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Their fruiting cups astonish.
Wait for sunny days
when snow whites the ground,
go out into groves,
look upon the barks
near edges of the light.
There the lichens play
the same bright tunes
as summer, spring
or autumn days, for
all they want is a bit of bark
and sun to fire their winter fruits
into amazed intensity.
I’ve sought out lichens for their winter color since snow was hip deep on me.
The Great Owl comes at dusk
to hunt the open snow above the water of the pond.
She perches in the bigtooth aspen, up top,
where the last westlight catches on her horns,
where she can see with huge yellow eyes
every twitch of life that darkens snow
or rounds it from below. As dark grows,
inside January, the horned owl fades
from me, and from the wider eyes of prey.
All spring and summer, fall, rabbits
wind their ways around the pond.
But in winter some cottontails decide
to dash across the pond’s wide empty snow.
In shallow snow they leap ten feet each bound,
for at the bottom of their brains they know
they should not be risking night and open.
In morning I find rabbit tracks that end
halfway cross the pond, in rucked snow,
wingtip touches soft on either side.
The circle turns, a rabbit, save fur and bones, turns into owl. And this season, maybe becomes owl eggs. Nesting now.
On land two sets of tracks
overprint each other,
but when they step upon the winter pond
the tracks reveal two minds,
one curves left, the other right.
None knows why,
not the owners of the paws,
nor you or I,
that simply is the way,
for every living being,
as it prints its story on the earth,
decides its own direction.
Shadows of the full moon on her second night
persist into first light, sharp and brittle cold.
On winddrift snow cattail shadows undulate
in the eyes of fools who enter a predawn of blue snow
under full moon light at fifteen degrees below.
A sudden freshet rushes snowmelt
through sword ferns and curves
like veins and arteries
that rush through flesh
of all us other streaming
lives of earth.
Cold embraces an old round stone
almost as it did beneath
a thousand feet of ice, but this year
yellowed grass and shadowgrass
curve stone almost as close as snow.
When this stone was learning to be round beneath the ice
there was no other life around to use its shape as template.
Crow allows a photo.
Doesn’t even give me attitude,
except for that one caw.
Her dawn eye gleams,
stance is wide, prepared,
feathers comb dawnlight.
Crow’s perch is the place
on the cedar rail where lichens
dare not grow.
She perches here each dawn,
as her mother did, and hers,
allows her black to absorb sun,
so here, oceanside, night soaks up light,
just as every twilight becomes crow.
This is the Northwest crow of Puget Sound and the Olympics.
Trumpeter swans leap
from the river flowing even
in this air so bright cold the water steams,
even as bank ice fractures into slabs.
A parent bird and this year’s child
lift above a goldeneye.
Tail feathers spread above webbed feet
match the notches at the wingtips.
It doesn’t matter where these swans fly.
It matters that they fly as one, cygnet and swan.
Trumpeters are recovering. A nuclear power plant discharge keeps the Midssissippi ice-free here, which allows several hundred swans to winter in the north. Likely more survive than would if they migrated; losses are high among the young.
Throughout the biosphere, males learn again, again, that females do the choosing.
A driftwood stump
has curved a cedar palm
to hold a beachstone,
or say a child picked up
this smoothed quartz
and placed it
where it seemed to fit.
Either way, the stone
nestles lovely in the wood,
as when, up the coast
roots of this stump reached
out, touched stone,
and again probed soil
made of lives collapsed
to Earth again, little
nibblers and absorbers,
made of sand grains worn from
rock hammered down by waves
on this same ocean shore.
Late or soon, everything touches.
A trumpeter swan pair
part winter sky with voice, pure
mellow honks in smoked brass,
beaks open with each horn, red tongues
curled against a winter sky of blue.
Cold the air, but these two
are furnaces sheathed
in the most dense down of all,
oiled by beaks that nibble,
nibble every quill
through tooth-edge bills
from base to plume.
Mid-February and rebirth has begun!
Aspen fur spreads bud scales,
catkins about to flower pink all
up and down their fuzzy dangles.
Above the flowers the apical bud
gleams beetle skin brown,
within it the pattern for leaf and twig
to expand tree’s season growth.
A month of below zero has not slowed
the sap wicked up from root, for cold
in winter means clear days and sun:
sun that tugs on flower buds.
Daylight grows. Sun’s swung high
to lollygag through sky, which
pulls song from cardinals each to each,
sends squirrels through courtship
chases up trees, spiralling to leaps.
Good news! Winter’s on the run. Owls are nesting, young eagles practice carrying sticks. Below lake ice, dayglow reaches farther down, slips into the third eye of the turtle still asleep, a beginning.
The deep freeze breaks this night.
One deer mouse is so joyed
she leaps off her path
and runs a little circle in the snow
before she finds her wits
and runs off the open pond
where owls hunt. But when
she gets home, just before she
dives into the den, she leaps straight up
and runs another circle in the snow.
Mossicles hang from green.
Ice and green in concert
in cold sunlight.
Mossicles have round bottoms,
no point, no slow stalactite,
snow on this strand melts to
one quick drop, trembles once
and blink, is ice.
How this ice-inch gathers light,
captures blue sky, traps inside
tiny balls of air, and the allure
of all things crystalline.
So much evanescent beauty appears everywhere each day. Why should we expect it to last?
Some sharks lay a mermaid’s purse, filled
with yolk and one embryo.
The tiny shark gestates inside
its womb-purse for months.
Then strong and hungry,
pushes its way out,
This mermaid’s purse was brought to shore by the tide. It’s about 16-18” long and very strong. I don’t know what kind of shark may have laid and placed this mermaid’s purse. On either end there are/were filaments which the mother tangles in kelp or other anchorage, in a place with highly oxygenated water (waves/turbulence) and a minimum of large predators.
Coughed up in winter’s long night,
an owl pellet relaxed in snowmelt
presents fur of voles
bleaching in thawed sunlight,
and poking out of fur
tidy bones, exquisite
shapes much the shape of ours.
A perfect ball joint in ivory,
that amazing rodent incisor:
looking down, long ago
we curved the adze from this.
Life finds elegant solutions. It takes a long time. Pass it on.
Hoarfrost rides the curve
of beachgrass blades.
Of all the shapes of dawn, crystal
needles sing most bright and brief, for
with a touch of light they will dissolve
and ascend toward the sun
whose absence gave them birth.
Hoarfrost needles sing to heights
our ears deny, but others claim
they hum a chord that fire would sing
if it were cold and crystallized
but still beat inside with light.
As snow whips down in wind
male red birds face away,
fed today and red for Spring
when making eggs is everything.
Cardinal already sings and proffers flower seeds
to his intended, which she has not yet cracked,
house finch may know his blush head and breast
will turn more heads than his, but
turning backs to this storm howl is all
that occupies the breaking crest of now.
Turning your back is one of the original solutions to getting through the day. Also useful at night.
Across logs wintered white,
spring beckons green, not
quite focused in our February eyes,
but more bright each day as Sol
climbs the bowl.
Cardinals sing each morning now,
despite new snow,
“Soon,” we all hum deep, “Soon.”
Earth provides images toward healing that help us get through the seasons. This image is from the Olympic National Park rainforest.
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Copyright © Morning Earth 2007