Friday, August 29, 2014

The Happy Stories of the Past Again

My life has been much enriched in more ways than I can describe since I became a birder in 1984. My first bird identification was a Phainopepla in the Southern California chaparral. I found his distinctive crest in a bird book. Since then, I have participated in Audubon Society activities in three different States and even once attended a National Convention.

I want to recommend that you get in touch with your local Auduboners and go for a few birdwalks. You will likely discover some natural places near you that are well worth visiting!

Today, when I decided to take this picture, it was raining (raindrop at center top) and the light was very misty and pale, so I darkened this some. This year, although the goldfinches have their own thistleseed feeder, they come to this one, too. I finally decided to pour a little thistleseed over the Chickadee's sunflower seeds for them. But the big attraction is the suet, which brings different woodpeckers (this is the Downy Woodpecker) the Rosebreasted Grosbeak, and the Bluejay.

I just got myself a big book of John Clare (1793-1864) who was also very fond of birds, 
and of everything he saw in nature, really.
Here is a sonnet of his on the wren.

The Wren

Why is the cuckoo's melody preferred
And nightingale's rich song so fondly praised
In poet's rhymes? Is there no other bird
Of nature's minstrelsy that oft has raised
One's heart to ecstasy and mirth as well?
I judge not how another's taste is caught---
With mine there's other birds that bear the bell,
Whose song has crowds of happy memories brought,
Such the wood robin singing in the dell
And little wren that many a time hath sought
Shelter from showers in huts where I did dwell
In early spring the tenants of that plain
Tenting my sheep, and still they come to tell
The happy stories of the past again.

—John Clare

from "I AM" THE SELECTED POETRY OF JOHN CLARE; edited by Jonathan Bate, 
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, NY, 2003, page 152.

One could do worse than try sonnets; I've been fearful . . . 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Beauty Spots

The deer finally seem to understand the deliciousness of mowed meadow, and I have at last been able to get some through-the-window pictures with my new Samsung Galaxy camera that sort of looks like a phone, and has many annoying features, but does have a good zoom range. I have two groups of deer dropping by: a mature buck with two spike bucks, and a doe with two fawns. The little buck kept trying to get the older one to play, but he just scoffed him away.


Hope is with you when you believe 
The earth is not a dream but living flesh,
That sight, touch, and hearing do not lie,
That all things you have ever seen here
Are like a garden looked at from a gate.

You cannot enter. But you're sure it's there.
Could we but look more clearly and wisely
We might discover somewhere in the garden
A strange new flower and an unnamed star.

Some people say we should not trust our eyes,
That there is nothing, just a seeming,
These are the ones who have  no hope.
We think that the moment we turn away,
The world, behind our backs, ceases to exist.
As if snatched up by the hands of thieves.

Czeslaw Milosz, from New and Collected Poems, Ecco, 2001, page 49. I believe this is the poet's own translation of one of his quite early poems, from a group titled The World. Many of these poems are destined for this blog.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Gentle Poets

This backlit Queen Anne's lace, Daucus carota, from today's Daily Walk is here in honor of the poet Robert Hass, who taught our weekly evening poetry seminar at San Jose State circa 1980-1982. He always urged us to look at the stars, the trees, the flowers and the birds and to name them. He has just been given another richly deserved major honor, the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American  Poets. This honor is given for proven mastery of the art of poetry and carries an honorarium of $100,000. Pretty snappy, wouldn't you say?

At about the same time we were beginning to study writing haiku with the Yuki Teikei Haiku Society, which was founded in San Jose in 1975.  So I think it fitting to give you here one of his poems based on and honoring the major haiku poet Issa, from the book that won Hass his first major award, the Yale Younger Poets award in 1973 for his volume, Field Guide.

After the Gentle Poet Kobayashi Issa

New Year’s morning—
everything is in blossom! 
I feel about average.

A huge frog and I 
staring at each other, 
neither of us moves.

This moth saw brightness 
in a woman’s chamber—
burned to a crisp.

Asked how old he was 
the boy in the new kimono 
stretched out all five fingers.

Blossoms at night, 
like people
moved by music

Napped half the day; 
no one
punished me!

Fiftieth birthday:

From now on, 
It’s all clear profit, 
every sky.

Don’t worry, spiders, 
I keep house 

These sea slugs, 
they just don’t seem 


Bright autumn moon; 
pond snails crying 
in the saucepan.

Robert Hass 

from Field Guide. Copyright Yale University Press, 1973. 

If you have any interest in haiku at all, I suggest you try learning about and writing some of these short poems. It may change your life. It certainly changed mine!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A stove called Coquette

The Daily Walk was beautiful today, with insanely blue skies, a moderate temperature and a fresh breeze. Queen Anne's lace is a wildflower that never whines; it a;ways looks sharp and crisp--even the blown flower is attractive, like a baby's little fist. The arrangement of leaves and stems along the path is often very beautiful and makes me wish for the printmaker's skills, and want to return to my beloved printmaking class with Alan May. Here is a link to his website.

Tonight I found another selection from Roo Borson's book: Rain; road; an open boat, McClelland and Stewart, Toronto, 2012. The selection is untitled and complete on page 5.

