Inspiration Point: Report On Raven Issues GCNP

©George Jacobi 2016

Chapter 1

May 27, 2016 Interpretation Division Briefing                                
(repeated from March 14)

Resource Specialist Patricia Miller reported that a visitor told her the following story:    
           Early one morning he was driving on Market Plaza Road when he came upon the remains of a Mule Deer being consumed by Ravens. There was already very little left of the animal. The visitor honked his horn to scare away the feeding birds, some of which were in the way of his vehicle. Initially they paid no attention. Upon continued honking, though, half of the Ravens (he estimated a dozen) flew up onto his vehicle, screaming and cawing and apparently trying to break the windshield with their beaks and 4 ½ foot wings. The other half of the birds looked, but stayed on the dead deer.
          Feeling genuinely threatened, he backed up quickly and accelerated around the deer remains using the opposite side of the road, outrunning the Ravens that had ‘attacked’ him.                               
          This report was filed at the time and initially ignored as unreliable; events of the past several months have caused a re-evaluation.

 June 13, 2016 – Seasonal Interpreter Duke Preston filed the following report:
          At approximately 3:45 PM, near the back of Verkamp’s Visitor Center a family was having a photograph of themselves taken by another visitor, a Mr. Jacques Kadden. Mr. Kadden was accompanied by his small dog Crisco, who was perched on the stone wall behind him. The family was all grouped at a corner of the wall so that Mr. Kadden could take their photograph with a canyon view behind them. During the photography process, Crisco remained on the wall while his leash became stretched out to its full length. 
          Three Ravens dove onto the scene. One flew directly into the leash between the man and pet, breaking it free from Mr. Kadden’s hand. Accounts differed as to whether the Raven actually yanked the leash with its feet. At the same moment, the other two birds smashed into the dog, taking it over the wall into empty space. A great commotion ensued in which descriptions from everyone there did not entirely match up, but active aggression by malevolent Ravens is a hallmark of each report.
          Not long after, visitors, including a distraught Mr. Kadden, peered over the wall and saw the dead Crisco on a ledge far below, being devoured by the three Ravens. This detail I can confirm, as I arrived not long after this severely disturbing incident.         

June 15, 2016 – Park Maintenance Worker Christopher Malis informed Law Enforcement Personnel this afternoon that after he loaded garbage from Desert View, he sat at a shaded nearby table to eat lunch, his usual Footlong Subway Meat Lover’s sandwich. He said he was “stalked” (his word) by 5 Ravens. According to Mr. Malis, they surrounded and herded him “like the Velociraptors in Jurassic Park” until he threw his sandwich at the nearest bird and ran to his truck.
          Mr. Malis explained that having worked at the Grand Canyon for many years, he is familiar with Ravens and shares Park workers respect for their intelligence, but this event was without parallel. He further states that while he was driving away, one of the Ravens flew alongside the cab for almost a mile and stared in at him with its “cold black eyes” before disappearing.

 July 6, 2016 Science Division Briefing – Resource Specialist Steven Stife is hereby ordered to begin an investigation and turn in a report for Grand Canyon National Park Law Enforcement Division by next week. If he finds any animals being eaten by Ravens, Ranger Stife will pay particular attention to the manner of death as best as he can determine it. While he is to question visitors about Raven behavior, he is not to reveal any information at this time. The same reticence is to be maintained henceforth by other personnel under we get to the bottom of this alarming situation. That will be all for now.

 

Chapter 2

July 15: THE GRAND CANYON VIEW: This previously published article is repeated here for clarity.

May 1, 2016 headline –                                                         
          WHAT HAPPENED TO THE DEAD RAVENS?

          When Maintenance workers showed up at the Town Dump to remove the corpses of the 73 Ravens, they found not a single dead bird. The Ravens had been presumed killed from ingesting unidentified pollutants leaching from the old schoolyard asphalt. Scientists from both the National Park and Northern Arizona University have no explanation for the disappearance. The town has legitimate concerns both about the present situation and the history of the playground where their children spent hours and hours, given the possibility that it was originally paved with fill from a uranium mine. Unrest has begun to grow in the community as we continue to wait for answers.

