Archive for the ‘Rolling By the River’s Edge’ Category
I saw the bird in passing, as I loped across the intersection. I hopped up the curb to the sidewalk and I saw it in my mind’s eye–the head contorted, the legs splayed
out, the lower beak jerked out like a huge thorn. It was a robin: it must have been a road kill. If you can imagine The Scream with the mouth of a robin, that was what I saw.
I hate the idea of jogging but that’s what I was doing when I passed the dead robin. I prefer to see myself running. But, actually, I’m mostly plodding through life. The river is beautiful with the waterbirds skimming the water’s edge.
My darling towheads are teens now. They shrug when I suggest we eat a special meal together. My sisters live too far away. Jupiter! I dodge a mud puddle: I put away any guilt for not visiting my Mom down on the farm. That bird, stranded by the curb, was distressing. The black rhinos and the Indian tigers are not long in this world, my Dad gloomily predicted.
I want to blot out that bird; I want to scoop it up and bury it by the riverbanks. It’s a grey day, full of the moist promise of spring. I could feel smug about running instead of jumping in the car to drive to the gym. But the bird, a witness to fossil fuels consumption kills off many species.
This run is not releasing me. Days ago Doris confided in me that she was being knocked around by the father of her children. That bothered me, the worry shot up my back, lodging somewhere below my trapezius. That night I nodded sympathetically. There’s not a dam thing I can do but listen. That’s too negative. I rephrase it saying metalically, “The best thing I can do is the gift of listening to her. I didn’t ask Doris detailed questions.
I want to know, but Jesus, I don’t really want to know. How many shades of grey can one sky hold? Knowledge is responsibility. I feel heavy with death. My body puffs and legs leaps over muddy bike tracks. I’m free of death, yet physically I am moving towards dying. The dark riverwater lugubriously rolls toward the Atlantic Ocean. Does the Boston marathon really start at the headwaters of the Charles River?
Should I listen to rumors that my muscle soreness might be a sign of early diabetes? I want to care for myself and I long to be carefree. I want others to fawn all over in love with me and I want to be alone to listen to my inner path. I remain thick with desire.
The river seemed elastic, never tarrying over indecision. It doesn’t wait for dead birds. God’s promise is like that. Even as we pollute and scream; even if we ignore the vultures circling, the earth moves. Doesn’t love embrace the carrion?. If I knew come hell and highwater, what my purpose on earth is, I’d be glib and unbearable. How boring to know exactly what Creator has in mind for me. A 5 year old gets as much pleasure in opening the rusty treasure box as in finding a jewel within it.
I finish the running by the Anderson Bridge. My body sweaty, my mind cleared of morbidity. Grey skies are a blanket, warming the dark earth. I will stay open to the promise. And there inscribed on the bridge in 1912 the passage in Revelations 22:2, often called the River of Life:
On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing
twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month.
And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.
Today the river was liquid cellophane, silver and lugubrious. Thank God I am ambulatory and up before the Harvard hordes.
I had a nightmare the night before. The dream was a bad car accident where I was terribly hurt but without a drop of blood. Do you ever wonder where pain comes from? Does the river feel the pain of all the chloride and aluminum metals? Do beetles have receptors, knowing when your boot crushes them? Such were my thoughts on this early morning run by the Charles River. I was running despite the groaning of my joints and the dullness of my head. Often when I’m stuck or in trouble, I just run by the river edge. Sure , just rationalize it as exercise to relief stress, but I know better. I’m actually trying to become the river, to move over this earth soaking knowledge like water.
Today I was not disappointed. Spring came in the strangest form, not daffodils, not the bluegills running downstream. There, next to the packed earth of my running trail were little 5 centimeter mounds of dirt. These primordial mounds were tiny bubbles. Not linear ziggurats my brother made of sand, no they were pebbles of dirt piled by a blowhole. Scattered like confetti They were everywhere. The worms of spring had awoken. Not a one of their congregation was visible, just these tiny portals crested with a posy of earth. This way I knew the worms are doing their work without having to step over the slimy buggers. The geese were out trumpeting and cropping the grass to a nub. Among bright green tufts sat the worm piles, like drip castles made on the beach. They are fine decorations without their slithery blind carpenters. I know worms are the farmers of dirt, composting our soil. It’s nicer to see delicate mounds instead of a toilet thimble.
