A Grand Dame With Some Years On Her

This Magnolia has some years on her. She survived the ice storm of 1998 and yet she blooms with elegance and resilience.

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Cat

Every Spring,
even at ten,
he turns into a wild animal,
stalking, crouching taut,
staring unwavering into the twilight,
hunting the hidden prey where I see only shadows.

Sometimes he remains motionless for longer than I have patience.
He hardly ever pounces
and when he does,
it is not until the perceived prey has long gone off into the night.

Then he looks around cautiously,  a little confused.
Standing, he meanders off
away from the porch light as if it never happened.

Like me he has a reawakening just before
the grass begins to green and the buds swell.
It is then that we go on high alert.
Leaping again to life
after many months of barely registering the day.

Earth 2018

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

—Wendell Berry

DEATH OF A NATURALIST

Seamus Heaney

All year the flax-dam festered in the heart

Of the townland; green and heavy headed

Flax had rotted there, weighted down by huge sods.

Daily it sweltered in the punishing sun.

Bubbles gargled delicately, bluebottles

Wove a strong gauze of sound around the smell.

There were dragon-flies, spotted butterflies,

But best of all was the warm thick slobber

Of frogspawn that grew like clotted water

In the shade of the banks. Here, every spring

I would fill jampotfuls of the jellied

Specks to range on window-sills at home,

On shelves at school, and wait and watch until

The fattening dots burst into nimble-

Swimming tadpoles. Miss Walls would tell us how

The daddy frog was called a bullfrog

And how he croaked and how the mammy frog

Laid hundreds of little eggs and this was

Frogspawn. You could tell the weather by frogs too

For they were yellow in the sun and brown

In rain.

Then one hot day when fields were rank

With cowdung in the grass the angry frogs

Invaded the flax-dam; I ducked through hedges

To a coarse croaking that I had not heard

Before. The air was thick with a bass chorus.

Right down the dam gross-bellied frogs were cocked

On sods; their loose necks pulsed like sails. Some hopped:

The slap and plop were obscene threats. Some sat

Poised like mud grenades, their blunt heads farting.

I sickened, turned, and ran. The great slime kings

Were gathered there for vengeance and I knew

That if I dipped my hand the spawn would clutch it.

 

Be A Nuisance

“Be a nuisance when it counts. Do your part to inform and stimulate the public to join your action. Be depressed, discouraged, & disappointed at failure & the disheartening effects of ignorance, greed, corruption & bad politics — but never give up.”

That is a quote from Marjory Stoneman Douglas; an environmentalist, journalist and activist whose name is now forever linked to the school shooting that rocked Parkland, Florida last month.

Awaiting Meteorological Spring

doveFebruary 26, 2018
A doe and two yearlings grazing under the big spruce
after two nights sleeping under our tallest pine.

The return of the school bus
Monday, the last in February,
fog thick and misty on warming snow,
crows about, calling in the ether.

The sole natural color comes from the deep maroon
of dried crabapples
too high for the deer to reach
on their nomadic path through for food.
The cedar waxwings have not come for the remains yet.

Winter’s shifting,
already melting at 7 am.

The spruce cones that I tied up in the apple tree
at Christmas,
after rolling in peanut butter and mixed bird seed,
now hang naked,
stripped of their nutrients.

An orange ratty plastic net bag
that held a ball of fat,
has been long ripped apart by marauding squirrels and jays.

I wait for this moment,
our release from the ice and darkness.
Water moves across the dooryard and drips from the rooftops.

Then March 1 came Thursday.

 

 

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Be the best of whatever you are.”

“If you can’t be a pine on the top of a hill

Be a scrub in the valley—but be

The best little scrub on the side of the hill….

It isn’t by size that you win or fail—

Be the best of whatever you are.”

treesbw-3

– Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 4/9/67

The Small World of January

Just into January before the intense thaw, it was cold, not breaking 0 degrees all day.  My world shrunk to watching slate colored juncos or snowbirds , like Emperor Penguins on the plains of Antarctica, negotiate their world of snow piles looking for food.