July 20, 2016Excerpt from Completed Report detailing the timeline of potential Uranium pollution turned in by GCNP Science Dept. Director R. Nott Weinstock:                                                  
          Public Library records indicate that the original Grand Canyon School recess area was, as suspected, paved using tailings from the abandoned Hopi Point Uranium Mine during the summer of 1962. The play-yard surface was replaced in 2005, and the old paving material was dumped on the ridge abutting the Town Dump on Rowe Well Road. When the 73 ‘deceased’ ravens were discovered in late April downstream from the Dump in the reclaimed water ditch, town and Park officials were informed and the consensus was to have Northern Arizona University investigate the ditch for radioactivity and any chemical pollutants. That report is still pending as of today’s date, although we have asked repeatedly that it be released. Since the supposedly dead ravens had disappeared the following morning, it would seem serious effort was in order. This has yet to take place.

July 22, 2016 Briefing – This excerpt is from the final Radioactivity research report from Director Weinstock during this evening’s public hearing –                                                         
          Quoting Resource Specialist Stife: The lab report confirms the presence of large pockets of radioactive material in the mine tailings. These appear to be significant enough to account for the death of the birds, as suggested. For details see page 12 of our report. In addition, there is present in the material several unknown isotopes which we have been unable to identify, and of which investigators have expressed grave concern” – At this point crowd noise made it impossible to hear the remaining part of the presentation. Ranger Stife and Director Weinstock quickly left the podium while Mayor Pagliaro attempted unsuccessfully to quiet the room. 
          Consideration is now being given to retrieving the dog remains for radioactivity investigation, if there are some bones still on the ledge below Verkamps. Let’s continue to keep this quiet for now, people.

July 22, 2016 excerpt – THE GRAND CANYON VIEW:                          
          Dear readers – we insert here for public record this comment, so far unsubstantiated, from a lab assistant at Northern Arizona University who wishes to remain anonymous:

          “I participated in the radioactivity tests last week and saw something that gave me great worry. There was a dead house fly in the chamber during the testing. No-one else noticed it.                           
          When I came back the following morning and opened the chamber for cleaning, a fly flew out and went right out the door. Further examination showed no dead fly in the test chamber anymore. I don’t want to start an alarm, but in light of the issues with the ravens, I thought the community should be made aware. In my opinion, further testing is strongly indicated.”

 

Chapter 3

July 24 2016 BriefingSeasonal Interpreter Duke Preston filed the following report:                                                                                          
          Several Interpretation Volunteers following their noses found the remains of a Bull Elk behind HQ yesterday morning alongside the paved walkway to the rim. The animal had been almost completely consumed. Maintenance was notified and removed the Elk before 8 AM, which minimized visitor concerns.                   
          Resource Specialist Miller inspected the scene shortly after, and found no evidence of Mountain Lion or Coyote tracks. Instead, the ground was covered with what she identified as Raven claw prints. A full grown Bull Elk being almost completely eaten by Ravens in one night is highly unusual. Given that there were no tracks whatsoever made by carnivorous mammals suggests a significant degree of cooperation by the flock of Ravens, perhaps even chasing away any larger carnivores. She stated that Ravens themselves acting as predators on a large mammal, instead of merely being scavengers, is also unprecedented behavior.                    
          Chief of Interpretation Terry Lee directed the staff to keep this information to themselves at present, but to continue asking visitors to be alert for odd animal behavior, and if asked, to mention climate change as a possible factor. She also will ask the Law Enforcement Division to increase readiness for potential problems.

THE GRAND CANYON VIEW Editorial July 25th, 2016

                                    ROLLING OUR EYES      

            Residents of Grand Canyon Village have been concerned for some time now about what some have characterized as the “Zombie Ravens”, due to the disappearance of 73 presumably dead birds from the Dump earlier in the year. This imaginative ‘sci-fi’ tale was dealt an amusing setback yesterday.                                                  
          Three separate citizen reports from Apartment Building #3 at Paiute Circle the night before described the sound of a great flock of birds beating their wings above the building around midnight, as well as a deep erratic rumbling which they interpreted as Raven ‘conversation’. Due to the recent incidents involving Ravens (which have been accurately reported in these pages, I might add) alarm has spread through the Village.                                  
          Upon interviewing every resident of Building #3, Officers responding to the call discovered two drones in the residence of Nicolas Julie. Engines and batteries of the drones were still warm. Mr. Julie then confessed to the prank and ranted at length about gullible people – while on his way to jail in Flagstaff.                             
           Though congratulations for imagination might be in order, this newspaper hopes that minds have been put at ease and life in this peaceful and beautiful community will finally get back to normal. Let’s lighten up. Enjoy the canyon. Enjoy the rest of the summer!