Running under the majestic sycamores, I saw buds all about. My stride stretched. I made my shoulders drop with my exhale. I and the worms are sharing this plot of earth. Do worms have nightmares? I just steamrolled over a worm hole pulverizing the mound. Oh well. “Sorry, for destroying your day’s work. Sorry for being a chunk in a delicate world of new growth. I can’t claim to be an animal rights maniac when I kill so many species with my gluttonous lifestyle. On a material plane, I take up more space than an elephant.
These squirmy, gutsy worms not just making rich loam for mammals, but aerating the surface. I run, thud, stretch, thud. My heavy steps harden the earth. I am planning Seder dinner, I pray for my son in New Orleans, I will build a garden bed. But the worms, they are preparing the earth better than a horse and plow. I run hard over the land, and the worms, one by one pull out the dirt, leave earth in piles, dive under and push the organic stuff.
Two Quakers taught me a lot. The first one I listened to and the second one I argued with. The first one, John Calvi, is a well-known healer who pronounced, “If you can’t pray, at least do something for 10 minutes daily where you are not thinking of yourself.” Oh-kaay. That way I’ll be ready, and open for the Messiah, who has come and is coming. So though my turbid brain wasn’t pray, my song to earthworms has saved me for today. The other Quaker, Lita, told me that history wasn’t important, but the fact that Quakers believe in continuing revelation is. I protested, I love the story of daredevil Quakers. This history informs me. But reveling in Quaker past glory is hubris and bunk. I lost the argument with my friend.
I feel strong and relaxed as I run over the last bridge. Revelation comes in small increments. I dodge a patch of daffodils on my way home. My nightmares met into the dank soil. But my foot comes down flat onto a worm mound. Splat!
We have much to be thankful for. My life is bedecked with gifts in this rich country in 2012. This Spring in melting America can’t come early enough. What are we waiting for? The Arab Spring is sprung and carried on by Egyptians and Syrians to this day. I can’t say we live in a democracy, but I am not afraid to walk in the streets. I saw 5 daffodils that had opened their yellow fingers. We have food, fast food and slow food, bakeries and ovens. We have Roseta
Stone and WeeAvatars and glass windows. We have waterslides, frisbees and libraries. Weeeee.
With all the gloomy predictions of climate change, the rise in FEMA natural disasters, we are a people holding our breath, waiting for the sky to fall. And if the sky doesn’t fall on us, we are petrified the oceans will rise to engulf us. We have the same fear as Chicken Little. Some of my friends are depressed when they see sunny balmy days in January. What! They want cloudy and bitter weather because it’s typical for New England. I personally think people take the climate change to a serious level if you are disgusted by good weather. Let your body take delight, don’t be a fusty, vainglorious egghead. Of course we have to work hard to stop carbon emissions and oil dependency. My head is scared; but I still enjoy completely a sunny warm February day. Be in love with nature “with no forethought of grief.” **
Instead of hyperventilating about winter weather, Susan and I have gone out weekly at 7 am to pick up trash around Weeks Bridge. Many Charles River elves polish the River parkway. Within a stretch of 150 yards we’ve gather amazing debris. Even 10 years ago I would have said, “!Que va!! The tramps and Harvard drunken bums, and the pooping geese, and the careless tourists are screwing up my view. It’s not my problem. I should complain in a letter to the local paper. Sh*”%*!”
Now, without cluttering my mind with blame, I clean the deluge. It’s our collective baggage. It’s a bit like Hurricane Katrina with a time lapse. Filling trashcans are as good as changing into a clean diapers: (cloth diaper of course).
What do we pick up? Hubcaps, baseballs, buckles, bottles, shot glasses, Mylar bags, parking tix. Lots and lots of plastic bottles, Gatorade, Dasani, Vitamin water or bug juice all in crackling wrapping. (More trash listed near end.) One old juice bottle stuck out of the edge buried under 4 inches of turf. Once I picked up a leathery object the size of a lime. It looked like a busted pingpong ball powdered with dirt. Well, it was a broken through goose egg. How wonderful to find that detritus. Cheery-o.
