Thursday, February 28, 2013

February 28: Red

Cardinal flying in the fog
on a bleak afternoon.
There is yet color in this world.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

February 27: Hunger Moon

The February full moon of two days ago was referred to by some native tribes as the Snow Moon or the Hunger Moon. Hunger Moon especially makes sense, because this is about the point of winter when it gets harder for creatures living off the land to find food and stave off the seemingly ceaseless cold and snow.

In the snow under my feeders I noticed today tracks of mice, squirrels, and crows gleaning the seeds that the messy Blue Jays spilled. Taking what they can get. Many of us feel a certain hunger for something intangible this time of year, that restlessness for spring to begin to regain control of the landscape again, a renewal of faith in the cycle of seasons. As the effects of global climate change manifest themselves more dramatically, we're going to need that faith more than ever in days to come.

Wind howling,
tracks in the snow.
Dark hunger of need.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

February 26: Last night, Full Moon

Full moon casts
long shadows
across the deep snow.

Monday, February 25, 2013

February 25: Morning shoveling

The weekend's snow storm did not extinguish the ardor of some birds, as I heard this morning while shoveling out the path to my office. A strange contrast, to be standing in shin-deep snow while chickadees are singing songs more appropriate to spring. The blue sky perhaps served as an aphrodisiac.

Chickadee's love song
as I begin to shovel
through deep snow.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

February 24: Curling

We spent several hours at the Belfast Curling Club today learning how to curl. Our instruction barely scratched the surface, because curling is much more challenging both physically and strategically than we'd ever imagined. But eight of us had a lot of fun sliding ourselves and the stones around on the ice, furiously sweeping, directing, and cheering each other on.

Learning how it's done
Learning how to sweep

Stones and ice--
simple tools for a complex game.
Laughter also essential.

February 23: Cheese

At dinner at Fromviandoux, a recent addition to Camden's restaurant scene, we shared a cheese plate with another couple. I don't remember what two of the three cheeses were, because I fell in love with one of them at first bite: Lakin's Gorges Prix de Diane, a creamy soft, Brie-like cheese made locally from organic cow's milk.

The Lakin's Gorges website describes it like this: "A divine, bloomy rind cheese with a velvety white rind and a pate of pale yellow that darkens to rich yellow and gets more runny near the rind as it ages. A bouquet of milk and hints of citrus."

Bouquet of milk
blooms on the tongue--
dreamy creaminess.

Yes, apparently even cheese can be sensual...

Friday, February 22, 2013

February 22: Sushi

Back at Suzuki's tonight for the annual family celebration of my dad's and my birthdays, which are three days apart. Much hot sake was enjoyed, along with dumplings, edamame, and various forms of raw fish with rice.

Uni is sea urchin roe, a seasonal delicacy fresh from local waters.

Intimacy of uni--
mouthful of tears,
mouthful of our bay.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

February 21: Prayer flags

Ripped down by wind
prayer flags hang inside,
silenced yet still bright.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

February 20: Birthday Robins

Some years on my birthday I've tried to see the number of species that equal my age. The older I get, the less easy it has been to approach this goal--especially given that my birthday falls during a time of year when it's not easy to find 20 species, let alone a number in the high 40s. Today I didn't even try.

But I did experience a cool bird moment. My friend Brian and I hiked up Beech Hill in Rockport and spent the entire walk virtually surrounded by robins. We first noticed a big cluster of them--we counted close to 50--feeding in a patch of sumacs. Then when we got to the stone hut at the summit, we observed them in the field below us which the wind had swept clear of snow, carrying on that "walking and listening" thing that they do in our yards in the spring and summer. Granted some patches of ground were soft and had clearly thawed, but there couldn't have been much in the way of worms to be found.

As we walked back down the hill, we were in a sense following the flock as they flew around us to a lower, cleared field, clucking and making soft trilling sounds. We noticed a tight cluster of about a dozen huddled together under a trailhead kiosk, kicking at piles of dead leaves. I'm sure they were getting lucky finding caterpillars and grubs that seek winter shelter among the leaf litter. As we approached this kinetic flock, it circled around and flew back up the hill to renew its progression through the fields and wooded edges.

American Robin perched on remnants of the historic stone gate at Beech Hill, Rockport.  Photo by Brian Willson.

