slices of a still life

Rockfish

Rockfish

A dead rockfish washed up at Alki Beach, its state of decay too far advanced for identification. Empty sockets where eyes should have been. Perhaps six inches long. Much of its originally rusty integument scoured away to reveal white, exsanguinated flesh. How had it lived? How had it died? Whence did it come, which dark recesses of the sound harbored its cloistered existence, and for how long? I carried its decomposed image home, to reconstitute in my mind how it may have looked in life.

California quail

California quail

The covey of quail wander willy-nilly through town, crossing streets and driveways and flapping up over fences to forage in people’s backyards. “Ruh-RAH-ruh! Ruh-RAH-ruh!” they cry, and it rallies the others, who are quick to call back. For a little while I thought that Gerlach was chock-full of quail, such was their clamor in the mornings and evenings—but then I realized that the resident starling flock, eager mimics all, had taken up this rallying cry and were broadcasting it from the powerlines. Do the starlings flatter the quail? Or do the quail resent this appropriation? To my ears it all sounds the same.

Toad

Toad

While strolling along the Truckee River in Reno one night, I happened upon a toad on the sidewalk. It hopped away feebly, as though ill or otherwise impaired. Thinking I might help the little creature, I scooped it up and placed it under some shrubbery. I was very drunk. In that moment this warty animal seemed to me altogether miraculous, like discovering baby Moses in the bulrushes. The toad, after relocation, sat inert, and I feared for its life. But then some people came walking along, and I decided I would leave it be, so as not to attract further attention to it or myself.

Scrub jay

Scrub jay

The scrub jay is a raucous, cognizant, and beautiful bird. This is a purely objective description. To glimpse the inner workings of a scrub jay’s mind is to realize, once and for all, the fallacy of anthropocentric intelligence. They are a delight to behold, preferably from a distance, through binoculars.

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