A few years ago in a flea market in town or just out of town or in that twilight zone of small town America where houses vie with tractor repair, Mexican restaurants and grain cellars for zoning rights I bought a book of Song Dynasty landscape poetry. It’s a beautiful book. Right there on the cover (and which I never noticed until now) is that the poems were translated by Tagore. It’s funny how the obvious either escapes us completely or just doesn’t register. I thumbed through the book this morning looking for expressions from the poet beans who are now thriving. I found a bunch of poems I never read before written by poets with whom I was unfamiliar. Maybe my beans are telling me they are from a more recent dynasty than Li Bai, Tu Fu, et al and it’s time for me to expand my horizons.
The hot spell has broken and today is supposed not even to reach 70F. The dogs are friskier, and I’m more relaxed. Yesterday the wind kicked up in the early evening, so the dogs and I went out for a ramble. It was lovely and eerie. Smoke from fires all around, north and west of us, have obscured the sky for the past few days. I could see only dim shapes of the San Juans and no sign at all of the more distant Sangre de Cristos. The air was filled with the fragrance of clover — yellow, white and pink. The bugs were kept at bay by the wind, though a couple of doughty deer-flies made an effort to attack.
On our way out, we were stopped by a guy in a pick-up with a serious birding telescope who wanted me to see a white-faced ibis in the distant pond. For human contact, that’s one of the sweeter things that happens. He and his wife are “birding” down here as a break from the big city (Denver). We had a lovely chat about dogs, birds, Denver. He asked the nicest question a birder can ask, “Do you have a bird book?”
I lied and said I did. I was really afraid he’d give me his bird book.
I was too far away to really SEE the ibis but I saw its large brown shape.
I had a conversation (chat) with my step-daughter-in-law, S, a couple nights ago. It’s my step-grandson’s (we’ll call him Bill) birthday today, the same as my dad’s birthday. She told me that the little guy is having problems “re-emerging” from COVID restrictions. Bill should be in pre-school this coming fall but will he be able to go? He is descended from extremely shy people — beyond shy, actually. His great-aunt was so traumatized by humanity she ended up in an institution. The good X (his grandfather) struggled — maybe still struggles — against this. My stepson, also, still “hides behind trees,” as S said the other night.
I recently read an opinion/thought piece in a local magazine Colorado Central Magazine. The author – Ed Berg -wrote a meandering piece the referred to the fossilized footprints of the little girl and a toddler in White Sands National Park, footprints left over from the Ice Age which mastodons, giant sloths, Smilodons and wolves wandered the area.
“Some 12,000 years ago [during the Ice Age], in what is White Sands National Park, a teenage girl left her footprints along the muddy edge of a playa. The prints show she was carrying a small chid on her hip, stopping from time to time to adjust her load. We don’t know where she was going or the purpose of her journey, but she was walking quickly, about 4mph, in spite of her burden and small size. A few hours later she returned along the same path, apparently still carrying the child. In the meantime, some large animals had crossed her trail, but her tracks show that she was not concerned about them; they weren’t predators…”
(Ed Berg, “Life in the Upper Ark,” Colorado Central Magazine July 2021)
I thought all day about Bill, and how I could write a story that would tell him that the enemy of fear is knowledge, and because this little girl KNEW her world and how to be aware within it, she could scurry out there with a little sister or brother on a mysterious errand. I would have her tell Bill the secret to courage; the more we understand about how things work in our immediate world, the more we understand about how to live in it. I would have her tell Bill that life is dangerous, but it’s more dangerous not to venture out.
Maybe the toddler the young girl carried was hurt or ill and she needed to find the “local” “doctor” to help her little brother or sister. Maybe part of the lesson for little Bill would be that knowledgable risks taken for others are an important part of being human. All I have so far is the moral of the story. “Fear tells us nothing. Knowledge is the enemy of fear.”
In the story, of course, Bill would suddenly appear in the Ice Age which would have to be weird and scary, too, and he’d return to his pretty suburban, midwestern home with a new perspective on safety. ❤
I dunno… Just a trickle of an inspiration.
The featured photo is a bank of milkweed out at the Refuge. I’m sure they are full of monarch butterfly caterpillars.