We see faces; we hear voices

We see a face in the shining visage of the full moon.

It’s not so much a matter of there being a fully developed

set of facial features on its surface to perceive

as it is that we, looking for facial features, find them.

 

It’s what we’ve been doing all our lives.

 

When our parents first held us,

we looked into their eyes;

we recognized features there,

though we had no names for them:

eyes, a nose, a mouth,

set in a roundish, oval.

 

And from that point on,

when we heard a voice or recognized

the form of a human, we looked for that

indicator of their intent,

that source of love and approval

and nurturing

— the face.

 

Many times, I’ve noticed,

especially when my mind is tired,

that staring into seemingly random patterns on walls

on floors, even ceilings, that my brain will form those patterns into faces.

Bearded and bewigged ones, angelic ones;

too many Lincolns, Washingtons, and cherubs to count.

 

But it all links back, ultimately to those first experiences,

when being lifted from crib or cradle, we came quickly to realize

that the best indicator that we were loved

was a smiling, cooing face, searching our own

for signs of a response.

 

I think that’s why the craters and shadows

we perceive on our friendly sallow-faced satellite

most often seem to be smiling back at us.

 

*******

 

Western outdoors adventure writer Craig Childs

tells of an experience deep in a slot canyon

leading into the main basin of the Grand Canyon.

 

He had been wandering interconnected canyons for days,

isolated from human companionship,

when he heard voices ahead, hidden in the folds of the rock.

 

He definitely was drawing closer

and the voices became clearer as he approached.

He could almost make out the words of their

boisterous conversation,

 

He was about to shout a greeting

when he turned a bend and found water flowing over rocks.

 

Like faces from the visual,

we seek to make human conversation

from the auditory.

 

It’s almost enough evidence to make you think

we are deeply, to the core of our souls,

engineered for connection to each other,

to the giving and receiving of love and attention

and mutual validation through our interactions.

 

Perhaps we are all bits of the Trinity,

longing for the give and take of connectedness.

 

Bits of the Trinity longing to share the give and take

of life and love with humanity,

even if we have to create them ourselves.

Colorado come to Cowtown

The massive quantities of rain that fell here were even more drenching in counties to our north, where they also spawned tornados and more of the 60 mph straight line winds that we had a week or two ago. But walking the trail along Overton Creek, not far from my house was fascinating, a touch of mountain stream action.

Gently flowing creek
flows with roar of Colorado’s
rapid-flowing streams

Floods, tornados
flash through places north of here
but we get the pleasure
of water dashing over rocks

Surprised itself with its own speed
Roaring, roaring, roaring
with delight.

The purple flash

It’s literally impossible to describe a moment of ecstasy and being swept up into that “at one with the universe” feeling that I experienced yesterday near sunset on the Trinity River. It’s impossible because it has to be experienced. That said, here’s part of what I experienced, set down in words.

 

There’s a phenomenon

that occurs when the sun sets

into the ocean, as you gaze west,

from the level of the water’s surface.

 

It happens in an instant.

For just a second, the light is refracted

and the orange glow of the sun turns green,

thus the name it’s been given:

the green flash.

 

Yesterday I took an outlandishly long walk

from my house to the sturdy wooden benches

set on limestone slabs where a channelized creek

flows into the Trinity River.

 

By the time I arrived,

the sun was moving toward the horizon.

A great blue heron and a great egret

fished the waters below me in the river.

Barn swallows swept past me from the far bank of the creek,

off to one side of the point of the triangle of land high above the river

where I sat in the shade of a hackberry,

its branches on either side me, providing cool shade

and moving gently side to side.

 

I was swept up into a pattern of blessedness,

subsumed into the breeze, the birdsong,

the sight of starlings playing in the river below

and mallards and blue-winged teal dabbling nearby,

when the number of birds in flight nearby seemed to double

and a pair of mallards swept by me,

flying right past the point, just above eye level.

As they did the bright green of the two breeding-plumaged males’ heads

flashed, for only a moment to bright metallic purple,

a slight difference in the refraction patterns of the light:

the purple flash.

You felt; I felt

Sometimes it’s silly little things; thoughtful things done unthinkingly and unselfishly that tell us, unmistakably that we’re loved unconditionally. This is one of those things.

 

We’d not run out of bottled water

— liquid refreshment I fear running out of –

but without checking, you panicked,

ran to the store close to bedtime,

picked me up a two-day supply.

 

And you called me to tell me,

also telling me you hadn’t checked

to see if we’d really run out.

 

I knew we had a few days’ supply,

but was very grateful nonetheless.

 

You told me you felt a little bit foolish,

but I felt a whole lot loved.

