Monday, September 01, 2014

The Peace of Wild Things

Today as he was walking away from the house and toward the deep woods, the buck reached up a grabbed a few of the tender tip-leaves as he passed. I think the plant is a speckled alder, but will go out and check tomorrow. I was reminded of the Wendell Berry poem below.

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Wendell Berry

from Collected Poems 1957-1982 (Counterpoint Press, 1985).

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Goldfinch Roundbody

This must be a parent goldfinch; there are quite a few skinny olive-drab children around here
who are also consuming that good quality niger thistle seed. I am pleased by this round adult.

Some time ago I promised to give you some more early poems 
from a sequence called "The World" 
by celebrated poet Czeslaw Milosz. 
Here is one.

The Dining Room

A room with few windows, with brown shades,
Where a Danzig clock keeps silent in the corner;
A low leather sofa, and right above it
The sculpted heads of two smiling devils;
And a copper pan shows its gleaming paunch,

On the wall a painting that depicts winter.
A crowd of people skate on ice
Between the trees, smoke comes from a chimney
and crows fly in an overcast sky,

Nearby a second clock. A bird sits inside,
It pops out squawking and call three times.
And it has barely finished its third and last call
When mother ladles out soup from a hot tureen.

Czeslaw Milosz

New and Collected POEMS (1931-2001) Ecco, 2001, page 39.

This poem bespeaks a kind of rather quiet, well-ordered European life that was enjoyed by a certain class of people in Europe for many, many years. It is interesting to think about how than shining copper pan and those two clocks and that painting represent a sort of life that differs from much of American life in my lifetime. My mother's and father's parents both were from Arizona pioneers, My father's family came from Arkansas and my mother's people were part of a series of Mormon migrations through Ohio, Illinois and so forth. Both of my parents became college graduates through strong efforts. But our home life was always materially quite simple (through rowdier) than that represented by this poem. I have just begun a book about the life of Dieterich Buxtehude (circa 1637-1707) that has reinforced for me how little I know about European history. I regret once again, not having taken more valuable and interesting historical courses (and acutally studied) when I was in school. More about this tomorrow, when I tell you about the long walk of Johann Sebastian Bach to Lubeck to find out more about Buxtehude's music. And now good night.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The woodpecker's nap

Isn't he beautiful? I am totally in love. I was sitting at the dining table working on the haiku anthology. And he ate and ate and ate suet. My camera was at my elbow, so I didn't have to get up to get it and scare him off. The lines of the window screen are visible in this picture; sometimes they don't show quite this much.

Then he paused a bit and ate some more. I typed in some haiku.

And then he stopped and TOOK A NAP! I swear it! See how relaxed he is; his eyes are closed. He slept for quite some time. When he woke up he ate some more suet.

And all the time, while the woodpecker was monopolizing the feeder, chickadees were dive-bombing the feeder zone, one at a time, from different directions. But not one ever landed on the feeder. Once in a while, one sat on the fence, like this, just looking. But the big bird was King of the Hill. Until he flew.

Tonight I have been looking at the poems in Canadian Nature Poems, which I got because Roo Borson is in it.  The link is to previous posts in which her poems appear.

I found some good poems; then I thought, wouldn't it be wonderful if there was a subject index? And there is! And there is a poem about the Pileated Woodpecker (no nap, though.) Here it is.

from "A Question of Questions"

for R.D.l.

The error lies in
the state of desire
in wanting the answers
wanting the red-crested 
woodpecker to pose
among red berries
of the ash tree
wanting its names
its habitations
the instinct 
of its ways for
my head-travelling
wanting its colours
its red, white, its black
pressed behind my eyes
a triptych
and over
and wanting the bird
to be still and
wanting it moving
whiteflash of underwings
dazzling all questions
out of me, amazement
and outbreathing
become a form
of my knowing.

I move and it moves
into a cedar tree.
I walk and I walk.
My deceiving angel's
in-shadow joins me
paces my steps and threatens
to take my head
between its hands.
I keep walking. 
Trying to think.
Here on the island
there is time
on the Isabella 
Point Road.
We pass a dead
deer on the beach.
Bloated. It stinks.
The angel insists, 'Keep 
walking.' It has all the time
in the world. Is sufficient.
Is alone. 'Keep walking.'
it says and flies off
with my head.

What's left of me
remembers a funny song
also a headless
man on rockface
painted in red
by Indian finger spirits.

The red-crested woodpecker swoops down
and sits on my trunk. Posing.
Dryocopus pileatus. 'Spectacular, black,
Crow-sized woodpecker with a red crest,
great size, sweeping wingbeats, flashing
white underwing.' Pileated woodpecker.
Posing. Many questions.
'The diggings, large oval or oblong holes,
indicate its presence.'

Zen Master,

Phyllis Webb

From Open Wide a Wilderness; Canadian Nature Poetry
Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2009, page 213-214.

I don't know what the bits just before and just after the poem mean; I have copied them as they were presented in the book. Phyllis Webb's selected poems won the Canadian Governor General's Award in 1982.
Look at the effect of the many short lines in this longish poem. Try this out yourself. And it is always fun to put in bits of information you find in the bird book. Sleep well. Dream of flight.

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Happy Stories of the Past Again

My life has been much enriched in more ways than I can describe since I became a birder in 1984. My first bird identification was a Phainopepla in the Southern California chaparral. I found his distinctive crest in a bird book. Since then, I have participated in Audubon Society activities in three different States and even once attended a National Convention.

I want to recommend that you get in touch with your local Auduboners and go for a few birdwalks. You will likely discover some natural places near you that are well worth visiting!

