prettyboy reservoir

Prettyboy Reservoir, Baltimore County, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

Clouds near Prettyboy Reservoir, Baltimore County, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

friday birds (with bonus turtles)

 

Fox Sparrow (Red), © 2016 S. D. Stewart

Fox Sparrow (Red) – my favorite sparrow

 

Wood Duck, © 2016 S. D. Stewart

Wood Duck

 

Hermit Thrush, © 2016 S. D. Stewart

Hermit Thrush

 

Eastern Painted Turtles, © 2016 S. D. Stewart

Eastern Painted Turtles taking the sun at Black Marsh.

ravine trail

The new trail opens up the wildest area in this urban forest oasis. Clusters of mushroom sprout from the center of the path. Few have walked here yet. It is high summer and the wood thrush yet sings. Cicadas offer up a constant backing drone. Point of fact: dogs don’t process the switchback concept. It conflicts with their innate knowledge of the shortest distance rule. As the trail climbs from the deepest shaded low point, the morning heat barges uninvited into the cool air space. Sounds of the nearby freeway intrude. As I struggle to adapt, a certain chorus tears through my head in response. This walk is soon over.

life’s splendor forever lies in wait

“Life’s splendor forever lies in wait about each one of us in all its fullness, but veiled from view, deep down, invisible, far off. It is there, though, not hostile, not reluctant, not deaf. If you summon it by the right word, by its right name, it will come.”

Franz Kafka

(thanks to kafkaesque-world for summoning Kafka’s splendor)

field report 3

Today the clouds demand close observation. Why is everyone not looking at the clouds. Absurd. All colors today are vivid: the dark and choppy white-flecked waters of the harbor, the green sloping lawn of the former Civil War lookout, the red of the restaurant roof below it. Now is the time when the first psithuristic hints of the autumnal approach appear. Observance and acknowledgment of this occurrence is essential.

A passing child of about 7 says, apropos of nothing: ‘I hope I get a lawnmower soon…a real one…vrrrrrm [presumed lawnmower noises].’ His family chooses not to acknowledge this proclamation. Theory: this is not the first time it has been uttered.

A large black dog (LBD) enjoys the grassy, treed oasis behind the seafood restaurant, complacently chewing a tennis ball as its person paces in circles while jabbering on her mobile phone.

Shirtless males run on the promenade.

Tourists relentlessly take photos of a boat, the so-called ‘Last Survivor of Pearl Harbor,’ by far the most photographed object in the vicinity.

My doppelgänger walks by, as he is wont to do.

Midway through the reading period, sudden drama rushes in when cigar-smoking man (CSM) arrives on his bicycle, only to find LBD lying in the exact spot where he traditionally sets up his legless portable chair. For a few moments the air crackles with anticipation. However, this soon dissipates as, undaunted, CSM approaches the occupied territory and sets up his chair immediately adjacent to LBD. Soon, the fragrant scent of cigar smoke floats upon the strong breeze as CSM cracks open his book, occasionally casting a shrewd eye upon LBD, who pants in patient oblivion as its owner continues chattering.

On the return trip, while walking, a man pauses to execute a precise ballet move: a half-knee bend followed by a jump in place, arms outstretched. The grace of this move is surprising given the man’s overall GISS. He then taps a light pole with the thick book in his left hand. Further on, he thumps the book in his hand like a revival preacher, resulting in a few turned heads. A strong temptation rises to follow him for research purposes, but alas, recess is over.

bruno schulz and the need for connections

“Recently, I have been calling almost daily at the office. It sometimes happens that someone is sick and they allow me to work in his place. Or somebody has something urgent to do in town and lets me deputize for him. Unfortunately, this is not regular work. It is pleasant to have, even for a few hours, a chair of one’s own with a leather cushion, one’s own rulers, pencils, and pens. It is pleasant to run into or even be rebuked by one’s fellow workers. Someone addresses you, makes a joke, pulls your leg, and you blossom forth for a moment. You rub against somebody, attach your homelessness and nothingness to something alive and warm. The other person walks away and does not feel your burden, does not notice that he is carrying you on his shoulders, that like a parasite you cling momentarily to his life…”

Bruno Schulz, “The Old Age Pensioner” in Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass

testing…testing…

From an infinite distance, I saw the floor. Ofélia. From afar, I tried to reach the heart of that silent girl, in vain. Oh, do not be so frightened! Sometimes people kill for love, but I promise you that one day you will forget everything, I promise you! People do not know how to love, do you hear me, I repeated as if I might reach her before, in refusing to serve truth, she should proudly serve nothingness. I who had not remembered to warn her that without fear there was the world. But I swear that this is breathing.

—Clarice Lispector, “The Foreign Legion”

disordered chronology of movement

I.

Failed recollections to begin with. Slow-creeping toward habit. A giant round metal head. Sudden velocity. Sudden inertia. Pavement merges with gravel. The emergence of a tentative consciousness, neither hard nor pebbly. Vexation of unidentified raptors. Vultures soar over open sore in ground. A blast. Winged assassins. New commonness of thrashers in the street. Feet to pedals. The river like a swollen artery choked with plaque. Ungroundedness. Slow mounting keen of a train not far off. Dream rivulets running off a dry and calloused cerebellum. The importance of a second floor. Eye contact with strangers. Avoid building awareness of a presence. A body imagined close, a body far off yet close, a body buried in dry soil, a body husking a soul. A dipping line, looming and drawing back, tangled in the hanging moss of a halting lifetime.

