Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Daily Prompt: Reading Earwax and Other Things

An environmental chemist analyzed ear wax from a blue whale, reading each waxy layer to tell the animal's hormonal and chemical biography. The light and dark layered stripes of the 10-inch plug revealed clues about food availability, social status, contaminant pollution and environmental noise. With their training, scientists read keratins and lipids from a species unlike their own. Whales  are sentinels: their lives reveal the ocean's health. Reading the ear wax, the chemist said, "gives us a new way of asking questions and getting answers."

The word "read" derives from Dutch and German words for "advise" and "guess." "Read" connotes interpretation, as in reading riddles or dreams. 

When we pay attention, we read faces, environmental cues, a baby's cries. We may be trained to interpret charts, animal behavior, symptoms, the smell of cake baking. We also read changes in the weather, changes in ourselves; we revise our opinions and question our perceptions as we read deeper into situations and circumstances. Attending to the world with a poetic mind means reading in multiple ways. We are all baleen whales filtering observations like krill; our observations feed us.

Prompt: What are you skilled at reading? Maybe you are skilled at reading documents, children's needs, your staff's conflicts, plants, cats, traffic patterns, music, poetry? Acknowledge that skill. 

Dedicate ten minutes to reading the day or evening. Sit or take a walk, paying attention to patterns of landscape, sounds and the stories they tell. Note one thing that's new for you. How do you interpret that? Use that observation as a starting point for a poem. Or just enjoy having noticed and call it a day.

American River

As long as a woman’s forearm,
as thick as a wrist,
the salmon’s gray; the water’s hazy.

If I lifted her with spread hands
she’d fall to pieces in the middle 
where scavengers excavated a hole.

Roe’s piled like pink pearls, the color 
of a tea rose whose curved petals 
are falling in my friend’s front yard.

Shiny fish’s eggs exposed
to Saturday sun – rows of treasure 
she swam with, swam with for miles.

published in Peter Parasol

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