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Friday, 12 November 2010

Vanishing Point


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Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus), Araansas and Matagorda Island National Wildlife Refuge, near Hopper's Landing, Texas: photo by Alan D. Wilson, 2006 (via naturespicsonline)



On the cold late evenings after several heavy early season rains the black sky grew unusually clear and to the east the Dipper caught the night up and poured it back down in a shower of smaller stars, while the air, suffused with the grateful breathing of thirsty vegetation, felt for once clean and sharp and pure in the hours after midnight, when the city traffic had remitted; and in those hours I ventured out, loitering in the between-space; and so it came to pass that, as I approached the small arbour surrounding the quaint little local branch library -- which, in keeping with the general post-civilisational trend of things hereabouts, is, though perfectly useful in its present state, soon to be closed down and "deconstructed", to be replaced by some larger, wastefully tax-funded, concrete-bounded structure of twice the size -- that nocturnal sixth sense which connects the living with the living, and refuses to die, flickered into alertness; and a small internal voice commanded Stop; and in that moment I noticed four deer, a doe with three fawns, had also halted and were frozen in place upon the spot, amid the scrub growth around the silent and vacant library, where they had been furtively grazing until suspended in a paralysis of apprehension by their sensing of my presence, a danger; and then in the next moment my first thought, one of relief, in supposing for a moment that these beautiful fugitive creatures, with neither refuge nor sanctuary availing, had miraculously discovered a private place of their own, where they might come, descending nocturnally from the hills, to browse for sustenance, was supplanted by a second: that a month from now this temporary oasis will be what the deer, by now, a few hours later, have already become for me: nothing but a memory, fading, blurring, dwindling toward the extinction of the vanishing point.




File:Odocoileus hemionus 20.JPG

Black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus), with fawns
: photo by Cs california, 2008

25 comments:

TC said...

Another nocturnal urban encounter: Lost (Again).

STEPHEN RATCLIFFE said...

Tom,

Yes, beautiful, as we were driving up from the channel yesterday morning, Johnny & I saw a fox on Overlook, just standing there beside the road, in front of a fence, looking back around at where he'd come from, and we stopped and looked at him and he looked back at us, and then he ducked under the fence and was gone, vanished. "It's the same one from out in the field," he said -- which we'd seen about a week ago, just as it was getting dark. . . .

11.12

pale orange of sky above shadowed black
ridge, silver of planet beside branches
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

that parallel to that which
led to thinking, seen

“anything,” picture of “one”
which implies, thinks

silver line of sun reflected in channel,
white cloud in pale blue sky on horizon

STEPHEN RATCLIFFE said...

Poor little library there on the corner of MLK ("Grove") and Hopkins, where I turn to go down to my mother's (who lives on Albina, near the Monterrey) , didn't know such a fate was in store for it . . .

TC said...

Steve,

Silver line of sun here too, melting into soft blue...

That Johnny knows his foxes.

(And possibly those foxes also know their Johnny...?)

Thank gods the Monterey is still in business, though there was a period of doubt not long ago... The mistress of the house, true to her name, that of a sharply aromatic wild green plant, depends upon the place for her vegetables.

The library, though, the source of her modest principal pleasure in life, i.e. the reading of every interesting book ever written, is, alas and alack, soon to be reduced to its foundations.

Sad for the poor dear and for the poor deer.

Julia said...

Truly beautiful, though sad.
El instante quedó aquí captado y podrá volver a la vida incluso cuando haya sido olvidado.
Oh, I love the gigantic eyes of the first deer!

abadguide said...

Oh, how lucky you are to see deer. I see them very occasionally too, maybe once a year. I find it a comfort to know we share the same neighbourhood, even when I'm not watching them crossing a field or (once) standing in my driveway.

Artur.

Julia said...

occasionally ... I'm envious. I live in a big city I never see more than doves, some birds or my cat & dog...

SarahA said...

Beautiful eyes. Piercing and knowing. And those lashes I am very jealous of!
Despite all the filth and druggery, it is still a beautiful world; I am thinking.

curtisroberts said...

