large birds on the move,
heading out ahead of winter,
gleaning stubble fields where
of sandhill cranes peck spilled corn,
speaking of mysteries.
As one group lifts,
a whooping crane unfolds enormous
in white and black origami surprise!
old dark of the brain
vultures in family threes and fours
soar fingers wide, swoop high,
look and look, nostrils wide
ready to wind down the sky
wings held in their dihedral
V for victory.
offered me by earth on my drive home gave me what I needed:
The joy of the cranes, their voices, and my very first whooping
crane. And the harbingers, vultures, always ready to return
us. Life is dynamic balance, where the result is neither unremitting
pleasure or despair. Keeping the balance requires action.
, stars bright
and the last sweet song of grasshoppers
plaints the night.
Sumac leaves moon-silvered
as if frosted white
presage the loss of green
and its familiar grief,
which we know will be brief, but still
with us is the bittersweet of green
long-legged fiddlers in the night.
turns and we with it. Even in our seasonless houses we feel
the ancient sensations of the coming winter as our deepest
ancestors did. When we hear the last songs of grasshoppers
beneath the moon, we step into a stream of human experience
that contains our beginnings. We have gained much since then,
but much has also been lost.
trail a yellow aspen leaf
spins on a spider silk
spins with the breeze
of this poem entirely captured me at the moment of experience.
There was a little shock of recognition at how much this small
spinning leaf contained for me, how much resonance. Now, days
later, it still ripples in the pool of mind. Earth speaks.
I try to attend, and celebrate what is spoken.
stands, trunk dark
in light that grows
as golden leaves fall down.
Out of bark
juts this mushroom
Its stem bends sharp upright
as if toward sun.
This mushroom seeks no light
but turns its parasol
against the pull of gravity,
against the falling rain
that ruins spores.
Mushrooms may not know much,
but unlike some
they do know down from up.
stem that takes a 90 degree turn to orient itself may seem
inconsequential, but I found it wonder-full: the mushroom
demonstrates intelligence. It is not the fruit of a fungus
that is intelligent; it is the community of life, the biosphere,
that is intelligent. And we are part of it. We live within
intelligence. That is an antidote for human arrogance. Our
special gift is consciousness, not intelligence; yes, we're
smart, but so what? Everything alive is smart. Forest Gump
knows what is important: "I'm not a smart man, but I
know what love is."
chlorophyll in each leaf
dies, and mineral pigments
replace the green,
trees sigh, let go,
bare themselves in cold
to wait, and in faith swell
new buds to sprawl someday
into a somehow spring.
of faith as though humans had invented it. What is a seed
but faith? What is a bud? Autumn is a set of promises. The
berry promises the cardinal fuel against the cold. Acorns
promise squirrels and jays this same heat. Their hard shells
give wild turkeys grit to grind their meat when pebbles are
deeper under snow, and the acorns left buried and forgotten
promise continuation of this giving. Many seeds cannot sprout
unless they are etched by the stomach acids of a bird. This
gift-giving is mutual and co-evolved.
these tiny seedling maples,
each a bright red tree for
small folk in the grasses.
Each inchling tree has three
perfect maple leaves
small as fingernails,
wind could helicopter seeds,
where they hid and grew
among the other greens
until frost fired them from inside so
they leap into our laughing eyes
and Microcosm/Macrocosm always fascinate. The charm of miniatures
returns to us the child's eye, and perhaps resonates our deep
memory of the eons when our ancestors were themselves tiny.
Intricate miniatures look perfect until magnified, and isn't
that a wistful thought. We have each transformed from littles
into bigs, but in larger scales we remain infinitely small,
and may charm larger eyes.
drakes chase about the pond, resplendent,
bob in cold waves, ignore distant shotguns,
accept wind-drift rain.
