After March 21st, light outruns dark. Human beings create stories across many cultures to acknowledge, to understand, to make meaning of this phenomenon. When the darkness is finally conquered by the longer days of spring and summer, tales of heroes and villains emerge. Moses and the Pharaoh (Passover), Jesus and Pontius Pilate (Easter.) Krishna and Radha conquer doubts through divine love (Holi) and the forces of good triumph over evil (Nowruz.) Remembering ancestors and preparing to plant come together (Tomb Sweeping Day.)
In September, we’ll prepare for winter decline. For now, be fruitful, make the Earth a better place.
Before we go to the zoo, I memorize butterfly names from the books in my grandfather’s library. Tiger swallowtails, yellow and black, their wings majestic as they take flight from an aspen tree. Migrating monarchs drink from lupines.
Xerces blues exist only on paper, their permanent home on page 27, “Insects of San Francisco .” I slip the book back on the shelf and wish that someone had rescued the blues.
My grandfather is ready to cycle with me to the tram. He wears a kerchief over his nose to block the dust. “Used to be they lived in my fields.”
Rip woke in a frenzy. What a nightmare he’d had. Befuddled by layers of dust on the furniture, his feet numb with sleep, he left the house. How long had it been?
A trail behind his house led to an overgrown pasture. Where were the cows he kept? And if they were gone, why hadn’t the deer replaced them? He tuned his ears to the sounds of birds and heard nothing. He found the river, now a creek. Sixty years ago, there’d been a spring that gushed from a rock. Now it was silent. Hope’s season had come and gone.
In 1975, I biked my dog to Stanford campus. At Tressider Union, I drank coffee. He rested under the table. Afterwards, we stopped at Lake Lag. Cas retrieved sticks, swimming murky water. “Two-thirds what it was,” the old timers said.
In 2012, my niece moved into a dorm that backed onto a weedy, muddy shadow of Lake Lag. I expected it to fill with rainy season water. No luck, dry like this year.
Hundred year drought we’re in. Arsenic blows off a drying Great Salt Lake, a hazard to fish and people. Climate cycle, climate change, it’s too damn hot.
Can you find the hidden alligator lizard? Imagine squatting in an iris bed, pulling unwanted grass. The grass is what you see first. But before you reach in, ready to tug, a pattern emerges and then a snout and then the wary lizard, eyes unblinking, body unmoving. What a cutie!
Not everyone has that last reaction, but I do. They have personalities, these reptiles. Two fence lizards who lived in our backyard were inseparable, protective of each other, the Romeo and Juliet of lizards. Great extroverts, they enjoyed relaxing on their backs, exposing the blue line that bisected their tummies.
Our fence, her highway, three times that we know of. Once struggling in thick ivy, an ashen color, a naked tail that made us mistake her for a white rat disturbing the leaves. Next, she cased the neighbor’s vegetables. Finally, she came with two juveniles following in a line.
It was daylight, an unusual time for them to be about. Overcast, so that might have helped. The mother was scruffy, the youngest sleek with soft fur. We didn’t see them after that.
Maybe the camera scared them off.
Or is it that they change hunting grounds every few days?
The last time we met you was before Zoom was the go-to way to say “Hello.” A long time ago, but we remember.
Your three year old was a baby. She’s distant, no interest in meeting strangers. As long as you hold my phone for her, she likes the photo of the lizard camouflaged in the dirt.
“The ground is moving.” Enough to entice a child to get acquainted. It’s a tuft of dried grass, to be precise. A nose pushes up, sniffing the air, reluctant, the way we were when we took the risk to picnic in the park.
They flew in shield shape, banking together. Not a bird was out of formation. The fluid group landed in a mulberry where they plucked juicy fruit, bringing the tree to life with their acrobatics and mid-air high jinx.
Such handsome fellows, masked like robbers, with subtle rusty red and muted yellow highlights on their mourning dove grey cigar bodies.
My camera disrupts them, but not before I have a picture. A silent order travels through the troupe, wings flutter together, they move with one mind. They will be back; they have no choice. It’s how they earn a living.