Each of these photos is so characteristic of deer I have known. One nice thing about the last 20 years of our adult lives (and all of Jane's child life) has been our daily proximity to deer (and the more occasional fox, always a surprise and a treat). They are so very beautiful to watch alone and in groups. Once I worked with a person who came from a family of deer hunters. We needed to work together closely and he felt it necessary to try to explain and justify the "sport" of deer hunting. These were painful conversations and I wish he'd saved himself the trouble. I'm sorry about the library. I can't understand why people do the things they do, but if the expenditure ledgers were available to me (both sets of books would be helpful), I'm sure things would become clearer. The "general post-civilisational trend of things". I can relate.

Chris said...

One must slow down, as you did, to reach this moment, where the vanishing point becomes entirely real, not just a word, but something felt completely. It's a kind of miracle that one is able to return from there, to elude oblivion, and write it down. Michael Wolf's disturbing photograph is a perfect complement.

What argument do we have against the vanishing point except for memory?

TC said...

Every sighting of deer here in the urban wilderness is a breathless, heartbreaking moment of stillness, mutual awareness, hearts stopped, the deer always a hair away from panic and flight -- of course they sense one's presence well before one senses theirs, it's this premonitory alertness that keeps them alive.

They have so much to fear, the traffic to start with... I have more than once seen, in the busy four-lane freeway feeder thoroughfare out front, a mother actually ferry one after another of her scared fawns across, with the night drivers sometimes slowing down to permit this, and sometimes not...

That chilling Michael Wolf photo, to which Chris refers, documents the prelude to a disaster.

And of course what motivates them to enter the humanspace is simple need. They are brilliant at finding what they need, usually it's water, but if water is not to be found, they know exactly which plants will provide a substitute. They particularly like rosebushes and avocado trees -- and more than once I have heard a liberal, well-meaning, animal-loving resident of this neighbourhood, having suffered such backyard depredations, fuming about "those damn deer".

The would-be hunters hereabouts, and there are more than a few, thankfully forego the opportunity to "take down a big buck" -- one instance in which general social pressure is an excellent thing.

The doomed little library is a favoured grazing spot, and nearby there is a subterranean creek which surfaces for a stretch, and they know about that too, of course.

Less than a mile up the hill there was for several decades a Chinese Christian fundamentalist church which owned, and left undeveloped, a largish wild area, overgrown with trees and bush. Several families of deer lived there, quite happily, protected by a ramshackle wooden fence. One could peek in through the broken slats in the fence and see them, and for that matter they had become tame enough to venture up to the fence, and poke their noses through, as if exchanging minor civilities with curious passersby.

But as seems to be the way with all good things in these parts, that lovely deer park couldn't last. The property was sold off to a synagogue, which, after a year or so of humouring the anxious supplications of neighbourhood residents on behalf of the deer, simply paved over the wilderness... and, yes, put up a parking lot.

It was that forced exodus which led to the migration of the deer down closer to the automotive mayhem which is the city.

And they were followed in turn by other solitary and furtive endangered creatures of the night... there are still dry tears in the memory for this one, which, caught up in its deer stalking, made the great mistake of coming a bit too close to the internationally famous restaurant Chez Panisse.

Nothing Wild that way comes without putting itself in mortal jeopardy.

curtisroberts said...

The top photo by Alan D. Wilson is the one I thought about all night. As I've mentioned, we used to enjoy daily domestic closeness with a family of deer who lived on our property who we fed for a long time. Standing so close to those shiny black noses and hearing their breathing is simply wonderful. And as SarahA said, those lashes. Everyone is jealous of those lashes.

TC said...

Yes, great photo. That gaze -- so near and yet so far.

STEPHEN RATCLIFFE said...

Tom and Curtis,

Yes, those lashes and that gaze -- and that wet nose!
I looked up from the kitchen table the other day, a big buck walking by the window (3 feet away) toward field where they live -- another night went down to see who was rustling at the bird feeder (raccoon?) and there was that same guy, standing up on his hind legs, drinking seeds from the feeder -- no wonder it's empty every morning. . . .


