Death. Okay, death it is. This has been a bright summer day, after much, much rain yesterday and for the past two weeks, and it was cool and breezy today, in the upper 70s—beautiful—and I was at my mom’s and it was summery and quiet, in that still midday quiet that reminds me of my childhood, when I would be outside alone or with friends, in the summer quiet and noticing that it was a quiet day. The three of us sat on her swing and talked for awhile. My son and I later went to the woods looking for snakes, but there was not much wildlife showing itself along the creek. The creek was slightly high and silty. We wanted to bring some snakes home to try and deal with the Lazarus lizards, which are cute and we love them, but like the deer, nothing is controlling them and there are getting to be too many. Lots of babies too, all these two-inch tiny-lizards scrambling all around the yard. Three or four garter snakes back on the wall in the garden will work wonders. The thing about snakes is that you can never seem to find one when you want one. We did see one lovely doe and a great blue heron. No dragonflies or butterflies, obviously because it was still cool and wet. They both like it hot and sunny. There were lots and lots of jewelwings, which are a large metallic green or blue or bluegreen damselflies, with black wings. They are very striking, with a lilting flight and sparking some vivid, cool metallic colors through the dim, humid understory in the woods they like best. Jewelwings are a fixture of my life, but I didn’t always notice them because they’re black and they’re not butterflies. Now I always stop and look, and I always think, odd that something so innocuous and so commonplace in the places I know, is so incredibly lovely when you stop to really look at one. They are gorgeous creatures. So, it was sunny and with an active breeze, but still and quiet anyway. An odd summer day. I just don’t have death on my mind, sorry, and whether this poem is good or bad doesn’t even matter—it’s too dang deathly. But I must adapt my feelings. Death it is.
We had death in mind when we were looking for snakes. Not that we wanted to kill the snakes—quite the contrary. We wanted to relocate them to our yard where they would bring death to the overpopulation of lizards that hasn’t reached plague-frog status yet, like in the Bible, but we can sort of see that day coming. There’s a flurry of lizards around here now, in an ecology where the local lizards are shy, and retiring. They have gorgeous tails, though, as bright and blue as jewelflies. But blue-tailed, or aka five-lined, skinks stay hunkered down under rocks and loose bark, and it’s rare to see one, though they’re common enough. The Lazarus lizards on the other hand are flat-out extroverts. Speaking of death, while we were at the creek we both stopped and watched a sparkling teal-colored jewelwing up close—they’re quite harmless and friendly—and it was munching on a little moth. We were standing in the creek and my son slipped on a slippery flat rock and scared it, but it made a circle and came right back to the same perch and enjoyed its tasty little moth in our company. Like I said, they’re friendly. You could catch one easy with your hands if you wanted to, but there’s no reason. They just skip around from eye level to knee level, very bright and colorful, and they’re as attractive a little thing as one can possibly imagine. And yes they’re predators, so death is involved in the life of a jewelwing, but they just don’t put in mind for me the “death is a box” crap that seems so alien on a day like this. Life is a feast, nudnik. How about you look around? Sure the mind stops someday—maybe. (Not a lot of salvation on the imagination the day you wrote this infernal poem, was there?) “Death is a box” my ass. You’ve squandered my patience because instead of sitting like usual in a leather chair in a book-lined study (the ceiling is painted dark brown, by the way), I’ve been out in the rain-humid sunshine today, you morose thing, and call me a sentimental tree-hugger if you must, but the blue of jewelwings helped keep my eyes open. Jewelwings reflect the glory of Creation, that’s what I think, and so do skinks even though I didn’t see one today, just as blue and just as stunning. You can keep Harvard, whether they’re after you or not. I’ll take the muddy, rain-swollen little creek in the woods, bereft of public snakes today, but trust me, they’re there, and its population of exquisite damselflies wavering through the dank humid greenery like a faculty of blue fairies.