Category Archives: Nature

Cruel Harvest

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Cruel Harvest

In this middle morning,
pelicans drop like hail on the surface of the water.
This is not their usual style,
for they do not dive headfirst
and squeeze bills to necks
and swallow as before,
but merely float and dip their beaks
and raise their heads and dip again.

I hope it is not the tiny sea turtles
that we put in the water last night
that they are feeding on like hors d’oeuvres,
greedily.
But surely those turtles,
placed in to swim away 15 hours ago
are elsewhere than this,
facing other dangers, no doubt,
but at least, sad endings  I don’t bear witness to.

 We had waited until sunset
when the birds had gone
to lift the tiny creatures
from their plastic world
and set them,
confused and stunned,
upon the sand
to turn in circles
until we placed them right again
and again,
sometimes patting their tails
to encourage their voyage
to a new life shocking in its largeness.

 “What is this
lifting up and putting down?”
they must have thought,
“and then this broad expanse
that lifts us, spins us,
submerges us?”
Courageously, they lifted their  heads to swim,
only to be tumbled by waves—another  shock.
What more had life to surprise them with?
First, that bursting from the shell that had protected them,
then that thrusting into a colder world.

Children squealed with glee and were warned by elders
not to step back lest they step on the turtles that surrounded us—
all of us looking backwards as we stepped,
cameras clicking,
voices in English, Spanish, French—
all enchanted with these creatures perfectly formed
with black flippers and beautiful shells.
We saw their tiny heads like periscopes above the waves—
swarms of them at first and then separate,
swimming off to their individual fates.
Fifteen minutes later, the rising action
featured a solitary pelican that swooped for one
and then another and another
bedtime snack.
“No,” we screamed.
One woman threw a rock.
These pelicans that had enchanted me for weeks
as I watched their graceful flight and sure plummetings,
now prompted a new story
where they were villains, stopping new life,
bringing back the theme I have been so aware of here
for these weeks of my daily floatings in the sea.

Every organism, every animal, every person on this earth
lives only by merit of the death of others.
When life ends in infancy, how sad, how sad, we say;
but also say seeing the full grown pelican on the beach,
bleached to bones,
its beak sealed shut with a plastic circle from a six pack
or the needlefish, stretched on the sand and picked by carrion.
Never so obvious as here, this feeding of life on life,
and never so startling as when we placed the baby turtles
on the sand, wanting to save one for ourselves,
but knowing this action had a larger purpose than that.

We surrendered them to their life apart from us,
then moments later,
saw the pelican feed on them
guiltlessly,
living his place in the world.
Oh that I, too, had acted more selfishly—
palming one tiny turtle,
putting it in my loose pocket,
keeping it safe
away from that broad sea
that has so many means
by which to claim it.

Courage is the prompt word today. This poem is a rewrite of “Putting the Tiny Sea Turtles into the Sea,” a piece I wrote four years ago when the local sea turtle reserve brought dishpans full of the tiny creatures to La Manzanilla for volunteers to assist in releasing them to the wild sea.

World I Cannot Hold Thee

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World I Cannot Hold Thee

The dolphin tail of the wing cuts into the orange sky.
Brilliant deep orange fades to gold with dark islands of clouds
rising like trees above pale blue, medium blue, dark blue fading to black.
A thumbnail moon,
one star bright like a planet just far enough above the horizon
to be set in the darkest shade of blue.
Scenes like this break my heart. I don’t know what to do with them.
I’ve moved to the window seat now,
unable to resist that first flash of orange revealed over the shoulder
of the man who now sits in front of me––
that vivid sunset with no one looking at it
such a waste, yet now here I am, watching yet still wasting it.

I used to feel like this holding my sister’s child––
tiny newborn baby, so beautiful, so in my power.
I wanted to hug him tighter to hold on to this––
to do something to express this feeling
that I knew was vanishing even as it happened.
Yet this fading sunset now flares more brightly than before
as we keep catching up with it, flying west.
It may be that the dolphin wings, jets protruding like fins,
will swim for hours into the orange sea with all of us,
kin inside of her, waiting to be born.
Sleep. Read. Move to the bathrooms and back again
shepherding children––small brown sheep and black sheep,
eyes like berries turned toward windows reflecting back fire.

I want to run to the cockpit to feel orange wrapped around me,
cannot get enough of these colors, want to paint something significant––
colors like vivid embers against ashes, firey colors bleeding into blue
like fire staying alive as it bleeds into ocean and then into deeper ocean.
All of these things that are––what are they for?
Their purpose lost as soon as light has faded into darkness
through that incredible palette that means nothing, but is everything
above us all and under us and in us swelling us,
reminding us to hug the world tighter.
Squeeze life into it or out of it.
Hold it closer, needing no meaning except
being of it, with it, in it, having it in us.
“Oh world I cannot hold thee close enough!”
Understanding that.

The prompt word today is miraculous.

Kitchen Nativity

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Kitchen Nativity

I crept into my kitchen to see
what caused this morning’s cacophony.
The high corner of the cupboard wall
seemed to be the source of all
the peepings and it’s then I guessed
a mother bird had made a nest
there above the kitchen ceiling,
where I thought the paint was peeling.
Instead, that white spilled down the wall
outside the kitchen is not at all
what I thought—salitre’s heavings,
but is instead the nestlings’ leavings.

