The Two-Legged Ones

Walter Kirn, who writes the “Easy Chair” column in Harper’s, reported on his August visit to Standing Rock  in the December 2016 issue.

In August Standiing Rock was

“a spectacular sight: thousands of Indians camped on the banks of the Cannonball River, on the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota. . . awaiting a federal court decision on whether construction of a $3.7 billion oil pipeline from the Bakken region to Southern Illinois will be halted.”  — New York Times

On the fourth of December, with thousands still standing ground but now in freezing cold

“the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that it will not be granting the easement to cross Lake Oahe for the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline. Instead, the Corps will be undertaking an environmental impact statement to look at possible alternative routes.” — standwithstandingrock.net

Now on March tenth thousands marched at the White House, for as we know, President Trump with a quick flick of his pen, signed

“an executive order that reversed a decision by the previous administration of Democratic President Barack Obama to delay approval of the Dakota pipeline, a $3.8 billion project by Energy Transfer Partners LP.” — New York Times

Tribes gathered in D.C. for several days ahead of the protest.
Paul J. Richards/AFT/Getty. Huffington Post

It was a very personal article, quite thoughtful and revealing both about the happenings at Standing Rock and about Kirn himself.  But the highlight in it for me, and the reason I sought out his website which has led me to add his books to my reading list, was the next to last paragraph.  A little mistake caused me to chuckle.  It wasn’t the error that the editor appended to the Letters section in January 2017’s edition, so I know they check for errors.

“Because of an editing error, “Standing Rock Speaks” [Easy Chair, December], by Walter Kirn, misstated the year of the American Indian Movement’s occupation of Wounded Knee. This event occurred in 1973, not 1972. We regret the error.”

Here’s what made me smile.  Kirn wrote:

Photo: Joe McKenna/Flickr Creative Commons

On my way to the camp, I parked along the river’s banks and watched it drag last spring’s Montana snowmelt slowly south across the prairies. There was a crow, of course, yakking on a tree branch, grouchy, ornery. Crows are often considered tricksters, and in some legends crows created the world. But now it is all ours, not theirs. It belongs to us, the two-legged ones.

Crows have two legs, the right one is peaking out from behind the left, believe me.

Advertisements

The Ultra Bulk

2016-04-15 21.13.34 copy (1) Germantown Channel on the Hudson River at 9:13 this morning

The Ultra Saskatoon, known to her friends as Ultra Bulk, passed by this morning as I was attempting to take a photo of the many fishermen who were beginnning to fill Cheviot Landing.  There’s a full parking lot right now, mostly boat trailers, but relatively few  fishermen in the park.  One boat is coming in as I write.

There’s been a lot of car traffic going up and down the tracks, although only one very big barge. Looking north I see cars parked here and there, and I’m sure there is lots of activity in the other direction also.  Hope there are enough fish to go around.

2016-04-15 21.12.44

I looked up Ultra Bulk to see where she was from and maybe what she had carried on different voyages, and found her! along with her full name, that she was built in 2012, that she is 656 feet long, she can carry 34778 tons and that she sails under the Panama flag.  Someone told me there was a site like this several years ago, but didn’t know the name.  I looked in vain and finally gave up.  It’s marinetraffic.com.

Ultra Bulk is currently on route from New York City to Albany at a speed of 8.3kn.  Her ATD was 11:23 last night and her ETA in Albany is 6:30, sorry, 18:30 this evening.  I’ll check to see if she’s on time and if my photo is posted there.

Eight in the morning

Houseboat Closeup by LeeTwo men, one in a salt and pepper beard, both in tan caps, hooded sweatshirts and faded jeans, standing and talking and drinking coffee at the park. One smokes a cigarette. I can’t get a good look at them since my eyes are so bad even with my binoculars, but they could be Louie. They look out at the river, at the house boat, at the island and the causeway and the barge that just passed by going south. They meander about but don’t cover too much ground — down to the water’s edge and back to the fence. Two cars. Did they plan to meet or just bump into each other on the way to work. They spend some time looking up at the sky. I want to make up a story. Oops. One just walked back from the waters edge. I started typing so I missed seeing what he did down there on the rocks. Perhaps he peed. I’d love to catch one of them peeing. But now they’ve taken out fishing gear. They must be the two that were there late afternoon yesterday.  Is it striper season already?

They don’t look up at the house. Do they feel as the twenty-something year old me did when I went with a neighbor to visit friends in Brooklyn Heights?  We walked along the Promenade and saw people on their decks having drinks and barbecuing and children doing children things. I wondered how it must have felt to live there, in such a singular place, and yet have a parade walking by every day looking up at you living your life. I guess I know now. Sometimes you watch them and sometimes you don’t. And you wonder about them as they do you — or not at all.

——————————————————————————————————–

Republished with Poetry — because I think that’s what it is.

Fourteen joys and a will to be merry

IMG_0067Tuesday morning the flag that flies in the park outside my kitchen window was flying at half-mast. It was important to know why.

Two of my friends had died quietly the day before: one was more like family. Although they lived next door to each other, near the park, neither of them had any clout in town. The flag wasn’t lowered for them. It was eerie.

