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John Caddy
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John Caddy's
Morning Earth Poems
March 2004



Aspen buds have begun to burst
Their shiny scales and show fur,
as if fuzzy little animals were winkling
out of knotty twigs, but these
are just the heads of long flower
bodies that will dangle gold pollen
in the south-warm winds of spring.


The flowering has begun again, a month before the pussy-willows. In this brief thaw, maple sap bounces in its woody tubes, not quite convinced.



Trees along the highways
carry birds of size
that curve branches down.
Trees along the highway
carry hawks moving north
to breeding grounds.
Trees along the highway
Carry returned majesty,
And we driving on the highway
Risk our necks to see.


This lift of renewal does seem worth the risk. Anyone who drives is a bit mad in any event. Saw two big hawks today. I think rough-legged, but can’t be sure at driving speeds. Another flying was for certain a broad-winged hawk.



When last week our snow was still alive.
It revealed contours of the land,
drew the steep of hill and flat of pond.
Dark ranks of tree trunks rose from the white sweep
to shape terrain for eyes.

Now the snow is pools on ponds,
and hills unshaped in eyes.
Plain browns of fallen leaves
shallow hills and flatten vision's reach.

Still, when I kick leaves aside
the wet green moss brightens
my eye, expands my pupils in a small rebirth.


Transformation is a root rule of Earth; change never asks permission. Regard highly those results of transformations that may lead you toward acceptance. The ability to accept (and even cherish) changes is a survival skill.


Beneath blushed bud-scales,
maple flowers swell toward light.
Beneath black pond ice
minnows fan their fins and wait.
Under woodland leaves, fungi
wake and thread the soil,
the tips of earthworms gleam.
Deeper underground, toads dig
upward through dark
as they have for all uncounted time.


Write and think about what is going on behind the scenes. Go below sight’s surface. Encourage your sense of Deep Time, the almost forever nature of Earth's cycles. This helps develop an earth-centered consciousness, rather than a human-centered way of seeing and being.



Squirrels bite holes now in the bark
of the sap-sprung trunks of trees
to lick first sweets of 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. When you are attentive to the earth's renewals, you yourself become renewed.



Squirrel knows when the maple
pumps its sap uptrunk.
Squirrel knows the sugartree from
oak or birch, aspen or ash,
for in this time of cold nights
and warmer days, squirrels climb
the maple trunks and bite into the bark,
bite down into the living tree
to set sweet sap to weeping down the trunk,
sap that roots pumped up to flower buds
on every twig, waylaid by the robber mammals
once again, armed with tooth and drill,
spile and tongue, but the maple has enough
sweet sap to pleasure tongues
and still bear seed with wings that spin
as lovely into air as today’s burst of
first spring sweet on tongues of squirrels
and jays, woodpeckers, nuthatches
and chickadees, who lap their fill of sap
that’s weeping from the waking maple trees.


I’m sure that squirrels taught humans to tap maple trees way down the backalong, so if you like maple syrup, say thank you.



Trees are talking back to wind
in voices now high and stretched,
now low groans as they rub against
the others whose trunks they touch.
Today the voices sound like human
pain, but our ears are wrong.
They speak instead an ancient bond
of tree and wind that
strengthens trunk and branch
with every push from quickened air.


Trees respond to wind loading by growing stronger and more flexible. Proverbially, the reed bends before life’s winds and lives in grace. Stiffness and strength are different things, which carpenters know, but many folks don’t.


Snow is sinking, spirits lifting,
odd things make us smile.
On field edge, here’s
a seven foot, eight foot sapling
every branch tip browsed by a whitetail,
Which is not that tall.
The cut ends still wet.

I see the deer in full moonlight
last night, up on hind legs
as if dancing, forelegs
dangling, black hooves agleam.
He stretches a long neck to
the savory tips where sap
pushes toward growth,
and neatly snips them off,
drops to all fours and swaps jaws
until ready for more.


There is more nourishment in branch tips now that spring is on its way. Young is tender. It is a delight to read sign and reconstruct what happened here. Deer decide the height of most saplings in their first years.



Early dark. Wind roars.
On the ground between snowbanks,
a yearling deer and mama raccoon
feed head to head, munching
sunflower seeds, each muzzle intent
and down, caring naught for
size or kind, needing neither
territory nor precedence,
only to eat good seeds. Mama’s
been asleep for months. Now
she’s mated and eating for six.
Deer are cautious, raccoons have tempers,
but not tonight, in this sharing,
surrounded by wind-roar.
I may have seen a rare thing,
But I think not.

The great nature myth of our culture is “nature red in tooth and claw.” We all do eat to live, of course, but the notion that predators and prey are “enemies” is both silly and bizarre. Between species, a kind of disinterested cooperation is every bit as routine as competition. Consider multi-species feeding flocks of songbirds.


