Monday, December 31, 2012

December 31: Tracks

As we grabbed shovels to clear the path to the office this morning, we noticed a distinct line of big bird tracks in the snow that had drifted across the front patio. A crow had clearly walked in the freshly sifted snow right past our front door. Around the corner under my feeders, more tracks, smaller, of songbirds hopping in the snow after seeds.

All morning, no birds
but tracks in the snow,
runes cast for the new year.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

December 30: Blowing snow

Serious wind out there blowing snow into broad drifts, wide white waves of snow flying from open fields to swirl across the road like a living thing caught in the glare of our headlights.

Snow animated by wind.
I don't believe
in ghosts, but...

Saturday, December 29, 2012

December 29: Misty mountaintop fadeaway

The title of this post sounds a bit like a cross between something from The Hobbit and a Dead song, but the moment was real enough. My husband and I decided we needed to get lunch and treats at Morse's Sauerkraut before the snow storm hits tonight. Driving there, we passed austere snow-covered fields and trees laden with snow under a bleak, blank sky. As we headed home, the first flakes began to fall. As we drove into Camden, cresting a hill that offers a view toward the Mount Megunticook ridge line, we noticed how snowfall along the top of the mountain made it seem to simply fade away into the white sky.

Mountaintop fades into white
snowfall. In dreams
it's like that when I die.

Friday, December 28, 2012

December 28: Clearing

After yesterday's snow storm, shoveling the office walkways this morning with my co-workers...

Scrape of shovel,
faint crackle of ice
sprinkled with salt.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

December 27: Riders on the storm

A nor'easter sent snow and freezing rain gusting around my office today. I live too close to work for the weather to be an excuse not to show up, and we didn't lose power, so I put in a full day there. I was, however, pleasantly distracted for much of that time by the birds flocking my tiny window feeders. The regulars--chickadees and titmice--showed up, of course, and what I think is a solitary White-breasted Nuthatch. And then some finches I hadn't seen in a while made an unexpected appearance: goldfinches, their yellow throats looking positively sunny against the snow, Pine Siskins, and at least three redpolls--a boreal visitor I've only had at my feeders a couple times before. The finches chattered away as they chowed down; I could hear them through the window despite the roar of the wind.

Redpolls peck seed from snow.
I catch myself thinking
of raspberries.
Redpoll visitor from last year (window too splattered with snow to get a photograph today!)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

December 26: Ice

Last night driving back from a movie, I was trying to determine if any ice had formed yet on Chickawaukie Lake. What I thought was a thin, opaque layer of ice, however, turned out to be the reflection of clouds on the water.

This afternoon looking out at the river, I saw two parallel lines running downstream, perhaps the twin wakes of a pair of ducks. Instead, they were the leading edges of ice forming outward from the opposing banks, soon to meet in the middle--a rare instance when parallel lines do intersect.

Soon growing ice
will meet in river's middle.
No more ducks.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

December 25: Gifts for the cat

Like a large percentage of American pet owners, we get our pet a Christmas gift. Lucky Rooney received a squeaking catnip mouse today. She seemed to enjoy her new toy, flinging it around and batting it under furniture while making funny chirpy noises that a cat might make when it's tormenting its prey.

Later, Paul set up a remote control car I'd given him, a cool one that you operate via Bluetooth with your iPhone. The cat was fascinated by this, as well, though she couldn't decide whether to chase it or run from it. She'd tentatively bat it, then back off.

When combined with the pleasures of tissue, ribbon, and packaging from gifts, these diversions seemed to tire her out. We were still opening gifts when she escaped to the back of the couch for a nap, seeming to take literally the message on the nearby pillow.

Shortly after this shot, she was curled up asleep.
Simple pleasures:
watching the cat play
with a twist tie.

Monday, December 24, 2012

December 24: Pilgrimage to the Star

Since my husband has been slaving away on a novel in all his free time for the past six months, we haven't gotten outside much together. Which is kind of ironic, because his novels are about a Maine game warden who spends a lot of time outdoors. Book written now and both of us having the day off today, we decided to make the most of it and go on a hike together. Our house looks up at Mount Battie, part of Camden Hills State Park (although the slope that faces us is actually conserved by Coastal Mountains Land Trust), so we decided to walk from home up the mountain and make a pilgrimage to the star on top (pictured below--it looks much lovelier when lit at night). We hiked up the Carriage Trail to the tower, and then slid down the icy ledges of the Summit Trail to get back down. The trails were busy, as lots of other folks had the same idea for enjoying the day--festive for its blue sky and sparkling views of the harbor and bay, if not for any snow cover. Happy Christmas Eve!


Mount Battie star not visible
from our house,
but waxing moon rises.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

December 23: Rainbows

When I was a kid, a shop in downtown Camden sold little cut-glass prisms in different shapes--snowflake, teardrop, crescent moon, star--and whenever I got my allowance I'd head there to buy a new one. I tacked them up in a row, hanging them off fishline in my bedroom window so they'd catch sunlight and scatter little rainbows across my wall. This was back in the 70s, when rainbows were cool (along with Smurfs and the Bee Gees). I had rainbow stickers and window decals, but preferred the "real" rainbows made by my sun-catching prisms.

I'd forgotten the pleasure I would get from those spinning bits of rainbow until I unwittingly replicated the experience. A friend recently sent me a giant "diamond" of cut glass, which I've kept on my desk as a pretty paperweight. While reading on the couch this sunny day, I was surprised to see little patches on rainbow dancing on the wall. After figuring out that they weren't related to anything on the Christmas tree, I realized that winter sunlight coming through the bare branches in the backyard was being "caught" by my diamond paperweight and strewn across the house in rainbows.

Winter sunlight
fractured by cut glass:
living rainbows.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

December 22: Grosbeaks to start

Our local Christmas Bird Count--the Thomaston-Rockland Count--is held on the last Saturday before Christmas, so today was the day! My husband and I have been the coordinators of our section of the count circle for something like ten years now, and every year we feel a similar excited anticipation of what we'll turn up this time around.

We knew today was going to go well when we pulled in a little late to the initial meeting spot, and our fellow birders had already spotted a flock of Pine Grosbeaks feeding in a nearby crabapple. Pine Grosbeak is an irruptive species; it prefers the northern boreal forest but occasionally pops down to New England during winters when the fruit and spruce cone crops up north are poor. I'm not sure we've ever even had Pine Grosbeaks in our count section, so it seemed a good omen to see them at the beginning of our long day of counting every bird we find in our section.

We ended the day with a possible section-high total of 51 species, including lots of ducks (for the first time we can remember, all water was ice-free), more grosbeaks, Purple Sandpipers on the breakwater, Razorbills in outer Rockland Harbor, and a flicker (which should have migrated south by now). We even spotted a Gray Seal checking us out as we walked on the breakwater.

Female grosbeaks
appear dull
only from a distance.

December 21: End of the world

According to some misreadings of an ancient Mayan calendar, the world was supposed to end today. In our neck of the woods, instead of ending, it just got really windy and a bunch of trees got blown to pieces. The icy gusts scattered limbs and even some lawn furniture across the streets. The damage was particularly noticeable on my parents' dead-end, pine-lined street as we drove to their house to celebrate our family Christmas together; we had to move some rather large pine boughs out of the driveway to arrive unscathed for the festivities.

Door blown open by wind--
a dramatic welcome
for a holiday dinner.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

December 20: Crows and donut

The other day I broke up a stale doughnut, tossed it into the snow outside my office window, and forgot about it. Until today, when the neighborhood crow family found it. I heard them making a racket, and looked out to see what all the fuss was about. Three crows were perched in the bushes right outside my window. They flew off when they saw me so near, despite the glass between us, but quickly returned for their prize. It didn't take them long to dispatch the frozen doughnut chunks, and the next I heard, they were haranguing something upriver.

Raucous spirits
attracted to my offering:
crows and crumbs. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

December 19: Cake

My co-workers and I enjoyed a staff holiday lunch today at our director's house, and his wife made us not only a delicious lunch but also the most wonderful dessert: dense dark chocolate cake with dark chocolate frosting, multi-layers of gooey caramel filling on the inside, and pecans on top. I don't even really like cake, and I ate a huge wedge of this rich, chocolate-y goodness. This cake was so over-the-top amazing that simply eating my piece made me feel more festive, more in the holiday mood. By mid-afternoon we were all in a food coma, but it was a jolly food coma.

