Tag Archives: nature

How much light in a winter sky

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How much light in a winter sky!
the subtlety of mauve and rust and slate

heavy-bellied clouds floating
like seasoned bathers in a cold sea

each dwindling moment of olive oil light
caught in the wick of a seed of grass

chest-breaching call of the gulls
the lake surface a battered pewter plate

bouncing back the cupped light
medieval in its splendor
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Small Gift

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One small gift from the universe
an unintended consequence
benefiting the giver, taker
one momentary thread of spider
web light suspending
judgment, exhaling
in one single tonal breath
body heat, one giant synchronized
joining of hands, shared
pulse resonating, thrumming
the fat base string
under your thump, thumping
heart beat one.
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DAY’S END

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Sudden rush of feathers
draughting the air above me
small flocks of careening birds
fly low over the meadow
chased by strong tail winds
a dozen at a time joining
the twisting, turning mass
flowing across the evening sky
out over the lake, back over the trees
a pulsing organism, feinting left and right
like black drops of ink swirled in water
and then, on signal, they descend
in chattering swarms into the reed beds
their shrill conversations fill the air—
a murmuration of starlings at day’s end.

THE HEALING PLACE

DSCF8634This summer I decided to create a specific place in my garden where I could go and put aside the constant rush to project myself into the future. It would be a touchstone to remind me to stop, breathe, live in that specific moment, and the next, and the next.

It began life as an herb garden more than a decade ago in my first vigorous flush of gardening when we moved out of the city. I had dreamed of pebble paths and demarcations of boxwood and stone. Each quadrant was to be like a painting of a medieval apothecary garden, simple but potent and filled with thyme and sage and mint).

For a few years I diligently tended the paths and herb beds. But the woods were always trying to reclaim their birthright, and the giant black walnut in the middle of the yard spread its shade and toxic roots far and wide. Four beds became three, then two as the wild bergamot and dame’s rocket overran the oregano and parsley.

Still the bones of the herb garden remained, anchored by a granite sculpture at its center—the result of a rash bid at a silent auction. I often found myself gravitating to this spot, ambulating in figure eights around the boxwoods, letting the stresses of the day leave my body. Or sitting on the sun-warmed limestone pavers, listening to the orchestra of birds and insects. Eyes closed, breathing in the scent of phlox reminded me to revel in the moment and let myself sink into the fabric of the natural world around me.

So this fall I took clippers and a shovel to the unruly tangle of weeds, planted a few more boxwoods to mark the boundaries from the encroaching woodland, and repurposed some broken pavers. The soft days of autumn sunshine and rain coaxed a haze of green from the newly sown grass seed.

Now, even on the coldest days, when the sun barely skims the treetops, I bask in a spot of afternoon sunshine, drawing strength and peace from my grounding place.
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Croagh Patrick

DSCF8535After four days of gales and pelting rain in the west of Ireland, the sun decided to show itself a few moments before sunset. The mountain in the distance is Croagh Patrick, or the Reek as it’s known locally. It’s been a place of pilgrimage from long before the followers of St. Patrick started trekking up its scree slopes in bare feet. Over the years I’ve taken many photos of it from all angles. Here are a few.
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WHAT THE RAVEN SAW

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The raven came by in the late afternoon
three caws for hello, I see you down there
fingering the damp wash on the line
weak sun on your back, wondering
if it’s strong enough for drying, halfheartedly
sweeping wet leaves, pulling
shocking green weeds out of the gutter
stroking the tabby, scenting the apple decay.

You, walking around and around
your garden, cutting tangled armfuls
of herbs to suspend in the sunny spot
over the kitchen table, pulling
rattling skeleton pods of beans out of the rain
softened earth, mounding horse manure
over the rhubarb, turning the compost
disturbing the worms.

You, standing in a tree-framed window
of sunshine, ear half listening to the whispering
of oak leaves laughing dryly at their shriveled jokes
breathing the must of leaf mold
seeking the spot by the back door, somewhere
behind the three waiting pumpkins
where the cricket has chosen to sing
and wondering why?

You, hefting clods of earth into a bucket, paying homage
to the wooly bear, curled in a patch of near-sun
the ladybug carcass—yellow and black
walnuts thudding on the roof and the ungodly
splashes of brilliance across the landscape

You, lullabying your garden to sleep.