 

 

Approaching Enchanted Rock

No matter how great most experiences are, there’s almost always some way we can figure out how it could have been improved if we had it to do over again, that’s all I’m saying…

 

I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy

streaming up the side of the huge dome of red granite,

joining the antlike stream of humans in hiking clothes,

like some work party intent on plundering a giant sugar bowl.

 

I’m not saying that reaching the 425-foot summit

with its tinajas holding rainwater

and supporting little colonies of algae and green plants

amid the red, rugged granite

wasn’t worth the climb,

that the view wasn’t at least somewhat enchanting itself.

 

What I am saying is that if I had it to do over again,

I would have lingered longer

as I made the morning leg of my daytrip,

taken a few minutes to pull over to the roadside

to admire the furrowed fields of red and pink clouds

covering all but the sharply contrasting edges of brilliant blue sky background

of one of the most beautiful sunrises I’ve seen.

 

And I would have lingered at the side of the highway

as I crested the little rise when you enter the valley

that holds Enchanted Rock

and her smaller granite dome sisters

to admire a view more engaging

than that offered by the summit of the great rock.

 

That’s all I’m saying…

 

 

The crunch generation rodeo

The plight of millions who are raising families while taking care of aging parents has created a genuine crunch generation who must fight to stay in the saddle — a form of stasis — never really winning or losing, just staying afloat, bearing in mind that all such binds are time limited. They can’t last forever. Thank God!

 

Her hand must be wired

into the reins

in violation of all

sound rodeo rules,

and she rides astride

not one, but two

unruly mounts.

 

One threatens death,

collapse beneath her,

despite best efforts

to keep her moving,

head up in the chute.

 

The other writhes, jumps,

bucks, and climbs the walls,

heedless of calming words,

maternal clucking noises

and admonitions to calm.

 

But the chute gate never opens;

the rider tires, but perseveres,

and the announcer

seems to be reading

the 23rd Psalm

in the booming, amplified,

twangy, West Texas voice

so typical of rodeo announcers.

 

Will the buzzer razz,

signaling the end of the ride,

or will this noble cowgirl

get thrown under one ride

or the other.

 

Maybe that’s what

the announcer means

by that “shadow of death” line.

 

Maybe that’s the promise

of that last phrase —

“And I will dwell in the House of the Lord, forever.”

 

 

Small coppery snake — but powerful

Though ultimately destined to be crushed under the foot of a fearless, virtue-filled woman, like spiders, these creatures, all wiggly and limbless, exercise an amazing power to create backwards movement among most of the females I’m acquainted with — though of course, not all…

 

The tiny snake

moved rapidly

within the palm of my hand,

his constant, rapid motion

making “writhing”

seem an inadequate verb.

 

The school’s assistant

who had pointed him out

jumped back reflexively

when I rose from

scooping the tiny reptile

into my palm.

 

But the uniformed school girls

in their blue and green plaid

outfits moved closer

for a look

before replicating

the same leaping backstep,

so typical

since that first

historic encounter.

 

A visit from scintillating scotoma

The incident described below was more intense than most of my little episodes, since my arteriovenous malformation surgery in 2005. This little barely visible crown of crosshatched scratches of lights (red, blue, yellow) first appears very small at the center of my vision. Then it grows and slowly moves to the left of my field of vision, having become rather large, taking up 70 percent or so of the area I can see, still a corona, it is clear in the center. Most times it does not leave me fazed or dazed or groggy, though obviously this time, it did.

 

Corona of lights

surrounds and obscures my sight,

well, not quite,

 

growing from a point

to a cross-hatched cluster

at vision’s center

 

and finally a

pulsating circled rainbow,

open, hollow.

 

Neural organism,

sparkling neon beauty,

dissolved in time,

 

leaving me shaken

and a bit nauseous,

my energy drained.

 

A migraine version,

but without the horrid pain.

Brain surgery’s gift.

 

 

Mid-day eclipse under an arbor and through quails’ eyes

These two happened during the same eclipse. Crescents formed from dappled sunlight in the shade of trumpet vines on a trellis, while the quail mom and her brood first emerged and then sought protection under bushes when the sun began to set, then chose to rise again.

 

Eclipse under an arbor of trellised vines

 

Crescents of pure light

cluster under the trumpet vines.

 

Magic circles with bites in their sides,

bitten fruit of the passing eclipse.

 

A garden of three-quarter-moon lights

appearing here for a few minutes

before resuming their roundness.

 

Starfish suns

with marvelous powers of regeneration.

 

Quail note the eclipse and its passing

 

Thinking it dusk

in the middle of the day,

a family of quail,

 

emerge, single file,

from the small circle of bushes

 

to run, in rushing quail fashion,

out across the lawn,

only to be surprised

when the seeming dusk gives way to dawn

 

and afternoon light pushes

the mother and her brood

back into the shade, confused.