Snow falling. Inside
we feast on decadent wedges
of chocolate cake.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

December 18: Counting ravens

I spent all my daylight hours today with two friends, Derek and Jeannette, doing a Christmas Bird Count in Jefferson, Maine. Time spent birding with friends is always good, even when it rains all day and there are few birds to be found. Before lunch, our most exciting find was four bluebirds on a utility wire. During lunch, our most exciting find was excellent grilled cheese on homemade bread at Ollie's in Jefferson village.

After lunch, despite some setbacks that limited our walking time--like a chilly wind added to the continuing rain--we had some of our best (non-food) discoveries. At a bison and red deer farm, of all places, we followed a public trail to a small covered bridge where Derek had noticed what looked like a possible raven nest when scouting the area last week. When a pair of ravens flew out upon our arrival today, his theory was confirmed.

The pair flew a short distance as we continued on. We could hear them vocalizing in their odd, quorky way nearby. Seeing ravens always thrills me--they've long been one of my favorite birds--but seeing that pair today was especially meaningful because they were the theme of my husband's and my wedding almost ten years ago; this Winter Solstice, we celebrate the non-wedding anniversary of the day on which we first considered ourselves a couple.

(For other highlights of the afternoon, we also found a flicker at the bison/deer farm, and on Damariscotta Lake, a lingering loon and a small raft of Lesser Scaups.)

Winter rain: ravens
shelter in a covered bridge.
Thinking about pair bonds.


Monday, December 17, 2012

December 17: Green man in snow

All day long the flakes have been drifting down, accumulating into a thin white blanket of snow so light that sweeping the walk has been all that's needed to keep it clear. Tonight it's supposed to rain and wash it all away, so we tried to enjoy this snow today--perhaps as close as we'll get to a white Christmas.

This afternoon, inspired by the snow perhaps, a man dressed all in green wandered along the river behind our office playing a flute. My co-workers and I stopped what we were doing to look out the window as this elfin figure went by, his dog frolicking before him.

Flute music, dancing snow:
the whimsical world
interrupts our work.

December 16: In focus

We bought a new bird spotting scope on Saturday and were anxious to try it out today. So on a drive south, we made a quick stop at Chickawaukie Lake. A few weeks ago on a birding outing I'd tried scanning the lake with only my binoculars. I could see many ducks out on the lake, but couldn't identify any species except the near-tame Mallards pecking around my feet onshore. With our new scope, we picked out seven duck species (Bufflehead, Greater and Lesser Scaup, Ring-necked Duck, Ruddy Duck, Common Goldeneye, and Mallard) and a loon, and got great looks at a raft of over 100 coots. Amazing what a difference it makes to bring those bobbing black specks into focus.

Scanning the lake for ducks,
it all becomes clear.
Time shared with my husband.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

December 15: Grooming cat

Our cat--sweet but, like Winnie-the-Pooh, an animal "of very little brain"--likes to curl up on a faux fur throw on our couch. She's a typical brownish-grey, shorthaired tabby cat, raccoon-ish, the kind of cat that would blend in with other wild animals if she went feral. (Given that she was found as a stray about this time last year by a friend of ours, that could've even happened--except that she was declawed, so probably wouldn't have lasted long in the wilds of downtown Camden.)

The thing is, the faux fur throw is quite realistic, like a giant wolf pelt. When the cat lies on it, she's virtually camouflaged. This is entertaining for us, but what's less entertaining is that when she grooms herself, she doesn't seem able to tell when she's licking her fur and when she's licking the blanket. So there's always a ring of wet blanket all around her to surprise the unwitting person who wants to share the blanket.

Eat, play, groom, sleep:
life of a house cat.
To attain such simplicity!

Friday, December 14, 2012

December 14: Tree

I have no words with which to appropriately address today's tragic shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut, yet that's what was on my mind most of the afternoon. Distracted ourselves this evening by getting our Christmas tree, now standing in our living room waiting to be decorated.

Christmas tree up
but boughs still bare,
waiting for lights.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

December 13: Stars again

Late last night I was out star-gazing before going to bed. I was thinking of that as I scraped the delicately needled stars of frost off my windshield early today. Stars at night, stars first thing in the morning. And driving to an early meeting, one big star (the sun) rising brightly over Camden Harbor, casting its rays over the bay and the awakening town...

Constellations of frost
recall late-night college conversations
about fractals, nature's patterns.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

December 12: Night sky

In the backyard tonight braving the cold for a few minutes in hope of seeing some of the Geminid meteor shower. Clear sky on a new moon night, perfect for star-gazing. This pattern of constellations is the same one I first learned as a child studying the stars with a well-thumbed Golden Book--for me, the night sky's most familiar face. Over the roof peak poise the two stars of Gemini, Castor and Pollux; Orion climbs the sky beyond my neighbor's garden; Auriga, the Charioteer, pauses high over Mount Battie; the V of Taurus the Bull sits just below the blurred cluster of the Pleiades. And almost inside that V, bright Jupiter.

With binoculars, I can see three of Jupiter's four Galilean moons--the largest and brightest satellites of our largest planet--as well as the true redness of Aldebaran, the alpha star of Taurus. I don't expect to last long enough to see an actual meteor. But as I shiver and the cloud of my breath rises to the heavens, a quick falling star flashes behind a net of birch branches. I say "Thank you!" to the sky before rushing back into the warm house.

No need to make a wish.
This sky, these stars--
all I want right now.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

December 11: Hope

A friend sent me a link to a video today of a black cat playing with a Barn Owl. Fuma (the cat) and Gebra (the owl) apparently grew up together in Catalonia and often interact in a clearly playful way. The cat will gallop down a path to leap over the owl. The owl will fly low over the cat, inciting the cat to fling itself into the air after the bird. They'll simply stand near each other, like old friends. They even seem to help one another catch mice.

The owl was reared by a falconer but flies free without jesses, so it chooses to interact with the cat (and vice versa--because we all know that no one can make a cat do what it doesn't want to do). As we hear every day about the inability of Israelis and Palestinians to come any closer to peace in the Mideast, in addition to conflicts in Syria, Egypt and our own continuing war in Afghanistan (remember, we're still at war?), I was oddly heartened by this interspecies connection. Perhaps there's some small modicum of hope for Homo sapiens?

(I was also struck by one little detail shared about the cat. He apparently likes to roll in tarragon and thus has a unique scent. An herbal cat!)

On the radio, conflict.
On video, cat plays with owl.
We grasp at any small hope.

Monday, December 10, 2012

December 10: Snow and rain

Living only a mile from the ocean, we often experience rain here while just ten miles further inland they're getting snowed on. I was reminded of that this morning when I pulled in to work, windshield wipers sweeping away the rain pouring onto my windshield. The car of my co-worker from Hope had at least an inch of snow still piled on its roof. And another co-worker from Appleton, even further inland, was hosting his six-year-old daughter in his office for a few hours because of a delayed start to the school day. We each arrived from our own little microclimates.

Remnant of snow wash away.
All day long chickadees
mob the feeders.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

December 9: Ducktrap inlet

(Sorry for taking two days off while we had a house guest.)
 
Birding up and down the coast today, we stopped at Howe Point, a cobble beach jutting out into the mouth of the Ducktrap River. From the shore, we scoped the waters, finding ducks, grebes, and gulls, as an eagle soared overhead. The tide was low, exposing rocky flats--where my family used to pick mussels when I was a kid--and sandy ridges creating riffles for gulls to bathe in. As we watched birds bob in the waves, the Islesboro ferry crossed by. Somewhere in the trees behind us, a crow rattled and barked.
 
River meets bay.
Eiders bob offshore,
dive for shellfish.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

December 6: Power lines

Driving on a dark country road...

Power lines lit
by headlights: a silver web
stretching for miles.

Moon-Viewing at 50 MPH

MOON-VIEWING AT 50 MPH is the title of a new poetry collection that I recently collaborated on with former Rockland Poet Laureate Kendall Merriam. It features poems by each of us that were inspired by the moon, a muse for us both. The book was self-published through Custom Museum Publishers and is available at Gulf of Maine Books in Brunswick, Maine, Bella Books in Belfast, Maine, or from Kendall or me.

