Sunday, July 31, 2011

Trying out rhyme schemes...

Chance Music

the wind is sighing, sighing through the trees
and sets to trembling leaves along the way
listen! a concert rises out of these

it isn’t just an errant little breeze
that makes the boughs and branches dip and sway
come watch the wind conduct with expertise!

basso profundo rolls from pines with ease
the hemlock’s baritone comes into play
listen! a concert rises out of these

can you not hear the maple’s tenor tease
or catch the alto of the elm at play?
come watch the wind conduct with expertise!

the volume dips and rises by degrees
depending on which way the breezes stray
listen! a concert rises out of these

if only nature granted a reprise
I’m sure I miss a concert every day
not giving any heed to trembling leaves
come watch! the wind conducts with expertise!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

When Flowers Speak

I was crying
and I blamed it on the sad story
I was reading
about a dog that died
but whose spirit filled the room
and maybe the whole house,
maybe the whole country!
and suddenly
I was crying not because of the story
but because it occurred to me that I was alone
and no one might love me quite like that dog
loved its human
and I swear the geranium on the windowsill,
all Valentine-heart red and mid-summer green
said, Oh for crying out loud
(which I was)
don’t be silly.
You’re hardly alone
or unloved.
And I realized that was true,
that I was surrounded on all sides by life
and that some of its forms 
(family, friends, cat, the chicken next door -
even, possibly, the geranium)
loved me,
maybe more than I loved myself. 

I felt better after that
and was able to get back to the rest of the book
and the rest of my life.

Friday, July 29, 2011

the day was as long as it ever was
the sun slipping through the mist
the way it did, trailing wakes of silver laughter

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Extraordinarily Ordinary

Mid-summer came in on a heat wave before several days of the intense heat culminated in a fierce fury of wind and rain punctuated by brilliant and jagged flashes of lighting. Thunder boomed and rolled and crashed in its wake. When the wildness abated, a cool and welcomed stillness descended, and sometime in the far reaches of the night, a thick mist fell over the pond and the fields, melting the boundaries of wood and meadow and road. When the sun rose again, its own margins were obscured so all that was visible was a pulsing silver light. Here and there the fog swirled and eddied, rising like disturbed ghosts.

The familiar had become suddenly mysterious. When I walked out into the morning, it was as though I'd entered a magical place. The tops of the tallest trees were lost in the mist. Shafts of milky sunlight penetrated the undergrowth, highlighting a trunk here, a limb there. Hundreds of spider webs were strung from the meadow grasses. Dew-struck and glistening, they spread to the edges of the field like miniature satellite dishes – spiders tuning to the far reaches of the universe. There was not a breeze to disturb them.

A bright bit of orange caught my eye. An anxious maple leaf, I thought, but then it fluttered, and leaf became bird as a Baltimore Oriole hopped among the tree branches. In like manner a yellow leaf transformed itself into a finch. How quickly the extraordinary becomes ordinary. Suddenly the morning was filled with birdsong and as if on cue, the mist disappeared. Somewhere a dog barked and the air was filled with tiny blue and yellow butterflies flitting in the warmth of an everyday sun.

By noon, the heat was building again. The sun became a molten ball glaring fiercely from a pale blue sky. Nothing stirred save the cicadas, whose insistent buzzing only served to make the day seem hotter. Great thunderheads towered over the edges of the mountains and spread themselves out until the sky looked like an angry bruise. There was no magic now, only a distant, threatening rumble that presaged another storm. A gust of wind brought a hint of cooler air and suddenly the clouds burst, spewing rain. Lightning tore the curtain of darkness again and again and thunder made the windows rattle.

Finally, just before sunset, the storm trailed off to the south. The wind died, the rain ceased, and the sun crept out from behind a remnant of cloud to paint the sky in evening shades of crimson and orange and sky-blue pink. Columns of stealthy mist drifted up from the cooling earth, ghosts of darkness gathering the light until once again the landscape was shrouded in secrecy.

