In the brush behind the feeder
a pheasant waits for turkeys to be done.
She nestles down in cold snow,
eyes bright, alert.
The feathers of her breast leafed
each on each, all in pattern
washed with rose,
stitch my world together
where it's torn.
If we look closely, subtle beauties surround us. They can redeem us. Be willing to let that happen.
Snow is loud.
In the east
the globe of burning gold
wobbles the horizon,
west, lopsided moon
still rides a pale blue sky.
A bomber cuts the blue
between the dawn and moon,
its contrail pure white lines
untouched by wind high up
in silence, where it's cold.
We do sketch strange designs upon nature's face. Condensation trails, like the bombers themselves, would be rather pretty intrusions had they less significance.
Through fresh snow walk five pheasant hens,
clear, determined, laying down tracks.
A minute later a cock pheasant arrives
in tow to his harem, pulled
on the invisible string males know,
hoping the ones
who seem to know the way, do.
All the cousins share; the predicaments of gender are universal.
Blue heads bright, and dewlaps red,
feather beards flap their breasts—
They are wild, these young turkey boys,
flashing iridescence as they chase
across the ice, now trotting, wide-winged,
now a grave tail-spread circling
on the pivot of the other's eye.
Off their sunbright feathers
fly diapasons of light.
The chase is fundamental, every cousin does it. Then the circling dance that vibrates so deeply inside.
A few stars pick their way
through cloth of blue.
Distant surf of cars
whines toward the city.
Against the east, bareboned oaks
elbow out of night.
Up early, a pileated woodpecker
cackles up the scale.
Just like that, it's dawn.
Redemption arrives in odd ways. The trick is to be willing.
Say seeds are dreaming.
We know they breathe.
Say seeds need to dream
like us. What then?
Would they dream in color?
Would they dream in green?
Would they dream in light?
When is three questions one?
Dandelion seeds grin in their sleep.
Acorns suffer nightmares
of turkey beaks and rodent teeth.
"Oh, please! Not squirrels!"
Say winter has such retarded dawns
because a seed must dream
of thrusting a white root toward
Earth's very center,
and pushing cotyledons toward the light.
Birth is always pushing, always hope.
Now Seed Catalogs surround
recliners across the land
while gardeners snooze the winter
and dream themselves in green.
We've just symbolized rebirth by decorating with ever-greens. Now we continue the rituals of re-birth by poring through seed catalogs.
Out of the trees the deer came leaping,
out of the woods and into the field,
they cross the road, run uphill, leap
the fence and over the crest
of the hill in the field
six deer leap one by one
in a line that rises forever.
My muscles stir, prepare.
My first venture outdoors since an accident, and earth gives me this great blessing. When the grace of wild animals makes us respond directly in the meat, we return to early childhood, and perhaps to the childhood of our kind.
Picked up a rock, palm-sized,
but not a nestler, this was edged
and banded with slow eons of ocean,
mud of tiny shells pressed into stone
pitted here and there with water that
seeped through bitter limestone after
the land was lifted, tiny pits that never
hollowed sediment, never
grew into caves.
Squeezing, I hurt into now.
Allow the sense of touch, our womb sense, to carry you away. With vision, we have choices. With touch we have none.
Like the down of bird breasts,
cluster flakes swirl and dance in
invisible streams of air,
sideways, up, and all around,
but all night soft flakes slip
out of the eddies
and settle down to rest.
This morning every branch and twig,
is white above and dark below,
a tracery of the softest snow.
All day eddies of air will puff the white
from branch and twig,
from seedheads of winter weeds,
and it will come to rest on ground.
Snowflakes are so amazing they lift us back to the perceptions of a child. The mutual dance of breeze and snow, the transience of snowflakes and their beauty, combine to give our joy an edge of rue.
No birds in sight.
Then, in the chiaroscuro
of snow and branch
in the red osier bush, faint stripes,
a roundness, a breast.
A sharpshin hawk
crouched to hide his yellow legs,
yellow-top beak tucked in,
but there, his avid eye
sees me see him and flies.
In seconds, chickadees
create themselves from snow,
juncos scissor air,
and bluejays clamor in.
At one feeder,
A crow started up by pheasants
flies sulking to a tree.
Hunger is the monotone of winter life. Someone's belly is going to be empty in the snow. Predators don't eat every day.
Winter night broods dawn
in dark and cold, soon
owls will mate and brood
their chicks in basswood cavities
or stick nests built by redtail hawks.
Mother owl will sit those eggs through
snowfall, ice and bitter February wind
while father feeds her crows
snatched off their silent roosts.
