Saturday, April 30, 2011

Something New

At Cudzoo Farm's open house, I learned that

kids do not smell goaty;

kids like to cuddle with humans;

kids have silky soft hair;
and I re-learned that

Sarah makes the best goat cheese ever.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Thinking of My Native State

Daybreak in Alabama
from The Collected Poems of

Langston Hughes

When I get to be a composer

I'm gonna write me some music about

Daybreak in Alabama

And I'm gonna put the purtiest songs in it

Rising out of the ground like a swamp mist

And falling out of heaven like soft dew.

I'm gonna put some tall tall trees in it

And the scent of pine needles

And the smell of red clay after rain

And long red necks

And poppy colored faces

And big brown arms

And the field daisy eyes

Of black and white black white black people

And I'm gonna put white hands

And black hands and brown and yellow hands

And red clay earth hands in it

Touching everybody with kind fingers

And touching each other natural as dew

In that dawn of music when I

Get to be a composer

And write about daybreak

In Alabama.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

On Her Birthday

I celebrate my niece: a strong and complicated young woman who loves large, and deep, and long. She helps the earth grow good plants, and she grows good people through motherhood, marriage, family, and friendship.

If I weren't related to her, I'd love her anyway.

And just as much.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Artistry of Math

I used to know someone who proudly bragged that shooting turkeys on a Sunday allowed him to appreciate the beauty of the world and that he failed math and didn't mind. I also used to know someone who quietly decorated a classroom wall with a poster that read, "God geometrizes."

One of them was right.

Nature by Numbers from Cristóbal Vila on Vimeo.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Under the Trees, Pink Lungs Fill

Moccasin Flowers
by Mary Oliver

All my life,
so far,
I have loved
more than one thing,

including the mossy hooves
of dreams, including
the spongy litter
under the tall trees.

In spring
the moccasin flowers
reach for the crackling
lick of the sun

and burn down. Sometimes,
in the shadows,
I see the hazy eyes,
the lamb-lips

of oblivion,
its deep drowse,
and I can imagine a new nothing
in the universe,

the matted leaves splitting
open, revealing
the black planks
of the stairs.

But all my life -- so far --
I have loved best
how the flowers rise
and open, how

the pink lungs of their bodies
enter the fore of the world
and stand there shining
and willing -- the one

thing they can do before
they shuffle forward
into the floor of darkness, they
become the trees.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Doorway into Thanks

by Mary Oliver

It doesn't have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few

small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don't try

to make them elaborate, this isn't

a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

Sunday, April 24, 2011


Of childhood Easters, I remember three things: the new Easter dress Mother made for me; dying Easter eggs springy colors; and mite boxes. Why didn't I notice the flowers? Like the narrator of "Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy's Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota," I feel I have "wasted [a part of] my life."

Saturday, April 23, 2011


That's what I am.

Gaga over the Fragile Forktail.

Friday, April 22, 2011


When lavender blooms, I think of my grandmother Dear, who made me embroidered pillowcases and gave me sachets. As a child, I didn't care.

Now I do, but like so many people I value now but didn't then, she is long gone.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Iris Remind Me

Like flounced gossips huddled around garbage cans, iris grow wild in Nashville alleys, ripe for the picking. And pick we did.

In my freshman year at Vanderbilt, my junior-year friend -- who wore no bra, French-inhaled Camels, drove an Alfa Romeo Veloce Spider Mark II, listened to Bach at the highest volume, and slept late through classes but earned high honors on her literature essays -- took me out to snip and steal the stems.

Though they lasted only briefly in our plastic cups and buckets, those iris gaudied up dreary dorm rooms with their assertive color, defiant sexuality, lingering perfume.

Today, on seeing the first purple blooms in a friend's garden, I thought of Nancy, the first liberated woman I ever knew and the first of my friends to die too young.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Extraordinary Ordinary

This morning, I read a post in a favorite blog called The Deep Middle. The poet/blogger and I have much in common, including a love of wild things and words. I too have written about naming, several times, and I must again today.

Until ten days, I did not know the word
exuvia, although I must have seen it in an insect book and on My father once made earrings from cicada cases, but we never called them what they are: exuviae. Now that I have seen dragonflies emerge, I own the word and the concept of transformation.

I might say that what I saw was remarkable. But I won't because it isn't. Emergence is common, and I have walked past these common occurrences for years without having noted them. Never again now, however.

Once seen, I do not forget.
How could I?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Even on Seeing the Lady's Slipper, I Think of Death

The Orchid Flower
by Sam Hamill

Just as I wonder
whether it's going to die,
the orchid blossoms

and I can't explain why it
moves my heart, why such pleasure

comes from one small bud
on a long spindly stem, one
blood red gold flower

opening at mid-summer,
tiny, perfect in its hour.