Thank you Hilary

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

End of July

The geraniums thrived this summer.
Mid-summer days have been hot and humid. For several days last week, temperatures hovered near the 100 degree mark.  Then came the rain. My flowers loved it but it's too late for the vegetable garden. Early cold and rain and then the excessive heat will make harvesting this fall a non-event. I will have tomatoes but nothing else. Last year I picked over 35 eggplant. This year I picked two. Last year I froze 10 quarts of green and yellow beans. This year, only one row out of five even grew. Last year I had enough beets to pickle. This year I roasted just a handful for one dinner. Last year I jarred 14 pints of pickles. This year I had no cucumbers. There are a few sad looking peppers on the three plants that survived and one celery plant is just big enough to harvest. We will plow the ground over in the fall and start again next spring.

A daily picking from last summer's bounty.
I'm off to the farmer's market for weekly fruit and vegetables. If I'm lucky, I'll be able to get some farm stand surplus to jar for winter consumption. Prices are higher this year as even the farmers with their acres of crops suffered weather-related losses. Perhaps I should host a dinner for those fellows in Washington and their purse-holding Big Business lobbyists. I could teach them a thing or two about frugality.

This year's daisies smiling at the sun.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

How To Start the Day

My mother's old blue egg bowl, some garden herbs, a bit of Jarlsburg...
Up early to do the farm chores. The sky is tinged pink along the horizon. The low lying clouds look like a row of raggedy, gray-clad immigrants crossing over the mountain tops. I fit the bucket under the water pipe near the henhouse and while it fills I listen to the hens murmur and the roosters crawk. They know that running water signifies breakfast. I unlatch the door and step in. It's instant bedlam. I am knee deep in feathers and frenzy as 50 fowl jockey for a place along the two long feeding troughs. One hen perches on the edge of the water bucket, three others fly at me as I bend to scoop the feed from the galvanized metal pail. I murmur to them, pour their feed, and while they're busy gobbling I check the nests for eggs. I must be careful - yesterday there was a rat eating the very egg my hand was reaching for. Startled, I squawked like a hen and it leaped for a hole below the nesting box. Some steel wool stuffed in that hole and a new board nailed over in place of the old one will keep the wily rat at bay for a while. I feel a bit like Mr. Zuckerman trying to keep Templeton out of the barn.

When the chickens are fed and watered I move to the outlying small houses where ducklings, for-meat-only chicks and a bunny are waiting for their breakfast. I scoop feed and pour water and talk to them in a high voice that makes me smile - humans have a tendency to raise the pitch of their voice when talking to babies of any kind. The pigs grunt at me as I fill their trough. Yesterday they dug under their fence and went a-wandering but a few bangs on their metal food bin bring them home again.

I walk home through the secret path, a walkway that threads through some large maples with overhanging branches between the farm and my cottage. My hands are dirty, my muck boots need a bath and I'm covered in a fine film of sweat. Our 100 degree days have been endng in 80 degree nights. The morning air is warm and damp and the sun is just beginning to peer over the cloud bank. My reward for doing the chores is a small basket of fresh eggs. I stop by the kitchen garden to snip some fresh herbs. Now to my own breakfast!

Fresh eggs with herbs and beat greens and a bowl of fresh fruit.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Talking Out Loud

Sometimes, despite all the people that live close by, there's no one to talk to. No one to tell how the pigs were tearing around in the heat this evening, roughhousing with an old tarp left in their pen. How when I emptied my compost bucket into their trough two came running but the third continued to shake that tarp like a dog with a rag, twisting his head and snorting, sending waves of tarp over his head until he stopped short, unable to see. How with a grunt he shook the thing off at the same time that he tripped on it, sending pig and tarp careening into the trough, upending corn cobs and watermelon rind and pieces of squash which tumbled back down on pig backs like manna, like rain.

Or how the sun set in a welter of orange streaks just as a spoon bowl piece of the moon rose in the opposite direction, just as orange, and the birds hushed down in the heat; how the dark just sort of settled down like a muffling blanket over the silent grasses.

There was no one to listen with me to the breeze that blew high in the trees, setting the leaves rustling like mouse feet in old walls, while not a trace of moving air came anywhere near the ground. No one else heard the snuffling of the possum as it made its way over the little ridge behind my screen tent or tried to figure out whose name the owl was calling deep in the woods.

