Sunday, May 28, 2006

Catching Up

Today has been a day for gardening, for planting and transplanting. A day of quiet beauty and oneness with the earth.

Once again Wendell Berry has words for this day:

For the Future
"Planting trees early in spring,
we make a place for birds to sing
in time to come. How do we know?
They are singing here now.
There is no other guarantee
that singing will ever be."

Friday, May 26, 2006

The Chickadee

The Black-capped Chickadee Parus atricapillus
“ In recent years, ultrahigh-speed motion pictures have revealed a number of remarkable things about the activity of the familiar black-capped chickadee. Its wings beat with a frequency of about thirty times a second. This is approximately three-fourths the speed of wing movement of a ruby-throated hummingbird. When a chickadee is alarmed in mid-flight, it can begin altering its course of direction in the incredibly short time of three one-hundredths of a second. After strenuous exercise, the heart of this little bird may beat 1,000 times a minute. Even when it is asleep, the rate of its heartbeat is about 500 times a minute.” --- Edwin Way Teale p 275 Wandering Through Winter

Ever changing view through the windows. Patterns cross my desk – feathery shadows cross my books and papers as wind sets the trees to swaying before the rising sun. More shadows flit as light catches the wings of passing chickadees on their morning rounds. Today they are busy putting finishing touches to their nests, although some chickadees are already firmly settled in waiting for their eggs to hatch. These year-round neighbors go about their business with a charm and aplomb that we never cease to enjoy. What is it that makes them so endearing? Certainly one thing is their black and white cap and face which, like the mask of the raccoon, gives a certain roguish charm. Add to that the delightfully distinctive chick-a-dee-dee-dee call but the to those important traits must be added the essential component of personality
The National Audubon Society Field Guide to New England refers to them as “friendly” and “inquisitive” and mentions that they are “acrobatic” when feeding. The unpretentious, self-assured manner in which these little bits of fluff go about their business, often landing just inches away from us to quickly snatch a seed from a feeder, is in striking contrast to the furtive manner in which larger birds warily scan the landscape and flee in panic at the slightest flutter of leaves or other unexplained movement. Could it be that these little guys are just so small as to be of no interest to predators that would like to feast on a larger bird?
A few weeks ago we were watching in fascination as two chickadees took turns darting in and out of a hole in a small rotted stump just a few feet from the road in the middle of a campground in New Jersey. We were thinking “How exciting to watch this pair feeding their young so close at hand. They must be feeding on a hatch of moths or other insects close by that enables them to keep darting back to their nest so quickly.” And “How bold of them to nest right next to the road in this busy campground.” Then, as we took a closer look through the binoculars, we realized these birds were coming out of the hole with their mouths full. As we watched, we realized that they were apparently pulling dry fibers of soft rotten punk wood from within the stump to line their near by nest. As long as we made no threatening move, they were content to go on with their energetic housekeeping task right beside us. If the rest of us could more often adopt their industrious and self assured live-and-let-live manner, the world would surely be a much better place.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Poetry Thursday - Where I'm From

To borrow a phrase from Fred at Fragments from Floyd
- "'If you don't know where you're from, you'll have a hard time saying where you're going.' Wendell Berry, among others, has voiced this idea that we need to understand our roots to know our place in the world."
The inspiration for this post is from a number of places perhaps the poem Where I'm From by George Ella Lyons is the place to start.

Where I’m From
I am from printer’s ink and hospital disinfectant
stacks of endless paper and smells of ether.

I am from green lawns, camellias, fuchsias and baby tear moss, secret garden hiding places, hollyhock dolls and dream castles all rolled into one.

From fences filled with chayote and passion flower vines, the fragrance of white roses in moonlight and acres of apricots just beyond the last streetcar stop.

I am from Pot-luck dinners, picnics in the park, beloved voices raised in laughter, the sound of the merry-go-round, the half-fearful joy of going up and down. Clinton’s cafeteria, subway rides and ice-cream cones, paddle boats on the lake in Echo Park, swans eating from my hand beside the fountain.

I am from watching breathlessly as the trains come in, listening for the whistle, the chug, chug, chug of the engine, the hiss of steam billowing along the cars – wishing, yes wishing I could climb on when the conductor calls “all aboard.”

I am from textile paint, wood fiber flowers, a dining table filled with silk, satin and tulle the late night whir of the sewing machine, the clack of printing presses, iron lungs, and empty places, loneliness and doctors and dark night tears.

I am from pulpit pounding preachers, a God who couldn’t hear, cross-matched with beloved saints, the serenity of caring hands and voices and spirit filled retreats.

