|Edge of the Earth Rd. Journal|
|I will sing of the veil that never lifts.
I will sing for the veil that begins, once in a lifetime, maybe to lift.
I will sing for the rent in the veil.
I will sing for what is in front of the veil, the floating light.
I will sing for what is behind the veil---
Light, light, and more light.
This is the world, and this is the work of the world.
|Mary Oliver, "Work"|
| The Work
June 18, 2001
| In order to do the kind of "work" Ms. Oliver describes in the above passage from her poem, it is absolutely necessary to have a front row seat. Here at Edge of the Earth Rd, I have such a seat. It is at the south end of the front porch. My chair is a green streaked rocker made by some very innovative manufacturer from recycled plastic bottles and advertised as indestructible. So far, it has been.
There are other chairs on the porch. My wife's is metal with soft, thick cushions in it. Quite comfortable, so much so that she often has to compete for the rights to it with one of the other four animals who inhabit our abode. I never have such a proprietary seating dispute with them. Unlike my wife's chair, mine offers few qualities over which to quarrel. Ah, but it does offer a fine view.
Open before me is the whole front yard, the north pasture, the southern border of Catalpa and Cottonwood trees, and I need only stretch a bit to stick my head around the corner of the house to take a quick look at the bird feeders in back. Excellent seat. The only better one is already taken. The resident Red-shouldered Hawk most often sits atop an old telephone pole on the northeast corner of the property. Now that is a great seat!
However, we watch for different reasons. She searches the fields for errant rodents, unsuspecting snakes or lizards, and the most succulent of insects. I, on the other hand, search for nothing more than a possible glimpse at the unfolding drama of routine nature. Then again, maybe we both are searching for the same thing, i.e., satisfying our hunger.
The viewing always starts early around here, usually somewhere between five and six in the morning. It is the dogs that get things moving. Sadie and Truffles are always the first to scour the landscape. They charge out the front door as if they were fireman responding to an alarm. They take seriously this first feverish reconnoiter of their home base. First, to the feeders to check on what raccoon or opossum visited during the previous evening. Then to bordering trees and shrubs for scents and scat left by the occasional appearance of coyote, bobcat, or neighboring dog. Finally, they home in on their favorite holes inhabited by mice, voles, or moles. Their digging becomes furious at the sign of fresh scent. They often seem to me to be archeologists excavating in the rodentia period.
While all of this is going on, I am attending to the culinary desires of our two cats, Quincy and Lilly. The former is quite regal in his demeanor while the latter.... well, she is decidedly the delicate princess. As soon as they have finished their dining fare, I let the dogs in who, in quick fashion, finish off any remaining tidbits of feline trimmings. All four are then released out the front door and, with my first cup of coffee in hand, I join them.
The horizon by this time has a reddish glow to it. The sun approaches each day here with the announcement of its presence documented in changing hues of color. If I happen to wake late and miss the color-paced movement of time, I feel as if something important has gotten by me and I am less for it. While the animals prowl their surroundings, I sit, sip my coffee, and make sure another day makes its appearance in appropriate form.
The Eastern Wood-Pewee is usually the first to call forth in the morning, followed by the Cardinals and Carolina Chickadees. The Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are the first to make their appearance at the feeders, most often before sunup. You can hear the blurred whirr of their wings as they hover around the feeder portal. Without the dawn's early light, they exist only by ear.
As the light of day begins casting across the eastern sky, the activity picks up quickly. The resident Field Sparrow begins its ping-pong ball call as the Bobwhite Quail follow with their legato whistle. The Mourning Doves complain in distant timbre. Crows scold at the audacity of the Red-shouldered Hawk to silently stir from its perch while in their presence. The Carolina Wren lets loose with music a good five times louder than he is large. The Red-bellied Woodpecker throbs out its arrival with deep, ascending chirps. The Downy Woodpecker by comparison almost peeps---but peep it does, every morning.
Such is the beginning of each day here. Some mornings are a bit different with one or more birds failing to make an appearance, but for the most part, these are the principal actors who take nature's stage as if always on cue.
From time to time it is incumbent on me to move from the chair if only to get another cup of coffee. Sometimes it is to rescue an unwary Ornate Box Turtle from the gnawing jaws of one of the dogs or a Five-lined Skink from the clawless paws of a cat. Sometimes it is just to get a better look. I have noticed in the back woods a single Catalpa tree blooming with fresh flowers even though all the others shed their fragrant adornments during the last thunderstorm. The Cottonwood trees are again letting loose their white wispy tufts of seed which the E. Phoebes are taking advantage of as cushioning for their nests. The June Bugs no longer fly around the lights at night, so the Barn Spiders feel secure enough to begin weaving their silky snares at darkness's edge. The locusts have arrived and already I have found the vacant, caramel-colored shell attached to a pole like some ancient, fragile fossil.
The other morning, the first Katydid jumped on the table next to my chair. Before I could stop it, it leapt again and landed in my coffee cup, ruining a good cup of coffee and, I presume for him, a good beginning to life itself. Dirt Daubers are here now so soon architectural mud huts will be found in unsuspected places. By the end of summer they will be filled with spiders stung into a zombie state, alive but only dreaming.
Sometimes the best seat is in my van on the backgrounds around Lexington. Saturday a week ago, the first Tarantula of the year warily made its way across Corbett Rd. On Lewis Rd., Prairie Sabatia, Bee Balm, and Silky Prairie Clover are all in bloom. On 166th Street between Lewis Rd. and Edge of the Earth Rd., the Moth Mullein blooms.
There is so much to see, hear, and try to identify. It is impossible to get it all done, but it is, as Ms. Oliver poetically proclaims, "the work of the world" and I find it a task not only well worth doing, but also patently rewarding. I often do not get it right and even more often, fail to identify it at all. This, too, is all right. It is all part of the work to which I am gleefully drawn. Just cannot help myself, but then who would want to? At least, that is the way we see it here at Edge of the Earth Road.
|(c) Copyrighted by Phil Floyd 2002|