The fish thrashed madly in the heron’s bill. The bird loosened its grip and lost the fish, but a quick stab and the Great Blue had it again. The bird beat the fish against the water, flipped it in the air, caught it head-first, then tipped its bill skyward and started the laborious process of swallowing the catfish whole. The walkers on the trail that curved around the small bay let out a sotto voce
Only the fins were visible when the heron gagged and the fish was in the water again. The bird nabbed its wriggling dinner and cocked its head, considering its options.
On a balmy Sunday like today, when we are in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, we taxi up to El Charco del Ingenio before the sun is fully up. The Charco is a swath of grassland, dotted with cacti and mesquite, that frames a shallow lake created by damming the stream that cuts through a wild gorge down into the city. Charco del Ingenio translates variously as “puddle of wit,” “water-works,” and “spirit pool.” I prefer the latter.
We moved to Calle Animas—Spirit Street—in San Miguel de Allende just as the jacarandas were coming into bloom. When we rented the place, I was leery of the three dogs on the rooftop next door, but once they got used to our routine of spending the sunset hour on our neighboring terrace, they were blessedly quiet. Our mornings, however, were thunderous. We’d wake shortly before dawn to deep poundings in the water pipes. We called our house manager, who sent her master-of-all-trades handyman, but by the time he arrived at a decent hour, the pounding had stopped.
The spring of 1956 was slow to arrive. That April—unlike ours—was cold, with heavy snows; at the end of the month, the ice on Pimisi Bay was still solid. The spring migration seemed off-kilter to Louise. The few flyttfågar
—migratory birds—that landed in her woods were five to eleven days late. The vast flocks were stalled, she assumed, somewhere to the south. Read more
This week, a female mallard with a slight limp came waddling through our condo courtyard, sizing up the planters beside each front door, hopping into one, wiggling her breast into the debris of last year’s plantings, then jumping out to try the next. Two years ago, this same female sat for ten weeks on soil barely covered by the dried tops of my potted daffodils and tulips. Roofers working nearby left corn and cut-off Coke bottles filled with water.
March marks the beginning of the new year for indigenous peoples in this part of the world, and for gardeners everywhere. The sense of renewal that requires real effort to conjure on January 1 comes naturally in March. It’s spring, the equinox is past, the sun is now in ascendance and the world is bursting with blossom and courting display.
My husband hears draft and thinks beer. I hear draft and think breeze. We’re both writers, but when it comes to producing drafts (not beer or breezes but the scribbling kind) we are as different as two writers can be. Ask him how many drafts it takes to write a book, and he’s likely to say, “Six or eight.” I’ve never racked up fewer than fifteen. I thought my new book would be different, but here I am at ten, and my agent has just spoken those dreaded words: “It’s not ready yet.”
Rachel Cusk’s protagonist, Faye, narrator of the novels Outline
, and Kudos,
is a strangely silent, receptive character who acts as a blank page on which others unspool their stories. At times heart-wrenching, philosophical, and bleakly mundane, these stories slide off her seemingly without effect—or affect. Everyone else goes on about themselves at length, but Faye reveals almost nothing of herself. She is cold and withheld—for me, a distinctly unlikeable character.
“I’m not interested in character,” Cusk says, ” because I don’t think character exists anymore.”