Treading lightly the path to enlightenment.

Posts tagged ‘observation of nature’

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If I could teach you anything, if I could wish for you to grasp one concept, it would be this:

During those fleeting and routine moments that occupy our every day, as our subconscious drives us to keep moving like a moth around the flame, take time to notice. To notice just this. This now. These seemingly innocuous surroundings. These most common and ordinary things.

Spirit

You must expend no effort for the greatest memories of your lifetime to be retained in your mind’s eye.

Graduation.

Weddings.

The birth of your children.

The passing of dear ones.

These events shine like diamonds on the beach. You could not forget them if you tried.

Add now, to that gallery.

Trail Time

 

A moment on a trail as the rain falls on Chuy and me.

A silent night on an isolated island, as peace fell on the moon and me.

The Harrier hanging suspended over the hay field on a summer breeze.

 

Moonrise

 

You must stop and look and record these snapshot memories.

 

Daughter’s face in the rear view mirror, which I mistook for her mother.

That quiet summer morning, coffee in the cabana with my dearest friend, waiting for the sun.

The dark, sacred night, lovers locked in embrace.

 

Mists of morning

 

These pictures will be meaningless to others, so I shan’t go on.

They are not major events, accomplishments, achievements, setbacks or tragedies.

All can relate to those.

 

These are just for me (as yours will be just for you).

I am filling the walls of the gallery of my mind, so as to be surrounded by the simple beauty of my life.

 

The patter of rain on my slicker.

The sting of wind-driven snow.

This warm sun on my face.

 

Sumac Sunrise

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

 

 

 

Empty Nest

Bald Eagle

Decorah North is the given name of this eagles’ nest and the streaming nest camera I’ve been watching since early spring. As snow and freezing rain fell on Mother and Father eagle, two eggs were sheltered deep in the nest, and guarded always by one or the other. Explore.org and The Raptor Resource Project supplies the cameras, and mans them from time to time to zoom in or pan the treetops.

The streaming site would remain open on my computer at work. Folks arriving in the morning and passing my desk were greeted with the view. The computer window minimized during the day (in case I needed to actually work), the sound would come to us from Decorah, Iowa. This was fun in the shop, when someone would look all around trying to locate the source of birdsongs, raindrops, wind, and the occasional chainsaw. As I worked, it often provided a comforting backdrop to my day. I listened, checking the video from time to time, as the sound of chickadees and jays welcomed the songs of robins and the arrival of red-winged blackbirds.

Finally, somewhere at the end of March or early April, the first of two eggs hatched. Within two days, the second egg hatched. A day later, the second chick was discovered in the morning to be lifeless. Who can know the reasons why? Such a delicate and helpless stage of their lives. One false move will do them in. A snowy night, just too cold to survive, perhaps. Nature is not scripted.

We mourn the passing, yet are transfixed by the only child, designated DN9. Each day, I looked in on the little family. Eagle parents share equally in the duties. He would sit the nest while she went to hunt and eat, and vice versa. They would bring fresh trout and small mammals, tear pieces off and patiently feed them bit by bit to their charge. With the computer window minimized, I could tell when the lunch delivery arrived by the screeching of Junior, growing quickly and eager to be fed.

I watched the nearly-naked fur ball immobilized by his out sized feet. At one point I began to wonder if he wasn’t deformed, unable to walk at four or five weeks of age. Then I read that their clownish feet are much too big for newborns, and it was normal to take a while to grow into them. I was delighted when DN9 took his first plodding, stumbling steps. It was almost like seeing a child at that same remarkable, fascinating stage of development. Weeks passed, and “Superchicken”, as I’ve nicknamed him, continued to grow from a fuzzy blob into a real bird. Feathers grew larger and more plentiful, and DN9 hopped and reached right in for the scraps of fish and meat offered.

