From the broken place in the retaining wall
I can see where the rains
Formed a rivulet
Leading down to where the water
Even when the rains never come.
The flow moves on through still, deep places,
Through playful shallows,
Down to the lake where my friend
Walks his dog at sunrise.
Over the dam, it’s a river again
(as it always was, underneath)
Flowing on its meandering course,
Crossed by repeating bridges,
Onward to the sea where another friend
Walks her dog along the beach at sunset.
And out on the far shore of the same sea
(it’s always the same sea)
Another friend repairs a wall
Broken by a recent flood.
“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” -Maya Angelou
When I go for walks, my favorite soundtrack is the sound of birds, and I have been noticing how the soundtrack changes through the course of the year, through the hours of the day. In summer, I was always accompanied by the cooing of mourning doves and the calls of cardinals. More recently, the mockingbirds have been taking center stage. Evenings are always filled with the raucous cries of grackles. With all due respect to Dr. Angelou, not all birds sing – but they all have something to say and it is always worth hearing. The sketch above was done at the monastery I visit in Nepal, where I became convinced that the swallows outside my window, were reciting mantras about the vastness of the sky…
Last week when we had the big rain I discovered a place where a footpath crossed Waller Creek about a half mile from my house. On that particular day, of course, the crossing was flooded, impassable.
Today on my morning walk I went back. The entire creek bed in that area had gone bone dry, so crossing on the footpath was no problem. I ended up on the University of Texas intramural fields. These fields happen to be home to Austin’s largest colony of Monk Parakeets (aka Quaker Parrots) and I was having a lovely time watching the birds flying back and forth between their massive communal nests in the stadium lights.
It wasn’t long before I realized that I was inside the outer perimeter of the fields, which seemed to be fully enclosed, except for exactly the place where I had entered. Determined not to go back, I kept pressing forward. It was like a giant maze! I seriously contemplated climbing the chain link fence. I could see the outside so clearly, but I kept running into locked gates or, worse, fences with no gates at all. Then I found a gate open that probably shouldn’t have been. This led to an actual walkway. And up ahead, I saw a student with a tennis racket entering what appeared to be a gatehouse. If that student came in, surely I would be able to get out. The fence on the front side of the gatehouse had a locked gate. So did the fence around back. The only way out was through the gatehouse. I walked in. “Hey,” I said to the student behind the desk as I nodded and smiled. Then I was out through the front door and free.
Did I mention that after years of searching I had finally found a parakeet feather?
Learning about Antoni Gaudi and immersing myself in his constructions, I have become fascinated by how his observations of natural forms in-formed his architecture. The branching forms of columns, the shell-like undulations of facades… So today as I walked the grounds of Park Guell including the environs (and interior) of the house where Gaudi lived while designing some of his most remarkable buildings, I kept seeing natural things that resonated with Gaudi’s built forms. The pine trees that branch just so. Vines that spiral around themselves. Ripe beans that hang heavily from above. The rough bark of the trees, the blue sky and bluer flowers… It is all there, and he was surrounded by it every day.
Some people may find some of Gaudi’s work a bit gaudy, but I am absolutely enchanted…