Even to a white
haired craggy poet, it's
purely erotic,

pistil and stamen, polllen,
dew of the world, a spoonful

of earth and water.
Erotic because there's death
at the heart of birth,

drama in those old sunrise
prisms in wet cedar boughs,

deepest mystery
in washing evening dishes
or teasing my wife,

who grows, yes, more beautiful
because one of us will die.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Coming Home

One of my favorite stories (Truman Capote's A Christmas Memory) begins, "Oh my, it's fruitcake weather!"

Today, coming home along Tennessee Avenue, I could hear Geraldine Page's voice, only she was saying, "Oh my, it's dogwood weather!"

And so it is, brilliantly: dogwoods flower pink and white clover-flags, turning from what a friend calls "green cream cheese like the moon" to white wedding cake icing to old white sheets, pimpled and creased.

Days like this, I am glad to live where dogwoods flourish, lighting the depths of forest still awaiting leaf.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Exit, Pursued by a Bear

"The End," students write blithely when they finish a composition.

No one writes "The End" for us, though each of us has an end, some already too early like my friend Sara Askew Jones and some whose end is coming too soon like Charley, one of my best college friends.

In Charley's and my senior year, the director scheduled George Bernard Shaw's Candida so we could play opposite one another. Otherwise, we never would have since we were the same coloring and same height. Besides, I specialized in Earth Mothers and he in youthful romantic leads. But in Candida, I could be the "older" woman and he the "younger" man, and I adored being adored by him.

I still adore Charley even more than I detest what is happening to him and what has happened to Sara.

Saturday, April 16, 2011


A poet can make the worst beautiful:

My love is as a fever, longing still
by Christopher Bursk

It didn't take a Harvard Medical School degree
to detect you and I were not lovers destined to wed
but two viruses doing their best to infect each other,
two fevers that'd spread, different symptoms of the same
sickness. Past cure I am, now reason is past care.
Did I really wish to die? The doctor dismissed me
with the professional ease with which one might swat a fly,
as if for the fly's own good. So what
if you loved me more intimately than anyone ever would?
A cancer cell could say that of any body
it refused to let go. Once the heart was infected,
how could it be corrected? So what was I waiting for?
The truth is, the doctor smiled,
the microbe adores the flesh it's dating.

Friday, April 15, 2011

A Kindred Spirit

Jonathan Harris

TODAY from m ss ng p eces on Vimeo.

"I wanted to find a way to be more in the moment, to be more in every day, to understand time more, to understand my own life more, to have more memories, all of these things, basically to live more richly as a human life, not just as a work life."

Thursday, April 14, 2011

In Just-

Damselflies and dragonflies; a conversation with a gentleman about his nearly blind diabetic dog; preparation of a workshop on pronouns and fine-tuning another on prepositions; a few hours at the shop; the first snowberry clearwing of the year, two orangetipped falcate butterflies, four yellow swallowtails, one red-spotted purple, five matching moths with wings like printed carpetbags; three computer crashes culminating in one live workshop; and the spring university choir/community orchestra concert (A Trio of Americans: Walter Piston's Prelude and Allegro for Organ and Strings; James R. Carlson's Three Psalms for Choir and Orchestra [oh how lovely the original composition]; Mack Wilberg's Requiem) make for an e. e. ecummings poem kind of a day: fractured and lower case but ending with a !

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Country Life

I received these community emails yesterday:

From an official: "Please be aware that the Spring Deer Census will be starting this evening and will continue through the end of the week. Between dusk and 11PM you may see a truck with a high powered spotlight moving slowly through your neighborhood counting critters. Please do not be in your yard with a deer suit on during this time. It will interfere with our science."

This from a community member: "So is this what the song was talking about? . . . "blinded me with science!'"

And another: "I counted 11 deer in my backyard yesterday evening. Do you want to include in your count?"

Meanwhile, the deer graze in my neighbor's yard before heading across the street to mine.

Ah, the country life.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Visit with Julie over Scones and African Dew Tea

I'd always heard the expression "to light up a room," but never understood it before meeting and befriending Julie.

In town briefly (it's her sabbatical year), she joined me for scones and tea this morning, bringing with her grace and joy and bags of artist's books, over which we marveled. Our conversation moved swiftly from news of New Hampshire and her husband and her passion for volunteer cooking; to Sarah Miles the actress and her mastiff who used to leap at Julie when she was a Buddhist nun, threatening to muddy her white dress; to Sara Miles, Christian convert, who has written about feeding the poor and teaching them to cook healthily for themselves; to the health of my fat cat; to local personalities; and to the raisin allspice scones ("Like eating them with apple butter, only better," Julie said) and the delicious African Dew tea from Alice's Teacup in New York.

