600 Doubts

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Green Mountains burn
at the edges today.
September sumac
gone fast ablaze,
Mount Ellen royal
in her golden strings,
we travel through New England fog
eyes fixed on this snow
rising up with the day.

Somewhere under there,
is one rusty tractor, I think,
and two horses in blankets green,
blinking dew.
Somewhere under there,
river otters burrow and slide,
porcupines spread thousands of quills
in dark shadows of eastern hemlocks
sapsuckers press into channels,
ferns collect one more shade of grey.

Fog meets up with the Clouds,
we meet up with the Sea,
and I lean ashore
stretched in longest of doubts:
Do we only love what we understand?
Do we only understand what we love?
Can same water that lift us, drown us?

“We missed the low tide…”,
I crumble under deep water.
But boy grabs the bucket,
presses on crunchy shells
like some yogi not feeling the pain.
Past the barnacle castles,
steaming pies of seaweed,
past tidal markings of meaning,
muddy splash on his face.
“Somewhere under there!
Somewhere under there are the crabs!
Six hundred crabs!”,
he is certain.

~~~
Posted in Human Condition, Nature, Poetry | Tagged , , , , | 21 Comments

The Wind on the Baltic

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The crow flew by
and the feather dropped;
And the boy took the feather,
To write prayers in sand.
The winds left the sea
and they kissed the sands,
and the words dissolved,
and the feather flew,
and the birches turned
their backs to the sea —
and bent and screeched
Stretching to mount.
The crow laughed down
from the cloud-knitted skies,
and the young aspens shivered
from the stories they heard
of villages swallowed
deep in the dunes,
lost like words and prayers
to the wails of the sea.
And we spun and turned
freckled cheeks to the winds,
and we lifted sail coats
into cloud-knitted skies,
and we rose and flew,
into featherless soar
between white jasmine streets
and green pinecone rains.
And the sand so fine
sang below our feet,
and it sang hymns of Love
for as long as we flew,
and we landed down
freckled cheeks so full
of blueberries wild
deep in the woods

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~~~

Posted in Nature, Poetry | Tagged , , , , , , , | 36 Comments

May in Lithuania

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We climb the greenest hills
to listen to a cuckoo bird.
And doodlebugs in giant swarms,
Children’s delight.
Bird cherries dressed in bride-like white
with lilacs by the side
of drying clothes on lines
like prayer cloths
above the crumbled sidewalks.
Magpie, the curious, hops about
and lifts its tail as long
as days are long in May.

The cuckoo bird sings by the river,
We count the echo:
coo-coo, coo-coo, coo-coo
To determine our springs yet to come.
If you carry money in your pocket,
when the first coo-coo of the spring is heard
You will be rich forever,
The old man says.

The richness in this soil,
The rising fog, fresh rains,
and faces deep in wrinkles,
black fingernails, widows in black
scarves and handbags full of candy
for the children of the town.
White storks stride
across green meadows
As greenhouses flap their
worn wings on the hillsides.

I hold the bread black with abundance
Sun is pale here, as if yellow
has spilled out into
the gold of butter
egg yolks and honey,
and draped over the edges of the crust
Like yellow hair of local girls.
We listen to the morning church bells
bellowing across the town,
and the old accordion serenades us
from the distance.

~~~

 

Posted in Lithuania, Poetry | Tagged , , , , , , , | 41 Comments

Elevation 12,000 feet

Dear friends!!! No, I had not vanished, just stepped back from WordPress to do some exploring. We had been travelling for a few weeks hiking mountains and enjoying American West. More impressions and photos later, but for now, here are just a couple photographs of my favorite, Bryce Canyon in Utah.

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Posted in Nature, Photography, travel | Tagged , | 36 Comments

Spring Happenings at the Rookery

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Understated. New nest in progress.

Last year we visited the local rookery in May, when the leaves were out, the nests were plentiful, the toads were singing, and mushrooms were shiny with moisture. I believe we counted about 35 nests with approximately 60 birds. This year, I decided to go check out the herons a bit earlier, hoping to observe the nest building process. In northern Illinois, great blue herons lay their eggs in late March to April, so the nest building was in progress now. Just about 15 nests were up in the trees so far. Babies hatch in May, and by August they leave the nests to feed with the grownups.

