For me, the foremost attraction of old-school woodcuts (early 20th c.) is their complete absence of car chases, explosions, copulation, dumb-ass mayhem, and post-modern cliches generally.
The old-school wood cuts (and contemporary work, too) I occasionally look over at this hour are those where people live close to the land, and the land, generous, wraps its broad arms around their shoulders and fields, and the people, poor folk, live their day-to-day and always the earth provides, somehow.
Fantasy and cliche, of course, but that’s completely beside the point because fantasy and cliche is the stuff we’re made of, the stuff we eat and pass around and ask, More, please.
… and this lovely bird yet and its long journey beyond all sound and fury and self-medication …
Sometimes in good weather after I’ve delivered Quetzal to school, I take the long way home. And often on these drives I pass an elderly man out for his morning walk. He’s close to ninety years, I’d say, bent and a bit shaky, but alert and still active.
This morning when I passed the man, he was standing in the grass just down the hill from his house. He was looking at something off in the distance. Curious, I slowed down to see, too. It was turkeys, four wild turkeys perched on a section of woven-wire fencing. Two were looking west towards road, and two were looking east towards the morning sun. The man, hearing my Jeep on the road behind him, turned slowly around, grinned, and jerked his thumb knowingly over his shoulder.
“Turkeys on a fence,” I said.
“Two both ways,” he said.
“Fore and aft,” I said.
“Fore and aft,” he said, laughing outright.
We looked a bit longer in silence, and then I waved and he waved, and then I drove slowly on. But now with a slight pain in my chest. Maybe you know what I’m referring to. That momentary discomfort that happens sometimes when life is too beautiful. Or too sad. Or too beautiful and sad at the same time.
Woodcut by Melvyn Evans
Last week in the rains, a frog leaped out from a row of yellow beans I was harvesting and landed directly in my bucket about three feet away. As the bucket was almost full, and as I was on my knees, the frog and I were instantly eye-to-eye and intimate, his eyes showing greenish-yellow, mine maybe grayish-blue. I didn’t say anything, the frog didn’t say anything. And so we became studies for each other, two strangers trying on their Taoist way.
But before too long, I reached for a bean and tossed it, a long yellow bean in short flight across the divide to land perfectly perpendicular across the frog’s back and balancing there like a see-saw. The frog, greenish all over and web-footed, bumpy, squat and handsome. Yet not moving. Not flinching. Not twitching or pooping. All the frog could muster, it seemed, was to double down.
So I did likewise. I doubled down. There in the mud holding steady and watching the frog, the balancing yellow bean. His skin my skin. His feet my feet. His heart my heart. Our shared equilibrium, our shared jostle of bones, grievances, sunsets, our in-creeping earthly disappearance. Man and frog maybe not so dissimilar after all.
And then the frog jumped and disappeared into the same row of beans he had emerged from.
That’s how it ended.
When I looked in the bucket for the perpendicular bean, it was all just yellow.
Always on a rainy, late Saturday night you can find a photo that surprises. You may have to look over 6,000 to find but one, but still…
A photo by Lorenzo Mittiga. Dona Thud. Dona lives on Bonaire, an island off the coast of Venezuela. At last count she was somewhere into her 90’s.
(Consider clicking on the photo to better appreciate it.)
The white shift, the white hair, the advanced age, and yet the palpable sense of confidence, foreknowledge. aggression even.
Her arms the stuff of the ocean, her stare, and surely her soul, too. Her elbows warding off just about everything.
She reads like a siren Ulysses may have encountered on his long journey home.
A women comfortable in her skin and ideas, and quick to tell you so.
And the ocean: foreboding, patient, heartless, eternal, a heart mate.
It’s July, high summer, and there have been rains and days of blue sky and at night the distant back-and-forth calls of the Barred owls. The yellow beans are foremost, the sweet onions, too, and soon coming are the heavy-set tomatoes and yellow sunflowers. Quetzal and her friend Christine have been swimming at Lucus Pond with the dogs, and baking shortbread, and we have been to the ocean in the early morning and likewise at night.
This morning a crow dropped into the garden for the one duck egg I threw out days ago. He landed, cocked his head and seemed to triangulate, hopped a few hops across the furrows, paused…and drilled that egg through. When I looked with binoculars, I could see egg-shine splashed across the length of his beak. And when he lifted and turned toward Pawtuckaway Mountain, I’m almost certain that shine was his only load.