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.
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
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?

Monday, September 3, 2012

September 3: Shorebirds

Weskeag salt marsh in late summer: hum of crickets, rich sunlight, silvery flocks of shorebirds sifting through the salt pannes as the tide ebbs. The piercing cries of the sandpipers and plovers this time of year are so bittersweet, speaking to us of summer's end and imminent loss. The transience of things, and yet the cycle of life--gone too soon, but back in the spring.

Traditional Japanese poetry often referenced the plover (plover is "chidori" in Japanese--a word that must be onomatopoetic, sounding as it does like the bird's piping call). Yet in almanacs of Japanese season words, or "kigo," the plover is a winter word, as in this poem by Ki no Tsurayuki (translated by Kenneth Rexroth):

Heart overwhelmed with love,
I hurried through the winter night
To the home of my beloved,
The wind on the river was so cold
The plovers cried out in pain.

Those were not the plovers we saw and heard today on the marsh, where the sun warmed the yellowing reeds and mummichugs churned in algae-clouded pools. Today's plovers embodied, for us, a longing for summer to last just a few more weeks.

Stirred by shorebirds' piping cries,
we face fall's chill

Sunday, September 2, 2012

September 2: Riverside dining

On our way home today from our overnight in the big city (Portland, ME), after stocking up at the only Trader Joe's in our state, we decided to hit our favorite seafood restaurant for a late lunch/early dinner. The Slipway, perched on the scenic St. George River, is only about 20 minutes from our house. Not only does it offer excellent food--we enjoyed tuna tartare, grilled local squid, fried local oysters, corn-on-the-cob, salad, handcut fries, and an amazing piece of coconut cream pie--but the atmosphere is pure Maine. Our table looked out onto the river, where gulls fed as the tidal waters slowly receded, sailboats bobbed on their moorings, and fishing boats waited at dock. To see this view, we had to look through flowering runner beans and other late summer blooms, past the restaurant's pier, where we'd have been dining in warmer weather. Inside, the walls were bedecked with vases of sunflowers and colorful buoys hanging from the ceiling in a way that felt artful, not tacky. Probably even more so than when we were in Portland, we felt like we were on holiday and enjoying every minute.

Gulls probe the flats.
We too enjoy
the fruits of the sea.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

September 1: Night out in Portland

My husband and I came down to Portland today to walk around the Old Port and have dinner at Petite Jacqueline, a bistro on Longfellow Square to which we'd been given a gift certificate. As we walked to the restaurant this evening past a gas station, a 7-11 with sketchy characters smoking outside, a Rite Aid drugstore outside of which a man was yelling things to passers-by, etc., we could see the moon rising, hovering over the dirty street and the lights of cars and restaurants and traffic signals, distant but somehow outshining them all.

Full moon shines
just as brightly
over the 7-11.