Sunday, March 31, 2013

March 31: Easter flowers

In the front yard, petite snowdrop-like flowers have punched their way through dead leaves in their vernal fervor to reach sunlight. I tore away several leaves that were still whole except for the little hole through which the surprisingly strong flower bud made its escape to the surface--driven what the great poet Dylan Thomas described as "the force that through the green fuse drives the flower."

We all feel it, that urge,
to turn our faces to vernal sunlight,

Saturday, March 30, 2013

March 30: Feels like spring

At last, a beautiful day that feels like spring. We head to Weskeag Marsh to see what birds have newly arrived, but the tide is high, the river banks filled to the brim, and we only see a single Great Blue Heron and a pair of crows.

Elsewhere, though, titmice, cardinals, and House Finches fill the mild air with song. Walking the boardwalk along the edge of Rockland Harbor, we hear pigeons cooing under our feet, tucked away in dank love nests under the walkway, presumably above the high water line. And in the harbor itself, close to shore, some drake eiders also coo, pitching the woo to the russet hens.

Driving home, we watch a crow fly over Route One with a long twig in its bill, presumably working on a  nest. Love is in the air. And that particular excitement we all feel this time of year when a day like this makes us feel certain that someday soon the snow will all melt, the ice will leave the ponds, and slowly, leaf buds will unfurl.

Heron hunched, alone,
the whole marsh to itself.
Soon, says the blue sky.

Friday, March 29, 2013

March 29: Geese

When I arrived at work this morning, the air was filled with the sound of honking: two pairs of geese were railing at each other in what seemed to be a territorial dispute. Last year, a pair nested along the river near the Seabright Dam, and I wondered if they had returned to defend their former spot.

No more ice.
Geese defend
last year's nesting site.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

March 28: Crocuses

On an errand in town, I passed a phalanx of blooming crocuses, an unexpected blanket of purples, whites, and yellows amid the still-melting patches of dirty snow. Such a boon for the eyes.

Crocuses bloom
despite lingering snow.
Some things can't be stopped.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

March 27: Crows at dusk

I left the house at dusk, and as I walked to the car, heard a large flock of crows cawing loudly up on the mountain. The birds were not visible. What they were yelling at was not visible. Just a clamor in the rising dark on a dreary evening.

Twilight on the mountain.
Calling of unseen crows.
Anxiety settles in.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

March 26: Moonlight

Woke at an early hour to see the setting moon shining through the window directly at me, like a spotlight...

Setting moon,
in the dark before dawn
we see eye to eye.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

March 24: New butterfly

Spent a good portion of today at the lovely Naples Botanical Gardens, which features tropical gardens of this (Floridian) latitude around the world. The Children's Garden features a screened-in butterfly garden with many native Florida species, including the striped Zebrawings, bright orange Julias (to the delight of a little girl named Julia), Monarchs, Queens, Gulf Frittilaries, several swallowtails, and Viceroys.
A docent showed us a case full of chrysalises from which various species had or were going to hatch, including a freshly hatched Painted Lady whose wings were just drying and "coming to life." While we were there, she (it's hard not to ascribe the female gender to a butterfly called a "lady") flapped her wings for the first time and then eventually made her first stuttering flights, finally disappearing among the leaves of a flowering shrub.
Newly hatched butterfly--
Ah, to be reborn
with bright wings!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

March 23: Dining on the beach

Back in Naples at the Vanderbilt Beach Resort, which features one of Naples more popular fine dining options, the Turtle Club. We dined at an outside table, literally on the sand, within sight and sound of the crashing surf. We learned that the lighting was so dim out there--stars were clear and bright overhead--to conform to rules which govern outside lighting during sea turtle nesting season from May through October. When turtles come up on the beach to lay their eggs (and presumably when the baby turtles hatch), they can be disoriented by bright lights and head for them instead of back into the ocean.
Under the moonlight,
line of surf glows offshore
while we eat.

Friday, March 22, 2013

March 22: Beach of shells

Spent a few hours at the beach on Sanibel today, one of the premiere shelling beaches. While Paul fished the turquoise waters, I waded, looked for shells, and watched turnstones and other shorebirds wander unafraid among the human visitors, the birds seeming just as interested in the ever-shifting mounds of shells as we were.
Each wave sweeps in
fresh shells for me
and sandpipers to pick through.

