Posts Tagged ‘light’

The View from Mattie’s Pillow

January 20, 2013

Redpolls and Chickadees

Thanks to football (words I never thought I’d write), I’m having a pleasant day home alone, listening to From the Top on NPR, a classical music show featuring young musicians, this week focused on music honoring the life and ideals of Martin Luther King. And thanks to Dr. King, this pleasant Sunday will be followed by a day off from teaching, a day I hope to spend, in part, listening to Obama’s second inaugural address. Because we are in the farthest US time zone from the East Coast (other than Hawaii), the whole inaugural shebang will be over by 10am—plenty of time to longe horses or do a thorough cleaning of the corral and gather my wits for the long semester ahead.

Before I sat down to write, I was watching redpolls at our new yellow feeder. Pushy little birds, they chatter and flutter at each other, trying to get the best spot to peck at the sunflower and thistle mix we’ve put out for them. They seem to have driven the chickadees away by their sheer number and pushiness, though I know the chickadees are still out in the bare willows, because I hear their calls when I go out to visit the horses—“deee—dee—dee.” They are politer birds, perhaps, waiting till the plainer redpolls have glutted for the day to come and perch at the feeder. Or perhaps someone else in the neighborhood has food that they like better. Watching the redpolls, so active and plucky, I made a mental list for the day—writing this is item number one.

I suppose I could make analogies between the pushy birds and politics—but their energy is not a difference of opinion with chickadees, but the essential energy of living things: hungry, eager, joyful, crabby, soaring, and squabbling. As I walk up to the glass door to the deck, they sense my motion and blow away as abruptly as if caught by a sudden gust of wind. If I stand still, they venture back one at a time till they are again feeding chattily away. The cat sits at my feet, watching them, plotting her summer moves. In summer, much to her disappointment, I move the feeder and stop filling it, so she is forced to hunt voles in the hay barn instead.

Thinking of Dr. King and of Obama, I remember the flocking of people from around the country to hear each man speak, a couple generations apart. For us, the attractive food is hope, something that has been in short supply in recent years—certainly in many desperate spots around the world. Looking back over this blog, I found this paragraph from Inauguration Day four years ago:

“It’s been a long dark journey through a kind of national despair for the past eight years, when the public dialogue has been driven by fear and impulse rather than reflection and reason. Horses can be made dangerous and frightening by humans who react around them out of fear–perhaps that’s also true of a nation. And horses can be calmed and rehabilitated by a calmer, reasonable presence. Perhaps we all long for that, as well. It’s a lot to place on one human being, to calm and redirect the restless herd of our national psyche, but, as I’ve said to friends here, an election isn’t about one person, it’s about us and who we want ourselves collectively to be. So, as light progresses here, we’ll watch to see how light can be progressively shed on us all with the turn of the political season. I wish for Obama all the best tools of horse and dog training: to be calm, attentive, clear-headed, non-reactive, and to lead by reward and praise rather than by punishment and fear.”

How much has changed? Well, I suppose that depends on your world view. But what I had hoped for in Obama seems to be played out in who he has proved to be; he’s famously cool rather than reactive, and seems to be learning how to balance the carrot and the stick politically. Our nation seems to have divided, say, into redpolls and chickadees—but we are still one flock, and have our humanity in common with people everywhere. I wouldn’t trade places with Obama, but I’m glad he’s there, doing the difficult work of keeping us focused on what we have in common and living out the dream that King put forward all those years ago.

Today, I notice the light returning even more than I did last week. We are now a full month away from solstice, with as much light as we had in Thanksgiving. I’m already thinking of the garden and of my plans for Mattie and Sam this summer. We have months to go before we see the ground again, but we have hope.

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Poetry Challenge 73

September 9, 2011

Yellow Season

Driving home the other day I noticed how the clouds glowed yellow behind the ridge, as the sun slipped behind the crest of the hill. The air itself filled with yellow light–or a faint yellow tinge–and I began to notice the paling of leaves that leads to September’s yellow days.  By Labor Day, I was driving up the hill to peach-lit clouds, shaded with plum–colors so luscious my stomach growled.  The tops of the birches in certain spots are orange, catching the orange light of the
setting sun and holding it for a while into dusk.  Gradually, the green birch and aspen leaves are taking on  rims of yellow, then whole patches of yellow leaves.  In a week or a few days, the whole interior will be bright with the yellow of leaves.

It’s a short-lived season.  Rain or frost will bring the yellow down, and we’ll hunker in for the short days ahead.  But now the land and trees are gathering up light and we store it in our memories for the time to come.

So, write about how light moves through something–plants, animals, a window.  Or write about what you do now to prepare your inner light for what lies ahead.

Post a poem as a comment and I’ll re-post it here.

The Post of Don Sam Incognito

August 27, 2010

Trickster Horse and Trickster Season

Today Trish and I went on a late afternoon trail ride.  It’s late summer—early fall, actually, but who wants to mention that—and the weather is changing.  We’re having cooler nights now that it’s getting dark, not just dusky, and the light has a bit more of a slant to it.  There’s less heat in the sun, though mid-day can get up to the 70s if it’s a cloudless day.   But the light shifts quickly in the sky now.  When we began grooming and tacking up, there was sun across the length of the corral.  By the time we were on the horses, the sun had slipped behind the crest of the ridge above us and we were in shadow and in cooler air.  We could see the sun bright on the valley below, even on the houses and treetops down the road.  We decided to follow the sun to see if we could catch up to it.