Skittering conversation of the best kind: we simply picked up with pleasure where we had left off. I shall be glad on her return in August for more good conversation and art and laughter.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Trip to the Library

for three big books.

Winking wings, shiny like opalescent mica, signal recent emergence from the larval state, says Giff Beaton, author of Dragonflies and Damselflies of Georgia and the Southeast: "The adult at this point is called a teneral, or very new adult, and can be identified as such by its shiny wings and lack of coloration."Everywhere -- on leaf, grass blade, twig -- tenerals lie in the sun or shade, then lift and flutter like pearls unstrung through uncertain air.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Paying Attention

In my blogging group meeting Friday, I revealed that My Daily Snap has engaged me in the stream of my living. Snapping has made me present. I can't walk anywhere, do anything without seeing or hearing something tiny and remarkable. Sounds, sights, smells, sensations -- all make my head turn.

At Lake Cheston this morning, I heard the tiny grasshoppers zipping from one side of the dam to the other, saw the mica shine of dragonfly wings, listened to the solemn songs of toads and knew they were mating. Even just getting out of the car meant discovery: I followed a yellow swallowtail who flew into and draped herself on wisteria, then heard a bumblebee chase her off before I could fully focus on either.

I thought of Mary Oliver when I found
the shed shell of a dragonfly naiad and a dragonfly of the same species that emerged from such a container. I wanted to read what she had said about dragonflies, but couldn't find a poem on the topic. I found this one instead, and the RSS feed for the daily poem-of-a-day podcast. Oliver is not the reader, alas, but her words breathe with the poet's presence.

Tomorrow: a poem and other miracles await.

L: Didymops transversa
or Stream Cruiser(female)

Below: Exuvia of dragonfly of same kind

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Even in Spring

First swallowtail

of the season
flies with torn wings,
probes proboscis
into whatever
flower is found,
then lies, spent,
death ripening.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Do Grasshoppers Swim?

Apparently not. At least this stomach-churning article from the New York Times says not.


I saw one particular tiny bright green grasshopper leap into the lake this afternoon and do what I could have sworn was the dog-paddle (or hopper stroke). S/he floated awhile as I slid down the bank to anchor myself on several large chunks of stone. Then, h/she flew in one leap to the base of a grass stem and wrapped around it, legs and antennae sticking every which way.

S/he stretched long legs on occasion, pushed the face around the stem, tilted it, stared in my direction, slowly wound round to the other side and posed, most prettily.

As I crept further down with my macro in hand, s/he disappeared. Just like that.

Just like the flowers already giving way to leaf.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Two Hundred and Forty Seven Pictures

and almost none worth saving. It's been that kind of day.

A walk around beautiful property in the valley with two interesting women and three lively dogs on a mostly cloudy day means pleasure, but not great photography. At least not for me.

One tiny moth, though, saved my day when he alit on my forefinger and sucked up sweat. He lingered for a long time, long enough for one friend to fish the smaller Canon out of my front pants pocket so I could manage a few closeups. I don't know who he is (there are too many different kinds of moths for a quick ID), but I do know his feathered antennae and tilted head cheered me immensely. And his light weight, the trust that I wouldn't harm him, his willingness to pose -- all made him a fine companion, if only for a few minutes.

The looking is all, and most of that is in memory, not megapixels.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

I've Got the Blues

for you, Spring!

Blue Corporal DragonflyEastern Tailed Blue ButterflyBluebirds
Blue WaterBlue Shadows
Blue Tiger Beetle LegsBlue Sky

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Frieda in the Foliage

Frieda, fat orange cat, accompanies my stealth photography sessions in the Carpenters' wildflower garden. As ample as the celandine poppies and bluebells in which she flops, Frieda makes good company, even though her feline affection sometimes results in a fuzzy shot.Before leaving today, I took one last picture from her perspective, hunkered and riveted on spring's green bounty.

Monday, April 4, 2011

A Little Fear and a Little Regret

Last year, I stooped to photograph several enticing mushrooms. Tempted to readjust one for a better angle, I reached for it, but something bit me, and I decided to leap out of the leaf pile. A few days later, I walked with a friend by the same mushroom and mentioned its enticing beauty. She warned, "It's poisonous. Don't even think about touching it!" Yesterday, another friend and I encountered three impressive mushrooms. As we hunkered down, in turns, to photograph them, we chatted about what they might be. Neither of us was inclined to pick them -- out of fear--, though when we got home, I discovered from other friends that they are morels, a highly sought-after delicacy.
A false morel above, making it questionable to eat; half free morels below, edible.
Ignorance, it turns out, is definitely not always bliss.