Thursday, March 17, 2011

soft blue morning sky

soft blue morning sky –-
Fujisan rising above
a wreath of white clouds
Early morning before sunrise, the sky a soft blue, the mountain a deeper shade of blue highlighted with pale blue snow, wreathed with a garland of bluish-white clouds, and then the dark green, almost black pine trees in the foreground, providing contrast. The whole scene feels like the first vision of the quest mountain.

trio of migrant

trio of migrant
Mallards on a shallow pond,
dip, upend, dabble

Today the lone duck on Osage Pond is joined by two more ducks. With the sun fully up, I see that they are all Mallards. The drakes are quite colorful: iridescent green head, white neckband, yellow bill, brown chest, gray body and black rump. The smaller female is mottle brown with a black bill. He only spot of color is a patch of iridescent purplish-blue bordered by white on her wings. To feed, they dip their heads and completely upend in the water. The female follows directly behind her bigger mate at a discrete distance of one wing span, turning and dabbling in tandem. The lone drake stays half a pond away from the couple. By late afternoon he is alone on the pond once more.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

castle across the lake

castle across the lake –
blue rowboat to take me there
moving, not moving

On the way back to Oughterard in Connemara, County Galway, we stop to admire Klyemore Abbey perched on the shore on the far side of the lake. Originally a castle, it became an abbey in 1920, founded by Benedictine nuns fleeing the bombing of Belgium during World War I. The lovely blue boat beckons to me to row across the lake, but no oars and my imagination travels much faster.

on a rocky hill

on a rocky hill
white-faced black sheep with curved horns –
hiding, not hidden

Connemara, the rocky coast of County Galway, is wild and beautiful. Sheep are everywhere, beside the road, on the road, lying in the soft Irish grass, peering out from crannies among the rocks. There are so many rocks, so many sheep,we figure the sheep eat rocks.

small circle of stones

small circle of stones
enclosed by moss-green pasture –
silent, not silent

Each unique stone in the small henge at Drumskilly near Enniskillen could be a gray cumulus cloud come to earth, or a pillar of mud once sculpted by running water, or a gathering of petrified Druids. See the faces? We are the only visitors at this small henge, way off the beaten path. The whole place is quiet and yet the silence is humming. Putting a hand on each stone, I can feel the vibrations of each different voice.

curving copper clouds

curving copper clouds
stretch probing fingers over
dark mountains and lake

At sunset the clouds look like copper fingers stretching north over Lake Pukaki, a long finger lake that runs north-south between the Southern Alps in New Zealand.

one lone gray duck swims

one lone gray duck swims
away tracing a blue V
in the pink water

The Canada Geese have vanished and the ponds seem strangely empty after seeing dozens of them crowding the water and shores. Then yesterday a new wave of migrants appeared, half a dozen ducks dabbling and dipping on Osage Pond. But this morning in the rosy light of dawn, only one lone duck remains. From the white speculum it looks to be a Gadwall, one of the most common migratory puddle ducks in the Mississippi Flyway. The gray duck swam away when I stopped, tracing a beautiful blue V in the reflection of pink sky on the still water. Somehow, this singular duck creates a more intense feeling of loneliness than a completely empty pond.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

coils of abandoned

coils of abandoned
barbed wire rusting in the dead grass –
retreat for rabbits

The farmer puts up barbed wire fences to keep stock from wandering away, but for some reason abandoned this roll of fencing at the corner between field and road. The snarl of sharp, rusted wire would be avoided by most creatures, but the farmer has unwittingly provided a shelter for rabbits, a place of safety from predators. In one of the Uncle Remus tales, when trickster Br’er Rabbit was caught and threatened with death by Br’er Bear, he pleaded, “Please don’t throw me in that brier patch.” And then when Br’er Bear did just that, Br’er Rabbit leaped among the sharp thorns, saying, “I was born and raised in a brier patch!”

Fujisan's summit

Fujisan's summit
obscured by a hawk-eagle
cloud bringing snow

I took this photo of Fujisan during my last visit to Japan. It reflects how I'm feeling about the plight of the Japanese people following the earthquake and tsunami. I still have not heard from my friend Hiroko Goto, who lives at the foot of Fujisan. Hoping she's okay.

