across the pond
dips her head to water,
and so delicately she sips
her mouth barely stirs
the morning mirror
of the birches.
put Montana in my nose,
North Dakota grassfires smudge the sky,
strong winds gust silver shapes upon the pond,
and the still of morning seems a dream.
a time I learned that scents
are actual molecules of what we smell,
so I’m surprised to know that now I truly do
have smoky grassfires in my nose, as
Ashes of grasses race the continent’s cross country
aloud. It's for the fun of rhythm and sound.
on the shore
burn in stubborn gold,
will not let go—
nearer stands the burgundy weave
of red-osier bark,
and closest, honeysuckle gold.
Throughout the North,
red oak and white oak leaves
offer winter-apple brown to
whatever winds will blow.
am in the lovely Ojai Valley, inland from Ventura, CA. The
valley floor is punctuated with geometric orange groves hung
with bright green fruits, while all around the valley bowl
rise rolling foothills sharp-shadowed by morning. The hills
roll up the sky to the Topa Topa Mountains, blues and dusty
greens and browns. I am hearing magic words like chapparal
and live oak and seeing little birds I’ve never seen.
From last night:
rides the Zodiac up the sky
while down on Earth in Ojai
California the round night songs
of grasshoppers proclaim their love all night
until the chill before the dawn.
vultures V their wings
as they sculpt great circles into air
above the Topa canyons, nostrils tuned
to any chance to help
another fleshly life transform and help
its meat to briefly fly the vultures’ sky.
these great wings’ floating
is the spiral built into every life
and every floating death.
Here the soil is orange-yellow desert dust.
Even in the shade of fallen leaves and eucalyptus bark,
there is no wet to help the dead transform,
no daily dew to activate the micro-mouths
of pale fungus roots and bacteria.
Transformation in this desert is a slow fire.But
Earth does promise in their season pouring rains. Imagine:
Rains that start transforming fire.
of dead plants and animal bodies is where cycling transformation
intersect. Decomposition simply means dis-assembly, taking
apart, so life materials are freed from one life to take part
in new lives. Our mortality is always a mystery, but ecology
shows us that it has a point, a meaningful and necessary use.
unexpected warmth, blue skies. No chaparral this morning,
not a desert vulture in sight.
among the shapes I know:
Yesterday I gazed out from the floor
of a blue-glazed bowl
of coastal mountains—
here today all my distances are sky.
the cattail marsh,
many trunks of leafless birch
slope white lines toward blue sky.
Each trunk fountains up into
a reddish haze of next spring's buds.
patterns of contrast are as old as words. People are often
freed to write by these little syntax patterns which give
them a frame to hang their words upon, like a coat upon a
hanger. Also try: Near/ Far:
Close to me I see
In the distance are…
describing minds, space and time are much the same. Yesterday/Today
is temporal space (Yesterday has 'distance'; Now is 'close').
of my kittens,
furry tickles in the dark—
When I whine, disturbed,
They just lick my nose and purr.
poem has 'glue'—something that holds it together and
makes it whole. In this entry, the glue is rhythm. To hear
it you have to say it aloud. Rhythm is usually much more important
to a poem than rhyme (furry/ disturb, purr AND tickle, lick
) and alliteration such as whiskers, when, whine. Play with
words in your mouths to find a rhythm that pleases, then write
it down so the rhythm can be repeated. If you relax and let
it happen, your mouth and ears will help you write.
bob up and down,
throats swell with dark laughter
as six peckish crows yell
from the dead elm by the pond.
Their joyful croaks
praise this morning's gray.
"It's a start," they say.
have zero human concerns, of course, but we do talk to animals
all the time, and we often pretend that they reply, or could.
This entry is poor science but rich humanity. Encourage kids'
empathy for other lives in as many ways you can.
out the window
catches at my eye.
First a doe’s head lifts and bends to feed again
across the wind-chopped pond.
of buckskin leaves behind
long Autumn-yellow grass just
back from shore
bows deep on its bush and rises.
it’s all the same.
Later or soon
the bush will be deer,
the doe will be bush.
