hours

by the keys they are moments

the world is an updosie place

with people calling it “new normal”

but far from normal is any of it

a system built on broken backs

breaking down

an unseen virus collecting souls

of those who can’t play well with others

and collateral angels fallen

for the hubris of others

days lost to the gains of time

doors allowed to slowly open

barged down and barred again

as the new new life preys

upon our lives

we will adapt and overcome

or we will hold on to the past

and decay in the arms of change

only the raven

“What is that? Is someone trying to break the glass?,” I ask with a slight panic.
With his usual calm, Tim says, “No, it’s just the raven fighting his reflection.”

I step out of the room where we are editing video to look for the raven. A two-story plate glass wall opens to a wide preserve of ancient oak trees surrounding a large pond. The pond, once full from a deep natural source, is half empty under the strain of new development encroaching on the area. Offices stretch from either side of the glass wall, all opening to the same grand view, while hallways and studio spaces line the windowless front exterior wall of thick Texas limestone. It is a beautiful space, designed in a such a way that seems the employees’ happiness may have actually been taken into consideration when it was created so many years ago. It is the first time I’ve been in the building that Tim has worked in for over twenty years. As I look across the expanse of trees and wide sky I consider that space has surely done some part in shaping his calm and measured personality.

The banging shatters my thoughts and I see the raven is standing near the door that is cut into the glass wall. His enormous body reflecting purple-black prisms as he struts, large head jutting side to side, pausing momentarily to punctuate his stubbornness before he resumes his assault on the imagined nemesis. Banging his huge beak into the glass and cawing with increased intensity, the sound reverberates shockwaves of noise through the empty building.

“It’s horrible. What do we do?,” asks my daughter.
“I’ll go down in a bit and scare him off,” Tim says while finishing his work without pause.

On the late Sunday afternoon, we are using a deserted conference room to film her half of a scene for the much anticipated annual fifth-grade play. During this unprecedented period of COVID-19 lockdowns, the play is to be produced by assembling the video work submitted by each of the kids (and their cooperative parents). All of the scenes will be joined with technological prowess or a split screen and a good dose of humor. As the saying goes, “the show must go on.” As we finish our work and re-set the room, the banging continues every minute or so, my daughter worries aloud that the sound is so bad she is afraid the bird will hurt himself.

“No, he does this regularly. There are usually just more people to stop him.”

As we head downstairs the huge raven I saw strutting in front of the glass wall seems even bigger. He cocks his head at our arrival and bangs the glass once more. We get close and he seems unfazed, banging again. Tim opens the door, and the bird seems to step forward.

“Get out of here!,” he says as he waves his arms at the bird. After a moment of consideration, the bird chooses to take flight, huge wingspan spreading and one flap pulling him to the top of a nearby oak.

“That was crazy!,” my daughter says, “Can’t he tell he’s not hurting anyone but himself?”
“He does it almost everyday, so it seems he can’t,” Tim responds.

Later, I think about that bird. Ravens are considered one of the smartest animals- their logic ranking upwards with chimpanzees and dolphins- yet we heard and watched that majestic avian repeatedly bang against its reflection in physical and vocal fight against a great foe believed to be encroaching his territory when, in truth, he was acting as his own worst enemy.

How often are we our own worst enemy? How often do we do that very same thing: Fight our own reflection? Other people see in us so much, but we look into ourselves and only see the lesser, the negative and beat down what could be great. We see the flaws and imperfections and peck at ourselves- keeping our lives small when the only thing to lose is greater experience and possibility. Why do we fight ourselves and sabotage, or not even consider, paths that could lead to more?

I am not talking just about goals and success outside of ourselves, but the inner peace we all deserve. We bang our heads against toxic relationships, bad jobs, and hold onto grievances rather than cutting loose or letting go. Our fears often cut off our dreams because it is much safer to stay in your head than take action and risk rejection or potential failure. Why strive for greatness when “good enough” will get it done?

I go to sleep thinking about that bird and myself. I consider, what are the glass walls in my life? What is it that I time and time again find myself banging up against, trying to beat down, only to realize that it is my own stubbornness and fears that I am fighting?

When I wake, that damn bird is still with me, but it occurs to me, “Maybe he was not fighting his shadow.” Maybe that bird understands more than we are seeing.

Maybe he was trying to shatter the glass or open the wall so as to enter and exit freely- the way the two-leggers do. They bring out food and, on hot days, a cool breeze follows them out of their cave. In winter, it is warm in their cave. They leave every sixth and seventh day, but food remains inside, as does material for nesting and shiny trinkets sit on the planks that they sit behind. Maybe that raven is being the smart bird he is known to be. Perhaps he is not fighting himself, but stubbornly banging down the obstacle that stands between him and a plethora of possibilities.

