Monday, June 29, 2015

In the Grass

It was one of those perfect summer days I've written about so many times before. The sky was bright and blue and all the clouds were relegated to standing guard on the periphery, rising above the mountains or far out over the eastern plains but well away from any place Duncan and I might venture on our afternoon walk. There was a breeze, warm, but pleasant on my arms and the back of my neck, carrying with it the last of the perfume from the Russian Olives. But even better, down by the small misplaced pond, shrouded in tall pussy willows and awkward, gangly cattails, a sandhill crane was wading through the murky shallows, its spindly legs thrusting in and out of the water as it's long beak darted in, poking for minnows and frogs among the moss and mud. The cottonwoods, standing their regal watch, have started doing that thing they do best: releasing clouds and clouds of downy snow that drift lazily in the golden afternoon among the gnats and other tiny flying things. It is my favorite time of year, before the sun has bleached the depth of color from the world and turned the earth to bone. So I stood a long moment on the path while Duncan sniffed the tall grass beside me, his head vanishing for minutes at a time among the thick, damp blades. He was in search of something, but then so was I.

On afternoons like this I think of Mary Oliver, my favorite poet, and all the words she has arranged that so perfectly capture the feelings these moments arouse in me. And that is what poetry is or should be--a snapshot of a moment, a thought, a feeling, something that can be expressed in no other worldly way outside of the experience.

I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?

And at that moment, when the trees were raining their cotton down so perfectly, the insects dancing around and among it, when the bird chorus fell into perfect syncopation, when the crane spread its wings and took to the air--perilously low at first, its breast cutting the tiniest of ripples along the surface of the pond before it gained its strength and launched heavenward over the willows--when Mary Oliver's words were lining up on my lips and tongue, Duncan lifted his head--his beautiful, red head, outlined in the loveliest of amber summer light--trotted out of the grass toward me, and dropped a thick, green, and very dead snake on my foot, the smile wide and glorious on his face.

Moments are precious to each of us, in their unique way. Right? That's what I tried to tell myself as I sucked all the air out of the known world into my lungs, did one of those allover body trembles, and danced away as quickly as I could.

If you liked this post, please feel free to leave a comment. They're always appreciated.


David said...

You have no relationship whatsoever with a dog until it drops a dead snake in front of you.

This I know.

Welcome back, you two.


Jyoti said...

Ahh, perfection!

Gerti - Murphy's Mom said...

Hello! Just checking in! Love your posts as always. Mary Oliver is also a favorite of mine.

"What will you do with your one wild and precious life?" - M. Oliver

Hope you write more soon!