 News Release August 1, 2016: John Quist, Law Enforcement Division Chief, Grand Canyon National Park NPS –

                        FOR INTERNAL RELEASE ONLY

            People: To begin with, be assured the media will be notified by this office immediately following today’s Divisional Meeting with the Superintendent. All of YOU are instructed to follow Government protocol and make no comment whatsoever. Let me be absolutely clear – anyone found violating this directive will be terminated at once and face immediate legal ramifications. 
         The bodies of five hikers were discovered late yesterday approximately 1 ½ miles down Hermit’s Rest Trail. The identities of the deceased are as yet unknown. Due to the underused nature of the trail, the tragedy has remained secret, and the area has been closed to the public. It has been confirmed that the individuals were killed and partially eaten by what initial reports say are Ravens. So our worst fears are apparently beginning to come true.             
          The grim details are as follows: A Ranger on patrol discovered the bodies at 5AM, scattered across a wide area on and off the trail. It appeared that the individuals attempted to outrun and/or fight off the attacking birds. The remains of clothes were shredded and blown around. Each of the human remains was torn to pieces with many parts missing. Numerous slices and gouges covered what was left of each corpse. The eyes were missing from every face. In one case, the largest body part left was the feet, which had been protected from predation by hiking boots.                                
          The Ranger (who is now on medical leave, identity protected) also found two dead Ravens, which are being flown to the NAU lab for investigation as of this morning. I want everyone in this Division on duty now until further notice, armed and alert. Information and direction will follow shortly. P. S. – Call your families and tell them to stay indoors.

 

Chapter 4

August 13, 2016 Briefing (For Internal Release Only)        
– Seasonal Law Enforcement Officer Page Turner filed this report: 

            Late last night a young man named Seth Hurt showed up at LE HQ injured, carrying a dead Raven by the feet, and told the following story to Law Enforcement Officers. He had taken the Red Bus Line to Hopi Point to photograph the sunset, and stayed until he was the last person at the overlook. Just at nightfall he noticed a large flock of Ravens flying into what appeared to be a cave to his right (east). We know that this is the entrance to the abandoned Uranium mine from the sixties. Mr. Hurt attempted to take a photo but it was already too dark.                     
          At this moment the last return bus pulled into Hopi Point, and Mr. Hurt turned to the parking area to get on it. He explained that suddenly a single Raven swooped down between him and the bus and attacked him, slashing at his camera with its talons and at his face with its beak. While he ducked back under the Junipers, swinging back at the bird, the bus left. A Common Raven averages 2 feet in length with at least a 4 foot wingspan, so this type of encounter would be much like an attack by a flying wolverine. During the battle, young Mr. Hurt found himself with one of the Raven’s legs in his hand. He swung the bird against the Juniper trunk, which stunned it enough so he was able to repeat the maneuver until it stopped moving.         
          Though bleeding from the forehead and arms, he courageously picked up the dead bird and brought it back on the two mile walk to Grand Canyon Village in the dark.            
          You all understand what this means to our situation. The boy deserves a commendation, of course, but that would involve publicity that we cannot afford right now. Mr. Hurt and his family are on the way to the airport in Phoenix. The Raven has been taken to the lab. An investigation of the Hopi Point area is underway already and I’m sure you all agree that the time to act is upon us before things get any more out of control. Make sure all of you are here for the 5 PM briefing.                  

August 14, 2016 – THE GRAND CANYON VIEW:

            Grand Canyon Village dump will remain closed until further notice, according to the Mayor’s office. Arrangements have been made for residents to take their trash to the dumpsters at Visitor Center Parking Lot B.

