beauties when sunset begins.

Flowering Quietly

Photo: Macroscopic Garden 1The faintest, mildest, least-noticeable of all things can still have tremendous impact. Take lichens, for example: the most wonderful of flowers, even gardens, on a microscopic scale. Strong enough to wear down stone itself over time, but so delicate and dainty and fairylike that they are rich and glorious even in their seeming fragility.Photo: Macroscopic Garden 2

Your Youth is Calling

Photomontage: Lakeside IdyllsIdylls & Idealism

A lake as cool as fishes’ silver flanks

and ruffled less by wind than lily leaves,

where children roll their pant legs up, and sleeves,

to shepherd pollywogs along the banks,

Right where the river empties in its pool,

sending out eddies limned in leafy green

and damselflies all hover on the scene

as shadow changes sun to shady, cool,

Pale reminiscent ghosts of yesterdays

that elders at their picnics on the shore

remember by their scent, if little more,

and are transported thus into a haze,

For idling lakeside, childlike, it seems,

inspires sweet, idealistic dreams…Photo: Reminiscing

Death & Jellyfish

Continuing with parts of the last two days’ topics, I was reminded while writing those posts not only of the vastly varied wonders of my wanderings this past summer but also of the way that they all tend to reinforce my natural inclination to fall into pensive abstraction, thinking of how I fit into this gargantuan scheme of things. Abstractions of all kinds are so prevalent in nature as it is…the marvelous patterns and textures, repetitions and variations everywhere lending themselves to a sort of meditation that, for me, affords space for deep rumination on the grand existential questions as well as the minute beauties within them.

While my species has tremendous tendencies to be wasteful, it seems to me that nature wastes nothing, unless you count the prodigious extravagance of miraculous beauty that often seems to serve no special adaptive or functional purpose. For instance, a live jellyfish undulating through the sea has, simultaneously, the remarkable power of its sting to stun or kill much larger and stronger creatures, but is so delicate and ethereal in appearance that one could easily imagine it a mere soap-bubble, shattered by the slightest atom of touch or breath. A dead jellyfish, washed ashore, may well retain something of that bubble disguise until it has begun to desiccate, and still have some mysterious touch-me-not danger to it; a dead jelly in the kitchen may become food for yet other creatures, chefs and diners who know something beyond its tissue-thin and vaporous appearance. But until it is cooked to the point of becoming somewhat opaque, it also retains an astonishing, magical interior that’s visible through its transparent and translucent outer layers, a living artwork of curlicues and tangled tendrils, pulsing, fluttering threads and striae of rich, delicate color.

What all of this makes me think is that if I, too, am a work of nature, then perhaps I may allow myself to harbor the ambitious hope of being transcendent in the same simple, elegant ways that other creatures are. If I am not spectacular in life, going about my business in this little part of the universe with undistinguished and plodding ways, then at least I will dream of what I can eventually become in death. As I disintegrate and return to the slight molecules of my primeval parts, I would like to think I can renew some other portion of the natural order, feed new beauty with my humble dust. If I can go to my last sleep with this possibility in my heart, I will go willingly, and gladly ready to fade myself to nothingness; what follows will surely be a new kind of joy. It’s the nature of things.Photomontage: Natural Abstractions

Hard-Edged Impressionism

Digital illo from a photo: Doing My Impression of a LonghornThe steadily clear, cloudless skies of a still very warm October day in north Texas lend themselves mostly to seeing the world as a series of crisp cutouts, light and shadow unmitigated by much subtlety. But after spending the last six years living here, I have found an interesting fine-textured, mellow character that offers much of the softening effect the light might seem to steal from the scenery. It comes in those rare times, like yesterday afternoon, when my spousal-person and I have the time and leisure to wander slowly and savor those things that are uniquely alluring about this still somewhat alien terrain.

