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John Caddy
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John Caddy's
Morning Earth Poems
October 2000



Where the field meets the autumn oaks
just in front of reddened sumac
a fence I can't recall,
a long line of gray fenceposts leaning
the same low lean, but one post
comes erect and beats its wings
as the fence becomes wild turkeys feeding in a line,
while I become a blessed fool.


An entry usually records a gift from Earth, in this case the gift of being fooled. Entries usually rise from moments of direct experience, often just a few seconds. These gifted moments keep our spirits alive. Keep your eyes alert for moments of curiosity, of wonder, of beauty, of surprise, and moments of learning.
Everything is always transforming. Our eyes are often fooled. Write an entry about a natural moment when your eyes (or ears, or skins) were fooled.


The rounded heads of oaks roll across the woods,
still some stubborn green, most
washed bright with color now.
They have lifted earth into themselves,
as if all the mineral colors flow up the taproot,
up the trunk, and down the veins of leaves,
Here red ocher, umber, yellow clay
there a whole wide tree of burnt sienna glows.

Entries in an EarthJournal often find connections between things that we didn't know we knew. There are many paths to truths. Trees, like all plants, really do lift earth into themselves. Here what I observe connects the human painter's palette to the larger palette of autumn. Connect your human life to nature's lives; we are all natural beings.



In this rebirth of summer sun
a huge shaggy mane mushroom juts from the grass,
a tall white cone swells toward parasol.
On the cone's tip perches a mourning cloak,
who slowly fans her wings, open, close, open
in brown and blue, yellow and black,
dark with a line of bright, open, close, open,
as if waving.


No one reading this would believe the butterfly senses its impending death. Instead, we recognize that nature is a mirror for our human feelings. When earth gives us images that reflect what is going on inside ourselves, we feel connection to other lives. We are earth made conscious, and able to reflect on what we experience. That is our great gift.



A squirrel enters morning headfirst down a tree.
Now and then he stops to fluff and flick his tail
to make sure his tail is working well
should anyone need a scolding.

White-throated sparrows traveling through.
So many dance through thickets
so quick, so hungry for bugs
they knock down red leaves
and dance-off elsewhere before
the leaves slip-slide to ground.


Being scolded by a squirrel is fun. and the tails are an important part of it. Nature offers us new things every day, things we've never noticed before. These things take but a moment, so keep your eyes wide, and be ready to be surprised.

Every life on earth lives in the slow circle of the seasons. Note the small things that mark the changing of seasons.



Before dawn, light ingathers to the quiet pond,
stirred only by three black swimmers
who will soon transform to ducks.
It's cold, and as light grows,
all the hard-edged colors
soften with fog.

a chickadee
in a leafless tree
hammers a sunflower seed
between his wiry feet.

The leaves are crisp and loud,
announcing every traveler,
robin's feet are amplified, little red squirrel
becomes something big bounding toward me
pheasant hen doesn't like the crackling noise she makes,
and twinkles feet faster toward the feeder:
Hustle bustle, hurry bustle
outrun the awful rustle!


Observing nature is in a way the same as observing yourself. Both require a calm and patience that our lifestyle makes hard to find. Learn to find a quiet that does not need to be continually filled. Earth Journaling is sometimes only Noticing and noting, as in (1) and (2), but when you bring your own calm to it, you find yourself making many connections to your own natural human life, such as going faster to avoid making noise in (3). Panic lives in all of us.



White-throated sparrows
So many so hungry for bugs
dancing through brush
they knock down red leaves
and are gone
before the leaves touch ground.

As I rake the garden bed,
granddaddy toad
backs quickly
down his hidey hole.

On the carpet
the puzzled kitten
tries to solve
the mystery of tail.

Focus your observations on moments of experience. All of these small entries came from two or three seconds of seeing. In an entry, you don't have to comment. It's often best to simply say what you saw, as simply and directly as you can. There is no virtue in saying every word you can think of.

See yourself as a new splasher in an ancient stream of human experience. For example, in (3), how long do you suppose humans have been delighted by watching a kitten chase its tail? One of the goals of earth education is a sense of Deep Time, which helps people locate themselves within the community of life.



As I watch the leaves
fall from the trees,
I become incredibly aware
that air is really there,

that even in this windless
Autumn daydream,
air in its own reverie
eddies like a stream,
slides a leaf this way, that,
then spins it down to ground
to sink into soil and wait
to be pulled up by roots again
to dance in the air
that really is there.


When we observe nature calmly and closely, our hearts are sometimes pierced by a sharpened awareness of something familiar, like the fact of tangible air. Many of the things we 'know' we learn over and over this way. Write entries about the wonders of the ordinary, and to try to see the earth every day as if for the first time. Our perceptual habits wear deep ruts in our minds, so we often see what we 'know' is there, rather than being open to possibility. Writers from many cultures say that they are at their most creative when they remember how to see with a baby's eyes.



A pair of redtails are skreeling down the sky,
calling again and again from so high
they are lost now and then to my eyes.
Odd to know they see me lurching down the road
with their hawk vision made
for pinning voles and rabbits to the grass.
Now they do not hunt, they play
in circles crossing, almost touching,
catching updrafts, lazing lower,
crying out again in pleasure of the sky.


