Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving (SWF)

Ruby Beach,
Olympic National Park, Washington

I can feel the strength, here, still.
Almost as it was months ago, standing, my feet planted on this shore. Looking out over the wide, empty space, to a point where sea and sky seemed one.

From waves that reach and pull at the land, with a thunderous crash, nature heals its brokenness.
Reshaping it,
lifting small pieces to new places.
Its hands laying a broad, smooth resting place beneath them.

Losses that, once sharply painful, are softened.
Gaps slowly filled with drifting sand.

And I look at this most lovely, waiting here, its roundness a testament to time.
And rolled over, again.
Yet, stilled.

And know that it, too, once was broken.

My wish this Thanksgiving is for waves that wash sharp edges smooth.
And give unsettled stones rest.

Sunset from Ruby Beach

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Suet Cakes

Suet (/ˈsuː.ɪt/) raw beef or mutton fat,
especially the hard fat found around the loins and kidneys.

The house still holds a heavy smell as I return from a day away--a lingering left from this weekends’ project of making suet cakes. The lard bubbling on the stove, a chore best left for those days when a window can be thrown open to draw the heaviness out into the yard.

And, though I would have chosen to make them weeks earlier, here I am, just days before Thanksgiving, fussing to cook and clean—and render suet. I take it, as I can find it, though—happily emptying the grocer’s cooler and running home, victorious, with my stack of loot wrapped in plastic.
It has not always been this “easy”--

For, what I had thought to be a staple of the meat case, tucked dependably between ham hocks and beef tongue, no longer is there.
In fact, simply finding someone who understands the term "suet" can be a harrowing experience.

I have stalked many a wide-eyed stock boy through the darkened aisles of our supermarket, a lady determined to leave with the hard, white, beef fat essential for winter bird feeding. Gesturing, pleading my case, to one obviously not acquainted with the less popular parts of a cow--only to be handed a small chunk, the few trimmings he could find, priced far out of reason, and designated, "Specialty Meat."
An older gentleman emerged from the chamber beyond the swinging doors, wearing the white coat of the butchering profession, pleased that he'd filled a special order, and approached confidently, intrigued to meet the lady requesting such an odd product.

"Whatcha goana use it fer? Soup?"
"No,…bird food."

And the raised eyebrow above eyes that met mine clearly was of one who doubted if this game of, "Can you help me find what I'm looking for?" had been worth the trouble.

Blocks of suet, wrapped

The suet is often wrapped and for sale now.
And I’m sure to take every last piece, when I find it.
The understanding may never come, but at least I give partial credit—for effort.

Rendering Suet on stove

Mixing other ingredients into melted lard.
I use natural peanut butter, oats, cornmeal, unsalted sunflower seeds, and an assortment of stale bread and crackers, avoiding added salt and preservatives.

Mixture poured into muffin tins to cool.

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Early Birding

From beneath warm blankets into a frosty morning,
sun just creeping above the treetops,
heavy mist lifting from the water of East Fork State Park,
we have come to see a bird.

Morning Mist
East Fork State Park

A Glaucous Gull, Larus hyperboreus, a rare visitor to southwestern Ohio, from this species’ high Arctic breeding grounds.

And he is here, feeding beside some others, Ring-billed and Bonaparte’s Gulls, on a narrow slip of land.

Glaucous Gull, Larus hyperboreus (right)
beside Ring-billed Gull, Larus delawarensis (left)

The group watches, and waits in the 14-degree morning,
stamping cold feet and puffing warm breath into cold fingers.
Some birds are “lifers.”
Others are once-in-a-lifetime.

There will be many other mornings to sleep in.

Glaucous Gull,
East Fork Lake,
November 2008

East Fork Lake

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Friday, November 21, 2008


This entry is an update to a ongoing story recorded here.

Perhaps we were seeing a bit of our future, that Sunday afternoon in June, working in the cool, dimly lit interior of the big, old barn. For, our first inkling of another’s presence with us, was discovering tiny footprints captured in one of the small, square slabs of concrete, hand-mixed and left to cure, undisturbed, on the dirt floor.
Preserved in stone.

The footprints, alone, meant nothing. Raccoons, opossums, even woodchucks wandered through its drafty, dark spaces regularly. And skunks often scented the summer nights’ air. But these were different—of a small, young animal’s tentative first steps, alone.

In the days that followed, we caught only shadowy glimpses of the five young kittens hidden beneath the old wooden floor boards where Mama left them to sleep as she wandered the nearby fields for what little she could find.
How she had come to be here, tattered and worn, we could only imagine.
But clearly, of her fading strength, to her young she had given all.
Mama’s kittens became ours that Thursday.
Country roads are not gentle, nor patient with those who linger at the edge.
And so our life with kittens began.