These birds are 40 feet high up in the dead trees, our first Spring morning was quite grey, and I tried not to disturb their peace, so pardon the photos for the lack of detail. These majestic birds stand 4 feet tall and have a 6 foot wing span. They captivate with their beauty, ability to switch shapes between a curled up ball and a graceful long flyer, and their concentrated demeanor, sitting there patiently like frozen Buddhas on their stick pillows. Here, a male blue heron is disassembling an older nest and flying the twigs over to his female companion. The female then weaves the sticks into a new nest, which can range from 20 inches to a few feet wide.

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The couple on an old nest that is being taken apart

I noticed that one of the herons was not fitting into his sleepy crowd. He curiously kept looking around at the noisy geese down below in the bog, checking out the ducks quacking a distance away. After a while, he flew closer to the ladies (I assume?)  who were perched on brand new nests. One of them protested with a puff of feathers and a loud trumpeted bark. The curious gentleman then began his grooming procedure fluffing the chest feathers, periodically checking in with the upset lady: “How is it looking now, honey?” The feathers on the chest of the great blue heron are highly specialized and will continually grow and fray, kind of like a powdery down. Herons use their chest feathers to remove slime and oils from their other feathers as they preen. I was grateful for this entertaining bit, for my hands began freezing holding the camera. A good twenty minutes of grooming did not impress the grumpy lady, so he spotted another heron flying off, and with some trumpeting calls, he took off right behind.

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Trying to impress

~~~

 

Posted in Nature, Photography | Tagged , , , , | 25 Comments

Sides of Fathers

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“You are just like your father!”
My mother used to say
(insert a dab of guilt soaked
Oy Vey Eastern European
coloration here).

“You have this side
your father has,”
she would sigh in a colossal disappointment.
And I would walk around for days
and wonder just which side she meant.
Was it the side that would explode my father
into some random whistling outbursts,
which would silence him at our evening beds
So we could tell our stories, uninterrupted,
which would inspire him to compose poems about flowers
as he tracked the 149 types of tulips
in his gardens.

Or was it that other side which my mother
could barely stand,
the side which nastily possessed him
to lay the bathroom tile all crooked
for the seventh time
and then wear the wrong shirt for the family reunion,
or be blinded to the dirty socks
deviantly rolling on the floor.

So I would lay there
before sleep
(as I still do)
I close one eye at a time,
look at the profile of my nose
to check which side looks
like my father.
To figure out which is my good side.

This looking at the sides
is curious indeed.
One side of my nose does look
quite like my father’s.
The other — like my mother’s.
Which probably makes me same as you.

~~~

Posted in Family, Poetry | Tagged , , | 28 Comments

Simple Questions

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Dear Grandma,
My children now ask so many questions:
Does a gazillion have a gazillion zeros?
Do skunks make soup from skunk cabbage?
Do potatoes have so many eyes
to see better in the dark?
Fish sharing food with friends,
is that a feeding friendzy?

Why not, I reply. Why not.

Some days, like a child,
I have more questions than answers.

Did Sebastião Salgado
Plant two million trees
On the hillsides of Brazil
To house the souls
Of two million perished
He witnessed in Rwanda?

If we dropped the guns off our shoulders,
Would we have enough strength
To carry an owl, a book, and a shovel
For planting an orchard,
For building a park,
For laughing with children?

If radiation in Fukushima
Can be so strong as to pulverize
Steel robots into non-existence…
Can Love transmit super particles
That vaporize hate and fear
Around us?

Dear Grandma,
When Google and Quora
When YouTube and Big Tube
Fail with the answers…
Will you know? Will you show us?