Winter robins' breasts so red
in the barren fields.
I think of my heart.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

February 19: Elephants

My mom took my two young nieces and I to Hope Elephants this morning to see Rosie and Opal, a pair of beautiful old circus elephants who have been retired to a farm here in coastal Maine to be given a unique form of water therapy and rehabilitation for joint issues. They are 41 and 43 respectively, and their wrinkled heads and and wide-open, intense eyes lent them the full wisdom of age. The educator at the farm told us that an elephant is one of the few animals that can recognize itself in the mirror. Maybe because my birthday's coming up, I couldn't help but wonder if they look older to themselves now than they used to.

Watching two old elephants--
tomorrow I will be older
than either of them.

February 18: More wind

Wind so fierce, so loud,
all creative thoughts
are blown away.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

February 17: Gale

Winds loud as surf.
No wonder I dreamt
of flood tides.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

February 16: Sunrise

Thanks to social media, we were able to see a friend's photo of this morning's bright sunrise while the skies over here on the back side of Mount Battie were still dim and gray. However, as we drove out of town shortly thereafter, we managed to catch a quick glimpse of the rising red orb itself and a pink flush spreading through the sky, over the bay... before it all disappeared behind the trees.

A look so intense,
I have to turn away.
Red sun rising.

Friday, February 15, 2013

February 15: Lengthening days

Daylight lingering now
as I leave work.
Last chickadees feeding.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

February 14: Valentine's Day

Composed as we were driving home from our Valentine's Day dinner out...

Reclining in her bed
on Valentine's Day--
crescent moon.

The menu from the restaurant where my husband and I dined tonight featured even better poetry to capture the essence of the evening, during which we dined on North Haven oysters, scallops carpaccio, and an omakase assortment for two. Sushi is such a sensual meal.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

February 13: Inside/outside

After an afternoon of closed-door committee meetings, the air in the conference room at work was  over-warm and a bit stale. So by the time I joined the day's last meeting at 4:00, a window was cracked open. (After all, it was above freezing outside--virtually tropical compared to last week.) Sitting there, I picked up an odd sound behind the chatter of lively discussion going on around me. It took me a minute or so to realize it was chickadees, queuing up outside in the bushes that run along the front of the building to where my bird feeders are. This was their usual late afternoon final pass at the feeders, but it's been so long since there's been a window open, it was almost surprising to hear how noisy they were--audible even over all the noisy humans gabbing away inside.

Gossipers around
the water cooler--chickadees
outside, us inside.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

February 12: Ice

Last night's slush and rain was frozen on every ground surface first thing this morning, making for some treacherous walking. The birds flitting to and from the feeders taunted us with their ease of movement.

Patch of open water--
a reminder
that ice doesn't last.

Monday, February 11, 2013

February 11: At work

During a serious meeting
we all pause
to watch a cardinal.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

February 10: Blue sky, white snow

Today couldn't have dawned more differently from yesterday's howling blizzard that created monster snow drifts and shook limbs off trees. Sunshine, blue sky, double-digit temperatures, and shining white snow to play in made it a day to be outside.

I spent most of my time outside helping to park cars for the US National Toboggan Championships at the Camden Snow Bowl, which because of the storm was condensed from a weekend event to a one-day event. I can't imagine a livelier place to have been, with the costumed toboggan racers, festive atmosphere, and snow-covered mountains. A boom box out on the ice blasted disco music, and people had built ice-fishing shacks and igloos from which to host on-ice parties. After a day trapped inside by the storm, the whole community seemed really happy to be able to romp in the snow and cut loose together.

Eagle soaring past again--
perhaps it too rejoices
in the wide open blue sky.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

February 9: Blizzard aftermath

This was one of the biggest snow storms I've ever experienced in Maine. My car was so completely buried under a snow drift, I couldn't even shovel it out myself--the snow was piled too high! The wind still roars, blowing loose snow around, undoing all our work to clear out the house and cars. Fallen branches peak from beneath finely sculpted drifts. Peaks and valleys of snow have transformed the landscape. At the feeders, goldfinches, chickadees, and house finches pecked through snow to get at the seed, then sat there eating, out of the wind, as long as they could.

Ice coats a finch's face--
she seems unbothered by it
while she feeds.

Friday, February 8, 2013

February 8: Creaking trees

Walking home from work in a moment of relative calm during today's snowstorm, I heard what I thought was a woodpecker tapping at a tree. I paused to listen more carefully and realized it was a tree creaking in the wind. 

Trees sway in storm winds,
tap out their messages.
Wonder what they're saying. 