There was no one to watch the robin disappear into the winterberry bush or remark to about the heat dome hovering almost visibly overhead or the unusual silence of the songbirds. So, I'm telling you.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

'Cause it's summertime you know...

misty mornings
The weather has been suffocatingly hot and more heat is on the way. Any gardening has to be done at dawn or dusk for by mid-day the sun searches out every nook and cranny with its searing fingers. The birds still whistle up the sun through mysterious morning mists and sing it to sleep again in the evenings, but at high noon they are as silent and still as mice under the shadow of an owl's wing. The insects hold sway now, humming, buzzing, and chirring high in the trees and low in the grass. It's too hot to be out and about. If you need me, I'll be floating around in my brother's pool...

the best place to be in the afternoon heat

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Close Encounter

My friend Judith posted a piece this morning about bears in her backyard. I've had a few encounters with bears in my years of rural living. The most frightening occurred when my four children were small. We had moved from a suburb of Connecticut to a house in northern Vermont. We were surrounded by woods on all sides, a lovely place for the kids to play and for us to take family hikes looking for signs of the wildlife that lived there.

We were told by a neighbor that a small village had been built deep in the woods along a fast moving stream but the houses had all been removed further down the road to become the county seat when the railroad was established. The old stone foundations could still be found along the stream and there were several good swimming holes.

One hot summer day I took the kids, who at that time were 9, 8, 7, and 3, exploring. We followed a path through the deep woods, our two pups racing ahead and doubling back to make sure we were still coming. We'd gone almost a mile when the path split to skirt a huge patch of wild raspberries. We stopped to pick a few berries and decided it didn't matter which path we took; undoubtably both ways would converge into a single path again on the other side of the berry patch.

Just then the dogs came flying past us, their ears flat, their tails tucked. They raced back down the trail the way we'd come. At a noise I looked back and there, rising up from behind the berry patch was an enormous bear. I could feel the hair on my head actually stand up. I took the youngest girl into my arms, herded the other kids in front of me and said, "Sing! Sing loud! And walk but don't run. Don't run even if you're scared."

Off down the path toward home and safety we went, singing at the top of our lungs. It was the longest walk I'd ever taken. I kept turning around to see if that bear was following us but I didn't see it and I didn't hear it. I didn't dare run but I never wanted to be out of a place as badly as I wanted to be out of those woods.

I had nightmares for weeks about bears mauling my children. They, on the other hand, considered it high adventure and my oldest boy spent hours researching bears at the library. We learned that the bear we saw, a black bear, is shy and that it most likely took off in the opposite direction just as speedily. If it had been a mother with cubs we were in danger only if she felt her cubs were being threatened.

It was the only bear I saw in the 12 years we spent homesteading. There's a resident bear here where I now live; it's been sighted often. Just last night it prowled around the compost bin and left its calling card in a pile under my swing. I've only glimpsed it once as it lumbered into the woods after drinking at the pond. I have never taken a photo of it, as Judith did her bears. That's okay. I need only close my eyes to conjure that bear rising up behind the berry bushes. That's enough for me.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

When I was a little kid we didn't have a kiddy pool nor did we have an outdoor hose connection, hence no sprinkler to dash through. Instead, Mama would fill two dishpans with cold water (there were four of us siblings) and we would set them a distance apart and have races, splashing through the pans of water until they were nearly empty. We had squirt gun fights, too, and would sometimes have balloons left over from birthday parties that we'd fill and toss at one another. Mostly when it was this hot (yesterday and today have been the typical July hot/hazy/humid days with temperatures in the high 80s), we found someplace  shady to spread a blanket where we'd read or play board games or even drift off to sleep.

Yesterday my daughter C blew up the little plastic whale-shaped pool she'd purchased for the Bean to cool off in. She filled it with lukewarm water and plunked the baby in it. Then C and I plunked our bare feet in, too. The Bean thought our toes were extra toys. Heaven can't be any better than cooling one's hot feet in cool water while playing with a baby!

Friday, July 08, 2011

3 Little Piggies

Photo from The real culprits aren't available to pose.
The sun was setting in a welter of pinks; the air was warm and muggy. I sat at the table on my patio sipping a cup of tea, admiring the way the clouds changed from crimson to rose to mauve within moments. Off to the north a looming cloud, not in the least pastel, rumbled intermittently and flashed with long, jagged spears of lightning. I collected my cup and book and the cat who'd been lounging in my lap and went inside. Just as I was closing the door behind me a bolt of lightning lit the cloud, thunder boomed, and an unearthly squeal reverberated in the woods. I paused, hand on the door handle, wondering what in the world?

