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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Carlson's Backyard

The night was alive with the sounds of ten thousand crickets whose chorus filled the air with a constant droning, interjected by an occasional new voice like a castanets being shaken for a moment then let fall silent. A lone firefly flashed from its death trap in a web at the corner of my deck. He wasn't supposed to be there at all considering that the season was mid-September.

I, with my imported beer and sourdough pretzel nuggets, sat in the crossed beams of light from the two deck lights that hung on black poles above the deck high in the branches of the trees and sniffed the warm damp night and inhaled the essence of the evening.

Beyond the forest, beyond the deck and the penetration of the incandescent bulbs a crowd of people and the occasional dog enjoyed the throbbing sounds of recorded music played a bit too loud. Their excitement filtered through the trees and found my ears. The mechanizations of the music ebbed and flowed with a light breeze that made the flames of my citronella candles flicker. Their light combined with the illumination of the overhead deck lamps that made twin opposing half shadows that when combined, made a deeper shadow.

The moon at half phase peered through the still green leafed trees and added its meager rays to the scene. The sky was still discernibly less black than the underside of the canopy of trees that blocked the moonlight. Except for the loss of one broad tree last year during the rain of Floyd, the moon would have been hidden from my view entirely.

A sudden movement in the corner of my eye drew my attention to a leaf that moved contrary to the affect of the light breeze. Something fluttered there. It settled to a stop and became invisible to my human eyes. But when it moved, my perceptions locked in on the discontinuity of movement. After a moment or two it leapt into the air and fluttered comically as it approached my position. It disappeared from view under my crossed knee. Where did it go? Did it continue, unseen to somewhere else or did land where I couldn't see it? What was this large nocturnal fluttering anyway?

I backed up a bit to see if it was stopped on the deck before me. As my eyes adjusted focus, I saw the eyes and thin neck and triangular head of a brown praying mantis peering from around the curvature of my knee. She stood erect and stationary. Her triangular head that was half eyes turned slowly to survey the surroundings. I thought about how she would eat hundreds of destructive insects and her mates to conceive her brood of tiny manti. After a long mutual scoping out of each other, she departed in a great flourish of wings and sheaths that made her flight seem haphazard. She landed on the side of my house near the eves and above the copper figure of Kokopele. There she waited for the occasional insect that would make her meal.

The night air was filled with pheromones of which I have no perception. The chemical lures and trails that the insect world can apprehend is a blank dark night to me. I can only imagine that the attractions of pheromones is like a beacon of light in the distance that grows ever brighter and more distinct as one draws nearer.

From beyond the globular light of the bulbs that hang above the deck under their green domes, I could see the lone bulb of light at my neighbor's back door. It signaled a point in space that has significance.

A second mantis fluttered across the clear blackness of the night illuminated in the incandescence that bathed the deck and landed in the garden of balloon flowers that have gone to seed. She clung to the stalks and walked her slow rocking gait to gain the advantage over an unsuspecting meal.

Something else was nagging at my vision. Occasionally other leaves moved suddenly. Their illuminated tops sides were green in the deck light and the under sides black with the night. It leapt into the air and fluttered to a new perch in the darkened branches. A leaf wobbled contrary to the light breeze and hung a bit lower than before. There it was again. From one branch to another it, they hopped. Then in one long extended fluttering, it flew toward me. I waited for it to descend and alit. It looked like a green leaf folded along the center vein, except for the legs. It landed on my shoe, the one crossed above my knee where I could readily see this fellow. It rested only a moment and was gone.

With my beer all gone and my candles burning low, I decided to head back inside. A train whistled in the valley beyond the woods and fell silent. Beyond the world of my back yard made visible by the electric lights suspended above, something else still, waited and watched. Silently it hovered, out there. It made a light fluttering at the edge of my auditory perceptions. It was coming toward me.