August 17, 2016 – THE GRAND CANYON VIEW:

          Tourist and Seattle resident Quinn Michaels was interviewed today by this reporter about the unexplained explosion/landslide near Hopi Point the night before last. A Demolition Expert, Michaels said he just happened to be here now at Grand Canyon on vacation and volunteered his services to the Park to investigate and attempt to formulate an explanation for the event. Dr. Michaels, who has a Ph.D in Geology as part of his career, said his investigation had turned up no evidence to indicate anything other than a natural occurrence. Though happy to be of service, he refused further questions, explaining that he was on his way home.
          National Park Law Enforcement and Science personnel agreed. R. Weinstock of the Science Division reported that despite the loud sound, what occurred was a minor shift in geologic layers due to tectonic forces. Random as they appear to us, these events are going on all the time underground, mostly invisible and unheard, and should not worry residents or visitors as it is unlikely any similar event will ever occur in the vicinity. Weinstock thanked Dr. Michaels for his expertise and expressed how fortuitous it was that he was here at this time.

Farewell to America

words ©George Jacobi 2018
music “Farewell to Tarwathie”

Farewell to those hoboes                       a riding the rails
And to the lone cowboy,                         his hot dusty trail.                          
So long, it’s been good                             to know you so well                      
The depth of affection                            no tongue can tell.

Goodbye old Miami,                                 sweet Nantucket, Mass                 
New York and New Orleans,                all things must pass.                      
Adieu Turtle Island,                                  like eagles we fly.                           
The tide has been turning,                    the moment is nigh.

Adios, mes amigos,                                   Alamo, Amazon                               
To Midway and Gettysburg,                  Martin and John.                            
One small step for mankind,                 Challenger crew                              
Vaya con Dios,                                              Sandy Hook, too.        

Farewell to America,                                land of the free                               
Your sons and your daughters            now gone to the sea.                 
To capture the past is                              too much for a song                      
Farewell to America,                                 we sail at dawn.                                                                                                                  

Every Spring

© George Jacobi  2011

 Every April staring out the window,
Anticipating trout-lily time.
Never comes too soon for the rhythm,
Always comes with melody and rhyme,                   

It comes in on a storm across the Sound,
Comes in with a wild warbler wind,
Just wait out all the thunder and the lightning,
You can be there when it all begins,
                 It goes:

                         Witchy Witchy Witchy, Sweet Sweet,
                        Teacher Teacher Teacher, Drink Your Tea,
                        Birdy Birdy Birdy, Konk-la-ree,  
                        Zoo-Zee, Zoo-Zee, Zoo-Zee, Zoo-Zoo Zee.

Have you ever been to planet Earth?
Well, no, but I’d really like to go.
Sit down by some river in New England,
On a morning in May and catch the show,
                   It goes:

 We ride on a spinning solar cell.
Each of us a living solar cell,
You can hear the music in the air,
Every spring,    Everywhere-                                                                                                     
                   It goes:

Trail Wood #4 – Thanks

 “That’s right,” I said, “I owe you one. In fact I owe both of you. What’s that, Edwin? Let me try to speak louder; I know this is a very long distance call.”

Saying this out loud doesn’t seem at all strange, although previously the whole conversation has been conducted in silence. So thanks, Edwin. Thanks, Nellie. Our talk has gone on for a decade, I think, if you skip my vague memory of getting one of your books given to me long ago by my Dad. You two would have liked each other.                                                                                        

It was the talking stone wall that did it. I sat down in the sun here in back of your house, by the crumbling stone wall, and it whispered “Let me be. I’m good with whatever happens.” But for the birds and the insects and the gentle wind there was dead quiet, and the wall spoke with your voice anyway. In all the photos of you around here, you don’t look like such a trickster.                       

Not long after, by geologic time anyway, I found myself looking over another stone wall, and on the other side of that wall the earth dropped away for a mile, in dizzying vermilion and jasmine walls of limestone and sandstone. Yeah, I know you went there too. You peered down into the Grand Canyon, wrote just a few lines of your lyrical prose, and moved on, eventually returning here to Trail Wood. If you were leaving some inspiration on the rim for me, it worked. There was a feast of it. I wrote my tail off.

Are you listening, Nellie? One would assume my only connection to you two is through Alison, but I know you both connect with everyone who ventures out on this old farm, as long as their hearts are open to the natural world. I hear you in the song of the white-throated sparrow. I see you in the wide brown eyes of a fawn. That song, Nellie, was enough of a present. But to spend a whole season at one of the seven wonders of the world – are you kidding me?

I never searched out a mentor. It’s funny to have one now in my late 60s, especially a dead one. But your words hover around this writing cabin in a cloud. So thanks, Edwin. Wait; those are just gnats.