Soon they will raft up, and try to teach
the first year males how to act in company
for the flock-time season coming,
chase the boys down when they get wild,
give their tails a nip.
loons raft on Mille Lacs,
big water, big enough to fatten up
a thousand torpedo-bodied loons
so they can quickly make the Carolina coast
and dive again the ocean green.
at all these splendid ducks who will run the shotgun gauntlet
until they leave North America, and all these loons who will
drown in careless nets this winter, and thin children in mountain
camps where bare rocks show like cheekbones.
man snores and cold rain pours
and trees let go of leaves
while delighted toads and woodfrogs hunt
earthworms flooded from their burrows
like tentacles from sleeves,
and in a row of lightning flashes
a tiger salamander drags a slow
black and yellow path
across the forest floor.
turn us all amphibian. I like to think of what else is happening
during storms as I lie snug in bed. Rarely, I get up, go out
to see, and find the original amphibians on the move. Next
time thunder wakes you, imagine what is happening in the rain
in a small place close-by.
coasts across my window
hovers for a moment
sways on down the air.
the intense moments, the small delights. These brief encounters
are gifts important far beyond their brevity. They are the
spirit's daily bread. When you cast such moments into words,
keep them as simple and transparent as the experience.
walk on fallen leaves—
what was green is ground beneath my heels
returning to the sneezy dust
that danced the primal dance
that whirled Earth into round.
little and big collapse right into each other. Write down
moments when you feel a sudden sense of expansion.
tall necks and beaked heads
sway into silhouette, then the whole
wild turkey flock crests the hill,
for whatever's left.
The heads of mothers
the half-grown madly peck
oblivious as leghorns.
The image stays:
across the rim of sky.
a season for community, a time to emphasize our dependence
on each other. Turkeys flock for stronger foraging in snow,
we covey now against the unknown. And in the midst of all
this, earth showers us with healing images of beauty and remembrance.
between the colonnade
of trees open now to bright,
but soil's secrets hide beneath
fallen leaves woven in a cloak
of burning orange, yellow, red,
the leaves once green that
covered soil in shadow
when the year was young.
leaves turn brown
they burn slowly for a year
where soil churns air
into life's slow crucible,
where worms tug bits of leaf
down holes to swallow and to cast,
where white fungi thread, where invisible
empires of bacteria thrive in layered films,
eating and dividing, exchanging and dividing,
returning elements for life
to forge again in secret
when the year turns young.
dance Then and Now and When
into cycled song
as Earth forever circles sun,
and when the year is young
all that can will green,
and when the year is cold
all that's green will come to its return.
Decomposition makes new lives possible. Our culture doesn't
like to think about it. Leaf Fall offers us a dance of new
light and shadow, and helps us see the beauty of return, and
the completion of the circle. Our bodies are 100% post-consumer
content. This is the oldest story: Life begets death; death
off at branch tips
pruned by the winter jaws of deer,
stumpy shrubs on field-edge
show winter's depth of snow.
of sapling birch
trying to succeed into the field:
every narrow trunk is antler-rubbed
by a buck mad to get the velvet off.
The trunks are scarred, will not grow tall,
lilt life from
that small birch leafed in fire.
succession is the process of one biome replacing another.
Every field has its trees encroaching at the edges. It's a
tough life for pioneers. Sometimes survival is enough, always
worth a song.
bears are extra long this year,
coats orange and brown and plush
even flattened on the blacktop.
I see them only in the south lane.
I've tickled my palm with several who
undulated north across the south lane.
Why only south to north?
There is an autumn order here
I cannot grasp. I only know
there are too many turning wheels.
the sharp small tracks
of a morning fawn
on the north lane's shoulder
to a bluebird kill still dripping
rust from a rusty breast
It wanted south.
Disorder here that I do grasp.
I had a compass needle in my brain,
I knew, until I lost myself in woods once
as a boy, and found I walked in
overlapping circles one long day,
east south west north, again, again.
There are too many wheels.
We tramp them out again, again,
eternal boys, in all or no directions.
