on stillness and pilgrims of the night

Stillness reigns in these long hours before dawn, the moon a sliver and gone so soon it might not have come at all for the weary or slumbering. We had gale-force winds before sunset again and expected those to pound us all night and into next week, truth tell and forecasters, too, but no. The winds vanished without warning, without adieu, fuss, or promise, leaving the stage to this imponderable stillness, skies inky black and receding, the whole lot alongside us merely parts of one impossible whole that is steadily, relentlessly coming apart.

IMG_6868And then, like a whisper gaining strength from a wide-open field of waiting and wondering ears and hearts, the winds ease back in now from stage west, fingering the house—walls, windows, doors—seeking not shelter but a simple sashay through any unsecured crannies of the persons within. In such nights eternity reveals the middle earths of its soul and we, its lonely wanderers, are greeted with the welcome reserved for long-lost pilgrims.

~

 

All images and content in this post, as with all on this site are original, subject to copyright, all rights reserved. If you wish to share or post them, please do so with a link to the page on which you found them. Thanks in advance for your consideration. © Hannah Nyala West and pointlastseen.wordpress.com, 2009 — present. (Formal copyright notice on About page.)

 

on tbt – grandfathers and kites

They were plain sharecroppers who helped to raise me in my early years, teaching me valuable lessons like how to build kites every spring, how to sip Folger’s from a saucer so it wouldn’t burn your lips, how to find the sweetest blackberries and stew them up with dumplings—small, necessary lessons tied to the seasons and the land.

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Spring was for kites. Not the citified or store-bought things, oh no, not those. I’d come racing down their driveway with their mail in hand after school, and when my feet hit the porch, Pappaw would say, “There’s something for you on the table,” and sure enough, if the wind had been kicking up just so in the last few days, there it would be: a brown paper bag. I knew the drill from there. Borrow Mammaw’s quilting scissors, grab a pencil for tracing the cut lines and a box of crayons for the decoration, cut the bag open and lay it out flat on the floor next to Pappaw’s rocking chair on the porch, edges of the paper secured by rocks. Then I’d hie off to gather two perfect cross-sticks from the woods and, on the way back to the house, four perfect broom straws from the patch where Mammaw grew her straw: “Don’t trample the rest of it,” Pappaw’s words, only ever said the first time (when I was four) and never repeated, but I heard it in my head every year just the same and usually said it out loud myself because I savored the sound of homespun words like “trample” and understood in my bones the import of carrying on the family history well enough that you could tell it yourself: “She’ll be wanting that straw to make new brooms soon. You just pick four good flyers.”

Four good flyers. Four long tail wings for that kite. Pappaw helped me make a series of slits through which the stalks could be threaded, then helped me to get the cross braces made and the paper bag attached to it. These were no flimsy kites. These were large, sturdy, working people’s art and I put markings on them every year to depict what was most important to us: the sun, the rain, the dirt, the trees, a standing field of sweet corn, some blackberry brambles, and always a flower and some birds and some horses and so on. That all took a considerable amount of time (because I never could draw worth a lick but was determined to do it anyway), so the kite never flew on its first day of being. The next afternoon, though, when the parts had had time to get into the habit of each other, Pappaw would hand over the treasured ball of twine, we’d connect the kite to it with a doubled-off set of farmer’s knots, and then off we’d head up the hill pasture in front of their house to find a winsome thread of the wind on which to launch our beautiful creation.

There are not many sections of sky in rural southern Mississippi that didn’t have trees just waiting to snatch our beautiful kites from the sky, but that field above the house had a sweet spot in its middle and the pines and oaks would have to just stand alongside its edges and stare at us, I believed. So they would stand and speak the gentle wind’s name and watch without touching as we all flew and laughed, happy and forever, and Pappaw would always say at least once and sometimes twice, “That’s a working man’s kite,” and I knew it to be god’s truth and myself a working man in this world, and my chest and head would swell with the pride of being in that line and I’d work that kite from my feet on the ground but the rest of me up there with it until my blistered fingers could no longer hold onto the twine, and then we’d finally haul in the kite and head to the house for dinner.