The Blue Corvid Knows

“This common, large songbird is familiar to many people, with its perky crest; blue, white, and black plumage; and noisy calls. Blue Jays are known for their intelligence and complex social systems with tight family bonds. Their fondness for acorns is credited with helping spread oak trees after the last glacial period.”

This description from Cornell’s All About Birds site says so much succinctly. The Blue Jay is  a bird of intelligence and strong familial relations along with an attitude of screechy stridence. This is a bird who has played an important role in the ecology of our temperate forests for the last 10,000 years at least in part due to its passion for acorns. I can easily imagine it having close links to its ancestor, the dinosaur. It is ubiquitous and long lived, meaning it is resilient, adaptable, admirable traits.

I find myself asking why we do not worship this bird. It has a crown of feathers worthy of monarchy. And a sense of entitlement. Instead,  we tend to devalue the common birds very much like we reach for Round Up every time we spot  a so-called weed.

I hope in the years to come we awaken to the power of the weedy resilient flora and fauna and recognize their brilliance.  Then we might find the grace of living in concert with the other myriad inhabitants of this planet earth in order that all may thrive together. January 2018

 

Plant your Acorns

The story told of the Burr Oak is that it is not native to Central Maine, but as the native tribes paddled  the Sebasticook River seasonally, travelling between the Kennebec and the Penobscot Rivers, they planted the oaks along the way so that in years to come the generations could harvest their very large acorns for flour. Happy Solstice Everyone and plant your acorns.buroak

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Quiet Time

Darkness becomes the atmosphere. Even daylight is softened into deep shadows that stretch long and are sometimes more distinct than the images that form them. I have been worried about my witch-hazel as it bloomed early – in September – it had no seed pods at all,  and now in December it has not shed its leaves. There are still gold frozen ribbons, the leaves are brown and worn, and next years seed pods are just forming. Thus in the stillness there is new life beginning, two small seeds each tucked inside each hardening pod, sheltered here among the crumbling leaves and frozen petals.

Gilles Clément, The Third Landscape (2003)

The Third Landscape – an undetermined fragment of the Plantary Garden -designates the sum of the space left over by man to  landscape evolution – to nature alone. Included in this category  are left behind urban or rural sites, transitional spaces, neglected land, swamps, moors, peat bogs, but also  roadsides, shores, railroad embankments, etc. To these unattended areas can be added space set aside , reserves in themselves: inaccessible places, mountain summits, non-cultivatable areas, deserts; institutional reserves: national parks, regional parks, nature reserves.

Compared to the territories submitted to the control and exploitation by man, the Third Landscape forms a privileged area of receptivity to biological diversity. Cities, farms and forestry holdings, sites devoted to industry, tourism, human activity, areas of control and decision permit diversity and, at times, totally exclude it. The variety  of species  in a field, cultivated land, or  managed forest is  low in comparison to that  of a neighboring «unattended» space..

From this point of view, the Third Landscape can be considered as the genetic reservoir of the planet, the space of the future…..

Gilles Clément, The Third Landscape (2003)

Fall reaches a critical phase

when it is dark at 4:00 PM and at 2 you feel you have   to hurry to get chores done. And the Witch-hazel blooms on, this year since September. When the temperature finally fell into the twenties this past week, the leaves drooped and began to turn. As of yet no seed pods.

 

Happiness is

la-sorte-map-118-spp-64-725 This illustration of the seasonal migration of birds fills me with joy. Better than any church or meditation or prayer. It is, for me,  a prayer like the buddhist Heart SutraHeartSpiral. I even say the Heart Sutra while watching it. It is completion of cycle. It is life.  I feel the same way about the life cycles of lobster, the humble bottom feeding tourist food, and of frogs who die by the thousands for each that reaches adulthood,  and of the turning of the seasons and planet. There is no simpler way for me to feel the divine.