Me, I'll take the woolley bear
curled into my palm.
quietly, but not the paper wasps.
By afternoon, when the angled sun is warm,
they bump and bump against the windows,
long legs dangling, looking for a crack
to burrow deep.
Their urgency is old as time,
to keep their kind alive.
Most will freeze.
The clever will survive.
the gifts earth offers us are gifts of learning more than
joy. But learning is a kind of joy delayed.
we see distances again.
From our windows the view
is sudden large. White trunks
of distant birch and aspen
shine against the russet oaks
beyond the cattail marsh.
My eyes follow wild geese
for miles I couldn't see before the fall.
away is lost, but now
before our eyes earth stretches wide.
us for the winter. It requires us to remember our strength.
But loss also enlarges our vision. Seek the ancient correspondences.
as down splash another skein of wood ducks
hungry from long flight.
They paddle sweet curves
through duckweed single file.
Last night they flew
on slipstreams of each others' wings
as skiers follow a leader who breaks trail.
scaled feet of wild turkeys
will carve snowtrails here
across the pond, elongate sine curves
edged in shadow as the snow builds depth,
sun-edged dark as the autumn water now
where the breasts of passing ducks
part sinuous lines in duckweed green.
and recurves. The patterns repeat endlessly, and it is a joy
to recognize them in each new guise.
sits up, forepaws folded to breast,
tail folded up snug to her back,
fur recurved at tail-tip.
Her reds garnish light.
repose, her near hind foot
taps twice and stills, taps twice
Long toes are delicate, clawed.
The line where white breast
meets red back is sharp and fine.
Nothing moves. A breeze stirs tail-tip.
Her hind foot taps twice and stills,
taps twice and stills.
going on here? I will never know. But what I do know is kinship.
This foot tap echoes in my own moveable toes.
sky all day
where each cloud in this
rolling overcast of gray
seems separately made,
darkening at center.
oak leaves to let go
and totter down the air.
Slate above and brown below,
November seems at first blow
a separate creation,
not part of life at all.
But muscle memory tightens
through the shoulders.
Arms recall, and cross.
flash through air
in white and black.
Juncos down from the tundra,
to winter in our balmy south.
of them tonight,
when the sky's supposed to fall.
flowers its silk onto the wind:
The pebble-skin yawns, white
billows from the center,
a gust looses floss, the first flight
of seeds ride their silks
already high and free,
and turn them into kings--
wind is for.
grackles flood bare trees
with the sound of pebbles
rolling in the night surf
of the Straits of San Juan, but grating,
as if the sea had not had time
to rub this gravel smooth.
feeders the grackles lordly strut
and point their purple heads to sky,
keep a shred of self within the flock.
When they leave tree by tree
they wheel in unison lovely
as shoals of fish in a cool clear sea.
move in such incredible oneness, bird and fish, as if a single
being. Except for some antelopes, mammals have no clue.
currents of springs
swirl relict duckweed
into great ragged circles.
Snowflakes wander down a sky
stirred with breeze.
Yellow leaves of willows whip in gusts
that sway bare birches, but hang on.
Wind shivers across the pond,
pushes duckweed to the south bank.
Wind grows to a roar, snow dies,
and oak leaf flurries scatter all directions.
fan filaments of algae
on a sleeping turtle's shell.
Green frogs sprawl on black leaves,
skins slowly breathing, just enough.
can see directly is marvelous, but when we look below the
surface the marvels multiply. Encourage awareness of simultaneity.
On a patch
of leaf-clear earth
four antler points carved these lines,
chafed bark, buck torn,
wets this sapling rich with scars
of former rubs where this same buck
tried to scrape the itch
from other antlers, in a rut before
he had four velvet tines
to draw these lines.
sign is sometimes all surprise; I was delighted to see where
this buck had drawn four parallel lines, something I've never
seen. The moment of comprehension can be pure pleasure.