**The Peace of Wild Things
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things (more…)
Did you come across Cambridge’s beauty queen this week? She is a regal site with a Guy Fawkes mask and leather feet. Strolling by the Charles River in December is feasible while balmy breezes punctuate the NE climate. From pre-dawn to sunset the river hums with hawks, drills retooling bridges and crew boats with thumping paddles. And then in full force is our Charles Beauty Queen. She struts along the riverbank with other Canadian geese. She is a symbol of rich food, a land of bounty, filling the evening sky with bassoon-like calls, a master of aerial navigation.
With their slender neck and masked face, Canadian geese usually alternate between resting on water or munching on grassland. Females brood on nests in April. Watch for a gander standing guard near the clutch of eggs. Geese are remarkably amiable neighbors, rarely angry at the thousands of humans that pass by. But watch out! If you cross a gander protecting the nest, the gander will explode into shrill warning, like a loud trumpet in HONKFEST. The gander charges while hissing and glaring, but rarely attacks. The charge is a flurry of webbed feet, waggling tongue and beak tough as a battering ram. If you turn away the gander staunchly resumes his watchful stance, a faithful mate and dutiful father.
Golfers, swimming pools and park rangers consider these marathon flyers to be pests. Dogs become fascinated by geese. I saw a woman in a short skirt reign in her lovely Rottweiler by Magazine Beach. When he saw 2 geese plucking the soft grass as the canine strained on the lease. The owner tottered and pulled as if she were reining in a mainsail. Off balance, she lost her grip on the line and the dog bounded away, a windmill of legs and pumping jaws. But the geese lifted their solemn bodies skimming the parkland, without the predator coming close. Geese are graceful, with less litter than dogs. And to beautify parks, geese poop light green, mostly grass.
Canadian geese on the Charles have 2 separate populations, those that migrate (1000-2,000 miles) semi-annually, and those that the state calls resident population. Our permanent residents descend from the by-gone era of Canadian geese who were kept as living decoys by hunters outside of Boston. Captive geese were outlawed about 1935, and the geese were then released. Why? Humans released flocks carelessly, not knowing the impact. After jailbreak, the geese never regained their navigational memory, and nested in Massachusetts year round. By 1975 the resident geese in MA reached 75,000. These grazers are known as illegal immigrants, as opposed to their migratory geese, our eat and run guests. Golf clubs in MA have sought permission to shoot hundreds of these vegans who come to trim grass on golf courses (and poop green slime). The putting green is not a restaurant. Animal rights activists will protest these killings saying “No blood for Golf”. Other golfers use the expression, “fowl play” when cleaning the soles of their shoes.
The flocks of geese aren’t hazards; after years of human captivity they neatly share our city. The goslings will float in a line behind their guardians in May, in September we’ll watch the lazar-black wings cut through the sky. In Cambridge by the shore, geese will lift their head if a hawk lands on a limb or if runners bounce past the flock. Often the geese let me run within 30 inches of them if I look straight ahead. Their black beaks glisten stamping their intelligent faces dark with ebony like a A# on a piano. Their calling is gentle cooing (not just honks), their excrements are fertilizer (not kaka) and their parenting is excellent (hence, the overpopulation). We can’t raise farm animals in the metropolis, but just around the corner are free-range birds. They are homey yet wild; friendly but protective; gorgeous but not ostentatious. They are our indomitable beauties. These neighbors, in the air or on water, augment our city lives.
What ways are we being responsible to our habitat? Humans without forethought, build nuclear plants near our waterways, while our houses drain their runoff into rivers. Factories and industries have poured years of pollutants into the chestnut waves of the Charles. Oceans have dead-zones. Now the sediment of the Charles riverbed is a glut of copper, lead, and petrol mixed with excess sand and gravel. Fish don’t want to sleep on that sticky mattress.If you are mad that the state’s budget cuts prevents funding the clean water bills in Massachusetts; if you are dismayed that Draper Labs in East Cambridge still makes nuclear reactors; if you are frozen in fear that nuclear radiation will leak into potable water like what happened in Japan, listen. There is hope. You don’t have to wait until Earth Day to clean our rivers. www.crwa.org/index.php or http://www.thecharles.org/
Without toxicity, our birds will preen and parade down the Charles River as if we were rolling out the red carpet. Cleaning the river shows respect to Beauty Queens more than a first prize.
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