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John Caddy
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John Caddy's
Morning EarthPoems
April 2001




Side by side
two black horses
stand calm as snow
while their backs turn white

When the event observed is simple, write about it simply. Gain power in your writing by choosing nouns and verbs carefully, not by piling up adjectives. Every word should do some necessary work.



Watched sun break open sky
half-horizon wide,
watched vermilion shout itself to light.

Heard songbirds this dawn cry,
heard paired geese urgent fly
to shallow snowmelt ponds in fields
to bob unfolding tips of green

so when the egg cracks wide
strong gosling blinks into beckon-sky
beyond the mother's eye.


Being is becoming. Continual transformation is life's essence. Lives are processes.


Kestrels are back and pairing up.
Feathers askew from hard flight they arrive
to perch wires along country roads
and drive for mice with
knifing arcs of falcon wings.

Write about a specific spring returning that you find personally reassuring. Do not exclude the human; encourage the re-connection of human and natural whenever you can.



Phoebe has returned, but
no open water moves upon the pond,
not a flying bug in sight
so phoebe sits in a morning tree
flicks his tail up and down,
up and down, flies to
the mud he'll use for nest, flies back
and gleams his eye at me.


Be aware of continuities in the lives around you. This phoebe hatched out in the mud & moss nest that is rebuilt every year in our screen house eaves. Continuity creates family.



Pond ice slumps into
its leaf-stained self
within a meltwater mist.
Through the mist the chat and dither
of traveling birds moves strong
as they search fuel to fly on.


Spring here is the celebration of wet and the return of early morning sounds. These tough migrants remind us that the search for energy never ends; that all lives either find their fuel or drop to ground. We all share this boundary; we all share this quandary. See this sharing as connection.



Red squirrel in the maple tree
dares the tips of branches to feed
on swelling flower buds
shading toward red.
At the tips, squirrel tongue shivers
with sweet buds of Spring.


After northern winters, all lives yearn for unstored food. Energy from plants is once more free. Gray squirrels bite holes in maple bark to lick sweet sap while red squirrel takes advantage of his small size to eat the flower buds at the tips of branches. At the root of this sudden abundance of energy is the higher sun in a longer day that we all now celebrate. Observe birds and mammals as they find fresh spring food, and celebrate it in a journal entry.



Pileated woodpecker strokes his beak
on the bark of a young maple,
switching sides of beak and tree,
draws his chisel down the bark as if
to strop the tool that stokes his fires.

Far above, a pair of vultures soar
on black unmoving wings
against a gray lit sky,
nostrils open for the scent of death.
Within this spring, vultures
seem the wings of paradox.


Earth continually reminds us that death begets life, that the yin and yang require each other, that complementary opposites do not oppose. I was struck by the sharp beaks of this spring morning. I was struck by the beauty of these vultures soaring. See the twin realities.



I walk out the door
and great wings sudden me, so large
they shadow me and spook
the purple finches glowing feeders.
Beating on into the marsh is sandhill crane,
so low his wings stir willow brush,
while I soar high
that such deep wings still sweep our sky.


C. S. Lewis invented a great phrase, "surprised by joy," which perfectly expresses what wakeful attention to earth's gifts offers writers. These sudden moments when the heart shouts "Yes!" make all the rest worthwhile. The pre-requisite to being surprised by joy is the willingness to be surprised.



Mama woodchuck in steady rain walks
wide and low across the yard,
noses grass released from snow.
Her mouth opens, closes as if
she grumbles low.
She stands to eat an acorn,
upright on wide haunches
that just birthed her kits,
holds the acorn in fine black-leathered paws
as she turns it round and round
until satisfied, she chews.


Spring enchants with so many images of renewal and rebirth. Select and share the images that strike you personally, images that we otherwise might not see.



Hawks scream in the sky again, again,
beat their wings then
fold them in and arrow on,
scream before they fold, beat
fast just after arrowing.
Over marsh and over trees
four harriers contest the nesting ground.
A female has lost feathers, wedges of sky
shine through her wing but
on they scream and soar to earn
the best, most mouse-full place to nest.


The struggles of rebirth begin long before the eggs are laid. Such contests can be hard to watch and hear. Be aware not only of the fight but also of its reasons. Do you recognize or predict such fierceness in yourself?



Crocus blooms are furled tight
small umbrellas wrapped white, as snowflakes
wander wind, chilled woodfrogs check their castanets
and mirror-birches in the pond vanish into riffled steel.
Chickadee is puffed all round again
against untimely cold, but redwinged blackbird
males land upon the feeders with
epaulets arrogant and ablaze, beaks aimed at sky,
and the pond is hammered into light.


The redwings save the morning with their posturing. It's all for their fellows; there are no females to impress. The females are still south, fueling up for eggs and the hungry time upon the nest. We all are bound by our imperatives. Write about those moments when with a smile we recognize ourselves in the Others, those times when we see that we are truly family.



The ring-necked pheasant turns his head into a glory
just before sunfall as the last light rays,
he displays the crimson velvet that
surrounds his eyes, expands the textured skin
until it burns against a bitter wind,
until it blazes on a ground of iridescent green,
until I know I feed a bird of paradise.


The capacity of earth to amaze has no end. Every moment carries new delight if you stay open and awake. And that's the rub. In our society we survive by disconnecting our senses. To reconnect them when we choose is a survival skill. It can be practised. More, it can become a Practice. Questions: What gifts do you refuse without knowing they have been offered? What do you need?



