In Silence


Today it warmed up considerably after some very cold weather.  I love the outdoors but  not the cold so really find cold winter weather confining.  While cleaning up a pile of brush, I noticed how quiet it was, no birds singing, no sounds, nothing  except an occasional soughing of the junipers during a wind gust.  Some friends stopped by and immediately commented on the quiet.  It suddenly struck me just how different this is from the rest of the year, especially spring and summer with endless birdsong and raucous insect symphonies.  At dusk when I finally went inside, I sat down and wrote this poem:

The deer meander along the canyon rim,

stop, browse bare bushes

in silence.

The bobcat climbs the canyon wall,

surveys his rugged realm

in silence.

The coyotes run above the rim,

watchful, wary,

in silence.

Now, in January, the birds stop to drink

from the blue birdbath, bobbing

in silence.

At night, the stars and moon

illuminate my sleep

in silence.

Pumas–III


This is the third in a series of poems entitled Pumas.  If you have not yet read the first two, I suggest you scroll down and read those first.

I want

to walk with you

in my dreams

scream your screams

feel your blood

rushing

your heart beat

mine

soft golden fur

wound in my hair

your amber eyes

glowing

through my brown

death defying

together walking

moonlit

wild

free

Pumas


I have previously mentioned that I am taking a poetry class with Lorraine Mejia-Green through the Story Circle Network.  To date we have read poetry by Mary Oliver, Lucille Clifton, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Joy Harjo.  Clifton has written a very interesting series of poems called Foxes.  Joy Harjo’s most famous poem is about horses.  My obsession seems to be pumas even though I do love horses.

Puma I

                                                   My neighbor walked out her door,

                                                    found a puma lying on the lawn.

                                                    She arose and ambled off.

                                                    At night when I open my gate

                                                     I wonder if puma lurks

                                                     behind the cedar tree.

                                                     My daughter dreams puma dreams:

                                                      A puma chases her up a tree

                                                     There are no trees here big enough to climb.

                                                     A Zuni puma fetish guards my sleep.

                                                     I run with puma

                                                     Night wild

                                                     Free.

                                                     I scream and howl

                                                     Moonstruck

                                                     Bloodborn.

                                                     I hike the canyon

                                                     Stroll around my house

                                                     Look for puma tracks.

                                                     I see none.

                                                     I would rather die by puma

                                                     than in a car wreck.

Puma II

                                        I watch for eyes, blue changing to amber and back.

                                        I put my palm, fingers stretched to measure, into the footprint.

                                        Too small, bobcat.

                                         No puma.

                                         My thin body squeezes between the rocks,

                                                           climbing quietly down the cliff.

                                         Watching, listening, searching.

                                          No puma.

                                           Pale amber rushes across my vision line.

                                           My heart quakes.

                                           I watch; I wait.

                                           It is Isabella, a golden whir chasing rabbits.

                                           No puma.

                                           At sunrise, I walk the rim.

                                                          watching.

                                          At sunset, I walk the rim,

                                                           waiting.

                                          At night, I walk the rim,

                                                           dreaming.

                                           No puma; not yet.

Costa Rica 5, Fauna


Costa Rica continued to surprise me.  I did expect some of the animals, photos of which are posted below,  but did not expect so many cattle, especially the dairy cattle, including Jerseys, Guernseys, and Holsteins,  that populated the steep mountain slopes.  They grazed everywhere up to their tummies in grass on even the steepest mountainsides.  I kept wondering how they learned to balance themselves and why they did not fall over, catapulting down the mountain.  Everyone in the group commented on the fat, happy cows.  Such abundance resulted in fabulous steaming milk for morning coffee, rich cheeses, and the creamiest ice cream imaginable.

A cow pen near the top of a mountain on the Caribbean side next to the restaurant that sold cheese and where I ate the raw turtle egg.  Most of the cows roamed free up and down the mountainsides.

In the lowlands on both the Pacific and Caribbean sides of the country, Brahma cattle relaxed or grazed in the lush grass.  It reminded me of the landscape near Veracruz, Mexico, where I lived many years ago.

The most common meat besides fish, most of which is talapia, is chicken.  Near the mountain top where the Jersey cow above was photographed, I saw a huge shed and when I asked about it, was told it was a chicken farm. However, pork is frequently served as well and occasionally beef.  I took the following photograph at a small place on a dirt road.  We stopped there to drink coconut water.  The spotted, pregnant pig was due soon.  However, the fate of the black pig remained less lovely–food.  Their girth resulted from eating coconuts; they constantly gorged themselves.