For throwback Thursday this week, all I could think about were kites. It’s been decades since I built one, because after Pappaw died—in that horrible, long drawn-out way with the cancer eating out a whole side of his face and him in such pain he could no longer even grin at me (though he still tried)—I just couldn’t do it without him. I would sit on the porch by his still, empty rocking chair with my paper bag and tools all ready and the wind calling our names as always, but I just couldn’t do it with him gone. I fly our kites in my heart, though. Build and fly our kites in my heart. One day soon I will teach my granddaughter to build a working man’s kite, too, and then she can carry one of her great great grandfathers in her bones and, in this way, I trust, know herself also to be a working man capable of wresting four good fliers from a field without trampling the rest and setting one beautiful thing loose in the world for one perfect afternoon every spring.

~

 

All images and content in this post, as with all on this site are original, subject to copyright, all rights reserved. If you wish to share or post them, please do so with a link to the page on which you found them. Thanks in advance for your consideration. © Hannah Nyala West and pointlastseen.wordpress.com, 2009 — present. (Formal copyright notice on About page.)

on tbt – parents for all seasons

I can shoe a horse, milk a cow, drive a tractor, and move a sunbathing rattlesnake off an asphalt highway so the next car won’t hit him on purpose. The first three I learned from my parents; the last is all me.

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I can rescue a fightin’ mad and injured raccoon or horse, sing a cappella in public for money, play piano for strangers and kin alike, and cuss like a sailor standing ten words this side of the grave. The first three I learned from my parents; the last is all me.

sc0000e734I can sew my own clothes, clean my own house, mow my own yard, and bake a choked-off or dropped biscuit that can ease down your throat like the resin off a sweet chaw of newly cut sugar cane. The first three I learned from my mother; the last is all me.

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I can shuck corn, buck hay, haul wood, and wield a pulaski. The first three I learned from my father; the last is all me.

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I can work while everybody else is sleeping, sleep while everybody else plays, tell the truth even when it hurts, and trust in heaven from the nearsome side of anybody’s torment. The first three I learned from my parents; the last is all me.

IMG_3260I can read books, write letters, swim muddy rivers, and shout Amen to a sinner’s doings and mean it. The first three I learned from my parents; the last is all me.

I can raise chickens, prune tomatoes, string butter beans, and grow mushrooms. The first three I learned from my mother; the last is all me.

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I’ve known many, many a fine parent in my time here. None—near or far—measure up to mine. We crossed horns on our paths, my sturdy will and bare feet tangled up with their best-laid plans and dreams and years of hard, aching work, and I didn’t turn out near as well as they’d hoped, but nearly all of my best qualities were set into me by them: by our shared genetics and histories, the homes and pastures and fields and yards we built together, the symbols we sparred over, the models we looked to, and the legends we all breathed in until we became them.

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Without any say in the matter, I broke into their lives like an asteroid seeking shelter, and they bundled me up, carried me till I could walk, held me up in the saddle till I could do it myself, and made sure I behaved like I had good sense or paid a price I would remember and live by. My love for these two people is a fierce fire, unquenchable, unstoppable, a force of nature that grins at any tools deployed to halt or hinder its devouring maw. From them I came; for them I live: how I wish there were a god somewhere to whom I might tender my eternal gratitude for having emerged on this planet from these particular parents. Throwback Thursday isn’t near wide enough to carry my stories of them, but it’s a beginning: one long pitch forward into that long night to which we all go.

