Saturday, July 25, 2009

So Much Depends

July 1997. The saturated air slaps my face like a smack of wet fish as I walk out the front door toward Glenview Road. Four miles to the east Lake Michigan must have evaporated into the atmosphere overnight, spirited away by an easterly wind as an offering to the clouds, the sailboats of summer washed up like silvery alewives along a dry lakebed. At least the boats won’t stink like the alewives did in June thirty years ago when they lay dead and dying in a layer three feet deep by twenty feet wide along the shoreline, their stench blown inland, our neighborhood reeking of decay.

Down the hill and north into Harms Woods. Honeybees whirl like dervishes around a thicket of wild roses. Except for a lone worker bee whose task it is to keep me at bay, the swarm pays no mind to a voyeur’s fascination with their exuberance over pink blossoms and yellow stamens. Could my observation of these nectar-drunken bees possibly alter their behavior? It doesn’t appear so, but then honeybees don’t live in Schr√∂edinger’s sealed box in a state of superposition; they don’t live in all possible states at once until the moment I chance to observe them; they dance and drink in a macroscopic world of sunlight right here and now in front of my eyes.

I walk on. The frenzied bees may not be indeterminate, but a few calcified cells residing in my left breast are, ever since a needle biopsy three days ago. Inside the sealed box that is my body, my cells have been thrust into a state of superposition until someone, some medical establishment voyeur, observes through a microscope the six little plugs taken from my breast at gunpoint. Only then will uncertainty be resolved. So much depends upon the observer.

Lighter than air, my steps follow a gravel path to a patch of milkweed for which I’ve developed an exuberance: broad, alternating green leaves with hairy undersides; milky white latex sap; cloyingly sweet pink flowers; yellow, white, and black poker-chip caterpillars; red-orange beetles; black and orange monarch butterflies; brown seed pods with silken white filaments. The saturated morning beads on my forehead and runs in rivulets down the back of my neck. Condensation on a cooler object. Drop by drop I alone am pulling the Great Lake known as Michigan back from the clouds; it helps to have a purpose.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Glade Road

archaeological dig day one
my first wilderness camping trip
rookie tenderfoot greenhorn
at forty eight

everyone at basecamp a stranger
five volunteers me Ned Brett Doris Dee
chief cook and bottle washer Rob
intern Alice archaeologist Will
his good wife Irene

assignment for an afternoon walk
birds plants mammals reptiles
changes in weather conditions
fossils imbedded
manmade alterations to the landscape
anything unexpected
signs of human intrusion

stone artifacts already
a circle of blackened boulders
rusted tin cans empty in the underbrush
cowboys rustlers maybe railroad men
disturbing rubbish to me
a shiny beer can
grist for future archaeologists

my assignment weather
endless blue sky easy task no sweat
clipboard notes every fifteen minutes
a tiny thermometer
attached to my Swiss Army knife
wind velocity a licked finger

scrubby land pebbled buttes
here there now then nowhere
so too our little band
flat assumptions furrows unforeseen
fractures dried out gullies ankle-twisting
high desert a kaleidoscope

forward backward
horizon up horizon down
no idea direction of basecamp
no compass landmarks Ursa Minor light
no breadcrumbs silken threads
nothing but follow the leader

volunteer Ned decades older
in better shape no huff puff wheeze creak
at 8,000 feet no snakes either
walk talk casual conversation
pointed questions
nothing wrong with his memory

last night naked truth around the campfire
no need for secrets lies denial
projection repression
everyone at basecamp a stranger
me Ned Brett Doris Dee
Rob Alice Will
his good wife Irene
always forever happily ever after strangers
in five days goodbye farewell
ciao adios amigo
with not one iota of guilt

beyond the edge of nowhere
cumulus nimbus
towering premonitions
rip of wind
temperature drop
scribbles on the clipboard

daylight gone
in a rush now new rain gear
all thumbs quick hailstones
Ned experienced considerate hands
thunder sharp rain lightning
wavy white hair soaked
wet shirt pectoral deltoid bicep
saturated knight by my side
visibility under three feet
unbidden surprising surge of desire
swallowed intact

ten minutes later sky luminous
bright blue only a memory of cloud
peeled wet gear shaken stuffed stowed
perspective restored
our little band off in the distance