March 21: Pelicans

Birding today at Ding Darling NWR on Sanibel Island. As the tide ebbed in the mangrove-edged inlet, white pelicans and other birds flew onto the exposed flats. The pelicans are very huge and very white, especially when seen next to other birds.
Opening in the sun,
pelican's translucent bill.
Thin-skinned, all of us.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

March 19: Alligators

My three-year-old niece asks if the alligator soaking up sun at the side of the path at Shark Valley in Everglades National Park is smiling. It looks like it is, after all. And perhaps it is, knowing it outlived the dinosaurs, knowing it could easily eat us.
Big alligator lounging--
nothing to fear
but a cold spell.

Monday, March 18, 2013

March 18: Beach

I told someone recently that my preferred habitat is the beach. The combination of the expanse of sand encroached by the ever-shifting ebb and flow of waves, where land meets sea, makes for a dynamic place of constant change. At Clam Pass Beach in Naples, Florida today, I was in my element: terns, gulls, skimmers, and sandpipers flocked near our towels, shells piled up at the wave line, dolphins swam offshore through aquamarine waves, pelicans and frigatebirds soared overhead, sand scoured my bare feet, waves sang the rhythms of the deep, my nieces built sandcastles, and my husband was happily occupied fishing in a mangrove-lined inlet.
On the beach
even surrounded by people
I find my space.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

March 17: No cat

Since we're traveling today, we had to leave our cat at the cat boarding place yesterday. Home a whole day without her there was a bit disconcerting, even though she'd probably have been tucked away sleeping most of that time anyway. There's something about having an animal in the house that makes it feel more fully inhabited. Maybe because, except for a few semesters of school, I've always lived with cat(s) and/or dog(s). Or maybe because when the cat's not there, I really am just talking to myself, not pretending to be carrying on a one-sided conversation with her.
Without the cat,
in my own house.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

March 16: Contradance

I've never observed a contradance before, so when a friend decided to throw a big contradance party for her birthday as a benefit for a local nonprofit, I volunteered to take tickets so I could check it out. I didn't dance, but had a lot of fun watching. The music was rollicking (Perpetual e-Motion), the caller (Will Mentor) was great helping everyone figure out what to do, and a semblance of order was made out of the chaos of a big room full of people. It was a beautiful thing to see.

Whirling dancers
hold hands, swing partners--
patterns making sense from above.

Friday, March 15, 2013

March 15: Hooded Merganser

Ducks are migrating northward. After only seeing one or two for days, observed a big cluster of Buffleheads on the river late today, along with a half dozen Ring-Necked Ducks and one Hooded Merganser, a male, showing off his full "hood," strutting his stuff upriver in all his glory. A very attractive duck, but no females (of his own species, at least) were around to appreciate him. Also on the water were two pairs of geese and a pair of Mallards. It's that time of year.

Lone merganser drake
on full display.
Ice still edges the river.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

March 14: Return

When I pulled into the driveway this evening, I was surprised to see a small brown bird fly up and into the yew bushes: Song Sparrow. I felt irrationally sure that this was the sparrow that spends the summer in our back yard, the one we see fly the same pattern over his territory every day, who sings from our brush pile. I could hear him scratching around in the dead leaves at the base of the rhododendron. I was filled with a strange urge to catch him, cup him tenderly, and feed him from my hand. Instead, I tossed some seed in his direction, knowing that if I tried to do more than that, it would only startle him. And he did, in fact, then make a beeline for the brush pile. A wild free thing. But his return makes me happy.

Touching a sparrow--
we can't have everything we want.
Even small things.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

March 13: New Pope

Around here, white smoke rising
means a neighbor's
feeling that March chill.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

March 12: Cursive

A friend's seven-year-old daughter was scrawling on her napkin at dinner, trying to write her name in cursive. I didn't think they still taught cursive in school. Doesn't everyone use a computer these days? I remember as a very young child, maybe still in kindergarten, being taught by my great-grandmother how to write my first name in cursive. I felt like I'd really learned something key to growing up. Then in third grade, the pleasure of filling that special lined paper with fancy capital F's with their extra slashes and Q's that looked like 2's. It was like learning a code, a code with flourish. A code that adults had all figured out, to the point that their cursive didn't look anything like the carefully rendered letters aligned on the school worksheet. They had it down so well they could improvise.
I once convinced a store clerk
that my signature
was written in Arabic.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

March 10: Daylight Saving Time

We set the clocks ahead one hour last night, which always messes with my sleep. (Though, admittedly, it doesn't take much--coughing no matter which way I propped the pillows didn't help, either.) Even my husband's soothing voice reading to me from a lengthy Russian novel couldn't work its usual magic. I felt like I was awake for hours, and, as it often goes, the longer I was awake, the more my anxiety grew about falling asleep...

