A Poem for The Late Afternoon

Gratitude: A Sentence

With the trees in full leaf in high summer
I can only see a little patch of the river
through the lower branches reflecting the sky
with its drifting cumulus & altocumulus,
but like a fragment of mirror, that patch
of river intensifies what it reflects—
especially the hues & values of sunrise
(orange) & sunset (yellow), with every shade
of every other color passing across
the smooth or ruffled surface every day.

Robins after Rain

We’ve had a lot of rain the last couple of days, but this morning sunlight is flooding the maple trees. There are a couple of robins–a mated pair perhaps–singing back & forth from the tops of two nearby maple trees. Not competitive singing, just a duet. Maybe they are teaching their fledglings the basic repertoire of the robin tribe.  They do something to intensify the qualities of the morning. The sunlight on green maple leaves is a degree more intense when they are singing; the coolness of the air wafting through an open window is just a little sharper; the bark of the dogs across the river just that much more distinct.

Moon Rise / Full Moon

I could see the full moon at 10:42 tonight through the tangle of maple branches heavy with leaves. It will be at least another hour before the moon clears the top of the tallest maple, by which time I hope to be asleep, though perhaps a little awake inside my sleep. That’s how I experienced the huge thunderstorm that passed through last night about 1:00 in the morning, & the robins’ dawn chorus as well.

Two Lucid Sleep Haiku

The robins began at four-thirty but did not
wake me up with their dawn singing.
How do I know the time?
They woke me inside of sleep.

Before the birds there was a violent
thunderstorm that woke me briefly—
it crashed & blasted inches from my face
on the other side of my window.

Afternoon Nap

A frightening sunlit lightness of the body drifting upward as slowly as a bit of milkweed fluff on currents of warm air. Then off among the light-filled clouds. My old Zen teacher once said that for a realized being there would be no difference between one breath & the next, between breath & no breath.

milkweed

 

Boyhood Weather

I was nodding off just now (see previous post) when I was awakened by a low rumble of thunder. Yesterday we had sunshine & mild air in South Colton, today rain. This rainy weather puts me in mind of certain mornings from my boyhood. My family lived in Santa Cruz, California, which one ordinarily associates with sunshine & surfing, but which I recall as green & foggy, with redwoods & live oaks. My family lived six or seven miles inland, in foothills. I liked the rain, it made things quiet. Or it made the long, labored silences of my mother & father (& myself) seem natural. A crashing psychological silence muffled by the wholly natural silence of the weather. My family’s silences sometimes found voice in shouts & smashed household objects; the weather too, in winter storms, would howl & break the furniture of the woods. My bedroom was in the tower, which gave me a 300 degree panorama of the weather.

Santa Cruz house
The house where I watched the rain when I was a child.

As this sickness I have has become real to me, I have found myself recalling odd images from my boyhood. Not surprising, I suppose. The mind seeks comfort. But my boyhood was not particularly comforting, so that’s not exactly right. It’s more subtle. Even when I was very young I managed to find a way to create mitigating spots of safety. Most of these had to do with the natural–that is, the non-human–world. I was reminded of this the other day when I came across one of the few books I have managed to keep with me since childhood.

This book possesses a talismanic status for me. It must have been given to me when I was five or six years old, long before the text, elegantly written for a smart twelve-year-old, would have been fully available to me. But there was so much information folded into the paintings & charts, that I could spend hours shifting between staring out my bedroom windows & flipping through the pages of the large, satisfyingly heavy book. At a time when some of the uglier parts of the Bible were being driven into my consciousness, this Golden Treasury became an alternative sacred text.

And I could then put the book down, go downstairs & outside the big house pictured above. Walking toward the trees at the bottom of the photograph, I could go down into a ravine cut by Branceforte Creek & wander for hours, though to be truthful, the woods, raw nature, usually produced a kind of anxiety that would send me back to the house (with its own anxieties) & to my books & rock collections & (a little later) my weather instruments. My relation to these things was always more alchemical than scientific, more poetic than analytical. Poetry is always more about the weather than whatever might be happening underneath the weather.

On the cusp of retirement I had already been looking forward to returning to some of my armchair naturalist activities & with this illness I find myself drawn back to the pleasure I take in the weather, the woods & the words used to describe & evoke them. Poetry, to which I have not always been so faithful, has remained faithful to me & now I humbly return to it.