UNDONE

IMG_2557She was undone by small things
a lost button, a missed call, stale bread.
Her ribs could only expand to take in so much air
Guilt was a wolf’s shadow haunting
the end of her bed at night.
To darn a frayed patch gave her some satisfaction—
a wound remade with stout thread.
For brief moments she could make the world
stand still, cup water in her hands and watch
the pink light slipping through her fingers.
The veil was pulled back
skin against skin, moments so intense
tears burst from her eyes making her
laugh with joy and surprise.

ACCUMULATION

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Like a miniature garden
growing in a cup of limestone
a bond forms over time

scraps of leaves and bird droppings and seeds
roots, faint wisps at first
tap into the life force and dig down, deep

the bright flourish of first growth
gives way to a steady accumulation of experiences
big and small, good and bad

weather of all sorts caresses, buffets
and the seasons, revolving imperceptibly
turning us to and away from the source

branches wither and die
leaving the scar of remembrance
deep in the tissue

fibers of memory knot and twist
into strong rope
binding us together.

TWO BAD BEDBUGS VISIT NEW YORK: A Bloodthirsty Tale

Felice and Festus were two bad bedbugs. They came from a long line of bloodsuckers out west. An adventurous pair, they packed their bags and headed to New York City for an all-you-can-eat vacation. Those two bad bedbugs touched down at the airport, itching for a good time. They hitched a ride to their hotel with an unsuspecting businessman.

“Oh, Festus, the honeymoon suite. Isn’t this fancy!”
“Only the best for my love bug.”
“And look at the view!” squeaked Felice.
“Ah, the city that never sleeps! I can’t wait to check out the night life.”
“And I can’t wait to go shopping. Don’t forget your comfortable shoes, Festus!”

The bedbugs hopped onto the New York Nighttime Skyline bus tour. “Whee!” squealed Felice. “Feel the wind in your antennae.”

They zipped past the Empire State building. “Awesome!” cheered Festus, eyeing a large tourist.

At Time Square Felice and Festus jumped off and joined the crowds with their cameras.
“Lights. Cameras. Action!” shouted Festus.
“Festus, I feel like a movie star.”
“Dinner?” asked Festus, licking his lips and scanning the crowd.
“And a show.” Felice gazed longingly at the Spiderman poster.

Just then, Felice spotted the designer handbag of her dreams.
“Festus, it’s to die for!” Before he could stop her, she leaped into the bag.
“Don’t get carried away my honeybug!” Festus jumped in after her.

Felice and Festus zipped downtown in a cab, and were carried aboard the Staten Island ferry. Felice peeked out of the handbag. “Look! It’s the Statue of Liberty. Festus, suck in your gut and let me get a picture.”
“Felice, I’m feeling a little queasy . . . must have been somebody I ate.”

Luckily, a passing pigeon came to their rescue. A short time later they touched down at Wall Street.
“Wowy-Zowy! Wait ’til the boys back home see this,” crowed Festus, striking a pose on top of the Wall Street bull.
“Next stop Chinatown,” called the pigeon.

Festus bought himself a souvenir T-shirt—I Took a Bite out of the Big Apple.
They were about to try some local delicacies, when Felice shrieked, “Crunching cockroaches, Festus, scuttle for your life!” Pursued by a gang of tough looking roaches, they managed to escape down a sewer grating just in the nick of time.

Safe at last, those feisty bedbugs rode the subway uptown and sneaked into the Natural History Museum. It was time for a midnight snack. “Pah!” Festus spat out a mouthful of dried elephant hide. “This stuff is for the dust mites. I’m out of here.”

Felice snuggled up to Festus and looked up at the moon over Central Park. “Ah, that’s more like it—a romantic carriage ride with my little bugaboo.”

Back at their hotel, Felice and Festus enjoyed a succulent feast.
“A toast to New York,” said Festus. “A bloody wonderful city.”
“Festus, if I drink another drop I’ll burst,” sighed Felice. “The portions here are humungous. I must have gained 10 grams.”

At last, that bloodthirsty pair came to the end of their vacation. Felice and Festus, two bad bedbugs, cozied up for the long journey home.

Text & images © Melissa Shaw-Smith

Text & images © Melissa Shaw-Smith