What was the thrill when we were young of rolling rocks off mountain tops? To set a flat rock up and give a shove and see a cornered shape become a wheel and blur with speed, jump over logs and other rocks, remaining vertical and fast, exhilarated us. Round rocks were fun but obvious. It was the awkward ones that took some skill to make then start and stay upright. Was it a sense of power to watch the heavy ones accelerate and even fly? Or was it more a satisfaction to move chunks and pieces of the summit to the lower slopes? It seemed an act of magic to release a rock to gravity and let it soar, like launching kites or giving stones an independent life to spin, long after we let go of them, to lower elevations, out of sight, though we could hear their noise in leaves, like we had given spark to the inanimate, at least for the descent, spun wild and free as we ourselves would like to be.
Where hickory nuts have fallen on the pavement and been crushed by tires, the hulls and shells are scattered as debris across the lanes. The meat, the tender nuggets, have been squashed to crumbs and blown away except for oil stains on the asphalt and the rocks. So all the work of sun on summer leaves and sugary sap from roots and rain and minerals and photosynthesis is left as smudges of the richest fat to shine there even after storms, but wear away and finally fade beneath the traffic of the fall, the buttery flesh marks soon erased on time’s unceasing interstate.
When once a field of hay is cut and raked and baled and carried off, the stubble left is bare to sun. The heated ground and sap in roots force up a surge of later growth. New shoots and sprouts from stubs stretch out and spread as in a race with season’s end. The older roots in place in soil fuel what is called an aftermath or rowen, as the blades mature for later yield, this overplus, an opulence of further growth, and extra juice, the way some elderly that though retired may have a second flower, an Indian summer of late bloom, with roots set deep in veteran earth before the frost can work its math.
That bogs were sacred places once may seem surprising to us now, who see the mire as something to avoid, a place of stench and rot, a sty of muck and queasiness, until we recognize the deep morass is open, always open, to sky, exposed to stars and rain and lightning’s tongue, while soil in woods is hidden. And bogs have access also to the mysteries of earth’s interior, like secret wells of natural gases, terrible dark of subterranean passages, so this unhealing wound in land can serve as portal where the air and underworld can mingle, blend, as heaven touches hell and thought can meld with the unconscious weald in this quick sore that’s never healed.
Long Term Cooling
On coldest nights the house will pop in corners and along the walls, way up among the rafters, down along the joists and sills. As wood contracts in wicked cold the nails tear loose, boards strain and shriek and pull apart with powerful knocks and breaks that seem the cracks of cosmic doom echoing the original vast bang, the long term cooling off, throughout the whole of actual time, echoing still the first sublime.
In mud that lines the bottom of a pond we find the layers of fine silt from many rains and thaws, as well as pollen from the trees and flowers around the area. And also bits of charcoal from the wildfires in adjacent woods, and wings of insects, fungus spores, and tiny algae plants, all caught in creamy sediments that serve as archive of the biosphere as well as almanac of trash from our society, with crusts of Styrofoam and plastic, nails, and bottles resting there among the toxic muck and rusting toys. And yet this coating of the basin has a retinal brightness too, a heightened sensitivity beneath the humor of the pond, suggesting rods and cones that watch not only light and dark and clouds but also deep in time to both the past and far beyond our death.