As I lay in bed, listening to the
drizzling darkness through the curtains,
I wanted to stay snuggled under my quilt.
But I once heard
that we must put ourselves
in places to see amazing things.
So I dressed, laced up and
stepped out into the rain.
It was still dark outside
but that half-hour before sunrise
is the chorus of morning bird song.
I ran down to the lake
appreciating the concert, and
blinking away raindrops.
The sky was brightening toward dawn
while darkening with storm clouds.
Thunder rumbled, and the rain
fell in sheets, pulling pollen from the air.
I turned toward home, drenched,
sunlight breaking through gray clouds
The young bluebirds
converge on the suet
outside my window.
I am sure they are
from the same brood;
Three young gents, two ladies;
they are skinny and awkward,
not quite muscled out,
politely waiting in the queue–
one on the feeder,
two on the porch railing below,
one on the swing, and
one on the nearby red maple.
Except when they’re squabbling
over the greedy one who
lingers too long.
All are much bigger than
the bossy Carolina wren
who chases them off;
but they defer, because
they are young, and he,
knows what he’s doing.
They are too old to be fed,
too young to be alone,
uncertain of what they
should be doing,
so they stay together.
they’ll choose the familiar,
looking to each other
for food and safety.
My heart smiles to see
them out my window,
tentative but together,
as they try out their
A flash of color tumbling through the air
graceful even in the wake of the farm truck
doing fifty-five on a country road;
The driver gave the runner space, but could not avoid the butterfly;
now fluttering unevenly to the pavement in the turbid after-current.
I thought she was dead, struck by the windshield,
but her wings and body and tiny antennae were intact;
I could not bear to see the delicate wings
crushed into the rough black pavement
as though her brief and beautiful life did not matter.
I bent to pick her up, gently clasping her wings together.
Standing there on the side of the road, I silently admired the intricate patterns of color and spots, the rolled-up tongue for sipping nectar,
her fuzzy brown body and spindly legs.
Her wings opened suddenly, orange and vibrant,
and I discovered that she was yet alive; Perching unsteadily, and maybe invisibly damaged. Beyond hope? I could not be sure.
I wondered if she could taste the salt on my sweaty hand.
Cupping her in my palm, helpless–
I walked into the ditch, the tangle of weeds and poison ivy,
opened my hand around the Queen Anne’s lace,
setting her down in the center, to rest awhile, or maybe to die
next to the blue chicory along the fence row.
I ran early this evening
Thinking of her, and missing her voice
Shadows growing long,
then fading into twilight–
In January you can see
A long way through the woods
Stripped of leaves and other finery
Earth’s bones, contour and shape
Truth without adornment
Like her words, precise and spare.
Pausing at the lake, daylight fading
Two ducks silhouetted against
The orange-stained mirror
I watch, find the words and continue on—
Moon rising now through the trees
Casting a silvery light on my path
Up ahead, pale reflection on Sycamore Creek
I hear splashing below the bridge
And realize that it is always there
But I did not hear it until nightfall.
Climbing now, I pass the red oak
Two years since her proud limbs reached skyward
I grieved the loss each time I passed
But today I see her
Sinking gently into Earth’s embrace
Sharing energy and minerals and earthy rot
Housing wild creatures as always
Feeding hungry young seedlings—
Nurturing tomorrow’s forests with unbridled joy
She is here; her words are everywhere.
The day is just awakening,
Feet falling, easy rhythm
Broken only by the short step or lengthened stride
To avoid an errant root or rock,
Breathing regular, though not effortless,
Engulfed in wild silence—
The kind that allows space for a mind to wander,
Not the “silence” of white noise machines
Designed to dull our reality.
This silence is full and round,
Leaves blowing, water lapping at the lake’s edge,
Bickering redheaded woodpeckers—this year’s brood, no doubt,
The crickets, of course, plus whatever brethren
Make all those different sounds, which I do not know.
Weird snorts and screeches from deer
That I have to see first to confirm they are really deer
Squirrels’ light patter, lighter still for the fence lizards
Sometimes only movement, not sound, draws my eye.
The wild silence of a very alive forest
Is the kind where I can hear myself think.
I took a little time for myself last Friday, working on my long-term goal of completing all of the NC Bartram Trail. This is a slow business given that I average about 1 day a year on the trail—and I … Continue reading →
Tuesday after work. I am
camping with Stephen at Shinleaf,
on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail,
after he has spent much of his day
slowly moving himself and many
surprising (to him) pounds of gear from
Bayleaf Church Road, about
ten miles away. Tomorrow,
he will walk another thirteen to
Rolling View and await pickup
after I finish work. An experiment
in carrying everything you need and living simply.
He is tired and sore, but clearly pleased with
his accomplishment. Yet he’s puzzled to also
feel somewhat disappointed, and I see it
gnawing at him. I let him talk
but don’t say much, allowing him
space to think more and return later.
As for me–I sit outdoors at 8:45 pm
watching the waning sunlight,
an early bedtime whispering the
sweet promise of rest before the
sun rises on Wednesday. And I can
tell you that I feel content
with this ordinary
Alan Weakley asking our crew of 8 students to assess the unique seepy rock face below the Whiteside summit. This unusual community has too little soil for trees and takes a constant beating from rain and ice, but it makes an ideal habitat for other species, some of them rare. In the foreground you can see stately Turk’s cap lily, aptly named Lilium superbum. The hula hoop was my idea for a teaching exercise and so far has raised some hilarious questions and looks from fellow hikers.