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John Caddy
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John Caddy's
Morning Earth Poems
March 2001



Within the dense snowfall
pileated woodpecker hammers
on the elm behind the house
red-white, red-white.

After storm of snow
the eye becomes intensely
grateful to the crow.



Now squirrels bite holes in the bark
of the sap-sprung trunks of trees
to lick the first sweetness of the spring.
Sap wets black the bark below the bite

While woodpeckers come to touch the sap
with wiry tongues, again, again, a month before
true sapsuckers travel through
to hammer their own taps
to suck sweet sap to fuel their flight.


All these events of renewal shape this turning of the season circle. Discover that when you are attentive to the earth's renewals, you yourself become renewed.



Splashed up on snowbanks
along the southern sides of winter roads,
dark grains of sand turn light to heat
and melt themselves deep in
tall plough-thrown banks
of what looks like dirty snow,
but all this tunneling grit creates
a filigree of ice, a fragile lace that
scintillates the sun that grows it
and gleaming rows of icicles
drip by drip below.


All natural phenomena, including persons, are worth a deeper look.
For the science, inquire of yourself how this interesting thing is happening, learn about differential heating based on surface darkness. You already know what you need to know to figure it out.

For the love of beauty, encourage yourself away from snap dismissive judgments like "dirty snow," and toward the wonderful range of possibility in the beholder's eye. The transformation from dirty snowbank to scintillating filigree of ice is entirely perception and the willingness to look again and this time see.



Tunnels slump beneath the heavy snowpack
as its water yearns again to rush
across the land and melt some rock
to carry to the sea to feed
the shells of tiny dwellers
so they can live and die and coat the floor
of ocean with their limy skeletons
which will turn again to rock
which will lift again to land
so the rush of Spring can wash it free
to carry to the sea…

The rock cycle is the oldest circle dance of earth and most slow. Its eternal dance partner is old H2O. Place natural events in the context of these vast processes of living earth. Realize that the water each of us contains has long done its share of melting rock in the past million million years. With proper context it is hard to be excessively self-important.



Owls are down from Canada so not to starve.
their weightless bodies float through dark
hollow as their bones,
they have become all eyes.
Great horned and the snowy owls
search for crows at roost in leafless trees
to snatch them from their sleep.
Crows are everywhere already, so
there is no where to go except
deeper into spring and leaves.


The end of winter and early spring is the foodless time for birds, and for early-breeding owls it can be a chickless time in hungry years. At night, crows are easy prey; no wonder they mob owls in day. Great horned owls are nesting now.. We hear deep voices in the night. Now in the nest is wide-eyed flesh that recently was crow. As winter transforms into spring,notice other transformations going on in this great earth-wide sharing of energy and flesh.



The longing shadows of the trees
dropped by moon on snow
are the winter's last.
She danced last night with northern lights
through thinning clouds
as she lifted round and full
reflected in the eyes of earth
in this revolving sky
in this year that rolls around a sun
in one pinwheel arm
of this revolving galaxy.


Place your human life in the grand context of space and time. This need not diminish you or Earth. Instead it places human life within the dance of pull and flow that defines the universe, and lets us see ourselves as dancers in this cosmic circling powered by attraction. What better time to speak of this than spring?



Inches of new snow layer today
on top of strata of the history
old snow should now be, but
I think of what waits within those
compressed layered records of a winter.
In every stratum there wait seeds,
tickseeds pulled from fur by raccoon teeth,
burrs torn loose by woodchuck teeth,
and down low hide the windswept floaters,
dandelion and feathered salsify,
and everywhere in every crystal layer
wait the seeds that have survived
the beaks and guts of birds,
all waiting as we outwait these
inches of newly falling snow, and
in the melt we will all cast off
our coverings and grow green.


Co-evolution is living Earth's great scheme. Plants and animals together have slowly learned to help each other in renewing ways: the plants make fruits which nourish animals, and inside those fruits are seeds which are made too tough to be digested, so are spread as far as bird flies in a day or bear can walk. The animal gets food, the plant gets dispersed seeds. Such cooperation pervades all life on earth, which heartens me.



Everywhere deep new snow
white even in the night.
Between shovel scoops
Barred Owl cries out not
his five-beat hoot, but his drawn
whinny, eerie in its mystery.
Then and there I know
what owl and I tonight do share:
this latest snow storm
wasn't worth a hoot.


Always remember that we of earth are not alone. Others have their opinions too, whether our ears can read them accurately or not. In this case there was no choice but to have some fun.



Yesterday I saw a squirrel without a tail.
I didn't wonder where the tail went,
no doubt lost to winter's maw,
bitter cold, redtail, hungry owl.
It doesn't matter how.
The squirrel labored up the tree
without the lilt and bounce
contained within his bush,
without a way to balance,
without a tail to thrash in scold,
suddenly become
as I have been,
a voice without a tongue.


The ability to empathize with others requires the ability to grieve, which gives the gift of healing. Kids will empathize with the pain of animals. This can be a path to healing, or a path to being overwhelmed by all the pain of earth. The empath can lose track of where she leaves off and the other begins, so the other's pain becomes her own. Do not discourage kids' natural empathy; that path leads only to divorce from life. Do encourage kids to express their pain. Shared pain shrinks. Do encourage kids to balance pain by being willing to also see the beauty and joy of living earth. Shared joy grows.



Thirty two degrees with sun and shirtsleeves
is the key to Minnesota spring.
Walking without wincing
at the wind, biteless now and warm,
walking bathed in bird sounds
unheard in this volume since the fall.
All around they chip and chitter,
simple birds, all they're really saying is
"I'm here, I'm here!" "It's Spring!" 'I am alive!"
whereas we humans say
more wise and subtle things,
as in this little poem I sing
"I am alive! I'm here!" It's Spring!"


