tree deity

'Tree Herder' sculpture from recycled materials by Paul Rodriguez, found trailside @ Lake Roland, Balt County, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

‘Tree Herder’ sculpture from recycled materials by Paul Rodriguez, found trailside @ Lake Roland, Balt County, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

I came upon this woodland spirit during a sweltering late morning hike/bird walk. I’m thankful that it’s there watching over the trees. I was surprised at how many fellow humans were also out sweating in the woods. Trail people are always so friendly, even when it’s in the upper 90s and the humidity feels like we’re all floating in warm bathwater. One runner stopped to talk birds for a few minutes. Others just smiled or said ‘Good morning!’ One of my admittedly unscientific axioms, solely based in anecdotal evidence, is that people are much likelier to make eye contact and greet each other in the woods than they are on the street. Why is this? It is the power of the trees, I suspect. We are all happier in the woods, whether we know it or not. Nature has a calming effect and these days that effect is needed more than ever. As always at this time of year I have been struggling with the heat and not going to the woods has made it worse. But today I took up arms in the face of summer’s brutality and I’m glad that I did. For me there is no substitute for a couple of hours amidst the greens and browns of the forest. I feel it is my true home.

prettyboy reservoir

Prettyboy Reservoir, Baltimore County, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

Clouds near Prettyboy Reservoir, Baltimore County, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

terminal threshold

This morning the city smelled like smoke but you know it’s not the friendly campfire smoke, but the burning building smoke and maybe people are in danger, not roasting marshmallows and telling ghost stories but instead fighting for their lives as their home goes up in flames. Regardless I continue on my mission to walk the dog because he has his needs and I am here to help meet them. That is what I am to do at this very moment. Later on I have to wonder while reading the Sunday newspaper (subscribed to in a post-inauguration panic) what the terminal threshold is for learning the details of others’ suffering. What is that outer limit of knowledge regarding how hard it is for people to live their daily lives, beyond which there is no value in further absorption. For that is what comprises most of the news. It is a catalog of the world’s suffering accompanied by an explication of the delusions that fuel it. Sometimes I have to turn off the radio or let the papers pile up simply to give myself space and time to breathe. I know people are suffering and I want them to not suffer but there are only certain ways for me to help, and I’m not sure that one of those ways is to keep listening to and reading more and more of the details about how they are suffering and what this or that pundit thinks about why that suffering exists. After a certain point, possibly the terminal threshold, it feels like voyeurism and nothing more. It’s like the photo collection at work, full of countless portraits of the worst forms of human suffering, sometimes so extreme (usually during the annual contest when hundreds more pour in all at once) that I not so much become numb to their effects as want to hide under my desk, away from the screen, to rock back and forth muttering about my ever-waning faith in the possibility of peace and justice. But it’s this intercessory nature of the media that is the issue. I don’t need them prioritizing human suffering, categorizing it, interpreting it, and serving it up to me in bite-sized nuggets for me to swallow like a dry cracker with no water chaser. Rather, if you are suffering and want to talk about it or write it down I can listen or read as you share your pain in your own words, not those of an intermediary with some probable agenda, even as banal as needing to file a story in order to get paid. Thank you and have a good day.

early morning people

The city can seem cold and unfeeling. Thus, the temptation arises to shoehorn the masses into roles limited to acrimony or apathy, simply based on random anecdotal experiences.

Early morning is the best time to mitigate this wrong perception. Early morning people are different. They spontaneously greet each other and show consideration. Kind words are exchanged and eyes, for once, are not averted.

After 9 AM there begins a slow shift for the worse. The late risers trickle to the streets, leaking poison into the day’s veins. By noon, one might as well return to bed and wait for the next morning in order to continue bending this perception back into the right shape.

unsolvable word problems

the indivisibility of a single word leaves a remainder of yesterday. a woman is overwhelmed by the memories of the first time she ever did anything. a man has no recollection of the last time he did anything. a child does not appear in this story.

the indivisibility of a single word leaves a remainder of scent. all separate parts join together as a whole. name the value of a single part. prioritize a single recurring sensation. freedom to breathe in, a conscious act of breathing out. this is some semblance of life.

the indivisibility of a single word leaves a remainder of shadows. add up the things and people no longer here. also, the activities, the rituals. stretch a taut coalescence of the before over a bony skeleton of songs. e.g., little maggie and mathey grove caper in the yellow lamplight spilled across the hardwood floor, a dream of distance as anchors tug, hold fast.

the indivisibility of a single word leaves a remainder of dreams. of dusty corners. of regret. of a swallowing up. of a diving down. of a spreading out. of a lossless life. of listless eyes. of a luster tarnished by your breath. of every day, an ending, every day a sort of beginning.

the indivisibility of a single word leaves a remainder of nothing. fill in the blank to receive extra credit: _________________.

sunday night

I thought I had something to say but I guess I was mistaken.

It may have been something about the coat rack falling off the wall for the third time in as many months.

There is no difference between the time the rack fell down twice before and the time it fell down today.

I could be wrong, though.

Instead of not posting anything, however, I wrote this.

We can blame Borges for this.

It is quite foggy out now.

Or is it mist. It may be mist. I’m not sure I know the difference.

the one and the other discuss monday holidays

Today is Monday but it’s also a holiday, said the one.

Indeed, said the other.

How do you feel about that, asked the one.