~

 

All images and content in this post, as with all on this site are original, subject to copyright, all rights reserved. If you wish to share or post them, please do so with a link to the page on which you found them. Thanks in advance for your consideration. © Hannah Nyala West and pointlastseen.wordpress.com, 2009 — present. (Formal copyright notice on About page.)

on the moon being storied

IMG_0186As the moon began its slow walk up the sky last night, on its way to that next storied meeting, I stood and stared with eyes and camera not up to the task of capturing any of what was afoot. Some of us here on earth had styled it a red moon, a blood moon even, and started rearranging our sleep schedules weeks ago to be present, awake, to see from afar, to wonder.

How one perfect orb could so readily intrigue we denizens of earth? That’s a mystery. We huddled beneath blankets, eyes trained on the sky, to see the shadow of our lonely planet blot out its own moon’s primary access to the sun for a spell: that’s all. Whispers attended the night, theories of people before us, before cameras, before telescopes. Given the prominence of that steely orb in our night skies, we agreed, no wonder we humans wax mythopoeic at eclipses. Most of us will never set foot on the moon, but on nights like this one? When our shadows pass before its face and it recedes—opalescent, hued in reds gone pearly near its edges? We can so easily imagine ourselves walking amongst the stars for good. Eternal emptiness touched by magic, storied somewhere far away by beings we know not.

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~

All images and content in this post, as with all on this site are original, subject to copyright, all rights reserved. If you wish to share or post them, please do so with a link to the page on which you found them. Thanks in advance for your consideration. © Hannah Nyala West and pointlastseen.wordpress.com, 2009 — present. (Formal copyright notice on About page.)

on signs and regrets

IMG_0152Today’s sign of my misspent career? Honeybees flock now to every pan of standing water on the place, thirsty and willing to trade existence for a sip of this liquid so rare here.

I did not organize my working life well enough to this point to be able to spend six hours or more all told traipsing from bowl to bowl fishing these little beings out so that they can fly on. At best I might manage 30 minutes total and save a few. Most die in between.

Most days my choices are just fine, lessons at worst, and all survivable so long as they’re storied to learn from and crawl through. In the face of such untimely quotidian deaths, though, of these tiny creatures so necessary to human life? I regret my previous misspendings.

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~

p.s. Some couple hours later or so…. It has just this moment occurred to me that some of these bees may be choosing to end their lives in cool water and that I, by imposing my human values of LIFE At Any Cost!, may well be denying them their final wish. Who knows? Maybe a bee has lived its entire existence counting on that final dip into liquid and its soothing release from all labours? Only to be thwarted by a great big ol’ knucklehead bent on fashioning her corner of the world in her own problematic image?! 😉

~

All images and content in this post, as with all on this site are original, subject to copyright, all rights reserved. If you wish to share or post them, please do so with a link to the page on which you found them. Thanks in advance for your consideration. © Hannah Nyala West and pointlastseen.wordpress.com, 2009 — present. (Formal copyright notice on About page.)

on being marooned in being

Terrified of success and failure alike, paralyzed by my own steely will and decades of incessant effort (the bane of true being, I now must admit), I recently realized two new things.

One: I far too readily tread water on the ocean floor of my soul. And two (as if that first were not well and thoroughly enough!): having long ago parted up my self for an auction that never gaveled in, I too readily now consider myself already marooned.

sc0003d069And all this from one who’s had the astonishingly lucky grace to meet, to know, to benefit from walking alongside a literal slew of other beings, fellow animals like me, making our way from first breath to last. Human animals: dear, kindhearted friends, acquaintances, even strangers and passersby. At every juncture in my life—no matter how actually grim—there has been at least one person alongside who cared that I was still alive. Often there have been many. People from all walks of life: people like me and people so different that we might as well’ve been raised on different moons orbiting planets not on speaking (or even hailing) terms. It didn’t matter. We connected. They reached out or I did or both, or we happened to stumble into one another somehow, and the next breath was made more doable.

