Floating

Feather, Duckweed, and Mosquito Fern on a Brazoria pond

 

Today I’m flying low and I’m
not saying a word.
I’m letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep.
The world goes on as it must,
the bees in the garden rumbling a little,
the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten.
And so forth.
But I’m taking the day off.
Quiet as a feather,
I hardly move though really I’m traveling
a terrific distance.
Stillness. One of the doors
into the temple.
“Today” ~ Mary Oliver

 

Comments always are welcome.

Summoning Rain

Liberian rain stick and tribal masks

Across cultures, from Australia to Argentina to Mexico to Tibet, the rainstick serves as a musical instrument, a necessary adjunct to tribal ceremonies, and a means of calling up rain.  My own rainstick comes from Liberia, West Africa, where I worked for a few years. Unlike those made from dried cacti and filled with beads or seeds, mine was formed from a stalk of a different sort of plant; I’ve always assumed its sound depends on falling rice or seeds.

Some say rainsticks are magical. Whether that’s true I can’t say, but now and then I ponder my stick’s survival for nearly fifty years in the heat and humidity of both Liberia and Texas. Occasionally I turn it as I walk by, and find myself transported back the bush: hearing again the sound of approaching rain. Sometimes, if long anticipated and much needed rain is in the forecast, I turn the stick several times, hoping the magic is real.

Seamus Heaney, the Pulitzer Prize winning poet known for works exalting everyday miracles, has considered the rain stick. His poem celebrating its qualities was published in The New Republic in 1993; its words still fall on the ear as easily as the sound of coming rain.

Up-end the stick and what happens next
is a music that you never would have known
to listen for. In a cactus stalk
Downpour, sluice-rush, spillage and backwash
come flowing through. You stand there like a pipe
being played by water, you shake it again lightly
and diminuendo runs through all its scales
like a gutter stopping trickling. And now here comes
a sprinkle of drops out of the freshened leaves,
Then subtle little wets off grass and daisies;
the glitter-drizzle, almost-breaths of air.
Up-end the stick again. What happens next
is undiminished for having happened once,
twice, ten, and thousand times before.
Who cares if all the music that transpires
is the fall of grit or dry seeds through a cactus?
You are like a rich man entering heaven
through the ear of a raindrop. Listen now again.

 

Comments always are welcome.

Not Every Bonnet is Blue

Horticultural specialists like Jerry Patterson have spent years developing new bluebonnet colors — especially white, lavender, and maroon — but their work is based on the  natural color variations that show up from time to time in Texas fields.

Over the past decade, I’ve found at least one white and one yellow bluebonnet each year during the plant’s season, but until last weekend I never had found the nearly-mythical pink bluebonnet, and never expected to see one. Yet there it was: blooming at the edge of Farm to Market Road 532 between Moravia and Moulton.

Over time, legends developed around this rare flower, including the claim that its color reflected the blood that flowed from the Battle of the Alamo. In fact, Jerry Patterson himself once said that the only native pink bluebonnets he’d ever found grew south of San Antonio, near the river. Perhaps that’s still true for Patterson, but this gem was blooming well east of San Antonio, and nowhere near a river.

Legends aside, the flower’s presence on that mid-April morning brought to mind a favorite poem. Written by Amherst resident Robert Francis, “Bouquet” is perfectly suited to celebrate the whisper of a single pink bluebonnet nearly lost in a babble of blue.

 

One flower at a time, please,
however small the face.
Two flowers are one flower
too many, a distraction.
Three flowers in a vase begin
to be a little noisy.
Like cocktail conversation,
everybody talking.
A crowd of flowers is a crowd
of flatterers (forgive me).
One flower at a time.  I want
to hear what it is saying.
                                        “Bouquet” ~ Robert Francis

 

Comments always are welcome.

Sunrise

Upturned by wind, the form and color of this water lily leaf brought to mind Mary Oliver’s poem “Sunrise,” even though the photo was taken as sunset drew near.

You can
die for it-
an idea,
or the world. People
have done so,
brilliantly,
letting
their small bodies be bound
to the stake,
creating
an unforgettable
fury of light. But
this morning,
climbing the familiar hills
in the familiar
fabric of dawn, I thought
of China,
and India
and Europe, and I thought
how the sun
blazes
for everyone just
so joyfully
as it rises
under the lashes
of my own eyes, and I thought
I am so many!
What is my name?
What is the name
of the deep breath I would take
over and over
for all of us? Call it
whatever you want, it is
happiness, it is another one
of the ways to enter
fire.
                          “Sunrise” ~ Mary Oliver

 

Comments always are welcome.