If you would like to purchase a copy from me, please send a check made out to me (Kristen Lindquist) to 12 Mount Battie St., Camden, ME 04843. (Sorry, I'm not set up to process credit cards--but Gary and Beth at Gulf of Maine Books can do that: 207-729-5083!) The book is $12.00 plus $.60 tax. If you'd like this shipped to you in state, the total cost is $17.00. Out of state, $16.00 (because you don't have to pay sales tax). I have been horrible about promoting this book, but am proud of it--it's a diverse and interesting collection of poems. Our styles are very different, but the convergences of theme and feeling interplay well.

And if you're in the neighborhood, Kendall and I will be reading from this collection and our other work at Gulf of Maine Books in Brunswick (134 Maine St.) on Sunday, December 16, 4:00 p.m. We both enjoy doing readings, and the diversity of our styles should make this a fun event, even if you don't normally attend poetry readings. Also, Gary and Beth's bookstore is a great place to do some holiday shopping!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

December 5: Western warbler

This morning I went on a quest with a birder friend to a backyard in Winterport that has been hosting a western species--a Townsend's Warbler--for the past week or so. As the rain passed over and the sky began to clear above the river, we settled in with scopes, binoculars, and camera for what we thought might be a long wait. In less than ten minutes, however, the bird appeared in a tree at the back of the yard above the feeders--a distance away, but his bright yellow and black facial pattern and sides made him easy to spot and identify. He paused at the feeder, then flew off. Later, we got another look as he foraged in some closer trees. And not long after, my friend was able to get some nice, close photographs as the bird ate mealworms on the porch, sucking them in the long way like tiny strands of spaghetti.

This sighting is only the fourth Maine record for this species; my "lifer" record of this warbler was in Oak Creek Canyon, Arizona, in a stream-side coniferous forest during spring migration, and the bird breeds well northwest of that. It's all fun and games to go chasing an errant bird like this, but once you see the individual, its personal story comes to the forefront of your thoughts: How did this guy end up here? What was his journey? Will he ever make it back west where he belongs?

Rainy Maine morning.
Bright yellow feathers
belong in California pines.

December 4: Pressed tin

Dinner out tonight with my husband and a friend at a restaurant in Rockport in a lovely, renovated old space with a painted, pressed tin ceiling.

Remembering Nana's kitchen:
pressed tin ceiling,
sugar cookies cooling.

Monday, December 3, 2012

December 3: Septentrional

I subscribe to wordsmith.org's Word.A.Day, which I highly recommend to anyone fascinated by words and language. As a linguistics minor in college (and a writer), I admit I'm kind of a word nerd, so am always delighted when each day's new word appears in my email In box. This week's theme is "words derived from numbers." Today's word--septentrional, which means "northern"--particularly struck me because it's not only unusual, it's also related to one of my favorite constellations, the Big Dipper.

Here's the etymology, according to Word.A.Day: "From Latin septentriones, literally the seven ploughing oxen, a name for the seven stars of the Great Bear constellation that appears in the northern sky. From Latin septem (seven) + triones (ploughing oxen). Earliest documented use: around 1400."

The Big Dipper goes by many names around the world: Ursa Major, the Great Bear; Charles' Wain or Wagon; the Plough; the Drinking Gourd; the Seven Wisemen; the Frying Pan; even the Salmon Net. As a circumpolar constellation, it wheels around Polaris, the North Star. To find the North Star, you trace a line in the sky up through the two stars that form the right side of the ladle. So its meaning of "northern" makes perfect sense, even while the backstory involving seven oxen might be a little less clear, lost in translation over time.

Seven stars, many stories.
We face north, align
with the heavens.







Sunday, December 2, 2012

December 2: Winter mist

Warmer air moving in blanketed the chilled December landscape with fog. Trees looming in the mist: a backdrop for a drowsy day, especially after staying up too late socializing with friends last night. Perfect setting for a nap with the football game on, a dog warming my feet. Then the slow drive back home, following taillights through the fog.

Christmas lights in fog.
The day's a shifting dream,
blurred around the edges.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

December 1: A-tap-tap-tapping

Sometimes I think that I could just post every day about what the crows are up to. They're a fascinating--if enigmatic--study. And as I wrote yesterday, they're always there. Like right now, a crow across the river's tapping at something. Is it trying to break something open, perhaps an acorn from one of the surrounding oaks? Is it trying to pry something out of the frozen ground? Is it eating something off a tablecloth of dead leaves? Is it playing percussion in some crow performance? I'll never know, but I'm sitting here with my mug of chai, watching, absorbed.

One crow, now two, peck
at the ice-fringed riverbank.
A few snowflakes fall.

Friday, November 30, 2012

November 30: Crows up close

Along with the chickadees and titmice at my window feeders, crows are the most common, daily visitor to my office, in any season or weather. Today I was startled to look up from my computer and see half a dozen crows flush from right under my office window into a nearby birch. They must have been picking through the bird seed under my feeders. Or perhaps one of them saw a mouse picking through the bird seed cast-offs, as happens on occasion. The six of them sat there as if regrouping for their next great plan, undoubtedly hatching some clever, mischievous plot.

Later, as I was walking from the kitchen back to my office with a cup of tea, I saw a single crow sitting in a bush just ten feet from the window ahead of me. Right there. Looking in. Shades of Poe's Raven. It saw my movement and flew off, but I could swear it was checking us out.

Do I keep track of
the crows' comings and goings,
or do they watch me?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

November 29: Snow and star

Driving home tonight as the snow was falling--gently but thoroughly--the lighted Santas on people's front lawns remained bright, but the lighted star on the tower atop Mount Battie was just a hazy blur.

Behind snow's swirl--
a full moon brighter
than holiday lights.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

November 28: Dead squirrel

A dead squirrel this morning looked to me at first like a glove--one of those fisherman's big white rubber ones--lying at the side of the road. I was startled to realize what it really was as I drove past.

Snowflakes fall slowly.
Like a tossed glove,
road-killed squirrel.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

November 27: First ice

In Belfast there's a tiny, city-owned pond called The Muck that sometimes hosts ducks or a heron--or skaters when it's frozen. As I drove by today, several gulls stood around in a loose group atop a thin skin of ice skimming the pond's surface. The ice is still so tenuous it probably wouldn't yet hold anything heavier than a bird. But it was perfect for a small gathering of gulls.

As if waiting all year
for this--gulls
balanced on new ice.

Monday, November 26, 2012

November 26: Stretch

While driving home from tonight's rigorous Pilates session, I pressed my sore spine as straight as I could into the car seat, trying to carry away some of the benefits of the exercises. The sky was clear tonight, illuminated by Jupiter and the waxing gibbous moon, and highlighted by the star lit atop Mount Battie.

After Pilates,
stretching my back
up to the moon.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

November 25: Last day of hunting season

Blank, chilly white sky all day, but as I drove south yesterday afternoon the sunset created a vivid orange glow on the horizon, a line of color contoured by conifers. It was the last day of the regular season for hunting deer, and pickup trucks were parked at wooded edges all along Route 1. As dusk deepened, I saw a few hunters returning empty-handed to their trucks.

Glowing orange horizon.
Blaze orange of hunter
lit by his truck light.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

November 24: Swan dream

Last night I dreamt a large white bird flew overhead. At first I thought it might be a Whooping Crane, and I was very excited, but it flew so close that I could see its face: not a crane, but a swan. The bill had a very distinctive yellow and black pattern which, in my dream, at least, led me to recognize it as a Tundra Swan, a very unusual bird to appear in this part of Maine. (In real life, this species has a black bill completely unlike that of the bird in my dream.) Seeing a rare species combined with the large bird's nearness, the intimate look, was thrilling in the dream, and when I awoke, felt somehow auspicious, as well.

A fun website that describes itself as "The doorway to signs and symbolic meanings" tells me, among other interpretations: "Fittingly, the Celtic goddess Brigid is also associated with the swan as her grace is expressed with equal elegance in the form of writing (poetry) and song." I like that connection, of course, because Brigid is the patron saint/goddess of poetry.

This thought resonated with me, as well: "In dreams, the swan asks us to spread our wings and take flight into our waking dreams. She also encourages us to strengthen our relationships, as well as make new, long-lasting bonds with people whom we admire." This seemed especially apt as my husband and I had just had dinner with a couple whom we've gotten to know better only recently, and whom we hope to spend more time with.

Cold morning sky, white
as the swan in my dream--
inspire me.

