Bearing witness is the only nature project available. It comes from the title of Victor Klemperer’s memoir about Nazis from 1933 to 1941. Or bearing witness could be from a Roman writer about 219AD. Like we are watching the slow downhill, watching as the percentages shift from hope (50, 40, 30) to non-hope (50, 60, 70). NOT to despair because that is a thing in itself and sort of final, inasmuch as it has to be turned around by something convincing. This is an on-going, living, breathing thing, this non-hope, this thing we have to see out of, the lens of our days.
Of course the following paragraph must be deposited. I mean, yesterday eve about 7:30p, the light a twilight due to escaping dark clouds and I drive up to my house arrived back from pizza with a friend, undo myself from seat belt, and step into the street. Down the block are folk at the intersection and therefore a wide view from my corner lot which on this particular summer eve includes a double rainbow high high above where I normally don’t look. The people are my favorite people come to share this with me. They who always make me feel safe and singular do so this time too. We point and exclaim, wondering in which part of town lies the pot of gold this evening as opposed to any other. The youngster’s glasses reflect the light tempered as bright twilight in the breadth of blues and faint pink which undergirds the clear, obvious flare of a full prism, green to violet, sharp as a color wheel.
What did the ancients think this was? Obviously a message from a very very large painter, something having to do with rain, or an omen endorsing the plans for war tomorrow. What do we make of it? We are charmed and glad to be together, silently crediting our respective spiritual practices to give us the calm and largesse to be at ease with this very mysterious phenomenon, not dismissive as though this were TV. On the contrary, whatever the contrary is.
While perambulating the perimeter of the estate, walking the fence line, assessing the damage, this morning of this thirty year old lot, I found: bees in the bee balm, instar in the milkweed, and a rabbit (of mine, can I say?) which, once flushed out of the phlox, made its way under the lilac on the far side through what I could see was a tunnel only after he’d ducked through the rose of sharon coming up and the grape vine. He’s happy now.
This July day does not belong to me but apparent to my vision are yellow lilies just coming on, giant milkweed with a few monarch eggs I am watching, tomatoes ripening slowly, Echinacea all over the place, St John’s Wort (where did that come from?), Queen Anne’s Lace, white phlox heavily damaged by powdery mildew, fading anemone, rue still with no flowers, white statice. And umpteen greeneries and opportunists. But most importantly bugs, lots of bugs. I find I thank heaven (a terrain no different) when I see a bug now and I wish them safe passage. If they are inside I take them outside which they will like better.
Riot of Monarchs. Is that a term of venery? It should be. They, the monarchs, revolted not too long ago, very mad and asking for habitat back which some of us have done, e.g. me, with milkweed, two kinds. Lucky for butterflies, I am here (what possible help could luck be to a butterfly, their whole thing being completely improbable and contrary to the laws of weights and measures). Milkweed grows like topsy, maybe it is topsy. Lucky for you, I’m no botanist because botany is boring. Until it’s critical of course, like life or death, as in fruits and vegetables. Until you very much can’t live without it.
As the wine this evening comes on, I have bees again in the monarda which next to monarchs flitting and flitting is my favorite thing. This old tired human loves to look at them as they devour whatever there is in the purple center of that soft flower, and they project joyfulness (the title of this notebook, the reason I write this down) orgasmic in its thoroughness, legs and torso and top of the head, roving and rolling in the equivalent of music, your choice here, Mozart maybe. And that they undertake this “work” for the sake of the hive! That this joy redounds to the whole lot! is actually required!
Ah, another monarch or maybe it’s the same one. I’m too dumb to know. And from where I sit in this wicker chair in early evening on my own patio, I can see three separate caterpillar bodies. Of course, they’re separate. I mean discrete, unique individuals is what I meant.
Riot of monarchs. Funny and ironic. A contradiction I suppose, as what would monarchs have to riot about being in charge of everything? Only the king of butterflies is not in charge of anything, is he.
The dill is gone. Not “the thrill”, you libertine, but the dill. They ate it all, the black swallowtail caterpillars of which there were a dozen ate every little lacy bit. And then disappeared. Pfft. Gone. I can’t see them or anything my meagre education informs me to look for. There were so many and now there are none. I’ve plenty of ideas about it, none of them meaningful, e.g. birds got ‘em, whole swoop of caterpillar eating birds came for a feast.
(there’s a monarch couple off to the southeast)
(Oh, one’s stopped on top of the Echinacea which, as you know, is a burnt orange color this time of year. The butterfly is at it like a drag queen loving what she does, saying “oh gurlfriend, look at you!”)
What do people see? the ones who drive by on 6th street just beyond my fence? This is a residential street with not much traffic but what do they think? …an old lady with her Pinot this eve, munching celery and salmon, sitting gob-smacked in her garden. Is this what they see? Keeping them in mind, I go inside to lick the plate. The mayo-mustard-soy-garlic-lemon thing was so good. I couldn’t be this way if anyone were here. Not even if anyone had threatened to be here, when all at once I would have had to attend to nut bowls, napkins, and goldfish from Pepperidge Farm.
Found egg casings under the food scrap bucket. I moved it after weeks. I don’t know why. Maybe, what with summertime and all, y’know, you never know what grows. And I’d been all elegiac about bugs so it came to pass that giant blue-bottle flies were getting ready to hatch from their little envelopes or something. I’ve no idea really and cannot bear to put on my glasses to find out. Have brief but intense thoughts of poison. That’s the real barometer of disgust. Other people might react differently. I calm down. No poison. I put the bucket outside. I write about bad bugs, a kind of cleansing.
I’ve never loved summer so much. It’s all out there in the immediate near, a damp heat, a humid dirt, new little trees arise in underbrush overnight. I’m composting illegally. Feels like the rightest thing there is. Also had beets in my salad for health which produced red pee which I thought was death when I first saw it. Renal failure! And then relief. Health, death, that close in this story.
A butterfly has alit on milkweed flower like three feet away. I feel star struck, like I’m in the orbit of a celebrity. She/he is there, wings more faded than I would have thought. She is unfolding wings very near beginnings of baby caterpillars who are also imbibing from mother milkweed. I get to see the whole thing. Oh, there she goes.
Can’t believe I used to drive around NY CO all summer for some reason. What reason? Distraction from giant aloneness. This yard and the me and the stuff in it is plenty this year. I’ve no running to do. Thank you, Voltaire.
But truly! And a juvenile, whiter than I would have thought, lands, luxuriates in the purple just in front of me. I’m at the burnt orange tip of summer here this once, right now. No one knows. There are weeds about.
The buddha I bought for the garden long ago fell over last year and lost its head, a clean break. I’ve thought of it as “no thought”. Now this year there is a pink phlox arising where the head once was, the nature of me this year, this day, the fruit of meditation.
As I watch the monarch again range her territory (my yard) I think of it as an emblem, in the eighteenth century sense, for happiness. That fluttering movement, that avidity. I see you perched on an echinacea, warmed by a slant of late sun. You are relaxing. No more metaphoric work to do.
So habituated to regarding the Outside as meagre, insufficient, disappointing, (a chronic delusion), I watch a single bee at a head of clover, another butterfly resting on aster and see also a peek of orange daylily off to the left and wonder: what if this is enough?
A breeze lifts the page. A cardinal alights. A jay passes over head. The traffic noise like an ocean far away and the electric pole I live with not 30 feet from me belies the idyll. I’m here trying. Shall I join the living? The texting?