Friday, July 17, 2009

Recently I was at the local coffee shop and a friend showed me a picture she'd taken on vacation. It was a pretty bland shot of someone standing by a car, but in the foreground, captured in the flash, it seemed, was a wonderful glowing something - something with legs and wings. I asked if it was a mosquito. It kind of looked like one, and she'd just been to Alaska, so I was ready for a "the mosquitoes were soooooo big..." story. She kind of sighed and said "some people think so" and that was the end of that. Oops. It was one of those litmus test things. How cool is Mer? Will she say "OMG, is that a Fairy?" Nope. Sorry.

Its not that I have anything against the idea of fairies - or nature spirits or communicating with the unseen world or whatever floats yer boat. But I'm not into that these days. Its the evil little buddhist in me. I don't see any need to look for magic in the world because, frankly, I find the world pretty darned magical already.

It irks me when people do things like that, try to suss out if I'm "okay" based on some willingness on my part to Believe (or not). Maybe they're just looking for connection - probably so. And I can't connect in that way. If you want to talk about how lovely is a mosquito, caught in a flash, I'm right there. Beautiful in its articulated, chitinous majesty, possessed of the glorious power of flight. That's enough magic, right there. A normal, everyday miracle.

Those miracles are overlooked, disregarded, belittled. That's a sad thing. Dirt is miraculous, even without gnomes and trolls to populate it. Its rich with smell and texture. Rainbows are marvels of chance refraction without leprechauns. Snowflakes are a wonder without Santa Clause or the Nativity. Flowers are sexy without sprites living in them, and the ocean has no need of sirens and mermaids. Life is a miracle and a mystery. No-one knows why its here. There are theories - theories of chance combinations over millennia and theories of supernatural intervention, but nobody knows, really. Why is there life or why is any one thing, bacteria, plant, person, alive right now. Lots of good reasons why things die, but none why they don't. That kind of miracle. The quiet every day kind that get ignored because they're so commonplace.

There's a great bug movie, if you like bugs and other creepy crawlies, called "Microcosmos". Its got the sexiest snails ever to hit the big screen (no shit, you should see these two go at it!) and a great final shot of an "everyday miracle" a metamorphasis from a nymph, the new adult rising out of the water in a silver halo... and then you realize its a mosquito and sort of shiver all over as it flies away with that characteristic whine. Its beautifully creepy. For the record, I'll swat the little buggers in an instant, and squish fleas and ticks, and smush spiders... but they're still more beautiful than anything I could possibly imagine.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009


Summertime in Dismal is creek time! The Dismal creek isn't really big enough for swimming (its more of a brook), so we head over to Dry Creek. The pic at the header of the blog is from Dry Creek, one of the swimming holes we visit. This year, we've been exploring new swimming holes along the same creek. Its been hot, so the spring fed creek water is a welcome relief, and I've found places I can drive right down to the water and not have to lug all our snacks and floats and chairs and snorkels and knitting and books and toys....

Going to the creek is timeless. Here's a journal entry from last year that never made it as far as this blog, that meanders into some newer commentary:

Morgan is sitting and watching the creek go by. This is the child I used to call "my ninety mph kid." She's still a busy, active young person, and has become quite the chatterbox at times, besides. Lately she's had these long slow silences, though. She's not "thinking" in the sense of having some kind of internal dialog. She's "just" looking around and taking everything in.

Daydreaming is frowned upon in our culture. Its wasteful or shameful or something. I remember feeling a need to conceal my rich fantasy life as a child. Too silly, too unrealistic, or worst of all too interesting to adults - you should write that down! But if I did, of course it had to be edited and critiqued. C'mon, Mer, you're smart, you can do better than this. So I learned to write in code or not write at all. And then had to learn not to think, besides.

I remember feeling that a good class, good book, good day was one where I wasn't tempted to daydream. Now I wonder how many parents are towing kids from school to club to activity - and how many kids are going along with that, even wanting that, to avoid that very same thoughtfilledness I eschewed for so many years.

With Morgan, I have the opportunity to see different kinds of thoughtfilledness. She has long, half-vocalized conversations with her self. She doesn't appreciate being interrupted, so I've learned not to ask what they're about. They seem to range across a variety of topics, from what I can hear; puns, numbers, the motility of crawdads and fresh water fish. Sometimes her thoughts become motion, or construction, or lead her to ask a question or share a discovery. Other times these monologues taper off into one of her slow silences. The silences are another kind of thoughtfilledness - although perhaps meditation or contemplation would be better words for that. She tells me, when asked, that she's not "thinking words." She's absorbed in the movement of the creek, or the venation of a leaf, or the details of the life of Sandy Squirrel.

More recently, Morgan has been doing a lot of writing, and she spends a good bit of time actively thinking about what she want to write and how she wants to write it. She paces, composing dialog or arranging plots, tapping her finger on her chin as she does so. She has a busy internal life, filled with characters, scenes and settings. Walking down the creek with her the other day she paused at each bend to view the upcoming stretch of territory and decide "this part is peaceful" or "this is the spooky part," as though she were a cinematographer looking for a setting.

The periodic glimpses of Mo's inner world fascinate me, perhaps more so because she expresses them so tersely in person. She still doles out words like little haikus much of the time, although, as I said before, she's much chattier now than ever before.

Morgan's friend Iris, with whom we have spend many days at the creek, is far wordier than Mo. I enjoy her blatant expositions. At the creek, recently, she was delighted to inform me that she was collecting sticks to build a boat so that she and her mother could go sailing. At the same time, Mo was conducting and experiment with a plastic toy boat, releasing it at the top of a small "rapids" and dashing downstream to catch it. Over and over and over, following the boat with her eyes as it spun into backwaters or careened over stones, each trip a different story in her mind.

Creeks are magical places, lending themselves well to meditation and metaphor, in addition to their more practical values - cool and wet on our dry, hot summer days. Every trip to the creek is a hundred journeys: scientific excursions to sample flora and fauna and geology, studies of physics and fluid dynamics, fantasies of sailing, of being colorful aquatic creatures, of building magical portals or discovering a Sacred Jewel shard, picnics, swimming practice and contemplative hours.

George's mom loves to travel, and yet she regularly sends cards and postcards that she makes of her favorite "creek" (as we'd say in the south, in New England they call it a river, heathen yankees that they are), the Ponagansett in Foster RI. She goes there regularly, as we go to Dry Creek regularly. It was a childhood haunt of George, and we visit it almost every time we go East. Creeks make good touchstones, like that. They are ever changing - the banks alter with heavy rain, the wildlife comes and goes, the seasons are clear and sharper, it seems. And yet, that continual change lends them an air of stability, an eternal quality. Its no wonder that waterways have such symbolic value in literature and religion. At the same time, they send us onward and they call us home.