Birds abound, from the protected scarlet macaws on the Pacific Coast to tiny hummingbirds.  Hundreds of species I had never seen before and many I had seen rather often like various egrets and herons. And then there were the monkeys which I did expect to see but found difficult to photograph with my ordinary camera.

These white faced monkeys roamed everywhere near the beaches at Manual Antonio National Park, begging for food and if that did not work, actually stealing it.

While the white face monkeys remained highly visible, the howler monkeys could be heard easily but were much harder to locate because they tend to stay high in the tallest trees.  Without a good telescoping lens, this was the best I could do.

Look for the dark blob in the middle of the photo.  They also move fast so hard to locate and follow and even harder to photograph under those conditions.

Just as we arrived, walking, at the entrance to Manuel Antonio, a downpour began.  Not fond of drenchings, I stayed back, hoping it would stop, and suddenly saw a small sloth, the grey spot in the nearly leafless tree in the middle of this photo.

Lizards of many varieties abound.  The tree near my hotel room in Jaco contained four iguanas that appeared nearly lifeless since they never seemed to move.  Again, without a better lens I could not really photograph them.  However, at Manuel Antonio many other kinds of lizards ran here and there only slightly afraid and relatively easy to photograph.

When I think back as to what I expected, it never occurred to me that huge, brackish (salt) water crocodiles existed in such abundance or even existed there at all.  Near Jaco, on the Rio Grande Tarcoles the Costa Ricans created a preserve to protect the endangered scarlet macaws and crocodiles.  We arrived early in the morning and floated around the river, into a mangrove swamp, watching birds and crocodiles.  The list of common birds included 58 species and we saw others that the guide referred to as “bonus birds”.  The following photos come from this lovely, relaxing river ride.  Truly, I loved this part of the trip.

Entering the mangrove swamp.

Two months old.

Where the Rio Grande Tarcoles enters the Pacific Ocean.

The boat captain feeding the crocodile in the mud barefoot.  I thought about touching this one he was so close until I was told they could swim as fast as 55 miles per hour.  It occurred to me that he could turn around really quickly and snap off my hand so…

Wolves


I own a wolf dog.  I did not set out to get a wolf dog.  In 2004, I went to PetSmart to buy a fish for my grandson.  The Humane Society had puppies there.  My daughter said to me, “Mom, you just have to look at these puppies.  They are gorgeous.”  I looked; I was smitten.  Isabella is ¼ wolf.  She was seven weeks old when I took her home.  She is smart, loves people, guards my 15 or so acres, and was incredibly easy to train.  She weighs 80 pounds.  Sometimes people think she is a German Shepard, but she is taller and heavier even though she is also ¼ German Shepard.  Even people who do not like dogs love her.  When I first got her, I researched wolf dogs on the Internet.  The information seemed incredibly complex and sometimes contradictory.  I trained her the way that seemed right to me.  She will not live forever and on the rare occasions I think about this, I realize I will never be able to find another Isabella or even come close.

Isabella leads me to the topic of wolves.  One of my long term goals is to research and study why so many people feel such an intense hatred of wolves.  This intensity is lacking in the way people view other big predators in the US, e.g. pumas, bears.  Why wolves??  What is it that makes ranchers and hunters in states where wolves still exist so intent on destroying them?  As a one time rancher who raised cattle and horses and a person who still owns a farm and grew up on one, I know it is not only because wolves occasionally kill a calf or two.  Something else drives this hatred.  What is it??

Recently, I had the occasion to have a discussion on this topic with a biologist friend.  He said, “People hate wolves because they are so very human.  Wolves remind them of themselves, especially the willingness to kill, the survival instinct, the wild.”  He also told me that he had read a research article on ancient hunters and the domestication of wolves, the precursor to all dogs.  Some researchers believe that ancient humans and wolves hunted together to maximize their hunting success.

Strangely, I came home, opened a book of essays, and there lay Sherry Simpson’s essay, Killing Wolves.  I read it.  I read some of it twice.  I have reread parts a third time.  She says, “The unknowable wolf hunts along the edge of our vision, never allowing a clear view of himself.  Imagination, fear, and longing fulfill what experience cannot.  And so a wolf is no longer just a wolf.  It’s a vicious, wasteful predator.  Or it’s the poster child of the charismatic mammals, the creature that stands for all that’s noble, wild, and free.  A wolf is social, family-oriented, intelligent, and communicative—like humans.  A wolf kills because it can—like humans.  It’s either-or, the sacred or the profane.  Inevitably, the wolf becomes a distorted reflection of the human psyche, a heavy burden for one species to carry.  We can hardly bear the burden of being human ourselves.”