Thursday, January 1, 2009

Ozarks 29.7.04: Rain on Tin Roofs, Tonking Windchimes

I meant to tell about the butterflies. In yesterday’s mild afternoon sun, they gathered in droves on the flat sandstone rocks that form the now-dry portion of the creek bed below the cabin.

Why they do this is mysterious to me. They flatten themselves on the rocks, displaying their wings like patches of Turkey carpets. And what bejeweled patches to look upon: bright yellow and black intermixed in different patterns and shapes on various butterflies, or blue and black on others. Is it the sun itself they crave? Whatever, they provide a rare show when they’re in this mode.

Raining now as I write, a light patter on the tin roof above me. The loss of a sunny day will be more than recompensed, if the rain continues, by the increased force of the music of waterfall and creek.

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Mary Oliver, Long Life: “But there are few stories in the world, after all. There is the story of Wickedness, the story of Good, the story of Love, and the story of Time. It is the telling that is the charm, for it is the expression that gives to the imaginations the experience of the tale” (62).

“Opulent and ornate world, because at its root, and its axis, and its ocean bed, it swings through the universe quietly and certainly. It is: fun, and familiar, and healthful, and unbelievably refreshing, and lovely. And it is the theater of the spiritual; it is the multiform utterly obedient to a mystery” (90).

“It is the intimate, never the general, that is teacherly. The idea of love is not love. The idea of ocean is neither salt nor sand; the face of the seal cannot rise from the idea to stare at you, to astound your heart. Time must grow thick and merry with incident, before thought can begin” (89).

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Thoreau, Walden, “Higher Laws”: “Our whole life is startlingly moral. There is never an instant’s truce between virtue and vice. Goodness is the only investment that never fails. In the music of the harp which trembles round the world it is the insisting on this which thrills us.”

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Ozark rain, summer passing into fall: soft, slow, gentle as the velvet hand of a nurse soothing a fevered brow. Tin roof makes it seem louder and more plenteous than it actually is. The waterfall mere is not even troubled by it until the rain suddenly picks up its tempo, just as suddenly to cease. Then, as drops fall direct as bullets to the water’s rippling skin, tiny spires rise up as though to meet the falling rain.

With no blue above to reach the waiting earth, the silent mere, all the pool is brown, like earth itself in liquid shape. But the chute of water emptying thereunto stays white, fresh, an ever-flowing source of water from above to replenish the bowl into which it flows.

All around the northern edge of the hill above the creek, a fringe of pines runs, darker in the misty air. Beneath, lighter-colored oaks and then the row of trees as if planted like a European allée along the creek bed, which I don’t recognize? Hackberry? Wild cherry? Alder?

The bed of many-layered and lichen-dotted rock at the base of the hill, with its cool mysterious cavities that must welcome small creatures, is beautiful to behold—a reminder that, beneath the trees and the top layers of soil, all is rock. Mountains are not earth upraised to the sky but rock, the rippling muscle of a land once volatile, with molten force beneath it. What now stands still and seems so fixed is evidence of cataclysmic upheaval almost impossible for us to imagine, sitting on this porch.

In the distance, up the shelf of stone that forms the waterfall lip, a calling, croaking, that has to be a frog. And off in the woods to the north, some knocking sound like hollow bamboo canes, those Chinese windchimes you can buy, tonking, tonking, in the still beyond the rain.

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