Monday, September 10, 2007

The Moods of Water and Life

Each working day I cross Lake Pontchartrain. Twenty-four miles one way on the Causeway Bridge. It isn't a sea but like a sea it has moods. Friday afternoon it was gray-green and seething, dimpled with rain and with white caps breaking like horses's manes in the wind. Whereever sunlight punched through the clouds to strike the water the liquid color turned to a toxic saffron that looked like old bruises.

Today the lake was a light steel-blue that flirted with the bright morning sun. Sparks of refraction ignited here and there as a faint breeze petted the surface. Sunlight and water played together, happy as any two children during summer vacation.

I'm learning a lot about the moods of water on my daily trips. And about cycles of life along the Pontchartrain basin. The pelicans are starting to glide right along the bridge railing again, as they did last year at this time. There must be some seasonal wind change that accounts for it. Suddenly the Sulphur Butterflies are out in force, not along the bridge yet but in the trees and along the roads toward my house. The love-bugs are here too. I see the early ones perched on my car, or on the railing of our deck, already mated. I know there'll be more soon, until the air is thick with love.

I'm glad I've kept notes of such things in my journal, because I can go back and see clearly the cycles of how water and the biosphere around it ebbs and rises through the seasons. This year I plan to keep better records of when things happen. I figure there's a story in there somewhere. Or perhaps just a life.

13 comments:

Jack said...

That's a wonderful description. This is great stuff to be writing down. I don't do enough of this. The times that I have though, I've found enlightening or useful.

Bernita said...

Painting with words...
But what are "love bugs?"

Charles Gramlich said...

Thanks, Jack. And yes, very enlightening.

Bernita, I don't know their formal name. These are little black flying bugs with red around the head that come in swarms in south Louisiana during the fall. We call them love bugs because you almost never see one by itself. It's almost always mated tail to tail with another one.

cs harris said...

Great idea, writing down the cycles of the year. My mother used to do that with her garden--when things first sprouted, when they bloomed, when they died back.

Lisa said...

Lovely imagery and great idea. This summer I bought field guides so I could actually know the names of the birds and plants and tress I was making notes about. I love the idea of noting when certain plants bloom and die and when the migrating animals come and go. Great post Charles.

Steve Malley said...

One of my teachers used to quote somebody else, saying, "You never really see a thing until you sit down to draw it."

Of course, that quality of intense, participatory observation applies to writing, making music, etc. Instead of letting this experience of the bridge slide off you, you take it inside and make it your own. The act of recreating the experience makes it soemthing that lives inside you...

Or I just need more coffee.

Travis said...

I like the language you use here, especially the phrase "...as a faint breeze petted the surface."

Even if there isn't a story in this, the daily descriptive exercise will serve well.

"...a toxic saffron that looked like old bruises." Most excellent.

Michelle's Spell said...

Such gorgeous images, Charles! I love the line " until the air is thick with love." That would be a fantastic title.

Charles Gramlich said...

Candice, I used to do some things like that when I was young, but then I got away from it after I got busy with a career and family. It also seems less interesting in the city, but in the country it's coming back to me.

Lisa, we have a bunch of those guides too. I just never actually thought to look up Love bugs. That's what I've always called them.

Steve, you may need more coffee but you're right on about making the experience your own and "then" you really see it.


Travis, thanks. Yes, especially for me since I've been writing so much nonfiction lately it helps keep my fiction eye trained maybe. And is fun.

Michelle, thanks. That is a good title. I should have used it for my post title. A lot of times I find the best titles come out of the material actually on the page.

Lana said...

I also took note that the magnolia flowers are in bloom around Beltane (5/1.) March seems to be the time for the azaleas. I enjoy learning about the different cycles of life between Canada & the deep South.

the walking man said...

The love bug (also known as march fly, honeymoon fly, telephone bug, kissybug and double-headed bug) (scientific name Plecia nearctica) is a small flying insect common to the southern United States, especially along the Gulf Coast. It is most often known as a serious nuisance to motorists driving at high speeds when the insects spatter on their windshields in great numbers.

It was first described in 1940 by D. E. Hardy of Galveston, Texas. At that time, he reported the incidence of love bugs to be widespread, but most common in Texas and Louisiana. By the end of the 20th century, however, it had spread heavily to all areas bordering the Gulf of Mexico, as well as Georgia, South Carolina, and other parts of Central America. L. A. Hetrick, writing in 1970, found it very widespread in Florida and described its flights as reaching altitudes of 300 m to 450 m and extending several kilometers over the Gulf.

Wikipedia

Donnetta Lee said...

Mmm Mmmm Mmmmm. Such beautiful words. Artistic. Do some more, okay?

Donnetta

Charles Gramlich said...

Lana, I remember how beautiful the Azaleas were. I hope ours is not dead.

Mark, whatever they're called, they're getting thicker, and thicker.

Donnetta, glad you liked them. I'll have to see what I can do.