From a mossy log next a stream
in Fern Canyon
grows a fluted mushroom,
suffused with pink and elegance.
Stream-splash gleams from green moss
also living on this log
that never dreamed
beyond spring leaves,
for here is beauty twice-born of its falling.
It is such a pleasure to fall in love as one steps over a log.
In eternal dim beneath redwoods
on the forest floor stand eight white tubes,
two of them fused. My mouth
purses into one of those tubes,
eternal toddler in the land of giants.
Each is cut off clean, one bite.
Some happy mouth savored mushrooms
for breakfast, but whose?
Mule deer? Golden mantled squirrel?
Not important. They were browsed.
Every fruit is someone’s meal, but
It seems small reward for this great symbiote
of redwoods that lives throughout the soil
for acres here, thin threads extending
redwood roots ten thousand times.
This symbiosis is called mycorrhiza (lit. fungus root). Virtually all flowering plants thrive only with the aid of these fungal partners. This is cooperation on a global scale, and essential to all animal life as well. The fungus receives sugars from the trees, the tree receives minerals and amino acids from the fungus. Life is elegant.
A footbridge in wet redwoods
invites me to look down, or
say it was the ferns, or
the streamlet flowing down
below reflecting sky
that splashes on my lens.
I relish now these water-colored stones
As much as when the child
licked pebbles wet to find their colors,
and fern fronds above sky wake
the deepest brain we share.
The coastal rainforest has a wonderful ability to banish time, which works out perfectly with the time/space continuum of physics.
Water, water everywhere, far
too many drops to drink,
even when rain takes a thirty second break
drips falling from each leaf find
your glasses, roll down your neck.
Hungry spiders despair of webs
that have caught pure raindrops
on every crystal strand.
In downpours, leaves flop early from their trees
before they’ve shown the reds and golds
hiding under green. Turgid mushrooms
swell from saturated soil as puffballs
pallid crowd woodchips.
Cats pick up their paws
In disbelief at such horror so long,
puddled witches float black hats.
Ten inches of rain in two days. When the sun does break through, all will sparkle gloriously.
Bark beetles open my mind
wherever bark is gone from tree
and chewed art is shared
with pattern-seeking eyes.
Sometimes they play with alphabets
a genius larva draws.
The sketch is rarely perfect,
hunger is the muse of harsh.
The dropjaw laugh from this intaglio Coyote
carved with chitin mandibles
echoes down the Trickster heritage
we share. His stance is perfect,
ears up, tail straight out behind
and furry round. Wide legs suggest
Coyote’s loping through the West,
yipped laughter flows
through rock-canyoned nights.
How did Coyote teach beetle kind
to help him with this trick? If indeed
such a work of art may be called a trick.
Say rather, gift.
Coyote is from the Spirit World, of course, and is traditionally a Creator as well as the Spirit of the Antic.
Far down the driveway, near the house
two long-sleeved scarecrows
guard flowerbeds, or wait
for Halloween. Close to the road,
ready for the school bus,
a boy and his small sister kneel
on each side of a large brown dog, both
faces buried in its shoulders as if still asleep.
To one side Mom looks down on these three.
In the center sits the bright-eyed dog, muzzle high.
A perfect Autumn morning scene, crisp as Currier & Ives.
A white splash in the dark mirror, then
the kingfisher lifts to light with a minnow
lands on an upturned root.
Large dark raggedy head,
bold stripe more white
than the birches behind him,
Changing perches, he hovers, hoping.
He will miss no moment of his hunt for life.
A thousand miles to go this week--
he needs all the minnows he can dive.
The belted kingfisher migrates as far as Panama, most in Mexico and Central America. When they fly north in spring, some reach northern Canada for nesting.
Where the trail bottoms out
in limestone shelves, a shrub
spends lively flowers, bees and wasps
and big buckeye butterflies
busy stealing the show, so the elfin
hairstreak butterfly poised
dainty on a white flower globe enchants
me even more when the burly bumble bee
lands on the same flower globe.
When the bee tries to move it,
the hairstreak bows down to lift
rear wings with orange eyespots
and antennae which are not.
Ms. Bee finds a lower place on the globe.
Mimicry is everywhere. The apparent goal of this hairstreak’s false antennae and eye-splotches is to get predators to snatch at the wrong end first, but it works as well to intimidate. Seeing the small bluff the large anytime, anywhere, is a joyful wonder.
The best parades cross lines, you
never know what surprise will pass:
will it March? Roll? Float? Stroll?
Drums may boom, horns may blow, clowns
may chase the crowd. Some
parades cross species lines, this one
even combines two-legged and four,
turkeys and mule deer, taking their time,
mothers and kids out for a stroll, ambling the trail.
Of course, this is California,
where they do love a parade.
I have never spent a day observing the wild that has not given me a fine surprise. The wild turkey family followed the deer across the field right into the gray pine grove.
Four seedheads long toward soil,
arc down on long dry stems.
