These silent spirits frolicking
for centuries along the creek
rooted, yet reaching for more light
that only naked can I see
each time they changed their minds—
with each petticoat pooled dry
and blown away from their feet.
Drawn to their wild dance
of indecision, each fickle fantasy
grown smooth with balanced grace,
I am moved to forget the price
of being human and must join them
upon the green beneath the gray
to greet the ghosts gone-on before me.
Rain has been the recurring forecast with measureable amounts on over half of the last thirty days, pleasant and needed relief from four years of drought. Picking a day to brand is tricky business, usually requiring a day or two before to gather the cows and calves off steep, slick hillsides. Putting a crew of neighbors together to help often conflicts with their own branding schedules. Then the planning of a meal, perishables hanging in limbo to feed friends afterwards, keeps us tuned to the TV and several weather Internet sites for a composite report to insure we won’t be rained out before we go for it. But no one complains. Robbin jokes that when the call goes out, “We’re having a picnic, bring your horse.”
Yesterday’s approaching storm cloaked the canyon in soft ethereal gray, muted morning light where it narrows four miles above us at the Buzzard Roost Fire Control Road, corrals deep within its walls of almost-iridescent green, large ghostlike patches of naked Buckeyes on the north slopes, surrounded by skeletons of leafless Blue Oaks, some dead, some alive.
A perfect day for us to help Steve and Jody Fuller brand, I’m told that everything goes with green and gray.
Weekly Photo Challenge: “Alphabet”
Solids, liquids, gases move.
This could be Oregon
moisture falling into drought—
the hard and dry begins to slip
and slide with the magnetic pull
of each, releasing me to supposing
why I’m drawn to certain people,
places, mountains, trees and rocks
come alive—ions spinning webs to hold
my eye, my flesh, my open mind.
I’m below the snowline
biodegradable as hell.
– Red Shuttleworth (“Cafe With Slot Machines”)
When the taxman finds us,
there’s always the argument
over appraisal of this and that
accomplishment, certain failures turned
skyward to face floating white cumulus
with hopes of a more productive afterlife.
The news is too much, poor excuse
for children’s stories peddling common sense.
No Aesop, not even the Brothers Grimm
can keep the future in bread crumbs—
no little red hens to do the dirty work,
no hands-on tools for grindstones.
When he comes, we may be out in the barn
with friends, dusty antiques with loose screws
he may overlook if the dogs don’t
give us away, so far from the house,
trying to freeze time by supposing
we might have made a difference.
November 7, 2015
I escaped the farm
as a backcountry packer
of mules, to the rhythm
of hooves and draw chains—
found my way lost in awe
yet branded in my mind.
There was another world—
girls in town to think about
up and down the Sierra’s spine,
Wolfman Jack on the transistor,
boss and soul, rock and roll
for company by the fire.
I called to faraway faces
over falling starlit peaks,
the granite scree glittering
into Tamarack timberlines
as I lay down each night
to dream on solid ground.
Like the old days, hillsides
slick and wet, we brand
between rains, hurried loops
bunch a hard-won victory
for work-worn bones.
Morning Advil or Aleve
for squeaky hinges
lubricated with a plastic cup
of Crown, hot meal grinning
with good company.
For a moment we are young again,
but with muted bravado—understand
Tony’s deadpan disappointment:
tonight’s storm retreating north.
Not quite the coup to drink whiskey to,
we want more sore evenings
by the fire, just to hear it pour.
Sunday evening, pickup loads of snow
file down the road to town: snowmen
for Visalia, Exeter, Farmersville front yards
to melt and soak into drought-brown lawns
no one’s mowed in years—a hurried
shortcut from mountains to Valley
upon a crumbling blacktop channel—
water that these oaks and sycamores
see only as lumps of white passing at fifty.
The west and south slopes fill-in
with green, purple patches of frost-bitten
filaree that looked like bare dirt,
softly embrace us now as if we were cattle.
Too wet for work that waits outside,
we slowly release winters of urgency
camped at the door and ease into the
vaguely familiar—reacquaint ourselves
with mud and rain, with one another.
We may blame the invisible
deities, the almighty powers
we can’t see work
against us—toying with
what makes us tick
to urgent clocks.
And we may find relief
with metaphors, similes
and alliterative profanity
as if the gods were deaf
to rehearsed poetry.
But the sagest save energy
turning blasphemies loose
just under their breath.
Bumper crop of acorns,
warm monsoon rains.
The redbud bloomed
confused, drawing butterflies
for weeks—the season’s
last hatch of Monarchs
swarming crimson, orange
and black-trimmed fairies
to the front door.
All a sign of something
unusual, uniquely beautiful—
that superfluous imbalance
charged to an unknown
future—a fleeting gift
to remember the gods
before leaving us
four years dry and begging
for something normal.
Weekly Photo Challenge: “Weightless” Monarchs
Weather Journal 2011-12