In this Spring wind
Winter-matted oak leaves have crisped again
and cartwheel madly on their points,
while earthworms who were snacking
ease down another layer to help
the rest rot back to soil.

Maple flower buds are almost wide.
In this April breeze, red bud sheaths
sprinkle earth below while wood duck pairs
plough the pond to silver as they land,
and swimming, shimmer with the water
as breeze plays ripple with the glass.


So much movement, so much transformation, such a dance. There is nothing to do with such muchness but celebrate. Observe simultaneous events; "while" is a useful syntactic trigger and organizer for writing that enables writers.



Out to see if crocuses were wrapped in sunny cold
or like yesterday, gold pollen offered wide
in cups of blue and white, but see none.
Mama Woodchuck satisfied her sweet tooth early on.

They had begun to tatter in the rigors of all this folding
and unfolding anyway, I say in rueful rationale,
but they were this spring so wonderful.
There are no bees out in this cold
to slake their thirst for pollen gold
to transform into honey,
so can I blame grizzled Mama Woodchuck
for making beauty into milk ?


We appreciate flowers in our own ways. One cousin's beauty is another's opportunity to feed her kits. Place natural events in as wide an ecological context as you can. We must expand the range of our concerns.



A walk:
Wood frogs revel in the rainy ponds,
clattering their throaty castanets,
casting song into the round drum ears
of females who thawed out filled with eggs
and wearing masks.

The swatch of light
each morning duck
with its breast
through quiet water.


Entries do not have to comment. Most images the earth presents us are just that. Do not worry that your own 'voice' and feeling won't shine through. Any image filtered through your consciousness and cast into a net of words will contain 'you' and present your feeling.



On a fresh-cut maple stump
Mourning Cloak butterflies gather.
The roots don't know the trunk is gone,
and pump sweet sap into a pool
where spiral tongues uncurl
like New Years' party favors to welcome
their release from hibernation.


The stumped tree owns a blind vegetative insistence on life that is both marvelous and fearsome to us who are less endowed. This stubborn desire is echoed by the mourning cloaks who celebrate their survival of six months being frozen by drinking wet sweets and minerals from the stump. Life feeds on life and feeds on death. All is making and unmaking. Nothing goes to waste.



I watch the big drops after rain
coalesce from twig and branch
until full enough to fall into
reflecting pools that were lately clouds.

I hear the big drops after rain
plop into concentric ripple rings and
look quick at the center
to see what made the splash
and there’s nothing there but water—
thus at the circle's center
everything is there.

What if rain could reminisce about
all the places, all the beings, it has been?

Ninety percent of my brain, I'm told, is rain
that's cycled earth a billion times,
time to flow down every river, every vein,
time to rest in glaciers, time to think in brains.

What if rain could reminisce?
It just did.


Water is the genesis of most creation myths, the source of life. We think of primordial seas and amnions. Land animals and plants, from a Gaian perspective, are salty water cleverly self-packaged with bone and lignin so they can stay upright. No question we are wet squelchy beings for true, but how slippery is enough?



Maple flowers are in full red hue and cry.
Around them fly insects, feeding.
Warblers bright in black and gold
drop from the hungry sky
and pounce upon the feeding flies.

So if by spring you would be fed,
by flowers be you led.
But this sword, it seems,
is keen and double-edged.


Interliving and co-evolution are marvels. Migrating warblers time their flights so that insects are available for fuel. Maples time their flowers to open when early insects are available to pollinate. These flies time their spring waking to the availability of maple flowers to feed from. Consider: These myrtle warblers, these two or three species of flies, these red maples have all been dancing in these co-evolved circles for millions of years. (Migrations don't last long; plenty of flies survive.) The communities of life are all cooperatives. How did all this evolve? Reciprocally, bit by bit. Was it the chicken or the egg?



Great egret lifts off the pond and flies
just overhead, wing wind stirs my face,
And trailing neatly under all this feathered white
two long legs shine wet and black.


We quicken when wild things come close. Light changes, breath changes, eyes grow. Details leap into focus. I am more attentive and awake for hours. At the root of is a willingness to be inside the moment, to suspend all thought and judgment, to surrender self. Willingness can be practiced.



The trees are (swift as fire) on flower,
catkins dangle green and gold, oaks
blush red, plums in white, all abrupt
as the blush and bloom of puberty.
What magics push through stems
these sudden blooms
and the greening ears of leaves?

Suppose it is spring choirs:
the primal nightsong of the frogs,
the firstlight chorus of the birds?
Say it's so. Say the birds release the trees
while frogsong greens the beings close to soil,
old liverwort, mosses tossing sporecaps,
berry bushes, lily thrust.

The choirs are fully throated now,
in that brief time when dawnbright birds
overlap the nightsong of the frogs,
and all turns green and flowering,
and children almost know their beauty. Say
everything is fueled by these old harmonies.


Everything is connected. Our notions of causality are narrow and inadequate. In the Newtonian universe, causes are mechanical and clear, but explanations easily become self-fulfilling prophecies. But we don't live there anymore. In backalong, poets told stories that discovered cause in harmonies. Leafgreen, spring flowers, and puberty are always coeval mythically and metaphorically. But suppose causality is beside the point? Suppose that the flow of life and the nature of our participation in that flow is what matters?



Copyright © 2004 John Caddy