Butterflies

IMG_1053 (2).JPG

Butterflies

Here today and gone tomorrow. Ephemeral. Like all of us ‘poor creatures, born to die’ (as Dylan Thomas once wrote in Under Milkwood). It seems strange to look back on last summer’s photos and to remember that yes, they were here, those butterflies. Outside the window. Perching on the flowers. Showing their varied colors. Alive. Vibrant. Raising and lowering their wings.

Once upon a time, a long time ago, when I wore a grey suit and lived in a concrete, four-walled cell that they called an office, I was asked if I would edit a new journal for one of the institutions with which I was involved. ‘Sure,’ I said. ‘That would be great.’ ‘We’ll need you to submit a title and a theme,’ they said. ‘Sure,’ I said. ‘Of course I will.’

I thought about many things: titles, themes, topics, writers … Then I thought about other journals with which I had been involved in various capacities. Then I considered walking in the footsteps of the Journal of Higher Education with all of its cutting-edge articles and high-powered inspiration. I breathed a sigh of frustration, then of relief. ‘Got it,’ I said, and the Journal of Lower Expectations was born.

Alas, it was a butterfly that never spread its wings. ‘Your services will not be needed,’ came the curt reply when I submitted the title.

Think about it: a couple of years back, there were no bees in the garden: CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder). Last year, there were no birds. The feeders stood empty, and bird flu was the cry on everyone’s lips and the plague on every bird’s beak. Ephemeral. Butterflies on a rock. Australia burns and people are rescued from the beaches where they have taken refuge in the sea. Everyone, everywhere, now needs to live with lower expectations.

IMG_1058 (2).JPG

Butterflies and birds and bees: will they be back next summer? Who knows? I certainly don’t. But then, I am a true agnostic. I have no scientific background worth speaking of and neither ax no knife to grind on this topic. I genuinely do not know where we are heading. But I believe least those who protest most, especially when they bluster and bluff and try to pull the cocoon of disbelief over my eyes by shouting loudly their point of view. I have eyes. I can see, even if there are no butterflies, birds, or bees to be seen. Alas: I can still see and suffer their absence.

Please
will ye no come back again?”
Poor kangaroos, kookaburras, koalas,
wallabies and platypus ducks.

IMG_1047 (2).JPG

We will miss you so much if you any of you,
let alone all of you,
along with the butterflies, birds, and bees,
go AWOL.

Let it snow ….

IMG_1532 (2).JPG

Let it snow …

A New Year, a new snowblower, and the same beautiful handy-person. Luckily I can cook, so when the hard work is done, that handy-person can sit down to hot tea and buttered crumpets. Oh the joys of retirement. Some never retire, though, and a handy-person’s work is never done. Mind you, cooking, for me, is a joy, not a chore, so I don’t ever think of it as ‘work’, that nasty, old-fashioned Anglo-Saxon four-letter word. In fact, come to think of it, teaching and research were joys, never chores. As a result, I have never done a day’s work in my life. Nor did I ever want to.

IMG_1526 (2).JPG

And that’s what I wish you all for the New Year: brave blossoms that stand out against a snowy background, joys that make each day a pleasure and never a grind, happiness that drowns out the daily sorrows of this Vale of Tears through which we are passing, and a clock without hands, so that you never have to count the hours as the days tick slowly by.

IMG_1571 (2).JPG

May each morning fill you with joy, happiness, and a sense of adventure. And may the evening sky fill you with peace and contentment for a day well lived.

Decade-End

 

IMG_1482 (2).JPG

Decade-End

My neighbor with the bird-killer cats has left the neighborhood and we have started to see the birds returning. Now we can refill the feeders, knowing that the birds will all be relatively safe. And the squirrels, red and grey, and the chipmunks. We had a beautiful snowshoe hare visit the garden, but he saw those cats and moved on to other pastures. I saw one last week, though, moving across the road ahead of me, caught in the car’s headlights amidst the whirl of snow. A ghost drifting lightly over the roadside drifts. Beautiful.

The deer have returned with the snow. There are six of them now, where last year there were seven. They gathered under the mountain ash and walked round and round, hoovering up the fallen berries. Usually the robins clean the berries out, but their visits this year were so brief. Snow came early and the robins moved on, even though a multitude of berries garlanded the tree.  Here’s a robin looking wistfully at the falling snow and wondering what to do next.

IMG_1471 (2).JPG

So winter is back again. The snow is falling as I type. I have had second thoughts about blogging. In fact, I haven’t blogged since 19 October 2019. Work on my journal and my latest books and chap-books has kept me busy elsewhere. To blog or not to blog, that is the question. And I face that same question with Facebook too: shall I or shan’t I? As of now, I have no answer to that question. If you have an answer, please let me know.

IMG_1478 (2).JPG

So Sweet

IMG_1318 (3)

So Sweet

Withered I am
and soon will perish
I cherish this brief
last leaf-light bright
on tree and pond

Stark the flooded
trunks of beaver-
gnawed trees
their sails no
longer leaf-clad

Fall’s canvas
a paradise
for lost and lonely
philosopher-poets
tree-bright their light

Stored sunshine
aged in maple
birch forest oak
soaked up
in summer life
so brief so sweet

IMG_1317 (2).JPG

 

F-f-f-all

IMG_1337 (2).JPG

F-f-f-all

Not as good as the real thing, but the best I can do in five minutes with a set of felt pens. I am bewildered by the presence of so many colors, sometimes on the same tree and there are not enough pencils in y pencil box to do anything other than approximate.