I’m from an amalgamated heritage of Daughters of the American Revolution and strong, creative immigrant stock; fresh squeezed orange juice, pomegranates, avocados, artichokes, Campbell’s soup and peanut butter sandwiches

I am from gathering shells in tide pools and on warm sandy beaches, from popping seaweed with barefoot toes, from magnifying glasses, nature guides and tables filled with samples and specimens waiting to be identified and named.

I am from treasured books and handmade maple dressers, from joy and laughter and too many memories to name.

I got this from Tabor at One Day at a Time The template and responses from some other people can be found at Fred's site Fragments from Floyd

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


Wendell Berry added words to this morning melody:
A Song Sparrow Singing in the Fall
Somehow it has all
added up to song---
earth, air, rain and light
the labor and the heat,
the mortality of the young.
I will go free of other
singing, I will go
into the silence
of my songs, to hear
this song clearly.

Song Sparrow Melaspiza melodia

Monday, May 22, 2006


Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
--- Robert L Frost

Friday, May 19, 2006


With all of the spring birds migrating through and lovely things happening in the woods – I seem to have gotten busy and somehow set down my energy… although I have looked every place I can think of - now I can’t find it!
If any of you happen to see my energy laying around or passing your way, would you please send it on home --- and please --- if you have some extra to spare, could you send it my way… I promise to put it to good use.
C. Delia has put together a wonderful post which is just the place to go and read about her love affair with the beauty and joys of poetry until I find my energy :=)
Left-handed Trees and Other Lies... Just a few words from her post to get you going - "For those who say they don't like reading poems, I say simply, you haven't met the one yet. Somewhere a book stands up a little bit taller on the dusty shelf...until the day you just happen to pass by."

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Poetry Thursday - A Poet!

A Poet! --- He hath put his heart to school,
Nor dares to move unpropped upon the staff
Which Art hath lodged within his hand --- must laugh
By precept only, and shed tears by rule.
Thy Art be Nature; the live current quaff,
And let the groveller sip his stagnant pool,
In fear that else, when Critics grave and cool
Have killed him, Scorn should write his epitaph.
How does the Meadow-flower its bloom unfold?
Because the lovely little flower is free
Down to its root, and, in that freedom, bold;
And so the grandeur of the Forest-tree
Comes not by casting in a formal mould,
But from its own divine vitality.
---William Wordsworth

Poetry Thursday

Monday, May 15, 2006


Frequently in the early darkness there will be rustling and scrabbling sounds around the deck or near the potting table. I grab a flashlight to see if it is just the wind or if we have visitors. Sometimes it is the wind rattling the branches of the trees against the stairs or along the side of the house. But, there are times when we have small visitors. It seems that they turn over everything that is not tied or nailed down. They will check out the pots that are waiting for new plants, upend freshly planted pots, dredge through the water lily pond, even open the bag of potting soil if they can find a loose edge. This time I left some empty recycling bins on the deck, they dumped all three of them, hoping that if they simply searched far enough, they would find that we had somehow forgotten to remove a titbit (not that there was any nourishment in empty, rinsed out, plastic, glass, or tin)
I guess tonight pictures speak louder than words!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Dedicated to Robin Andrea

A delightful - exhausting and rewarding day!
We found these lovelyOrchids
which we dedicate to Robin Andrea on her special day

Friday, May 12, 2006

Weekend Ramble

Spring is calling
We answer the call
to explore the neighborhood
and meet our neighbors
Back soon

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Poetry Thursday - Favorite Poem

Because you love me,
I have found
New joys that were not mine before;
New stars have lightened up my sky
With glories growing more and more.
Because you love me I can rise
To the heights of fame and realms of power;
Because you love me I may learn
The highest use of every hour.

Because you love me I can choose
To look through your dear eyes and see
Beyond the beauty of the Now
Far onward to Eternity.

Because you love me I can wait
With perfect patience well possessed;
Because you love me all my life
Is circled with unquestioned rest;
Yes, even Life and even Death
Is all unquestioned and all blest
— Pall Mall Magazine

Poetry Thursday

Ode to the Dandelion

Dandelions are blooming all around town and along the roadsides. Already dainty white puffs of seeds are floating through the air. I welcome these cheery early blossoms to the valley but must confess that I do not really want them in my yard. As Andrew Mason says, “If dandelions were hard to grow, they would be most welcome on any lawn.” But they are not hard to grow. Hal Borland expresses my frustration, “You fight dandelions all weekend, and late Monday afternoon there they are, pert as all get out, in full and gorgeous bloom, pretty as can be, thriving as only dandelions can in the face of adversity.”
None-the-less here is an ode to this beautiful blossom:
To the Dandelion
Dear common flower, that grow’st beside the way,
Fringing the dusty road with harmless gold,
First pledge of blithesome May,
which children pluck, and, full of pride, uphold,
High-hearted buccaneers, o’erjoyed that they
An Eldorado in the grass have found,
Which not the rich earth’s ample round
May match in wealth, thou art more dear to me
Than all the prouder summer blooms may be.