11.13

dark orange of sky above shadowed black
ridge, silver of planet beside branches
in foreground, wave sounding in channel

“some color after flat tint,”
you will think rather

because, to be among things,
that went before that

silver of sunlight reflected in channel,
shadowed green slope of ridge across it

TC said...

Steve,

Always good to contribute to the general welfare (oops, red-flag word for some...).

We're the notorious neighbourhood soft touch when it comes to animal food handouts, but one may say no more, when it comes to that.


because, to be among things,
that went before that,

here we are.

curtisroberts said...

We alternately refer to our bird feeder as a deer feeder or a bear feeder. The unfortunate thing about the bears is that, unlike the deer, who leave the feeder intact, the bears sometimes physically destroy it by disassembling the parts, actually bending the supporting steel pole (they're colossally strong), etc. There are worse problems to have. (For us, I mean; the deer and bear don't see this as a problem.)

STEPHEN RATCLIFFE said...

Tom and Curtis,

Oh dear, that IS good -- bird-, deer- BEARfeeder. Deer around here feed feed on roses, can't bear to fence them out (from their home in the field, where they roam). . . .


11.14

light coming into sky above black plane
of ridge, silver of planet below branch
in foreground, wave sounding in channel

being in a certain position
which things, someone

replaced by “and,” possible
“view” of, meaning of

silver of sunlight reflected in channel,
white cloud in pale blue sky on horizon

TC said...

Steve,

Breathtaking sky drama, from your silver planet.

“and,” possible
“view”

Hobbled out late again -- a dead leg nerve still from the August dog bite, so the pace is, er, contemplative... -- and, over by the Toxic Tunnel, where the trolleys used to run, saw three big adult deer, a stag and two does...

being in a certain position

...Well, I should say, before seeing, HEARD them, munching on somebody's rose bushes... and then, with careful graceful delicate stiltwalker steps, in perfect single file, moving on to the next yard... a brisk (scent-masking) wind out of the northeast was blowing from "behind" them, so evidently they either failed to pick up my presence, or maybe simply accepted it as such, and went on nibbling into the deep black night...

abadguide said...

My mother goes to Central Park in NY to feed the rats. She feeds the birds too, but separately.

TC said...

Indeed, Artur, discrimination is of the essence.

I have neglected to mention the plethora of rats here, perhaps the most abundant, confident and successful of local fauna.

I have vision problems and am always a bit concerned, in my timid nocturnal walkabouts, when some amorphous dark shape scurries across the blurred visual field (lower sector).

But then in the next moment I realize, Oh, no worries, it's merely one of our little fellow survivalists.

Last winter I felt I owed them a small tribute:

Sweet Thing: Rat.

abadguide said...

I'd never thought of rat race vs human race before now. What a nice woman to have them in her sleeping bag; you meet a better class of person in Berkeley.

STEPHEN RATCLIFFE said...

Tom,

Sounds like Wild Kingdom over there across the bay, there at the foot of "them dar [Berkeley] hills." Here too, family of quails in the one big coyote bush they didn't chop down during last spring's siege, another family of mice (rats?) who come out at night inside pantry wall, an orange and black wooly caterpillar crawling across the bricks, which the blond boy discovered last Saturday, kept as his pet for a while.


11.15

pale orange of sky above still shadowed
plane of ridge, red-tailed hawk calling
in foreground, wave sounding in channel

concealed in its appearance,
which for its part is

nothing more to be seen, is
for a moment, perhaps

silver line of sun reflected in channel,
white cloud in pale blue sky on horizon

Bowie Hagan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TC said...

Bowie,

Those rats from Akron are definitely cutting-edge.

I think perhaps somebody frisbee'd a copy of Louise Louie into their rathole, and they made great use of it.

Further observations on this opus beg to be uttered, but at this moment one is feeling like... was about to say ratshit, but then, it may well be that ratshit feels perfectly splendid, to itself.

So much is relative, compared to what.

Bowie Hagan said...

No, they're not very good, the Rats. I apologize.

Enjoy this passage.

Bowie