Sunday Morning

I never cared much for swans until the day a swan told me I was wrong. It was a cloudy winter morning and I was suffering from a recently broken heart. I sat myself down on a concrete step by Jesus Lock and was staring at the river, feeling the world was just as cold and grey, when a female mute swan hoist herself out from the water and stumped towards me on leathery, in-turned webbed feet and sturdy black legs. I assumed she wanted food. Swans can break an arm with one blow of their wing, I remembered, one of those warnings from childhood that get annealed into adult fight-or-flight responses. Part of me wanted to get up and move further away, but most of me was just too tired. I watched her, her snaky neck, black eye, her blank hauteur. I expected her to stop, but she did not. She walked right up to where I sat on the step, her head towering over mine. Then she turned around to face the river, shifted left, and plonked herself down, her body parallel with my own, so close her wing-feathers were pressed against my thighs. Let no one ever speak of swans as being airy, insubstantial things. I was sitting with something the size of a large dog. And now I was too astonished to be nervous. I didn’t know what to do: I grasped, bewildered, for the correct interspecies social etiquette. She looked at me incuriously, then tucked her head sideways and backwards into her raised coverts, neck curved, and fell fast asleep. We sat there together for ten minutes, until a family came past and a toddler made a beeline for her. She slipped back into the water and ploughed upstream. As I watched her leave something shifted inside me and I began to weep with an emotion I recognised as gratitude. That day was when swans turned into real creatures for me, and it has spurred me since to seek out others.

—  Helen Macdonald, Vesper Flights (Grove Press, August 25, 2020)


Photo: DK’s Swan. Sept 11, 2020. 6:15 am. The Cove, Stamford, CT

Today’s Forecast: Rain

You will never be alone, you hear so deep
a sound when autumn comes. Yellow
pulls across the hills and thrums,
or the silence after lightening before it says
its names—and then the clouds’ wide-mouthed
apologies. You were aimed from birth:
you will never be alone. Rain
will come, a gutter filled, an Amazon,
long aisles—you never heard so deep a sound,
moss on rock, and years. You turn your head—
that’s what the silence meant: you’re not alone.
The whole wide world pours down.

~ William Stafford, “Assurance” in The Way It Is: New & Selected Poems


Notes:

  • Poem: Thank you The Hammock Papers
  • Photo: DK. Daybreak / Rain. September 10, 2020. 6:00 am. 68° F. At Cove Island, Stamford, CT

Miracle. All of It.

My eyes graze his binoculars and without a word he passes them over. And like that the birds are no longer smudges, but elegantly detailed and purposeful and real. They steal my breath as they always do, these creatures who think nothing of having wings.

Charlotte McConaghyMigrations: A Novel (Flatiron Books, August 4, 2020)


Notes:

  • Photo: Cormorant. Spirit Bird. Sept 7, 2020. 6:48 am. The Cove. Stamford, FT
  • Back Story: Walking. In Search of my Spirit Bird.
  • Post title Inspired by Albert Einstein’s quote: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

Shut your mouth; open your eyes and ears. Take in what is there.

Meanwhile, on afternoons and on Sundays, Surrey lay open to me. County Down in the holidays and Surrey in the term — it was an excellent contrast. Perhaps, since their beauties were such that even a fool could not force them into competition, this cured me once and for all of the pernicious tendency to compare and to prefer —  an operation that does little good even when we are dealing with works of art and endless harm when we are dealing with nature. Total surrender is the first step toward the fruition of either.  Shut your mouth; open your eyes and ears. Take in what is there and give no thought to what might have been there or what is somewhere else. That can come later, if it must come at all.

— C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life (Published in 1955. Describes his life from early childhood in the late 1800s to 1931.)


Daybreak. September 6, 2020. 6:02 am. 63° F. Humidity: 84%. Wind: 4 mph. Gusts: 8 mph. Cloud Cover: 5%. The Cove, Stamford, CT

Lightly Child, Lightly

“I unlatched the shutters. The light was as intense as a love affair. I was blinded, delighted, not just because it was warm and wonderful, but because nature measures nothing. Nobody needs this much sunlight. Nobody needs droughts, volcanoes, monsoons, tornadoes either, but we get them, because our world is as extravagant as a world can be. We are the ones obsessed by measurement. The world just pours it out.”

— Jeanette Winterson, Lighthousekeeping (Harvest Books; April 3, 2006)


Notes:

  • Quote: Thank you Beth @ Alive on all Channels
  • Photo: Here comes the sun by hpskurdal
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Walking. To Unclenched.

3:50 a.m.

I’m up.

Groggy from Tylenol PM. I stare at the clock, do the math, a whopping 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep.  Whaddya know! 1 day in a row! 

The euphoria burns off quickly. An 8 a.m. appointment weighs heavily. I punch out a few notes for the meeting on my laptop, close the lid, needing at least a full hour to prep for the call.  Unfinished. Unprepared. Anxious. I drag the three horsemen with me as I head out the door.