Max, bold and black.
Alexander, kind and gray.
Olivia, tender and disheveled.
Lucy, shy and lovely.
George, spirited and wearing stripes. (adopted)





In several days, we will pass the 6-month mark.
And, of the original five, four kittens remain.

Large, magnificent animals now, with long ruffs and fur-covered toes,
heavy coats and loving spirits,
like none I have ever known.

They live upstairs now, in the house, with us, and Lily, who arrived a year earlier. Together, they race, feather-duster tails held high, the length of our long hallways.
And tumble in a ball of fur, somersaulting across the floor.

Each morning, I’m woken by loving licks of 4 warm, raspy tongues.
Each night, tucked in securely beneath 4 heavy bodies, purring.





Outside the back door, is a small square of concrete, inscribed with several small footprints that catch and hold the morning light.
Footprints that look as though the one who left them was just passing through.
Though those that know the story,
know better.

Safe, at home, they are.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Where is "there?" (SWF)

My friend at work just returned from a week’s vacation. Her favorite part of each day away, the evening--when she would go to a point on land, and from “there,” watch the sun set over the ocean.

Evening Sky above farm fields

And even though, living in the country as I do, where buildings are seldom taller than several stories, they collect, one after another, in small dense clusters. Barns and coops and silos--ringing each country home.

Here, I have a place that I go to, too.
Where the land touches the sky, and the trees part beyond an openness, stretching broad and deep.
Standing at the edge looking out, I could be anywhere.
But for that moment, I, too, am “there.”

Where is your “there” place?

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Have you seen...

A pot of applesauce bubbles on the stove, filling the chill of this cool morning with an aroma, sweet and warm. In the sink, an enormous tangled mound of coiled parings and cores from a bag of wormy apples I couldn’t bear to throw away. The meager pile of clean flesh destined for the pot, much less than what I have carved from it.
And though I discard most of each pitted and pock-marked fruit, the remnant that I keep adds a bright, wild burst to its pretty, tamed cousins from the supermarket.
Yes, there’s part of even the wormy apple that I love.

Morning sunshine has caught on a branch of Honeysuckle, bare of its leaves, bright with translucent, red fruit. And, again I find myself loving this undesirable thing.
An invasive plant, capable of displacing the native flora with its dense bushiness or smothering vines,
but for now, a filler of this otherwise vacant space.

Loved by winter birds for its berries.
Filled of their nests each spring.

Tatarian Honeysuckle, Lonicera tatarica

Amur Honeysuckle, Lonicera maackii

As we are able, we will replace it.
With the plants that once grew here, years ago, before the land was cleared.
But for now, as the field stands brown and lifeless all around me, there’s part of even this honeysuckle that I love.

"Have you seen...." is an effort to discover the unusual beauty in things not usually appreciated for their beauty.

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Monday, November 17, 2008


Finally--the rain
soaks dry earth, so long wanting
puddles to play in.

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Watercolor Painting

I spent an afternoon walking the gallery
and stopped for a moment to sit
on a simple bench looking out over a wide space,
where I could watch the artists working
on watercolor paintings.

Powel Crosley Lake
Cincinnati Nature Center

click photos to enlarge

The Artists at work

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Bald Eagles in my Backyard

Deer Creek State Park

A long slip of land reaches out into Deer Creek Lake, as it curves and winds from Deer Creek, several miles south of Columbus.

And being less than an hour’s drive from our house, an easy afternoon we spent there, hiking the trails through the state park and exploring the chance of an overnight, perhaps in the spring.


The cottage area on this gray, mid-week afternoon, Veterans’ Day, was empty and quiet. And we left our things behind, in the car, parked just off the road, to peek into windows, gauge their provisions—make mental notes for another day’s stay.
Situated on this point of land, the cluster of small, wooden buildings looked out to the east, over the 1200-acre lake, a distance below, trees sheltering each from its neighbor.

Beside the last-- 2 large birds perched in the bare branches, feet away.
With white heads on dark bodies.

Deer Creek Lake

Amazed that they should be here, or even could be here, after struggling so to survive--yet they were.
And we watched as they flew off over the wide, open water, neither of us turning our eyes away.
Until they were but a speck in the distance.
The Bald Eagles in our backyard.



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Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Gray

Sunrise into Winter Sky

Clear skies left us last week.
And a thick blanket was drawn across from the western horizon.
In the eastern sky, a gap yet uncovered.
Where the rising sun burns, before hiding itself behind the heavy, gray cloak.

From the window, facing the woods, I watch as a Gray Squirrel readies his nest for winter. The large crumpled leaves of the sycamore, almost more than he can manage, carried one by one to the top of the tallest tree.

When the wintry skies blow fiercely, I will think of him there.
Wrapped in his leafy blanket.
The Gray beneath the gray.

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