My childhood’s earliest thoughts are linked with thee;
the sight of thee calls back the robin’s song,
Who, from the dark old tree
Beside the door, sang clearly all day long,
And I, secure in childish piety,
Listened as if I heard an angel sing
With news from heaven, which he could bring
Fresh every day to my untainted ears
When birds and flowers and I were happy peers.

— James Russell Lowell

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Hummers

As the first light of dawn begins to show behind the hills, before the crow or blue jay have sounded their wake-up calls, I venture out with the bird feeders. Before I can even get them hung on their hooks I am met with the whirring sounds of wings as birds zoom in to eat from the feeders while they are still in my hands. Tiniest of our summer visitors, these fearless creatures completely ignore my presence, rushing for long sips of nectar.

From early May until October the Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds grace our gardens. Although the first of the hummers arrived on the 25th of April, more birds are arriving each day. They are now keeping three feeders busy from morning till dusk.
I begin watching the hummingbird migration maps early in February. I know the birds won’t arrive in our area until late April but after their winter long absence I eagerly watch for every sign of their approach.

Their active zooming through the yard all summer long adds a unique charm to the season.

Warm summer evenings, I look forward to sitting on the deck watching their iridescent colors flash in a spectacular aerial show.

Sonnet to the Hummingbird

O little one, now spring from bough to bough,
Under your tiny feet let nothing break;
O sweet reminder of the here and now,
Let all dull hearts anew with purpose quake.
Sweet pea to stock, go nuzzling every flower,
Tease out the nectar sweet with tongue and beak;
Inspire with joy all eyes and verdant bowers,
Breathe out the scent upon love's pallid cheek.
Oft I've adored your pinions raven blue,
With rapid strokes they beat the morning air;
Your heart I know not but beneath your wing -
Bright red and gold I once saw hidden there!
Such charm and more you do well so to hide,
With us let just your matchless song abide.

Came the spring, I picked a corner and
set my mind to making a flower
garden in the midst of this mass of
weeds unattended through
Winters toughening of the soil.
I tilled, and pulled, and turned, and broke, and bled...
The soil was perfect now...
But, alas! The puppy was fervent in her efforts to help me dig!
So I cut, and I sawed, and I nailed,
and created the most beautiful little picket fence with a gate.....
and planted a tree......
and planted my flowers...
and tended and watered and weeded
and nurtured all through the Spring and Summer months....
To this day, this perfect Autumn morning,
while standing in my doorway,
sipping that first cup of coffee....
I saw the fast-beating wings of that little faerie,
flitting from flower to flower...
was all worth it in that one moment.
--- Taimur

Sunday, May 07, 2006


The morning issued an invitation to come out of doors and explore. The early breezes carried to us the fragrances of spring encouraging us to come out from under the barricade of our house and explore nature… The overcast sky made it a perfect time for meandering the roads and trails around Bashakill Marsh
The day offered new trails to explore. Rambles through canopied pathways, the new leaves creating a haze of gold and green lace draping over our heads.
The old favorite haunts were filled with marsh plants unfolding bright new leaves in the filtered sunlight. Through the marsh grasses and reeds red-winged black birds’ songs echo as they call to one another.
In the distance we see the pair of Mute Swans that have chosen to make their summer home in the marsh. We admire their beauty and poise as they sit majestically on the water and then in turn we fret and grumble because it seems at least one of them always has its head in the water, thwarting our most persistent efforts to get a picture of them posed together. They feed on submerged aquatic vegetation, reached with their long necks.

Toward the middle of the ponds we can see Canada Geese nesting in grassy hillocks. As we wander along the edges of the marsh there is a continual splat, splat, ker-splat as frogs leap from their places in the sun to hide out under lily pads.