Daylight Saving Time--
more than an hour lost
as I toss, sleepless.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

March 9: Receding snow

Noticed that the day lily closest to the house, sheltered by the front step, has begun to emerge from the cold underground where it has lain dormant all winter, sending forth bright green tips that almost shine against the surrounding dead leaves and dirty snow.

As the snow recedes,
daylily shoots emerge.
I shiver.

Friday, March 8, 2013

March 8: Light

When I have a cold in the summer, my favorite home remedy is to fall asleep in the sun in my backyard and sweat it out. Home sick today, but with the yard still covered with crusty old snow, that wasn't an option. But it was mild enough to open the solid wood inner door to let the sun and light through the glass storm door. I wanted to curl up in it like a cat. My cat, however, preferred the couch.

Sunlight on the floor--
a honey lozenge
to soothe my cold.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

March 7: Out the door

Even the cat (who is strictly an indoor cat) seems to be suffering from cabin fever.

Cat out the open door,
no hesitation
on the cold front step.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

March 6: Afternoon flurries

If only these snowflakes
spilling through March air
were cherry blossoms.

March 5: One of those songs

Driving home after dinner with friends in Rockland, listening to a "slow dance" mix CD recently sent to me by a DJ friend. A song came on that was one of my favorites back in grad school over 20 years ago: "Wicked Game" by Chris Isaak. I used to put it on repeat and lie on the floor of my apartment while it played over and over, the plaintive guitar and his mellow croon touching the sensitive poet's soul that I was nurturing with both my MFA studies and a complex relationship I was in at the time.

Listening to it now made me think how as I've gotten older I don't respond to music as viscerally as in the high-emotion era of my youth living out those moments when, as musician Ani DiFranco sang, "Every pop song on the radio was suddenly speaking to me..."* So I turned it up loud and sang along as I drove the familiar streets home, recalling the exquisite, bittersweet angst of my mid-20s as I did so.

This song takes me back.
Ah, to be 24 again.
And yet so grateful I'm not.

* Lyrics from another old favorite, her song "Superhero," released in 1996

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

March 4: Pairs of ducks

Spent the day with a bird guide friend exploring the southern Maine coast, starting at Nubble Light in York and working our way up through Wells. According to him, numbers of geese and black ducks are increasing in the marshes, meaning these waterfowl are making their way northward. Offshore, loons are beginning to molt into breeding plumage and get their spots back. Eiders coo and posture, begin to pair off, as do other ducks: goldeneyes, mergansers, scoters, Long-tailed, and the beautiful Harlequins. (The Black Scoter makes a plaintive sound that sounds just like my cat when she's hungry. One can't help but anthropomorphize and hear the longing in their voices.)

These birds breed further north. Courtship and pairing up now, while snow flurries still fill the air and they're far from nesting, will save time when they reach their breeding grounds. There, with a partner already established and courting out of the way, they can then get right to work mating and laying eggs.

Eider drakes show off,
wooing the russet hens.
High school was like this.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

March 3: Sun and snow

The sky brightens at Owls Head Lighthouse, as we look across the water toward the Camden Hills, where snowfall veils the summits of Bald and Ragged Mountains, and clouds hang heavy over Megunticook and Mount Battie. With spotting scopes we find offshore one loon beginning to get its spotted breeding plumage back, some guillemots, and a lone Razorbill.

Lone loon afloat on cold seas,
lowering clouds.
Our light won't last.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

March 2: Ennui

One of my favorite lines from Edward Gorey's delightfully morbid alphabet book, The Gashleycrumb Tinies: "N is for Neville who died of ennui." The illustration shows the top half of a child's round face peering out above the window frame. I thought of that image today as I sat at my desk looking out the window, chin in my hands, watching snow flakes drift about and water drip off the roof. I'm supposed to be writing, but feel so uninspired. That time of year.

Snow falling listlessly,
eaves dripping.
Where is my focus?

Friday, March 1, 2013

March 1: Details

Watching a female cardinal at my feeder, admiring her big, seed-chomping, bright orange bill and how it contrasts so prettily against her black face. So near, I notice details I never picked up on before. For example, her crest is tipped in red, as if rouged with lipstick. It almost glows against her smooth brown nape. Each time she dips her head for another seed, that red crest flickers like a little flame.

Familiar detail
of a loved one's face