Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Some Tethers & An Heroic Couplet

I decided to go to Rock Meadow, a piece of conservation land in the neighboring town. I was drawn to the simplicity of the name. Rock. Meadow. Nothing more. No sponsor, no in memoriam. It's elemental, barely human, amenable to being rendered as glyph, as spare and essential as winter itself. Nothing flowery about it.

The day was cold, bright and windy. I picked my way along the rutted, icy path, flinching against the wind. Halfway up a frigid slope -- hard snow with sharp, mown grass knifing through -- I rethought my course. Behind me, sheltered in a small hollow, was the community garden, a shantytown patchwork of little fenced-off plots through which ran a gridwork of paths. I would go in there.

A beautiful lavender gate welcomed me. I had to recalibrate. This was a human habitat, albeit deserted. Human spoor was everywhere: pails, wire, stakes, overturned wheebarrows, chairs. Some of the plots were completely overgrown with weeds; others were littered with untidy strands of what had been grown there; still others had been neatly groomed and put to winter bed. A flag fluttered over one; a furled, striped umbrella stood at the edge of the woods, improbably blue and summery.

I squatted and refocused. I was camerawoman, after all, here to take pictures of weeds, my favorite, perhaps my only subject. I searched until I found another gate, a rusty one, guarded by a frayed nylon rope and a denuded nightshade twig. I ducked under it and looked around.

Follow me, said the snake.

Almost there, said the vetch.

Do not fall, said the urn.

Hold on tight, said the hands.

Hook right up, said the stem.

Rest it here, said the head.

On the rust, said her friend.

Bag of skin, sighed the fruit, you've arrived --

look right there --

precious chair !

I laughed. Precious chair, French for flesh, and elaborate tethers that cost far more than what they bind. Human spoor indeed, significant spoor, spoor more complex than rock and meadow, spoor that cries Mine ! Me !

I wound my way through the narrow paths between the plots. I knew about tethers. The act of taking pictures, of looking, even, was fraught with them.

I love this. But what if my camera breaks ? What if I go blind, or if my legs fail ? What will I do then ?

The thought brings me back to the here and now of eye and weed, eye and viewfinder. This is what is. This is rock, this is meadow. These are the knees that can still squat, the neck that, with a small creak, can still crank around to better frame a tiny, tufted seed.

There is nothing outside this moment, outside this cultivated hollow.

Wind, wolves, hip-and-lens fracturing ice, death itself -- no more (or less) than elusive eidolons fluttering though the improbable complex of photographer-and-garden.

Surrounded by rust and rot, I breathe; my blood's iron oxidizes. Cells switch on and off amidst ratcheting actin and mysosin, flickering synapses, gushing follicles. Secret conspiracies underway everywhere.

There is cold; there is interest; there is pleasure. There is the avid eye. There is anxiety, need, regret, longing, planning, cheek-stinging wind, birdsong, and the smell of decay. Hungry now. Maybe some lunch ?

Yes, that would be nice. Some oatmeal, maybe. With raisins. A cup of coffee. And a final couplet to latch behind me like a garden gate:

O heart, propel your iron through this prayer,

and bell until you rust clear through to air !

Monday, December 26, 2005


How could I have failed to note here that our over-coiffed, flip-flopping wingnut of a republican governator, Willard "the Mitthead" Romney has announced that he will decline to run for a second term and will spend the next several years pondering the possibility of running (ie. campaiging furiously) for president.

He's been busy gadding about the country badmouthing Massachusetts at each possible turn. "I feel," he once sniffed to gales of beefy, Republican laughter, "like a cattle rancher at a vegetarian convention." And he has been doling out reciprocal admiration to his fellow Republicans for their own attempts at political stand-up comedy. Viz., this bit of political whimsy served up at a recent Federalist Society soiree --

"Today, when most of the country thinks of who controls Massachusetts, I think the modern-day KKK comes to mind, the Kennedy-Kerry Klan," Walpin, who sits on the society's board of visitors, said to hearty laughter. "One person who has been victorious against that tide in Massachusetts is Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney."

Romney, along with members of the audience, laughed at the joke and later thanked Walpin for the "very generous introduction."

That is until the furious backpedaling set in:

...later in the day, as Democrats got wind of Walpin's remark and began circulating it, Romney distanced himself from the joke and said it was wrong.

He's not the only member of our current executive branch that has difficulty keeping the elitist "let them eat week old remaindered Wonder Bread" arrogance under wraps. It has been rumored that his sidekick, Lieutenant Governator Kerry (not to be confused with John Kerry of kkk fame) Healey, is being groomed to run for the office he will vacate. Vacate, I might add, after a single term when he'd assured his supporters he'd be around for two. I suppose that's a better track record than the last two Republican Governators, both of whom grew bored with Governating and quit mid term, one to write mystery novels, the other to attempt to incite a war with Canada.

Groomed for office I say ? It's hard to imagine that Ms. Healey could be any more groomed: she is willowy, impeccably dressed, blond and nearly as well-coiffed as the Mitthead. Standing side by side they evoke nothing less than Barbie and Ken.
As I read in this morning's Globe that the Healeys have just successfully fought a $7000 increase in property taxes on their Vermont vacation property, I had ample chance to reflect on Ms. Healey's past policy statements on the topic of property taxation. Senior citizens, she declared, who, because of skyrocketing assessments, find that their property taxes have become prohibitively high, should not be offered tax abatements.

That would simply perpetuate the terrible situation of overhousing -- doddering crones and codgers greedily wanting to live out their golden years in the houses where they've lived for decades. Hogging, as it were, three and four bedroom empty nests that could otherwise go to young, affluent suburban couples with their clever, well-groomed children.

These overhoused oldsters should do the only decent thing and move out, she declared. Freeing up plum housing for people like, well, herself.

And why have property assessments spiralled out of control ? Why, for example, is the house we bought in 1997 "worth" twice as much now as it was then ?

(Believe me, it's not because of any massive home improvement projects we've undertaken. Viz. the several lawns that have failed, and the six hemlock trees that died a grisly death along the backyard fence.)

Could it be because of people who view a house as a speculative commodity, and not a dwelling ? People who buy up modest lots, demolish the modest houses on them, and erect bloated, tacky, overpriced McMansions in their place ? People like, oh, Ms. Healy ?

And what, you might ask, is Ms. Healey's own housing situation ? I'm SO glad you asked. Again, the Boston Globe: : "When their enormous $2 million vacation home is finished in West Windsor, Vt., Kerry Healey and her husband, Sean M. Healey, will own five houses, worth about $9 million total, in three states: the new house and an existing nine-room home on 134 acres in Vermont; a 12-room house, assessed at $1.1 million, at the Palm Island resort in Cape Haze on the West Coast of Florida; and a pair of adjacent ocean-front homes on Curtis Point in Beverly, part of the North Shore's ''gold coast.'"

One might accuse Ms. Healey of being many things.

But one of those things is not underhoused.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Enthuse This

Each year, at winter solstice, I hold my breath. Will this be the year in which I lean too far out into the dark ? Will the tethers give and let me plunge into the open mawed fall frightful of absolute dark and absolute cold ?

The sun noodles away at a great distance. Gravity and light dwindle. In the impending dark, activity continues:





Ora pro nobis.

Raw, bloodless, dry and gaunt, I look for comfort midair.

My reach falls short. My fingers fail.

But something at the last minute catches me, and holds me fast.

Surround, I pray. And ground.