“The sentinels on the ridge.”
Grasses are stirring in the soft breeze
Out of my window they beckon
Join us in the Avery sunlit air
Come let your pulse find ease.
And so thus my mind seemed brighter
As I wandered out among nature
Hearing sounds as if for the first time
Striding faster to the serenading banter
Smiling as I mimicked the bird’s calling
Seeing flight in all its naked glory
Swooping and rising in harmony
As then a crow’s sudden cawing.
More garbling and cawing arose
A caution flag seemed to rise unfurled
And then they took flight over me
Now I was accounted for I suppose.
So I lay down in the wind blown grass
To rest a bit as their images took me over
I would return home soon, a story to tell
Of the murder of three crows to pass.
The depth of life is sometimes not so apparent to the casual observer. A painter sees the sky, trees, rolling hills, windblown grasses, everything the eye can collect. Yet beyond, below and underneath are the real workings of life’s labor. The creature’s minute, invisible, then with wings, fins, legs, shells all linked together by the quiet almost silent rhythm of nature. A river most always comes from and goes forth in a cycle year by year. Though at times when nature’s rhythm is not in sync things go “sideways” as they say, and changes are inevitable. We can never know or be sure what is ahead or around the bend and this uncertainty keeps us humble.
A spring thaw brings fresh life-giving waters to long dried marshes and fields. Our story begins here alongside a great river, whose journey is many hundreds of miles to the ocean. A marshy area of great expanse filled up with all the usual suspects, fishes, turtles, snakes, frogs, nests, eggs of all kinds and bugs in large number. The grasses and cattails have a wonderful bed of tangled roots that run deep but in storm and high-water conditions are often uprooted and set adrift down the stream of life into waters unknown.
And so, it was that for a smallish patch of cattails by name we shall call “Fairyland” a mix of a few inhabitants mentioned before and some who have not shown themselves as yet. All were set adrift, marooned in the moonless chaos of the night to have their first sunrise sending golden rays of light into the depths of Fairyland’s grasses. A lot of scurrying about and sniffing of the breezy air seems to be first reactions to the newfound liberation and or plight as some certainly will categorize it! So much is taken for granted when living with abundance in a greater community that gives easy access to food sources and services. I’ve always been a bit of a hoarder and am little worried by this new circumstance, considering it an adventure of sorts to be welcomed. I’m pretty sure that some I’m observing aren’t as well prepared and have begun assessing other storehouses with greedy eye’s, such is the inevitable cause and effect of Refugees plight. We have departed our former home and will never return upstream again; the beckoning shore recedes in the distance as seen from my cattail perch where my newly woven nest is secure.
The breeze is picking up causing Fairyland to roll with the waves and become quite unsettling to some of our new travelers, lots of hopping back and forth and wasted energy if you ask me. We have entered the mainstream, traveling about a mile an hour. Maybe we will soon settle into to a new shoreline, marsh or backwater and join the new community if they will have us? A painted turtle is among us and seems very old and content, she (I think she is) is swaying her head and blinking alot but is very calm as if she has been in a fix like this before. I wish she was more talkative, me being naturally quite chatty and wishing for some good-humored banter. As I am suddenly feeling a bit sorry for myself desiring company, I then see the two frogs’ approach near to me and seemingly disgruntled about the wind as it’s not letting their bugs fly about. Hunger and anger often go together, like struggle brings on exhaustion and love can bring comfort, hunger is always a maker. Well croaking about lack of bugs will not help anyway, at least not in the moment when things are all so uncertain. The river has us now, a great river at that and our collective future is bound up in the changes to come as we go downstream to a new home. The dark water snake I would have thought should have left by now but seems very interested in our frogs and tadpoles, there is little trust among us but very little for the snake. Even the small fish that accompany us and all the eggs that are under us are nervous. Fish eggs are a commodity on the stock market, but their futures are looking bearish now. The moment is never what it seems really, if you think about it you just missed it. If you plan for it and try to catch it, you will likely fail as well. But to live in the moment is where great strength is born and nurtured and where a life of peace can be lived. Of course, then there are the distractions of life itself and the many players in the game of survival. And so here we are, all of us seen and unseen busy with the day to day, even on our floating island of grass.
Night is coming on quickly and not much has changed, some boats came close and got us to worrying about nighttime travelers being unaware of the precious lives on board. There is a mole or mouse I’m not sure, that is fussing around under the leaves. It made the big frog leap and miss her landing plopping into the river then scrambling up some debris attached to Fairyland. I hadn’t noticed before but there are more fish, small for the most part taking shelter under us and they are nibbling at the edges with glee. Also, a small group of terns is taking great interest in the small fishes, I guess being a few miles from shore makes us the only game in town, Hum. Well now the night has come, and I can only wish for a moon rise to lighten our voyage and give some comfort. Everyone has gone quiet and there’s no more scurrying about the island as the winds have calmed down for the most part. The night brings to mind many thoughts, thoughts of concern for the others with me, the young ones clueless to our predicament and fragile little home. What if the wind should pick up in the night or tomorrow? Rain would not concern us as we’ve got more water than we need, but what about lightening? I could just fly away, go find a new marsh, make a new nest and who knows find my mate! Who would know? I can see a bit of land, maybe I should go now, now I think, now would work and then I could get some sleep. But I am saved by the dawn, so I guess I’m staying, my red wings glinting in the sun’s first rays. I hope everyone couldn’t hear what I was thinking because I’m not sure I’m very proud of myself. So, Fairyland is it, let come whatever we will stick together, we will rock on! Everyone heard me say “we will rock on”, and in chorus were repeating it. Made me fluff my feathers!
