A whole alfalfa field alive in shades of blue
today bounces in the sun with yellow butterflies,
mostly sulfurs sipping at the sweet,
but here and there a fresh-winged monarch
drinks intently from these rare late flowers.
In the dark
a small spirit
climbs my chest:
a kitten's purr
is velvet in my ear.
So many curled leaves
caught on the surface of the pond.
Small boats that sail themselves
to the whim of wind.
with what you see. Use words that show action, like "bounces."
An entry paints pictures with words; the colors flow out of
a pencil instead of a brush or crayon or marker.
a little poem happens with a comparison. Comparing is something
we all do without knowing the names "metaphor" or
"simile." This piece compares a sound, purring,
with a tactile texture, velvet.
the roadside tall tight bouquets of blue asters,
the only flower color left in the roadside garden
of white thistlepuffs and goldenrod heads gone to gray.
But colors have leaked down into stems
now rich with burgundy,
and into leaves of oranges and reds.
the white puffs of thistledown
and the old gray heads of goldenrod
are brown seeds alive with next year's color dance.
in writing, we reflect on what things mean, just as we often
focus on how we experience things with our senses and with
our hearts. To reflect is to let experiences bounce around
inside your head awhile, like an image bouncing around inside
a head-shaped room of mirrors. To reflect is to ask personal
questions: What did this experience mean to me? How did it
affect me? To reflect is to ask larger questions: What did
this thing I noticed mean to the Earth? How does that process
work? What is the connection here to human life?
stanza of the poem above asks larger questions, and suggests
that without death there is no new life (planet ecology),
and that the seeds of our futures may be found in the gray
hairs of experience (human ecology). It also hints at the
color and joy ( "color dance") that is held invisibly
within all aging lives.
ponders becoming day,
maple leaves begin as black shapes
that cut out pointed patterns of sky
I wonder, where is the color now?
Is it in the leaves?
Or is it in my mind?
to the city yesterday: one of those drives where dead animals
are very noticeable along the road. Two stick in my throat:
lies on blacktop
as if asleep, one pink hand
over its face
vultures hunch on the road,
peck at a road-killed muskrat.
begins in a brief moment of noticing. Most important human
experiences are brief but intense. Those "little"
moments are at the center of strong art-making. What is small
becomes large. These brief moments of noticing are often accompanied
by a question, a moment of wondering. As often, the question
is asked but not answered. Questions are great things to ask
entries are prose "raw material" for what may become
future poems or future drawings or longer prose. The trick
is to jot down the sense details that will later re-kindle
the experience in your spirit when you read that entry.
a tail could chase a cat?
And what if the tip of the tail
caught the cat and threw it flat?
Would the tip of the tail go to jail
for abusing its very own cat?
is rudely or irregularly fashioned verse, often of a humorous
nature. This Entry is doggerel verse—not good poetry,
but corn can be fun. Here half the fun is in saying it aloud.
Playfulness is important in writing. Kids are usually alert
to the possibilities for fun in whatever they see, but we
in the arts often insist on seriousness, which theyoung think
means somberness, dullness, and not-fun, not-play. Letting
the earth tickle our fancies is a survival skill.
"Why do we delight in repeating sounds and rhythms? Have
you listened to babies repeating sounds over and over?"
Have kids say things aloud. Pick out one piece of rhythm,
say, "What if a tail…" and find where the
same rhythm piece repeats? Repeated "pieces of rhythm"
glue a poem together.
that small beginning curl at the tip of the tail!
are shorn of leaves
the birches almost bare
but as I walk beneath red oaks
I’m swallowed whole by golden light
which lifts me into reveries of loss
and joys of olden Autumns
that fill me with this cello light
that joins me to the whole.
means "word choice." Generally, for strong writing
keep the words simple and not consciously "poetic."
Avoid words you do not use out loud. This is good advice,
but it's general advice, and there are always exceptions.
In the entry above, the word "shorn" is probably
a bit poetic, but in this piece I love the way "shorn"
shapes my mouth and ear. Love the sounds of words.
from the tall birch
the barred owl drops,
flips her long wings open
and quietly rows
across the misty morning marsh.
Orange leaves fall
from where she dropped to fly.
gift of Earth is Life.
We receive the gift
While we are the gift.
This is strange.
gift is Joy of Beauty.
We receive the joy
While we are the joy.
we do not need to solve.
the driveway, by the house
two scarecrows guard flowerbeds.
Close to the road,
waiting for the schoolbus,
a boy and his younger sister kneel
on either side of a large brown dog,
faces buried in its shoulders as if still asleep.
To one side Mom looks down on these three.
In the center is the bright-eyed dog, muzzle high.
at the Window, Fall
wave and curl
bodies taut but still—
Eyes alight with falling leaves.
of our gifts from Earth is important. They are commonly available
things, but noticing them, noticing the beauty, the mystery,
the intricacy, the fun, is what we have to recapture from
our foolish willingness to be bored and classify common things
as dull. Everything of earth, including you and me, is extra-ordinary
and splendid, if we are open to it.
When kittens fall asleep,
where do their bones go?
