I pulled into the dog sanctuary and parked the car. I powered down the window, picked blackberries, and ate them: drive-thru blackberries. I want a home with drive-thru blackberries.
Bonnie and Clyde were rocking and rolling at the gate. Dog rock lives. The other rock? Who cares.
The two old dogs seemed giddier than usual. Maybe they knew volunteers had recently raised over $9000 for the sanctuary via the rummage sale. That’s triple the usual take and I felt good having a silent hand in making it happen. Good work in silence. That’s the way I’ll do it from now on for the rest of my life.
We hit the pasture. The thistles had invaded and flowered their purple army. Clouds hovered above the clearcuts and I thought about clearcuts and my adventures in clearcuts. I could write a book about them. I think I already ready have, here and there, in that essay, that vignette, that erotica, that editorial, that dog tale, that short story, those photographs. All I need to do is replant them all (not in rows!) and watch how they grow and root into a novel literary forest that would not read like a mono-culture plantation-kind of story. I know who I would dedicate this book to.
My clearcut daydreaming came to a halt when I saw something moving in the grass and thistles to my left. I veered toward it for inspection. It was a barn swallow, newly fledged, grounded, trying to fly, flailing.
I witnessed this frequently while living on the wildlife refuge and I intervened almost every time and thus interrupted nature. So be it. If I can help save a life right in front of me, I will act.
But not this time. There was no safe place to to take the swallow, like there was on the refuge. A hawk would find him in short order and continue a cycle.
I moved past the swallow and Bonnie and Clyde followed. Sadness engulfed me. I wanted to help the swallow, but knew nothing could help. I meandered to the river when I discovered my TV tray and camp stool, upright, in front of the electric fence. What? It was disconcerting. I thought I had it well hidden under a downed alder. One never knows who lurks along Oregon’s coastal rivers.
I carried the tray and stool down to the river and set up the writing studio. I settled in with a blue book and pen and saw a fish jump 70 yards upstream.
There was evidence of cows moving across the river. I was writing about the river when Clyde came out of nowhere and licked my face—for the first time! I gave him a treat. He knows how to work it. Bonnie got one, too. She’s more demur. Every time I visit the river with the dogs it reminds me of my former, better life on the refuge and what I’ve lost inside me since I left that magical place in 2008.
I wrote for 15 minutes and then knew it was time to leave. I stashed the TV tray and camp stool behind a thicket of salmonberries and we started making our way home through the pasture. I retraced our original path wanting to see if the swallow was still there. I knew in my heart he wouldn’t and it wasn’t because he learned how to fly.
He was there! I couldn’t believe it. It was impossible. I moved closer toward the swallow to see the struggle and then…he… began flapping his wing in earnest….and then he….lifted up, higher, inches higher, and…lift off…five feet, ten feet, then a magisterial bank around toward me, over me. The swallow joined one of his buddies in flight, and they commenced that special undulating swallow flight, the metaphor of how we all want to live, or at least I do.
I started clapping and then crying. I said aloud: “Bonnie and Clyde did you see that!”
Perhaps they did. The came over to me and sniffed around. I was asking for corroboration because it was the most unlikely beautiful non-thing I’d seen in a long, long time. Yes, there is occasional beauty in unlikely nothingness. There is also non-poetic poetry in the swallow’s liftoff above the pretty purple seed flowers of the thorny jagged thistle. I saw it all. I took note. Not notes. Note.
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