Category Archives: nature

Play

Brothers on the mountain
Grey and blue play shivers
At dusk, to get it out before
Curfew and the scolding
Of the moon

Sisters in the field,
Green and gold play tremors
At dawn, tiring themselves before
Breakfast and the swaddling
Of the sun

Lovers under the waves,
Pink and red play tangles
At midnight, grooming one another after
Mass and the awakening
Of the tide


GPS

We loaded the car at 8:30 and headed toward the valley.  We formed a mini caravan of two cars, driving down state highways, me in front trying to time the lights so I wouldn’t lose my parents behind me.  My two were in the backseat, my daughter playing the roll of emcee for MadLibs.

We rolled into the small Shenandoah town around 11:15.  Driving down the narrow cemetery paths, my father, now in front, stopped and stepped out.  Dad helped Mom out, who walks with the help of a cane.

My kids quickly found the stone indicating where my grandfather and grandmother are burried.  They never knew them, having passed well before I was married.  I never knew my grandfather, and my grandmother was a caricature of someone from my childhood.  Here, my mom began to recall, aloud, bits of her own childhood, and the relationships between the names on the various markers.

A cousin arrived, one who lives nearby. Her father was my mom’s brother, and she was here to bury some of his ashes next to his parents.  A small, square hole had been prepared.  Polite and fun conversation returned to relationships and memories.  This church and that cabin.

My great grandmother was born in a cabin that is now maintained by the PATC and rented to vacationers.  This mountain and that road all had names that were shared by branches on my family tree.

We drove about ten miles up the road, where we found my great grandparents’ graves in a small churchyard.  Casual conversations with a few people coming from the service turned into a half hour of connections and hazy memories.

My kids were getting antsy, and so was I.  After our goodbyes, my parents left on their return to the midwest.  I drove my kids to show them a piece of land I had been interested in buying.  After a long winding ascent up a gravel road, we found the property, which was as I had remembered: more like the side of a mountain than a residential site, a steep and tree covered 5 acre plot: beautiful, but not able to be built on, even for a small cabin.

We went to the nearby town and found a little river rafting outfit, and spent the next hour floating and laughing our way down the river.

On the way home, after ice cream and drying off, we took a scenic route through the hills.  We saw a few deer, some goat farms, and Cooter’s Dukes of Hazard annual festival.  There must have been 300 orange cars parked there.

Arriving home, we were exhausted and happy.  Hot dogs on the grill and then to bed, quickly snoozing before the sun had fully set.


Night Heat

Heat chokes the region.  My lawn is essentially a field of brown weeds, as I cannot justify watering it, save to keep my property value up.  I mow it, and the relative eveness keeps it presentable.  

A ritual and sweaty lunch walk.  An amble with my dog down near the stream along the biking trail.  This weekend, a difficult ascent up a Blue Ridge mountain peak. Outside, feeling alive in the push through the low haze of late July.

The sun fuels me, recharging a body that is frequently tired, exhausted, and fatigued.  It bookends my days in the summer, when the hours of sunlight are favorable and long. Going to bed just after sunset and rising as the sky starts to lighten has me, on most days, missing out on the darkness of night outside.  Waking up during the night, my room has been starkly transformed to blue and grey.  I often step out onto my deck.

Around my home, night isn’t silent, but rather, a noisy orchestra of foxes, birds, cicadas, crickets, and cats.  The heat remains, though tempered and dulled, while inside, a ceiling fan provides a measure of relief as I return. Night noises penetrate the walls. Outside my room, the nocturnal respite from blazing sunshine has the wildlife riled to a peak summer frenzy, it appears.

My dog stirs when he senses I am awake, sitting up or walking over the edge of the bed to pant in my face, as if to let me know he’s also ready for some night air. On nights when I opt to stay in bed, I’ll pat his head and roll over. Moments after ignoring him, he’ll shuffle off, turn, and set himself down hard, expelling a “harumph”. Minutes later, his breathing turns to snoring.

I’ll roll and contort, unable to sleep without a sheet, but alternatively sweating beneath it.  Eventually, sounds will melt into dreams, warmth will transform to slumber.


Finally and More

Two ticks, so far,
in a forest of black fur,
still hungry, searching,
and not yet settled
into his skin.

Exhausted, he lets me comb
through his mass, a massage he thinks,
tongue a slab of deli ham,
my dog smiles with his eyes
and ears; surely this must be his
post-hike reward.

He swims through a bowl
of water, everywhere spashing,
then gobbles up his kibble,
perhaps thinking between breaths
that this day wasn’t his typical
lazy day.

Hills, mud, rocks and up, up, up.
More likely, he is thinking,
now that the air is just between
cool and warm and full of
critter scents and bird songs,
“Finally!” and “More!”


Meadow

Hardened earth and hallowed ground
grow hardy and thirsty notions,
thistle and briar, engaged in wind-borne
attempts at spreading gospel.

Hitching to a body in motion, a transient,
unknowing and unconcerned, other
than to gnaw and pull at the roots,
to sate a hunger.

Riding the reaper, then ejecting itself,
the emigrant arrives an immigrant,
the notion spreads to fertile breasts
and hips, and takes hold.

But that is just a singular gene, a body atomic.
The whole of it is truly wide, a legion of
seeds spread in every lee,
unmarried and independent.

Born of almost infinite notions, a meadow rolls
and breathes, crawling over the dells, climbing and diving,
a map of invasion and recession
and constant flexure.


The last days of winter

Walking together with the dog,
the air is heavy, a waterlogged cold,
though the wind reminds me of
winter’s true desire, now fading,
to be crisp, keen, knifey.
The sky is dark at this hour,
shifting all hues toward dark blue and
purple, even the young grass, now
poking through mud and the season’s decay.

Ten minutes pass, lights off, door locked,
the sky has trimmed itself a bright blue.
I walk to my car, frost no longer
wrapping the panels, as I set wheels in motion.
I fight against the glare as a
mandarin sun swings above the treeline,
my eastward push slowed, with the others,
on the salt stained highway
heading into spring.


A break in the sky

Sun storm, horses pounding
through silver boulders,
lowering their heads to
snort vaporous spouts,
mist laminating their blazes,
a trailing cyclone of clouds
braiding their tails,
they land at speed,
full gallop through the lifeless
shadows of March.