Sick Day

Creeping out my back door on a perfect day in May,

Body aching, still in sweat-soaked pjs at 10 am;

Weak and dizzy from an unplanned, day-long fast,

Screeching red-shouldered hawk pierces my pounding brain.


Wind moves the tender spring leaves of white and red oaks;

I sit in filtered shade, cool wind evaporating sweat on my forehead;

I hear chickadees, Carolina wrens, and a pair of barred owls;

Raucous, joyful noise surrounding a quiet body and throbbing head.


I watch two blue jays share a tasty morsel;

For me, a piece of toast, no jelly,

Plus half a cup of black coffee—enough to prevent a headache crescendo,

Austerity seems best for a raging belly.


A gorgeous day for working in my garden, or running on trails,

Meanwhile my muscles ache like I’ve done both;

[I haven’t, of course; I’ve been in bed for the past 15 hours.]

Frustrating, to waste this perfect day.


Instead, I sit quietly (and queasily),

Listening to the drum of a red-bellied woodpecker,

Watching for the upside down nuthatch,

Absorbing the soothing green canopy and cooling breeze.


I don’t feel much better, but perspective helps.

Maybe patience is the lesson nature is teaching me today.

From my chair, I can see tulip-tree flowers, high in the canopy,

Sighing, I know that it’s a lesson I won’t remember long.


The shifting sun aims its rays on my face,

My head can’t take the blinding brightness, so I head back inside;

Pausing to scan a nearby sweet gum for the cardinal I just heard calling,

Accepting, reluctantly, the gift of stillness, and the healing pace of nature.


Ocean of Stars

I want to lose myself in the night sky,
Shiver in the November air,
Lie by the sea among grains of sand.
I want to feel dwarfed by the universe
Tiny, and inconsequential.

Perhaps then my cares, too, will seem small
Fear drifting away with the outgoing tide
My heart growing lighter
So I might twinkle again,
Just one of a billion stars above my head.

Nature Photography Challenge


This gallery contains 7 photos.

I’ve really enjoyed seeing my friends’ posts for the Nature Photography Challenge (‪#‎challengeonnaturephotography‬), and after Julie Tuttle and Dan Pittillo challenged me, I spent a few days thinking about what kind of “theme” might guide my choices. I decided to … Continue reading

Eastern cougar

Image[I wrote the first draft of this poem on March 7, 2011, upon reading the news from the US Fish and Wildlife Service that the eastern cougar had been declared extinct. I’ve revised it off and on since then. This isn’t the final word–genetic evidence suggests that the Eastern cougar (Puma concolor couguar) was one variety of the North American cougar species. Yet, I felt a sense of personal loss–not as an ecologist, but as an ordinary citizen of my planet.]

Fearsome catamount of legend–
I heard today that you are gone.
Not the resounding blow of natural selection,
Nor a clash with a more worthy competitor–
An ending more befitting of a graceful and deadly beast.

Your predator’s skill made you vulnerable to human fears.
Hunted, then starved–your fortunes tied to white-tailed deer
Now overrun in the East without you there.
Habitat loss sealed your fate.
Not with finality, but with lingering doubts of your survival.

Murmurings grown louder over time
Fruitless surveys building the evidence of doubt
Outweighing finally the chance sightings, ever fewer,
Which sounded more and more
Like the stuff of myths and wishful thinking.

Some will say that your role as an apex predator
Negates your loss. Others will scorn the dollars poured into your recovery,
Citing legions of unloved species who have neither your charm nor your fury.
And yet, how can we be numb to the loss of the mighty ghost cat,
Known for its elusive beauty?

How many of us will feel the pang of a species lost?
And how many more must we yet lose
For us to feel the chill of our own fragility
Through the threadbare places
In the fabric of our humanity?

The green fire that Leopold saw in the eyes of a dying wolf
Has faded for the eastern cougar.
Another piece of wilderness extinguished
In the banality of pen on paper,
The final echo of a species lost.