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Saturday, August 2, 2014


crow feather

This is the feather a crow left me yesterday on the walkway to the donkey gate. 11.5 inches. It was waiting on a rock I walk on. It brought to mind a cat leaving a mouse on the walkway for me to find, a gift, a reminder of friendship, of the bond between us. I feel the same about the crow feather. My Air Bellows crows know I'm the one throwing out seeds for them. They don't get enough to live on, but it makes a good snack to a crow out looking for something to eat. Crows are to me the essence of bird. They are a silhouette of bird with a beautiful flow of flying. One day, years ago when my road was gravel, I turned down Waterfall Road a half mile from the house and a crow took up flying above where a hood ornament might have been, just a few feet in front of the windshield. I watched its bird body bob up and down with the wing beats; it looked around at me from one side, then the other. A red-tailed hawk did the same thing in the same place another time. They gave me the sensation of flying directly behind them. Of course, I know the crow that placed the feather on my walkway did not intentionally put the feather where I found it. The crow was in the white pine above, possibly preening its feathers. I'm surprised a crow came this close to the house. I never see a crow in my small forest around the house. I don't know why they stay out of the bird feeding area. I can only guess they're uncomfortable in a place they can't see out of. They prefer it out in the open where they can see in all directions, or high in trees. I started feeding them the other side of the road where they could scan both directions up the road after seeing a couple of crows at different times walking in the road out front, looking into the bird feeding area with a longing to have some seeds, but hesitant to step in among the thick growth. I imagine the feather floated down through the tree's branches from up high and happened to land where I'd see it first thing in the morning. I don't like to assume the crow was communicating with me in its mind. I also don't like to assume it was not.
rhododendron in the fog
A beautiful, damp, foggy day all day long. I went out with camera and made some pictures in my small wooded area. The fog gives the trees, the leaves, the branches a sense that they were drawn on plain white paper. I can see the above as a Japanese ink drawing. The fog makes trees appear to be drawn on paper too. It's in fog I think I see trees best. Yet, there is nothing like a vibrant green tree  in June, the leaves fresh with the yellow-green of spring in them. Distances are loaded with details, though in the fog the details of distance are eliminated, leaving the subject itself, the tree to stand in its own beauty. Asters are blooming now. Meadows all over the county are loaded with Queen Anne's lace. A big meadow white with Queen Anne's lace is a stunning sight. A meadow full of Black Eyed Susans is a beautiful sight to behold, too. Joe Pye flowers are opening. They grow on stalks up to ten feet with pointed leaves that ring the stem all the way up. Big cluster of pink flowers on top that attracts butterflies. They flower for a few weeks, and in that time they have an aura of fluttering butterfly wings, yellow, black, orange and blue. The birds, chipmunks and squirrels are quiet today. Rarely do I see a bird today. Outside with the camera I saw a cardinal hopping around in the maple tree, hiding behind the trunk and branches, anxious for me to go back to my barn; he wanted to visit the cantina. I only saw the donkeys at carrot time. They disappeared in the foggy meadow. Something about the fog makes me feel safe, like under a big down comforter in winter, like sitting here in my mancave with walls covered with paintings and photographs, shelves and shelves of cds and several stacks of books. Memories, associations, five African masks, two of them "authentic." The one with pointed teeth I feel is about balance. It's on the wall where I can see it much of the time. It's my reminder of interior balance. People coming in here that don't know me become visibly uncomfortable seeing the masks.

joe pye
A memory surfaced of a morning at seven when two guys came to the door. I happened to be up. They were with the work crew working on a new house up the road. This was something like fifteen years ago. These were from back in a holler hillbillies, the kind you only see in town for court. No real crimes, just gettin into shit. Driving drunk, carrying a small amount of reefer, breaking and entering for liquor, beating up a girlfriend, the people of court day. They were good guys, pleasant and friendly. One of them had a J and we passed it around while we talked. It turned out one of them had heard I was a white witch. He explained that's the good kind. He heard that good things happened to people that have to do with me. First I ever heard of that. I'm recalling a time maybe seven or eight years ago at the table with friends Jr Maxwell and Jean Philips. We were good friends who got together in the evening after work for drinks with Jr. I told them of the experience. When I said good things happen to people around me, both answered, That's right. I still don't get it, don't see it, don't understand it. All the better. Best not to pay it any mind. If it is so, in whatever degree, it is something passing through me that is not me. It only means I allow the flow of whatever it is. I've got these two complete strangers in my house, don't recall ever seeing either of them before, 7 in the morning getting high and telling me I'm a white witch. The one who brought it up said he was in a place in his life where he needed something good to happen and hoped stopping in to see me would help. Whatever. I don't think about it because I don't want to start thinking I can control whatever it is. After much thought, I have come to believe that if there is something to it, it's because I pray inside for everyone I know, everyone I meet. Not on my knees smelling farts in the chair cushion at prayer meeting; merely a notation, a request to notice this person. Missionarizing I absolutely forbid myself. I find talking with a missionary attitude the ultimate in arrogance. All it's saying is, if you don't have what I have, you aint got nothin--you're going to hell, so there! The guys stuck around for an hour or so, I was glad to be acquainted with them on friendly terms. They decided not to go to work and went up the road in the other direction.   
In the years when I roamed these mountains on foot with dog companion Aster, a good dog to walk with, I came upon several stacks of rocks I can only call cairns. They were deep in the woods the other side of the Parkway and up the hill to the east of Brinegar's Cabin. It's about half a mile from the house. They are largely flat stones stacked in a circle and upward like a big barrel with a curved top, solid stone made of hundreds of rocks. I think of them as cairns, landmarks and monuments to the man who cleared the field maybe a couple centuries ago by cutting the trees, pulling up the stumps with horses and chains, picking  up the rocks, throwing them onto a wagon a horse or an ox was pulling. I wanted to photograph them in fog and snow. We had a couple inches of wet snow and a little fog. I headed out with Aster to cross the farm next door on foot and the Parkway. Easy walk, beautiful day. I found the cairns with snow lining every rock. They were beautiful. The fog gave them a timeless sense. They could be Neolithic or just a century ago, or any time in between. I couldn't find my way out. Walked in circles. Kept coming back to the same places. It became frustrating. I was not going to spend the night in the freezing forest in snow. It was not going to happen. After much walking, I realized I was getting nowhere walking. I stopped walking. Walking wasn't getting me out, so let's try not walking. I knew I wanted to go north. Looked at the trees for moss on the north side. Moss grew all the way around the trees. The sky was a cloud of fog. I stood gaping, wondering how standing still was going to help. A hole opened in the fog just big enough to show the sun and closed. It told me where south was. I went north and walked out of the woods in a bee line telling self if I want to go walking any distance on a foggy day, I'd do well to learn how to use a compass. Fog is treacherous for driving and divine for walking. It's a good day to stay at home in a sweater and heavy socks, the second day of August.  

path to a bird feeder


  1. Love your pics and story today TJ! I received a feather today too - not sure what bird it was from but it was one of the tiniest feathers - I will post about it on my blog :)

  2. Thanks, Christine. We're having feather experiences.

  3. What's the difference between joe pye and ironweed? They look to be very similar.

  4. Love the ink drawing photo you made.