This past week or two, along came the mayflies. Swarms clouded the nest, and poor little DN9 could only scratch with his giant foot, and shake his head constantly in self-defense. I was wishing for him, no doubt speaking aloud to the computer screen, that his day of fledging and flight would be soon. He’s a big bird now, probably as big as a chicken. He’s started “branching”. Leaving the nest to walk out on its supporting limbs, stretching and testing newly-formed wings. This morning, there he sat, harassed by the mayflies in the nest. It looked maddening, and I again wished the freedom of flight for him. “You’ll see,” I encouraged, “you can fly away from these bugs. Take a nice bath in the creek.”

Twenty minutes later, I walked past my desk and saw the nest, empty.

Such a strange feeling that evoked. Here this nest, family and particularly “Superchicken” DN9 have been part of my daily life for several months. Now, in an instant, fledging season ends at Decorah North. I miss him already, yet in my heart I am simultaneously overjoyed. This was the goal! This is the whole purpose of what’s happening. I’m reminded of the sort of hippie, sort of corny thing about “If you love something, let it go.” 

I rewound the video to the time he was last seen. I watched as he stepped out, branching, onto a large limb that supported the nest. He looked down. He looked outward. He was getting ready. He took another step onto a flimsier branch, and in his inexperience, lost grip with his newly-acquired talons. One flip of a wing, and he dropped out of sight. So it was not the glorious Hollywood-style leap into the crisp air, broad wings soaring above the open field. The folks at the Raptor Resource Project started scanning with the cameras, up and down, all around the base of the nest tree, out into the field adjacent, filled with dairy cows and home to a rushing stream during spring melt. No sign of the little guy.

I had every confidence in DN9’s parents. Certainly all this is normal in the context of nature. He’ll be fine. I checked the other nest cam in the area. Decorah, was fortunate to have three big, healthy fledglings. Wouldn’t you know? That nest was empty, too. And this brought me some comfort. Being about the same age, this meant DN9 was old enough to make that big leap, that first giant step, to leave the nest. Had this been a sparrow or robin, a grackle or starling, I would have worried for its survival, yet unable to fully fly, making short hops and bursts of uncoordinated flight. As big as a crow already, and with two adult bald eagles keeping tabs on the youngster, threats would be few.

By afternoon, the camera operator for the Raptor Resource Project had located DN9 in the open field between the nest tree and the creek! He was on the ground, standing, and remaining still. The curious dairy cows would stop and take a second look as they ambled by. “What’s this big bird doing here on the ground? Just sitting here staring at us?” A short time later I saw the camera pointed up into a nearby tree, where one of the parents perched, keeping an eye on junior.

Immersion in nature and close association with her offspring bears many wonderful gifts. Aside from the joy of life itself, and seeing beautiful things, a clearer perspective of real life in the real world may be had. I would be inclined to disagree with you if you claimed animals did not share the breadth, depth and range of emotions accredited to that most highly developed species, humans.

Most don’t have a brow to furrow with worry, nor lips to part in smiles or turn down in frowns. No eyebrows to raise in fear or consternation. No tear ducts to produce evidence of great sadness or supreme joy.

But aren’t eagles and robins and starlings and weasels and possums and field mice and beavers still parents? Clearly they are driven to protect and nurture their offspring until they can venture out to lives of their own. Will you tell me the eagles were not saddened or heartbroken or disappointed at the loss of their own issue? Would you expect me to believe they were not startled or scared or worried when the little one fell from its perch to the Earth below? An Earth with predators; coyotes, dogs, bobcats.

Yet there is a balance in the natural world. These fragile things live daily with apprehension and fear. Starvation, predation, drought and hurricanes. Falling from a nest just a week too early. Still, it seems, their lives are not ruled by emotions, fueled and driven by feelings as their primary motivation. That would be humans. Every act a reaction to emotion. Joy, sadness, pride, regret, love, hatred, jealousy, envy, admiration, jubilation. Human hearts fling their emotions in every direction like sailors in the tempest. Nature takes a more centered and humble view. What seems the greatest of emotional extremes for humans are but the limits of the pendulum daily for so many beings.

