"...the/mockingbird is mocking me, as one who either/knows enough already or knows enough to be/perfectly content not knowing..." Mary Oliver, from "Daisies", Why I Wake Early
Four deer eat Spanish moss on the hill above my cabin from a tan oak tree top downed by the last storm. Their burro ears twitch warily when I raise my cup of tea off my writing desk for a surreptitious sip, the movement enough to stall them, green moss tines wriggling in their jaws as they asses me assessing them. I have the mild urge to pet them, but know from the Fair Zoo how bony they are. On their end: a mild urge to flee--a stalemate--clearly they sense I’m just another deranged writer hunkered down to my desk chair five feet beneath them, a double-pane window and a damp, steep incline between us.
I’ve been waking with night dreams vapored. Fire: out. Deck boards: amphibious. No end to the litany of to-dos, and the wheel of days showing no sign of slowing. What gives, when all the tiny tasks matter and one remains dogged by the desire to do each task well? You layer your time, right? Take stock of the good, stop dwelling on the unfinished, the how far to yet go?
I remember taking a class from a tarot reader/astrologer named Quan Tracey Cherry in Iowa City, arriving at his doorstep with a bouquet made up of the ferns and flowers I’d found between his door and mine. It was fall, and flowers were scarce—a dandelion or two. I came across a cardinal feather, some overgrown stalks of grass gone to seed, some browning ginkgo leaves. Plenty to harvest, when I let go of my idea of bouquet and looked closely along the sidewalk for what was actually there: the odd bit of bark, the lichen covered twigs.
This year, driving, in the absence of sidewalks, weeds, and tarot, I’m gathering animals. Tracking them on the daily drive to and from town, two, sometimes three round trips. The yield: crows, crows, always raucous crows. Blackberry sparrows fleeing my van on Green Valley. Wild turkeys, gangling away, flustered, around the man-made pond at Lazy G Ranch. The kids and I spout out a greeting to the black goat, speculate he’s forgotten he’s a goat, so near he loves to stand to the white horse. One pert, pesky blue-jay right before Bones Road cruises the curve for crushed acorns. On Mill Station, the dark brown elongated heart-shaped shoulders of five turkey vultures congregate over a deer carcass in the ditch. Finally, in the rain plush grass of the kids’ school, forty or more robins feeding, and one massive crow strutting in their midst.
Later, animal totems of the day recorded in my journal, I spend a futile portion of the night trying to reassemble Rudy, my son’s 52 piece interlocking balsa wood Tyrannosaurus Rex. A xmas gift from my brother’s sweetheart, Rudy took residence in my son’s heart from the moment Maria took the time to snap him together (smart girl, suspecting accurately the fate of gifts delivered for future unsupervised assembly). Rudy’d fare better glued together and placed high on a shelf. But once named, along with my daughter’s matching interlocking Brontesaurus (Sally), he acquired stuffed animal status and slept under blankets. Ever since, we find dinosaur spine bits and forelegs in the couch, under the table, in the tangle of blankets at the foot of the bed. Though five goes of scotch tape refuse to repair his broken tail, Rudy’s got most of his outline. I gather up his errant parts and plunk them in a cup, tail end ferning up into the air.