life along a west virginia stream

© 2016 S. D. Stewart

Streamside Attraction No. 1

 

Ebony Jewelwing, © 2016 S. D. Stewart

Ebony Jewelwing

 

Ebony Jewelwing, © 2016 S. D. Stewart

Ebony Jewelwing

 

Ebony Jewelwing, © 2016 S. D. Stewart

Ebony Jewelwing

 

Streamside Attraction No. 2, © 2016 S. D. Stewart

Streamside Attraction No. 2

 

Wood Turtle, © 2016 S. D. Stewart

Wood Turtle

 

Wood Turtle, © 2016 S. D. Stewart

Wood Turtle

 

Streamside Attraction No. 3, © 2016 S. D. Stewart

Streamside Attraction No. 3

in the light of time*

When nothing is sacred, nothing is safe—John Hay

When there were less of us, we fit inside like tiny figures in a diorama. We ran across the plains afraid of violent storms. Lush greenery threatened to smother us, just as it also lent us sustenance. If we did not pacify this place it would surely destroy us. We squabbled among ourselves, like we now still do, but we were not yet strong enough to shatter our shadow box.

When there were more of us, we burst the seams of the land. We took a liking to engines and asphalt, all distance to traverse only at light speed. We ravaged the countryside, built our cities, made our money. Things trumped being. Our lives soon chased after ways to forget. Prohibition never stood a chance.

When there were too many of us, a few grew concerned. Nothing, however, changed. We kept building and we kept paving. One of our leaders proffered the idea of a system of parks, a way to assuage our guilt, an excuse for free reign on what remained. Of course we seized on it. Those places have since burst their own seams, paved as they are for easy access.

When there are less of us again, perhaps more will notice. It will be too late. For now we careen serene toward the end, a night we try never to see. Perpetual light, shone by our own hands, is what we embrace, for in darkness we fear what we came to create.

*soundtrack

la palabra o la muerte

Cigar-smoking guy smoked a cigar yesterday and today, not that I’m counting. He was with his lady friend. They own that patch of grass between the black locusts. Someone had taken their other seat yesterday. Too sunny for that spot, anyway. My black socks heated up in the sun, creating hot bands around my ankles. It wasn’t pleasant. Yesterday cigar-smoking guy smoked his cigar while his lady friend was present. Today he waited for her to leave. Yesterday I was behind them as they walked to the grassy patch. Or rather he rode his bike extremely slowly next to her as she walked. From experience I know this is annoying, on both sides. I almost intervened because clearly I know best.

In his essay in the Spring issue of Zone 3, Don Lago relates a story about Aldo Leopold that I already knew. It’s about how as an eager young man Leopold partook in a hunting party that came upon a female wolf swimming across a stream to her overjoyed pups. The men in the hunting party, including Leopold, joyously opened fire on this happy reunion scene. When they approached the dying wolves, Leopold poked with his gun at the she-wolf, who snarled back, not surprisingly. Leopold related seeing a “fierce green fire” fading from her eyes. It was at this moment that Leopold began to understand the tenets of what would become known as ecology. See, when you kill all the natural predators in an ecosystem, you’ve got two problems: overpopulation of prey animals and the resulting carnage on the ecosystem. Hunters are only so eager to step in and blast away at the defenseless woodland creatures, but it’s too big a vacuum for them to fill. Besides, one could argue that there are also too many humans today, and so where are our predators. Perhaps they are still yet to come. The hunters become the hunted. Oh yes, one day…

So the gulls cried and the orbs ate their raucous lunches on the deck at McCormick & Schmick’s™. Many bees pollinated a flowering bush. They briefly paused over me but found I had no pollen to offer. The water taxi ferried three people somewhere. Someone nearby smoked a cigarette and disparaged someone else over the phone. He had big hair and used nasty words. I was happy for the protection of my bee-laden bush.

Director man’s leaving. Oh well. No shock to this crusty cynic. No one bought his crying act at the meeting. What is there to cry over when you found your dream job in the south of France? No one is buying what you’re selling, buddy. No one. So take your act elsewhere. That’s right. Take it. And now the feeding frenzy begins. Fight to the top. Power and money. The nonprofit world is no different. There are humans here, of course. And where there are humans there is corruption, lies, ruthlessness, greed, manipulation, spitefulness, exploitation for personal gain, false faces. Savor the flavor…of hufu.

Meanwhile, the first cases of Coca-Cola in over 60 years will soon be arriving in Myanmar. Thank goodness the madness has ended. Soothe those parched, ragged throats with America’s sweet nectar, high fructose corn syrup, the great symbol of liberty and freedom. Drink it down, Burma, and maybe one day you’ll be as fat as us. Coke executives everywhere should be proud. Now if they could just crack that North Korean market (not much hope for Cuba, as long as the Castros are around). I’m sure they’re salivating at the thought. Can you imagine the bonuses? The high-fives? The unabashed corporate nudity?

All axehandle hounds aside, though, I’m chopping down a tree. I’m a cat in a paper bag. I’m fighting nothing and nothing is fighting back. No one wants to be a cart on the track of an amusement park ride. The tunnel of love. The tunnel of death. The tunnel of life. Is it shrinking up ahead or widening. I can’t tell. Turning and turning in the widening gyre is what Yeats said. A waste of desert sand, he said, a shape moving its slow thighs, in the shadows of the indignant desert birds.  What rough beast, indeed.

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