In other places, the location of the sun is easy to judge if you know the time of day.  Noon equals straight overhead.  Morning means sun in the east.  Evening, sun in the west.  But here in the northern interior, the sun is on a circular path.  In midsummer, it circles from northeast to northwest—roughly rising and setting in the north with a long swing around to the south.  In winter it blips over the horizon from south-southeast to south-southwest.   On any day between those two extremes, it can rise on any degree of the circle between those summer and winter rising points, depending on the progress of the seasons.  It’s orderly, but constantly shifting along the horizon.  It can be confusing to anyone not used to the place, and it makes any temperate zone understanding of the path of the sun useless.

So on our ride, we took a turn up a hill and were in bright sun again.  And there Sam decided to turn around.

Trish has been riding Sam most of the summer and they have become good partners.  Casey, who rode Sam last summer, has been riding other horses, looking for greater challenges and hoping to get some jumping in.  But Trish and Sam have come a long way—or had until she needed to take a break to travel and then move.  Now she’s back and Sam is testing her all over again to see if she is a rider he can trust.

When the light hit us face on, Sam stopped.  Mattie, the good trail horse, kept walking on, though she cocked an ear back to keep track of what her corral buddy was up to.  Sam had been pushing it—walking close to the edge of the ditch by the road or turning about suddenly as if he had decided to head back—the way I do when I suddenly realize, driving to school, that I’ve left my glasses on the kitchen table.  Trish had maneuvered him out of it.  She had the riding bat, after all, and Sam usually respects its mere presence in her hand.

This time he refused to go up the sunny road, and in their maneuvering back and forth—Trish trying to back him and he refusing to go—they ended up working their way up the road we had turned off of.   I turned Mattie to join them and we walked to the end of the road to the ridge road, as if it were our intention all along.  Sam walked peacefully along and kept pretty calm as we turned around and headed for the road we had tried to turn up.  We turned, he seemed OK, and then he stopped again, and backed precariously close to the edge of a steep hill that sloped sharply down from the side of the road.   Finally, I suggested that Trish get off and lead Sam for a ways—she showing him that there’s nothing to be afraid of and he complying by going in the direction he was trying to avoid.  It seemed to work.  He calmed down and walked along till she got back on again.  We did this once or twice more, Trish staying calm with him and not letting him go the way he wanted.

It’s frustrating to work with a horse as smart and as world-weary as Sam.  He knows so much and much of it is not productive to a smooth partnership with humans.  We have been trail riding many times before, but two rides ago, Trish moved him to the side of the road as a car was passing and his foot slipped a little on the loose gravel under some tall grass and he could feel the edge of the hill behind him.  It was scary for both of them and he refused to go where Trish told him immediately after that.  That’s when we finally resorted to leading him back past the spot then mounting to ride him back again.  It seemed to work, and Trish speculated that Sam had lost confidence in her at the moment his foot slipped.

It seems possible to me.   Sam has known a lot of good and bad riders and, while he respects the good and fair riders, he has no time for bad ones.  My reading of Sam is that he’s taking our measure all the time—measuring us against some ideal human of his past, and measuring us without much faith that we will live up to that ideal.  When he first came to us, his eye was dull, untrusting, doubtful.  Now, mostly, it’s humorous, mischievous, and soft.  He doesn’t mean us any harm, but he can’t help playing his tricks on us. In my imagined inner world of Sam, he’s testing Trish all over again to see how she’ll deal with him.  Can he count on her not to lead him off the cliff?  If he decides that he can, she’ll be able to ride him however she wants to.  Till then, he’s going to challenge her every step of the way.

When we finally rode back down our road, the sun was gone, but, in the way of light here in the north, we were just at the beginning of a few hours of gradual lingering dusk and twilight.  In the birches and aspens, we spotted a few yellow leaves, clearly yellow, not the result of disease or leaf miners.  The F word that no one wants to say.  Late summer, that is.

We untacked the horses and gave them hay.  They were glad to eat, glad to be back in the corral.  Sam stood quietly while Trish untacked him, then she stood watching him while he munched his hay.  He’s a special horse, and all of us who spend time with him feel his tricksterish magic.

Poetry Challenge 23

June 17, 2009

Solstice

As the days here lengthen to an extreme, each hour of the day has a different kind of light, from the brilliant light of mid-day to the pastel and silver light of the long dusky evenings.

Write a poem starting with some effect of light you notice right now where you are.  Notice how light affects the plants and rocks and clouds.  How does it affect animals, people, you? And what else?

———————————————

Here’s a response from Glow at Beyond Ester:

the mercury light
keeps me awake since May.
Much happens at night that I witness.
All other humans sleep
but the devil light keeps sleep at bay
so I become Witness of What Occurs
cats, drowse all night
dogs snore and twitch
voles slither among the weeds
male moose, pale brown withers
slinks through the willows
mistaken for a grizzly
until his antlers startle recognition.
mama moose and 3 week calf
slumbering among the bluebells
even the dogs missed them
I, alone, witnessed the fidgeting nursing
the aggressive butting of the calf to its mom’s teats
the mercury light warming towards dawn
to leak goldeness on the calf so that she shone
like an angel
raven swooped low to snatch a young squirrel
still living, unaware of impending doom
its tail still curled, but fruitless now
mosquito, after mosquito, after mosquito
snared in the window spider’s web
reduced to dry shells within seconds
after their twitching ends.
Life, birth, death, bones, dust.
Summer light arrives, soon to leave us
aching for more time
aching for less light
fruitless wishes. Predictable humans
with their love of warmth, but
need for the dark.


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