When I woke at 6:30, there was a robin singing in the wisteria over the patio beam. For years a pair nested on the beam, under the eaves by the porch door, but then the weasel discovered them and stole the eggs due to hatch. And now we have Winter, a cat who likes to crouch on the beam, surveying the known world. This morning the robin was singing the long salmonberry song, beautiful passages ringing out into the morning, and what was that, a tapping by the cucumber boxes? A pileated woodpecker excavating the stump of the old cedar, the one we had taken down more than a decade ago, the one with the pumpkin seed tucked into its inner core. I stood under the wisteria, blooming late this year, and it was every spring morning, birdsong and flowers and the paving stones cool under my bare feet. And now, looking out my study window, I see a doe browsing the long grass.
After a period away from my novel-in-progress, I’ve returned to it with a kind of strange and fierce excitement. There were things I needed to find out about, marine engines among them, and a morning in a shed filled with them, guided by a fisherman friend who’d grown up with Easthopes and Vivians, was a wonderful inspiration. There were water pumps, gears, huge hooks, a small bell from a trolling line. The scent of old paint and diesel, in a shed on the edge of the ocean, was a palimpsest, in a way. Remember this, I kept saying to myself, remember the rust, the cold metal, the flaking green paint.
I went out on the deck and the deer stepped towards me. She is there still, looking at the house as though she expects the doors to open, music to drift out. In the night Winter woke me with the gift of a shrew and I took it outside, standing for a few moments in the dark to listen to whatever it was rustling in the woods right about where the deer is standing. It could have been a coyote or a bear, something making its nightly rounds. There were stars, a very bright planet that I think must have been Venus, and the astonishing quiet of the night, apart from the rustling that moved farther away.
This morning I’ll spend a few hours in the pages of my novel, where the old engines stand on their worn benches, and big wrenches hang on bent nails on a post. After a period away, I want to be there again, in Easthope, rain on the Doriston Highway, the scent of woodsmoke. In the night the rustling might have been an owl, a coyote, a bear. There was something I knew as I held my hands up to frame the little cluster of stars, something I need to find out.
Night is a cistern. Owls sing. Refugees tread meadow roadswith the loud rustling of endless grief.Who are you, walking in this worried crowd.And who will you become, who will you bewhen day returns, and ordinary greetings circle round.Night is a cistern. The last pairs dance at a country ball.High waves cry from the sea, the wind rocks pines.An unknown hand draws the dawn’s first stroke.Lamps fade, a motor chokes.Before us, life’s path, and instants of astronomy.
–Adam Zagajewski, trans. Clare Cavanagh