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...
I want to caress
Earth's soft forms.