Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Corn Snake of Edward Abbey

I am fortunate to be given books on a regular basis. Good friend, Sawyer Avery, recently lent me a copy of Edward Abbey's 'Desert Solitaire', a collection of stories recounting the author's time working in Arches National Monument near Moab, Utah, anytime between the late 60's to mid-70's. Like all great nature writing, the book served as a daily reminder of humans' strong tether to Mother Nature, in all of her beauty and destructive power; she is like Brahma and Shiva. As much concrete as we put down, as many walls are built, and no matter how tight we sardine ourselves into metal contraptions, we are still irrevocably a part of her. She is not something to be conquered.

Below are two sections I will have with me always. Fellow Iowans, you will know the gopher snake as the bull snake. Same thing.

The gopher snake and I get along nicely. During the day he curls up like a cat in the warm corner behind the heater and at night he goes about his business. The mice, singularly quiet for a change, make themselves scarce. The snake is passive, apparently contented, and makes no resistance when I pick him up with my hands and drape him over an arm or around my neck. When I take him outside into the wind and sunshine his favorite place seems to be inside my shirt, where he wraps himself around my waist and rests on my belt. In this position he sometimes sticks his head out between shirt buttons for a survey of the weather, astonishing and delighting any tourists who may happen to be with me at the time. The scales of a snake are dry and smooth, quite pleasant to the touch. Being a cold-blooded creature, of course, he takes his temperature from that of the immediate environment - in this case my body.

And on the mutual agreement between life and death:

The horned owl may be the natural enemy of the rabbit but surely the rabbit is the natural friend of the horned owl. The rabbit feeds the owl. One can imagine easily the fondness, the sympathy, the genuine affection with which the owl regards the rabbit before rending it into edible portions.
Is the affection reciprocated? In that moment of truce, of utter surrender, when the rabbit still alive offers no resistance but only waits, is it possible that the rabbit also loves the owl? We know that the condemned man, at the end, does not resist but submits passively, almost gratefully, to the instruments of his executioner. We have seen millions march without a whimper of protest into an inferno. Is it love? Or only teamwork again - good sportsmanship?
Fear betrays the rabbit to the great horned owl. Fear does the hard work, making the owl's job easy. After a lifetime of dread it is more than likely that the rabbit yields to the owl during the last moment with a sense of gratitude, as pleased to be eaten - finally! - as the owl is to eat. For the one a consummation, for the other fulfillment. How can we speak of natural enemies in such a well-organized system of operations and procedures? All the time, everywhere, something or someone is dying to please.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

After a bit I took off on the walk home - past everyone closing up their shops, their children playing on the streets and sidewalks.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Little Stephen yelled in a fit of tiny kicking wooden-peg legs. "Grandma, I don't want to go!" She was silent and started him down the brown-capped basement stairs towards the cushy couch - amid the spiders and the silverfish. Each step was a thud of tripplets composed of bare feet and black knee socks. She held him around the elbow in a clamp of neccessity and iron. Grandma didn't want to scare him, but saw no sense in spending the cash on a white-coat mustache dentist. That loose tooth should come out now while there was still a roll of quilted paper towels in the cupboard above the kitchen counter. In an amalgam of woman and struggling boy - they undulated out over the cold concrete floor where the washer hummed and the dryer thumbed through beauty shop towels and garden gloves, charcoal trousers and pot holders - shower towels and dish rags - and Grandpa's flannel shirt shot up with grease stains. Young Stephen relented the tired struggle and settled on the cushion like a calf. Grandma straightened her dark blue sweat pants and enveloped him like a mist. He lay back in the makeshift dentist chair and closed his marble eyes. She reached into his fog mouth, took hold of the tooth, and snatched it right out. It hurt, he cried. His tongue searched the spot where the tooth had been - and he tasted the blood of a Grandma's love.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

truck stop romancing

they stroll across the hot concrete parking lot -
dodging empty bags of funyons and pancaked pepsi cans -
they're holding hands
in hats
his big ol' beard and her long black braided ponytail
jean shorts and jean shorts
they stop at his deep red big rig
he opens the door with a fuzzy arm
and they pause -
a passionate kiss amid other semis smoking out smoke and sweating tar -
lumbering around the parking lot - lurching and laying it out,
the kiss breaks so she starts up the stairs - he watches her legs -
she gets comfy in the high chair and he stands down below admiring her like a prize horse -
of course he's the one on the floor -
so he closes the door on his high fashion queen -
walks around on top of it all and climbs into the silver chariot's driver seat
and off they go towards passion, adventure, and danger.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

a tribute to a lovely lady

it was snow on the outside and grandma on the inside. dad and his new lady-friend in command of grandma's own old car - driving everyone to laporte city for their supper. stephen, charles dante, and grandma: clunked up and clattered in the back - stacked sideways - conjoined in a flood of winter coats and stocking caps. grandma had a squirrel mane around the back of her neck. it was top - notch.
this was the first meeting of the new girlfriend. everyone assumed the polite position and employed their best civil manners. the destination for the night was 'dave's chicken house' - for loads and explosives of fried chicken and frenched fries - the old squeeze red ketchup baby bottles and the big tank of yellow fish next to the cash register when you first walk in. the rain-soaked shingle roof that had collapsed and then been cuddled from above by a brand new saint of a ceiling. that red brick building.
and then the antique store in the backroom - filled with the bric-a-brac and knick knacks - tin trains - spoons with states - china dinner plates. the box of lps - christmas and country - chipmunks and partridge family. lamps and postage stamps already stamped - porcelain cats and rubber dogs - a box of checkers and a set of homemade lincoln logs - rings and polished rocks - pencil patched post cards and coffee mugs.
so they grew near - a beeline for the chicken house. the car - slowly straining through deep mashed potato snow - amid the chit chatting and small talking - afloat as a boat. it was going well for the new girlfriend with her new impressions. everyone was very polite and asked the proper questions.
though, as time went by - a stomach in the backseat began to growl like a badger. it twisted and wrenched - it dreamed of chicken skin and deep dark gravy. the tremors from the organ shook up the spine and struck the head like a frying pan.
so, with hands folded and a beautiful smile - grandma proclaimed to them all:

"i'm so hungry i could eat the asshole out of a skunk!"

love you, grandma

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

4.26.2008: 10:34 pm

he would drive five hundred miles and he would drive five hundred more. just to be the man who drove five hundred miles to fall down into our spare bedroom - sleeping on the floor.

it was near may day when he returned and now he drank a beer and told about the drive.

Monday, April 28, 2008

4.26.2008: 10:32 pm

saturday night and they all sat and posed for the digital camera. under the christmas lights they didn't think about christmas time - but laughed and said 'hello-oh!'.
the children ran c0mbs across their heads and brushed toothpaste against their teeth. soon they tried liquor and some began to think/wonder why the time was moving so much quicker.