Archive for April 2014

Of wetness and wildness

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What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and wildness? Let them be left,
Oh let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.

~Gerard Manley Hopkins

A steady, cool rain this morning in the Carolinas. Gray skies above…but all below is cloaked in spring green and wetness. Birds are singing, nonetheless. The soft coos of the mourning dove…the mysterious flute-like tones of the thrush emanating from some nonspecific location in the woods…the white-throated sparrow, sadly elegizing old Sam Peabody. The blue flag Irises just barely containing themselves…waiting expectantly for the warm rays of the sun to help them burst forth and contribute to the splendor of the world.

Then there is Esmeralda, the reddish-brown feral chicken, with her new suitor who arrived on the scene this week, a black and white rooster (who I’ve since named ‘Q’). They’ve been inseparable…as they wander about in the drizzle foraging for their sustenance…Q occasionally stopping in his tracks…flapping his wings…and then belting out his cock-a-doodle-doo, ostensibly warning off any would-be rivals.

Greenness…wetness…grayness…birds…flowers…all playing their part in ushering in the season.

Written by Jim

April 19, 2014 at 7:44 am


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It was a cool Sunday morning…following on the heels of a very sunny and warm Saturday. Not many more of these before the hot, humid air takes over. Last night, I was surprised. Sitting in the living room…in the dark…with the windows open wide…I noticed a brief flash of light outside down near the road. Too early, I thought…fireflies are my sure sign of Summer. But, this is April…surely they’re not yet out and about. As I stared into the blackness…I saw another…and yet another. Flickering on and then off…silently teleporting to a new location before repeating their cold, luminous signals to each other…gliding among the trees and shrubs. I can’t remember them appearing so early in the year…usually late May or early June. Lights peeping out of the darkness…maybe a sign of some sort?

This morning, I grabbed my walking stick and set out down the road for a walk. My destination was the creek that crosses the road about a half-mile from my house. It was still early, and the sun was slanting through the trees, highlighting dogwoods and red buds in full bloom. Birds were singing everywhere…all seemed to be right with the world on this beautiful Spring morning. My spirits were lifted.

When I arrived at the creek, the water was slowly meandering through its channel. I stopped for a while, peering into the woods along the creek, perhaps hoping to see some wildlife. I then crossed over to the other side of the road to look upstream. When I looked down, I saw something that momentarily took my breath away. Five or six feet below me… was a large white dog laying in the creek bed, its head partially submerged in the running water. There was a large blackish bruise on its hindquarters. Perhaps having been hit by a car on the highway, she had wandered off…dazed… into the woods? There was no collar with identification…nothing to link her to the outside world. I wondered what her life had been like…

When Belle, my Pomeranian, died several weeks ago, the animal hospital sent a little sympathy card that spoke of a Rainbow Bridge…a mythical place where deceased pets finally meet up with their loving owners, when they, too, pass on. It’s a nice thought…and it brings a smile to your face when you need it the most.

As I trudged the half-mile back to the house this morning…the wind suddenly taken out of me…I wondered, is there a Rainbow Bridge in store for this poor, nameless soul that ended up alone in the woods? I find myself these days in a borderland, half-way between civilization and the wild…just a mile of dirt-gravel road separating the two…a tiny remnant of what once covered this entire continent. And whether it’s pondering the one or two week life span of a firefly…or the lonely demise of a dog in the woods…or the strange nocturnal song of an owl…I’m grateful…just for being here in the first place…being a witness to something I don’t yet quite understand.

Written by Jim

April 13, 2014 at 2:10 pm


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I thought I heard the hoot of an owl this morning as I awoke. After rising, and after making the mandatory pot of coffee, I pulled on my jacket and went outside in the darkness…to sit and await the dawn…keeping company with the planet Venus, which hovered just above the tree line in silence. The whip-poor-wills were softly asserting their presence to the new day. Crows were beginning to noisily wake up…probably complaining about the roosters in the distance who had been up since 4 am.

The sun had yet to rise, but after a while, I heard the hoots of a Barred Owl…Who cooks for you…who cooks for y’allllllllll (this is the South). The quality of sound emanating from this bird took me aback. It was coming from the pine woods to the south…an area that I call the Dark Wood. There was a strange and tremulous reverberation to the hoots, as if they were bouncing off of  a rock facing. On a topographic map of the area, I had noticed that there was an old quarry of some kind in that direction. I’ve never ventured into those dark, impenetrable woods…mostly because I want them to remain mysterious…the haunt of owls, and perhaps other elusive and wild creatures.

All of a sudden, I heard another owl begin hooting…just as the first’s descending y’allllllllll was completing. It sounded as if I was an innocent bystander to a territorial dispute of some kind. Then…yet another owl began to join in the vocal fray…causing quite a pandemonium. I’m always appreciative of hearing Barred Owl in the nocturnal stillness…but this was really an unexpected treat. I’ve heard that a group of owls is called a parliament of owls…probably because they’ve been seen as symbols of wisdom. What I experienced early on this Carolina April morning was more of a convocation…a literal calling together of owls…to what purpose I can’t imagine. Things finally quieted down (perhaps the argument was settled?)… as the sun begin to make its appearance…clothing some clouds in the west in a soft pinkish hue.

April Morning


Written by Jim

April 5, 2014 at 5:04 pm

Up to us

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It is written in the stars. Down through the ages, people have looked to the heavens…for explanation…as well as for inspiration. Comets were seen as harbingers of great events…and we’ve all heard of star-crossed lovers. With the advent of the industrial age, along with electrification, our night skies have been growing dimmer…losing their explanatory powers.

The word disaster comes from the Italian disastro, meaning an ill-starred event. In his book, 365 Tao, Ming-Dao Deng tells us that, “Disaster strikes at its own time. It is so overwhelming that we can do nothing other than accept it. It alters the very course of our days, our work, our very thinking.”

Disaster can collectively visit a multitude of people…a planeload of unsuspecting souls vanishing from the face of the earth…or a force of nature indiscriminate in its awesome fury. It can equally visit individuals through the unexpected loss of a loved one…forever changing their perception of the world and the days ahead.

Deng continues with an admonition, “Disasters may well change us deeply, but they will pass. We must keep to our deeper convictions and remember our goals. Whether we remain ash or become the phoenix is up to us.”

Written by Jim

April 1, 2014 at 7:28 pm