The next day, DN9 was nowhere to be seen. The camera pilot (no doubt driven by emotions, including scientific curiosity), panned and zoomed the terrain repeatedly. This is the simple rule in nature. We do the best we can, and keep our hopes high for the best outcomes. The rest is really out of our control. And now I, too, swing through the pendulum’s arc.

I am sad that DN10 died before his second day in life, and I am overjoyed that DN9 prospered. I feel a sense of loss, loneliness, as I gaze upon the empty nest, and simultaneously I trust that DN9 has more than a sporting chance, and two doting parents. I feel compassion and sympathy for the eagle parents. The work and worry of it all. To keep those babies warm and safe and fed in the nest as long as necessary, and no longer. To flood every waking and sleeping minute with a vigilance worthy of a palace guard. To return one day to an empty nest, and, with just a little melancholy perhaps, celebrate this grand miracle. There is a powerful, silent beauty to the empty nest.

Hence we are kindred. Akin to the eagle and robin, the badger and rat, the polar bear and skunk, I, too, look proudly ( and not without a little twinge of nostalgia) on the silent beauty, the power, and the glory of an empty nest of my own.

Seek peace,

Paz

Tonic Of Spring

Noni among the flowers

 

How I love the snow.

As Spring returns

As she is wont,

I’m sad to see it go.

 

Then “O! What’s this?”

Birds in red and yellow and blue!

And reaching up from Earth,

Crocuses in every hue!

 

And green!

For months the color only of pines,

Now returning to this yard of mine,

And in the trees it can be seen.

 

Tractors battle mud in fields

To carve the furrows

Rich and dark,

A sooner start for better yields.

 

Eagles nest. Osprey, too.

Foxes bare their kits in dens.

Skunks stretch from their winter’s sleep,

To join else other denizens.

 

In a month the sky will glow,

To warm and copper-tone my skin.

I will be chagrined to part

With this sweet Spring I’ve come to know.

 

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

 

 

The Ghost of Osceola

 

“Ever since the days of old

Men would search for wealth untold.

They’d dig for silver, and for gold,

And leave the empty holes.

 

And way down south in The Everglades,

Where the black water rolls and the sawgrass waves,

the eagles fly and the otters play

In the land of The Seminole.”

 

John Anderson’s song ran through my head constantly as we traveled the roads outside of Ocala, Florida.

Off to our right, pastures of green. Grazing dairy cows, playful galloping horses. Ancient Live Oak trees spread their limbs and shade all below, adorned and festooned with Spanish Moss. Orange trees and Crepe Myrtle.

Bisecting the Ocala National forest, one can see what this land once looked like. Sand and pines, low-growing palms, the ground dotted with piles made by Gopher Tortoises, making their nests in the warm earth.

In the rear view mirror, “The Villages”. Vast, expansive new communities developing as quickly as houses can be built. Replete with shopping centers, medical arts buildings, recreation centers. Concrete and asphalt, steel and glass, power lines, signs, lights and traffic spewing forth clouds of carbon monoxide.

“Don’t they look so nice and new?” my companions cackle. I purse my lips and swallow hard and keep my thoughts to myself out of some misshapen sense of civility.

 

“Progress came, and took its toll,

And in the name of flood control

They made their plans and they drained the land.

Now the ‘glades are going dry.”

 

The River of Grass. The Everglades. The largest freshwater delta in the world. The porous limestone aquifer, barely a few feet above the level of the sea, filters water beneath the ground, and it spews forth by the billions of gallons. At Silver Springs State Park we see the inverted Niagara. A vent pouring out millions of gallons of crystal clear water. “The volume produced,” said Captain Christopher, piloting our silent, electric glass-bottom boat, “could fill four Olympic swimming pools per minute.” Water so pure you can see the ancient river bottom thirty feet below without distortion or darkness. A Gar passes beneath, four feet long and a quarter of it the snout. An Anhinga swims by below, chasing after lunch.