IMG_1287.JPG

The light is incredible. Sometimes the tree seems to have stored all the summer sunshine in its leaves and, rain or shine, the light comes pouring out to enlighten us.

IMG_1283.JPG

And those reflections … the Beaver Pond doubles the color, turning the trees upside down and fragmenting their foliage, this way, that way. Pointillistic at one point, impressionistic at another, almost never cubist, although we can sense tilting planes in this upside-down surreal world that leaves us snatching at each new imposed reality of color and light.

IMG_1329.JPG

Stand beneath the trees. Look up through those leaves. Watch the light raining down, glimpses of blue between the orange, red, yellow, green and tawny leaves. I don’t have enough names for their colors. Green: what is green, what does it mean? I can see it, feel it, crumple it between my fingers if I am quick enough to catch a falling leaf … but what is it exactly, and what does it mean?

IMG_1318 (2).JPG

Espejismo and doble espejismo: the viewing of the world through a mirror, understanding what is a shadow and taking it for the real thing. And here, the shock of each red leaf turned into a shark’s bite of blood within still waters. Two worlds really: the top half normal and the bottom half turned upside down, leaf turned to color and color turned to a crimson streak.

IMG_1318 (3).JPG

There, see, catch them quick before they are gone, these autumn northern lights, this floating aurora borealis, this word picture trapped in these oh-so clumsy, oh-so fragile, oh-so imperfect words. Perfection, imperfection, and words and pencils shuffled to create the unreality of an autumn dream.

 

 

Wind on Water

IMG_0262.JPG

Wind on Water
Aneurin & Taliesen

The beaver pond, surface wind-ruffled, sparking
sunlight’s flint off grey, shaded edges of cresting waves,
silent ships, white clouds sailing in a sea-blue sky,

repeated below in mercurial waters, islands
the lily-pads, yellow with the clenched fists of flowers,
closed, screening themselves from this incessant sunshine.

Chirps of anonymous birds, hidden beneath branches,
no motes, no flies, the breeze too strong to tempt them,
fly-catchers in hiding, kingfishers cached away.

Only the great blue heron, regal, always hungry,
surveys his watery domain, patiently waiting,
yet ever-ready, disturbed, to launch into flight.

My fingers strain to capture this peace, to distill it
into words, to kidnap time, motion, scent, the gentle
touch of the wind’s paintbrush, delicate over cheeks.

Where now are the great men, Aneurin, Taliesin,
those bards who called up the salmon’s wisdom,
turning it into words, deep as ponds, subtle as streams?

They are the voices of the wilderness that once was Wales.
I am the distant echo of their song, distanced, estranged,
lost in New Brunswick’s woods, forgotten on Canadian trails.

 

 

 

Lament

IMG_0004.jpg

Lament

I remember the hawk well. One moment the garden was empty, next he was there, on the ground beneath the feeder, feeding, or rather, fed. I didn’t see the kill. I walked past the window on my way through the kitchen from somewhere to somewhere, and there he was, perched upon a pile of feathers. Whatever the victim was, all edible evidence had disappeared and only the feathers remained. I guess the hawk saw me, sensed, or caught the sound of the camera. Within a second, between click and click, he had flown.

IMG_0007.jpg

I went outside to look at the wreckage of what had once been alive. Feathers and blood. The grim reality of avian life in my Little World of Island View. Between cats and hawks, a great deal of destruction is handed on from generation to generation. But although I have witnessed nature ‘red in tooth and claw’, I have seen nothing like the devastation caused by the avian flu. We tried to follow all the appropriate instructions, but the passerines all vanished and they never came back. We still have a couple of mourning doves grubbing around on the porch and back step, but I can remember counting, one day, sixty or seventy perched in a cluster on the clothes line. Pine grosbeaks used to swarm, now to see one is a big event. We still get the occasional evening grosbeak, but the grey jays have vanished, as have the swallows who used to nest in our garage. We know of a pair of cardinals in the neighborhood, but they rarely visit us. We can hear a Greater Pileated Woodpecker in the distant woods, but they no longer dance and play among our trees. A few years back, we had a garden full of bees balm, but no bees. Last year we saw very few butterflies, though they used to be regular visitors. Our hummingbirds have become occasional visitors, and I do miss seeing them.

I long to see again all those beautiful creatures, the cat bird with his endless imitations, the orioles with their songs, even the sparrows seem fewer and further between. As for the garden, the crows have taken over. A family of seven caw in the trees and visit regularly. They are sharp, wise creatures and I am always bemused by their aerial manoeuvres. They still sit on the garbage cans once a week and announce their triumph to the world. But woe betide if you leave a plastic bag alone at the roadside. They make short work of it with their shiny beaks ad the bag’s interior is soon strewn all over the road for you to pick up and everyone to see.