Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Running Wild

Cave Run Lake, Kentucky

Across the river and an hour south, we enter wildness—
Daniel Boone National Forest and within its northern boundary, 8,000-acre Cave Run Lake, its surrounding hillsides several shades of gray, as it begins each day in stillness below a morning mist.

With the sunrise, we are suddenly surrounded by the glowing red banks that rise steeply above us to a darkened tree line and drop sharply through the water below. Slowly, we follow the lake shore, separated by just inches at times, as it jogs and dips for miles and miles into quiet coves, crooked fingers of a giant hand.
This space between land and water, rocky and rough, yet rich with life.

The roots tangle here, in the last effort of each tree’s survival, as those at the edge slowly tip and tumble—the walls beneath them each year, crumbling further back, releasing them into the depths of the lake.

Eastern Kingbird,
Tyrannus tyrannus

An Eastern Kingbird darts out and back—successful in grabbing a small meal from the air, before perching in a snarl of fading, weathered wood. Then, too, moves on along this edge to the next, skipping and feeding as she goes.

(click to enlarge)

Fence Lizard,
Sceloporus undulatus hyacinthinus (ssp.)

Warmed in sunshine, a plump, spiny lizard sprints within this red and gray patchwork, then stops for a moment, dissolved in a puddle of color, her long and slender clawed toes, curled carefully around a small rock. Invisible in her frozen stare, our eyes are locked until she disappears into a crevice and we paddle on.

Black-shouldered Spinyleg,
Dromogomphus spinosus

The young trees, sycamores, river birch, and sweetgum, begin here, rooted from seeds set out across the surface, floating until they are settled in the stillness of this edge to start again.
A clubtail dragonfly with emerald eyes finds their small stature and broad leaves a welcome resting spot as he cruises this immense watery landscape, acres across.

All so different, all so new, so wild—
and our day on the water has just begun.

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Monday, June 29, 2009


Above the River

Trinkets, do you collect them--
perhaps small silver spoons or rows of tiny thimbles, their minuscule reservoirs overflowing with memories--a time, a place?

Though I often gather objects as I’m out and about, I seldom assemble many organized, as such, into a collection. Weathered pine cones or smooth, rounded pebbles usually fill my pockets.
Pieces that define a place, or capture color perfectly--
red of western sand at sunset,
sunrise pink of a mountain in Maine.

Except, of course, Christmas ornaments, amassed over the years, lovingly brought out each December from their protective wraps and gently hung from branches, each piece, a memory--
friends gone on, places behind, children grown.

So, I wonder if that pleasing image, the spangled tree, its stories, has prompted me to begin this, a collection to rival all silver spoons--
the trimmings of the waterways.



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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Relief (SWF)

A strong breeze moves this dramatic sky, changing moment by moment—
pink granite clouds curling around one another,
pushing...piling up...and passing on.
Perhaps to end in rain, in the night--
the kind that falls softly and brings with it, a cool morning.

I walk here to clean my spirit—
throw the windows open wide on the cares of the day,
let the breezes lift them from me,
draw in the fresh, new air.

soybeans sprouting

And discover this new spring green,
the first emergent growth,
the promise of this field, for this season--
to grow, each day, a little stronger.

First Green

corn stalks in field after harvest

The field behind our house is farmed in rotations of corn and soybeans. Each spring, I watch and wait to see, for this year, which it will be.
The low, rolling fields of soy, or the narrow path between fields of corn, so different, both lovely.
One day, though, neither, as I watch them one by one, stand empty--then sprout a row of houses.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Lake Evening

The day’s heat has passed.

The water,
like glass, in this quiet area,
apart from the beach,
where teens still tumble off each other’s shoulders,
splashing, laughing,
consents to our stay,
lingering here,
unhurried by anyone, anything.

Until we follow the sun,
along the path laid brightly for us,
upon this stillness,
as it falls to the edge,
to rest.

The lake,
now ours alone,
sounds of cool, clear drips,
and dragonflies.

Common Green Darner pair, Anax junius
depositing eggs on surface of water

(click to enlarge)

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Saturday, June 20, 2009


To come upon this Black Rat Snake while crossing from the trails, on his way from the garden to the barn, soaking up the heat of an early summer morning, his scales shining like the toe of a spit-polished black boot.

I squatted before him, raised the camera,
and found him looking back at me,
lifting his head from the path,
peeking past a blade of grass.

Then, to be sure he knew what I was all about,
smelled the air with his forked tongue,
never batting an eyelash.

Oh, lovely creature,
sharp dresser, black and white,
it is I who’s charmed.

Black Rat Snake, Elaphe obsoleta

(click to enlarge)
Check out his rostral scale or shield (the one in the center of his upper jaw).
It perfectly frames the opening of his mouth!
(Did you know that all the scales on his head have names?)