Eh, I’m noncommittal, replied the one. Sunday becomes Saturday, Monday becomes Sunday, it never ends.

But…are we supposed to hate Monday holidays? pleaded the one.

The other frowned. I don’t think so.

It’s also September now, noted the one.

Yes, replied the other.

The blobs have returned to their indoctrination centers, reported the one.

Ah, yes. I see them in the mornings now, replied the other.

Other, whispered the one.


Are you afraid of dying?

No, stated the other.

Why not? cried the one.

Because I like sleeping, replied the one.

The one frowned. But you don’t wake up from death!

That’s fine, said the other. It’s like…ultimate sleep, you know? Sleep deluxe.

I guess, said the one. Do you mean…every time we go to sleep, it’s like a little visit from death?

Exactly, replied the other.

Oh, good. I was afraid death would be more like Sundays, said the one.

How so? asked the other.

Well, you know what Sundays are like, said the one. I even wrote a bad poem about it once! No one wanted to publish it.

Morrissey wrote a song about that, said the other.

Everyday is like Sunday! screamed the one.

Everyday is silent and grey! shouted the other.

The one frowned. But it’s not Sunday.

I know, replied the other. But remember how today is a holiday so actually today is Sunday, for all intents and purposes.

O, right! said the one.

Here, have some chocolate chips, said the other. Chocolate improves mood.

CHOCOLATE! screamed the one, inhaling chips like a vacuum.

Okay, I think you’ve had enough, said the other.

In your face, Sundays AND Mondays! shouted the one with glee.

Gimme those chips back, you fiend! yelled the other.

Not ’til Tuesday! yelled the one.

Fair enough, said the other. But I’ll be expecting cookies later…

More of The One and the Other.

hello sunday night

O, Daylight Savings, how I despise you. I woke this morning unaware of your silent overnight passage into my unsuspecting life again. Thinking I had a good handle on the day, being up and about at a reasonable hour on a Sunday morning, I was feeling fine. And then you made yourself known. O, deflation, how I shrink within you. From that point on, the time bandits seized my hours and minutes in their tiny slavering jaws and scurried away with them toward evening (perhaps the time bandits are really time badgers, what with the similarity in sharp teeth and all).

And so now I sit, the night’s hours growing slim, feeling time-poor and less weary than I should.

As an aside, I took a peek at last year’s archives and found that I had only posted once last March. Apparently it was colder, but other than that not a whole lot has changed. This frightens me.

dragon monday breathing down your neck

Yes, once again it is Sunday night and I am reluctant to bring the weekend to a close. It started out great on Friday with an excellent day of birding at Lake Roland. Many new arrivals were on-site, both summer residents and migrants passing through.  I found most of the birds I was hoping to see, with the exception of a Brown Thrasher.  The day started out a bit slow but I eventually came upon a mixed flock of Palm Warblers and Yellow-rumped Warblers.  It was wonderful to see swallows hawking insects out over the lake again.  The crew I spotted included Barn, Tree, and Northern Rough-Winged.  Other highlights included a pair of Wood Ducks, three Red-tailed Hawks soaring on a thermal (as well as one being acrobatically harassed by a crow), a high-flying Black Vulture, and the buzzing of many newly returned Blue-gray Gnatcatchers.

Much of the rest of the weekend was spent working in the yard, ripping out the evil multiflora rose and pulling weeds.  I have battle scars from the rose bush.  Many of the vegetable seeds in our new raised bed have germinated over the past week (photo forthcoming).  Today we went to a native plant sale and bought an inkberry bush and two butterfly weed plants.  Unfortunately, I found out later that inkberry bushes are dioecious, which means they require a male and female plant in order to produce their berries.  Now we must determine what sex the plant is; if it’s a female, it will need a male to pollinate it.  If there’s not one in the neighborhood (probably not likely), then we need to plant a male so the birds can have their berries.

Tomorrow begins a new week of stifling office hell.  Hooray.  One day I will extinguish the putrid fire of the Monday dragon forever!

yup, sunday night

Ah, Sunday night…when I linger even longer over ads for jobs that I will never ever bother to apply for.  Sunday night, when a certain gray woolen world-weariness descends, tamping out the embers that have sparked to life over three days away from the twelfth circle of Hell. 

But to focus on the positive, it was a good weekend…full of birding and time with friends (and even some family).  Friday night I enjoyed an excellent dinner here with said friends and family.  I spent a lot of time outside, enjoying the amazing weather.  Also, gardening materials were gathered today.  Soon the raised bed will be constructed and seeds will be planted.  On Friday at Lake Roland, I heard my FOY (that’s first-of-year for you non-birders) Pine Warbler and Eastern Phoebe.  On Saturday at North Point State Park, I saw my FOY Osprey, while barbecuing with friends a few steps away from the Bay.  Earlier that day, a friend and I attended naturalist extraordinaire Jim Peters’ bird walk at Fort McHenry.  The highlights for me were a very cooperative Brown Creeper that literally seemed to be following us around (best looks I’ve ever gotten at this bird), and a small flock of Fox Sparrows (soon to be headed north!).  At the Fort I also saw my FOY Tree Swallows, a welcome sight indeed.  So it was definitely an awesome weekend for spotting and hearing a few of the early migrants, as well as for fraternizing with some of my non-feathered friends.

Now I will return to Winesburg, Ohio for a final visit before I move on in my travels, next time to Texasville.

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