Snow angel

rust angel

I was looking for angels of rust under an overcast sky. The snow hadn’t yet begun to fall, but I could smell it coming. This morning, two Vs of geese flew over the house — non-migrating locals, I’m sure. It was only after their last calls died away that I realized how quiet it was. A quiet that meant not just Sunday morning, but low barometric pressure.

The day darkens toward noon. New shells of old furniture crowd the barn, fresh flotsam from the wreckage of Margaret’s house: all maple, my brother says. Stripped down to the frames. Studying the outside corner of the barn, I notice a drift of old sofa stuffing at the base of the foundation, a few feet below a large knothole where more of it bulges. The gray squirrel that lives in solitary exile in the barn must have its nest right inside.

The light isn’t good, to put it mildly. On closer examination of the side of the corncrib, maybe they aren’t angels at all, but red-tailed hawks. I can almost hear that archetypal rusty metal cry. Rilkean angels, at best: the terrible kind that wield swords of flame and can never be dissuaded from their quarry. So unlike the bugling geese whose breast feathers cover me at night — though geese can be fierce too in their own way.

cat on a compost pile

I hear a crunching of teeth on bone from the compost pile at the edge of the field. The feral cat flattens itself against the far side of the pile, behind the onion skins, the ribs of lettuce, the eviscerated hemisphere of a pink grapefruit. We could be like other country people and plant a wagon wheel in the front yard and a dish antenna on the roof, I think. The grapefruit halves collect no signals other than the snow that falls intermittently for the next several hours. After dark, where a car had sat in the driveway all afternoon, there is one black patch.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

6 Comments


  1. Beautiful Words! Thanks! May your new year be filled with happiness, health and ease!

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  2. Dave, thank you for your ever thoughtful and sometimes provocative writing and always beautiful and intriguing photos. I feel blessed by our blog friendship and wish you a very healthy, happy and abundantly creative New Year!

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  3. I love the “still life” in the bottom photo. It’s like Rembrandt meets Rabelais. Or vice versa.

    We saw rats running between the buildings in Harvard Square last night (very cultured rats, between the Cambridge Center for Adult Ed and the artisan chocolate shop — maybe they were inspired by the movie Ratatouille). Wouldn’t want them in the house, but they weren’t any scarier than squirrels and chipmunks.

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  4. Love that compost pile photo, dave. A beautiful still-life. You remind me that I could go out here in the desert-dry southern California landscape and find something that will inspire me. Surely there’s a lovely, eviscerated ruby grapefruit around here somewhere!

    Happy New Year to you, dave. Cheers.

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  5. Hi, jzr – Thanks, and the same to you!

    marja-leena – I feel equally blessed by your attention to my writing and photography. Happy New Year!

    leslee – I’m glad you like that photo. I was sort of pleased with how well it turned out, myself. Especially considering that I only had one chance – the cat bolted when I tried to coax her to stick her head up.

    I haven’t seen that movie, but years ago when I was in Japan, I used to enjoy watching the rats run back and forth behind the counter of this greasy spoon (greasy chopstick?) my buddies and I frequented when we were drinking.

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  6. robin andrea – I guess we were both typing at the same time! I wouldn’t say I was inspired when I wrote that post, but I wanted to write something, and I had a couple of cool pictures, and that’s what came out.

    I hope you get out for a good New Year’s walk tomorrow. I’m certainly going to try – especially if we get the snow they’re predicting. Don’t stay up too late dancing.

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