Their bodies sprawl, a heap
of fur, and flow
like rivers of warm over
edges of drawers or chairs
that will not hold these sweet
sleepers with no bones.
Three browned basswood leaves,
one above, two below,
perch on the ends of their twigs,
leaftips curled down to shape head and beak.
Three stubborn finches shivered in wind,
refusing to fly.
Most autumns, this maple by my window is crimson,
but this time around each leaf is a brilliant yellow
that in the sunlight now blazes.
But its leaves have begun to fall.
Red stems are letting go.
I wonder how that feels? A deja vu?
A dance again done, a song before sung?
But these leaves that spill burnt gold to earth
do not carry the tree’s glory down,
they promise more, and each autumn more
as they feed their light to earth,
to fire the crucible that harvests us all,
and stoke the fires of soil
As they feed their light to earth.
are a great place to talk to yourself. And it's less embarrassing
writing these chats down than being caught saying them aloud
Writing is a way to discover what is inside you, often unaware.
This entry is about the season circle, of course, but also
about how living things change and enrich their environments.
I planted bulbs
in garden beds awash with leaves,
pushed double-nosed narcissus deep into cold soil,
Repeated the names of Spring
as I emptied bags:
glory of the snow
from a smooth bulb
lists of names for sound and rhythm. It's excellent practice
toward the love of language. Must be done with voice and ear.
Have kids generate lists of words on Post-Its or scraps, one
word on each, then arrange and rearrange until the ear is
pleased. Prompts: Things you saw that made you smile inside.
Things you heard/smelled/touched that made you smile inside.
Things you see now outdoors that will change or dress-up for
Spring. And so forth. Include human activity as part of Nature.
fawns watch me clump up the road,
watch a long time, taking bites of branches
while they wait for me to arrive, until
I cross the safety line and they have to run.
White tails flash up and both fawns
wheel in synchrony and run up the hill,
where they stand. Below them I stand,
all three of us still, looking.
Both fawns look at me over their shoulders,
necks curved in the sweet arc of wonder.
have humans and the other natural beings have been quietly
looking at each other when they meet? Develop a sense of Deep
Time. See yourself as an observer stepping into an ancient
stream of human experience with other life when you observe
light grows into morning,
Juncos flash their tails--
scissors cutting cold morning air,
A few days ago they clipped
the air of tundra.
splash in the dark mirror, then
the kingfisher rises to light with a minnow
lands on a leafless branch.
dark raggedy head,
bold stripe more white
than the birches behind him,
the body bluegray.
perches, he hovers, hoping.
He will not miss a moment of his hunt for life.
A thousand miles to go this week,
he needs all the minnows he can dive.
observe nature, we usually regard what we see as isolated
incidents. This is our cultural bias and our recent ignorance.
With our disconnect from daily Earth, we have forgotten much.
brown birds and little brown leaves
dart and fall, sprawl across still morning air.
The little brown birds are big,
fluffed like kids in snowsuits,
feathers trapping heat in this freeze.
As dawn grows,
every tree branch, every twig white with crystal frost.
Brown birds fly down the great circle of Earth,
Brown leaves fly down another curve of Earth,
to follow life's circular flow.
her black stilt legs,
her body a barrel of wool,
pokes her black face into browned weeds.
Magpie rides on her back,
long tail lolling, eyes bright,
all black and white and iridescent sheen.
Sheep is calm, doesn't seem to mind this ride. What's
Magpie up to? Looking for bugs?
Maybe hooking a ride, or maybe
just showing that he can.
is filled with mysteries. That's good. Reflect on things you
observe, and ask questions about them. But give yourself permission
to let the mysteries remain. Mysteries that remain unsolved
teach us something about our limits. Speculation is important,
and so are answers, but not as important as recognizing mystery
as a central ingredient of wonder.
wind cascades cold ripples
across the pond,
but their sparkle
is thick with water
that is shrinking into ice
The rattle of leaves on glass
cascades ripples down
my shivered spine.
we observe in nature are heritage, things humans have been
observing for hundreds of thousands of years. Connect with
that. When you watch water ripple you are stepping into an
ancient stream of human experience. Imagine others in other
times observing the same things you are seeing—perhaps
in the same place. When water freezes, it does shrink a bit
just before it expands. I use the word here because it's accurate
both physically and emotionally. Comparing shivering with
ripples makes perfect sense in the North.
huge golden cylinders of hay
this fall, I've seen a woman standing with a spade,
a dog digging furiously, and yesterday
a red-tailed hawk with
russet head, sharp white breast,
bright undersides to wings.
When I slowed down to look, he leaped
and flowed beating into air.
All three were on the edge.
Ordinary, everyday life is filled with strangeness for those
who bother to see. John Keats said, "The world is full
of magical things waiting for our eyes to grow sharper."
moon paints sharp shadows on the night,
In the woods the whole net of branches
sprawls black on dry leaves,
the fretwork of oaks all elbows
and sharp angles above gnarled trunks
that lie as flat wide stripes
that all point one direction, deeper in.
have grown toothy faces,
The world is in disguise and begs for Treats
The moon is white
and spirits rise, the grave deny,
and fly with bats across bright sky.