Friday, November 23, 2012

November 23: Black Friday

Calling this absurdly overhyped shopping day Black Friday just increases its disturbing aspect by making it sound rather morbid, like that old standard "Gloomy Sunday." Instead of shopping at 6:00 a.m. or camping out at some mall, I walked around Beauchamp Point on Rockport Harbor this morning, reconnecting with an old friend and enjoying the sunshine. Turns out she and her husband have applied to adopt a child from Korea, which was welcome news because they've wanted a child for a while now.
 
No stores in sight.
We talk of children,
watch the dog wander.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

November 22: Thanksgiving

Things I am thankful for (so far) today:

Being awakened by my affectionate cat
Blue sky
the New York Times crossword puzzle
Walk up Beech Hill with my mother, sister, and two nieces
Two mice mating, playing, or otherwise squabbling in the weeds, trailside
My niece's fascination with bayberries
The scent of crushed bayberries
My other niece's joy in banging two rocks together
Distant red of autumn-burnished blueberry fields
Good health
Free time for my husband to write
A little free time for me to write too
Not losing the Thanksgiving turkey, brining on my parents' porch this morning, to a fox
Crows on the lawn
Cat's amusing attempts to jump through the windows at birds and squirrels

Prayer flags and dry leaves
stir in the breeze,
share blessings.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

November 21: Eagle visitation

Since my office is on the Megunticook River, we're often visited by geese, various ducks, and the occasional Osprey or Bald Eagle following the water path either inland to the lake or downriver to Camden Harbor. This morning before work, as I was out combing the bushes for a Pine Grosbeak, an eagle flew downriver to perch across the water right in front of me. Immediately, about a dozen ducks panicked and flew out of range.

The eagle preened and looked around for a while, but mostly just sat there--a full-grown adult with white head and tail, meaning it was at least four years old. With binoculars I could see its bright yellow bill and notice that its head feathers were a bit dingy. Perhaps it's the same bird we often see perched on that snag or on the dead tree at the edge of our parking lot. A little while after I went inside, my co-workers and I watched it fly low just past the office windows, giving us a perfect view. In this season of gratitude, I feel grateful indeed that eagles are a regular visitor to my neighborhood. And equally grateful that observing these dramatic birds of prey is just another, acceptable part of my work day.

Another work day,
another eagle. I hope
I never get used to it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

November 20: Morning frost

I find myself fascinated by the frost coating each leaf and blade of grass these cold, late fall mornings. The sere, wilted vegetation is transformed into something beautiful once again, particularly when the sun rises and makes a field, or forest, glitter.

Sunlight on frosty leaves--
a moment of brilliance
soon melted away.

Monday, November 19, 2012

November 19: Deep sleep

Overslept this morning because the sound of the alarm didn't penetrate my consciousness for half an hour. I must have been really tired last night.

Alarm finally off,
cat rushes in, joyous
to find me awake, alive.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

November 18: Camels Hump

Driving south from Burlington on I-89 this frosty morning, Camels Hump, the second highest peak in the Green Mountains, rose misty blue before me. This familiar peak is so distinctive, and it was so beautiful, that I almost swerved off the road every time it came into view.
 
Misty blue peaks--
so clear, my memories
of hiking there.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

November 17: Jupiter again

Step out of a Burlington restaurant into the frigid air coming off the lake, reminding me of nights when I was a college student in Vermont. We shiver and rush to the car, while above the streetlights and traffic lights, there's Jupiter again, just like at home.
 
Even here in the past
amid different mountains,
Jupiter looks down on me.

Friday, November 16, 2012

November 16: Frost and fog

Wake in the guest bedroom of a friend to a foggy dawn, only the frosty lawn visible. Later, the mist lifted to reveal a forest of hoar-frosted trees, a landscape defined by white.
 
I wake with a clear mind
to the dream-like world
of fog and frost.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

November 15: Pigeons

While driving to Vermont this afternoon, noticed fat pigeons perched along one wire among several crossing above the highway like lines on a sheet of music...
 
Pigeons on a wire:
Monotonous notes
of a musical score.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

November 14: Lights out

Leaving a friend's studio tonight, the porch light was out. And the two streetlights facing her building were out. With the new moon, the street seemed profoundly dark. It wasn't until I got to my car that I could see the sky was clear and starry above the roofs, and there, right above my car, shining Jupiter.

Night street so dark
only a planet shines,
too distant to light my way.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

November 13: New Moon

The new moon must be exerting its dark power on this bleak afternoon, when energy ebbs and dusk falls long before the work day's ended. Satisfied with what I got accomplished today and buoyed by rich chocolate pound cake from Megunticook Market, my own spirits are high despite the weather. But I look out the window and think of a friend who's going through a rough time right now in a relationship, and can well imagine how this landscape must seem to echo her mood.

Rain, tangled branches.
A heartsick woman
holds in her tears.

Monday, November 12, 2012

November 12: Blue birds, bleak sky

The other night I dreamt I saw three bluebirds together on a branch. Then I saw them in real life.

Yesterday I indulged in birding for the entire day, moving around the Midcoast to some of my favorite spots. I started off by spending several hours on Beech Hill, hiking all the trails, scanning fields and woods along the way. But the highlight of that outing was at the very beginning, when I was walking alongside the first, lower blueberry field. It was mown recently, and that seemed to have attracted a flock of bluebirds. The strikingly bright birds were foraging in the field, perching in trees in small clusters together along its edge, and even singing. On a bleak November morning with a frost-white sky, posed on leafless branches and amid sere, cropped blueberry plants, the bluebirds were easily the most vivid aspects of the landscape. I watched them for a long time, and when I finally looked away and continued on up the hill, I could hear their songs echoing behind me.

Even more beautiful
than birds in a dream--
bluebirds on bleak barrens.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

November 11: Moth

To make the most of yesterday's sunlight and relative warmth, and hopefully find some interesting birds (winter finches are arriving all over Maine now), I spent a couple of hours walking around my neighborhood, binoculars around my neck. I ended my outing in the cemetery just a couple of blocks away from home at the base of Mount Battie. The sinking sun cast a pink glow on the craggy west-facing talus slope of Mount Battie and gave added definition to the headstones.


I've always enjoyed walking around cemeteries--for the quiet, for the glimpse into a community's history, for the variety of inscriptions and engravings on the stones. Cemeteries are poignant places, orderly reminders of the ever-present fact of mortality. This cemetery in particular has meaning for me because some of my own family are buried here: my grandfather, great-grandparents, and a great-uncle.   

So it was in a pensive state of mind that I wandered the neat rows of headstones as the shadows lengthened. I paused in front of one old stone to read a moving inscription, something along the lines of, "Here all our hopes lie lost." That's when something weird happened. A little brown moth fluttered by. As I wondered if it might be one of those winter species that tolerates cold weather, it headed right toward me and fluttered against my lips. It fluttered there for so long, several seconds, that I eventually had to brush it away. 

Kissed by a moth. In a cemetery. Hard not to read some deeper meaning into that--a visitation from a soul wandering loose among the stones, some sort of reminder to cultivate silence... But the rational side of my brain wants to tell me that the moth was undoubtedly just drawn to something mundane like the heat of my breath or the carbon dioxide of my exhalations. 

Moth's fluttery kiss--
a restless spirit
or my honey lip balm?

Postscript: Poetic license aside, I wasn't actually wearing any lip balm...

Saturday, November 10, 2012

November 10: Skyfall

Last night we watched "Skyfall," the new James Bond movie. My husband and I are huge 007 fans, particularly of the Daniel Craig portrayal, and have been anticipating this one for a while. It was all one  might want in a Bond movie; we loved it.

As we drove home, still feeling the after-effects of witnessing all that testosterone in action--the chases, fights, seductions, and explosions--I looked out the car window to see a clear night sky full of stars (and one planet).

Jupiter high and bright
over Orion the Hunter.
James Bond kicks ass.


Friday, November 9, 2012

November 9: At the bank

Funny the places where we're suddenly struck with happiness. Today, waiting at the bank, having just engaged in a friendly conversation about geese with a bank employee I know, I hear a song I like playing over the sound system. I'm just standing there, smiling, waiting for the teller to finish the deposits. And it hits me: in this moment, right now, I'm happy.

Touchstone for joy
closer than we realize.
Radio song. Bird's flight.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

November 8: Wind and sorrow

For the third time in a year I attended a memorial service for a someone I knew and admired--all three vital men taken in their prime, each a role model for the way one should live a life--energetic, joyful, generous forces within this community. At today's service, folk musician Gordon Bok and his wife, harpist Carol Rohl, performed Gordon's song, "Isle au Haut Lullaby," some particular phrases of which really resonated for me:

Give sadness to the stars
And sorrow to the seas...