“Oh,” he ponders, “What a glorious day it will be when I break into their cave.”

desert color

Flowers in a desert are not seen for years-
their exaggerated colors a faded memory.

In the wake of a raging storm-
flowers burst forth to fill a void
forgotten until it was full again.

travel

I write a lengthy list of locations I want to travel to, but know they are only ports of call for purpose of identifying starting points of adventure and introspection. The particular places I truly want to see are the trails and coasts and perfect gems hidden below the sea-

The parrot fish nursery stumbled across when you decide to investigate coral columns on the edge of a hidden cove under the broad sky of a falling afternoon.

Moments never to be found in guidebooks, but that happen by reaching past your comfort and opening yourself to experience. The places people don’t go because it’s an extra day of travel or the campgrounds don’t have a website. Even with IGTV and YouTube tourist celebrities cracking the world open for all who are too timid to leap without someone else’s lead, I believe there are still places left untouched and those are the places for me.

I don’t want to share the names, but will tell the stories that require people of proper mind- should they want to find where I have been- to follow clues I leave. Roads less traveled do not always start from a divergence in a wood, but they do often lead to a quiet place and time to simply be. That experience- to simply be- is what truly makes the difference.

The world no longer feels still underfoot, but an ever undulating place of space and time with limits leveled only by our insecurities and fears. Reach out and find the places the quiet people know.

yesterday was easter

yesterday was easter
I have confetti in my hair

we visited my family cemetery

against the swift breeze
mother put laundry out to air

stories of sisters arguing over land
they may one day reside inside

two uncles laid at my feet
I poured beer on the blanket
of their decomposed toes

why did you pour out your beer,
my child asked

It’s easter and they are thirsty

quarantine

front porch sitting with coffee and an unnecessary hoodie.
doves coo hellos and instructions to their brood.

jasmine encases the porch columns- early buds seeping the slightest fragrance as a wasp builds its first comb on the front door.

his work will be destroyed in the afternoon.

two days later, jasmine flowers burst open and windows fly open so the scent perfumes the rooms.

and the wasp will find a new place to build.

and a squirrel will frighten her at dawn as she is awoken with a start for someone knocking at the door, but he’s just pulling back a loose piece of wood-
thump- thud- thud-
in desperate search of a new hiding spot for early spring stores.

and the jasmine grows thick til the door cannot be seen. it wraps through the handle and encases the home- days begin to link together in a chain of dawns and dusks that have no system but the rhythm of their hearts start and end the days with imperceptible division.

invisible to the world they eat banana bread made from frozen stores and flour claimed from stolen pecans gathered from the backyard tree. and they drink tea. there is a ration of rice and beans and frozen peas with bits of canned fish. and spring becomes summer- the loquat tree in the alley provides and the crepe myrtle blooms to entertain as they open swollen, low hanging buds into teeny, turning parasols- the higher ones will weep gentle shy tears for the end of the hottest days.

and fall comes and the jasmine falls back … the door cracks open and waifs emerge- stronger for they’ve become free of the world.

shedding but stays

Fall leaves drop from grand trees-
Composting at the base of barreled trunks
mixed amongst the snarled roots-
Always to be part of the tree from which they fell

What it was, contributing to what it will become-

Spring’s new growth-
new friends come to fill the tree-
some will be branches that stay-
living in the shared sun and shadows-
always part of the tree’s system

Some will stay with the tree as leaves or small branches
playing a part in the life of the tree-
For a time, seeming indispensable-
One day shedding off-
Adding to the history-
Always part of the tree-
Not always as part of the tree.

nature wins

I’ve seen some great videos of penguins being allowed to roam an aquarium that is shuttered because of COVID-19. Those penguins have gotten a taste of freedom. They won’t forget.

Elephants who broke free during China’s lockdown, found napping in a tea garden drunk on corn wine.

Dolphins visiting people on a dock in southern Italy and swans return to the canals of Venice.

Orangoutangs seen washing their hands, as it goes, they are outrageously good at washing their hands.

People have been forced to slow down and the natural world can breathe free in our pause. With that, we are witnessing the world that sits in the shadow of our world.

longest night

And with that revolution done, our days begin to extend.

Light lengthening until enough warmth lures the first growth of spring

to push from the hibernation of their woody places.

Rest continues …

the change won’t be sudden

until is, then, in what seems a day

BOOM 

Trees and bushes will be alive with color and the world will sound a little bit brighter.

covered not forgotten

In the city, where concrete covers fertile earth, artists paint power boxes with native flowers and butterflies that have not fluttered by in years. Earth’s power is covered, but still longed for so art creates images of the life we crave.