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.
From where I live on Saddleback Mountain the sky is blue as purest love just now. From west across to east, from north across to south, it’s the blue original, the blue Eve knew, the blue you wish of your friends, of your lover, of your song, this rarest of blue in perfect certainty.
OR THIS ONE Continue reading
We have a freshly cut bouquet of lilacs on the dining table just now, and the reason I’m telling you this is because I didn’t put them there. Quetzal put them there. I used to put May lilacs on the table. In the 1980’s in Batesville, Virginia I put lilacs on the table. In the 1990’s in Colorado I did. In the early 2000’s in Columbus I did. But these last years in New Hampshire: Have I cut lilacs for the table? No. Continue reading
In driving rain yesterday, I sat out a new planting of asparagus, thinking several times as I worked to give it up until drier weather. But in the end I held on, and so the job was done and twenty-some asparagus crowns from New Jersey overnighted for the first here in New Hampshire.
And also yesterday in maybe even colder rain, I planted apple trees, old heirloom varieties I brought home on Saturday from Plainfield, Vermont. Consider for a second their names:
Westfield Seek-No Further
Is life fine-tuned a bit when we look out the kitchen window and, seeing an apple tree, think Ashmead’s Kernel? when we say the words? Do the trees we live with, the plants, the architecture, the sounds, the predominate slant of the sun—do these things influence our lives in ways we don’t realize? Is working in rain actually a kind of gift? Is the coming of spring, the coming of spring, the reoccurring coming of spring profoundly more important than we understand?
Quetzal told me a week ago that she is going to “live like a wild child this summer.” I’m not sure what that means, but I’m all for it, and I suggest we join her as best we can.
May the earth we live on likewise live within us.
carry on, guys.