The qualities and varieties of light eternally
astonish. Painters spend lifetimes finding them. We experience
light only in the gestalt, as a portion of the whole enchantment
A redwing male perches a post
close and displays brilliant
orange & red epaulets.
I am too close to the nest.
When I walk toward, he flies
to the fence post just behind,
displays again and sings.
Over in the cattails, a female
perches sideways on a stem
and clacks at me.
As I leave the marsh behind
the male forays though air,
makes one casual
dive at my head, power-proud.
I walk on, cowed as a fleeing crow.
The female dives quietly down, satisfied.
The fields leap now with small green and yellow
grasshoppers, and the long thimble heads of timothy nod blue
in breeze. It's too warm to take aggression seriously.
All day, seed-flecks nested
in parachute down
glint everywhere in air,
After dark, male fireflies take flight,
take up again their nuptials,
blink bright to females in grass,
who glow an instant in response
if a male's green fires are strong.
In a sort of insect version of a single's
bar, male fireflies send out their best flashes in hopes of
attracting a mate. Now, scientists have translated exactly
what they're trying to say to their female love interests.
Tufts University biologist Sara Lewis and
a colleague, Chris Cratsley, found that a firefly's flash
advertises its ability to produce good offspring. Lewis says
they made this discovery while studying a species called Photinus
ignites. Lewis: They're the fireflies that are most common
flashing in the early evening. And they generally flash pretty
close to the ground.
The researchers measured minute differences
in the length of the fireflies' flashes. They found that males
with the longest flashes had the best resources for fertilizing
a female's eggs.
The researchers then tested whether females
actually chose males based on the length of their flash. Lewis:
Females consistently preferred artificial flashes that were
slightly longer in duration than the shorter flashes that
he presented to females.
So, female fireflies can tell which suitors
have the best reproductive assets by gauging the male's ability
to brag about them.
Turn over a leaf.
Doesn't have to be new.
What will you find?
A different green,
the one wind knows.
Under-veins in light relief,
Small white cocoons
where ridged veins join.
Zoom in, see pores
that gift you your breath,
pores that crave
The largest symbiosis on Earth lives under
each leaf: exchange of nutrient gases. The stoma (pores) release
water vapor and oxygen, pull in carbon dioxide. A grace-filled
The second flush of cardinals
are at the feeder now.
Papa in the rain
cracks sunflowers for three,
two boys, one girl perched above,
vibrating their wings
as fledglings do.
A goldfinch drops in
to spark the rain,
object to crowds.
Papa flies abruptly off.
One sib chases him, but two
drop down and learn
to beak-roll sunflower seeds
until the meat is free.
Summer adolescence is so fast, however long
for the young, but forever for the parents feeding them. Two
young cardinals have just left school; one needs another class.
Mom & Pop have raised two broods this season, and she
is sitting eggs again. Brava!
He is Buddha from the underside,
this treefrog pressed to glass.
Held by cups on each long toe,
belly flattened white
and legs askew, he hunts
the light-delighted flies of night.
He waits until the moment,
thrusts his snout and swallows.
When there are no flies, he waits,
his Buddha nature open wide.
The treefrog is the paragon of patience. His
skinny legs and incredible suction toes combine with the oddly
familiar belly to create an improbable charm. He hunts by
waiting; he is beautifully immobile until some small insect
As light filters gray sky into day,
a green heron fishes at dawn.
She sits the end of a float log,
neck and legs tucked close
until she is rotund.
In the stillness after rain
she surveys a pond
of duckweed green, alert to any stir.
Of a sudden she's off,
neck long, legs atrail.
Her beak plunges as she flies
ten feet and returns
to log, reaches her head high
and lets gravity slide breakfast down.
I wish well the herons who bless my home.
What she ate is mystery, like most everything. All that matters
to this fisherbird or me is that she did eat.
How it thrusts to sun
in this thick time,
reach of leaf and sprawl,
with sweet elderblow.
As noon heat
presses insects low,
sweep alfalfa tops
It's almost too much now. This fecundity of
green life and insect life begins to sate the spirit. Fruition
steals expectation. Great beauty, yes, but it's like having
to smell gardenias all day.
In cool shade, Daddy Longlegs
explores the world I have disturbed.
Two hair-thin legs lift to taste the air,
smell the air, hear the air,
probe the air for danger I have made.
The other legs are still,
hold his center pod
suspended in the basket of his being.
Now these longest legs
tap the earth, tap the soil.
I move and Longlegs scampers off
fast and fleeting as
a shadow-shift in leafy shade.
The stilt-walkers hang out by our north door,
What little-kid memories they evoke. Elegant and strange their
flight, silent as a dash of cool air. In Britain they are
'harvestmen.' Their daddy longlegs is our cranefly.
Loon calls in flight,
Two sandhill cranes beat their way
across blue sky,
five rose-breasted grosbeaks
at the feeder, new adult feathers
on new bright males black and white
and bibbed with rose.
An outsized wood dove
fluffs his plumage dry.
Raindrops tipped off leaves by breeze
fall as silver gleams against
rainblack bark of oaks.
A day and night of storm have passed, and
I am in good company in my rejoicing. John Ruskin just didn't
get outdoors enough.
A dragonfly lands on a garden leaf
for lunch. Four wings
held flat, clear but for
atop each, a black dash.
