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.

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…

 

 

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.

 

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.

 

 

Colorado at 8,000 feet

The wildflower meadow was near the little up-sloping spot where we found the tipi (see yesterday’s post). Wildflowers with a view. It was  a great day.

 

Mountain wildflowers

incredibly diverse

from the blue columbines

 

to the pink phlox,

25 or 30 kinds,

dazzling the eye.

 

Richness beyond price,

free for the taking.

Tipi near the Divide

Craig Childs became one of my favorite, colorful Western nature and wildscaping writers many years after our trip to western Colorado’s mountains. A hummingbird stained-glass piece we bought in Ouray from an artist just as he finished it was only one bit of memorabilia we returned with.

 

Traveling the western slopes

of the Rockies,

a few hundred yards

from the highway,

we stumble upon a tipi in a meadow

ringed by tall pines,

patchy snow,

rocky ground,

early wildflowers.

 

Twenty years later

I read a passage in a book

by wildlife writer  Craig Childs,

an adventurer,

who mentions being lost,

finding his way in a blizzard

back to his tipi

—   also near Ouray

and the Continental Divide.

 

 

Gulp

My wife and I were in a store just yesterday chatting with a young man from Liberia who said he’d not seen lions until coming to this country and seeing them in a zoo. Probably lots of folks think going to Africa means seeing lions, like lots of people think coming to Texas means seeing cowboys on horseback.

 

“Oh, yes, ma’am, of course,”

came my wife’s student’s reply,

so unexpected,

 

even from someone

recently of Burundi,

when he was asked

 

the simple question,

had he known anyone

eaten by lions?

 

 

Ecstatic play for Stan

No explanation needed for this one: cats love playing with shoelaces more than just about anything. Is there a video? If not, there should be.

 

I tie my athletic shoes

sitting on the edge of the bed

while Stan, the Abyssinian,

with his golden

world-emptying eyes

sees in the dangling

swinging laces

the unfolding of

a jungle gym,

the construction of

a ferris wheel,

the erection of

a tether ball.

Eyes darting to

loose ends and twirling loops

as they move

toward, for me,

the familiar configuration,

for Stan, the State Fair Midway,

recreated right here

in the bedroom.