fly toward the sunrise
fly toward the sunrise
ghost of a moon smile
I and the Bird is up with an issue devoted to vultures:
The Cherokee nation called them “Peace Eagles” owing to the fact that they never killed a living thing – and also that they tended to show up in numbers after battles when peace treaties were being signed, though admittedly that may have been for a slightly more macabre reason. In any case, our hang-ups with vultures clearly stem from our own issues rather than any inherently bizarre trait of the species themselves.
It’s a great issue full of links to all kinds of vulture photos and posts including my video “While Sitting in Church,” which is based on one of the Birds Nobody Loves poems. Go pay a visit and learn more about our fascinating carrion-eating friends.
a squirrel’s wet fur
I’m honored to have two poems, “Winter Solstice” and “In the Time of the Automobile” (both from my upcoming collection Birds Nobody Loves–More to come stay tuned) in the inaugural issue of Curio Poetry alongside the work of several other fine poets. Thanks to editors Joseph Harker and Tessa Racht for starting this journal and including some of my work. Now, go check it out.
I made this back in March and never got around to uploading it and then forgot all about it until something sparked my memory yesterday. It’s based my poem of the same name, originally posted a little over a year ago. This is the second video I’ve made from my Birds Nobody Loves series (the first was “Chasing Westward”).
The images are photoshopped versions of some of my pictures of black and turkey vultures. I’m planning to use these as illustrations in the Birds Nobody Loves collection I’m slowly (so slowly) putting together.
The real purpose of this video was experimental. I wanted to try to figure out how to make my editing software do the “Ken Burns effect” that was so nicely done in “Beach/Snow” a beautiful video by Peter Stephens. It was complicated but once I had it figured out, it got a lot easier to get the pans and zooms I wanted.
The music is by Oleg Serkov downloaded from Jamendo and licensed under a cc-by-nc-sa license. This is the first time I’ve used Jamendo for music for a video. There’s a lot of good stuff there besides Mr. Serkov’s wonderful work.
As to the poem, it comes from the church I attended when I was in high school. It was built on the edge of a cliff overlooking Lake Travis. They built it lengthwise and placed the altar on the long side which was made entirely of glass so it was easy to let your mind wander out to the open sky above the lake where turkey vultures circled endlessly.
I’ve always found it strange that church is held indoors but that church anyway made it feel like you weren’t completely disconnected from the natural world, which is why I still consider it the most beautiful church I’ve ever seen.
It is also where my fascination with vultures began. Watching them each Sunday, thinking about their place in the scheme of things and watching their effortless flight, I couldn’t help but fall in love with them while witnessing in awe the sheer wonder and beauty of creation.
The hawk is an acrobat and an impostor—
he flies with vultures and when he banks
his lighter plumage blazes in the sun,
betraying him to anyone down below with
eyes to see and secrets to conceal. The butcher
hides in plain sight among the forensics birds;
it’s a good procedural crime drama. I search
the woods for evidence, but these guys
are too good, too thorough, and I wonder
how I stumbled into this perfect scheme.
I want to get back to my practice of taking (at least) weekly walks down the neighborhood trail. I have missed that quiet, open time that had been such a part of ’09 and then dropped almost as soon as ’10 was in the door. I suppose that without the commitment to count birds once a week, it was too easy to find other things to do. Too easy to be too busy.
Lately I’ve been realizing what an effect this not-walking the pond trail had on me: I felt more rushed and hurried and short of time last year. Too often empty when I sat to write poetry and telling myself that I was perhaps just too busy. When I walk and watch birds, investigate trees and follow butterflies, everything else slips away. There is a sort of purposeful emptying that occurs and yet, I also feel full when I get home. Not full in the sense of having overindulged, but full in the sense of fulfillment.
I’ve come to realize that these walks along the trails, the regular path to the pond and back, the place I always veer from the path to look for certain snakes in the summertime or certain birds or a deer bone that moves from time to time across a meadow… all of this adds to a sort of ritual (dare I say prayer or communion) that I have missed this past year.
And so, having learned my lesson the hard way (is there any other?), I suspect I’ll be taking those (at-least) weekly rambles again. I started on New Year’s Day, as if to make a statement to myself and also to collect a few stones, and it was a great half-hour. So simple, a half-hour-a-week, but those half-hours accumulate like compounding interest into so much more than just thirty short minutes.
Regarding my writing, I’ve felt uninspired lately. That’s not to say I’m not writing. I am. I’m just not happy with what I’m coming up with. It feels like wheels spinning, forward motion only a dream or perhaps an illusion. I’m not a big believer in writer’s block. It seems an excuse. I mean, I can write. I do. It just hasn’t been flowing. Doors open, and I’m ambivalent at best about going through. As though I already know what’s out there, and without surprises, why not just stay home?
Perhaps getting outside on the little trails between the streets will help me find my way back to Mars—or at least the parts of Mars where the end of my novel still hides beneath billion year old sands. I know it will help uncover those things that make poems more than just words and line breaks.
Jumping into the river of stones has reminded me of the importance and, yes, pleasure of discipline in writing. Of being ready to meet the muse, if you will. That was my intent when I started a gnarled oak two years ago, but I slipped away from the discipline of doing that too and it became a too-sporadic thing. I plan to continue this daily practice when January rolls to a close. The kind of close observation and paying attention required is exactly the sort of practice I need—meditative and prayerful (there it is again) in some sense that goes far deeper than simply writing 2-3 lines of poetry or prose.
And it’s bigger than writing, of course, this walking and seeing. More important somehow than just a door to words. It’s a door to discovery and a deeper knowing of myself, the world around me and my place in it. Somehow, all these small things add up to so much more than the sum of their parts. Is it magical that so little time can be transformed into so much living? I feel like it is sometimes, I admit it, and so I resolve to perform at least a little more magic this year, careful always not to endanger anyone or turn myself into a toad.