Instead of the flat and unchanging brown I had somehow come to expect from Texas when I was still a foreigner to it all, sitting up in the very northwest corner of the country and imagining I was moving to dry, unmitigated plains, this part of the state is actually a softly rolling zone, a puffy quilt as opposed to a hospital-corners flat sheet. There are little ravines and arroyos tucked into it, sliding slopes of no great height but enough curvaceous amplitude to give a sense of motion and variation. There are no natural lakes around here, but a good number of created ones, and Ray Roberts Lake is a massive reservoir with thousands of acres of state park land along its shores. The farther inland oak-and-pine forested walking paths are currently closed because of flooding, an exceedingly rare thing in this region but brought on by last winter and spring’s astonishing rain performance. So even if it weren’t for the possibility that there’d be more mosquitos in the shady walk (thanks a bunch, West Nile virus), sticking to the breezier open areas of the lakeside was more promising.

As we drove out toward the lake, I was reminded of how the tall native grasses’ and wildflowers’ color and texture, height, and movement hide the sharp edges of the landscape; how the rolling terrain lulls me; how vast stretches of these, stands of trees between ranchland pastures and open plains, and the broad blue dome of the sky all become blurs of comfortable sameness. All things gain or lose specificity of detail with our relative nearness or distance, whether physical or mental.

As we’d drive nearer to a change in the topography or flora, or a lasso of vultures would tighten in the sky overhead, the edges and distinctions becoming more defined again, our eyes and minds would shift back to notice details. As we passed through these, we would relax once more into that easeful somnolence of a Sunday afternoon’s outing and see only large patches of color, texture, movement. A leafy copse at the edge of one of the area’s sweeping ranches first looks like a dark and fuzzy blend of earthy greens and browns, then gradually coalesces into trees and grasses, then proves to be shading a small group of magnificent longhorns who graze steadily, undisturbed by the larger or smaller picture.

I am reminded once more of how small a part of any picture I am, yet how free to be a moving, changing, unique point of interest within it if and as I choose. All of us are both at once: concrete and distinct, yet subsumed in the greater whole as mere specks, little dots of disappearing solidarity within the hazy afternoon of history. I am content.

Miss Kitty Sitter

You would think, given my secret-superhero nickname of Miss Kitty (as in Miss Kitty’s Fabulous Emporium of Magical Thinking), that I would be the very epitome, the avatar, of the Crazy Cat Lady. Crazy, yes; I’m happy to admit to that achievement. But I’ve never owned, been owned by, or lived for any length of time with, a cat. Let alone multiple cats. I really like cats. They seem to like me, too. But I’ve never had the space, time, cash, and commitment required to be a good housemate for cats, so they have remained as exotic as their wild and king-of-the-jungle cousins all are to me.

Photo: What??? We were just vacuuming.

What??? We were just vacuuming when you arrived.

Right now, though, I am one of a cadre of stepmothers to the next door duo. I get a great kick out of anthropomorphizing and observing them, not to mention, being fawned over when I am granted that privilege. Sophia, half the size of her housemate Jackson, is twice the social character. She almost invariably greets me (or any other visitor to the house, as far as I can tell) right at the front door with a cat-style howdy-do and the perfectly evident expectation that she will be thoroughly admired and, very probably, will soon allow the appropriately worshipful visitor to pet her at least a little. Jackson would rather maintain his air of gentlemanly reserve and either disappear at the very sound of movement in the house or repair to a shadowy corner under some furniture, from whence he can observe and assess the goings-on and the potential dangers of the visiting party. He is large and fit enough to hold his own in an encounter, but would rather keep his savoir-faire intact with a proper feline aloofness and fine manners than to be so crass as to interact with anyone he didn’t himself invite for a visit.

But their human companion’s lengthy absence brings about gradual, inevitable variations on their routines, and adds many layers to the interactions with us substitute companions.

Let’s be right up front about the least appealing of the interactions, which of course is the cleaning and maintenance of the Feline Facilities, a.k.a. the litter box. While we all process our food into waste products that must be disposed of properly, I will readily admit that fecal cleanup duty (She said DOODY!) is a factor in my choice not to have cat companions in my home full-time, just as it plays, however infinitesimal, a part in why I opted not to have children. Assuming I was ever physiologically capable of the latter. I would be fairly happy if excrement played as little a part in my physical life as I want it to in my emotional and metaphorical existence. I do, however, consider that any creatures existing at my mercy as much as house cats do deserve cleanliness and fresh air and the like, so I doody-fully manage the litter box contents.

