Tonight, I decided to take a walk out to the bookstore to do some of my evening's work (which, to be sure, was the kind of work that hardly feels like work; having begun watching my DVD of the BBC adaptation of Charles Dickens's Bleak House this afternoon, I proceeded to restart my reading of the final quarter of the novel this evening). First, I swung down the road to my officehouse, which was empty and locked, and as I let myself in and thunked the bolt back behind me, I thought about how funny it is to have an officehouse, which really can feel like a second home more than most other offices I've ever had. Having picked up the armload of student papers I needed to retrieve, I swung back out of the building (unlocking and relocking that front door, wishing, as so often, that the mid-door doorbell--one of the old-fashioned kind with a key that turns and a legend emblazoned around the key reading "TURN" and a bell on the back of the door that brrrrings while the key turns--still worked) and headed into town. About halfway there, I was struck, as so often, by the utter quiet of Gambier in vacation mode. In another week, everyone will be back and I'll be listening to sport utility vehicles running the stop sign outside my house and ripping up asphalt as they accelerate. For now, I'm enjoying the sound of spring rain instead.
The other thing that struck me, as I headed toward the bookstore, was the fact that I hadn't seen a single person since leaving my house. I continued not seeing any other people along my whole walk to the post office and then back across the street to the bookstore. And on my walk home from the bookstore, once again I saw no other people. I think I might have seen one car driving, during my entire evening's perambulations. That's one iteration of small-town living for you.
Toward the end of my time in the bookstore, I heard an eruption of thrums onto the roof and was grateful to have grabbed my umbrella as I headed out the door. The kind women working the counter outfitted my books and papers with a plastic bag, and out I went into the rain.
The weather today ran the gamut from pounding rain to blazing sun, and it ran that gamut a couple of times. One effect of the rain and warmth we've had here over the past two days is that all the spring flowers are making their appearances, causing me to feel a bit silly about all my alarmist tendencies in January and February. Now, those little yellow flowers have burst into blossom; with the lawn in full flower, I'm reminded that those early buds were simply the advance guard. The one patch of snowdrops that appeared on the lawn weeks ago is now just one of many. I ventured out to get you some images in the early evening:
I'm feeling a little more epigrammatic this evening than usual, perhaps because it's growing late. In quest of my title for the evening, I pulled my copy of the 1855 (first) edition of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass off the shelf; it seems a natural progression, since you had Dickinson last night and since I namechecked Brooklyn two nights ago. From section 26 of "Song of Myself," I've gotten myself another simple plan:
I think I will do nothing for a long time but listen,Whitman goes on to list other things he hears, but I love "the bravuras of birds" far more than anything else he names, so I'm stopping there in order to emphasize it. I heard the bravuras of birds all morning and afternoon today. Two cardinals hopped about in the holly bushes outside my study. Earlier in the day, a red-bellied woodpecker had knocked his way up the maple tree in front of the house. Even the raw cawing of the crows didn't bother me, in amongst all the birdsong and birdsight happening in my corner of town today.
And accrue what I hear into myself . . . . and let sounds contribute toward me.
I hear the bravuras of birds . . . . (ll. 584-6)
Late in the afternoon, six deer ambled through my backyard. As had been the case with the birds I'd seen earlier, I found myself standing stock-still at the window, simultaneously wanting to photograph what I was seeing and wanting to avoid disturbing what I was seeing through the very action of getting out the camera and aiming it. The birds are most skittish; I knew I'd lose that woodpecker altogether if I even turned the key in my front door, much less ventured into the yard to get a closer look. But the deer are wary in a more intimidating way, especially now that there are six instead of the three who've hung around since I moved here. The deer see me while I sit in the house watching, and they watch me in return. And today, one of them turned her whole body toward me and took a couple of steps toward the house. I've heard crazy stories about deer rushing headlong through people's windows, so I sat as still as I could, and eventually she turned away and went back to decimating some backyard vegetation. Eventually, all six of the deer made their way to the back corner of the yard and headed into the wooded ravine that fills in the U formed by the streets on whose corner I live. And so the only photograph I can offer is this one (from which two of the deer are missing), where you can see that the deer on the right (who is, I think, the one who locked eyes with me) has paused for one last bite before leaving the yard. Note also my quasi-Shakespearean cloven tree (would that it were a pine; perhaps it's actually a Tennysonian tree, with Merlin tranced up inside, courtesy of wily Vivien).
There was a night, several weeks ago, when seven deer congregated in the grassy space across the street from my house. I stood in the dark, in my front porch, watching them appear, one after the other. Just when I thought they were all there, another would make its stiff-legged, backward-kneed, head-bobbing way into the false moonglow of the streetlamp and cross the road to join this apparently impromptu gathering. I found something about the sight tremendously moving. Perhaps it was the fact that it was only a sight. So quietly, so improbably quietly, do the deer move; so silently they stand.