Trail Wood #4 – Thanks
                ©George Jacobi 2017

Fishing for Sandy Hook

 

As I walked, salty drops ran down my face,
but they were just perspiration.
Just perspiration.
 Sparse Gray Hackle “Fishless Days, Angling Nights

 

A spring seems like a miracle every time. Right here in the middle of the woods, no place in particular, clear clean water bubbles gently from the ground. It’s a magic trick. A birth. At once, from nothing, a watercourse exists, one that will not quit until it reaches the sea. Six inches wide and one inch deep, it follows the path of least resistance, flowing north down a gradual slope and across an acre of meadow. Born to move, it has only one direction – down – and one mission –keep going. A fine philosophy. Let’s adopt it and follow along.

It is midmorning in “the Hook” after a cool August night and the meadow has only belatedly come alive. Monarchs, Tiger Swallowtails, Admirals, Fritillaries and Sulphurs choose among the Goldenrod, Joe-Pye Weed, and Queen Anne’s Lace. Dozens of bright butterflies dance, half of them Monarchs, the third generation of the year, now with tickets to Mexico for the winter. There is a constant hum from energetic bees and bugs, the song of the meadow. Grasshoppers bounce away from your old sneakers with every step through waist high grass. As if uncertain, the little rill slows crossing the colorful field, triples in size, and just before it disappears into the trees, it widens enough to include a bunch of cattails thriving in the sun.

Past the open space is a partly shaded pond. This young waterway will discover patience here. The Buttonball (an old name for the Sycamore Tree) housing development abuts the area, although the homes are out of sight. A dirt road once went across this brook into a sandpit, perhaps a place to get extra fill. Though any kind of bridge is now gone, the road’s shoulders have slowed our streamlet even more, thus the shallow pond. Only a third of an acre, it is full of fallen trees. What kid can resist these walkways out into the middle?

Out here the marsh is a foot deep. Shade keeps it from being overwhelmed with sun-loving aquatic weeds and turning into a genuine swamp. The horizontal trees host painted and spotted turtles. Saucer-sized bullfrogs hang in the film, as does one snapper, who rules. Small bass and assorted bream are his hors d’oeuvres. Frogs join the turtles and dive to safety before we even see them, leaving only widening circles. Young explorers must acquire patience here too. The snapper’s head sinks slowly from sight, and a Pileated Woodpecker laughs at us like a monkey.

The sandlot, which doesn’t host a kid’s baseball game today, has a steep uphill bank on the far right. The near side, even with the brook, is hidden in a tangle of brush. Home run balls to left field are usually gone for good. This edge, sun to one side, shade and water to the other, is warbler heaven. Insects abound. Gone now in late summer, the migratory birds have left the repast to the Box Turtles and Wood Turtles. A Worm Snake hides, a whole life spent below the bark of a fallen tree. A Ring-necked Snake, so old that it is pale grey, slips out of sight so swiftly it seems a ghost. Walking out of the sandlot, we enter a hemlock dominated ravine along the spring-fed brook, and the temperature falls a few degrees.

Not just darker and cooler, it is much quieter in here under the conifers; the gentle gurgle seems louder than it is. The stream, lively now, averages two feet wide and has holes a foot deep; cool ground water seeps from the hillsides have added to it. Red-backed and Dusky Salamanders live under every damp rock and log. Rocks break up the faster flow and undercut banks hide Brook Trout. Adult trout are only four or five inches long, their vivid primary colors invisible in the shade. Ripples on the surface, gone at once in the quick water, are all that give away their presence. You can lie on the moss and reach ever so slowly into the brook, under the bank, and move your hand upstream until it touches one, finning alertly there, a miraculous lifeform in another world. I bet you can do it if you try. Go on – be a kid. Yet after a mere hundred yards of this dark sweetness, our equally adolescent creek runs under Glen Road and hesitates momentarily – big changes are imminent.

