Wyoming Witch Wander

September 10, 2013 § Leave a comment

(photo from the weekend)

Last night, seven of us, all women, went on a walk after dinner, a longer walk than I’ve taken before. The hills were bronze with a coppery glow, and folds of darkness. September was present in the crisp edges and festive preliminaries to longing.

As we turned off the highway onto Cold Creek Road, the scrub began to let out more colors: lavender, mauve, ash, sage. The clouds were garlands of vivid rose-apricot flung against the soft blue.

Look! someone said: a mule deer at the top of a hill, outlined against the sky, almost directly beneath the crescent moon. We watched; the deer stood still; there was no genius with a video camera, only our sets of eyes and memories. Animal talk prevailed, including an informative disquisition on pack rats (White-throated Wood Rat, not Homo semi-Sapiens), and miniature dairy cows, which sadly do not come miniature enough to live in a NYC apartment, producing only enough for coffee and banana milkshakes. Where is genetic engineering when you need it?

After a further uphill stretch I said, “I feel like I’m on drugs,” meaning LSD, and a few agreed with me. The hills had a thousand colors and the color was vibrating; I could have sat all day watching the same place without ever seeing the same thing. Except, of course, that it was dusk and we had to turn back, though this took some argument.

Back at the homestead, Cecilia gave us a singing lesson in the living room. A small circle of women, feeling musically inadequate, were taught the basics of body-as-instrument, listening and imitating pitch. We sang “Home On The Range.” Tonight, we’re learning “Don’t Fence Me In, “ if I can get around to printing out the lyrics.

Summer camp for grownups. I’m very lucky.

Four Preludes on Playthings of the Wind
The past is a bucket of ashes


The woman named Tomorrow
sits with a hairpin in her teeth
and takes her time
and does her hair the way she wants it
and fastens at last the last braid and coil
and puts the hairpin where it belongs
and turns and drawls: Well, what of it?
My grandmother, Yesterday, is gone.
What of it? Let the dead be dead.


The doors were cedar
and the panels strips of gold
and the girls were golden girls
and the panels read and the girls chanted:
We are the greatest city,
the greatest nation:
nothing like us ever was.

The doors are twisted on broken hinges.
Sheets of rain swish through on the wind
where the golden girls ran and the panels read:
We are the greatest city,
the greatest nation,
nothing like us ever was.


It has happened before.
Strong men put up a city and got
a nation together,
And paid singers to sing and women
to warble: We are the greatest city,
the greatest nation,
nothing like us ever was.

And while the singers sang
and the strong men listened
and paid the singers well
and felt good about it all,
there were rats and lizards who listened
… and the only listeners left now
… are … the rats … and the lizards.

And there are black crows
crying, “Caw, caw,”
bringing mud and sticks
building a nest
over the words carved
on the doors where the panels were cedar
and the strips on the panels were gold
and the golden girls came singing:
We are the greatest city,
the greatest nation:
nothing like us ever was.

The only singers now are crows crying, “Caw, caw,”
And the sheets of rain whine in the wind and doorways.
And the only listeners now are … the rats … and the lizards.


The feet of the rats
scribble on the door sills;
the hieroglyphs of the rat footprints
chatter the pedigrees of the rats
and babble of the blood
and gabble of the breed
of the grandfathers and the great-grandfathers
of the rats.

And the wind shifts
and the dust on a door sill shifts
and even the writing of the rat footprints
tells us nothing, nothing at all
about the greatest city, the greatest nation
where the strong men listened
and the women warbled: Nothing like us ever was.

–Carl Sandburg

In the Autumn of my Years

September 5, 2013 § 1 Comment

This was, of course, 8,000 times more spectacular than this photo can capture

This was, of course, 8,000 times more spectacular than this photo can capture

I lay on the grass last night, looking at the big stars in the midnight blue sky. There were tatters of clouds barely visible, slung between the stars like fishing nets. I’d been reading about Climate Change and felt intensely grateful for the still-sweet and welcoming earth. One of the things I came to Wyoming for—that opening out of the senses that only happens to me in nature—was right there, tapping me on the shoulder. Just stop thinking. So I did.


This used to come so easily—the profound peace that attends an intense awareness of beauty—that it woke a lot of questions about the universe, life, meaning and so on. Now it comes rarely and I have no questions. I’m a body, breathing. Just for now. Not for later and memory is a story with an unreliable narrator.

Why don’t I spend more time on my back in the grass at night, out where a person can see stars? A mosquito came and whined in my ear. I went inside.

