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'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.