Then I can enjoy the pleasanter aspects of cat companionship with a clear conscience.

Photo: Found It!

Here! We know you were looking for this. We found the food bag. Whatcha gonna do with it? Need help? Can we have the crackly Bag, too, can we, huh???

Sophia, as Social Director of the household activities, oversees my subsequent ceremonial washing of the hands, cleaning and refilling the water dish, and topping up the food bowl. She will make herself more closely available for intermittent petting by placing her royal magnificence between me and any houseplants I attempt to water or mail I put in the basket, but is content to let me fill water and food dishes without intervention, lest I get behind in those more important tasks. I am careful, meanwhile, to wash hands not only after the litter box endeavors but also after handling food, wiping a little spot of post-wet-food spit-up from the floor, or clipping a dead leaf off of the houseplants; this serves both to keep me from contaminating anything the Kids eat or play with and to scent my hands with something that seems more familiar and less off-putting to Jackson.

Photo: Together/Apart

We like to hang out together, but prefer to maintain the illusion that we don’t need each other. Within sight or sound, but separate; together/apart. Two cats + one human, all playing the game.

Because, though he is reticent and even shy at times, Jackson is also secretly interested in having a social life. He just prefers it to be at his own more leisurely pace and with a small degree of built-in comfort. He came out of his shadowy corner to inspect my perimeter and check my vitals, even on my first visit as Assistant Cat Admirer. But I had to earn the privilege first. I ignored him, politely. After my ablutions with his hu-mom’s soap, I sat in the middle of the living room floor, quietly looking out the window. Sophia made a beeline for me and wreathed herself sinuously around my parked personage, magnanimously letting me scratch her behind the ears and stroke her silky pelt, and giving me tender little love-nips whenever I strayed from the intended spot for too long. Jackson, I could feel through my back, sat back and observed.

Photo: Boss Man

Jackson gets comfortable enough to let me know he can turn his back on me (mostly), but makes sure to keep ostentatiously scent-marking everything within reach so I’ll remember who’s boss of the entire operation.

Once I’d stayed lounging on the floor long enough to assure him of my low-key intentions, Jackson gave a couple of interrogatory meows, paced over to my back, rubbed himself up against my spine in a testing-while-marking sort of embrace, and made a slow circuit of my cross-legged figure. When he paused in front of me, I didn’t even offer a hand, not just yet. I gave him that little How-ya-doin’ nod that I see cats give each other, and the slow blink that told him I wasn’t just baiting him for a pounce. After a couple more loops and meow announcements, he stopped long enough for a head bunt and a hand check. I was admitted to the club.

Photo: I will approach you.

I have decided that I will approach you. Keep Calm and keep your hands to yourself until I tell you otherwise.

Every day since, Sophia has remained the primary greeter, supervisor, and fearless leader of the operation, though only a couple of times being quite energetic enough to attempt to squirt by me through an open door. I suspect her of liking the capture and return to indoor attention just as much as she likes the quick sprint and leap, but I’ll let her think that I don’t know it. I know they both have their little exercise sessions when left to their own devices, if nothing else because various small objects move from place to place overnight and the living room area rug is always repositioned and has new hills and valleys in it in the morning. But they both like to keep a fairly leisurely pace and attitude while I’m around. Sometimes, one or both will consent to a brushing, along with the required massage and stroking—yesterday, Jackson completely forgot his sang-froid and insisted on a vigorous combing and petting session for about five minutes before strolling back to the shade.

Photo: Queen of All She Surveys

As queen of all she surveys, Sophia is confident that she will be both admired and obeyed at all times, and by golly, so she is.

Tomorrow? Who knows. I may find that they have forgotten to hide the evidence of an all-neighborhood-all-night catnip party. But I’ll bet that they’ll still maintain their air of calm self-assurance in my service and admiration. And that’s quite all right with me.

Photomontage: Action Figure

Sophia, even when relaxing, is the Action Figure of the household.