I sit on the porch, tablet fallen to the side, a cold glass of water at hand. I’ve spied a critter on the plastic rug down on my narrow deck. I ease from the rocker and pull the screen door open, reaching around to slide my camera case from a crowded peg on the back of the door. Unless that lizard has died where he lies, a sudden noise will send him scurrying into the sun-browned thatch of grass between my house and the neighbor’s blackwater line.
I snap seven frames. I can’t say what type of lizard this is, but he’s definitely alive, his eye keen and peering. I go inside to freshen my water. When I return, he has slipped away.
Later I drive to Lodi. I almost never take my camera out these days. My vision challenges frustrate me, as does my lack of knowledge and the limits of my rudimentary Canon. But I hesitate. Every time I leave the Canon at home, I see a big ship and have to scramble for my cell phone. I grab the thing and head for the car.
Sure enough, a freighter comes through the deep water channel just as I approach the curve. I gauge its direction to be oceanbound. I pull over to the side of Brannan Island Road on a narrow strip just this side of the drop-off to the river. Nothing I take will be print-worthy; but I still marvel at the wonder of these ponderous beasts which slip through the waters and the casual attitude of the natives to their passing. I gawk like a tourist after only three years here; nearly four, but who’s counting.
Later I sit on the porch again, pressing the button to scroll through the two groups of photos. I’m not a religious person. I draw the line right below some type of universal spirit and benign angelic minions. I reject the artificial construct of church, though I concede that individual parishes offer a ready-made community which gives comfort, solace, and a sense of purpose to many. But not for me, not after everything that I have seen and all of the evil done in the name of the Lord God hanging on the wooden cross over the table clothed in linen.
However I cannot help pondering the forces which can engineer both minds sufficiently clever to fabricate the ponderous vessel and a tiny body which flits across the boards of my plywood 8 x 8. The same forces produced the fragile, fragrant gardenia which opens to the touch of sunshine. Is it a divine entity, chance genetics, or a complex system of interconnected and eternal presences? I use my foot to start a slow, gentle rock. I close my eyes. A long, hard weekend loomed before me, on that Friday evening. It would be Monday before I thought about those pictures again, at the end of this long work day, still wondering, no closer to understanding from whence come all creatures, great and small.
It’s the twelfth day of the ninety-first month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.