A sign warns us not to feed or approach the Rhesus Monkeys. If scratched or bitten we’re required to call the CDC immediately. Some well-meaning naturalist, or showman, or perhaps a little of both, brought the monkeys to the park for the viewing pleasure of the public. Released on an island, they were thought to be contained. Little did they know, monkeys are agile and fearless swimmers. Now they roam throughout the park and the adjacent lands beyond. They’ve done well establishing themselves on a foreign continent, as well as the Burmese Python, inadvertently introduced as released pets.

The Florida Panther, a sleek cat occupying the swamp for millennia, is now a threatened species due to human encroachment and over-hunting of the past. Less than 200 individuals left in the wild, and losing habitat daily.

 

“And the last time I walked in the swamp

I stood up on a Cypress stump.

I listened close and I heard the ghost

Of Osceola cry.”

 

I looked at the beauty and diversity of nature here in this one-of-a-kind place, and looked out the other window at the world of humans. Chasing money. Everything has a price. I imagined what this place must have looked like only a few hundred years ago.

 

“So blow, blow Seminole wind.

Blow like you’re never gonna blow again.

I’m calling to you like a long-lost friend,

But I know who you are.

 

Blow, blow from the Okeechobee

All the way up to Micanopy.

Blow across the home of the Seminole,

the alligator and the gar.”

 

I thought of the Seminole and all the other original inhabitants as they watched the destruction of their Eden.

I hung my head in sorrow. I apologized to Osceola and his people. To the panther. To the world at large. On behalf of all those short-sighted and misguided beings that have come before me. Again, ashamed to be human, who now can do nothing but cry.

If ever you enter the swamps and ‘glades, find a quiet place, you may hear the cries of two men mourning for those things that can never be reversed, returned or replaced.

It is Osceola and I.

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

Metamorphosis

 

I meandered from this plastic world,

Of silicone charlatans,

Paper tigers in cardboard cages.

This well-trod path toward Wonder curled.

 

 

With heightened every faculty,

Around each turn another yet,

And the trail it rises higher still,

Each crest a broader world to see.

 

 

And hence do these two worlds collide,

Of the past and the present Me.

Of true and false, of mystery,

Contrasted boldly. Inside, outside.

 

 

Now I fold and gently knead,

And loaf this new Me, let to rise.

A crusty crust, yet soft within,

Warm and whole in thought and deed.

 

 

Please do not think me unkind,

Must you remain in this land of mimes

And brightly backlit images of

This phony world I leave behind.

 

 

For all the colored flags unfurled

And shiny things to catch the eye,

The tin machines and mounds of gold

Are good for naught in Nature’s world.

 

 

My voice I’ve joined with nightingales’,

With eagles I have flown on high,

Held up my gaze to seek the joy

Of blue skies where the storm cloud sails.

 

 

I felt compelled to let you know,

As I blend into the trees,

Am borne aloft upon the breeze,

In case you wonder “Where’d he go?”

 

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

Knowledge

The learned Bruno

How much greater would you know the tiny seed,

the quaking grass, if it were all the world?

Consider the sparrow,

and how much greater is his knowledge than your own.

Only then will you go forth

with a true appreciation for this world, this life.

All of its fragile beings.

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

Hawk And Starling

It began with an untimely death. I turned to find, lying on the floor of the warehouse, a European Starling, still and lifeless. It had been the holiday weekend, where in the United States we celebrate the life and mourn the tragic loss of one of America’s greatest heroes, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The evidence was everywhere, on the floor. Telling the tale in clues that could be read easily by the most amateur sleuth. She’d probably entered on Friday, when crews were unloading trucks after a long week. Doing so in the brutal, bitter cold of a January day that would see temperatures below zero. In and out through the overhead doors, then a quick walk-through locking up. Set the alarm and they were bound for the long weekend, Monday a holiday. Unbeknownst to them, the Starling would be locked in.

