27 July 2008

Ice and water

Those who know me know that my favorite TV show is Discovery Channel's Deadliest Catch. I am a dedicated fan, enthralled by the men who make their living pulling king and opilio crab out from the depths of the Bering Sea.

The fishermen are truly men above men. Courageous, confident, daring...vulnerable. To challenge an insurmountable sea bares wide their humanity and their fragility. It achieves that masterful dichotomy of heroic accomplishment against the purest demonstration of human frailty. As true to form as Greek mythology, Eastern legend or Western folklore. I watch each episode in sheer awe.

There are few facets of our world left upon which we human animals have not worn a careless track, even in some cases to defeat or extinction. We often rage against the very universe that supports us.

The Bering sea is not exempt of human mistreatment. But its freezing spray to encase ships, the monumental rise of waves, and the roll of sub-zero waters that sap a man's life in seconds are reminders that we are not the masters of this universe, merely some of its smallest members, and tender ones at that. That which is sacred remains the vast expanse of green sea, the Aleutian gray sky, the scream of gulls and the pink barnacled shells of crab.

And the thickening of ice in sheets that extend like solid ground until the fishermen can even step over the side of their ship and walk on the surface of the sea, miles away from any shore.


17 July 2008


Flat land draws more of the sky closer to the ground. Austin is like that. The sky comes clear down until the sides fall away so that you can feel the curve of the earth under your feet as if the rest of the planet extends down from the capitol of Texas.

Trees grow in wide rolling hills here. Live oak, elm, maple and lacy willows in colors like crayons – spring green, mint julep, sea foam, emerald – and flowering trees in veils of purple pink ivory blossoms.

But it’s hot. And wet like breathing inside out, body fluid and organ warm, and flowing with a deep rhythm so that my own pulse flutters sparrow-fast and the jackdaws, flycatchers and mourning doves quicken into a single, held note.

Down from the capitol building, there are bats under the Congress Bridge. I watch them at dusk emerge in a cloud to feed against the fading sky. I am told it is the largest urban population of Mexican Free-tail bats and that these are the mothers, their offspring still tucked away in the man-made crevice of cement and steel that has become part of the regular migration path. Texas Capistrano’s swallows. I am down-river from the bridge, the crowd too much of a deterrent for me, but I am delighted at the flurry of erratic wings on the hunt.

And I wasn’t bitten by a mosquito even once.