Novels are so finicky. They don’t want to be changed too fast or too much. They’re like children, impatient for pleasure, distrustful of the unknown. They want their own beds and more chocolate.

“You’re not alive,” I whisper to my novel. “You’re just a heap of words, which represent ideas or sounds or a gestalt of meaning, depending on who you ask. You have no soul.” And then my novel transforms itself with cruel witchery into a beautiful woman who shows me the infinity of her possibilities: a million lives, cities, men, powers.

Mississippi: Origins

My parents come from a place where all the houses stop
at one story

for the heat. Where every porch—front
and back—simmers in black screens that sieve

mosquitoes from our blood. Where everyone knows
there’s only one kind of tea:

served sweet. The first time my father
introduced my mother to his parents,

his mother made my mother change
the bed sheets in the guest room. She’d believed it

a gesture of intimacy. My grandmother
saved lavender hotel soaps and lotions

to wrap and mail as gifts at Christmas. My grandfather
once shot the head off a rattlesnake

in the gravel driveway of the house he built
in Greenwood. He gave the dry rattle to my mother

the same week I was born, saying, Why don’t you
make something out of it.

Anna Journey


Let Me Wander Over Yonder

August 6, 2009 § 1 Comment

MKD cat circa...

Grand Canyon, 1979

I’m imagining red arches of stone; the desert at night, cactus and stars; huge trees covered in vines and moss, the air thick with greeny-gold light. I’ve been looking at pictures of National Parks and wondering, for the 10,000th time, why I’ve haven’t been to one since Charles and I stopped with our cat Lucian at the Grand Canyon on our way to California.

There’s always a reason. In past years, the reasons were better: I had a country house to go to. A little, moth-breeding, mouse-occupied wood and stone house that wouldn’t let go in the summer, especially once I started gardening. If I still had that house, last night’s moon would have been close enough to climb to on a ladder, as in the wonderful story by Italo Calvino in Cosmicomics. I would sit in the kitchen doorway watching the parade of animals eating my lumpy yard, my own private Africa, and talking to the snake that lived under the doorstep and liked to pop its head up in the morning to say hello. I would make mint tea with my own mint and climb up the mountain to pick blueberries. (Okay, maybe drive up the mountain. You had to drive to get where the blueberries were. But I’d clamber over the big, uneven stones.)

This year there’s no house: the reason is money. I have to finish the novel, try to sell it, make a last, desperate attempt to stay in New York. If I fail and have to move to Florida, there will be many compensations, like being part of a couple again, swimming in a warm ocean, and maybe having time and money for car trips and camping. Plus Charles would get to be with Mouchette, for whom he feels a tragic, romantic love (at least that’s what he said in an email to Fitzroy). The cats would be happier in Florida. They could go outside, hang with the neighborhood cats (lots of them) and chase geckos. What’s not to like?

I love New York too much. So does Charles—he doesn’t want us to lose our grip on it, this rent-regulated apartment that once gone will be gone forever, like the country house. No living in Greenwich Village after that. I’d miss the museums, theater, restaurants, people, one in particular; and I’d miss walking around the city, especially my patch of it—from Soho to Chelsea, from the Hudson to the Tompkins Square Park.

But the city is not at its best in August. I feel cramped in my little apartment, and the cats are always watching me. When I think of the rest of my life, the pleasures that beckon are reading and nature. Passion—passion’s hard. It’s eaten holes in my brain. (It’s possible dementia did that, but passion and dementia are second cousins.) I’m even a little afraid of friendship. The idea of everyone I love getting inexorably older scares me. Getting older myself is no picnic either.

But arches of red stone. The desert at night, cactus and stars. They’re old already, vastly old, and still here and beautiful. And fireflies, moths, the moon, rabbits. Poetry.

A Rabbit as King of the Ghosts

The difficulty to think at the end of day,
When the shapeless shadow covers the sun
And nothing is left except light on your fur—

There was the cat slopping its milk all day,
Fat cat, red tongue, green mind, white milk
And August the most peaceful month.

To be, in the grass, in the peacefullest time,
Without that monument of cat,
The cat forgotten in the moon;

And to feel that the light is a rabbit-light,
In which everything is meant for you
And nothing need be explained;

Then there is nothing to think of. It comes of itself;
And east rushes west and west rushes down,
No matter. The grass is full

And full of yourself. The trees around are for you,
The whole of the wideness of night is for you,
A self that touches all edges,

You become a self that fills the four corners of night.
The red cat hides away in the fur-light
And there you are humped high, humped up,

You are humped higher and higher, black as stone—
You sit with your head like a carving in space
And the little green cat is a bug in the grass.

~Wallace Stevens

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