Just Another Sunday

Sunday began with breakfast with a local poet where we discussed Billy Collin’s poetry and, after a walk through Wright Park, agreed to re-read the Tao Teh Ching for our next breakfast.

Still, it proved a rather unremarkable day. Unable to agree on a movie, Leslie and I settled for a short trip to Belfair, despite the cool, overcast weather.

Though it was a pleasant enough three and half mile walk, we did not see a single new bird or animal and had to settle for:

a fleeing muskrat

just another cormorant on a log

more Canadian Geese landing

a Northern Harrier perched on a distant fence pole

yet another glimpse of a Great Blue Heron in a slough.

Gull Darn, I Didn’t Know That

Considering how the Hooded Maganser I described Wednesday was able to elude the much larger seagull and save his fish, I was a little surprised the next day when I saw this seagull steal a much larger cormorant’s catch.

Instead of trying to intimidate the cormorant, though, this seagull snuck up and stole the fish away. Here the seagull slowly floats toward the cormorant who was obviously preoccupied with swallowing its catch.

It’s not clear whether the cormorant put up little resistance to the gull because it simply couldn’t match the gull’s speed,

or because cormorants swallow their catch whole, and it was proving nearly impossible to swallow a wide, flat fish like this sole.

Perhaps the cormorant was simply intimidated by the gull’s audacity. I was rather surprised when a number of gulls flew over but none landed nearby to challenge him for the fish. He slowly sat there, picking the fish apart piece by piece while others flew overhead loudly squawking.

I’ll have to admit that growing up around the beach I’ve always seen the gull as little more than a scavenger feeding on human garbage left by careless picnickers or stolen from garbage cans.

Watching them lately, though, I find them much more innovative than I ever imagined. Sometimes I wonder if they’re not just as intelligent as the crows I love to watch.

Paparazzi

I hope that the local Kingfisher is having as much fun as I am in my latest attempts to get a good picture of him, but, judging from this sequence of shots, I suspect he’s not.

I did discover a way to get much closer to him before he flies away, at least it worked this time. Instead of walking out in the open, I stood behind a fence and stuck my telephoto lens through the gate.

I managed to snap off nearly 16 shots before he noticed me, but, as you can tell from the change in expression, he looked none too happy at being fooled. I really didn’t mean to irritate him, but I love this sequence of photographs.

Still, I’m satisfied that this is probably the best picture I’m going to get until the sun decides to show itself again here in the Pacific Northwest, and that might be several months away.

Kizer’s “Medicine II”

Though there are barely 75 poems in the sections entitled “The Nineties? and “New Poems? in Kizer’s Cool, Calm & Collected, there are nearly as many poems here that I enjoyed as in the rest of the collection, though I must admit I also favored the earliest section.

Perhaps it’s merely that being ten years older than me, Kizer has anticipated many of the questions that life has forced me to consider as more than theoretical questions. Perhaps her poetry has become less obscure, simpler, more direct, a style I increasingly admire. Maybe, like Kunitz, as she has aged she has gained a new perspective on life that I find appealing.

Though “Medicine II? isn’t typical of this section, it does seem typical in its straightforwardness:

MEDICINE II

When the nurses, interns, doctors, came running full tilt down the hall,
Dragging the crash-cart with shrieking wheels and flagless IV pole,
And that squat box, the defibrillator, made to jolt the heart;

Then we next-of-kin, pasted against the walls, ran after them
To your room, Mother-in-Law, where they hammered hard on your chest,
Forcing you back to life in which you had no further interest.

For the third time they pressed like lovers on your frail bones
To restart the beat. They cheered! Marked you alive on your chart,
Then left you, cold, incontinent, forlorn.

When the man loved by you and me appealed to your doctor
To know why you couldn’t have your way and be let go,
He said, “I couldn’t just stand there and watch her die.?

Later, when it was over, we spoke to a physician
Grown gray and wise with experience, our warm friend,
But ice when he considers the rigors of his profession,

And repeated to him your young death doctor’s reply,
We heard the stern verdict no lesser person could question:
But that was his job: to just stand there and watch her die.

Perhaps you have to have endured the death of a parent to fully appreciate this poem, but reading it pulled at all those emotional strings that resonate with the death of a loved one.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that in the end the poem draws the same conclusions about life and death I have drawn. In other words, it confirms my own prejudices, an important trait in any poem, whether we admit it or not.

My favorite lines in the poem are “They cheered! Marked you alive on your chart,/Then left you, cold, incontinent, forlorn.? Of course, being “marked? alive is not the same as being alive, now is it? And probably not much to cheer about. Though we don’t want to admit it, and I’m probably not quite ready to admit so myself, death is a natural part of life, as inevitable as the falling of leaves.?

Of course, you’d be crazy not to want a doctor who considers Death the enemy and fights it for everything he’s worth. But even physicians, if they’ve “Grown gray and wise with experience,? will realize that it is their job to just stand there and watch their patient die when it is finally time for that to happen.