April 3, 2014
The rain began two nights ago and continues to this moment, early Thursday morning. My south woods are enshrouded in fog, the tree shafts rising like an army of dark giants. The river looks like lentil soup with a foam of sour cream, of the whipped up fog. The deep green of newly lush grass and willowy wild onions carpet the meadows, and the scent of the onions is pungent and sharp. The recesses of the hills are filled with temporary muddy water, above the moody, muddy river. You can hear the mosquitoes coughing themselves awake.
At five o’clock this morning, there was the crack! crack! of lightning, the tympani of thunder and the sweet soprano chorus of spring peepers. And the fearful moans of one Scout the Cat, pressing under the comforter to my bare chest, seeing no romance in rain.
“Blow, winds; crack cheeks!” Shakespeare
My girl deer, dead of a gunshot wound two weeks ago, has morphed from a brown, fleshy beauty to a sculpture of china white ribs and spine and skull, the ribs reminding me of a decayed, overturned ship’s curved timbers. Vultures have visited regularly, until the brownblack bones of the weekend were stripped to whiteness. I have learned how to tell one vulture from another, two in particular, as they now tolerate me standing thirty feet away. They put in practice hours with dead animals, Michelangelo’s dictum about a slab of marble holding a sculpture waiting to be free. My deer, if she ever was mine, is free.
‘I’ve had days when I could have raised that deer like Lazarus, he told the girl.’ William Gay
Ancient Indians believed that the creation of Earth included all celestial bodies lying on the ground, the heat of the bodies utterly scorching The People. Vulture volunteered to lift Burning Rock, the sun, into the sky, balancing the orb on his head and flying it up to the heavens, and there was a great light. But Vulture paid a price for this feat; the feathers of his head and neck were burned off, which is why all vultures have naked, red heads.
At midafternoon yesterday, thunderstorms rolled in from the east, blowing treetops sideways, the driving rain swelling the river and the wetlands. I drove to the Missouri side of The Father and parked at the lock and dam. Sixty-two American white pelicans—I counted—lined up vertically to the spillway, working as a floating team, a massive fish net, collectively gobbling up stunned fish which spewed from the dam, a waterfall of Pisceans. The pelicans, electric white with black wingtips, hooked the fish with their knobbed beak spears, tossed them lightly, to align their meals with their mouth pouches, raised their slender necks and gulped. Streams of pelicans rode the river currents then flew up against the gale of wind and returned to the dam, oblivious to the no swimming after eating rule. In Fish World, God is a pelican and goddesses are egrets and herons, and some fish enjoy long lives and some fish are sacrificed. Cahokian Indians would understand this.
“Be thou the rainbow to the storms of life.” Lord Byron
The wetland grasses were colored fiery copper and the line of weeping willow trees blushed pale yellow. The eagles have departed for the North Country, supplanted by Cooper’s hawks and redtail hawks and peregrine falcons and wind-hovering kestrels, all ready to scoop up fish bits and mice, the denizens of the long grass.
“it’s april (yes, april, my darling) it’s spring/yes the pretty birds frolic as spry as can fly/yes the little fish gambol as glad as can be” e.e. cummings
Under my finch feeder is a black hole, the grass long worn away and the viscous mud studded with seed hulls. On Monday, the black hole entertained the last of the migrating juncos. On Tuesday, a three pound grindstone, shaped like a small loaf of bread and flattened along the length of the bottom, for grinding corn, appeared in the hole. No fairy put it there. Earth “burped” it up overnight, the constant slight shudderings of the New Madrid Fault, yielding crystals and artifacts and the occasional hand blown glass bottle.
‘And Crow called, Brother of the Stones, I am Brother of the sky.’ Blue
To the goldfinches and housefinches and scarlet tanagers, I am God. God, the bearded, scowling-smiling giant, holding thistle seeds in his hands. God lives in a white enclosure the birds can see, through slots of invisible wall, and when they are hungry, they rise up to the heavenly slots, to sing hymns of praise and beseech God to bring food. And he does. Or doesn’t. And some finches enjoy long lives and some finches are sacrificed.
“Now close the windows and hush all the fields: If the trees must, let them silently toss.” Robert Frost
Think of life and death, the arbitrary nature of that which we call God. Think on your hymns and your thanks, for blessings and food. And admit it: We shudder in the dark—even with windows shut—as do fish in water and finches on branches at night. We hold to our mates, to our dreams, as did our ancestors in trees, in caves. For whom will the bell toll in that black ink of darkness?
As for me I think today that God must be a giant pelican, in the Sea Of Milky Way, in the greater Sea of Space, ripples spreading as in a pond, and we spill out from the rush of stars, of comets; and some of us enjoy long lives, and some of us are sacrificed.
“Do not go gentle into that good night.” Dylan Thomas
Thus endeth the lesson.