From Wikipedia:
ag - Anterior genials or chin shields
f - frontal
in - internasal
l - loreal
la - supralabial
la'- infralabial
m - mental
n - nasal
p - parietal
pf - prefrontal
pg - Posterior Genials or chin shields
pro - preocular
pso - presubocular
pto - postocular
r - rostral
so - supraocular
t - Anterior and Posterior temporals
v - First ventral

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Night Life

If you could see this darkness, feel this night,
heavy under clouds, dripping with dew,
thick with frogs and moths, drawn to the first blushing blooms of milkweed,
you would know what it is to walk here.

It’s been weeks since I have visited my pools, as in the probing visit of this night--
most days just a cursory glance, as I walk on to the woods,
following the wings of dragonflies,
watching birds high in the trees above.

Yes, the shallow water remains.
And, though almost choked with a mat of green snarls encroaching from every edge, the deep, clear, dark water sustains life, napping through the sunshine of a hot summer day.
But, tonight, when, even through a closed window, air conditioner groaning beneath this blanket of humidity, frog song penetrates to within a brick house, I cannot help but wander there.
Every bit of this field is calling.

Orange eyes aglow, hundreds of buff-colored moths, feathery antennae curling back and forth, feed at the heavy heads of grasses, bending their arching stems low to the ground, and cover the large, rosy globes of milkweed blossoms, strong and sweet with nectar.

The heat from a very warm day has remained into the night. Glass beads on every blade of grass glisten with dew. My bare arms as well, quickly covered with a layer of moisture, soon tingle with an itch from every flying insect drawn to me, my light a beacon into blackness that readily swallows it. Even my face, misted and framed in curls brought on by this bath of steaminess, especially interesting to the smallest moths, darting in darkness past mouth, nose, eyes and ears.
A head net, next time--I must remember that.

Northern Leopard Frog, Rana pipiens

Waist-deep in vigorously growing poison ivy, I wade through green to the pool’s edge, my tall spotted boots stepping carefully into the cool water, the soft, woven mat, broken in places perfect for even the largest of frogs to hide in wait.

American Bullfrog, Rana catesbeiana

All across the surface of the smooth water, small mouths rise to grab air, then disappear with the flash of an ivory belly to hide themselves in layers of brown detritus, inches deep beneath my feet.
Shapes I recognize easily—and was hoping to see tonight, caught in the beam of my light through cola-colored water--salamander nymphs, still sporting gills like Elizabethan collars, but soon to lose them, strengthen new legs and walk off to the woods. Having started the season dry, this spring has brought heavy and frequent rains—a good chance that the water will remain weeks longer, and another generation graduate to lives on land.

The movement of a winding, striped form beside my toe startles me. And, though I know he should be here, I’ve never seen him--a Northern Water Snake, browsing the brown bottom, rising to look across the surface. Then, equally startled by finding me in his pool, he dashes below and disappears.

Northern Water Snake, Nerodia sipedon

From the center of this basin, I am surrounded.
First by the ring of dark water, then by the green at its edge. Framed by small Red maples, their toes wet.
It is as if I am drawn into a fanciful scene, where all possible life converges in a single place for a moment--the deer, rabbit, and raccoon, beside bluebird, mink and snake, while fish, frog and turtle swim.
A snapshot, so complete, yet unlikely.

Cope's Gray Treefrog, Hyla chrysoscelis

Yet, as I move toward his fervent call, raised to the night air, as others do the same, I am sure, for this moment, I am witness to a collision of lives not always like this.

Stirred from quiet rest, postured to project,
their song from every tree,
“Welcome to my world. We’ve been expecting you!”

Cope's Gray Treefrog
vocal sac inflated

(all photos enlarge with a click)

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Nursery (SWF)

Soft morning light filters through the sheer curtain--
lace doilies hung to soften the harsh wood of the beams above,

and the sweet smell of hay, bales stacked in wait.
The pastures beyond the barn,
now lush and lively and green.

This cozy room, with its low, whitewashed ceiling and several east-facing windows, is home to our herd of goats, growing smaller each year. Its few elderly members continue their contented existence--trimming the fence lines, chewing their cuds, reclining in spring warmth beside an overgrown cinder block “mountain,” once easily bounded up and over, now best for scratching the itch of winter’s wool.
Barn Swallows build here each spring, nests of mud and straw, firmly plastered to the beams, inches below the white ceiling, and facing the morning light.
Trimmed with long, graceful feather blankets, they appear empty--until I cross before the wall of windows, my shadow creeping over the room.

Five wavering heads rise in silence and thrust orange mouths forward to greet the expected offering of food—
but it is only I.

Barn Swallow nestlings

And so, the lazy slumber reclaims them.

Mother waits outside until the chores are finished here,
watching, through the windowpane, ready.

Her shadow enters and nudges them to wake.
Then she is gone again to the sky.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Vine

Last summer’s silver remnant,
this weathered stem of goldenrod, long passed,
tolerant of the youngster’s questioning.
Patiently waiting,
as arms reach, fingers probe.

Between the two,
a spider.

Who, thinking I envy his catch,
tucks himself quickly behind.

Then, remembers
some things are worth fighting for.

Like the ant,
who carelessly climbed
the silver summer stem
beneath the vine.

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