They’ve been becoming each other
almost forever. And
with luck, I will be both.
in the sense of sharing life-materials over time teaches me
today that a "mistake" I made really isn't, not
in the long run. Give kids specific examples of the kinds
of sharing that transformation implies.
slowly swimming forward out of fog,
In the distance, just below
the gray tree of gray crows
a line of phantom turkeys walks away.
is not about ideas. It's simply Noticing what is in front
of you. The Fog entry is not about the idea of fog; I simply
looked out the window and wrote. Don't write about ideas;
write from directly observed moments. The gift from Earth
in fog is transformation, the world turned strange. It's a
gift of new eyes.
gives me a redpoll
for my birthday, and I am glad.
She clambers and dangles
on a dry nettle stem, eating seeds.
Her red cap is bright as her eye
and her presence blesses mine.
woodpecker came today
and knocked upon my deck, chopped out
some chunks to let me know
his cupboard had gone bare.
When I put my face to glass to see
who knocked so loud,
he clung to wood
one foot from my nose and
we both stared in our surprise—
crest blood red, his black bill huge,
keen eye burning
through my guilty mind--before
he flashed his wings away,
now black, now white,
black white, black white.
is filled with surprises, if you pay attention. Be willing
to be surprised. Being open to surprise is being open to joy.
Many worthy surprises do not knock your socks off; some dawn
slowly in our senses. Be willing to have quiet surprises as
well as loud.
light shouts across earth.
My eyes could climb this blue
to the peaks of sky.
Every edge is sharp
and leaps into my eyes.
This light is split spectrum,
all focus, all clear—
quality of light stirs your spirit, pay attention, and practice
seeing. Practice casting that seeing into words. Metaphor
allows vision to be loud so light can shout, so eyes can climb,
so what is seen can have tactile edges and can leap.
sun drops like a stone
from this November sky,
the half-moon sails
pale milk against blue, already high.
getting cold here. Wild turkeys are flocking up, foraging
in large skirmish lines that sweep the woods for acorns and
is skimmed with morning ice.
It shines, but not like water
that can dance with light.
waterdance is done,
no raindrops bounce upon the sheet of pond
the tops of waters skin hard
with ice as the winter of the world wins
once more, as it does and will again.
glory of the snow
will come to dance with ice,
flakes will twirl & whirl
or simply flow down sky, white
rivers of beauty even though cold.
winter in its turn grows old,
the pond will learn to softly dance with light
once more, as it does and will again.
is as old as our human kind. New ideas are extremely rare.
It is OK to notice in nature things that everybody 'knows'.
The goal is to say it in a way that reflects your own voice.
of this slow dawn—
the calm glow of raindrops on twigs
as the light they capture grows.
gravely out of night
to paint the earth with wet white snow.
Showtime! This winter's first.
The kittens in the window watch intent
on every flake but sense
that this whitefall is not play.
From the windowsill two uneasy tails
hang down but do not jump and curl.
been observing animals' reactions to weather and other phenomena
(tremors, fire, lightning, winds) as long as we've been human.
When they are uneasy, we pay attention. We give them a credibility
in our gut that we no longer give them in our surface minds.
maple outside my window
three mourning doves
tuck their heads under wings
and ignore the gentle snow.
On the chair inside the window,
two kittens sprawl oblivious in sleep,
each head covered with a paw.
shadows of oaks aim
in the direction we should go.
When moon reflects on snow,
into eyes with pupils wide,
night glows in ancient invitation
of the full white moon
to walk the snowbright ways
and wander paths that stretch into
the forests of the night.
important that we honor experiences that humans have been
having forever, such as our connections to the moon and the
feelings it evokes in us. Write about experiences we all share,
and don’t worry about saying something new.
The birds are big today,
chickadees all fluffed
in puffy snowsuits out to play
This morning glazed with frost:
When light arrives
the sweep of white shingles on roofs will glimmer with light,
crystals spark the bent blades of grasses,
crevices of bark on every trunk and twig
will carry diamonds where vapor dreamed of ice.
earth magics like frost are worthy of our celebrations.
What are some of the simple earth magics where you live?