I would like to record accurately for once a view I see every day.
It is the tree-shaded lawn leading to what is too large to be called
a pond and too small to be called a lake, where my grandpa watered
his cows when this land was part of a farm thirty years past.
Now across the field which borders us on three sides is a development,
shady and not at all raw, for which I am glad. A hedgerow follows
the length of the gravel road leading to the house which my father
and brothers built almost as a jeux d'esprit on the concrete
foundations of an old barn. The house is peculiar, improvised,
homely and large, but pretty,too, I find, driving down the long
road to it, surrounded as it is with mimosas, crepe myrtles,
and great oaks, nestled in a concavity of a slope at the edge
of a field, with a remnant half acre of of woods at one edge
next to the pond, itself surrounded by old maples
But this is not the scene that I wish to depict. It is the
view from the house across the lawn with its oaks to the
pond surrounded by maples and an occasional white birch
that I am trying to see. I am seated on my couch in
my studio in the upper floor of the house. Just below
my window is the upper floor studio variation of this view but my
back is turned to it to test my memory on something nearby.
What interferes is the composite image of days and nights.
My ideal "platonic" view is not of this hour--it is
barely afternoon--but at dusk, at a time during sunset and
its aftermath, on one of those days which occur each season
when the ordinary merges without transition into the
spectacular, when pure cerulean meets moulten gold
and then is subsumed in a thousand slow shades.
There is a Rubens which depicts the sun at dawn seen through
the fretwork of a forest in which the sun is a stroke of
raw titanium white. I get the opposite each night, the sun
rolling under a forest which seems to store a residue of
light in coral pink and gold streaked umber. The pond,
furthermore, reflects light long after the source is gone, as if
the vestigial light has learned the secret of a half-life or
a life hereafter.
The shadows of the oaks are emerald becoming cobalt blue,
then a black which is a distillation of the green, a kind
of lacquer. But where the rural streetlight shines,
cast through shadowed leaves, the lawn is chartreuse,
almost phosphorescent, as if the yellows on a palette
have been incompletely mixed with blue and have not
become what they would.
Each blade of grass bristles with this artificial
nocturnal color. They are almost too pointedly
detailed in contrast with the blue black of the
The pond, meanwhile, has tried on every scale of the
opal. The sunset has illumined in flemish detail first one
patch then another of the woods, as if they are being scanned
and developed before one's eyes to then emerge en masse
with the silhouettes of trunks, branches, leaves, dark but
If it is July or August, then the intolerable torpor of a long
hot afternoon begins to subside, or better still, to gather
into a storm. The fireflies are out,electrical, and flash out
intermittently, now and again in sequence, so it seems,
or more rarely in unison .The leaves begin to stir and the
oaks to sway. The sky is sullen, and darkens with
a look unlike nightfall, more like wrath. A rogue wind
rises and spirals, clockwise or counterclockwise, it
doesn't matter. It is meant to agitate the roses,
as if to say, the vegetative life is not enough, there
is anarchy to be had.The exaltation of a mob smashing
It is then the first bolt of lightning flashes, and the scene
is printed in negative for a second, and again in intervals
impossible to predict, as the thunder roils , or cracks
so viscerally it might be the nearest tree executed
via electrocution, too close for comfort.
I am on a swing, who likes the moment when the rain falls
like a vertical curtain, and if I am struck dead this would be
just, even characteristic. But this does not occur though
the downpour is as fierce a force as one could ask for,
dispersing lassitude in a sudden flood which enlivens the
How long this lasts is variable, but gradually a
diminuendo effect occurs as the storm passes over
or vents itself. We are still streaked with lightning, true,
but with wisps of lightning compared with the Jovian
bolts that began.
I know that it is done when the bullfrogs surface.
A serenade for bassoons in the new cool. The
fish are also curious. An adventurous flop into
midair and out can be heard, perhaps to measure
the wider breadth, the one or two inches the down
pour has added to the pond.
As for me, I can not say why but I am more aware
after such a storm of the surrounding life, the turtles in
the slime, the snake in the grass, the tribe of
rabbits reconnoitering the vegetable garden,
alas, fenced in. I can feel the mice in the field where
hay is grown, and the surveillance of the owl,
which is keen. I am aware, also, of trucks on
the highway,and the road, and of the little town asleep,
and another hundred little towns asleep on the road.
Of houses with porches with rocking chairs on them,
and family graveyards in a corner of a field,
of rural churches, and service stations closed for
the night lit by a neon sign, and of travellers in
bus stations sleeping on a hard wooden bench or drinking
a cup of bad coffee as they wait for the bus
to Knoxville, or Memphis, or far beyond.
(from a journal of 1997)