II.

The exultant dismissal of everything. A hitching-up of trouser legs above this rising level of foreign liquidity. A spreading out tempered by a wish to gather in. Weathering. Rusty rooftop with greenery. The futile accomplishment of deletion. Southern hospitality. Sensory overload. Sensory deprivation. Every atom split to populate a neverending shell game run by con artists connotating the building blocks of life. It’s so casual is what it feels like. An unseemly seeming accidental existence. And yet people fly planes. Against near-white skies. This is a reason not to listen to all the best songs in a row. This is the reason time means nothing. Look out, the fuse is lit. See how it sputters, this heat seen and heard, racing on its journey to a black-powder shattered shack. Every early morning blink of a first-opened eye, this fuse is lit. And wetted fingertips flutter to pinch it out quick.

III.

Bird on a wire, sing your song, lift your wing to the world. Swoop down and over this set of fleet footprints filled in long ago. Expectations of nothing can never be unfulfilled. It’s a something-nothing to believe in, at least. An anti-ideal to carry stuck beneath an idealist’s forever-sweating armpit. Relish the freedom of solitude in public places. Deny detours diverting detritus. Pick it up, handle it, determine meaning and value, discard when done. Don’t look back but for inspiration. Forward motion fuels freedom. Reminders come free.

scatterings

i like to see chaos subsumed into order. long grass growing tangled then trimmed. but only in certain places, like next to sidewalks, not in parks where i am walking. no, not there. not when i am sitting facing a field and the man comes on his mower, chasing me away, following me through the park, more and more mower men, an onslaught of men joined in mechanised noise and motion. that is what i don’t like. i like to see spread-out papers form themselves into a neat pile or disappear into the recycle bin. bare surfaces. something emptied and discarded. this is not a manifesto, by the way. this is just a monday morning [note: it’s actually now wednesday—ed.]. a morning i rode in rain. traffic altered my route and i passed the central police station, a thriving death star hive, battered tie fighters buzzing in and out from the flight deck, looking to crush, to destroy, to subjugate the populace, meting out their brutal mutilated form of “justice” with truncheons and guns.

last friday was a special day for i heard my first wood thrush of the year. o, how i love the ethereal songs of the thrushes! there is no sweeter music in the forest for me. i used to wake to their flute music every spring and early summer morning, but no more, no more. now, if lucky, it is the much lesser song of another thrush, the ubiquitous robin. not to disparage the robin, but his song is nowhere near as transcendent as the wood thrush, the hermit thrush, the swainson’s thrush…

yesterday i went to a class that was like jungian personality types but with colors and a few more bells and whistles. i am blue-green and my conflict sequence moves from green to blue to red. there are all these diagrams that look like someone made them with a spirograph. they are quite pretty but i don’t know how i feel about being plotted on a triangular graph. there i am…a black dot straddling the line between two types, far off from my fellows (in the group report, i am a clear outlier, there are no other dots near me). there i am…moving across the color scheme as conflict escalates, crossing axes with impunity. look at me go…

the tricky truth of time

I have not been to work in 11 days. I will not return for another two. I love this time. I have been taking this break at the end of the year for at least five years running. It has become important to me, this shucking off of the past 12 months in preparation for the new rack of days about to be set.

What happens is a curious thing. The coccoon of time unravels and I am released into a nebulous world of days and hours unmarked by the usual frames of reference. On occasion, I find myself searching my mind for what day it is. Recall is often laborious. When it does occur, I laugh quietly. I lose track of what days the recycling is picked up, when certain shows air on the radio, who among my circle might be working at any given moment.

I know it is morning when the yellow light pours into the sunroom from the east. It warms me over my shoulder as it falls across the pages of my book.

I know it is midday when Farley starts angling for a walk.

I know it is evening when the last light fades, leaving a gloom to settle in the house.

But the weekdays tend to blur into the weekend. Morning hours are in general distinguishable, one from the other, but the afternoon hours caper gleefully, spinning in circles around the maypole, daisy-chaining their elastic selves around my helpless body, freeing me from the snare of routine. They tempt me into running for the hills. Crouching in the thickets, they whisper to me snatches of their secrets, of ‘p time’ and ‘m time,’ with the laughability of it all unconcealed in their twinkling eyes. We are not binding straps, they say; rather we are possibility, we are discovery, we are whatever happens between the beginning and the end.

Soon, though, Colonel Responsibility will beckon with his truncheon for me to trudge down from the hills. Under the hard Colonel’s watchful eye, I will refasten the familiar leghold trap, grinding my teeth as the steel fangs puncture my skin, reopening barely-healed wounds. The yellow light will disappear behind windowless walls. The afternoon hours will sheepishly turn their backs on me, showing me their ugly sides. And I will wonder again about their truth they never fully share.

Soundtrack:  EarthHex: or Printing in the Infernal Method (Thanks, Taidgh!)

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