Sleep now, the moon is high,
And the wind blows cold;
For you are sad and young
And the sea is old.

Bleak but oddly comforting images as the wind roars outside, whipping branches in the near-dark, and not far away, the cold waters of Penobscot Bay stretch to the horizon with their burden of islands, an ocean deep enough to swallow any grief.

The widow said she felt like
last night's storm was carrying
her husband away from her.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

November 7: Brisk

A cold wind has been gathering momentum this afternoon as the first wintry storm moves in. Tonight we're expecting snow, rain, and sleet, possibly coastal flooding, with a stiff gale to stir things up and knock it all around some. It's just after 5:00 p.m. and, dusk long past, the darkness sits heavy outside the window. I sit here alone, bracing myself to open the door and step out into the chilling energy of a stormy night.

Cold snap
a slap in the face.
Restless in the dark.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

November 6: Election Day

Unless you've been living as a hermit in a cave for the past six months or more, you cannot have escaped the intrusive media frenzy that is election season. Now the day of reckoning is upon us. I voted early via absentee ballot, so did not participate this year in what I usually find to be a heartening community event, greeting friends and acquaintances in the fire station as we wait in line to carry out our civic duty. Even the town ballot issues seemed divisive this year. But in a way I wish I'd waited to vote in person, because instead of having at least that morning uplift of playing my tiny role in the democratic process, I've been anxious all day long hoping things turn out OK on the local, state, and national levels.

Only the birds coming to my feeder have provided adequate distraction. I'm trying a new bird seed and they seem to like it. A nuthatch returned several times, as did a female cardinal. And a squirrel made a few failed attempts to scale the building to reach the feeders. I got up and watched it for a while after it gave up and foraged in the grass for spilled seed instead. The sun shone on its fur, illuminating a pretty orange streak down its gray back. Its flippant tail looked invitingly soft. For a few moments, I simply admired that squirrel and didn't worry about a thing.

Election day anxiety.
Not to be a squirrel,
but to have such simple desires--

Monday, November 5, 2012

November 5: First snow

The first few flakes of snow were falling this morning, barely visible, but a sign that we're on the cusp of the cold season. Meanwhile, a birder friend made a morning trip to Sebasticook Lake to see if he could relocate a white pelican found there yesterday. (American White Pelican is a very rare species in Maine--this one undoubtedly ended up here thanks to Sandy.) He was successful, finding not only a new "state bird"--the first of this species he had seen in Maine--but also the first pelican he'd observed while snow was falling.

Snow falling on pelican.
Climate change:
things fall apart.

November 4: Urban birding

Joined two friends for a day of birding in Portland. They know the area well and were familiar with all the pockets of vacant lots, community gardens, and patches of woods along city trails like the Eastern Promenade. Also, Portland being on a peninsula meant we had opportunities for scanning the water. It was a different kind of birding than I usually do, particularly one stretch along West Commercial St., a wasteland which, in warmer weather, is clearly a refuge for many homeless people. Piles of clothing, tarps, and, more heartbreakingly, toys lay scattered in various clearings below a bluff on which sit several large, well-kept houses. It was a surreal experience to witness this evidence of social drama while walking the trails in search of birds, and I found it somewhat challenging at times to focus on birds.

We did come across some interesting birds in this area, including a flock of Hermit Thrushes lingering later into the season than expected. The highlight, however, was a Barred Owl that flew through the woods to land right in front of us. It perched there as we watched it, occasionally giving us a glance, but otherwise, we might not even have been there.

Sodden toys and clothing
scattered in the woods
under owl's dark eyes.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

November 3: Lapwing

Spent a good part of today with good birding buddies "chasing" a rarity in southern Maine. A lapwing was reported at a sod farm in Berwick. This funky-looking bird is a common resident of Europe. One has ended up in Maine only a few times before, ever. None of us think of ourselves as chasers; we prefer to find whatever we happen to find when we're out and about. But this was too cool a bird to pass up.
 
When we arrived, the bird had flown. We spent several hours wandering around the green sod fields under a wide blue November sky mottled with clouds. A large flock of Horned Larks shifted closer, their tinkling songs audible over the wind and the chatter of birders. Other birder friends appeared, turning the event into an even more social outing. By the time we left, we figured out that the number of birders looking for the lapwing equaled the number of species seen. The lapwing never returned. But it was all good.
 
We speak of "need."
What we received:
blue sky, larks, laughter.

Friday, November 2, 2012

November 2: Day of the Dead

Thinking of loved ones who have passed on while watching the morning sun appear over my neighbors' roof. A red cardinal visits my feeder as I sit here lost in reverie, refocusing my attention to the present.
 
Wan sun rising over
rotting leaves, yellowed hostas.
Cardinal arrives.
 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

November 1: Mountainside

Driving home with the softly arching curve of Mount Battie silhouetted against the deep blue sky of early evening...
 
Topography--
I want to caress
Earth's soft forms.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

October 31: Halloween lights

The guy at the end of our street elaborately decorates his house for every holiday. It's a local tradition to drive by, especially at Christmas when he goes all out. Halloween night was no exception, of course. When I drove past this evening, the cloud-wreathed just-past-full moon (upper right in the photo below) shone above his lurid pumpkins and ghosts. It made for an interesting contrast, so I pulled over to properly take it all in.


Moon a calm eye
looking down on our antics,
undaunted by fluorescence.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

October 30: Flood

Since childhood I've had recurring nightmares about water--rogue waves about to carry me under, storms creating waves so high they creep up over the bank and across the lawn to carry away my grandparents' house, roads or paths flooded and impassable so I'm stranded with water all around me... You'd think that since I'm a water sign, a Pisces, I'd have a better subconscious relationship with water. But no.

So when I was looking at photos this morning of the flooding and destruction caused by Sandy in New Jersey and New York--cars completely submerged on city streets, houses surrounded by waves, impossibly high waves crashing over sea walls onto shorefront houses, commuter tunnels filled to the top with water--it was like seeing my worst dreams come to life. The images produced such a visceral reaction in me, I had to stop looking. My heart goes out to those people for whom such images are not just bad dreams but reality. And as I listen to the rain fall--nothing torrential, no high winds--I am tremendously grateful to have had it so easy here on the Maine coast, and that all those I love are safe.

It all washes away
so easily.

 

Monday, October 29, 2012

October 29: Entrainment

Hurricane Sandy, Extra-tropical Storm Sandy, Big Huge Storm Sandy, or whatever you want to call it,  is headed our way after already wreaking havoc on the mid-Atlantic states on up. When a big storm system moves through during a migration season, some birders get excited, anticipating unusual southern--even tropical--species blown off course. Pelicans and boobies end up off the coast of Maine; seabirds end up far inland. If you and yours are safe and sound post-storm, that can be one of the most interesting times to be out birding. If this kind of storm watching appeals to you, eBird offers more specific information.

In reading on eBird about how this storm may affect various types of birds, I've learned a few things. Strong storm winds may displace birds--blowing around or concentrating large flocks, knocking pelagic birds inland, for example. Or birds may get caught up in the calm eye of the storm, especially one as large as Sandy, and get carried thousands of miles north along with the weather. That's how we end up with tropicbirds in Massachusetts. That's entrainment.

This song describes Van Morrison's definition of "entrainment." It seems to differ slightly from the ornithological definition. But the concept, however one thinks of it, has tremendous poetic potential.

Calm amid passion's swirl
yet still carried away,
dropped on a strange shore.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

October 28: Late start

Typing today's post while still in bed under my quilt and comforter, cat at my side...

Some mornings as I lie here with the shade drawn--so I can't see if the sun's shining--I hear the river just outside and think the roar of all that water must be rain falling. And that thought makes me want to stay in the cocoon comfort of my warm bed and sleep the day away...

River sounds like rain.
I'm tempted to stay in bed
all morning.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

October 27: Hunting season

Today was opening day for deer hunting season for Maine residents. As a friend and I drove early this beautiful morning to a class in Lewiston, we saw several pick-up trucks parked alongside misty fields through which one might expect to see deer wander at dawn. We also passed one hunter in camo and blaze orange, carrying a shot gun. An old Maine tradition continues.

