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NOAH, OUR ARK RIVAL

environment

We don’t have to travel between poles these days for polar extremes; we can just stay in one spot almost anywhere on Earth. Certainly this winter was a swinger, with thaws and freezes, and the spring keeps swinging, too. I keep thinking how hard it is to be a farmer. I can’t even get my garden planted.

We spent June 7 in Shorewood. In the morning we stood for an hour under skin-burning sun as we waited for our turn at the Police Department’s annual bike sale. Yet the day was no scorcher. After we bought bikes for two of our grandkids, I gardened, did chores, ran errands, then the phone rang.
“Grandma, are you still taking us to St. Roberts Fair?”
 “Well, there’s a tornado warning, severe storm warning, thunder, lightening, and it’s already raining. Are you sure you want to go?”
“Yes.”
It wasn't raining hard, and the tornado warning sirens were no longer wailing, so I grabbed a couple of ponchos and ran to visit the grandkids and try to change their minds.

At the fair the tents were closed, and fair-goers were gathered in the gym, several of them watching the weather report on TV. Inside the gym were cakes, candies, crafts, and used books, games, and videos; outside was the deluge.

We bought some books, then had a choice: waiting or wading. The children just wanted to get home, so we picked wading, and slogged through the streams on the sidewalks and in the streets. “Grandma, do you think there’ll be a flood?”

And that brings me to Noah. We can’t build arks and float our way out of this one. We may merely bail out our basements today. Bailing ourselves out of the mess humans have created on the planet will require drastic lifestyle changes. Worldwide. We’d better believe it.
 

NO PARKING, TEMPORARILY?

Shorewood

I was fast-walking along Olive, halfway between Murray and Oakland, when I saw the bus pass by, second time in a week I’d just missed it. Was I doomed to be a bus-misser?

No! I took off down Olive, heavy backpack bouncing. I wished I weren’t such a slow runner. At least the traffic moved slowly, Oakland being an obstacle course. I was a constant half-block behind the bus, couldn’t seem to get any closer. Ah! Red light at Capital, the bus was stuck there. First time in 39 years the interminable light functioned to my advantage, and I actually outran the bus.

That was April 19. And recently I saw a woman in her 80’s hobble along for almost a block and beat the bus to the bus stop. We still have the obstacle course. How long is it now?

I soak up people’s comments as I walk around Shorewood: “Are people in Shorewood very rich? They‘re doing all that work! Who’s paying for it?”

“At least it looks attractive and will last forever.”

“Why are they changing the street lights? What was wrong with the old ones?”

“Are the new lights solar-powered?”

“They should have gotten the road out of the way first, then done the walks.”

I’ve been concerned about the lack of concern for pedestrians, especially the elderly, the confusion in crossing the street and in finding safe pathways. And I’ve wondered about the effect of all this on business-owners.

The strangest part of the project is the four by eight foot (eyeball estimates!) concrete frames that surround the trees, go right to the curb, and are about six inches high! One friend wondered if they’d damage the plows when workers clear the walks in winter. I wondered whether they’d trip up pedestrians, especially when hidden under snow.

But there’s one comment that really sticks with me. Someone said, “I guess they’re not going to allow parking along Oakland.”
“What do you mean?”
“People won’t be able to open their car doors.” And she pointed to the framing around the trees. So now I’ve started looking at the height of car door bottoms.
 

LIVING LIFE STREAKED

Atwater, lake, poem, Shorewood

Several years ago I stood at the top of Atwater Bluff and watched a storm move over the lake, towards me, towards me, and finally above me. Everything I wore was wet with rainwater. I thought it was pure, clean, no need for the washer and dryer, I’d hang my soggy jeans on the line. That’s when I discovered the reek of acid rain.

Since then I haven’t purposely let a storm drench me, no matter how dramatic its entrance into the eastern sky. I do walk or bike to the bluff, especially for spring and summer sunsets, whenever I get the chance. Sometimes I merely admire the scene, sometimes I draw, sometimes I write. And I hope that the only drops falling on me will be eavesdrops.

My purse is filled with pieces of scrap paper, shorthand scribbles legible only to me. Here’s one about two or three weeks old: Two days ago at the verge of sunset, the Atwater Beachscape mesmerized all of us there to celebrate a break in the rains. The pastel pink clouds to the south were so distinct they appeared outlined. The still water, luminous as it reflected the vanishing light from the west, was streaked aqua and pink. And now I’m here again, same time of day, benched on the landing one flight above the sand.
“So many steps, this is absurd,” mutters someone climbing upwards.
“Long way down there,” says a woman peering from the top.
“A lotta stairs.”
“Look at all these steps.”
“It’s a long way down,” a boy’s voice this time.
The light gradually turns dreamlike, but tonight everyone’s looking at the steps.

Here’s a piece of paper that actually has a date, June 25: It’s stunning again tonight, but people as always trudge up and down, attention focused on steps instead of pink-blue sky reflected on pink-blue lake.
“I thought you said you were gonna carry me.”
“Carry you? No. You need an army to carry you!”
The redwing black birds converse in melodic bird chirps. It's hard to imagine what they're saying. Do they, too, love luminosity?
Still water, rippled streaks, colors subtle, alluring, luring me to stay when it’s time to go.
Bird speak, bird cheep, bird trill, tones sweet, getting dark, three-dimensional bird-sounds, gulls add their sour notes. It’s hard for me to leave the birdversation.

I’ve been a shore bird my whole life, writing, drawing, painting, contemplating. So I’ll end with one of my lake poems, written years ago:

THE DARK SIDE

Where the surface is textured
Like treads on a tire
The water is dark,
But where it is calm
There is light,
Where it is calm
There is light,
Perhaps that's why lakes
are streaked.

Where warmth and cold meet
There's traveling heat
Creating wind, gale, breeze.
If there were no cold,
where would warmth go?
If there were no cold,
where would warmth go?
Would there be currents
in lakes, lagoons, seas,
Would there be currents
in me?

The outside opposes,
Or flows with,
the currents beneath,
Affecting the light side
The dark side, the streaks.
What would light fill
If darkness weren't there?
What would light fill
If darkness weren't there?
Would there be currents
in me?

The inside opposes
or flows with
Crosses
or goes with
Exposes or hides.
Unlike the lake
our surface being skin
Makes less transparent
the currents within
The light sides, the dark sides
What do our hides hide?
Why do we live our lives streaked?
 

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