Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Seventy years old, still learning to see

About midway along my Path between home and college, a plank footbridge crosses the Queset Brook. Here the stream widens and purls beneath the bridge, and here I'm inclined to sit, feet dangling, and idle away my time.
See here the diving beetle split
flat on the underside like a peachpit

and kindergarten blue the frail
biplanes of dragonflies touch head to tail...
The surface of the dawdling brook provides no end of entertainment as it makes its way lazily to the sea. The water moves on, the creatures keep their places in sun or shadow.
...and water measurers on jury-rigged
legs dent the surface film and whirligigs

crowblack and paddlefooted spin clock-
wise and counter- somehow locked

in circus circles...
All this black water pumped up into the atmosphere by sunlight to fall as rain. Just a few miles north of here a resistant granite ridge separates two watersheds. Every drop of rain the falls north of the ridge ends up in Boston Harbor. Every drop of rain that falls south of the ridge glides under my feet.
...and backswimmers all
trim as college racing shells

row trailing their four eyes upside down...
Energy from a star 93 million miles away falls on the sea, lifts molecules into the air, and drives the rivers of the atmosphere that carry the water over the land, the great cycling engine of star and planet, water and air. And life.
...and mayflies seek the undersides of stones

to squirt their eggs in rows as straight as corn
and only after clamber out to drown...
And I sit with my feet dangling an inch or two above the water and I'm reading a poem called Creatures from Maxine Kumin's Up Country, a fine book of verse from a fine New England poet that has spent so much time in my backpack that it is falling apart, and still, although I call myself a naturalist, trained in science to be a careful observer, I learn from a poet how to see.