Further out the Mute Swans’ nests are situated on large mounds of sticks, twigs and grasses that they build in the middle of this shallow lake-like marsh.
Our attention is suddenly drawn to a deep, loudly resonating, slow and rhythmic “whump, whump, whump …” as the swans abruptly take to the air and begin circling over the marsh like a pair of air show pilots navigating their planes in close formation over the valley. Again and again they circle around, passing overhead with the awesome, “whump, whump, whump” of their powerful wing beats. From a distance the wing-beats make musical throbbing or humming sound which can be heard from a long way off. As they circle directly overhead the sound is closer to that of a helicopter.

What grace and beauty ---

I looked in my heart while the wild swans went over.
And what did I see I had not seen before?
Only a question less or a question more;
Nothing to match the flight of wild birds flying.
Tiresome heart, forever living and dying,
House without air, I leave you and lock your door.
Wild swans, come over the town, come over
The town again, trailing your legs and crying!
---Edna St. Vincent Millay

Saturday, May 06, 2006

A Day at Bashakill

We are off for the morning to Bashakill Marsh…
This 2200 acre wetland is thick with marsh plants,
grasses, canopied trails birds and other wildlife.
Hope you have a lovely day…
Will bring back pictures
"If the sight of the blue skies
fills you with joy,
if a blade of grass
springing up in the fields
has power to move you,
if the simple things of nature
have a message
that you understand,
for your soul
is alive."
---Eleonora Duse

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Poetry Thursday - Pretty Words

"The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say. "~Anaïs Nin

Pretty Words
Poets make pets of pretty, docile words:
I love smooth words, like gold-enamelled fish
Which circle slowly with a silken swish,
And tender ones, like downy-feathered birds:
Words shy and dappled, deep-eyed deer in herds,
Come to my hand, and playful if I wish,
Or purring softly at a silver dish,
Blue Persian kittens fed on cream and curds.

I love bright words, words up and singing early;
Words that are luminous in the dark, and sing;
Warm lazy words, white cattle under trees;
I love words opalescent, cool, and pearly,
Like midsummer moths, and honeyed words like bees,
Gilded and sticky, with a little sting.

---Elinor Wylie

For those of you who are following the "Most Beautiful Birds Meme - take a look at the list on the Stokes'blog

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Life in the Country is Never Boring!!!

This afternoon CD was working up the garden area and planting a couple of plants that arrived today from a nursery Like the true romantic that he is, he had thrown pebbles at my window to get me to look out and approve the placement for one of the plants. So when I hear a bit of clanging outside, I though he wanted me to help with placing another plant. I headed over to the window to tell him how very romantic I thought it was for him to keep throwing pebbles at my window…. At the same moment I heard his boots thundering up the stairs.

As I turned from the window to see what he wanted – he panted – “get the camera --- bears!!!”

Back to the window… sure enough, directly below was a good-sized black bear. While I was trying to get him into my viewer, I noticed movement over to my right… another bear working his way around the hill…. I began turning on outside lights hoping to send out enough light to get a better photograph…Suddenly, I realized there was a third bear on the other side of the house. CD says that might be the one he met face-to-face as he was coming in from the garden.
Just at dusk he had heard rustling in the woods back of the garden and thought probably some deer were stirring around, waiting to browse our yard after dark. Then when he saw a bear walking across the yard on the far side of our house he decided it was probably time to go inside. As he rounded the corner at the base of the stairs he surprised bear number three browsing around under our deck. Mr. Bear made a quick exit and CD dashed up the stairs.

Now I do think bears are interesting creatures. I even enjoy watching them. But three bears in my yard at one time --- THAT IS A BIT MUCH!!!

For the next two hours we watched the bears lick up seeds spilled from bird feeders. Tear up the only feeder we had left low enough for them to reach; scour the grass for the cracked corn left by the turkeys who have been recent morning visitors and basically check out everything from our plantings to our storage unit and car.
When one of the bears seemed to be about to climb up onto the car, my brain suddenly seemed to click into gear and I remembered we had a remote control on the key chain that would sound the horn. I grabbed the key and set off the horn. To my delight that spooked the bears. It eventually sent one of the bears up into a tree – not my best plan since what I want is for the bears to finish checking out our yard and go on their way.

We have had bear visitors every spring and fall since we moved here. Usually only one at a time – on a couple of occasions there have been two bears. They have managed to tear up several hundreds of dollars worth of bird feeders and poles and even damaged a trailer that a friend has parked here in the yard. Year by year we have changed our bird feeding habits, planted native plant bird foods – but the bears love the blueberries in the fall, hung feeders out of reach on the sides of the house and put up a tall steel pipe for a feeder pole, in attempts to bear-proof the property. Never before have the bears been quite so determined as they are this evening. Never before have I felt that there was so little to attract the bears. These bears - although they seem quite big – are very thin and must be having a difficult time finding the food they need. More houses were built in the neighborhood last summer so there are less and less places for them to forage.