Here the signs showed where she flew to the transom windows out front and perched. Looking out on a world that, perhaps, she was glad to be spared from. Single digit temperatures and double-digit winds conspired to drive temperatures, with wind chill, to twenty-five below zero over the weekend.

Here she perched on the iron I-beam as she peered out through the windows of the rear overhead door of the loading dock.  Here she flew into the paint room, landed atop a piece of pipework, and looked out the six-light of the huge antique door. Out onto the stacks of pallets at the back of our building. This is our meeting place. Where I call with a whistle for my following of sparrows, and remind them that “Everyone is welcome!”. I call out to the crows, watch the Juncos now in winter, the mockingbird, the blue jays, as I shred and share a couple of slices of bread each morning and noon.

This is no doubt where Starling and I had met before. Where for the last decade, I have come to love their comical movement, their social graces, sharing with one another, with other birds. While the polite sparrows sit and nibble with elegant manners, starlings run about, stacking bits of bread in their beaks before flying off. Starlings are beautiful birds. Striking plumage in streaks and stripes, iridescent black echoing every color of the rainbow.

She was not in danger of slamming herself against the glass, as last year I went to each window in the place and added translucent stripes to make it visible to birds. Collide-Escape is the product I used, after watching, of all things, a starling knock itself nearly unconscious trying to fly through the sparkling clean portal. Dazed, he stood there on the warehouse floor as humans walked past. I brought him outside and set him down on his tiny feet on the front dock, in the shade. Twenty minutes later, he would fly off, hopefully good as ever.

Now, Tuesday morning, she lay dead on the floor. Three days locked within. I felt responsible for the death. In odd, gripping moments this would wash over me, as I reminded the child within of all those grownup things that are said at a time like this. Everything must die one day. It was an accident. It’s not your fault. One of so many starlings, how could she be missed? Nothing relieved my childish mourning for the tiny helpless creature. A creature that would now be alive if not for me, and mankind’s intrusion on her natural world.

I walked solemnly outside with the little corpse. Carried her, slowly and gently, to the brush line out back. The closest thing to natural and nature I could find for her. I placed her on a limb. A practice we call (pardon the outdated phrase) an “Indian Burial”. Here now she would return to the Earth from which her life sprang to begin with. She may become a welcome meal for a hungry scavenger, or perhaps decay and decompose there, mingling with the grass and the dust of terra firma.

I could not stop myself from returning to the back window. I consciously avoided looking directly at the place where she was enshrined. If still there, the little body would sadden me. If she was gone…somehow it seemed that would sadden me, too. As I looked out the window, the sky dimmed. Shooting over my head and then in front of my window, a dark cloud of a thousand starlings swarmed. A swiftly moving organic overcast. Darting this way and that in one gigantic choreographed ball of birds. They lighted in a tree at the edge of the back lot. I thought of a crow’s funeral. How crows will gather quietly at a place where one of theirs has fallen. They would not act like the gregarious, cackling mobs of their reputation, but would perch in reverence, one by one flying off in silence.

It was then I saw the Cooper’s Hawk, perched in an adjacent tree. On the hunt, looking for a meal. Another swirling flock transited the sky, and behind it, the hawk leaped into the air. With zig-zagging aerobatics, he charged into the black mass. A twist, a turn, a swoop, a dive, the incredibly agile bird flew through the frigid air. The hawk returned to the tree empty-handed, awaited the next opportunity. It was so cold outside, I thought, to fly so quickly through the air. It must be uncomfortable, to say the least, yet there was no choice if a hawk wanted to survive. To live. To thrive in this natural state. Conflicting thoughts slapped at me from either side of my brain. Oh, the poor starlings. I didn’t want to witness another killed today. Yet, there is the hawk, an equally admirable and well-liked avian friend. I did not want to hasten his demise either.