My first thought was a fox in the neighboring hen house but I was raised on a chicken farm and decided that sound had not come from a chicken, even it its death throes. A cat maybe? Or a bunny caught in an owl's talons? It came again, a long squeal like a pig would make. There were no pigs at the farm next door that I knew of. What you don't know can surprise you.

Moments later I hear a shout. "This way, this way!" followed by a galloping form, shadowy in the darkening woods. An answering shout came from further away. "Over here, over here!"

There was a thud, a sharp squeal, a sudden splash and silence.

I stood on the patio listening. Nothing. Whatever it was, it was gone now. I closed the door and went to bed.

The next morning I went to the mulch bin at the edge of the yard with the kitchen compost. I had the lid in my hand when I heard a pattering of feet. I looked up to see a piglet heading straight for me. Just as its beady little eyes caught sight of me, it veered into the woods, squealing in surprise. Behind it raced the neighbor's white and yellow cat, its tail fluffed, its whole body bent on catching that pig. I lost sight of the two of them in the underbrush. Moments later the farmer's son, B,  came panting down the path. "Did you see a... " he gasped, bending over to catch his breath.

"Your cat?" I asked. "Chasing a pig?"

He grinned at me. "I was using a little cat food as a bribe," he said. "The pig liked the idea but the cat didn't." He dashed off again in pursuit.

Later I learned he'd brought 3 little piglets home to raise for fall meat. One went straight from the travel box to the barn but the other two bolted. B and his mother spent what remained of the daylight chasing those two pigs. The splash I'd heard was one of the piglets jumping into the pond across the road. B grabbed its hind leg as it started to paddle away but lost his footing and fell. The retrieved pig hit the ground running and disappeared in the bushes.

As of this morning, one pig of three is still in the barn, the cat is sitting guard over his food dish on the farmhouse porch, and the other two piglets are out there somewhere in the neighborhood, hiding out. I'm hoping there's a reward of pork chops for anyone with information on their whereabouts.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011


My summer transportation
Independence Day, our one July holiday, has come and gone in a surfeit of food and a flurry of fireworks. Now the long summer days stretch out before me, lazy and unbound. I can sleep in if I please (and the cat allows) or wake at dawn to watch the sun roll over the horizon. I have few plans, preferring to let the days unroll as they will. There's plenty of garden and yard work to keep me busy, books to read, poems to write, friends to visit, roads to pedal along on my bicycle. I will spend a couple of days each week with my daughter and the Bean, my youngest grandchild who is nine months old already and working on her standing alone skills. In August the other grandchildren, aged 10 and 8, will spend a week at the cottage with me.

Summer will go by almost as fast as the typing of this paragraph. I will be here on rainy days and late nights but mostly I will be out of doors listening to the birds, watching the flowers drift slowly from pastels to the deeper hues of autumn, speaking with the trees and stones and clouds that I encounter.

Happy Summer!

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Happy 4th!

Photo curtesy of


Deep in the dark, 
after the dogs and burgers, 
the deviled eggs,
the watermelon seed-spitting contest,

after the badminton and high dives,
 the dive back to the
still laden tables,

and the satiated somnolence
that crept over everyone
like a warm blanket -

after all that came the night,

with its anticipation of sky-fire 
and canon boom,
sparklers held at arm's length,

the ooohing and ahhing,
the window-cracking BANG!
of Chinese firecrackers, 

paper and flash powder exploding like stars
deep in the dark.

Friday, July 01, 2011


The sun's as hot as melted cheese,
It oozes down between the leaves,
then spreads itself across the lawn
and slides along the trunks of trees.

By noon all trace of cool has gone,
the birds have ceased to sing their songs,
and every breathing thing is still,
until the daylight's almost gone.

Then thunderheads begin to build,
all black and blue behind the hill.
the sky takes on an eerie glow
and slowly rain begins to spill

The storm may calm the heat for now,
like asprin soothes a fevered brow,
but searing heat is summer's vow,
yes searing heat is summer's vow.