Here in the Attic

digital artwork from photographsTreasury

Click and clatter,

chuckle, chatter,

in the attic,

nascent natter

tells a tale of

bits and bobbins,

delicate as

little robins’

eggs and feathers,

soft as heather,

sings of history

and hidden

secrets dusty

and ghost-ridden,

‘mid the bones

and bolts and buckles,

be they sweet as

honeysuckle’s

scent remembered,

or the laughter

in the rafters

heard hereafter,

recollections

of old treasure,

holding motes of

passing pleasure—

sneeze, and all the

atoms scatter

to the corners,

click

and

clatter.

Strange Attractors

Living things, like certain mathematical systems, are attracted (or not) to each other in a wonderful variety of ways. It’s pretty hard to predict what will constitute an individual’s attractors. Some people might say that a warthog, for example, could only be attractive to another warthog, but that’s a very limited notion, because we all have different definitions of beauty and those definitions can be strictly visual but can easily also include appeals to our other senses, not only the standard receptors of touch, sound, taste or scent but also our sense of curiosity or contentment or spirituality or a whole range of other concepts.photoIf I were a little tiny Texas Spiny Lizard, for example, I might be interested in mating or procreating only with a similar little tiny lizard, but I could also very easily be attracted for other purposes to the warmth of a sunny concrete slab, the smorgasbord of yummy insects that visit a group of potted plants, or the shady shelter between the bricks on which the pots are perched, where I can hide from the patrolling cats of the neighborhood. If I were one of the cats, I can imagine I’d be very attracted to the lizard, not just out of feline curiosity but because cats apparently like Texas Spiny Lizards, I suppose because they are small, moving targets for the hunt and possibly just because a cat might enjoy a good set of lizard drumsticks or baby back ribs or tenderloin on occasion. Do cats analyze their dining on a basis of whether or not a meal ‘tastes like chicken‘? I don’t know, but I do know that small, moving objects and food are both common cat attractors.photoI’m sure it’s also safe to assume that others are attracted to these little reptiles. Most likely that’s the main reason I’ve rarely seen one on our patio or porch any larger than this three-inch/10 cm specimen. If one of the local hawks swoops close enough to notice them, such dainty critters would logically look like the animal equivalent of fast food, and some of the smaller but reasonably aggressive birds (I’m looking at you, bluejays) might compete for such a snack. Snakes, if any of those nearby are larger than my typical garden snake visitor, would find them delectable. So it goes. We are attracted to partners and friends, but also to that which will sustain our progress toward finer dining or just plain survival.photoMy admiration of Texas Spiny Lizards, tiny or not, is based on several of these elements. There’s the simple appeal of the handsome patterning on and sculptural shapes of their infinitesimal-alligator bodies, of course. Those zippy dashes they make from one spot to another first catch my eye and then intrigue me, especially when one of them stops to practice his pushups for a while. I like the way they hold very, very still in between moves, moving only their eyes as they seem to scan for bugs to eat or new heights of patio slab or plant pot-dom to conquer. And very often, I like to contemplate them at equal leisure, attracted most of all to their very differentness from me.

Wag if You Know What I Mean

photoA Whiff of Happiness

While all you two-legs types are mired

And wallowing in wintry fear,

I see spring’s hints and am inspired

To smell the happiness from here

What gain or merit mankind finds

In only frigid, dormant joy,

When you could wag those sad behinds,

Dance forward, every girl and boy—

Hold on to sorrow if you must,

While I lap up those thrills made dear

By breaking through the frozen dust:

I smell the happiness from here!

Foodie Tuesday: Pretty as a Picture

photoThere’s an almost unbreakable rule when it comes to sensory perception and food: if it looks bad, it’ll taste bad. People will eat the most strange-smelling stuff–witness durian, any number of aged cheeses, fermented foods, and a large number of culture-specific items from around the world that, to anyone not either genetically inclined to be attracted to it or else remarkably brave and adventuresome, will yell at the lizard brainPOISON! POISON!’ The emetic reflex is, indeed a powerful thing when triggered by smells, but somehow a vast quantity of people have not only overcome that response but embraced the non-toxic results of the experiment. But things that look unpleasant are often a much harder sell. We humans respond intensely to appearances.

That’s not to say that we won’t eat things that look fairly nasty. The first person who looked at a monkfish probably didn’t say to himself, ‘gosh, that looks inviting,’ so much as something like ‘good thing I’m starving here!’ and the famously slimy strands of nattō (compounded, I’m told on good authority, by a perfume that’s fully its equal for off-putting qualities) were unlikely the source of its original appeal. In our household, the favorite rude comment if food has a notably unpalatable appearance is, ‘are ya gonna eat that or did ya?’–to which my response is generally to spoon up a big bite of it, because I’m almost always the one who eats Weird Things and I’m also a petulant show-off.

But for the most part, looks are terribly important, not only because in the rawest sense they can mean the difference between safe and unsafe eating but also because ultimately, we like food to stimulate our pleasure centers. So it’s not the worst rule of thumb to look around, when seeking ingredients and recipes, for things that have the inherent beauty we will respond to most happily, and that can sustain their loveliness throughout the prep and presentation arrangements.

Sometimes, of course, the best rule of thumb in the event is to simply eat the food as we found it, because if it looks pretty to start with it probably doesn’t need any plastic surgery from us ordinary non-chef mortals. See it, eat it. Pretty good recipe, pretty often.

photo

A Mockingbird Appears

photoWhen ideas and inspiration have ceased, at least for the time being, to well up from the inside, it’s a mercy that the wide world contains so many and will hand them to me if I keep my senses ready enough. I often find myself too distracted by the busyness and pedestrian chores of the workaday world to see the magical other dimensions right within my reach, and need some helpful pricking from a sight or sound or scent as I pass through to remind me to open up the eye and ear and heart and take advantage of the universe’s generosity when it’s poured out so liberally right within my grasp.photoI walk in a haze of dully daily thought, lost to the world of rich and rare delights I’m walking in, when suddenly a mockingbird appears and turns its bright eye on me and seems to contemplate how absent I must be to almost pass it by when it’s quite nearly underfoot. In that shining eye a world reflects in which the other me is wrapped around with blooms, with drifting clouds sailing across a broad blue sky; with jasmine-scented breeze, with mist as the sprinklers spring to life, with happy shouts from a handful of little playing school kids passing me, looking for miracles of their own everywhere because they are yet too young to have forgotten them so foolishly as I have done. When the bird takes to its stripe-blazed wings and dives back into the air, my thoughts begin to follow and fly with it again: I am awake once more to flight and tune in to the rippling, rolling variations of its song as it rises to the trees, and soars above, and makes me remember that I am in a world full of wonder, if I will only let it fill me again.graphite drawing

Gleaming Afternoon

While I would soar, would gladly fly

Wide, in an arc across the sky

Whose dome of hotly burnished brass

Encompasses at every pass

The great wild height of atmosphere

That would engage to hold me here,

I can, eyes shut and spirit wide,

Pierce heaven to the great Outside.