Thursday, July 22, 2004

Wildlife update. It was a cottonmouth! Three days later, the yard man killed it with a hoe. Its severed head opened its mouth, as white as cotton inside, to prove it. Faster and deadlier than a rattler. The book says water snakes are often needlessly killed because they so closely resemble the cottonmouth. Both hide in fallen leaves and among rocks, where they are practically invisible. We are consulting experts on how to control them. Some say sulphur keeps them away. The smell of hell.

This landscape is almost sexual, so deep is the emotional pull it exerts. Driving along the late evening roads, peeking through roadside trees to curving meadows, the sun a bright disc thrown against the sky, sometimes a lonely tree in full leaf silhouetted against the growing dark, I feel my womb contract as if I were trying to birth the world or take it as a lover.

Then I went swimming. As if in the Pacific Ocean. If the earth were glass, this is what the sun would look like, shining below the horizon. Yet even with the pool light illuminating the water, I imagined other creatures in there with me, quick black dangerous. Lie still, I thought. They are attracted to motion.

They are attracted to blood.

Snakes give off the smell of sulphur when they die. Or when they are angry. That's why sulphur can keep them away.

Walls of separation divide us. Matter divides us. It is our fundamental condition, the condition of creation. It is the human mission to lower the barriers, destroy the walls, get as close to one another as we humanly can. To feel that we are all swimming, that we are all water, that we are all attracted to one another. Not in anger but in love. But we are furious at our separation, we are lonely in our isolation, and we take it out on one another, not recognizing our need, not recognizing our situation, which is spiritual, which is one, which is why we must be kind and just to one another.

But peaches are the smell of heaven, believe me.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Amos the dog had found a box turtle to play with. It was hard to know if the poor thing was alive or dead, but it was completely closed up in its reclusive shell, all doors slammed shut head and tail. We took it down to the stream to let it go, hoping it would revive. Nature is everywhere.

As I stepped off the bank onto one of the rock shelves that project into the water, causing ripples and eddies and little waterfalls all along the way, a shape jumped! I jumped! It slithered into the water and disappeared. I had to go look it up. The first snake I came across in the book that looked like what it was was a Cottonmouth! Reading a bit farther, though, I recognized a common, unpoisonous and quite unconfrontational water snake.

We haven't seen a snake in weeks, partly because it's summer and partly, we think, because of Amos. But with the heat, he hasn't been so active, and this perfectly common neighbor was out sunning itself on the lazybones rocks, taking a little break from its hard day, when we disturbed it.

We have a resident Great Blue Heron we see flying low over the stream some early mornings and evenings.

We have a resident green anole that likes our white wicker furniture and looks (as he knows) quite fetching lolling upon it.

Frogs are not endangered in this neighborhood. We catch them in the pool skimmer on many a morning. They make a racket at dusk.

We have hummingbirds in the yellow bell.

Carpenter bees drill holes in the eaves. Wasps and hornets nest where they please. Likewise dirt daubers.

We've had to trap a family of seven beavers that were obstructing the flow of the stream by building cams upstream.

We've seen a number of deer by the side of the road. You have to watch for them, you have to watch for their eyes at night. One bounded right in front of the car when we first were driving around here. We've come close to hitting them more than once.

This is not New York.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Just published! In annual print version of xconnect, Volume 6 (2004), the mid-section of my book-length poem, Degrees of Latitude, called "The Equator." Other great stuff in this issue too. Get a copy if you can ( And thank you for your interest.

In addition, Angelo Verga appears in the current issue of Rattle(, Summer 2004, that features a tribute to Vietnamese poets.

Monday, July 05, 2004

A motorist ran over a six-foot long rattlesnake on the road ten feet from our driveway. It was headed our way. She ran over it fifteen times to make sure it was dead. Nobody around here had ever seen a rattlesnake so big. We had our pictures taken with it.

So why did we move here, anyway?

Sunday, July 04, 2004

So, why did we move here, anyway? I hope to tell you many reasons, many stories. Here is one of them.

Last year, maybe May. My husband Louis had spent the winter here, doing research on his family. I was visiting from Florida, or perhaps by May, from New York. We had gone to an early dinner with a couple of friends, call them Janet and Beau, to a place called Wade's Southern Suppers. Buffet, so it must have been Wednesday: fried chicken, fried vegetables, potatoes, red velvet cake, coffee. De-lethal!

Janet and Beau are not a couple. Beau doesn't drive, so we three others took him home. He lives in the country, in a rambling old clapboard house with a name, two chimneys, a family graveyard, and a magnificent magnolia tree under which he gives parties in the summertime.

It was a mild, sensuous evening. The sun was setting as we drove and had gone down completely by the time we arrived at Middleplace. The moon had risen and it was full. There was a silver glow across the broad yard, the gate, the white sides of the house, the roof, the chimney, and the peacock sitting atop the chimney, silhouetted against the sky.

Beau keeps peacocks.

If there had been music -- and there should have been music -- it would have been something soft and swelling, violins and saxophones, under the peacock's screech.

We had the moon in our eyes. When we woke the next morning , we still had the feeling we had gone someplace else, to some land beyond reality, to Brigadoon.

Edgefield is a real place. But once in a while, in one corner or another, it becomes mystical .