Opening day:
blue sky, sun on leaves,
hunters wishing for snow.

October 26: Guacamole

Dinner with good friends at another favorite restaurant, El Camino in Brunswick. For starters, home-made chips, salsa, and guacamole. Squash and peppers tacos for dinner. Chocolate and chili pot de creme and maple flan for dessert. We discussed what three foods we'd want to have on a desert island, and I was reminded of a winter when I spent a month camping in the Sonoran desert of Arizona and practically lived on tortilla chips and guacamole we made each day from good, fresh, inexpensive local avocadoes (and special Coronas from right over the border).

If stranded on a desert island
one food I'd wish with me:
fresh guacamole with tortilla chips.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

October 25: Witch-hazel

On a short lunch break walk through the woods along the river, we came upon a flowering witch-hazel tree. No, this is not some confused tree adversely affected by global climate change. This fall bloomer is right on schedule, its small, yellow-green flowers emerging from the tree's slender, bare branches almost magically, life sprouting from something seemingly dead (or at least dormant). The branches are also ornamented by what must be last year's dried seed pods, little cupped wings.

To come upon this tree in fall, blossoming when everything around it, even its own foliage, is fallen and dying--is perhaps the one, last saving grace of autumn. A hurricane is due next week that will take care of any bright and lingering leaves, and then it's the long, dark slide into winter...
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
There's no bravery
in these late-blooming flowers--
that's just what they do.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

October 24: Moon over the bay

The Chamber of Commerce's Business After Hours were hosted by Point Lookout Resort this evening. The Summit Center of the resort is perched atop Ducktrap Mountain in Northport, which I think offers the best panoramic view of Penobscot Bay in the Midcoast. When I arrived tonight, I hurried outside to the patio first thing to snap a photo of the view still rosy with the last tints of sunset. And there was the moon, looking down on all those islands, the deep blue waters of the bay, and all of us standing out there absorbing the beauty.  

View of Penobscot Bay from Ducktrap Mountain
Waxing moon tugs
at the bay, tugs on
our inner horizons.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

October 23: Glow

Dusk was falling as I was leaving work tonight--the sky above still deep blue streaked with thin clouds, but the woods around me all dark except for the windows of houses across the river...

Hazy half moon.
Birch trunks glowing,
and beyond, one window.

Monday, October 22, 2012

October 22: Getting something off my chest

Still worn out from this lingering cold, I left work early, turned on the heating pad, and stretched out on the couch under my faux fur blanket for a necessary nap. I awoke to find our cat lying on my chest, facing me like an inscrutable sphinx. Purring, she licked my chin. She stretched out one soft paw around my neck. For a moment I entertained the thought that she was cuddling up with me out of sympathy, to comfort me. Then I realized that I must have slept through till her dinnertime, when I'd normally be coming home from work. This was confirmed when she began gently chirping at me. She has successfully conditioned my husband to respond to this every morning by waking up and feeding her. I had no problem ignoring her because all I wanted to do was fall back asleep. My "comforter" eventually jumped off me to wait for my husband to come home and feed her.

Comforting nonetheless,
hungry cat on my chest,
tail flicking.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

October 21: Chairlift ride

Rode the chairlift up Ragged Mountain this morning with my friend Janet so we could fully appreciate the fall foliage from on high, as it were. The Camden Snow Bowl is apparently the only ski area from which one has an ocean view. This time of year, when the surrounding forest is burnished gold and copper, the deep blue autumn bay shines in beautiful contrast.
View from just above the chairlift station, looking down Lookout
The highlight of the outing for me, besides the glowing landscape, was watching (and listening to) a pair of ravens circling the summit. Also, we unexpectedly came upon a little garter snake crossing a ski trail, undoubtedly on its way to a sunny ledge. But the real surprise was when we were back down the mountain, heading for the car. Behind one of the maintenance buildings I heard a singing phoebe. I think the warmth of this sunny day must have confused him into thinking it was spring.

Bald Mountain, as viewed from the Ragged Mountain chairlift

Phoebe's out-of-season song
makes the day feel warmer
than it really is.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

October 20: Long walk

Participated in Rotary's End Polio walk today, about six miles from Lincolnville Beach into downtown Camden. This morning before we started out, torrential rain--but it stopped before we began the walk, so we were just fogged in. As the walkers spread out, the ones up ahead were almost invisible in the mist. Then the fog became more, well, precipitous. It began raining again, though fortunately just a constant drizzle, not like this morning's downpour. And at least it was relatively warm. The constant motion helped too. By the time we finished up, I felt pleasantly invigorated. The rain on my face, the camaraderie of a shared cause, the bright, wet foliage we'd passed by, the tingling in my leg muscles--after being sick for four days, I needed that. 

She should have known
not to wear mascara
for a long walk in the rain.

(Lest anyone get the wrong idea, this is not about myself but a friend I walked with, one of those women who won't appear in public without make-up on and who spent much of the walk wiping it off with her rain-soaked sleeve.)

Friday, October 19, 2012

October 19: Floating leaf

When I looked out the window first thing this morning, I noticed a red leaf paused in the air, floating against the white door of the shed. It took me a moment to realize that the leaf wasn't frozen in space or time, but caught in a spider web.

Red leaf stuck in a web.
My in-laws trapped a fox
in their backyard.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

October 18: Carrying eggs

Feeling ill with an incipient cold, I went into work this morning only because I had to; the committee I co-chair was having its monthly meeting. But I fully intended to come home right after the meeting and go back to bed. Well, as things go, I felt a little better as the morning wore on and then got caught up in things, so I ended up working the whole day. Now that I'm home, however, the cold is catching up with me--sore throat, headache, achey joints. Whine and sniffle. It's just a cold, but some days the body just feels so over-sensitive, so fragile. I want to tell it to just toughen up already, a cold virus is nothing; does mind over matter ever work? Instead, I just take more cold meds and huddle on the couch.

A dozen fresh eggs.
I carry them gingerly,
aware of my own fragile shell.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

October 17: Quarry

This morning I participated in a Land Trust outing at the Simonton Quarry Preserve in Rockport. This property is currently owned by the Nature Conservancy, but we've managed it for many years. Still, this was my first visit, in part because quarries give me the creeps. Those impenetrable black depths... given all the junk that gets left on the property in plain sight, who knows what might be down there in that water, or how deep? Today our findings were innocuous--beer bottles and a big TV face-down in cattails, dumped off the back wall of the first quarry.

Walking around the edges of the quarries was sometimes challenging, and I felt an irrational fear that I was going to trip on something I couldn't see, fall from atop one of the sheer cliff walls of this depthless crater, and end up in that cold, dark water. But that didn't stop me from scrambling up the rocks with the others to get a sense of these strange, man-made water bodies, which twisted back into the woods beyond our sight.

The quarries are a historic remnant of Rockport's past as a center for lime production. Limestone was quarried and then shipped by train to the big kilns on the waterfront. We found abutments of cut stone and old cement pads where machinery had once poised. Across the road from the quarries, flanking Goose River, several tailings piles cobbled the woods with randomly strewn, sharp-angled, loose rocks that were a challenge to walk over.

Amid the awkward human landscape, spots of wild beauty: bright green foliose lichen growing like an arboreal lettuce patch on some tree trunks, twisted old apple trees, little ruby-crowned kinglet acrobatically exploring a birch tree, great blue heron flying down river. Climbing atop the highest tailings pile afforded a great view of nearby farm fields and fall-tinged trees along the river. And the others in the group spotted a fish in one of the quarries, which I was intrigued by. How did it get there? Were there others, or was it alone in that vast, carved stone bucket of black water?

Yellow leaves floating
on water the deep black
of dilated pupils.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

October 16: Last light

At day's end the sun finally appeared long enough to cast its golden, dying light onto the west-facing slope of Mount Battie. Scraps of blue sky appeared, orange leaves began to shine. And a cardinal chipped and chipped from somewhere out of sight, shy bird, no doubt pecking at bird seed on the ground below the bird feeders.

Cardinal's chip intensifies
as the day's last glow
fades from the mountainside.

Monday, October 15, 2012

October 15: Spray of sparrows

Sparrows still linger in the fields and along the roadside. As I was driving today, sparrows scattered on either side of my car, their plumage blending perfectly with the sepias, ochres, and umbers of the weedy verge. They're subtly gathering the season's last fruits, the seeds of withering grasses and wildflowers. How close, this time of year, the convergence of beauty and mortality.  