My friends were in many ways similar.

Both spent a lot of time by themselves. It seemed by choice. They did enjoy socializing, and each of them could be great company.

Both loved the Hudson. One kayaked on it, the other swam in it.

IMG_0062They both spent a lot of time gazing at it from their back porches, and they knew that it was forever changing, and that it would always be revealing more but not all of its secrets.

DucksThey loved the birds – the birds in the air and on the water. They watched each other watch a duck family that crossed through our contingent yards several days in a row on their way to the water. We never did find out where the ducks were coming from. Perhaps they nested at the pond down the road. It seemed a long walk for little ducklings, but one theory is as good as another for the story.

foxBefore&AfterTuckThey both observed the animals that darted out from the lilacs and sumac that bordered the tracks – mostly bunnies, but there were others. One took a picture of the sickly fox that roamed the shore, the other took the fox out of its misery.

They both were survivors. She fought breast cancer and was determined to beat it. She reminded me of my husband Clark who fought until he didn’t have the strength to sit on the tractor and mow the orchard anymore.

My other friend’s body was full of buckshot. We knew it was in his ear, but not until the xrays the day he died did we know that his body was riddled with shot, especially in one leg. He started gagging and gasping for breath on Thursday, and by the weekend Lee and I knew that he deserved a better life than the one he would have if he started the regimen to cure himself.

IMG_0055They both were creative. She maintained beautiful gardens, mostly in large planters. I like to look down on them from my top deck. We talked plants a lot, and also animals, and neighbors, and always the river. Her husband gave me one of her pottery pieces for our “tower toasting” just a few days before she died. It is next to me on my desk. Lee and I knew when she went into the hospital the last time she might not make it to our celebration.

Tuck 2 062013 LeeMy other friend, whom if you haven’t guessed was my dog Tuck, was creative too. He could find a way to get out of anything – almost. She called him Houdini. I think she would have loved to find a way out of her body and run with him.

What does one do when two friends die on the same day? I got into the car and drove to see my mother. She has had to depend upon someone for help in her daily life for the past ten years. She acknowledged me and smiled and I told her the news of the family, and in five – ten minutes she dozed off again. I held her hand drawing in whatever motherly comfort I could.

When in transit, I’m nowhere, a good place to be when you don’t want to be anywhere else. I sing with favorite music or listen to books. This four-hour round trip the book was A Wolf at the Table: A Memoir of my Father by Augusten Burroughs. I hurt for the little boy who longed for his father’s love and had created a reality where he and his father shared a special relationship complete with little rituals. Finally Augusten discovered how wrong he was.

The tape kept running. I was no longer listening, but had had my own breakthrough. Life, death, love, loss, yesterday, tomorrow had all come together and I was happy to be alive. The memories of these two friends, whose times were up, were now part of me, along with the memories of others who had touched me in one way or another.

At home I read the blurb on the audiobook cover: “. . .Though harrowing and brutal, [the book] will ultimately leave you buoyed with the profound joy of simply being alive.” Come on, I thought, this is ridiculous.

It’s now Thursday and I’m somehow picking away at this feeling of joy by wondering if I should feel guilty for loving life while others are struggling just to live another day. Every now and then this pesky theme of mine surfaces and Lee, bless his heart, tells me it is good to enjoy life. I always come up with qualifications.

But here’s to a great neighbor and my dog Tuck, and here’s to my neighbor’s husband who shall grieve as long as he needs, and here’s to Lee, my constant companion and our lost spouses, and here’s to my mother, my sons, my friends, my extended family, Tuck’s vet, and here’s to you.

Love,

Spoonbeam

Tuck loved to be free —

Tuck 4 062013 LeeWatching him bound across
the field by the creek made
my toes curl.

Even when he bolted
it was impossible to scold him.
He always came back – full of burrs
and sticks and leaves,
soaking wet,
satisfied and glad to be a dog.

We’d leave the gate open if he were
still out when
we went to bed.

Sometimes I secretly really wanted him
to break away,
squeeze through the fence,
escape the leash,
chase a bunny,
but I
wouldn’t admit it.

What if he
frightened a child?
dug up a garden?
snatched a chicken?

What if he were
hit by the train?
attacked by a coyote?
snagged on a wire?
shot by a neighbor?

He had no use for treats or bribes,
could take or leave his meals,
didn’t sleep on a pillow,
fetch sticks, bother with toys.

He had been wild once,
I was told, in his life before
I knew him

but it must not have been all good

because always he came back to us,
because he always tried his best
to be a loyal, beloved pet,
extending his paw to all, and
keeping an eye on Jaxon,

because he walked proudly at my side,
tail tall and curled,
fluffed like a drum major’s feathers,
on lookout for suspicious dogs on leashes,
and people who might hurt me.

At least that’s what people told me —
that he would protect me.

He was a proud descendant of wolves:
his body peppered with buckshot,
he preferred to sleep outside.

He had a fierce bark, which he didn’t use often,
and it surprised me each time I heard it.

His ballsiness was well noted:
his kennel name was Manly.

His last few days were Hell.

We said goodbye.

He closed his eyes
and went to sleep.