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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Who counts the reeds in Winter?

(I have several versions of this written later – this is from a scrap of paper so I presume it is the first)

March 10, 1979

Who counts the reeds in winter, the dancing magicians tumbling head over heals with the frost, waving them straight and stiff in a sea of tan hair turned white upon the distant shore?
They are like soldiers dedicated to some foreign war, their drilled to the wave of a wand or the crack of the wind whipping them back into line.
Theirs is an ice-sleeved uniformed magic stirred to the beat of the traffic that passes over the arches of the old bridge, keeping guard to the thunder and rumble of wheels as alien to their world as Ezekiel’s wheel.
To keep they company, plastic cups float freely in the few melted spaces or rub shoulders with the roots of oak trees at the short, or even the praying metal spokes children’s boys that poke up out of the brown water growing brown themselves with the rust, all – reeds, bottles and toys – reaching desperately towards the sky that is beyond their grasp.
Who counts the reeds when the last wand passes and the ice-enslaved leaves break free, and bleed into the thawing water, or the trunks of trees crack, or the frozen branches snap – like bones suffering of age and surrender to the reality of passing years, rarely with but a whimper of cry, either to unfold and grow, or die?
The bloated gulls that hang above them do not count anything, but the few slivers of silver fish they snatch from the glistening surface, nor do the constantly complaining geese who themselves float in the free water like royalty, nor their smaller cousins, the ducks who mumble under their breath about the change, uncertain if it brings good or ill omens. The waving wand of wind gives them all other tasks to do at this time of year, casting their lot in with the rising of spring and the yet to be seen green that shows but hints at the tips of limbs, and the whisper of new reeds rising side by side with the frozen reeds, to rise up and take their place when the warmth finally comes.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Staring down Mother Nature

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The fog this morning isn’t as thick as it has been over the last few days, and though it usually causes havoc with my lungs, I’ll miss it.
When I can’t see the New York Skyline from the window of my Hoboken office, you know the fog is thick.
I spent part of Friday strolling along the shore of the Hudson River, thinking that Avalon would appear out from the remote waters – a King Arthur Legend I am particularly fond of.
I could see the water but not New York, and could see the ferries as they popped out from the white walls as if my magic, ferries that should have been fairies carrying passengers instead of mystical swords.
Some of the ruins of piers on the Hoboken side gave this an even more amazing feel, and I strolled along trying to glimpse thing in the over grown and twisted piers that the passing, uninterested masses would certainly miss.
Having a river within eye sight of where I sit each day renews me, in the same way the old Passaic did when I had to cross it twice or more a day, or could jog along it.
This intimacy, this tenderness of contact, is what I miss most about being close to water.
John Lennon used to boast about being the son of a sailor. I am, too, and the grandson of a boat builder on the other side of my family.
And though I tend towards seasickness in turbulence, I still tend to go to water to heal or to find inspiration, or to find myself in the mists of life’s fog – a condition that seems more prevalent as the years go on.
In the fog the sound of lapping water against the shore seems louder and competes with the daily grind that has brought civilization to the very brink, where industry and now real estate stares eye to eye with Mother Nature, and in this stand off, it is impossible to tell which one will prevail.
Our civilized ways have altered the environment in something sometimes called global warming, proof – despite the wishes of some deaf, dumb and blind religious leaders – that mankind has the wherewithal to undermine the creative wishes of God, and to turn this Garden of Eden god or accident has creative for us, into a wasteland.
We constantly thrust ourselves from Eden by taking too big a bite from the apple, this propelling ourselves forward with the illusion of progress. So these days, Mother Nature turns her fury towards us and lashes back, raising her waters over these streets.
Even the Native Americans knew better than to settle too close to water, but we don’t. We live with the arrogance of power we really lack. So our latest plan is to build walls to keep the rising water out so that the wealthy who must have views of water can live at the edge of doom – while wiser and poorer people elsewhere foot the bill with taxes rising nearly as high as the water.

So it is on foggy days like this I wonder as I walk if these foolhardy souls that cling to these shores still appreciate the view, the way I do, as the fairies come and go to the sound of water, and I wonder, who will win this staring contest – although in truth, I already know.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


Tuesday, January 07, 2014

It is not the deep chill that affects me most – though the tip of my nose feels as if bitten off by the frost – but the constant change of mood, the up and down, the sideways that won’t even let my old river rest in peace under its sheet of ice.
One year when my car crapped out in Passaic, Pauly – who was always begging rides to Quick Chek – made me walk with him instead, and crossing the Wall Street Bridge I noticed that the ice had stacked up on the surface of the river like ice cubes, all frozen together.
Years later, the Hudson River did the same when I could see look out my office window and still see a wider expanse of it.

But even though it is as cold now as it was then, the rough tumble and hefty lift of this changing environment won’t let the river alone, making it cool down or warm up in a way that must drive the fish as crazy as the weather drives me, neither of us knowing how to address this constant change, neither of us left alone long enough to adapt. Let it be cold, if it must be, or let the thaw come even if unnatural this time of year – although back when I lived in Passaic, part of the luxury of spring was basking in the new warmth when the thaw finally came.