Chapter 6: NATURE
"One touch of nature makes the whole world kin." William Shakespeare
In My Dream
I feel a powerful presence and a hand
takes me into a swell that lifts me up
and swings me over to a large raft.
Two or three already sit in the raft.
A swell lifts us to a massive ship.
One by one we reach for a hand.
People move with deliberation.
A face appears around a corner.
I find myself anxious to unite.
I am drawn up, deck after deck.
The wind picks up. A swell lifts.
The wind feels like a breath.
Diane Englander, Pale Form on Blue with Red Lines (2014), Mulberry paper, acrylic, pencil on canvas
For This Flight
Feature the all-directions wind
of spirit and your own breath—
currents of energy form
airborne dreams. Natural laws
redefined as wingspan extends
to reach edges of the infinite life.
Feel free as a birth and don’t grow
fast toward fool of gravity.
For now, soles and souls leave no
ground impressions. Journey
above and beyond descending sun,
firing dot of light as sky darkens.
Billions of miles away, you are
a blink of an I Am – discreetly
immense. Somewhere else
a solitary feather has been found;
its weightlessness cradled in
palm of a hand.
Eva Wise, Come, Redeemer, Collage
WHAT THE NATURALIST TOLD ME
For Rex Buress
Oakland Feather River Camp
A feather beneath my rocker
Rex says it's a federal law
You can't remove most feathers
from their habitat
It's a tiny brown feather
I'll leave it there
but I was sorely tempted
by the large white and brown
Rex showed us under a pine tree
Still, I don't want to end up
in San Quentin
with my owl feather
The finch sack was a gift from a friend.
I had thrilled at the scores of birds who clamored at her feeder.
I hung it from the patio roof beam
not expecting much.
Aside from the hummingbirds who drank
like frat boys at my backyard bar
I’d had no success with luring birds.
A week passed, maybe three.
The lonely net bag
swung on its nail
a miniature gallows
mocking my maternal skills through the blinds.
I’d already let my expectations fly
resigned myself to feeding failure.
In the middle of a random day a great chatter
overtook the yard. Feathered women
fought over bargains in Filene’s basement.
There were red and yellow breasted ones
sophisticates in shades of gray
and ones with rust chapeaux.
The phrase “boardinghouse reach”
suddenly made sense.
Now I study the language of tails
from the comfort of my rocking chair.
Out of Temper, Out of Tune
Out of Temper, Out of Tune
Piano’s out of temper, piano’s out of tune.
She clangs instead of sings, I don’t want to play with her.
Mister Tuner, his black leather bag,
long strips of red felt, dampers and fork,
will bring us together again.
He starts in the middle, tempers the octave
expands the fourths, contracts the fifths,
like a crossword puzzle of cheating tones
so the highs and the lows will blend with the middles
when he’s done.
He seems to bang the keys, not musical at all,
and in his other hand, a funny lovely wrench,
rosewood handle, cranks the pins a tiny bit
tight, a little too tight, a tiny bit looser.
I don’t know what it is he hears.
Eighty eight keys, two hundred twenty two strings,
all needing to vibrate at their own perfect speed
so the bad temper will sweeten again to beauty.
In the end it does, and it makes me wonder,
isn’t there such a craftsman
for our human relations?
Someone who knows exactly how far
to tweak each of us
to render the whole chord of us
from cacophony to harmony?
Someone who hears in each string of us
Our potential for resonance?
Margaret Withers, Agreement and Disagreement went walking in the woods and diminished a fifth, Ink, vinyl paint, oil on linen
Jordan Avenue Cricket Song
Somewhere in the cellar,
beyond boxes and trunks,
a wild cricket sings, undeterred
by the clicks and whistles
of the metal plug-in
that keeps roaches and rats
at bay. This small
black insect is rubbing
his wings together,
listening with the ears on
his knees and with misplaced hope
for a reply.
He'll die there
behind the piles of cancelled
checks, past rusted skates
and dusty plates. Yet while he
lives, he'll promise me
wild oats on Tamalpais,
untroubled clouds pasted
against a papery sky,
and a hot sun
to snatch the cold breath
from the bone cage
which holds my heart.