Behaviorist biologists cringe when people ascribe play and feelings of pleasure to our cousins, the other animals. Didn't these guys ever have pets? What could be more obvious? Find every connection between your own life and other animal lives that you find. The goal is not to make 'correct' behaviorists. The goal is to help us love the earth.



Two Moments of Morning

The calico cat leaps again
to catch a sulfur butterfly,
once more claps her paws
together on the sky.

The last bumblebee walks slowly
'round the rim of a clay flowerpot.
Antennae still, black head and feet,
wings gone gray, her thorax
still lovely golden fur, but no pollen
gilds the black brushes on her legs.


Simply describe most of the time, and avoid explicit comment. If you provide the reader with clear images, your own emotional response to the event will be clear.

(1) is an open-ended report, and the reader is welcome to experience it in many ways.

(2) is an accurate 'report', but the choice of words (diction) pushes the emotion toward endings. This time of year small things suddenly leap into large, and speak to us of death and closings.



This dawn, Earth is a blur,
a smeared wash of gray obscures
color and melts edges away.
Even the throats of birds
are thick with fog today.
At the feeders, silent jays.


Write from immediate sense experience. As I wrote, the fog was in my eyes. I took my images from the moment. As experience occurs, everything you need to make art is already present. Nature will always supply you with all the images you need. You do not have to make it up. You do have to look closely enough to see it. Not having to invent images is a great relief. The silence of bluejays is all I needed to complete what I had to say.



In the moist light of dawn overcast,
three birds glide silent through the gray
like enormous owls, coast
into the leafless tops of oaks.
Thin branches sway, they flap,
flash red and necks.
Wild turkeys top the trees!


Nature's gift of continual surprise is amazing. It nourishes joy. Be willing to be surprised, to be open to surprise. Every day I am given gifts I've never noticed before. Nature places before us a boundless array of possibility— to be fed, expand your willingness.



A Walk

I scare up a pheasant hen,
she flies fast and hard across the road,
sails into grasses feather brown

It's a pressing down day,
the kind that presses grayly down
as every earthy smell rises up to join your nose.

Stillness hangs like a shroud.
In the background of the ear
a big dog barks
Somewhere far,
a yippy dog barks counterpoint.

Commotion on an bouncy aspen twig
with one last yellow leaf
which falls, replaced by chickadee.

The tails
of feeding juncos
scissor light.


Collect images on a walk in any natural place. Earth sustains us with an stream of sensory experience which is inexhaustible. I jot or say images as I go and end up with a kind of list which I can then hone and rearrange. You can't and shouldn't 'capture' everything, just the images/moments which for some reason 'grab' you. The only thing you're trying to balance is yourself. Trust your intuition to select the images you need.



All the bark of oaks soaked dark
in a night of steady rain.
As this morning light grows
every wet delighted lichen glows
emerald and gold
and shades of green I cannot name,
while on and in each corrugated lichen
a million lives begin again, blessed
like all of us by simple rain.


We are macro-life, gargantuan beings on an earth where most beings live on a more modest scale, so our eyes need help to see all these small delvers and crawlers. When lichens are dry, many lives die, but many survive by encysting in a kind of micro-aestivation. When water arrives, life swells and bursts forth again.
The main idea here is Interliving. At every scale, lives nest inside each other like Russian dolls in a grand cooperation.



Whitetailed deer are moving now in rut,
caught again in life's urgency.
Deeper tracks of ranging bucks
gouge the grass, sculpt roadside sand into tales
I tell myself on morning walks.
Here he poised himself, coiled flanks
to leap the ditch and mount the hill.
Down the neighbor's drive he used the horn of hooves
to scrape in gravel this warning of his strength,
this salty declaration of intent.



Small images this morning:

Crows chase raucous through
a wet November sky .
Muskrat draws his V
across the mirror pond.

How glad I am that wet cat
smells unlike wet dog.

The tasseled flower buds of milkweed
end in wings, mostly white,
some black and orange.

A solitary
sumac leaf burns on the tip
of its knobby branch.

Roadside asters: tiny
puffed marshmallows
where the flowers were

Yesterday I stamped ripe puffballs:
the brown stream of spores
rushed me back to boy.


Think of Entries as small sketches, doodles made of words. Begin writing with no particular expectations, just that you will set a few words down on paper. Especially, don't tell yourself that now you are to write a Poem—too scary; expectations way too high.

The images above are "snapshots"; each is an image of yesterday or this morning. As I look at them again, I find the milkweed flowers and the puffballs most interesting, I think because they are both about time and transformation. I also like the minimal sumac haiku (although I'd rather paint it, if I knew how).



The colors of Halloween crawl through our house
as ladybugs, more treat than trick.
They often rest in spotted pleasure of this indoor warmth,
or fly about and tuck their wings to crawl
on walls and lamps, furniture and floors,
delighting kittens bewitched by hunt.
In the garden, ladybugs are famous carnivores,
devouring aphids with great appetite, but now
it's time to meet the mammals and be stalked in turn.
Sometimes, little bugs, life's more trick than treat.

One of earth's regular gifts is laughter, often a bit macabre. "Death is no laughing matter!", you say. But of course it can be. Kittens stalking bring a smile. Dia de los Muertos is tomorrow.

Every poem must have some glue to hold it together and make it one whole thing. The glue today is rhythm. Rhythm this regular should probably be used only in fun.