Monday, March 14, 2011

girl in a red coat

girl in a red coat
reading under an oak tree
harbinger of spring

In the last days of winter, the colors are mostly drab browns, muted grays, dull yellows. Along the trail around the lake, the only spots of brightness are white shelf mushrooms on fallen logs and rust-orange needles under the white pines. In the little park the sight of a young lady in a red coat with a red notebook and red water bottle pops out from the monotone landscape. Sitting with her back against one of the large oaks, she is enjoying the charms of fresh air, sunshine and reading.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

late winter birth time

late winter birth time –
ewe with twin lambs, black and white,
huddling by her side

A week before spring equinox, still below freezing at night, but it is birthing time for many animals living in the open. This ewe wears her thick winter coat but the lambs are born with only a light fleece. When I appear she is cropping the new shoots coming up through the dead grass while the twins lie by her side. The lambs scramble to their feet and huddle on either side of their mother, who lifts her head and gives me a hard stare.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

mud left by the flood

mud left by the flood
from ice melt and rain – sculpted
into soft scallops

The receding creek deposits shelves of soft, luscious mud. For the past two days, walking along Pilgrim Creek, admiring the mud, I keep thinking of my friends in Japan, wondering how they are faring. I have not been able to contact them directly, but from the online maps I see that their area near Fuji-san is not in the major earthquake and tsunami zone, though I’m sure they experienced the incredible shaking. My friend Hiroko Goto at age 3 lived through the Great Tokyo Earthquake of 1923, which spawned fires that wiped out Tokyo and Yokohama. After the Great Pacific War and the fire bombing that destroyed Tokyo, Mrs. Goto became a peace pilgrim. Now, at age 87, she is witnessing the destruction caused by an even more massive earthquake and tsunami. The flood and the mud left by this flood will cause untold damage.

Friday, March 11, 2011

a doe and twin fawns

a doe and twin fawns
watching our gray tabby cat
watching the three deer
A doe and her twin fawns, grazing on the greening grass in our front yard, perk up their ears when our gray tabby cat jumps up on the low bamboo fence. The deer start toward the cat, the twins curious, the doe a little alarmed, stamping her front foot. Pepper, frightened, jumps down and slinks up the path toward the cars. The deer follow until he disappears under the truck. Then they turn back towards the woods, the twins kicking up their heels and bounding around each other. I go for a walk. When I return, the deer are back in the yard, a stone’s throw from the cars. They watch me, stock still, as I quietly ease open the door of the truck, slide in and quietly close the door. Pepper, meanwhile, must have snuck back to the house. When he hears the truck door, he comes running up the path. Deer and cat see each other at the same moment, deer ears up, cat tail down. Once again, the deer stalk the cat, who hurries back to the safety of the house. Even when I start the engine, pull out of the driveway and crunch down the gravel road, the deer completely ignore the truck, totally engrossed in the appearance and disappearance of one terrified gray cat.

morning pogonip

morning pogonip –
white fog flocks every surface
with fragile frosting

Early morning, frozen fog has turned the world white – soft white sky, white haze softening the outlines of trees, every limb etched in hoarfrost, ever dead leaf rimmed in rime, every dried wildflower flocked with fragile crystals. After sunrise the white veil is whisked away.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

glistening mud banks

glistening mud banks
sculpted by water into
voluptuous curves

The banks of Pilgrim Creek are marvels of mud laid down in delicately striated layers, wet and shining in the sun as it suddenly breaks through clouds.

copper-gold sunset

copper-gold sunset
burnt sienna big bluestem
between field and road,
remnant of prairie thriving
on strips of unbroken ground