As my car passes, 
spray of late-season sparrows. 
A friend's mother has died.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

October 14: Lost in a book

Spent a good part of this rainy day reading a novel, a murder mystery by Norwegian author Jo Nesbø, one of my favorites. Without giving anything away, I can say it's one of the more devastating books that I've read recently. So it was with some relief that when I finished this tragic book, set in the darker corners of chilly Oslo, the view out the window somewhat eased my mind: maple leaves edged with orange, back lawn a mosaic of colorful leaves across which a fat squirrel carries an acorn, and the river smoothly flowing past.

Hunter's orange leaves
offset the bleakness
of rain-soaked trunks.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

October 13: Caterpillar

This morning I went for my first run in at least six months. You could hardly call it a run, given that I moved very slowly for a very short distance. But I wore my new running shoes, the expensive ones my physical therapist encouraged me to buy as incentive to start running again, and I didn't overdo it. It's very hard for me to begin at Square One all over again with an activity I used to be really good at; I don't have a lot of patience for what will probably be months of rebuilding my strength and lung capacity. But forcing myself to take it easy gave me the opportunity to focus on what was going on around me: red squirrel scolding in the woods along the river, robins feeding in a crabapple, a squash garden killed by last night's frost, the perfect cloudlessness of the blue sky on this crisp fall day.

Didn't step on
the caterpillar in the road.
Thought it was a turd.

Friday, October 12, 2012

October 12: Freeze warning

The National Weather Alert for tonight is for temperatures below freezing. It is mid-October, after all, so this is to be expected. But that chilly blast every time someone opens the front door reminds me how, even though I love living in a boreal habitat, with its mountains, spruces, and warblers, I really don't enjoy the cold.

Tonight my husband, whom I haven't seen much of lately, and I are going out to dinner at Primo, probably our favorite restaurant in Maine. My hope is that the calorie intake from tonight's meal--and resulting added fat cells--will compensate for the inverse drop in air temperature. I'm working on my own personal insulation layer.

Today at the feeders a big flurry of birds--chickadees, titmice, house finches--chowed down sunflower seeds as if, aware of the imminent cold snap, they wanted to stuff in as much as they could to help them survive the cold, dark night. Calories can mean life or death when you're a bird.

To eat like a bird
is not always
a dainty thing.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

October 11: Hard rain

Last night's storm began with such a loud rumble of thunder that I actually opened the front door in alarm, thinking that maybe a landslide was rolling down the side of Mount Battie. Then I kept the (inside) door open so that the cat and I could both watch, fascinated, the torrential downpour that seemed to instantly fill the streets with rushing rivers of rain. Rain roared on the roof, slackened, then pounded some more, its drama providing a recurring frisson throughout the evening.

Streets washed clean--
catharsis, after
rainstorm's violence.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

October 10: Toast

Home alone, making toast for dinner. Sometimes just a little thing will send me back to childhood...

My grandmother used to
cut my buttered toast
into "soldiers."

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

October 9: Chrysanthemum

Some of the neighborhood maple trees suffer from a blight that leaves black spots all over the leaves--which unfortunately makes them a lot less attractive this time of year when they're falling all over the lawn. One fell atop a pot of chrysanthemums in my front yard, and I was struck by how much this one poor leaf marred the simple beauty of the flowers.

Blight-mottled leaf
hides the chrysanthemum:
censorship.

Monday, October 8, 2012

October 8: Brussels sprouts

Yesterday I experienced the birder's nirvana of spending the day on Monhegan Island after a "fallout," when thousands of birds were crawling all over the island. Palm Warblers were bobbing on lawns and all over Lobster Cove beach, catching sand fleas in the wrack. Black-throated Blue Warblers had invaded Fish Beach. Yellow-rumped warblers were bouncing like popcorn amid the spruce stands. And at one point we stopped to admire a vegetable garden and were delighted to see a Black-throated Green Warbler hopping in the bright green lettuce and a Magnolia Warbler perched in the Brussels sprouts.

Later, a mother and her young son were also observing the garden, although not to watch the birds like we had. I heard the mother explaining to the boy how to find the Brussels sprouts on the thick, leafy stalks. Because, let's face it, Brussels sprouts are weird-looking plants and it's hard to figure out exactly how those mini cabbages actually grow.

Today Beth's Farmstand in Warren boasted a large crop of Brussels sprouts, one of my husband's favorite vegetables.

They'd also posted a lengthy explanation of what to do with this strange foodstuff: 
"When prepared properly they are gourmet."
I'm personally not all that fond of Brussels sprouts to eat (unless someone makes them "gourmet" for me--Pai Men Miyake in Portland offers my favorite). I simply find them fascinating to look at, particularly when migrating warblers are involved.

Brussels sprouts' knobby stalks.
Delicate grace
of a foraging warbler.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

October 7: Falling leaves

A gust of wind has shaken loose a tree-full of yellow leaves, now slowly swirling down in a mesmerizing flurry over the backyard. It's as if we were in a giant autumn snow globe, but with leaves instead of snow flakes.

Cat wants to chase them all,
these loosened leaves
outside the window.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

October 6: Fog

A vague memory of hearing the foghorn in the night, and when I wake, the sky is white and Mount Battie's draped in mist.

Birch's yellow leaves glow
within the fog.
I wake slowly.

Friday, October 5, 2012

October 5: Nocturnal flight calls

Overhead last night I could hear in the mist and dark the nocturnal flight calls of migrating birds. I could even identify some of them by species: the peeper-like call of the Swainson's thrush, the distinct chip of the white-throated sparrow. Apparently it was like this Wednesday night, too--birds fleeing southward in large, loud waves--and Monhegan Island experienced an epic fallout Thursay morning of hundreds of birds. A friend out there reported 60 Savannah sparrows on his lawn alone! I wasn't there to see it, alas.

Birds call in the dark.
I long to be
wherever they land.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

October 4: Geese overhead

Here on the river we often see or hear Canada geese, which nest nearby, but this time of year their calls as they fly overhead seem particularly poignant. They aren't actually leaving us--large flocks of geese hang out through most of the winter on nearby farm fields and golf courses. But there's nonetheless something emotionally resonant about the sound that makes me run to a window to try to catch sight of those large birds winging their way across the bleak fall sky, rambling on their minds.

White sky
filled with calls of geese
flying out of sight.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

October 3: Window strike

Despite my best efforts with string and ultraviolet window stickers, something about our office windows, especially in the fall, seems to draw birds in. I hear that sickening thud of a small body hitting a window and then hold my breath as I rush over to see if there's a bird on the ground or not. Today's window strike appeared to be a goldfinch, which fortunately survived. I've held other birds in my hands, tiny little feathered bodies with rapid heartbeats, until they could perch and ultimately fly away, or until they died.

That feeling when
the bird that struck the window
flies away--

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

October 2: Sparrow

Walking into my office this afternoon, I was inordinately pleased to hear the call note of a white-throated sparrow from the bushes that border the lawn. For one brief moment I stepped out of work mode and was back on Monhegan, surrounded by the calls of migrating birds... including many white-throated sparrows.

Such power in the chip
of a sparrow,
to summon memory.

Monday, October 1, 2012

October 1: Maple

Autumn makes its arrival felt, touching trees here and there with color. The maple outside my office window was particularly dazzling this afternoon after the skies cleared and the setting sun backlit the reddening leaves.


Epiphany of fall--
this burning tree,
this sinking sun.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

September 30: Full moon

Rain kept the full moon hidden last night but I felt its influence, a restlessness that kept me awake much too late. I feel a nap coming on this rainy day after.
 
Invisible full moon
still tugs on
our bodies of water.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

September 29: Leaving the island

How will I sleep now
without the lulling rhythm
of the waves?

Friday, September 28, 2012

September 28: Night flight

An ornithologist friend showed us videos he made last night of the waxing moon and the silhouettes of birds moving across its face. You could also hear recognizable flight calls from some of the birds.
 
Even the birds
want to be out
in this moonlight.

September 27: Send off

Someone special was leaving the island, so a chorus of island residents and friends gathered at the wharf to sing her on her way and give her the little bouquets of flowers which tradition dictates must be tossed overboard to ensure you'll return. We too had friends leaving, so it was a jolly parting.
 
Floating petals.
I wave long after
anyone can see me.
 