Two stems grew thin squiggles
that are perfect imperfection.
The seedheads are capped
with golden half-shells, smooth,
that sequence down like snake rattles
but turn furred below, with hairs
like those of bees. Every fall,
well before the rains, these sweet
vessels dangle in hot sun and wait.
The seeds are in northern California, near the chaparral. I'm told this plant is called rattlesnake grass.
A fencepost, a vine, green pasture, a hill.
The post is gray with rain
split with time
and slightly out of true.
The vine is autumn red
and next week brown,
records a life of reaching
out beyond the post it’s climbed.
The pasture green
insists on growth
beyond the final cutting.
And the hill so green, stretched
all the way to sky calls out
for feet to climb again,
to press turf down and spring.
Weathered wood on farmland carries a certain grief in this autumn.
First the fly is dead—like
its floating cousin. Then
its mouth moves. It drinks
from the pool
in the belly of the mushroom
known as fly agaric,
symbiont of spruce,
hallucinogen of Siberia, old
fly poison of the peasant cottage.
Fly, you will die of fly agaric,
already you are drunk, you
do not fly from me.
Animita muscaria, fly agaric, is a toxic mushroom that has been used worldwide as a hallucincogen. It’s deadly. It’s also a traditional fly poison that attracts, inebriates, and kills flies. In youth, it is also beautiful.
Such beauty happens wild and blue.
Here turkeytail fungus wrings the spectrum
as it feeds on a cut stump. Something
in this mussel pattern/shape sounds deep in mind,
the arch, the rays, the color shift, some
blue echo from down the backalong plucks me
like a string on a standup bass, and slides.
The wild is all surprise, so rich there is always something never before seen. Every day is new, and today a perfect blue.
Matter must seek form
as the eye seeks pattern. If
not, why so much patterned
beauty of chaos born? Today,
calm pond grasses bend
flat green on the surface
in bands half a finger wide.
Duckweed punctuates the dark
between leaves dropped
from pondside maples.
Above the fallen, patches of dark
balance these bright leaves.
One leaf lies submerged, face down,
one curls up all three points as if
away from water cold, one
blends red with gold, together green
pondgrass veins and duckweed
lobes set the leaves as gems
above volumes of dark below.
I delight in Earth’s gifts of beauty while aware I understand nothing, especially in Fall.
A tree 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.
A mushroom 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.
This Autumn bluebird is serene, entire,
paused in its hunt for bugs
still cold with night
to sit a once-burned branch against a sky
so dense with blue each feather
that is not rust or white
self-names itself for sky.
This morning bird is so clear about what it is and what it does, that I want to fall inside that simplicity. But I don’t get to do that.
We ride the arc of the orbit, we
all shape the curve the leaves
of cattail celebrate for Fall.
It’s cold here now, hard freeze.
In the field today, no grasshoppers,
the new generation waits in the soil.
Redwings have flown the curve of Earth south.
This cattail curve all bright with sun
shines and sways in cold air,
points toward where it will return,
complete its circle and rest beneath snow.
Earth gives us the images of acceptance we need. We only have to pay attention.
Sometimes you just go small again, like
you were five and looking at the busyness of life,
all the little living beings in grass, in soil,
in the shallows, too. Sometimes stories
told themselves to you, sometimes
they still do. This mushroom village
growing from a streamside log tells me
tales of little beings who
live beneath orange domes, who
say stories to their tiny children
about the universe of Log
and how it feeds them all
and loves them through wet spalted times,
loves them through the dark
and loves them through the dry.
Wood is spalted when fungus paints it with blue patterned lines; wood turners know its beauty. Mushrooms can take your breath. Do you recall first seeing a fairy ring? Photo from Fern Canyon, in Redwood National Park.
Conifer resin has a curious compulsion for primates.
We must touch it, we must reach out a fingertip
to feel what skin it has, or push hard to puncture
with an edgy fingernail. Then tip-tongue taste.
As a child I pushed my thumbnail against the blisters
of the balsam fir, harder ‘till it popped,
and as I played the earth that day,
all the sticky skin turned black.
I didn’t like that taste, but like tar, I had to have it.
We cherish so the mystery of becoming.
Amber is the destiny of the golden drops of conifers,
and whatever it has trapped, termite, ant or fly.
Some collector will someday look at a globe
of fossil amber and find a fingerprint
of monkey, ape or human, homo sap,
who did not push too hard.
The young woodpecker
knows in his cells
Earth’s going to get cold so
finds a time-soft tree
and with his sharp young beak,
carves a perfect hole
and small cavity below, a cell
to sleep warm the nights
when it is so cold trees snap,
when small birds without a hole
put their backs to wind,
fluff feathers high, try not
to drop through night to snow.
Amazing woodworkers, these redbellied woodpeckers. We think of them excavating nest cavities for breeding, but this young male needed one for winter, and cut one beautifully. I will look to see if he can entice a female to it next spring.
top of page
return to Archive
Copyright © 2007 Morning Earth