Joan Mazza

April Monday Wood ducks dabble in the pondand fly to some other waterwaywithout a cat or dog or someoneat the window, who movesin threatening ways.I point a telephoto lens,no gun, but they’re gone. Lotus pads should be risingfrom the black water,straightening their curled leavesflat on the surface— first signsof pink blossoms for June.Nothing. Last year, pads and bloomsturned brown in patches, warned of the end of what has beenan annual delight. An invasive speciesdeparted? Do I let it go and wait,see what evolves? Herons might discovera better view, bluegill and catfisheasier to catch. Last night, an ambulance tookmy neighbor. She can’t standon her feet. Not yet sixty, legally blind,husband depressed though he’s stillwitnessing for Jehovah. Oak and beech leafing out, dogwoodin full bloom. Lilacs and mowed grassscent air too still this morning,as if holding its breath for bad news. An hour’s travel to a friend to meether new puppy. I tell myself, Drive on.Replacement’s everywhere. Limitless They flew in flocks three hundred miles long,a mile wide, darkening the sky for hours,eclipsing the sun. Over three billion Passenger Pigeons together. Audubon saidthey passed for three days. So many, theyperched on each other’s backs. Treeswere shaken by a living wind. Commercial hunters netted and shot them,easy meat for servants and slaves, used as feedto fatten hogs. Hunted to extinction, habitat of chestnuts and oak acorns deforested.One man bragged he’d killed a million. Somany. That value: a million dollars today.Without limits, dumb as dodos we take all. Fossils stretch back to the Pleistocene.As today, conservationists ignored.1914, the last pigeon, named Martha,died at the Cincinnati Zoo. Larger than a mourning dove, dusky blue, rose-breasted, or wine red. So many. It seemedthey would be here forever— prolific,beautiful, delicious. Woodland Understory Step from bright sunshine of the gravel driveinto the deep shade of oaks: red, white, southern,and sweet gum, hickory, beech, pine. Treesgrow and die, fall into each other, sustainbeetles, spiders, and wild mushrooms. Understory of wild azalea, fiddlehead ferns,vetch, and fungi thrust up from the thickand spongy leaf mat. Walk slowly. Stop often.Don’t jog or count your steps. Turn offyour phone, iPod, and to-do list. Every view tells more than one story.Large stumps sprout trees. They tell whenthe land was last clear-cut. Note wherethe terrain dips and rises, where it floodsand dries again. See the tracks of thosewho’ve passed this way— raccoon, deer,squirrels, martins. Flocks of grackles. Indian pipes, ghostlike in their whitetranslucency, poke up in an open patchof ground, and bright orange chanterellesgrow along a shady bank. On dead trees,still standing, see where pileated, downy,and hairy woodpeckers have drilled. Listen. You might hear them now betweenthe calls of two hawks in conversation. Moveslowly. The flash of pale fur is a white-taileddeer, tail up as it flees. Stop. Inhale this mixof fragrances unique to this place and season.The architecture of these shafts of lightwill never be the same. Nor you. Joan Mazza has worked as a medical microbiologist, psychotherapist, writing coach and seminar leader. Author of six books, including Dreaming Your Real Self (Perigee/ Penguin/ Putnam), her work has appeared in Cider Press Review, Rattle, Off the Coast, Kestrel, Permafrost, Slipstream, American Journal of Nursing, The MacGuffin, Writer’s Digest, Emerge Literary Journal, the minnesota review, Personal Journaling, and Playgirl. She ran away from the hurricanes of South Florida to be surprised by the earthquakes and tornadoes of rural central Virginia, where she writes poetry and does fabric and paper art.