She soon will feel the turn
of chicks within the shell, even
as winter night broods dawn
around the curve.
Predators time their matings and births to the birth of prey. Owl's broods are timed to leave the nest to hunt just as voles and rabbits leave theirs. What a lovely optimism to mate in dead of winter. Of course, we have always done the same. The curve of sun on the horizon, the sweep of earth around the sun that heralds the dawn of spring: We are of these, in these curves, as surely as the eggs of owl.
Slant sun, high branch.
Squirrel upright, tail to back,
recurved at tip.
Acorn in his jaws
caught, glows red.
The best kind of earth-gift is simple. To share such moments, be clear, be simple. Pare away excess.
Morning's frosted windows leap time
to when I'd press coins into ice
on my bedroom window, ice thick
as the thin glass
between winter and my skin.
Lincoln's face dotted the lower left
I could barely reach from bed,
the closer right was filled with buffalo.
The whole herd stood still,
waited in a field of ice
to vanish in the sun
that follows nights of bitter cold.
There is such pure clarity in cold. I cherish that little kid's goosebumped arm, reaching out from under the blanket to press a coin against the ice.
Earth last night gave voice
to winter cold and deep,
hoots savored, drawn
from the orphic throat
of the great horned owl.
He courts a mate with songs
of love deep and soft as down.
Next night, or next, she will call back,
and together gong the winter night
with songs of eggs and owlets.
It is delicious to hear love songs in this season.
The quality of owl voices is always magic; for the small owls witch-screams, for the large owls hoots that evoke deep primal waters.
Wild turkey boys play vulture,
naked heads flat out
on necks held low, wings wide,
they charge and chase,
but not for carcass rights.
Their Serengeti is a frozen pond,
their dry brown grass is snow,
no blood in sight except
that pulsing in their throats.
Two imperatives: food and mating. The young toms have no more choice about fighting than the hungry vultures they resemble.
They slump now after unseemly warmth,
hard to read, just blurred holes in snow,
but from a distance or a height
they map bold days and fearful nights.
Three long curves across the pond
cut by scaled turkey feet, close in,
a rabbit's flight with no pursuer
who left tracks, the whole yard
pocked with squirrel paths, and near,
the brief impressions of small feet
in short lines that either end in sky
or dive down into snow.
Here congealed time is mapped.
In snow, the proof of life is tracks.
Any snowed expanse is storied day and night. Even slumped tracks with detail melted speak of directions taken, the larger shapes of journeys.
An old meaning of "proof" is "the quality or state of having been tested."
As light gathers in the sky,
near our driveway sprawls
a yearling deer struck dead.
Near the hips tufts of coarse hair
mark the blow.
The visible eye is closed.
Three legs stretch frozen out.
I am struck, as always, by the
power of these black lovely hooves
to move my eyes.
All around the yearling
the tracks of other deer.
Short lives, long lives, who can understand? Even when she's teaching death, earth insists we learn. I had not seen before, around a dead deer, the tracks of other deer. Well of course, some may say. But this isn't Bambi.
Moon on snow at night
bounces particles of light
from crystal ice to crystal ice
and back and so brightens
dark until this reflected moonlight
bounces into barred owl's eye
as he wingbeats soft
across the waiting night.
The more a photon bounces around, the more light. The beauty of moonlit snowfields, the winter albedo of the North, from the owl's point of view, exists to enhance the hunt.
The pileated woodpecker flies
through tight-spaced trunks,
a tilting grace that weaves in black and white.
Forced to fly, improbable turkeys
waffle through tight trunks
like enormous grouse,
feathers fluffed they land safe on the far side.
Sharpshin hawk arrows her way
through criss-cross branches
at speed, sleek hunger eager
to flip talons forward for the strike.
Lovely air dancer who trembles dark and light.
Why are natural predators so beautiful? Surely most animals are beautiful, but we seem to aspire to the hawk and wolf and cat. What is it they wake in us?
As light gathers into day,
mourning doves aligned
along a horizontal branch,
calm, composed, wait their turn to feed.
Below them, jays squall in the feeder,
scream for every other seed.
The doves above cock their heads,
dark-eyed watch and wait until
three fly down, ignore the jays,
unruffled by their cries, shoulder them aside
and bow their heads to feed
as day displays fawn feathers
blushed with rose, each barb of
each fine feather smoothly linked into
the silk glove elegance of dove.
Celebrate beauty whenever it moves you. Do include humanity with nature; celebrate the elegance of a basketball pass as well as the beauty of a dove.