Before the steel plow, big bluestem was one of the most common perennial bunch grasses in the tallgrass prairie that covered the Midwest. Big bluestem can grow as tall as three meters. The roots go deep, sending out tough rhizomes which form an incredibly strong sod. In an area devoid of trees or rocks, early settlers used blocks of sod to build their first dwellings, called “soddies.” This sturdy grass, along with its cousin, little bluestem, is so called because the new shoots in spring turn blue-purple at the base. In autumn the grass turns a deep orange, forming a colorful stand throughout winter. Big bluestem is also called “turkey foot” because the seed heads have three spike-like projections. Big bluestem frequently grows in isolated clumps along roadsides where the ground is undisturbed. However, to flourish, this prairie grass needs occasional fire, either set by lightning or by humans, to eliminate competing trees and shrubs.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

white silk katas tied

white silk katas tied
to once-green branches – offerings
to Annapurna

Annapurna means "full of food," and the people of the Himalayas have good reason to propitiate the mountains for the food they grow at such high altitudes. This massif, framed by once-green branches tied with once-white katas, is Annapurna South.

mountain of pink clouds

mountain of pink clouds
higher than the highest peaks
hiding them from view

Rain in the mountains, so we stop early on our first day trekking in the Annapurna region. I go for a walk in the “jungle” with Yuba and Lama. “I have a guide on both sides,” I say. Yuba responds with a Nepali saying: “Bitter on either side, sweet in the middle.” He has been showing me native edible fruits, nuts and berries. His father taught him to write with ink made from one of these berries mixed with soot. He climbs a pepal tree to pick a white orchid for me, which I tuck behind my ear. We turn back when it starts raining, mixed with small hail. A gorgeous sunset highlights the mountains. One huge cumulus cloud, twice as high as the highest peak, obscures the range to the west.

Cattail Pond -- wild geese

Cattail Pond – wild geese
wait out the rain on one foot,
head resting on back

A small flock of Canada Geese wait out the rain on Cattail Pond. They look like they are practicing yoga asanas: not just standing but sleeping on one leg, or sleeping with their necks twisted backwards over their backs, beaks tucked between their wings, or bending their necks down to touch the water with their beaks.

cold rain -- on Jack's Pond

cold rain – on Jack's Pond
ice melting in dark blotches,
spines, tendrils and tails

Cold, late winter rain, after threatening for days. Jack’s Pond is still covered with ice, melting in strange patterns. One looks like a Cyclops from space or a neuron from a human brain, complete with projecting dendrites, cell nucleus and the tail-like axon.

Naked Ladies poke

Naked Ladies poke
tender green tips through a mat
of dead stalks and leaves

Winter transitioning to spring: freeze, thaw, fog, rain, snow, mud. Naked Ladies poke their tender tips up from bulbs buried beneath ground still frozen, up through a mat of last year’s flower stalks, dead leaves and black hickory husks. These odd flowers, also called Surprise Lilies, send clusters of slender leaves up in early spring, but the leaves die back without flowers. The second surprise comes in late summer. Pale flower stalks shoot up like pink-tipped spears, opening into a panicle of delicate pink lilies.

Monday, March 7, 2011

beyond the thorn tree

beyond the thorn tree
and barbed fence, three black horses
watch geese winging north

Solid grey cloud cover but no rain or snow. The Canada Geese come and go in small flocks of eight or ten or twelve. They fly in pairs, shifting from straight dotted lines to apexes to ragged clusters. At dusk they land on a convenient pond for the night, then fly on the next day. The geese fly silently, but even so, the horses look up as they pass overhead, winging north. Then the horses return to cropping dry grass in their enclosure.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

blue clouds penetrate

blue clouds penetrate
pink sky with fragile virgas –
embracing bare tree

A band of blue clouds spans the horizon, trailing fragile virgas that penetrate the pink ribbon of sunset sky, but the rain fails to reach the ground. Between the darkening clouds and the lingering light, a solitary bare tree spreads its limbs, embracing them both.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

light dusting of snow

light dusting of snow
on dark furrowed fields – wild geese
sleeping on pond bank

Rain yesterday – some of the big flock of Canada Geese on Osage Pond are feeding in the adjoining corn field. What does genetically modified corn grown with herbicides and pesticides do to their systems? In the middle of Cattail Pond, one lone pair of geese is riding out the rain. A light freeze last night put down a thin glaze of ice. In the early morning a small phalanx of eight geese wing northeast in a check mark formation. Time to move on. Then the snow begins, tiny pellets dusting the ground, highlighting the furrows in the dark tilled fields. A few geese are sleeping on the bank of the small pond, heads tucked under, but the big pond is completely empty.