 

Tumbling down a loose pyramid of rocks, the little brook releases its identity into a larger version of itself – the Pootatuck River. Let’s wade across here, at the head of a shallow riffle, so we don’t disturb the local residents. Wet sneakers – who cares? Downstream where it widens out into a pool, any trout will be taking advantage of the brook water at this time of year, hanging along the one bank where it is a bit colder. This little river is not stocked – it’s barely a half mile between the deactivated Fabric Fire Hose factory dam upstream and the estuary mudflat below where it opens into a cove on the main river. The short stream distance is vigorous, running down shale ledges most of the way. Up river, above the equally forlorn Plastic Molding Co. dam, lies the sleepy village of Sandy Hook.                                                                                               

The state plants some trout here and a private club does as well, and some of those fish use spring floods to escape downstream. Here they compete with warmwater species moving up from the cove, and there are no gravel beds to spawn in, to lay eggs beneath. Mixed up biologically, this is not a self-sustaining system, but nevertheless it’s rich.

Raccoons teach their young how to find crayfish. Otter leave tracks while otherwise living invisible lives. Mink, possums, and even the occasional deer can be found by a careful watcher as dusk approaches. When night falls, the clearing across the river from Tuttle’s Glen Lodge lights up with a million blinking fireflies. Just a few baby Pickerel Frogs remain in the grass (and they can now jump quite far) but most have been replaced by new-born American Toads this late in the season. Be careful where you put your feet – they are everywhere, finding bugs and worms to eat. Noise picks up; crickets and katydids fill the field with song.

In the surface film, mayflies and caddis flies are hatching, and every fish contentedly chows down. If a waterway can be described as mature, this one is now. Splashes are constant. So are the mosquitoes – did you bring the bug dope? A pair of Barred Owls hoot to each other. Darkness dominates and the Milky Way stretches across the sky.

 

A nondescript sand bar borders the little stream as it abruptly broadens into the cove. You can stand on the bar and cast for 180 degrees, but all you’ll catch is a selection of tiny panfish and largemouth bass. As always, the upper end of a cove or estuary is the nursery. The cove, though, is five or six acres, and if you can find the channel as it winds toward the main river, that’s where the game of aquatic life and death takes place.

To the left is an endless stretch of fields and meadows, to the right is the hill we came down, and on that shore sits a ramshackle marina. “River’s on the River” consists of two long docks and a boat launch. Kids lie on the ends of the docks on many a summer day, worms wriggling on the ends of their cannibalized and homemade poles. This water is becalmed. Flat and slow, it has no intention of expending any effort. It is killing time, like most of the kids, who don’t care if they catch anything – as long as the sun is warm and school is out, life is good.

A pair of swans glides around the cove, slurping up bugs from time to time. Don’t go near them in your borrowed rowboat unless you want to get hissed at. Under the placid surface huge brown carp, dinosaur fish, sneak by in water two to three feet deep, which stays remarkably clear unless the sand bottom gets stirred up by a storm or an awkward oar. There are just a couple of stumps scattered along the channel, the remains of trees washed down in long-ago storms. They are your clues to the channel, and by each one sits a bass worth catching. But these guys are not stupid – everybody gives them a shot while passing by. Hula Poppers and Jitterbugs aren’t going to cut it. If you want to catch something with a surface plug, try the upper reaches where weeds hide the pickerel. They’ll come roaring out of cover, making a wake, and smack that lure like Mickey or Ted hits a ball left up in the strike zone.

There is a dropoff where the cove ends and the Housatonic begins. Here again the water is visibly moving, albeit ponderously. It seems to know where it’s going and accept the decision made for it. It’s mature, dignified. This is big water – one hundred yards across – yet it too is usually clear. There’s another little dock right across the bridge and upstream. Because the hill is steep here, the bank drops off quickly to six or eight feet before the water becomes too dark to see through, even with your hands curled around your eyes. Schools of yellow perch come by like commuters. Big bass appear and disappear, eyeing the sunfish, rock bass, and pumpkinseeds that hang near
shore.

They call it the “Silver Bridge”, the span that crosses the river here, a little way up from the old railroad trestles. “T-BIRDS” in shocking turquoise, is painted on the cement at the east end. We jump from the road, twelve feet down to the surface, and sink so deep that the cold water is shocking. Bigger kids jump from the second layer of cross braces. Under the bridge, the river is shadowed, mysterious, still holding onto some secrets. Fish all you want. There is something here, but you won’t figure out how to catch it, and perhaps it’s better that way.

