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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

BUTTERFLIES AND SERPENTS

take me to your leader
 
Butterflies dance on the joe pyes in full flower this time of year. Their big head of pink broccoli is a cluster of thousands of little pink flowers. Joe pyes appear to be butterfly paradise, except the butterflies don't have to be dead to get there. A stand of joe pyes this time of year is crowned by a halo of fluttering multi-colored wings. Sometimes the butterflies are all over the flowers, cover them with yellow-black wings spread flat. A stand of joe pyes decorates my bedroom window. Long stalks ten to twelve feet long, leaves that circle the stem at regular intervals. The leaves lean to a dull cloudy green, but in rain the leaves come to life. They glow reflecting the silver light of the sky. One of the more beautiful sights in these mountains I know of is a stand of flowering joe pyes in the rain. It brings to mind a Japanese screen. This stand of joe pyes I got pictures of the butterflies from today came up behind my mailbox. The mailbox post protected them from the County roadside clippers. I encourage them wherever they want to grow. They're a valuable energy source for the butterflies and they're beautiful.    


don't know who my leader is

A Taurus with Venus the ruling planet, I require beauty of some sort in my surroundings. I've got a bad case of it. It's why I can't leave the mountains. It's why I can't stand more than a short time in a city. I have to change channels on my idea of beauty from the flowering green world to chance arrangements of colors and shapes. Maybe this is why abstract art is so right for an expression of the city. In the city we live more in our minds. Everything around us is utilitarian, right angles, left angles, vertical angles, horizontal angles and dull, uninteresting colors. The gray of pavement the dominant color in a city. In my city years I liked to make photographs of the backsides of downtown shops that face the parking lots. That was where I found the abstract compositions I was looking for. A big door that hadn't been painted since it was put there. The wall hadn't been painted since it was new. A cardboard box about four feet high and five twenty-foot fluorescent bulbs standing up from the box against the old brick, chipped paint and grime from years. Images and words from the days when they painted billboards on the sides of downtown buildings. By the time I came along, they were faded, chipped and more beautiful than they'd ever been. They faded into the unseen environment out the back door where plant life grew in cracks, paper trash speckled the ground and collected in corners with leaves.

isn't butterfly leader an oxymoron

I did not know it when I lived in the city that my soul longed for the country, for deep country, Blue Ridge Mountains where they have rattlesnakes, copperheads, bears, coyotes, wolves, mountain lions, bobcats, coons, possums and all the rest of it. It's not as dangerous as it sounds. They are more afraid of us than we are of them. Hunters see them and traces of them, but the rest of us seldom see one unless it runs across the road in front of the car. The critters are mostly out at night. One night coyotes were yipping in a circle around my house. It was a freaky feeling. Some years ago I was sitting in the woods writing. It was getting dark, I was almost finished, and a screech owl just over my shoulder started its trill. I'd never heard one so close. It's a scary sound. I imagine for a mouse it's the sound of the chainsaw in Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I was thinking the bird lets loose this scary call that sets the mice in motion from fear. A mouse moves, that's it, owl shit. I was loving it hearing the screech owl so close. It was also an uneasy feeling hearing such a cold-blooded shrill cry. It's like the miniature owl was saying, Come out my darlings. I'm gonna get you, and when I do I'm gonna kill you, then I'm gonna eat you, ha ha ha ha ha. From a distance, it's a pretty sound to hear after dark coming from the trees among the tree frogs and katydids.

no two ways about it


Out there in the world of what we call nature, it's kill to eat and get killed to be eaten. That's the cycle. I used to think it a crazy setup for a loving God to create. Born, live and die. We humans as we are today are foreigners in the world of the trees where prowling is the mode of walking, looking for signs of something to catch, kill and eat. At the same time looking not to get stalked and killed. We've separated ourselves from that world with exceptions like hermits in the Yukon who live by what they catch from day to day. I don't hunt. I am here to go in peace with the world I live in. In my early years in the mountain I walked all over this area, saw the mountains down on the ground where the wild things live. In later years, I like to go to one spot, sit and look at the landscape, the tree canopy. One time a bluejay stood on a tree limb not twenty feet from my spot. I didn't move. The bluejay groomed itself all over, taking a time-out to preen feathers. It was like watching an actress before her mirror. Sitting on a flat rock in the creek writing one nice summer day, a water snake crawled onto the rock beside me. They're not aggressive, they're not poisonous and they don't bite unless provoked. They do, however, have one grave misfortune; they look like copperheads.

joe pye


It took awhile to be able to tell the difference between a water snake and a copperhead on sight. By this time, I knew what the snake was, because it had given me a serpentine Esther Williams swimming rodeo in front of where I sat. The snake was frustrated because it was trying to scare me off the rock and I wouldn't leave. It wanted to sun there. It was that time of day. The snake placed its chin on the rock inches from my crossed legs looking at me with hypnotic serpent eyes like it was saying, I'm a serpent. You're supposed to be afraid of me. Are you asleep? That day I learned snakes know they scare every living thing. I wondered what it must like to have everything that sees you scream and run or try to kill you. I'd have been happy to give the snake its rock to sun on, but I was writing about the snake and what it was doing, swimming, crawling on the rock, looking me in the eye trying to scare me with the serpent glare. I was writing a video. I couldn't stop writing because I was writing about the moment, the snake's frustration with a giant that didn't know a serpent when he saw one. That's about as daring as I get. I'm no Turtle Man who can dive into a pond and bring up a snapping turtle with his hands. That aint me. I don't go near no snapping turtle. A good old dog like Martha is more my style. Stretch out on the grass, enjoy the sunlight and don't worry about a thing.

martha
 
 
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