Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A goose on the roof...

I love games.
Not so much the ones of turns, passed again and again around a board,
but those of thought, often labeled, “skill,”
that leave, more than talent-- laughter.

When our family was young, each day ended in games, a reward for that day’s efforts. Around the kitchen table or cross-legged on the living room floor, smiles and giggles… and then, up to bed!

Years later, still, the games are a part.
And though the players have changed,
the laughter from those early years is the same.

From behind your laughing eyes,
the child I remember.

One of our family favorites is Wise and Otherwise--a game of creatively completing half-written statements, little known proverbs, seldom heard words of wisdom.

I could not help but think of it when I found this goose on the roof.
I am sure you can finish the statement,
"A goose on the roof,..."

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Monday, March 30, 2009


A toy consisting of a tube containing mirrors and pieces of colored glass or paper,
whose reflections produce changing patterns
that are visible through an eyehole when the tube is rotated.

In all the ways and places

a flower might rise, stand,
and turn face to the sun,

most marvelous are the very first.

Those bold of color and heart,
as if to say to all others waiting, hesitating,
“Lift your head, lean this way,
for on me shines the sun.”


Glory of the Snow, Chionodoxa forbesii

Star Magnolia, Magnolia stellata

Virginia Bluebells, Mertensia virginica

Lenten Rose, Helleborus orientalis

Squill, Scilla sp.

Lenten Rose, Helleborus orientalis

Because the Cincinnati Nature Center has evolved, partially, from a large tract of land that was previously a home with extensive plantings, many non-native species adorn its sprawling grounds. Of those pictured above, only the Virginia Bluebells are native, with all others originating in Europe, the Mediterranean and Asia.

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Promises, promises, promises...

Spring has kept her promise in two days’ heavy rain.
Unlocking the green on every branch,
nudging the graceful stems rising--topped with fat bundles, ready to burst.
And even in such a simple act as a stroll across the yard,
I can sense with every soft step, the fullness—
abundance waiting to be coaxed from the earth.

I walked on the night between them,
when a break in the clouds drew me up and out into the night air. With my flashlight catching every clean droplet, in colors so strong, wet beneath rain. Only the finest mist hung low, then, over the field, a lacy shawl gently wrapped around bare shoulders.
And, into a night sprinkled with stars, I stood between 2 owls calling.

Stepping out again the next morning, into a brief patch of sun, I find I was not the only one, busy in last night’s darkness. All across the field, wound thickly on tall brown stems, the work of small sheet-weaving spiders, snagging small drops from the heavy morning mist, setting this table with its finest.

A Collection of Bowl and Doily spider webs,
Frontinella communis

all photos click to enlarge

And, in the pools, the promise kept, of life’s return each spring.
From those who walk without a worry,
while I worry they will not walk.

Salamander egg masses in Little Pond Pool,
in different stages of embryonic development

Webs on Autumn Olive

Phoebe behind Pond

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Friday, March 27, 2009

A Fine Frog

Red Maple
Fallen Flowers upon Bark

For an instant I’d heard it— then, again and again.
A sound more mechanical than animal, yet one I had hoped to one day hear, here, where the woods fade to fields and scrub surrounds the pond. But, with phone to my ear as I was, outdoors that evening chatting, positioned in the one spot guaranteed to carry a conversation through from start to finish, I dared not take a step.
In just minutes, all was quiet. And, walking back into the house in the darkness, I replayed it again in my mind. Yes, a handful of repeated nasal notes, with pauses between of several seconds.
I hoped what I’d heard was right.
For I wanted to have heard a Woodcock.

Each day that followed I returned, and listened carefully at dusk for the secretive bird, a shorebird at home in the woods.
Eyes to the sky for some sign of him.
Ears waiting for the telling call.
Still finding, each night, nothing.
Until, the bird I’d heard was a memory—
an uncertain one, at best.

Ten days passed, and on a bright and shining morning, wrapped up in the pond walking and pool watching that this season uses to distract me, I stepped up and over the berm toward Little Pond pool, eyes skipping over the grass, looking straight to the water’s surface. When, from just inches ahead of my steps, up shot a small, wildly flapping, brown bird.
And, against the bright blue, this shape certain—long bill, short tail.

So, I find myself returning there, each day, and walking slowly. To see who wanders the bank, probing the earth for worms.

