Camping in a Parallel Universe (Poem and short life-story)
Reading the signs in nature.
A feather that lays where it fell from some bird,
This is the land where I see shapes in the trees.
Sometimes I think I see artifacts hidden on the beach,
A rock that could be anywhere.
In the yard there is a chopping block.
Around a small sapling there is a collection of colored rocks.
One large piece of jasper, split into two, reveals its raw red inner color.
Behind the shelter, the trees all lean uphill from the slow creeping of the ground
Climbing the tree with the forked trunk my father takes the bucket off the stovepipe.
Moss grows on the roof amidst the pieces of scavenged driftwood and bones.
Above the door there are nailed the decorative driftwood treasures,and the husk of a low tide sponge, Its branched fingers and hollow pores dried out in the sun like a welcome sign in a different language
Inside the shelter on the wall are the yellowed illustrations in crayons, pencils, and pens, accumulated from winters and summers past.
Above the the loft are netted compartments for storage, extra clothes where the mice sometimes like to hide and gnaw
On the ceiling is the kite the my father made out of an old garbage bag with the north star stitched upon its upper right quadrant.
“Ducks!” I hear the word, and I peer through the netted window. In the dim morning light, I see the iconic tree stump that lays across the creek. I remember one morning a seagull landed on it all the way up here at the edge of the woods.
Now is the time of receiving nature’s blessing. My brother returns from hunting.
I hear the word “ducks” and close my eyes: I see many colors glint off shiny feathers. Graceful bodies gliding through the air. An animal with wings, feathers, and a beating heart. A flock of ducks like a movement. Seeing them now in my mind as I close my eyes, I following where they travel. I feel emotion in their invisible flight patters. Because of my brother I know the name of every duck in the illustrated bird book by heart before I can can read the names.
I am a child playing on the beach with the sound of the kitten and the creek. The mew of the cat ‘Blueberry’ follows my brother down to the beach. He walks down past the fallen down tree, past the freshwater hole in the creek, carrying his ducks that he has shot this morning. I am curious to watch him clean them in the creek water. The cat is also interested, as he always is after my brother returns from hunting. I sit on my heels, the cat meowing at my ankles, as he starts cleaning. The creek washes away the blood from my brother’s hands. “What’s that?” I ask always the curious little brother, pointing at the the intestines.
My brother explains, “first you have to cut around the butt-hole” He demonstrates as he uses his always sharpened pocket knife “and then you throw this all away.” He demonstrates, tossing a clump of raw parts off to the side. He enjoys explaining his expertise and continues to describe the other parts of the duck. “This is the liver,” he identifies as he throws it to the impatiently waiting cat which sets upon devouring it immediately. After a minute he says, “Here is the heart, the cat is lucky today.. lucky cat gets a heart!” He triumphantly holds it up and then tosses it to the cat.
My brother once explained something to me about ducks:
I asked him “what is the difference between ducks and birds?” He told me very simply, “All ducks are birds but not all birds are ducks, ” which is a very helpful answer.