Just thinking in broader terms of human conversation, on a more philosophical level, it made me realize that we can never really know if we're understanding what someone else is saying. And the farther we're removed from them by medium of communication--email, letter, text message, writing them a poem, passing along a verbal message through a third party--the more room there is for misinterpretation. Those are my deep thoughts from amid what's supposed to be a serious blizzard. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

February 7: Big Dipper

Driving home from an evening meeting tonight, the Big Dipper rose above the road, standing on the end of its handle.

Big Dipper tipped up--
the whole night sky
spilling out over the fields.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

February 6: Supplication

Wan sunlight,
bare branches reach upward,
sap stilled, buds tight.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

February 5: Downtown eagle

I was in the middle of the crosswalk in downtown Camden's busiest intersection this morning when an adult Bald Eagle soared overhead, white head and tail shining in the sun. I gestured to the driver of the car stopped for me, urging her to look up, and she saw it too. The sighting was even more fun for being shared with a stranger.

Later, at the office, two eagles flew downriver right past our windows. An eagle kind of day.

Eagle flying over Main Street--
sometimes I think
my town is a movie set.

Monday, February 4, 2013

February 4: White goose

My husband and I got up early this morning in order to hit the Rockland breakwater before work--in hopes of seeing a Ross's Goose that has been hanging out there at lower tides amid a flock of Canada Geese. This goose is very similar to the Snow Goose that sometimes passes through this area in late fall/winter, only about half the size. It breeds in the Arctic and usually winters near the Gulf Coast, so this errant bird was a bit off course. We'd never seen one before.

Fortunately when we scanned the water just offshore at the breakwater "beach" this morning, this little white goose was easy to pick out of the crowd, even though all the geese were sleeping. Since we both had to rush off to work, we worried that our only view of this life bird might be as a floating white blob with its head under its wing. But just as we were getting ready to walk back to our cars, it woke up and then briefly stood up out of the water atop a rock, as if to show itself off to us before shortly thereafter drifting back to sleep on the water. Apparently the flock is a drowsy one that early in the morning.

Although not so drowsy that when I returned to my car and then decided five minutes later to go back to the beach with my camera and try to get a photo, I found that the entire flock of about 70 geese had disappeared. Only a spanse of exposed rocks remained. The flock, I found, had shifted to an inlet on other side of the breakwater, and most of the birds were back asleep.

Drifting offshore,
does the sleeping white goose
dream of ice floes?

Can you pick out the little white Ross's Goose?

Sunday, February 3, 2013

February 3: Not seeing

Spent a good part of this morning in the toasty warmth of a house with big windows that look out onto an impressive array of bird feeders. We were there in hopes of seeing a Hoary Redpoll among a flock of Common Redpolls. This big, pale, arctic finch is an infrequent visitor to the coast of Maine, and would have been a life bird for my husband and me. But when we arrived, we heard those painfully familiar words, "It's been here all morning. It was here five minutes ago!" Needless to say, we didn't see the Hoary Redpoll.

We did, however, enjoy these things, which more than made up for not seeing it:

  • prior to redpoll quest--breakfast with friends over which we dawdled happily, perhaps leading to us "just missing" the Hoary;
  • several close views of Common Redpolls, a pretty bird that I don't get many chances to observe closely; 
  • watching "Nature" on PBS on a huge, high def TV in the long breaks between flock visitations;
  • friendly hosts who didn't mind having three people they barely knew sprawled on their living room floor all morning; and 
  • a chance to eat pizza for lunch at The Old Goat in Richmond. 

Sometimes not seeing the bird
brings other things
into closer focus. 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

February 2: Setting moon

Again, woke up much too early, but at least had the pleasure of watching the waning moon (last quarter) setting behind the neighbor's spruce trees, and, as the sky lightened, chickadees making their first darting run through those trees to the feeders.

Even as the sky lightens
setting moon remains bright,
night carried into day.

Friday, February 1, 2013

February 1: Red stars

Last night as I walked to the corner market, the night sky was crystal clear, and I could actually stop and enjoy the spectacle of stars without instantly freezing solid. Directly overhead, the planet Jupiter shone bright, poised above Aldebaran, a red giant star in the V-shaped constellation Taurus. Below Aldebaran, the red giant Betelgeuse hung on the right shoulder (our left) of the constellation Orion the Hunter. Amazing to think that the largest planet in our solar system (which is also red), and these two red giants flaming thousands of times larger than our own little yellow sun, are just tiny pinpricks from our vantage point here on Earth. We comprehend so little of what's around us in the universe.

Starry winter sky.
I made a big red wish
on Aldebaran.