Backyard Sheet Music, 2018, Archival Digital Print

There are so many accidental finds in my day.  The acuities I’ve developed here in Columbia County are different from those I learned in my years in Manhattan.  Whom to avoid on the subway is a subtle skill. In an imperceptible glance we sense the stay-aways in a car, and what the general mood is. All of us new arrivals remember the joy we felt entering a car at rush hour and seeing big swaths of empty seats.  A miracle of good luck.  That odor stays in ones nostrils for much of the day.  We didn’t know what that empty space telegraphed.  But, we were fast learners, too.  Walking down a street we learned to sense trouble and differentiate it from excitement.

Now and then I can feel an animal looking at me even though I don’t see it, a gaze zeroing in on me that triggers a primal nerve embedded in my neanderthal self.  Just as when the dogs go out in the morning, they know when an intruder has been nearby — recently it has been Coyotes.  It is part of who we originally were. My Pyr Shep Billy learned the scent of the Black Snake he encountered one afternoon in the driveway in our short stay in Virginia. He was a city boy just relocated to the country.  He never forgot it and sniffs with cautious recognition when serpents are around up here.  These hints of primal knowing make me think of our Native Americans who lived with the land. We must have seemed to them like the tourists on the subway seem to us — unknowing and unaware of the flood of signals around them, the cues of how to live.  For them to be human was to be part of the land not against it, not in battle with it, not eager to steal from it nor unmindful to give back in equal measure. Our out-of-balance natures missed all those signals in our greedy wanting and now we’re in trouble.

I feel lucky for these glimmers.  I feel lucky to live in an area where the Organic Farming movement is already established.  The land does feel different up here.   I cannot describe it, but it startled me the first time I walked on the soil of an organic farm because the earth radiates in a different way.  To experience it is to know it.  Why not send the President up here for a few weeks without his gadgets and Twitter feed, without his hot blonde women and toadyish men, and permit him to sit in the backyard and watch and listen, to follow the arc of the sun and the moon.  It’s a gift he will most likely never have.  He won’t see the backyard sheet music, nor feel the critter’s gaze, nor be surprised by a Black Snake, nor engage the wonder of the planet.  A loss for him and for our home, Mother Earth.


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