All night the scrabblings of mice in the attic have sounded, now reckless, now surreptitious, until with the first pre-dawn light the spell is broken, and one by one they drop off to sleep once more. Now it is the turn of the things in the kitchen to stand out: the beautiful old floorboards, a plate painted in 1937 upright in the dish-rack, the year too painted in gold on its back. Out the window hummocks and windrows blush maroon, the long spindles of the rising sun bringing back the familiar autumn world. Overnight a water strider has died in the bucket, two flies on the windowsill. Err on the side of kindness, say the last words of a dream -- advice that should be simple enough to follow, in a place where the stove is named Coquette and the radio Symphonaire.

     --Roo Borson--

I've spent some time looking for the stove, but the Symphonaire was so easy to find that I am sure it is true. I love the language and the observations in this passage as well as the just pure love for old things, which I also possess. I find it interesting that a poet would use TWO semi-colons in the title of her book. But I wasn't her copy editor, and I kind of like it. Sleep well;  then perhaps you can wake up in time to see the long spindles of the rising sun.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Once More

This is from yesterday's Daily Walk; when the goldenrod are blooming all around, it is a sure sign of autumn's approach. There was a brief and violent thunderstorm at midday. With one big lightning strike close to the house. Crack!  Here is an autumn poem by dear Hayden Carruth.

Once More

Once more by the brook the alder leaves
turn mauve, bronze, violet, beautiful
after the green of crude summer; galled
black stems, pithy, tangled, twist in the
flesh-colored vines of wild cyclamen.
Mist drifts below the mountaintop
in prismatic tatters. The brook is full,
spilling down heavily, loudly, in silver
spate from the beaver ponds in the high
marshy meadows. The year is sinking:
heavily, loudly, beautifully. Deer move
heavily in the brush like bears, half drunk
on masty acorns and rotten wild apples.
The pileated woodpecker thumps a dead elm
slowly, irregularly, meditatively,
like a broken telephone a cricket rings
without assertion in dead asters and
goldenrod; asters gone cloudy with seed,
goldenrod burnt and blackened. A gray trout
rests under the lip of glacial stone. One
by one the alder leaves plunge down to earth, 
veering and lie there glowing, like a shirt
of Nessus. My heart in my ribs does what it
has done occasionally all my life: thumps and
heaves suddenly in irregular rhythm that makes
me gasp. How many times has this season turned
and gone down? How many! I move heavily
into the bracken, and the deer stand still
a moment, uncertain, before they break away,
snorting and bounding heavily before me.

-- Hayden Carruth

from From Snow and Rock, from Chaos
New Directions, 1973, page 25-26

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Monarch in the roadway

Today we took Cassie for a walk and she did what dogs usually do on walks and we passed on by. On the way back down the road, this! My first monarch of the season. And, truly they do like dung; the internet confirms it. They stick their little drinking straw right in and dine on the nutritious moisture! Look it up yourself if you doubt me. I thought I might never see a monarch again! Mostly, this one kept its wings folded, drinking busily, so it was tough to get a decent spread-winged picture. Well met, oh lovely remnant of so much vanishing wildlife. . .       

I have just opened my volume of Canadian poet Roo Borson's poetry. It is called Rain, road, an open boat; poems, and I am loving it! I found her work earlier when I used her poem in this earlier post.  Many of the poems in this book are prose poems, or have prose sections.

Here are some, from a large group titled Late Sunshine:

Having been told at different times in my life that I am gifted, stupid, beautiful, homely, have perfect pitch and a tin ear, I've now begun to wonder on what grounds anyone's opinions can be taken seriously. But then this is the opinion of a person who is gifted, stupid, beautiful, homely with perfect pitch and a tin ear.

There should be a plant whose common name is False Patience. And another called False Promise. Maybe the most delicate-structured of the thus-far unnamed common plants, one with feathery fronds and tiny yellow flowers, should be called False Premise. How beautiful it would be, now that spring is here, to walk through a meadow rife with False Start.
Oh, to be able to fill a notebook with delicate, fresh observations like these! Good night, and may you see another butterfly before summer is gone. I hope I can, too! 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

'Wind from the west and then some . . . ."

Sheep are quite irresistible when one is on a late-summer walk, camera in hand. These are my daughter's Shetlands. They are small sheep--see their tiny little feet? Having gotten used to the idea of sheep from children's storybooks with their fluffy, cotton-ball sheepikins, I am sometimes dismayed at how grungy sheep can get lying around in the barn and the pasture. But I love their solemn regard.

Tonight's Charles Wright poem responds to a question.

What Do You Write
About, Where Do Your
Ideas Come From?
Landscape, of course, the idea of God and language
itself, that pure grace
                                which is invisible and sure and clear,
Fall equinox two hours old,
Pine cones dangling and doomed over peach tree and privet,
Clouds bulbous and buzzard-traced.
The Big Empty is also a subject of some note,
Dark, dark and never again,
The missing world and there you have it,
                                                             heart and heart beat,
Never again and never again,
Backyard and backdrop of earth and sky
Jury-rigged carefully into place,
Wind from the west and then some
Everything up and running hard,
                                                everything under way,
Never again never again.                     

Charles Wright 
from Appalachia: poems, Kindle location 434.

So perhaps I could write about sheep, or mullein spikes abloom in the pasture, or the end of a quiet weekend day. Chicken-like, (see the chickens near the far fence?) I usually try to stay away from The Big Empty, though. Good night!