Monday, December 02, 2019

Winter hues are so unlike their bright summer counterparts you’d hardly think they originated from the same colors. A winter sky looks cold. It’s ice blue in the early morning, cobalt in the afternoon. Even on sunny days there’s a hint of frostiness. And there is no color quite like New England grey—a sullen shade that portends snow, or worse, a dreary fall of freezing rain.

Winter woods are hauntingly beautiful. Trees whose shapes and patterns go unnoticed under a canopy of summer leaves stand revealed, every lofty limb, every bend of branch and configuration of twigs inked in relief on a canvas sky. Bark—rough and craggy or smooth as skin—is every shade of brown there is. When a pale January sun reaches out and touches bark and branch, the trees look as if they are lit from within. And snow, far from pure white, flaunts rainbow colors when struck by direct sunlight. Late in the day it harbors deep purple shadows; on moonlit evenings it turns to pure silver. Snow brings a discernible depth to other winter colors.

We tend to think of winter as a bleak and desolate season, a time when color recedes and fades into nothingness. A painter would tell us differently. No winter landscape is rendered in pure white. Always there is an underlying wash of blue or brown or yellowy-orange. Our eyes, blinded by fall’s fiery display, seek brilliance and in so doing, overlook the perfection of subtlety, of austerity, of less.
 If you look closely, you can see hints of spring shades to come. They are visible in the pale green-gold of the tightly folded lilac bud, in the wine-red withes of the swamp osier, or in the grape-colored stalks of blackberry canes. Winter is not a season of death so much as one of rest, a time to withdraw and be quiet, to renew ones' self in anticipation of summer's vibrancy.

Sunday, November 03, 2019


I think, said a friend once,
that you were a tree in a former life.

That would explain my deep love of the out-of-doors,
my longing for roots and an inordinate love of homeplace,

my penchant for being a watcher, a witness,
rather than a willing participant in human endeavors.

What sort of tree he didn’t specify.
A pine perhaps? I’ve always admired pine trees

with their towering, pitch-knobbed branches,
their prolific and diverse cones,

their forest-green needles that turn a faded orangey-brown at death,
a different shade of beauty.

I doubt he meant an oak — too mighty and steadfast and regal in bearing,
too impenetrable and strong, treasured for its sterling qualities.

He could have meant a redwood, but my human self is drawn to them in such astonishment
that I can’t imagine being invited to join their ranks.

Perhaps he was thinking of the birch, a water lover, compatible with my Zodiac sign, recognizable for its elegant bark, its pliancy, its delicate greenery,
though I’ve always felt, were I ever to be a tree, I’d be a willow, the weeping kind
that likes its toes buried in the damp earth and its head in the clouds,

a mothering being that bends and sways and waltzes in the wind, whose immense green arms
offer secret hiding places for birds and other small creatures, and children with books.

If I believed in reincarnation, I would believe I’ve been a weeping willow tree,
a habitat, a host, provider of shade and safety, my toes holding the erodible earth,

my leaves breathing, my body a nurturing source of shelter and warmth. This time around,
I think I am simply a mother incarnate.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

autumn morning

how can ordinary words
describe the sunlit undersides of geese,
or how the swamp maple,
in the first blush of dawn,
thrusts an implausible pink trunk
into the sky?

exactly which upper
and lower case letters will allow you to
feel the bite of the first frost
on your carelessly bare feet
skipping through the wet fire
to the sound of syncopated honks?

hours from now
unless these observations are
fixed on the open sky of the page
who will understand how your
shadowed footprints melted
into the dying grass
or how the great birds were swallowed
by the rising light?

Monday, September 09, 2019

A Little Taste of Heaven

My two young granddaughters and I travelled to Pennsylvania this summer with my daughter who was doing research at Bucknell University. We stayed at a wonderful farm B&B in Lancaster County. Tucked away among vast acres of corn, the farm was a haven from the bustle of Lewisburg. We were free to roam the barns and yard, to peek at the newborn kittens and, when the chore bell rang after breakfast, to help feed the animals before taking a wagon ride tour of the neighboring farms. When we were introduced to her dad, Jim, and later to her mom, Mim, our host Jodi asked if any of us had ever stayed on a farm before. I confessed that I’d grown up doing chores at a dairy farm, had once milked cows, helped put the hay in and had even driven a tractor. My dad raised chickens when I was a child, and when I was in my forties, my own family homesteaded in Vermont, raising pigs and chickens, and growing a huge vegetable garden for home consumption. For the rest of our stay, I was known as “the farm lady.”

If you appreciate hospitality without undue hovering; if you love the sound of locusts buzzing, of murmuring chickens, and the bleat of goats and baas of sheep; if you’re delighted with barn cats who butt your outstretched hand with their warm heads, begging for a pat; if you can hear the whispered secrets of a million corn leaves in the breeze or lose yourself in the silence of a sunset; if swooping barn swallows and cleanly swept barnyards delight you, if rockers on the porch whisper your name; if baked oatmeal with blueberries, chocolate chip pancakes, melt-in-your-mouth egg dishes with ham or spinach, and crispy breakfast potatoes sound delicious; if an immaculate room, a comfortable bed, and air filled with the scent of roses appeals to you, you might want to book a spot at The Country Log House Farm B&B ( Tell them the farm lady sent you.