Why not, she replies. Why not.

~~~

Posted in Human Condition, Poetry | Tagged , , , , , | 14 Comments

Love is Everywhere

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Thousands of green hearts on the snowdrops

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Millions of mommas cleaning their babies

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Hundreds of brothers sharing sunny spots

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Every tree and every little child melting hearts with sweetness

~~~

Posted in Inspiration, Nature, Photography | Tagged , , , | 23 Comments

Happy Springing

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Happy Meteorological Spring! Photos above from last April in northern Illinois.

~~~

Posted in Nature, Photography | Tagged , , | 13 Comments

Cooked

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Rendering lard at Volkening Farm, November 2015

The sun is climbing one fingerbreadth higher every day and the baking has started. The earth thawing out and smelling like a fresh baked bread, steaming over the prairies and bubbling on the brooks. This spring energy like some magical juice is flowing through our veins, and we are outside, again, sunrise to sunset, in the woods, and the grasslands. My little girl has planned out her wilderness classes and wildflower walks with a naturalist at the Arboretum, and my CSA friends are excited about the new orchard planting, farmer Ron will have baby buffalo roaming his hilly pastures of Wisconsin. Life is exploding in every visible and invisible dimension. We are brimming with this energy of transformation, waiting for our robins to come back to nest here by the window, and the baby owls to fluff their feathers, and those 50 nests at the great blue heron rookery to be filled with life. Kids will soon be donning mayaple umbrellas on their heads and licking their mulberry stained fingers. We will lounge on the Big Rock under the oaks soaking up the sun, intoxicated by the gentle spring breeze. Most of all, it is the dirt and the food I cannot wait to sink my hands into. I am starting to smell all this delicious goodness even while sleeping.

We went on a documentary watching spree these last few long days of winter. This week, we watched four 50 minute episodes of Michael Pollan’s new documentary “Cooked”, based on his newest book “Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation”. If you are as much a real food lover as I am, I highly recommend the film. It’s a beautiful tribute to food, vegetation, beasts, the spirit of the air, even the fungi, the decay and death, and most of all, it is an inspiring visual feast calling to slow down and embrace our senses and our communities. To embrace doing. To cherish unitasking. To love life. “Cooked” is divided into four episodes: Fire (Meat/Barbecue), Water (Soup/Braising), Air (Bread/Baking), and Earth (Cheese/Fermentation). The series just came out on Netflix. In it, Pollan takes on both vegetarian and gluten free movements and of course the usual industrial food production and advertising culprits. But the film is not overly critical, nor will you learn many new facts if you already ferment and bake. It is, however, a most beautiful expose of what we lose, the soul and the touch of the magic, the alchemy of transformation, the connection to and appreciation of all around us, we lose, we outsource our senses and souls when we outsource the growing, the roasting, mashing and cooking.

At the cheese class I was taking, I mentioned that my grandma would make cheese without any cultures involved, allowing milk to ferment in the old clay pots which she never washed, just gently rinsed. The instructor exclaimed: That almost sounds like sister Noella’s method! This lead me to “The Cheese Nun” (2006), a PBS documentary, in which sister Noella Marcellino, a Benedictine nun from Connecticut, (with a doctorate in microbiology no less!) travels to France to study the secrets of cheese making and the caves filled with fungi. Pollan devotes a large part of “Cooked” to sister Noella and her cheeses.

Since we just could not get enough food for soul, we also watched Pollan’s “Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World”, another excellent work, after which you will never look at a potato the same way. Few other worthwhile mentions: “Know your Mushrooms”(2008), a quirky little documentary which follows two wild mushroom enthusiasts,  Larry Evans and Gary Lincoff in their fungi explorations, which is indeed a nice tie in to sister Noella’s cheeses covered in that fungi wonderland.  “The Seer” (2016), a new documentary on Barry Wendell is premiering in March. I also have on order “Inhabit: A Permaculture Perspective” (2015), which is promising to be a rewarding watch.

And now, my friends, I am leaving you, for my morning scones are calling to be kneaded, patted and shaped into warm little hearts which we will carry today, over the creek and into the woods, listening to the maple sap dripping into the old metal buckets, and farmer Dennis will be boiling it down across the cow pasture, and we will watch the smoke rise as high as our spirits dipping our scones into the warm maple syrup and sharing them with people around the fire. A bit of air, fire, earth, and water, mixed up in indescribable magic.

~~~

 

Posted in Film, food, Nature | Tagged , , , , , , | 18 Comments