Awakenings (Day 20,770)


Two weeks ago the days were foggy and cool. The trees still mostly bare. Now, walking out with the light slanting mid-morning I was looking to stoop and shoot the opening tree buds. I had the macro lens on and it was time to shoot some awakenings.

At the dead hickory spire out front I spotted a female fence lizard. She was in a deep dry furrow. It was about forty degrees ambient and when I reached over for her she did not move at all. Her nails grazed off the wood. She was so camouflaged in such a spot. I pressed her between my hands to warm her. She looked unharmed. Holding her up to my eye I turned her and as I did her eye kept steady on me as her neck flexed to keep me fixed on her retinas. She might be cold but she was awake.  Watching the giant press her like toast in his flattened hands. Either trusting or conceding, her fate was mine. I placed her back in the wood furrow.

Above as I walked and turned my head to examine the bud arrays, the gnatcatchers wheezed and burbled. The peter-peters of the titmice rang in all directions. My usual dueling cardinals sang. I counted warblers in the back of my mind. Adding Parula. Hearing distant Jays and crows.

In the buds: white oak, red oak, hickory, more than greens were showing. Knitted by early spider lines, they come on so fast, one day is unlike the last. Blink and it is summer. Blink again and they are falling into the litter beneath my knees.

When I circle back I stoop to the lizard area and find a male is there now. He runs. And above me I hear wing shear. I look up thinking a Kite may have arrived but find a Sharp-shinned Hawk going up to perch. He must have missed hard, jet zagging, cutting the air above me. He looks nonplused for the effort. The birds around us are quiet. A different female fence lizard is awake on the tree.

Because it is Easter weekend I sit on the porch and read more of Stephen Mitchellís translation of the Gospels and commentary. I have not been to church in over 25 years. I read and stop, read and stop, listening. The one male hummer comes and goes and returns every ten minutes or so. I have not seen a second hummer drop in yet. He is fattening up for the latecomers. Each of which he will either chase or spoon, this hardy sprite, burning with the urgencies we all once had.

Out back on the deck, the dogwoods have popped their white blooms out. The cherry tree I have nurtured from a random sprout has grown above the edge of the deck and for the first time is making flowers. The new cherries will feed my Summer Tanagers in July no doubt. The buds will be a memory.

The Turkey Vultures come up at midafternoon and swirl up in a group and away. The Red-shouldered Hawks cry and dive. It is a bit cold for the treefrogs but once or twice I hear an aborted creak or chuckle out in my trees. The day is long and lazy. So beautiful as to make you try and breathe more slowly, taking it in. How many more April afternoons like this? Jesus would tell me not to count them. Not to worry what the next day or the night will bring. I wonder if they had treefrogs in Nazareth? I donít think I have ever looked at the birds of that region. What songs are sung in Palestine, in Bethlehem? Did the gospels even once mention the song of birds?

I will think on it some more. I must go and look at the bud images and see if even one shot came out. Like I thought I saw them. No going back. I know the leaves I shot this morning are already something new, bending towards the light, pressured by spring fluids like blood in a fingertip, here and here pointing toward every quadrant of this excellent sky. On this, my day number 20,770.

Dedicated to Martha Johnson who died this past week. A sweet spirit, she was always kind to me and a bird lover of the highest order.

(And any human who reads should read Stephen Mitchell's The Gospel According to Jesus. It is one of the five great books of my reading life. His translation of Job and the Tao and Rilke's Elegies are also fine spring reading.)

                                          HR