Friday, March 4, 2011

white cloud curving back

white cloud curving back
with the wind over the hills
rimming the blue lake

We camp in the wilderness at beautiful Lake Pukaki, surrounded by dark hills and the snow-covered Southern Alps in the distance. Many strangely shaped clouds paint frescoes on the blue dome of the sky, mirrored in the turquoise water.

Pokhara hailstorm

Pokhara hailstorm –
people seek shelter, poor cow
jumps this way and that

Pam and I get caught in a hailstorm in Pokhara. All traffic stops. Trucks, taxis, jeepnies and bikes pull up under the branches of huge trees that line the road. We take shelter in a cafe, order chai and watch a group of people, including one woman with a baby, stand against a red, green and white striped tree trunk, children crouching under a cement ping pong table on the sidewalk. One confused cow, pelted by hail and accustomed to being herded by rocks thrown at her rump, jumps this way and that. The hail cuts leaves and flowers from trees and the streets fill waist deep with freezing, swirling brown water. When the hail stops after half an hour, the ground is white. Women scoop the ice into buckets while young men fling hail at each other.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Avebury Circle

Avebury Circle –
one white sheep sleeps with her back
against the warm stone

Avebury henge is magical in many ways. The massive stone circles are oriented to the rising moon. The monoliths alternate between tall thin stones and short squat ones. Sheep grazing on the downs seem drawn to the stones, perhaps just for the shelter they afford or perhaps for the powerful energy they radiate.

moon over turquoise

moon over turquoise
Lake Pukaki – pink clouds
above Aoraki

From our tents on the shore of Lake Pukaki, we have a beautiful view of Aoraki and his two brother mountains through a gap in the hills. After sunset the clouds put on a moonlight sonata full of fans, curlicues and saucers. Lake Pukaki is the largest of three alpine lakes formed when receding glaciers blocked the valleys with terminal moraines. The lake is fed by the Tasman River, which has its source in the Tasman Glacier. Finely ground rock particles brought down by melt water from the glacier gives the lake its turquoise color

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

pitted snow, crackled

pitted snow, crackled 
ice and clear running water
transform Pilgrim Creek

A few of the many faces of water, liquid, snow and ice. Thawing in the day's warmth, the snow on the banks has lost its crystalline structure, collapsing into a pitted, porous amalgam. The ice at the edge of the water looks like crackle glaze or shards of glass. The liquid water, flowing swift and clear, undermines the ice, leaving it suspended like a fractured glass shelf projecting from the bank or perched like a shattered shield on a log poking up from the creek. The sun shining on these three faces of water gives them an extra sheen.

trail to Aoraki

trail to Aoraki –
umbrella cloud shades the snow
covered mountain peak

Walking through meadows full of large mountain buttercups, mountain daisies, gentians and edelweiss, we have a magnificent view of snow-covered Aoraki, with an umbrella cloud shading the summit. Aoraki, the tallest peak in Australasia, was named by the Māori of the Ngai Tahu iwi (tribe). According to legend, Aoraki and his three brothers were the sons of Rakinui, the Sky Father. While on a sea voyage, their canoe overturned on a reef. When the brothers climbed on top of their canoe, the freezing south wind turned them to stone. The canoe became the South Island (Te Waka o Aoraki), and Aoraki and his brothers became the peaks of the Southern Alps.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

paw prints in the snow

paw prints in the snow
on Blue Stone Bridge repeating
puzzling sets of three

These tracks are a bit of a mystery. They were probably made by a raccoon because they show the characteristic long fingers, all pointing forward, unlike the opossum, which would clearly show the opposable thumb sticking out to the side. Both animals overlap front prints with hind prints, but here there are sets of three tracks, not two or four.