It's caught a deerfly.
Mandibles chew and chew,
and color enters the maw.
The deerfly slowly vanishes
into life. One clear wing
detaches, flutters to soil.
We are all food for life. I could never mourn
a deerfly; I am delighted to see one put to use.
Breeze and ruby throat
toss the red monarda, move
to trumpet honeysuckle, where
the hummingbird works
each orange bell with care,
tongues up nectar and surprised
small flies who had sweet need.
Hummingbirds enchant the eye. The long tongue
is a rasp that picks up protein as it sucks sugars. How the
flowers evolved bells and tubes, how the bird bill and tongue
stretched long to carry pollen from bloom to trumpet bloom.
Delight in mystery.
Redwing blackbird fledgling
at the feeder at last
feeds himself. But as
he feels each seed
enter his beak, his wings
flutter as they did when
he begged parents,
"Feed me! Feed me!"
Adolescence is hard, but amusing at times
to elders as we watch the slow abandonment of childishness.
Habit persists past need.
I wake to raindrops
tapping leaves, susurrus
of falling drops on green
that rivulet and spill
to tap the leaves below.
At intervals, the rain is pierced
by rooster crows
and blue jay screams, but
each is lulled again to seamless
raindrops gently tapping leaves.
And here is chickadee.
There is no better meld of sound and calm
than leafy summer rain, nor better clock alarm. No better
waking surprise, perhaps, than chickadee.
Shadows are in flight across the land,
shadows shifting shape and size,
shadows of strong wingbeats
black and swift. How the shadow birds
race up treetrunks, leap bushes,
run the sides of houses!
When a bird between the sun and earth
turns or rolls, its shadow dithers
shapeless black until the flier levels out.
Small birds shrink and grow
in lift and fall: finches, redwings, sparrows.
When foldwing, black spearheads
grow, when the wings resume,
urgent shadows shrink.
Shadow-flights are a great life bonus; they
teach perspective, point of view, mutability.
Crescent spot butterflies,
dun on foldwing,
bright orange open,
cluster roadside mud,
unspiral tongues to
sip the salts of earth.
We are all kin, we land animals, always craving
mother ocean. Happily, this gives us large groups of butterflies
pressed in driveway mud last night,
look supple even dried.
Nearby raccoon scat
eroded by torrential rain:
Diet of berries now,
plucked from dogwoods
with those fingered paws.
Now, six or seven hard-to-count kits
grown large enough to wrestle
thump around the deck at night.
They are made of berries, seeds,
and a few crawdads
transmogrified to milk.
Animal sign tells intriguing stories. There
is no privacy. Raccoons are classic omnivores; whatever is
in season is eaten. Grasshoppers soon, now that they have
Milkweed has spilled open
great mops of flower tubes,
sweet for fliers small
enough to probe them.
A splash of mauve
centers each pink petal.
Each flower mop will swell
into a warty cornucopia
that must dry and split
toward completion. Inside,
with its lover's help,
each flower will have become
a thin tan seed, ready to meet sky
on a cloud-white plume.
All the transformations lives go through in
order to continue! The flowers and their pollinating insects
coevolved their symbiosis. The community is the unit of evolution.
Little blue butterflies
race erratic through air,
up and down,
Blue in your eye,
out your eye,
A gentle, daytime stridulation:
grasshoppers in long grass.
When legs brush grasses,
nymphs scatter-patter, adults
windmill off in yellow-black.
So many insects now. Tracking the flight of
little blues is beyond my eyes. Their blue enthralls, makes
me want to see more. But they are always off. Grasshoppers
graze every roadside, every field. The patter of their scatter
evokes childhood summers like the 'tobacco juice' they leave
in your hand.
How the daisies and wild lettuce
pop back up and bloom
after county mowers
cut them to the ground.
Tiny wasps, not
fooled by outer sepals,
head right for sweet gold centers.
This sweet determination to flower and seed
is strong. We recognize it in ourselves. Mowers happen; we
are all cut, but we rise up from the root. We just need pollinators.
Two white-faced meadowhawks,
the male bright red,
female gold-orange, flying,
suddenly spot each other.
Fresh imagoes, these dragonflies,
only yesterday they
cracked their skeletons,
and pumped their
glitter wings unfolded, full.
The perched female rolls up
her huge and touching eyes,
sees the bright male, flies toward.
He swerves away, curves
back to his perch.
Such encounters are stories for the eye. We
don’t know the tales exactly, but there are parallels
aplenty in our minds. In spite of initial aversions, we cousins
do manage to mate, and soon these two, perhaps with others,
perhaps each other, will spend a day clasped, flying eight
winged over a pond, dropping eggs here, there, now over here.
The neighbor’s tractor
backs up, plays its idiot tune.
Five redbirds sway young willows,
wait for jays to leave the seeds.
The neighbor’s tractor
beeps its mono-tune.
A red-bellied woodpecker
muscles in, shoves jays aside,
The neighbor’s tractor
As a jay’s eyes waver
a cardinal slips in, whips a black seed
back to willows,
rolls it in his perfect beak,
lets the black shell fall.
The neighbor’s tractor
A nuthatch now
slips in and out.
Then every bird flies off, for
no reason seen.
Doves come in to feed.
The elegance of dove
against the tractor beeps.
Earth tells odd, blurred little stories sometimes.