In the hour before the sun was highest a large fish, maybe a Muskie or large Pike was keeping the small fishes busy with hide and seek, never a good outcome for some but nature has its way with us. The breezes seem to be gathering speed as are we, heading for Canadian islands, again I wonder of about our welcome there being unannounced. We lived simple lives at home, lives of labor, industry, working and helping others. Our home is under us but its bond to our country is broken, we must be humble in the face of distrust, envy, hatred if we should encounter troubles. I believe we are a hopeful bunch of travelers and will look for the best in others when we get to the far shores.
While fluttering around over the other end of Fairyland catching bugs, I noticed a small muskrat nest was barely hanging on due to the waves around us and the owner was very nervous to say the least. Others were watching the scene unfold, some frogs, a tiny turtle and a different snake than I had seen before. As I flew back to my nest, I hovered high enough to see a deep bay ahead and we were heading right for it but the day would be over long before we might get to shore. Maybe the morning will be a new beginning, a happy ending would be nice for our little group having traveled so far in hopes of a new life downstream. W.L.S. 5/27/19.
” My Debtor’s Prison” 1995
I’ve hoarded the trailing and leavings of my adopted world
and like a fisherman’s worm I am dangled a still wiggling bait.
From distance great and small my debtors wail like a siren’s song upon my walls.
I must have hoped for too much food, two morsels here a morsel there
A stamp of emblazoned guilt upon my back burns deeper as again my stomach cry’s loud
the sound of it echo’s across landscaped pigment circling upward past O’Keeffe’s water tower’s.
Delirious drifting reminders, companions in the dusk, tired thoughts entertain
There should be more light in my room or more room for my light
As low with dogged determination of spirt blazes a ray of sunlight
Eighty stories down never finds me but there in the dreamscape of fields and streams
The light is splendor and wholeness of healing
I’ve asked too much again.
“The Oak and the Sunflower”
I wrote this one morning on Grindstone Island…..
It was late summer in the valley, a quiet untroubled place. A young squirrel was busy gathering the winters’ food supply, jumping and scrambling in the highest limbs of an old red oak.
Gentle breezes stirred and bent the tall grasses and beautiful wild plants in the small field below. Across the way a great ridge rose high into the clear sky from the edge of a tiny but loudly babbling brook.
Men rarely came to this valley, or there was little sign of them to be seen: an old circle of blackened stones, a rusted and crumpled tin can, not much really to notice.
Oh, what a way of life we have. I am quite content. Yet there was a time when I had great questions, well, actually it wasn’t so much a time as it was a season…
That season came a few years after the squirrel I mentioned dropped my young acorn self to the meadow below, where a small group of deer were busy nibbling on flowers and grass after the morning rain. It felt wonderful to be resting on the soft ground, so cool and moist, no longer bobbing and weaving to the whims of the wind. Yes, it was grand, I felt new and different and … “Ugh, ow.”
That was rude, that darned deer stepped right on me and broke my little hat. Suddenly it was so quiet and dark and I, well I began to feel sleepy and ahh…
A whole autumn and winter passed and spring too! I was sound asleep, or so I thought, well what did I know then anyway? I was growing. I was alive, I was, was, I was in the sunlight again and the wind. Oh this feels good. I thought, this feels great! Hey! Okay!
That was a summer I’ll never forget, a wondrous time. I stood there on the edge of my own field, on the edge of my own world.
I guess to look at me I wasn’t much, just a few leaves and my trunk was, well, kind of small.
Everything around me seemed tall, like those pesky blades of grass that liked to tickle me. Looking around the woods behind me and above I could see my family so great and proud, yet so old somehow. Their roots wound deep into the earth and held them steady and tall above me. My mother oak spoke often to me then, and told me so many things; my mind would just spin sometimes. She spoke of having patience, great patience for others. She spoke of being kind, strong and caring, of hardship and strength, of sharing and happiness. I liked the happiness stuff that was easy for me. I hardly had a care in the world and I was very happy. She spoke of so many seasons, so many times that were before, and how it was quite possible that I would be standing here long after she was gone, that I must remember everything I learned because seasons would come when I would tell the stories, when I would be the great mother in our valley.
A few more years passed and I became quite a young tree, still very short as far as I could see, only high as the young deer that often brushed against me. A long winter had just passed and it was finally spring. Oh, glorious spring … warm breezes warm sunlight, days of splendor and new things again.
PEOPLE! People were in our field. They were walking toward me, they were…”Oh, look out there, don’t!” Whew, that was close. The big one almost sat on me. They all sat down, but the little ones, who ran around in endless circles, a funny thing to do I thought. But, gee, they all have smiles on their faces and bright shinning eyes. I wonder what they want here in our valley?