One of those secrets – maybe you guessed – is that in here it is 60 years ago. You and I went back in time. We’re still kids in the Hook. All these recollections spin slowly in an eddy far back in your brain, just as they do in mine. Can we touch the past like we once touched the trout in that brook? Only in dreams, I’m afraid.

This water is not the same anymore. It’s now muddy and almost lifeless from that spring all the way to the Silver Bridge, and in the many homes full of new Sandy Hook people there are none who know it as we knew it, feel what we felt. So hold those memories tight – they’re all that remains. Like water, we must keep going.

 

Not a Poem

Painting and drawing
feel like making love.

Writing feels like shoveling a path
through the snow to the mailbox.
Maybe there will be a check in it;
probably not.

Under the Hunter’s Moon

I lie outdoors on my back, slowly surrendering consciousness to the night sky, a ritual I engage in on surprise occasions – it just shows up unannounced on my emotional radar. The temperature is perfect. I am warm in the down sleeping bag, and the slight chill on my face (the thermometer is in the fifties) is refreshing. Tonight is ideal for this. Late October has benevolently supplied a few days of Indian Summer. It will go up into the 70s during the days ahead, but because there has been a frost or two, mosquitoes are gone for the year.  Crickets, though, have yet to give up on the season. Thankfully, their loud sawing fills the night. The only sound I sleep better to is the joyful racket of the spring peepers, a blessing that can cause me to keep a window open during an April night in the forties. (This, of course, can only happen in a separate room from my cozily slumbering wife). There are a handful of leftover Katydids out here too, both insects running out of time fast, calling poignantly for companionship.  Singing (leg scraping) comes from all around me. This earth music begins in July, signaling midsummer. As it does each time, it means the slippery slope toward winter has begun, while also conveying the message to each life in the night, “This is as good as it gets – do it now!” Continue reading “Under the Hunter’s Moon”

The Ballad of Betsy Shaw

‘Tis in the dark November, of Seventeen forty four
A crime most foul and evil, passes into Windham lore.
With luck ones able children, can help you with your chores
But life is seldom perfect, and so with Betsy Shaw.
They call her slow and tease her, she cannot tie her shoes
The Shaws are much embarrassed, the work is never through.
Finally Father teaches her to work the barn, I guess,
As she grows into a figure that looks fetching in a dress.
Heaven knows, that’s how it goes.

Continue reading “The Ballad of Betsy Shaw”

Time to Dream

I wish I could fish the Neversink, in 1891
Use silken line and cat-gut, Royal Coachman and Blue Dun
With cane and tweed and pipe smoke, beside a tall elm tree
We’d talk of quills and wood duck wings,
Theodore Gordon and me.

I wish I could fish the Battenkill, in 1942
Learn from Wesley Jordan the art of split bamboo
I’d argue with Jack Atherton, about abstract art and such
And those brookies in the Gunsmith Pool?
–  we’d never get a touch.

I wish I could fish Spring Creek just once, in May of ‘53
Down in that misty valley, where it flows melodiously
The sky is all Green Drakes tonight, as Brown and I go back
To a time before the poison.
Yeah, I wish we had the knack.

I wish I could fish the Hous again, about 1985
With Pete and Jay and all those boys, when they were all alive
Those golden April afternoons pass by in memory
We didn’t know back then it was
as good as it would be.

I get to play the Old Man now, pretend to know it all
I’ve seen the glory that is spring, I’ve watched the last leaf fall.
An old man has to pick and choose the times to go astream
It was always time for fishing, now it’s time to dream.

I wish I could fish in Lobsterville, just one more night in June
Where skunks patrol and stripers roll, under the Vineyard moon
Or Firehole, or Grand Lake Stream, down in the Evening Pool
Do land-locked salmon jump for joy,
or is life just cruel?

 

©George Jacobi 2013

Seeing

The Art in Nature and the Nature of Art
George Jacobi 2014

Part of being a trained and observant naturalist is the ability to pick out clues from a complex and busy scene. An expert birder can determine the species from a faraway silhouette just by the body language of the flyer. A great tracker can tell you not only that a white-tailed deer has passed, but whether it was running or walking, male or female, and much more. I only wish I was that skilled. I can, though, pick up the tiny hop of a baby wood frog in the leaf litter as I walk, and I notice the flight of a hummingbird. Many eyes ignore that movement, just categorize it as an uninteresting bug or bee, and move on. Continue reading “Seeing”