 
 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

September 19 - September 26: Monhegan escape

I'm on a remote island off the coast of Maine for the fall bird migration, an annual pilgrimage I make in September that's as much about meeting up with old friends and enjoying this beautiful place as it is about the birds. Internet connection and time to write are both intermittent, so here's a set of haiku I've jotted down throughout my stay here thus far:
 

Waves crash all night.
I think of a friend
now lost.
 
Butterfly bush:
yet still surprised to see
so many butterflies.
 
Between broken bottle
and sea glass:
months of wave action.
 
Moonlight
brightening lace curtains
the only light.
 
Crickets loud,
but the surf
is all I hear.
 
Rain falls from the eaves.
The morning
ticks away.
 
Waxwings in viburnum--
to find such
satisfaction.
 
Every yard
harbors a gull or two,
some lame.
 
The key is
to follow
the chickadees.
 
Nuthatch chorus
rings out
in Cathedral Woods.
 
Looking for a spot to pee
I find the hidden patch
of fringed gentians.
 
Thankful the kitten
was only playing
with a rock.
 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

September 18: Harvest

At a friend's farm: tomato vines laden with reddening globes, tight corn cobs sprouting tassles, peppers painted red and green by ripening, pumpkins swelling on the vines, here and there bodies of butternut squashes tan mounds upon the ground, young chickens pecking Japanese beetles in the sunlit yard, a woodpecker spiraling the trunk of the dying pine struck by lightning, and a broad-winged hawk silently passing over the chickadee on the branch...

Garden pregnant
with rounded bodies of squash.
Ripening: sun passing overhead.

Monday, September 17, 2012

September 17: Finch mob

My feeders have been mobbed this weekend by finches, mostly goldfinches and young house finches just beginning to grow in some pink feathers. Working outside I constantly hear their calls--high-pitched, two-note little songs. Even when I can't see them, their voices in the trees give them away, a group of children playing together happily in the next room.
 
Finches' singsong chatter,
sunny morning.
I hum myself.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

September 16: Morning on the harbor

Breakfast at a restaurant on Camden harbor this crisp, sunny morning--a morning on the cusp between summer and fall. Despite the chill, still the schooners head out of harbor, their decks laden with sightseers.

Shifting early light.
Schooner sails out of harbor
into the cold wind.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

September 15: Road race

This morning was Coastal Mountains Land Trust's 4th annual Run for the Hills 10K road race in Belfast. As I was helping to register runners, a small falcon--probably a merlin--flew overhead. A bird known for its speed seemed particularly auspicious.

The finish line was on the Belfast Footbridge over the harbor. While I was there helping the timers, seagulls perched atop a nearby waterfront building kept flying up in big scattered flocks against the backdrop of blue sky--like a scene from "The Birds" but without the scary, "they're attacking us" part.

Fanfare of feathers
greets runners after six miles.
And, ah, the harbor!

Friday, September 14, 2012

September 14: Phoebe

While there's an autumn nip in the air, the photo period right now is similar to that in spring. And indeed, I've noticed a few things that have made me think of spring. Spring peepers, for example, were peeping away on Fernalds Neck a few days ago. Dandelions have made a tentative reappearance in my front yard. And today, the phoebe was back outside my window after a long absence, chirping repeatedly in the bayberry bush the same way it does when it first returns in March.

Phoebe returns. But
lush green canopy reminds
me it's summer's end.

September 13: Late night

After attending a gala in Portland, my husband and I arrived home long past our bedtime last night, so tired that it was all we could do to register how beautiful the sky was as we headed inside to sleep.

Home too late to appreciate
the clear night sky,
its spread of stars.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

September 12: Sapsucker

Visited one of the Land Trust preserves where volunteers are helping to build new bridge out of logs hewn on-site. While four guys toiled away with hammers and drills in a manly fashion, sweating and swearing, I watched a young male yellow-bellied sapsucker peck his way up a tree, slowly and quietly garnering a meal.

Four men roll logs, drill
holes, hammer spikes. Overhead,
sapsucker's soft taps.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

September 11: Chill

Suddenly it's feeling like fall around here. I've been shivering all day, despite wearing full-length pants and socks for the first time in a few months. I just grabbed another sweater. Yet the golden sunshine of late afternoon glows deeply, filtering through the still-green leaves.

Bundled in sweaters,
mocked by the day's
last rich glow.

Monday, September 10, 2012

September 10: Crows at Dawn

Most morning the crows wake me just as it starts to get light. Their caw is different then, flatter, just three notes. A wake-up call for the neighborhood, perhaps? Or roll call, so each family member can check in with the flock--"I've survived the night"?

For a few moments, I'm pensive, pondering the mind of the crow. Then I fall back asleep.

Crows cawing
sound different
at the crack of dawn.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

September 9: Sports Sunday

Except for a brief stint observing a wave of birds moving through the backyard this morning, I have to confess that I spent most of the day as a total couch potato. But how could I not? The Patriots opened their season kicking butt against the Titans, their offense and defense firing on all pistons. Then Serena Williams battled Victoria Azarenka to win an epic US Open championship. There's nothing like sitting around eating popcorn and chocolate while really buff athletes display their physical prowess in their various arenas--Hernandez catching that first TD pass from Brady, Azarenka slamming that cross-court shot that even Serena applauded... My heart is racing as if I just ran the length of a football field. I'll get to that tomorrow...

Completed pass.
The various ways
we seek satisfaction.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

September 8: Red-bellied woodpecker

A poet friend writes, "Haiku is the art of meaning what you don't say." My flaw as a haiku poet is I'm too narrative-minded. My impulse as a writer is to tell stories, make the connections between what I'm experiencing and what I'm feeling so the reader can be there with me. I think I need a lot more practice before I'll actually write what a true haiku practitioner would consider a good haiku. It's such a challenge to present the moment and let it stand alone, be what it is and not impose myself on it further. Today's poem is not successful in that way. But there it is.

*

Red-bellied woodpeckers, while very common in southern states, were relatively rare in Maine until an incursion of hundreds of birds in fall 2005. Now they seem to be here to stay, and I occasionally encounter one in my neighborhood. This week I heard one calling nearby twice, but haven't seen it yet this summer. It still seems so strange to me, to hear this bird I encounter regularly in Florida here in my own yard.

Global climate change has done more than just shift weather patterns. It's been slowly but surely pushing southern bird species northward, where our many bird feeders also help keep them here. Fifty years ago, there were no mourning doves here, no cardinals or titmice. Thirty years ago or so, I remember seeing my first turkey vulture in this area. Red-bellies are just one of many even more recent arrivals.

Red-bellied woodpecker calling.
Absorbing this humid air
I think of melting ice caps.

Friday, September 7, 2012

September 6: Windmill

Driving to Belfast past the old farms on Route 52 early this evening...

Windmill slowly spins.
Six geese land
in the old cow pasture.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

September 6: Pine Siskin

For the past few days at least one pine siskin, a bird I usually only see in winter, has been hanging out at my window feeder. I'm hoping its arrival is not a sign that winter's coming early, but just the random wanderings of a juvenile finch.

One errant siskin
and now I'm wearing sweaters,
looking at the sky.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

September 5: Diversity

We live in an eclectic neighborhood. We've got the old mill houses renovated by arty people who cultivate beautiful gardens and sit around on their back porches at night playing various musical instruments, soaking in their hot tubs, or practicing yoga, a pocket of boring spec houses built a few years ago, a small trailer park with a surprising number of children, dogs, and cigarette smokers, a 90+-year-old neighbor with a yapping chihuahua, a vacation rental across the street that changes tenants every week next to a small house inhabited by an aggressively athletic family of seven, and the river slowly curving at our backs...

Change of seasons--
one neighbor plays jazz loudly,
another polishes a snowmobile.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

September 4: Cranes and vultures

Attended an exhibit at the Camden Public Library tonight showing the work of two bird photographer friends, Karl Gerstenberger and Keith Carver. They have traveled around the country together photographing birds, including a couple of trips to Bosque del Apache NWR in New Mexico to shoot the snow geese and sandhill cranes that gather there in fall. As I stood there admiring a photograph of two cranes in flight, I was reminded that this morning, when I pulled into work, a kettle of 16 turkey vultures was soaring over the river. Not quite as dramatic as a flock of trumpeting sandhill cranes, but one of those cool bird moments nonetheless.

Sixteen soaring vultures.
Do they, like cranes,
bring good fortune, long life?