Wild geese

bench

My daughter — the one I never had — I’ve given her up for dead. Words in a dream. Whose? Pale gray skin rising out of sleep, this sky. One size fits all. Wild geese so low over the trees, you can hear their wingbeats.

Last night, my long-dead grandmother, impossibly wrinkled. We were standing in different lines; I don’t think she saw me. –Do you have anything to declare? –No, nothing. It’s true, she rarely did.

This morning, the smell of skunk goes well with coffee. The trees are bare now except for the beeches & some of the oaks, the big ones. Standing under them, I can’t snap a photo without freezing a leaf in mid-fall.

How can we live without the unknown before us? Certainty is a nightmare. At least when I dream, I know I’m dreaming! But the bench looks better empty, I decide, & wander off.

13 Comments


  1. I was particularly struck by “pale gray skin… this sky. One size fits all.” What a marvelous thought that is, Dave. And then I was struck by “the smell of skunk goes well with coffee” — oh! I know those smells well and I would just have to (strongly) differ with you on that point.

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  2. “How can we live without the unknown before us? ”

    Yes. Why do humans have this fanatical obsession for leaving no stone unknown?

    Thanks for including my Krishnamurti bit in your smorgas. Wish I could make permalinks, but maybe blogger does that?

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  3. MB – Thanks. Well, of course you’re welcome to disagree, but what I meant was that a small bit of skunk smell complements the taste of strong, black, unflavored coffee. In my opinion.

    Natalie – But has anyone ever really understood a stone?

    (I emailed you about the permalink issue.)

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  4. As to the smell thing — I’m with Dave. Have had that experience when camping, and it evokes a bracing sense of expansiveness and stillness for me.

    Skunk-related, also when camping: roused out of a dead sound sleep one night when a skunk snuffled around my tent. Became INSTANTLY awake — and as motionless as I’ve ever been — when I realized it was looking over its shoulder facing backside-at-me, with only the mesh of the tent door between skunk and face.

    It stamped twice — no spraying — and trundled off.
    I began to breathe a few minutes later.

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  5. A plesure to see your site’s epigraph in this setting. It’s better than an explanation.

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  6. Lori – I’m glad to know it wasn’t just me!

    Your story reminds me of something Chris wrote in Creek Running North a couple months back — running into a skunk on a nighttime walk, and standing still while it rubbed against his legs.

    Peter – Thanks. Actually, I experimented with removing the Char epigraph to the bottom of the page yesterday, and substituting a more descriptive phrase. But I couldn’t settle on a proper phrase; what I came up with still wasn’t very descriptive (“True confusions of a wonder junkie”). And I missed seeing the quote there. So I changed things back to the way they were.

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  7. the sky is in many ways, a skin.

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  8. One night I was smoking on a friend’s porch in Somerville, MA (urban/suburban). In the dim light, I noted he had a couple of dishes of cat food out, and at the edge of the porch I saw what initially looked like an oddly clumsy cat eating from one of the dishes…. I reached out and down, saying “wanna pet?”.

    Indeed it did, but as it came toward me I started to realize this critter wasn’t moving like a cat… I only got a decent look at it as it was already gliding under my hand, with the touch of the coarse fur completing my realization that this was indeed a skunk. (It had looked clumsy because of getting into the bowl despite those much-shorter legs.) It just made one pass under my hand before slipping back into the darkness….

    When I told my friend about this, he commented that yeah, skunks can be pretty friendly. I replied that they can afford to be, they’ve got Mace!

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  9. I replied that they can afford to be, they’ve got Mace!
    Good point. In the same way, we porcupines can afford to be pacifists.

    Thanks for the story. I have to say that some of my best wildlife observations happened because I had to go outside to smoke, regardless of the weather.

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  10. The slight odor of a skunk never seems unpleasant to me. However, a skunked dog racing in and hopping on my bed in the morning is a different matter.
    One night, back when we had laying hens, they seemed to be making a lot of noise. My husband took the flashlight and went out to investigate. After getting inside the outdoor coop, he shined the light from one chicken’s face to the next… only one of the faces wasn’t that of a chicken, but of a skunk standing next to his leg looking up at him. He calmly opened the coop door and called the hens out and the skunk ambled out too and departed into the night.

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  11. Wow, that must’ve taken a lot of mental discipline! Kind of like beekeepers who don’t suit up.

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