She’s back.
The lone Canada goose is back
on the icelocked pond
for the fourth migration.
Five years backalong she
and her mate raised a whole
paddling line of gosling gold.
This morning early she lands quiet
As first light, stands
her great paddles on snow, shuffles
against strong wind
slowly round a circle, sees no mate,
cranes her long neck, head tilting,
calls out twice, abruptly flies
into the wind, locked in, locked out.


Her mate is dead; for four springs she has hung about the pond, expecting. I would have thought she’d find another, but she may never. She seems to be locked in her mourning, as some of us become.


Half the whole horizon
blushes now at 6:00 AM.
A few bands of cirrus cast pink
Bands half horizon round. Sky
will astonish high blue.
Squirrels already leap down trees
To forage breakfast acorns
on this Ides of March that wakes to beauty.
Just to have light now in the North!
This flash of crimson across my eyes
is cardinal startled from feeder, nothing
of Caesar’s blind mouths.
Two giant geese fly low to survey
their nuptial pond, well-iced still, but they
know thaw wells up from deep springs,
and honk deep horns so close above that
between honks I hear feathers stride air,
and I am blessed below wings.


Spring’s advent is upon us, caruncles of tom turkeys flame
against skulls of sky blue, and increase has begun to moisten
even our cold air.


The sidhe have pulled us under hill
two mornings in a row, and twice we wake
with clustered snowflakes
lining every twig and bough.

The dawn is pure and white
shaped with bark of branch, dark trunks
of oak and birch and butternut.

To be stolen out of time
and into faerie snow is gift
of evanescent grace, for too soon
we shall return to time, and watch
the glory melt into our dreamlives
where our children breathe in hope.


Such beauty as this morning’s wakes the child inside us all, and we are swept from Human World to Ancient Earth, where we were born. FYI: the sidhe (shay) are the Celtic fairies of the hills.



All the turkey girls are foraging today,
fifty strong, this side of the pond
and in cattails out beyond. Not
a beard in sight, nor a tom’s spread fan.
The boys are somewhere else out there
testing their puissance, dipping wings
and circling tight, wattles aflame,
heads a brighter blue.
The female flock is after food, pecking
any likely place a live seed may have flown
through the winter winds that now give way
to the high spring of renewal.


The crops of females will be crushing acorns while the hungry males are caught up in the tensions of testosterone.


Wind has voiced the leafless trees
on this equinox of Spring.
Wind plays bough and bud
with the woodwind known as Roar,
and cartwheels leaves across
a sky of racing cumulus and blue.
Wind tears off the stubborn leaves
of ironwood and oak that would not
leave the tree last Fall. Tattered
pale they whip past windows
to still-white ponds where belly-down
they glide, the only craft today on snow.


It amazes me that trees without leaves can make so loud a sound in the hands of Wind. The saving grace is that this wind blows from the south.


This morning lives within a pearl
Of snowmelt halfway lifted into air,
Halfway hanging above ground and pond
as if a cloud descended from the sky.
As the pearl ingathers light, dark
shapes appear within the radius of eyes,
networked branches dark in wet
and columned trunks lifting up
beyond the boundary of pearl.
Each near branch is droplet hung,
prepared to gleam as magnifying worlds.
The morning calls of birds are hushed
within this sphere of white, until
the horns of seeking geese
doppler loud above the sky.


We are spellbound here in snowmelt fog and remnant thunderstorm,
Each set of observing eyes confined to opalescent boundaries.



It’s the frogs again,
the singers in the ponds,
the singers in spring rain.
Tiny hop-frogs choir our darks
and sing our April rains.
Thin legs clasp them on to cattail
stems, long toes curled round
tight as Sol grasps Earth
and wheels her round the fire
as he has done since long before
two hundred million springs
these chorus frogs have sung.

The chorus frog’s music is sweet as spring-curled fiddleheads, and loud.



Below the feeder rummages
a squirrel with a pink and hairless tail.
Well-made aside from this travesty of tail,
the squirrel defers to other grays,
supplicant, all status lost to mange.
This tail does not curve up,
just lies out flat behind.
The skin looks scaly red and sore,
where mites dug in to feed.
This life has lost all eloquence—
a squirrel’s brush speaks tales
of confidence and power,
of anger, lust and of attack.
The whole demeanor of this
unmasked squirrel seems to say,
“I am not even here.”


We tend to 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 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 pain shrinks. Shared joy grows.



In pouring rain and dark
the white horse, loose again,
walks up the driveway mud, looks
at our warm-lit windows,
shakes his head and screams
like wide tires burning rubber, except
animal, from a large throat,
the sort of sound close-by at night
that doesn’t make you want to look and see.

In the morning huge hoof prints deep in mud,
milled about a space, tell the tale
of lost at night in rain, and no help
when the heart cries out.


Fear lets go the strangest sounds. Poor dumb horse gets loose too often (poor dumb owner!), gets spooked in dark and rain, headlights down the road, headlights blare off wet, cold, and where’s my stall?