0198And there are the animal animals, too: again, most dear, every last one: dogs and

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Pucket 2010deer and raccoons and squirrels and

IMG_3126IMG_4268chipperchickens and

IMG_1784 turkeys and ducks

IMG_2274and horses and mules and cows

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Eb 1and birds of every ilk and snakes (rattlers and rosy boas, red racers, moccasins)

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IMG_3262and coyotes and desert tortoises and hedgehogs and ferrets and insects

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sc00026461(my treasured Monarchs and honeybees and the teensy ants I try so hard still not to step on and the yellow jackets that get me once every year or it’s not done yet): every last one a miracle too grand to imagine (even the geese who reliably hate me and try hard to prove it, a fact on which I count and to which I look forward most eagerly anymore). And that’s just here in the states.

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In Africa, it was wild dogs and hyenas and lions and warthogs and

036secretary birds and elephants and giraffes and nyalas and elands and

084snakes that made our statesiders look like cuddly chaps (mambas and puff adders and cobras).

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And what about in the archives?

IMG_2116The giant tortoises, the leaping sharks, the whales, the single tiny mullet that rounded the Horn in a flask of the River Delaware’s water in which it hatched, the monkeys that broke down the ship’s orders for a spell, the wild horses being shot for meat and sport and leaving a hard-bitten captain to grieve that?

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And, then, too, what of all the beloved places and trees, the far lonely mountains and tiny village yard,

IMG_2447the lilacs and crabapples and dogwood and sweet gums and cacti, the turnips I hated but couldn’t outwit,

IMG_9560the violets and star flowers that patiently show up in my life every spring that rounds the bend?

IMG_9558What of the cacti, the rocks, the sand (every grain)?

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Oh, what a well-populated, well-companioned life I have led! So what if, some days, I’m slogging along on the ocean floor of it all? So what if, feeling marooned, I am? That, too, is living, is it not? And why deny the ocean floor? For this is where we all must one day, most surely, come to rest. Marooned at last for eternity and then some.

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 ~

All images and content in this post, as with all on this site are original, subject to copyright, all rights reserved. If you wish to share or post them, please do so with a link to the page on which you found them. Thanks in advance for your consideration. © Hannah Nyala West and pointlastseen.wordpress.com, 2009 — present. (Formal copyright notice on About page.)

on mistakes and April

IMG_01119 April 2014. Thirty-seven years ago today, I made the first of three great mistakes in my life. Twenty-three years ago this month, I made the second. Fifteen years ago this season, I made the third. April is a momentous month on the northern hemisphere’s calendar, for it burgeons with re-beginnings and the tender stems of new life easing their way out of the cold, wintry ground to provide sustenance and cheer for another few months. For me this winsome resurrecting month also, always and ever, trumpets my major errors. In triplicate. Raised by now to some unseemly exponent to boot.

I will never quit paying for those three mistakes, it is clear. I will never survive, outwit, or outrun them, either (but, oh my, how I have tried!). That said, and despite feeling downright weary of their continuing costs some days, I do not regret my mistakes.

From them—and the carrying on (through all the smaller flub-ups that, by comparison, don’t qualify for Big Three Status!)—I have learned: what it means to love someone else no matter what; that I am more resilient than I ever could’ve guessed without these me-created disasters; that being a knucklehead, even for long spells, doesn’t cancel out my humanity; and that, even though I shan’t ever get a foot on ground not torn up already by my mistakes, they have made me a better human than I otherwise might have been. Under their stern tutelage, I’ve learned how to leach beauty from the sharpest stings, to watch the best years of my life (and all that could so easily have been and sometimes even was) trampled beneath these three singularly unwise decisions. The heart is a sturdy wayfaring stranger in such sloughs, and I find my own a comfort anymore. Even in April. No, check that last. Especially in April.

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 ~

All images and content in this post, as with all on this site are original, subject to copyright, all rights reserved. If you wish to share or post them, please do so with a link to the page on which you found them. Thanks in advance for your consideration. © Hannah Nyala West and pointlastseen.wordpress.com, 2009 — present. (Formal copyright notice on About page.)