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Friday, July 27, 2007

Rhapsody on Somebody Else's Superior Vocabulary, Part 6

Jentel Artist Residency Program
Banner, WY

Since this is a vocabulary exercise, I'm going to throw a question out there: what is the word for those little bowls carved by trapped pebbles in stony riverbeds, the kind that look as though God came down with a ball-peen hammer and indented the stone while it was still just slightly molten? It took me a minute today to remember that a porcupine has quills, not spines. Yesterday I saw my first porcupine outside of a zoo, right in our driveway as I was riding my bike out to the road. At first I thought he was a clump of grass that had been uprooted and deposited in the red gravel, and I was going to move him. Then he moved, and craned his neck around to have a look at me. He had a cute black face, and his quills lay back as though windswept. I never realized how green they were, as though the god of field grasses had tupped a black possum. I did a little mudra, the kind that usually works with dogs, to convey my good will but it was lost on him. He shambled toward the tall grasses as I got my camera out; he was unhurried and kept his quills aimed at me. I wondered if they were the same quills that had to be removed from one of the colony dogs last week.

The evening light was thrown far across the western sky, elusive through the thin spots in the cloud cover as phosphenes glimpsed by rubbed eyes. The rains had compacted the dirt, so scaling the hill was twice as easy, like swinging a fungo bat, and I wanted to keep on riding, into the night. Lightning over the eastern hills turned me back.

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