From the Sparrow Archives

My day is too short, my list too long. Books and projects tug at my attention, while bills and guilt lurk in every shadow. I wonder if this is how sparrows feel as they forage and flirt, keeping their constant predator alert…

Moss Forest

If I were a fairy, I would want to live in a moss forest.

Point of View

It finally occurred to me, while taking these pictures, that I approach photography and writing from the same impulse. Every time I pick up my camera, pen, or laptop, I’m trying to tell a story. Or, at the very least, share an impression. And it always starts with noticing something. Today, I noticed a visitor “hiding” in the irises.

But how will I frame this story? Should I reveal its secret from the outset? Because the rabbit was not so well-hidden as it might seem, though I could gloss over that fact by photographing it at just the right angle, by restricting my point of view. A few steps to either side, and this particular story shifts from drama to comedy.

It’s an appealing metaphor, as I find words to be as quick and slippery as rabbits. I often end up holding a tuft of fluff, frustrated by the knowledge that something warm and alive has escaped my grasp.

How He Named Himself

How He Named Himself

He was magician
At the back of his tongue
Language awoke
Invoked the porous senses

In example, the word “blue”
From his mouth
Fell into air
Unfurled before his eye
To fill an ocean

Or a cloudless sky
Breezed with recollection
Bitter and sweet
Like summer drowned in heat

Other words named other seasons
Spring’s flushed lovers and mothers
Fall’s jealous kings and princes
A blush of yellow stamen
Vain, reduced to bare reflection

While legions tolled to war
Because he said “winter”
And Krakatoa split
And every illness known to man
Rattled into silence

Until his lips shaped “time”
With all its varied futures
Claiming death and birth
Irrelevant, like glacial ice

Though he never said “ice”
Because “cold” would do
Or “lonely”
A chill on the skin
Squeezed down to marrow

With all the scenes he wove aloud
Chorused, plural tenses
In a singular verb
The act that names him “poet”

The Woods

The woods of my youth grew complete with creek and wildlife. I knew every nest, den, and footprint. In summer briars, snakes, and mosquitoes swarmed into the woods. In winter they retreated, surrendering a fey, brittle place where I got lost for hours without ever getting lost. Escorted by a pack of dogs, sometimes by the bravest of our cats, I chased over and around and through the creek, straggling home at dusk muddy and matted with burrs.

In early spring lamprey came to spawn. I gloated over the lamprey, certain they lived nowhere else of consequence. Each March I knelt for hours beside the shallows where they dug their nests. I counted them and marveled at their spots and stripes. I cupped my hands under them and watched them wiggle free over my fingers.

I’m sure I did other things, had other habits and hobbies. But my memory is overgrown, buried in underbrush and fallen leaves, forever snarled in the woods. Should I return now, I don’t believe I’d find my woods. Only a few acres of trees and a little stream.

So where does my nostalgia lead? Not back into the woods. But spending time with these pictures feels like an invaluable luxury in my busy world of adult anxieties.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I wrote this piece a few years ago. I’m reposting it now because these pictures have been calling to me. They are more than shadow and light, more than pixels. They rustle like leaves and smell like wet, happy dogs. (All four dogs are long passed and well grieved.) I can almost taste the crisp air from that misty day in 1992, a rare elixir of youth and solitude and happiness. Perhaps, despite my earlier claim, this nostalgia DOES lead back into the woods.