State rangers just shrug and say, “The bears were here first.” But if they would think it through they know that is not really so. All of the woods around here are divided up by stone fences – Fences obviously built by farmers who would have quickly made steak out of any bear who did not understand whose land the farm really was. These bears may have some distant ancestor who shared this land with Indian neighbors but this generation are newbies, just like we are.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Day of the Blue Jays

This has to be the day of the Blue Jay --- I awoke early to a cloudy dreary day. I wandered over to the skylight hoping that I would find a warbler in the tree.
Turning to start the computer for the day, I heard a sound at the window and discovered a Blue Jay, head cocked, looking down at me. Since my skills in “BlueJay” are deficient, I of course, had to guess what he was saying – but it seemed he wanted me to come outside. I padded bare foot down the stairs and quietly out to the deck. To my delight the yard was awash with birds. Two hen turkeys wandering the lawn, goldfinches decorating all the trees, robins working in the grasses down the hillside, chickadees, titmice and nuthatches working their way through the trees, whitethroats calling from the thicket.
Morning doves flew to the phone line where they cooed to one another… The Jay hopped to the porch railing, giving a musical bugling call which was immediately answered from somewhere to the west of the house. In moments the clearing, the trees, the grasses were filled with blue jays. Where they came from – I have no idea they seemed to simply materialize out of the air.
The Blue Jay

No brigadier throughout the year
So civic as the jay.
A neighbor and a warrior too,
With shrill felicity

Pursuing winds that censure us
A February day,
The brother of the universe
Was never blown away.

The snow and he are intimate;
I 've often seen them play
When heaven looked upon us all
With such severity,

I felt apology were due
To an insulted sky,
Whose pompous frown was nutriment
To their temerity.

The pillow of this daring head
Is pungent evergreens;
His larder -- terse and militant --
Unknown, refreshing things;

His character a tonic,
His future a dispute;
Unfair an immortality
That leaves this neighbor out.
--- Emily Dickinson

Monday, May 01, 2006

Searching for the Wild Trillium

Ah - wandering into spring… dozens of morning voices call me from my snug cocoon of sleep. Blue Jays sound their wake-up call, goldfinches twitter “It is spring. Wake up – it is spring.” From the flycatcher to the woodpecker I hear their voices echoing, “It is spring.” Through the open window comes the sparrow’s cry, “Follow me.” Rustling through the woodland soft breezes whisper “Come and see.” How I wish I could share with you the melody of the morning.

Spring mornings such as this set me to dreaming about warblers and spring flowers…. Guess I may have a severe case of spring fever --- From what I have been reading on your blogs it sounds like it may be one of the things that is going around this time of the year. J At any rate, Along with the other voices that whisper to me this morning, I can hear the call of the wild trillium…. Do you hear it too? The call is irresistible – can you see it? - Deepest crimson nestled there under the trees, the sunlight casting a ruby glow on its petals? --- So - on with the walking shoes and out to the woods….

Winter stiffened muscles groan and moan as I wander down the trail. Traveling through new-green grasses, past hollow trees, along the sun kissed hillsides, nearly treading on the profusion of ferns not yet unfurled. I have to step carefully to get around Club mosses that look like tiny pine trees, which are growing in the middle of the path. The route is not difficult, gentle ups and downs. Every direction I look, new life surrounds me; buds and leaves, catkins and seeds fill the still open canopy over my head. High in the upper reaches of the treetops illusive warblers send their songs to encourage me as I wander along the pathway.

Soon the sounds of water splashing over the rocks draws my attention, as I hurry toward the stream, I stop to admire a miniature garden of moss and ferns at the base of a large oak tree… My breath catches… we have found the trillium!

'T is you that are the music, not your song.
The song is but a door which, opening wide,
Lets forth the pent-up melody inside,
Your spirit's harmony, which clear and strong
Sings but of you. Throughout your whole life long
Your songs, your thoughts, your doings, each divide
This perfect beauty; waves within a tide,
Or single notes amid a glorious throng.
The song of earth has many different chords;
Ocean has many moods and many tones
Yet always ocean. In the damp Spring woods
The painted trillium smiles, while crisp pine cones
Autumn alone can ripen. So is this
One music with a thousand cadences.
--- Poetry of Amy Lowell

For a lovely post about trillium visit:
kerrdelune Beyond the Fields We Know