Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Swallows in Oneonta Gorge

Lower Oneonta Falls

In Oneonta Gorge yesterday, the light of the overcast day was such that we could see the insects hovering above the stream. The canyon was full of swallows hunting. When you can see their prey, your sense of what they're doing transforms: they fix on their targets from twenty yards away, and scream straight in upon them; when they dart aside and turn, it's because they missed and are preparing another run. I had always thought the darting and turning was the part where they caught their prey, but it's not. It's unnerving to watch, when you can see what they're actually doing. These are not charming birds flickering about in aimless exuberance: they're more like teenage boys intent on a video game, taking out their opponents one by one, absolutely intent and focused. Of the insects that I, with with my slow all-purpose primate eyes, could see -- the fatter slower ones -- almost none escaped: those who were missed on the first run were scooped in on the second or the third. I found myself rooting for the bugs. "Head for the undergrowth, you idiot!" I'd urge them, in my mind. "Don't hang there in the open like that, you're a sitting duck!" But they paid no attention to me, and the slaughter went on.

The surface of the stream was the province of a larger, plumper kind -- barn swallows, perhaps? -- the males having handsome, dark blue tail-coats; the higher air was taken by smaller swallows or swifts -- maybe violet-greens? -- but the same diffuse light that made the insects easy to see prevented the telling iridescent flashes. I couldn't tell if each was just favoring its own prey, or if the bigger barn swallows were hogging the prime hunting ground. 


"For me the most useful first steps are rather absurd. They're self-care on the primitive level: brushing my teeth and showering first thing in the morning, making the bed, washing the dishes, straightening up my living spaces -- in general, do the human equivalent of a cat grooming itself. After that -- find a partner to make work-commitments with who will check in with you and remind you that you committed to do X by time Y. An online one works fine. (I'd be happy to do that and I bet a dozen other folks here would as well. pm someone.) xoxo"

Yah. That was me, solemnly dispensing advice. And here I am, unwashed, out in the world, more or less, drinking coffee, and hoping the cogs will eventually catch. I am one dim, tousled cat.


And the name, Oneonta? Yes, I was puzzled too. That's not a Salish name at all, at all. Turns out it's no more an native Oregonian name than "Portland" or "Salem." Sez Wikipedia: "The Oneonta Gorge was first photographed by Carleton Eugene Watkins, a native of Oneonta, New York, who had traveled west during the time of California Gold Rush of 1849. Watkins named the Oneonta Falls after his hometown."


Zhoen said...


Canaan said...

Dale. I don't know you. I don't remember how I found your blog. I bookmarked it. It inspires me.

At pictures of waterfall destinations, inevitably rocked and landscape tattered with earth

I cannot help but see how very like a woman these scenes are:

Two firm blocks of presence bisected with a thin,
a thick or a stochastic stream of more life, the mysterious biome in vertical

Thirty thousand species—and that’s just fish, and the ones we know—lying within that great cleft,

That womb that swallows even the land and spits us out, millennia of her whims on our old maps and globes and ways to try and know her:

The first mother of us all the sea
And in those photographs I see her seed trickle down

From her peaks, those Tetons (oh the French)
A rush of pre-sea and earth-cum, all sizes

All splitting the frame into that ancient view between the legs,
That first breath and how silent it seems

Nimble said...

Alice "generally gave herself very good advice, (though she very seldom followed it)"

Perhaps you're about to fall down a rabbit hole.