The thoughts would swirl around my aged and feeble brain for days. Perhaps I would find a place to leave a dish of water, in the event this scenario were repeated. Perhaps I could make some kind of hatch that would open to allow a trapped bird to escape. I still can’t stop thinking of the Starling, looking out the window at freedom. So close, and yet denied. The vertical Collide-Escape stripes on the windows looking like prison bars.

Another flock of starlings headed for the Gathering Tree. The hawk was airborne again.

“Everyone is welcome.” My heartfelt mantra seemed simplistic and shallow. I’m feeding the feral cat with a small dish, situated just thirty feet from the pallet pile that serves as dining table for the sparrows. How do those things reconcile?

There are no rules for such things. Cats will eat the sparrows. Hawks will eat the starlings. The cat lives and the hawk lives and the starlings live with this knowledge. I am trying to bring myself closer to their world. A world not bound by emotional ramblings and Disneyesque fantasy. Then I realize that I can be this me, and feel these things, and mourn for the starlings while cheering for the hawk. Really quite simple, if you don’t overthink it.

Everyone is welcome.

I guess that includes the sentimental, childish man who will give Indian burials to dead birds, feed feral cats, and feel sorry for the hawk in the cold.

We are, truly, all in this together.

Bath Time For Starlings

Seek peace,

 

Paz

In Days of Winter

Sumac Snow

 

In these, our bitter days of winter,

As bare trees stand, their feet ice cold in the snow,

Above our heads icy North Winds blow,

And from my eaves hang frozen crystal splinters,

 

 

Stalagtite Ice

Let us then retire to our rooms.

Where we’ll sip hot tea and clasp our hands

And know the warmth of love still stands,

While overhead, the Winter Rage looms.

 

Blizzard of ’18

 

No embers of wood, nor burning coal,

As their fire radiates its heat

Upon our faces, upon our feet,

Can, as the heart, so warm the soul.

 

 

Embers

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

Welcome the New Year!

Here we are again. The shortest day of the year draws to a close.

With the Solstice my new year begins.

Sure, we’ll have a party in 10 days and we’ll turn that paper hanging in the kitchen.

(Or rather, we’ll hang a new calendar for the “paper new year”.)

 

My celebration began yesterday. A kind of New Year’s Eve feeling filled me as the 20th expired.

Today the Big Blue ball on which we ride crosses imaginary lines that would be measured in the millions of miles.

As we conserve our angular momentum on our course around the gravity anchor of our solar system, the tilt of our wobbling globe begins to be exposed to increasing amounts of daylight. Starting tomorrow.

Each year, the time lapsed between my longest day and my shortest seems to pass more quickly.

This cannot be, of course, in a system that has had 14 billion years to find its rhythm.

For me, each day is a page in The Book of A Thousand Seasons that makes up my life.

I clearly recall standing under a warm, June sky, setting my sights on this next milepost.

In the past three hundred sixty-five and one-quarter days I have filled my countless hours with more beauty than can be related in a single volume.

From the sky to the water, from the valleys to the mountains.

With family and friends. With my speechless canine companion.

With children and grandchildren and siblings and nieces and nephews.

I have exchanged correspondences with some of the finest people I have ever known.

I have felt kindred.

I have spent silent hours in nature’s lap.

Watched the moon and stars transit the sky.

Waved hello to the Robins of Spring, and goodbye to the Geese of Autumn.

I have taken down from the shelves of the past the warmest memories of my dearest friends.

Lingered over them. Let them fill my spirit.

I have cried.

For my people. For the people of the world.

For my planet, and the delicate living things that inhabit it.

I have laughed.

With the snow. With the sparrows.

With the sun and moon.

I have loved.

All that is laid before me.

All that which my wondering eyes behold.

 

And the Great Cosmos has lived and loved and laughed and cried with me.

For another year.

 

And, starting tomorrow, I shall do it all again.

 

Happy New Year!

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

 

Embryonic

 

 

Cousin Jameson

 

 

For the

Young Mother,

Everything

Lies ahead.

 

 

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

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