The watching mother stays aloof
on the next-door neighbor’s roof
with mouth filled with a juicy grub.
Now she flies from roof to shrub,
objecting to my presence there,
so close to nestlings in her care.
And so I leave the bird’s domain,
lest nestlings’ voices be raised in vain.
Minutes later, all is still,
although I know ten minutes will
bring more protests from tiny beaks
for wormy treats that mama seeks.
So it is this year again
that Mother Nature invites guests in.
My house now shelters more than me—
my family stretched from “I” to “we.”

What Is of Value

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What Is of Value

Now that the grass is freshly mown,
the sparrows can’t leave it alone.
Though we prefer the lovely green,
they prefer what’s gone unseen.
The dry grass underneath is best
for weaving into this year’s nest.
What has value for you and me
is not the same for all, you see.
For the way the world’s devised
is that everything is prized.

The NaPoWriMo prompt today was to compose a poem out of overheard conversations, but since I’ve been in a solitary mood lately, I went down to eavesdrop on the birds and other sounds of nature. Hearing a loud chirping in the huge cactus near my hammock, I noticed birds making repeated trips to the planter full of grass I put near the pool so my Scottie dog Morrie could have a place to lie to drop his tennis ball into the pool for me to retrieve and throw back down into the garden for him to chase after.  The long grass was pretty, but constantly being torn off by his repeated jumps up to and down from the planter and making  a mess in the pool, so I’d had the gardener trim the grass.  Earlier, I’d noted how ugly it now was as the grass underneath had turned brown, but upon closer observation, I realized that it was now a treasure trove for birds building nests.

NaPoWriMo, Day 21.

Pineapple: Seven Day Nature Photo Challenge, Day 6

 

This pineapple is growing on my terrace.  We have been guarding it and watching it grow for what seems like a year.  Yes, we will eventually eat it as we did the two other pineapples I have grown in the past 5 years, which were the sweetest I’ve ever tasted.  Same with my papayas, although the first fruit off the newest generation of trees was a disappointment.  I think Pasiano picked it too green.  This time I will chance losing them to the possums and squirrels and let them ripen on the tree.  Same with this pineapple.  It’s so beautiful that it is no problem to wait as long as possible to harvest it. All of this horticulture is taking place at my house in San Juan Cosala, Jalisco, Mexico–a mile high on a lake about an hour distant from Guadalajara. Paradise.

 

I was invited by Cee from ceenphotography.com to participate in a challenge called Seven Day Nature Photo Challenge. (Check out Cee’s wonderful nature photos by clicking on the link above.

As part of this challenge, I am to post one nature photograph a day for one week and to ask one other person to join the seven-day challenge each day I post.  Today I ask you to check out the  photography of the Jagged Man at https://daffodilhillphotography.com/  as I’m nominating him to take part in the Seven Day Nature Challenge as well. I hope you will check out his link for a real treat.  

Thanks Be to Pure Hearts

The Prompt: Never Too Late—Is there a person you should’ve thanked, but never had the chance? Is there someone who helped you along the way without even realizing it? Here’s your chance to express your belated gratitude.

Thanks Be to Pure Hearts

 Thanks be to that creator of the universe—
the one I can no longer pray to in a church
because of those powers who take truth prisoner
and lead the masses to wherever they can be most safely trusted
to surrender reason to them.

Thanks be to that man who turned water into wine.
Not a teetotaler. Not even abstinent, or so some say.
That man who loved all and who would not strike anyone
except for merchants making a living from the church.
Two thousand years ago,
he saw that merchants and moneylenders
would lead the world wrong—
using the little minds of frightened men
to turn faith into a weapon.

Praise be to those at the beginning of it all
who tried to set a true course but made the mistake
of leaving the compass in the hands of human fools
who saw over all, how to use it for their own glory,
making power their god and oiling their way upward
not toward salvation
but toward ever higher places in this world.

Those who are not fools might speak our enemies’ names
yet be shouted down by those
Dunning and Kruger have named as their adjutants—
the countless mindless who speed the world toward ruin.

Yet for this day, I want to turn my back on those I’d rather curse
to thank pure hearts who still can see the way.
There is still, I know, a part of them in all of us,
evident in everyday things: a mother’s sheltering arms
or in as simple an act as taking the smallest piece of pie.

So when we give thanks today,
thank those who remain kind within the world,
carrying along the spirit
of those first beneficent acts
that started with the dust of stars
and from it created consciousness
and then implanted some good turn of will
so as to give hope in a world
that feels divided in the blackness of the universe,
lonely in this night
but steering by those pinpricks in its cover
through which light shows, even in the darkest dark.

Saved

The Prompt: Local Color—Imagine we lived in a world that’s all of a sudden devoid of color, but where you’re given the option to have just one object keep its original hue. Which object (and which color) would that be?

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If all at once, all color were bleached out from the world
and suddenly a universe of whiteness were unfurled—
the rainbow, flowers, trees and art all newly bleached and pearled—

I know what single object I would choose to retain
in all its colored glory, in every hue and stain,
in sun and shadow, snow and hail and dust storm, drought and rain.

Its natural color changes every day we see revealed
over every continent: forest, city, field—
over every place from which the colors will be peeled.

This one glorious object would retain its vivid hues.
It would be the whole world’s canvas and every poet’s muse.
Every lake and river, its reflection would infuse

with all the colors nature has selected for that day:
blue or gold or purple, salmon, orange or gray,
according to whatever whim of moisture, dust or ray.

If I select the sky as the object that I’d choose
to retain its myriad pigments that only start with blues,
there are a thousand colors that we wouldn’t have to lose!

And the whole world could see them in the daytime or the night.
All the colors of the rainbow would not be lost to sight,
as every day and every hour, a new one’s brought to light.

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photo by Judy Dykstra-Brown, On the road to Ajijic.