Duckweed on Little Pond

And although I had hoped for a Woodcock,
I think this fine frog feels most special,
to have captured the attention of a grown woman,
while setting out to capture his dinner.

Young Bullfrog at Little Pond Pool

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

To the Fen, again! (SWF)

Where do I go when I miss that squish?
To the Fen!

Common Cattail, Typha latifolia

Where, even in this dry spring, coolness seeps through the slats of a plastic boardwalk trail, winding its way across this wetland, fed from below by a shallow aquifer.

Beyond its boundaries, what must be vernal pools—for I hear wood frogs calling strongly in the distance, even in the daylight of this warm afternoon.
These woods of the fen, though, are mostly quiet, and I walk past the large pools of dark water, so still and reflective, hugging the tall, wide trunks of the Cottonwood trees.

Until, at the edge, I step out into a stand of Cattails, and the sleepy, slow pace of the woods is left behind. From all around, wild excitement, as Red-winged Blackbirds noisily call in the sunshine. And masses of slender, brightly colored stems, explode with flowers both dainty and bold.

Their feet in cool, clean water--Pussy willows.
The exuberance of one who will never know thirst.

all photos enlarge with a click

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Oh, joy!

Evening Primrose, Oenothera biennis

I see, now, that the path has become green,
where I walk past the fields, standing brown and still, daily, back and forth.
Each time, waiting and watching for that defining moment—
the one act that, with it, brings the certainty of the emergence of spring.
While, beneath my feet, with every pass, it moves steadily forward.

Field Grasses

And from the woods, this eager green,
each day, too, grows stronger,
along each branch of the steadfast,
very first to fill the bare space.

Autumn Olive leafing out

Yet, the change, so subtle, with every day’s watching,
I barely recognize that point at which the path turned.
Until, onto brown from blue, 2 on gossamer wings tumble.
And touch briefly, as if to anoint this spot not yet woken.
And bring, with certainty, joy.

Spring Azure Butterfly, Celastrina ladon

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

The nature of Nature

Like the gardener’s proud memory of that perfectly plump tomato plucked from the vine before last season’s frost, our great successes often lead us to believe we will find the same, again.
We search and hope, and often leave empty-handed.
For that is the nature of Nature.

The pools this year are oddly quiet.
With the image of dozens of spotted forms tumbling over one another in the cool water, then rising to the surface to grab breaths of air before returning to their midnight dance replaying excitedly in my mind from last spring, I’ve waited alone by the water’s edge each night, to find barely of trace of them here this year.
The dark water is still.
And in the beam of my light, I find only one,
motionless, on the oak leaf floor of this pool.

The frogs are quieter, too—
the gelatinous, silvery egg masses that almost covered the narrower reaches of water, this time, are just a few, solitary softball-sized clumps. And the riotous croaking and clasping of masked males boldly floating upon the surface has been replaced by a handful of casual callers--
a voice here, a voice there,
quickly quieted by the beam of my sweeping light.

Flock of Cedar Waxwings in tree overhead

And so I find myself, on this bright afternoon, looking out across the surface of Little Pond pool from the warm, dry grass of the berm--
wondering what has happened to all I had hoped, rather, expected, to see in this small basin.
Was last year's wonder too perfect to be replayed?

Or, is this dry spring moving more slowly, drawing them out one by one, rather than in the more visible large numbers? Or have the several especially dry summers starved them and baked them as they fought the drought from the parched tunnels of the woods and fields?

Or is this simply a reminder of the nature of Nature?
Wildly wonderful, ever changing.

Cedar Waxwings, Bombycilla cedrorum

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

A Field Sparrow

Field Sparrow, Spizella pusilla

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Spring Break (SWF)

Against a blue sky, scarlet blossoms,
so lush and heavy on their long stems,
it seemed the bough would break beneath them,
or tip the tall tree forward, yet further, from where it hung,
an umbrella poised for picnickers to the sandy beach below.

Where shells of all shapes and sizes,
bleached by the sun and carried by storms,
were tucked into pockets and held for safekeeping
apart from the water’s edge.

So that on this day,
wrapped in the warmth of an afternoon sun,
I might stare inside their tiny spirals
and disappear into their desert island.

The shore of Stillwater River
A tiny paradise in the middle of southwestern Ohio

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