Vulture Culture

Bird-watching is easy in countryside where there’s a lot of flat land, a lot of sky and plenty of clumps of brush or trees here and there for roosting and cover. Our recent expedition to Texas Hill Country was a great occasion for it, especially since the fences, power poles and trees that line freeways are both the perfect lookout points and display pedestals for local hawks and grackles and doves. Most distinctively regional among those winged wonders catching my eye as we drove down and back were the marvelous black vultures.

I love watching them, from the graceful, majestic soaring swoops and loops they draw across the broad planes of the sky to their awkward huddling in flocks on the massive transformer towers, to those rare and delightful closeups where I can get a better look at their funny mix of magnificent feathered eagle-like bodies with those wrinkly, wizened looking little heads and their bold hooked beaks. The sudden whuff-whuff as a large bird, unseen above my head on its light-pole perch, dove over me in a low arc to switch poles was like being fanned by the wing of a passing angel the other day. Clearly my intrusion on its territory wasn’t so distressing to the buzzard either, as he opted to land on the next post over and then sat surveying our party placidly even when my husband and I came and stood directly below to gaze on the magnificent creature. He felt exceedingly well fitted for the place, letting the cold drafts ruffle his feathers just a little as he sat gazing out at Canyon Lake under the lowering skies of the first of the year.

I call that a very good Texas omen.digital painting from a photo

Stratospheric Eventualities

Calm and measureless heights of azure Texas sky

Rise streaked with silent foaming white,

The broad hot blue patterned with these delicate

Ambling clouds that stretch to cover great distance at

A leisurely, attenuated speed, always slipping noiselessly

Across branch-tops, over the brazen sun, and into

The realms of seeming outer space, asleep

Though it should be at lazy midday
digital painting from a photoSuddenly this easy traffic is crossed

By a soaring, circling pair of

Dark metallic wings, the steely black of one

Great vulture passing through to catch

The updrafts and to cycle down, surveying

His kingdom plat by plat—he’s joined, soon enough,

By would-be kings, the other buzzard princes of

The wide blue air, who comb the same

Field of clouds with their own

Gunmetal-dark brace of wings
digital painting from a photoAnd after a time, these too are scattered abroad at the dash

Of two, then three, sharp triangles of louder, faster, sterner steel,

As fighter jets flash by in succession,

Pull together into a tight

Formation from their first sharp linear slash, and make

A single force with which they will unzip

The sometime quiet of that great wide skydigital painting from a photo

Ten Thousand Kinds of Green

 

photoIt takes very little time upon returning to the Pacific Northwest for me to be reminded of one of its central characteristics that became so imprinted on my heart and mindset through my many years of dwelling there as to be interchangeable with my entire concept of wholeness and well-being: the color green. The millions of colors that can be called Green, to be more precise. Having been born in the Emerald City of the Evergreen State, I can confirm that they have earned their titles both the hard way (rain–sometimes seemingly endless–rain–oh, and snowpack and glacier runoff in the spring) and entirely honestly. The city and the state are genuinely, deeply, exquisitely green.photoOther places may be green with envy. Yes, there are certainly other spectacularly green places on earth, some of which I have visited, among them to wit: Ireland, Allgäu, and the jungle that straddles the Panamanian border with Costa Rica (a tropical cloud forest) all rife with verdure and also with all of those forms of watery nourishment that bring about such burgeoning beauties in their respectively green-glorious regions. Each green place is unique in the character and flavor of its glowing, growing vegetation, and each gains its place in my heart as much through its variations of verdancy as by any other means.photoWhat it all comes down to is that these things grow on me as much as on the face of the earth, filling my senses and my emotional center in ways that few other things can. This recent return to my mossy, leafy, grassy, graceful green roots merely reminds me of what lies deep within me all of the time. The west coast is so rich in tints and hues and tones and shades and variations of green that I cannot imagine an existence without them and know that green will always be the color against which completeness and contentment and ecstasy are best measured.photophotophotophotophotophotophotoMourn the tiresome persistence of the rain at times, if you must, but once you have been drawn into the corridors of the green world you will likely find it irresistible, too. It bursts with the presence of renewal and strength, lures you with the dappled dream-world light that only a leafy and towering tunnel of trees can create, and makes the heart ache with that yearning form of delight best found in things that sing of secrets, promises and hope.