Archives for posts with tag: observation

It’s been 40 days. I counted them. 40 days since I saw that lone mallard duck.

I was on a walk. As I approached the edge, just about to pass the memorial that is like a small park, but in some ways is also like a cemetery with a design that invites you to enter to sit at one of the granite slabs, invites you to read the descriptions, to honor those that have served, to feel comfort in the tall birch trees that stand among the tufted grass, their white skin peeling off like pages in a book.

And when you approach from any direction, you see the tall slabs of granite that grace the edge of the sidewalk, water trickling down. In the middle you see the shallow geometrical shapes, filled with water, and down the center is a long path–the entire memorial is meant to be walked, to soak in the beauty, to take in the quiet, taking our minds somewhere, to make us think and appreciate. You can walk up and put your hand into the water. I’ve seen teenage boys ride their bikes through. I cringe when they do, only because it doesn’t feel like that’s what it’s meant for, but it’s so inviting, and at the same time, it causes a quiet stir inside.

So, it was here that I was taken aback when I saw a single mallard peering into his own reflection or so it seemed. He stood at the edge of the water just looking in as though he was in a trance. I walked past and continued on with my walk.

The next day I walked the same path and I hoped to see the mallard. I did. Only this time he was curled up near the same spot that I saw him the day before. I felt sad. I asked myself why I felt sadness. Was it because I wasn’t used to seeing ducks alone or appearing as if they are in contemplation and then snuggled up as if they are suffering a great loss.

I sat at one of the granite slabs and watched the mallard. It was peaceful, even as the street traffic passed by.

And then there came a passerby and he began snapping photos with his camera. He approached the mallard, the mallard got up and walked away and snuggled up in a different spot. The man tried again, only to cause the mallard to move again. Finally, the man stopped.

The mallard resumed his repose.

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I heard my name through the intercom. I left the bookshelf and walked to the back counter to see what the offer was. I wasn’t expecting much, maybe three dollars for three small bags of books. I set my expectations low, knowing anything more would be a bonus.

Twenty-two dollars–not bad.

I saw my stacks of books there. I felt a slight pang and wanted to reach for them and take them back. No, I reasoned, it was time to let them go. And there would be more in due time because there are books for keeping and books for giving up. The buyer looked at the one nearest me.

“Did you read this one?”

I placed my hand on top of the slender book.

“This one? Yes–in parts. I probably didn’t give it the attention it deserved.”

Where did this come from. I had read it, but it was so long ago.

“It reminds me of–” He rattled off a few unknown names, more independents. She wanted to reach for her notebook, so she could jot them down and look them up later. Instead, she nodded, listened, saw the excitement in his face.

He turned back to his register to complete the transaction.

“I really like the cover art,” she said.

“Yeah. It’s beautiful. Reminds me of a friend’s book. He was in an MFA program and this cover reminds me of one of his.”

“Ah, I actually found this one at the Berkeley Museum of Art’s bookstore. They had a small section of books that were on sale.

“Oh, yeah–really?”

I signed my name and took the receipt to the middle of the store and cashed in on the books I sold.

Those hummingbirds–that book–that I did read: one poem contained within its slender, white casing–a rumination that I read so long ago remembering the beautiful jacket cover more than the words inside; though, from flipping through the first few pages, just before saying goodbye, just before placing it inside the bag, just before placing it back out into the world–the words were ethereal, they beat like the wings of a butterfly and shimmered like the coat of a hummingbird, now out of my hands, but in memory–as a bitter sweet parting.

Piercing blue eyes,
he, curved into his core,
a hand that trembles;
white hair, a lazy leg.

Making his living, in the last
stages of his life, washing away
the grime, making sure we can see
clearly, daydream through those clear windows,
watch the passerby.

I see him from time to time. The last,
before this, I wept.

I wept because I felt that I
was looking upon one of God’s Angels–

The moment I whispered these words aloud
for only my ears: ‘that is one of God’s Angels’–
the tears trailed down my face.

birch trees
stand like white ghosts
their leaves sway
whispering secrets to the wind

&

A little brown bird swoops in, pecks daintily at the earth, scratching his feathers, not minding my presence one bit.

&

A crow off in the distance staring into the grass, looking for some treat.

The trees continue their conversation with the wind.

The crow swaggers along the path to a different patch of grass. His beautiful, black body holds my gaze, he shimmers in the sun’s light, as the image melds–the breeze, the grass, the little bird, the stranger who has joined me on this bench. We sit in silence.

the silence breaks by the caw-caw of the crow;
he flies to his tree,
sounds his siren again,
echoes ripple back;
the scent of dry earth and bark perfume the air–
caught by the breeze.

I’ve been thinking about you
since I haven’t seen you in
weeks, now months.

At the intersection, as I wait for
the light to turn from red to green;
the streets seem empty without
you rolling your cart around. I often
wonder what you kept in that case of yours.

I used to see you at the cafe, smoking your
cigarettes, smoke rising above you.

If I had to guess, I would say you were in
your seventies and I would only hope to
age as you have–you had a certain spark in
how you walked with purpose, slightly
stooped, not letting anything stop you.

I used to see you walking and walking, walking
everywhere and I’d pass you on the street,
and so many times when you were sitting at
the cafe puffing on your cigarette, I wanted so much
to stop and say hello, sit down, have a conversation.

You see, I saw something of myself in you, rolling
along–alone–alone in a way that makes being alone
lovely–like a single flower on its stem.

Driving down the highway, we pass hills and trees. I keep my eyes open for cows; and then I see Coots, those black bundles that get a running start on the water before they take off; and I see one lone bird perched high in the branches, small and hidden away, but seeing everything.

And on this past Saturday, the clouds formed a parachute, wrapping the sky in a weave pattern that made me want to climb on up and see the land from up above.

Highway turned to narrow country roads and the image that has stayed with me is of one white Heron standing in the grassland with a fence between him and another white Heron on the other side of the fence. They were looking at each other from at least 15 feet apart–looking as though they had found themselves in a mirror, looking carefully and cautiously into each other’s eyes from that distance. It was a sight that like a pebble thrown into a still lake has rippled throughout my being.

Friday afternoon I took a walk during my work break. On my way back to the office, at the stoplight, I waited for the signal to turn to green and when it did, I first looked to my left to the car that was eager to turn right into the crosswalk, even though I had the right away. I caught his eye and began to walk. As he passed, his foot was clearly pressed hard to the accelerator—body language—from his irritation and his impatience directed toward and out of his car.

I was annoyed. It seems that I also have a tendency to take humans communicating through their cars personally. I made it to the other side of the crosswalk, onto the sidewalk, when I saw a man and his dog. The dog was a grown puppy. He reminded me of my childhood dog whom I loved dearly. He was my pal. This puppy was a lighter golden color. When I set my eyes on the puppy, all traces of my annoyance faded away. Forgotten. A large smile covered my face as I continued to watch the puppy walk with his floppy legs and happy gait. He was a couple of paces behind his owner. Walking and walking, happy and adorably clumsy, then the puppy lifted a leg and peed right there—in the middle of the sidewalk. I was about seven feet behind. I didn’t laugh, but I continued smiling. The man saw me. He tried to pull gently on the puppy’s leash. It was no use. He then said to the puppy, “really? Here. Really?”

“Is he a retriever?” I asked, slowing down, as I was about to pass. He answered that yes he was. “He is absolutely adorable,” I said.

“Thank you. I really appreciate that,” he said, holding the leash as the puppy finished his business. As I walked by, the puppy gave me a quick hello with his snout. I moved ahead appreciative to see such a happy puppy with not a care in the world. I walked back to work with a lighter step.