Lives are all intimately connected, and we all celebrate the same essential gifts of earth. Encourage kids to keep a sense of proportion when regarding others of any species, including ours. Find ways to help them see the absurdity of superiority. Above all, encourage them to celebrate the leap of life from winter.



On indoor winter days
I am charmed by the sweet curl
my cat's tongue creates
during his essential yawns,
the diamond pattern of its rasps
revealed in light. This curled tongue
is the cyma curve of unrolling scrolls
found in desert tombs, dry caves.
It is the curl of ancient and forever waves
cresting—this tongue rolls me back
to times when Egypt's Bast was loved
for being cat,
and her temples flowed with purrs.


Much of our experience of other animals has happened before, time and time again. Connection is the key. See yourself within a vast river of human experience with other animals, each encounter in the present reverberating back into deep time. We all own a shared context in which each life has a place.



Water-gleam is new again in spring,
like everything,
even in the ruts that were a driveway
water-gleam dances with the sun,
even on the maple bark, sap glimmers
as it weeps its sweets for squirrels,
at eaves, water-gleam is spheres
of mirrored earth bobbling on the tips
of icicles, until they revolving
fall to snowbanks where
they gleam again as simple splats of wet
that quickly lift into the air of spring,
like everything.


Saw my first ant out yesterday, running across deck ice.
Watching winter lose its grip is one of life's great pleasures. So is watching water. Our brains are ninety percent water, all of it recycled endless times, so we are ourselves essentially water that enjoys watching itself, that loves the mirror-gleam of water in its endless dance with light and life.



Surprised a sharpshinned hawk
who sat tight in the prickly ash
until we were upon him, then
up he leapt and tangled feathers in the
branches' weave, recovered fast and flew.
He stayed close, unafraid,
spread his long barred tail, swooped and tilted,
played at acrobat, settled in an oak
and preened his wings.


Being surprised and awkward as a result is a theme in many lives. Ask kids to write or say personal accounts of this shared difficulty. Ask them if appearing vulnerable for a moment is the same as being vulnerable. Maybe predators are mildly confused by such moments of tangled feathers.



A few oak leaves scattered on
the broad expanse of snow
melt their own lobed holes
that descend below
the sinking crystal surface, both
eager to melt into the soil.


"Tis a gift to be simple…” is true of poetry and many of the daily gifts of earth, the multitude of small events that together weave the tapestry of life. This observation may become a science lesson based on the relative absorption of light, or it may illustrate the cycling of life materials, or it may simply express the curiosity of holes in snow shaped precisely like their parent leaves.



Ospreys were first, perched
everywhere on their way north, then
rough-legged hawks sat roadside signs and trees,
shared daylight with Canadian owls, then for weeks
redtails flap-flap-coasted over every field, now
sharpshins dodge leafless branches blushed in bud,
now harriers scout marshes where
their parents forced them into sky, all
driven by this daylength urgency,
driven north toward resurrection, all
clustered by the snowpack's stubborn depth.


Start sometimes with lists of images that cluster around a subject, especially when you're stuck. Everyone has sufficient images stored in memory; your task is to find the triggers that will release them onto paper. One mantra I repeat with kids: "You already know what you need to know to do this work." Don't say it until you know it's true.



Wild geese stand around on frozen ponds and bays,
shift weight from foot to foot, and all day
bugles haunt the sky as geese fly in search
of water open to the sun and spring
to grace with splashing bows, love play
that will create gold goslings paddling
madly in a line behind slow majestic parents.


Untimely cold here. Below zero three days now.


I watch a white horse
trying to roll on snow.
Once down on his side
legs stretched out,
he twists black hooves high to roll
but his rump will not follow
so back he falls, legs flailed.
Up fly black hooves but again
falls back, but third time
is the charm and over
he finally rolls and just to ice the cake
rolls twice again on stubborn snow.


This horse's struggle connected him to me. It was a "been there, done that" moment. A small thing, of no apparent importance, yet afterwards I am connected with this other life. He made me feel better about my own foolish flesh. He said to me, "We are not so different." Encourage kids to be aware that moments of empathy with other lives creates changes inside themselves.



Morning earth speaks sweet
everythings in my ear:
rattle of woodpecking, thin chickadee,
warble of the jay, hoarse muted trumpets
from cruising distant geese, now and then
two large barking dogs,
squirrel scold, dove coo,
the tick of tiny paws.
Seduced again, goosebumped,
I can only think of Blake:
'For everything that lives is holy;
life delights in life.'

All the senses intertwine in imagery; vision and texture are present in all descriptive language. Open all your senses when you observe.



Crow clan calls back and forth all day,
Caw what seem repeated caws, but really say
Hey, hey, hey, I'm right here; We're over here;
Now I fly , Where are you?; Let's meet and greet;
Hey hey hey:
talk that knits the fabric of the clan.

When we were kids we rang the night
with our best Tarzan calls.


Encourage kids to discover the connections; they are always there. Connections make the rest of earth life personal, and that's the key.



Outdoors, cats are shaking wetted paws,
squirrels stick to the trees,
the pond snow's stained with last fall's leaves,
driveway's turned to ruts in mud
the very air so wet it squelches sound
and visibility is down,
and the redwing on the feeder wonders
if his compass works, but

Two nights ago Orion strapped on his belt
slung his sword at an angle jaunty
as his off the shoulder lion pelt
and burning with the hunt
strode into the stars.


If the present moment is dank and drear, rely on recent memory.