I’m off.

The Head is not in this game this morning.  That is, my 5-mile walk around Cove Island to start the day. It’s Month 4 of day after day after consecutive day of 90-minute twilight walks. You could have passed on the morning walk, finished your prep to take a load off, but Nooooo. That’s not how you roll.

I’m rushing.  I’m not Here. I’m not There. I’m a bit everywhere. I need to cut my loop short and hurry back.

I tuck the camera away, I’m half way home. I pick up the pace.
[Read more…]

Walking. One Short. From Wing to Wing.

He has to be in his late 70’s, maybe early 80’s, but he’s out each morning walking, in twilight. There’s a handful of us obsessives out at this hour, including me, that strange guy, always in black head to toe, The Camera Guy (as Jim calls me, grateful he’s left ‘Creepy’ out of the prefix).

He has a severe limp when he walks, his right side slumps with each step. Retired Vet, would be my bet. Large, hulking man, must have been fierce in his day. (vs. me still pretending to be fierce, a younger old dog with false teeth, literally and figuratively. At least they don’t clack, yet. Something to look forward to).

We’re on Month 4 here with the morning walks, and despite the crossing of our paths each morning, he would not lift his head to acknowledge me. Perhaps stuck in his head. Perhaps wanting to leave me stuck in mine, which was exactly where I prefer to be. We all send off our own scent don’t we, mine a ‘Black Prickly de Chanel.’

Last week, he broke the silence.

“Do you know if the other Swan is still around? My wife and I were worried.”

I paused for a minute, and not sure exactly why I lied, but I did. I did notice her partner had been absent for a week or so, but I just didn’t have it in me to tell him. Or, perhaps I didn’t want to believe he was gone. Like Gone, Gone.

“Yes, he’s down by the bridge at the end of The Cove.” [Read more…]

Walking. My July 4th.

Twilight. August 7, 2020. 5:32 am. 67° F. Cloud Cover: 86%. The Cove, Stamford, CT.

90+ min walk. 100+ photos.

It was Amateur Hour (or hour and a half).

Hand shake. Blurry shots. Crooked shots. Underexposed shots. Overexposed shots. Dark light. Bad light.

Rain drops on lens. No pink or orange hues lighting up the cove. Dense cloud cover.

Hide tide. Birds in hiding.

But…

as I rounded the corner at Cove Island Park, there it was. The American Flag. Softly flapping in the breeze.  I pause to watch… listening to its rustling, as it folded and unfolded. No press briefings. No shameless politicians.

Just the American flag, the silence of the daybreak and me.  And an intense and overwhelming feeling of gratitude for this Country and it’s great people…and what you all have given my family and me.

Walking. In Twilight.

75 minutes before sunrise, I start out in darkness, and slide into Twilight.

90 consecutive days, same loop, 5 miles, Cove Island Park and back.

I had to Google it, because I didn’t know what it was called, the in-between time between night and sunrise.

Twilight: “the soft glowing light from the sky when the sun is below the horizon, caused by the refraction and scattering of the sun’s rays from the atmosphere.”

I have no clue what all that means —  and no interest in learning more.

I’m deep into Kate Zambreno’s new book: Drifts: A Novel. My kind of book. She describes it as “Prose, little things, I stammer out.” (I wish I could stammer, spit and cough out anything close to this.)

Her words: “A shock of color out of nowhere.” And that’s exactly what it was. Look at it. The photo above, taken @ 5:24 a.m. 24 minutes before sunrise. 24 minutes before sunrise. Where does this light, this ‘shock of color’ come from?

In a different time, a different scene, she goes on to talk about “the light of Vermeer’s paintings. Their silence and mystery…So often the painting seems to be of the same room, at the same picture window… whether the sun floods in directly or diffusely.”

And so here we are. 90 consecutive days on this same walk. The same room, the same picture window, a new Vermeer each morning.

I tuck my camera into my bag, and head home. I twist in my earbuds and listen to Audible pumping in the narration.  She closes out her book on an Albrecht Durer quote, back in the 1500’s (before the internet, before digital cameras):

What beauty is, I know not, though it adheres to many things.”

And so it does Albrecht, so it does.


Notes:

  • Photo: 5:20 a.m. The Cove, Stamford, CT. July 30, 2020.
  • Inspired by: “The universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.” ~ Eden Phillpotts, from “A Shadow Passes
  • Book Review of Kate Zambreno’s book “Drifts: A Novel”: “Locked in a Creative Struggle, With Rilke as Her Guide” by Catherine Lacey, NY Times.

Light child, lightly.

Can you not sometimes feel how all pasts
grow light, when you’ve lived a while,
how they gently prepare you for amazement,
companion each feeling with images,—

—  Rainer Maria Rilke, from “The Singer Sings Before a Child of Princes”, in The Book of Images


Notes:

  • Quote via memoryslandscape. Photo: Untitled, 2009 – by Marta Navarro, Spanish (via newthom.com)
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”
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