Looks and Gazes

purslane

Common Purslane (Portulaca oleracea). Source: Wikipedia

I gazed at starlings pecking across the grass beside motorous Washinton Street, next door to Forest Hills Station. It’s always my favorite place to watch the little, iridescent things. They skitter around, bright-eyed and yellow-beaked, grazing in the grass like rabbits.

At work a tiny toad scampered between our feet as we weeded purslane from pea gravel. I watched a red-tailed hawk glide down the sky.

Then there were the humans. A beggar on Mass Ave who could imitate a duck to perfection. The sweet teller who complimented Kira and I on our braids, hers French, mine Swedish. Roofers in life-saving suspenders kicking debris from concrete-colored shingles. Lastly, the operator within the bulldozer knocking out a building of dust along the Neoponset. I’d never know of the deconstruction if not for the lone spectators draped over the Fairmount bridge every morning, staring wistfully at the shovel as it hit the walls and ceilings, the metal and brick and plastic, while someone from below would hose down the dusty din with the arching water of a fireman’s truck.

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Day two: the iridescent, the wire singer, the soft leaved

cricket

A cricket. Source.

I have Fridays off, meaning that this day of fish fries often finds me lounging in sheets til eleven, reading, writing, perusing, and, best of all, sleeping. While I woke up a bit before eight this morning I proceeded to spend the day lolling about, doing computer work and leisurely cleaning the pantries in anticipation of high summer harvests. (There was also a lot of solo dancing brought on by the excellent summer mix that came in the mail from Mandy.) I didn’t get out except to take a fifteen minute promenade around our long block, and even that I didn’t do until day was done.

My partner Matt and I left the house around 6:30, joining an early evening communion of neighborly dogwalkers, clustered, porch-perching teenagers, and sweet, slow-strolling couples. Dogday cicadas were simmering their rattled measures, and the breeze ran gently through the Acers, oaks, and elms around us.

As we turned the first corner we found grackles, large to the point of near portliness, quietly pasturing the lawn at the Baptist College. I admired their girth and especially the iridescence that I had to be patient to see; their feathers, impossibly black, reward the eye with an oil puddle’s shine only when caught perfectly by the sun. When the light did touch them I gazed as a royal cerulean and silken, emerald green moved down their necks and along their wings.

grackle

Audubon’s (rather more rural) grackles. Source.

We continued walking, arguing over titles for real and imagined books, spied upon by a holstein-dappled cat and one thousand things we didn’t have the means or gumption to see. Turning a penultimate corner home, the air singing “Wild is the Wind” to my mind, I heard a bright theme and looked up. There I found a thick wire and a silhouetted cardinal’s crest. It stayed a moment before loping beyond an enkianthus shrub. It resumed its singing there, invisibly coloring the atmosphere red.

As I stepped from the street to the curb that brought me home I found a mullein rosette. August finds  many Verbascum thapsus specimens over five feet high and beginning to burst with chandeliers made up of hundreds of tiny, yolk-colored blossoms. This little plant, however, was a yearling. Instead of striving toward height and bloom it spends the summer concentrating on growing, pushing a taproot into the ground and unfurling new, soft leaves from a star-shaped center.

mullein

Common mullein. Source.

It’s night, now, and the lack of a streetlamp outside this window brings a darkness nearly as black as the grackle’s wing. I hear the springs of porch doors creaking, the glide of wheels on streets, the deep pulse of cricket chants, and the sawing chirps of katydids. It’s a good night for listening.

The Thoreauvian Challenge

thoreau

I invite any and all of you to join me in the Thoreauvian Challenge; a dare to keep a daily record of the August wilderness around us. You can do so online (on wordpress, facebook, twitter, wherever), privately (in letters, journals, your brain), or verbally.

If you choose to accept, write (or speak, or think) some sentences or paragraphs or syllables on what you encounter within your daily doings. These should be centered around interactions with the non-human as much as possible.

The goal is to be a medium. An open jar. To consider oneself as an accomplice–a breathing, locomotive, blood-pumping part within a home, a neighborhood, an ecosystem.

fireflies

So, I’ll start. 1 August, 2013:

I biked to work and introduced the summer camp kids to some medicinal herbs. We discussed the hedgehoggish appearance of echinacea; borage’s cucumber flavor; the stickiness of calendula; the gentle flannel of mullein. 

A hedgehog in a fieldechinacea hedgehog

Hedgehog vs. Echinacea

I found a tiger swallowtail butterfly trapped in the ceiling of a greenhouse. It beat itself against the opaque glass and seemed unable to differentiate it from air. I got a broom to try to shoo it away but was waylaid by customers.

There were so many honey- and bumblebees in the catmint. Orange aphids sucked on potted swamp milkweed and I killed them–the aphids, the color of butterfly weed blooms–between my thumb and first finger.

Falling asleep as I write. More tomorrow!

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