Well they were gone rather soon I thought, left in a hurry after playing in the babbling brook for awhile. It bothered me some, their visit and all, and the stuff they left behind, but a few weeks later the grasses had hidden everything, everything but a strange new plant that was growing up very fast where they had dropped some seeds.
One day after a long foggy morning I heard whispering and then heard clearly, “Someday I will be much bigger than you!” I glanced over and saw that it was the new plant and she was all leaves and stalk and not too much to look at. She was definitely different from the others though, and I nodded to her to let her know I was listening.
She then said, “I know you’re listening and so you should. I will have so much to tell you when I am taller than you! I will see things you cannot and thus will know more than you!”
“Yes, you may,” I said, already a little bored with her tone, but curious still. I asked, “What are You called?”
She answered, “You aren’t very smart, are you? If you were smart you would know that I am a sunflower and that I will grow very tall and have a great flower as bright and yellow as the sun, and I will be very beautiful to see!”
I replied, “That will be very nice indeed to see, I will look forward to the beautiful flower as bright as the sun.” “And so you should,” she said, “as plain as you are and SO small!”
I didn’t like her; she wasn’t very nice, I thought. I guess I shouldn’t be so quick to judge her, my mother’s words about patience and respect helped me to calm down some, but it still bothered me about that being so small part. I knew someday I would be big, but how big did a sunflower grow to be anyway? I was puzzled, for the first time in my growth I was really puzzled.
Well, there she was growing big, much bigger than anything in the meadow and she talked on and on about anything … anything and everything. She was quite a talker, that one. Her flower had begun to blossom very nicely, and as the next days passed she held herself proudly in the meadow, bowing and bobbing to the slightest of breezes in the valley.
It was a season on peace and calm in our world. Bees were buzzing and zipping here and there,
Chipmunks and squirrels sat often on their rocks and trees, always curious and watchful. The deer and bear families frolicked near the stream and in the tall grasses. I especially enjoyed the bear cubs and all the ways they could invent to play with each other, running, tumbling, rolling.
I learned so much that summer and as autumn approached I had one more thing to learn, a very hard thing and its meaning would take many seasons to see clearly.
My early anger toward my companion, the sunflower, had changed without my noticing, had changed to admiration and wonder, to fondness and friendship, to a kind of love for her. She began to ask me questions about my family on the hill behind us. She asked, “Will you be as big as your mother tree or as tall as the others near her?”
“I have been told that I may grow very large someday and may be like my mother who has many children all over the valley.”
“That will be wonderful for you and I think you will be a very good teacher like your mother because you listen so well and seem to learn about everything,” she said. I agree that I love to learn and in the same breath asked why she suddenly seemed a little sad. “Well,” she said, her flower pointing down at the ground, “I am older than you may think, in fact, I will not have another season with you my young oak friend.”
“But you must be around,” I said, “to watch the seeds of your flower grow and tell them all you know!”
I spoke quite loudly and she turned toward me, her flower lifting a little as she said, “It will be you, my friend, it will be you who tells them how I came to this beautiful valley, how the seasons change, why the wind blows, it will be you! You see my young oak friend, I will be gone soon, laid among the grasses in our meadow to sleep forever, to become the soil of your roots and I will, in a way, become you. And for me that will be the greatest honor I could know.”
I was shaken, I didn’t want to believe her, yet she was so sincere and she was suddenly so lighthearted, so pleasing to look at. “Don’t worry for me, she said. “You are my friend and I am so happy to have grown up in your meadow with you … you who will one day be a great oak tree! Let’s not talk anymore, let’s just stand and watch the days pass in peace.”
“Alright, my sunflower,” I said, “we will watch together.” Those were our last words … words would no longer do for us as we gazed upon our lives.
When spring came again and then summer, sunflower’s children were there all buzzing with excitement and I spoke to them of anything … anything and everything.
William L. Salisbury c 1995
Published by Ethel Salisbury
“African Identities” The Rwanda Genocide, Special Issue,
This sculpture was seen on my web site by a group of professors from South Africa and Australia. They published this in their Periodical on Genocide quarterly.
They requested I re-photograph it in black and white and I donated the publishing rights for the special issue
We spoke on the phone a few times about the work and I am proud to be part of the issue. Good work Gentleman! 1/28/11
” The Wallace Stevens Journal ”
In 1999 the journal contacted me because they thought the 2 crow sculptures were a perfect fit with Ezra’s works. A special issue was published !
” The Art of Aesthetic Surgery ”
” The Art of Aesthetic Surgery” By: Foad Nahai, a leading Plastic surgeon in the USA. The drawings for the series of 9 sculptures ” Silhouettes” were chosen by Foad for the cover and all chapter headings! The sculptures are now in a private collection. This book of 2700 pages has been published in 27 languages and distributed around the world to medical university’s . The publishing rights were also recently purchased by the ( Peoples Republic of China Publishing ) and printed in 5 dialects of Mandarin. The covers are Gold, Silver and Copper embossed. The 1st page in every book is about the sculptures and my website. TOOOOO ! cool