Today, when I decided to take this picture, it was raining (raindrop at center top) and the light was very misty and pale, so I darkened this some. This year, although the goldfinches have their own thistleseed feeder, they come to this one, too. I finally decided to pour a little thistleseed over the Chickadee's sunflower seeds for them. But the big attraction is the suet, which brings different woodpeckers (this is the Downy Woodpecker) the Rosebreasted Grosbeak, and the Bluejay.

I just got myself a big book of John Clare (1793-1864) who was also very fond of birds, 
and of everything he saw in nature, really.
Here is a sonnet of his on the wren.

The Wren

Why is the cuckoo's melody preferred
And nightingale's rich song so fondly praised
In poet's rhymes? Is there no other bird
Of nature's minstrelsy that oft has raised
One's heart to ecstasy and mirth as well?
I judge not how another's taste is caught---
With mine there's other birds that bear the bell,
Whose song has crowds of happy memories brought,
Such the wood robin singing in the dell
And little wren that many a time hath sought
Shelter from showers in huts where I did dwell
In early spring the tenants of that plain
Tenting my sheep, and still they come to tell
The happy stories of the past again.

—John Clare

from "I AM" THE SELECTED POETRY OF JOHN CLARE; edited by Jonathan Bate, 
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, NY, 2003, page 152.

One could do worse than try sonnets; I've been fearful . . . 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Beauty Spots

The deer finally seem to understand the deliciousness of mowed meadow, and I have at last been able to get some through-the-window pictures with my new Samsung Galaxy camera that sort of looks like a phone, and has many annoying features, but does have a good zoom range. I have two groups of deer dropping by: a mature buck with two spike bucks, and a doe with two fawns. The little buck kept trying to get the older one to play, but he just scoffed him away.


Hope is with you when you believe 
The earth is not a dream but living flesh,
That sight, touch, and hearing do not lie,
That all things you have ever seen here
Are like a garden looked at from a gate.

You cannot enter. But you're sure it's there.
Could we but look more clearly and wisely
We might discover somewhere in the garden
A strange new flower and an unnamed star.

Some people say we should not trust our eyes,
That there is nothing, just a seeming,
These are the ones who have  no hope.
We think that the moment we turn away,
The world, behind our backs, ceases to exist.
As if snatched up by the hands of thieves.

Czeslaw Milosz, from New and Collected Poems, Ecco, 2001, page 49. I believe this is the poet's own translation of one of his quite early poems, from a group titled The World. Many of these poems are destined for this blog.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Gentle Poets

This backlit Queen Anne's lace, Daucus carota, from today's Daily Walk is here in honor of the poet Robert Hass, who taught our weekly evening poetry seminar at San Jose State circa 1980-1982. He always urged us to look at the stars, the trees, the flowers and the birds and to name them. He has just been given another richly deserved major honor, the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American  Poets. This honor is given for proven mastery of the art of poetry and carries an honorarium of $100,000. Pretty snappy, wouldn't you say?

At about the same time we were beginning to study writing haiku with the Yuki Teikei Haiku Society, which was founded in San Jose in 1975.  So I think it fitting to give you here one of his poems based on and honoring the major haiku poet Issa, from the book that won Hass his first major award, the Yale Younger Poets award in 1973 for his volume, Field Guide.

After the Gentle Poet Kobayashi Issa

New Year’s morning—
everything is in blossom! 
I feel about average.

A huge frog and I 
staring at each other, 
neither of us moves.

This moth saw brightness 
in a woman’s chamber—
burned to a crisp.

Asked how old he was 
the boy in the new kimono 
stretched out all five fingers.

Blossoms at night, 
like people
moved by music

Napped half the day; 
no one
punished me!

Fiftieth birthday:

From now on, 
It’s all clear profit, 
every sky.

Don’t worry, spiders, 
I keep house 

These sea slugs, 
they just don’t seem 


Bright autumn moon; 
pond snails crying 
in the saucepan.

Robert Hass 

from Field Guide. Copyright Yale University Press, 1973. 

If you have any interest in haiku at all, I suggest you try learning about and writing some of these short poems. It may change your life. It certainly changed mine!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A stove called Coquette

The Daily Walk was beautiful today, with insanely blue skies, a moderate temperature and a fresh breeze. Queen Anne's lace is a wildflower that never whines; it a;ways looks sharp and crisp--even the blown flower is attractive, like a baby's little fist. The arrangement of leaves and stems along the path is often very beautiful and makes me wish for the printmaker's skills, and want to return to my beloved printmaking class with Alan May. Here is a link to his website.

Tonight I found another selection from Roo Borson's book: Rain; road; an open boat, McClelland and Stewart, Toronto, 2012. The selection is untitled and complete on page 5.

All night the scrabblings of mice in the attic have sounded, now reckless, now surreptitious, until with the first pre-dawn light the spell is broken, and one by one they drop off to sleep once more. Now it is the turn of the things in the kitchen to stand out: the beautiful old floorboards, a plate painted in 1937 upright in the dish-rack, the year too painted in gold on its back. Out the window hummocks and windrows blush maroon, the long spindles of the rising sun bringing back the familiar autumn world. Overnight a water strider has died in the bucket, two flies on the windowsill. Err on the side of kindness, say the last words of a dream -- advice that should be simple enough to follow, in a place where the stove is named Coquette and the radio Symphonaire.

     --Roo Borson--

I've spent some time looking for the stove, but the Symphonaire was so easy to find that I am sure it is true. I love the language and the observations in this passage as well as the just pure love for old things, which I also possess. I find it interesting that a poet would use TWO semi-colons in the title of her book. But I wasn't her copy editor, and I kind of like it. Sleep well;  then perhaps you can wake up in time to see the long spindles of the rising sun.