I had not seen the trees in a long while.
Sometimes, I thought they were singing,
though with the birds’ exultations
and air quickening the plants,
I could not be sure.
Now, they stood clearly on their mountain,
receiving all the birds had to say,
absorbing that chaotic music into their stillness.
I wondered if they would later release
some fresh symphony,
distilled in the sanctuary of their roots,
with themes of harmony, air and green darkness.
On this morning,
such a transformation
seemed more than possible.
Offering the trees my reverence,
Jane Norling, Red is the Answer to Everything. Oil and graphite on panel
Wardens ©pmh; 2.27.14
There’s a tree in the round mountains the dancers worship:
circle under her long limbs,
whisper into her smooth grey bark
secrets, spells and prayers,
while old ladies nod in their felt slippers
and dream a hundred pipers wail in upland meadows.
There’s a tree hemmed in by fences the crows torment:
veer and swing around its crazed branches,
swoop to tear off ruby fruit, swallow them
whole, scream and shriek shrill,
while reluctant gardeners rake scabrous grass beneath
the spinning feathered calliope.
There’s a tree by the roadside the travellers ignore:
miss as they
flash by, hissing
I saw it shining in the afternoon gloom and drizzle,
alight amid curtains of hemlock and fir.
I saw it shine like a May bride, festooned in usnea,
that bright and lacy lichen.
At sunset the trees come
calling from their concrete beds,
waving red peacock feathers
at the cargo trains that carry only the promise
of running down the lace metal gates of the bridge,
all the way West,
as if to say come closer
to where the Sun straddles
the East River’s mouth
before dropping a bulb
into the streetlamp’s eye.
When I recline
on a feathered red comforter,
the thought of you coming
back to watch the fire kiss the East
River makes it possible
to connect every parallel
current beneath us.
Back yard stream
Waters meander through lush green grasses
tendered by hands to a velvet softness,
the banks of the dainty stream shored with stones
molded by wind and rain into plump gods.
Settled and content, they sit in silence.
The clear waters hold blue sky and cloud,
tense with secrets murmured as they glide by.
Vince Storti, Regarding a Flower, Pen and ink on paper
Tilden Park Come Spring (for Beverly James)
I walk the path, the way steep
along a creek, step by step,
when suddenly at top speed
a neon cyclist bolts by me
like a startled deer,
wide-eyed, then disappears––
as if glancing and flashing from sky:
human bird glimpsed as he flies
twining through the fir.
Fall leaves its mark on winter.
We’ll mark our place at the Seder,
April, when spring has come.
For now we’re mossy stone.
Owl calls to us
from his perch in high eucalyptus
whose branch obscures the evening star.
Even the turtles in the reservoir
doze in their places.
mist has had its morning stretch
and curled up under leaves
ferns piano key the wood’s edge
all I hear is wind until I’m close
tiny flowers there with petals of sun
and scary blood red hearts
call them wildflowers or weeds
it doesn’t matter to the bees
or spiders waiting in webs
between spindly stems
who would think this a part of sky
tangled leaves catch untie my shoes
Helene Mukhtar, Exodus 2, Paper collage and acrylic paint on canvas
A Day in the Nature
The passion in the wind.
The fashion of the flowers.
Hours upon hours
I employ the grass as my bed
And take two loads off as I study
The grounds surrounding me,
With the trees as my family,
The plants as my friends,
The clouds as my religion,
And the sky as my Bible.
I love repeatedly reading
That same text
Over and over
And over again,
The cover of the book never closing
Until the sun finally sets.
Someone laced ribbons of hope through the clouds like sunlight.
Here I am at the edge of the world, laughing—yes, laughing—in the dusk.
Each sound calico as it reverberates against the hills.
I will wait, look out in the fathoms for you.
Both our bodies lived in this blaze of white sky,
knotted strings of muscle and bone braided
together to be stronger than they seem.
Someday I’ll be able to tell our whole story,
when we’re no longer
afraid of endings, and our tears
are leaves that disintegrate,
disappear as they fall.
Marissa Bell Toffoli
Arthur Kvarnstrom, Dunfield Creek, Watercolor on paper