Friday, December 31, 2010

YES (Again)!

Here we all are, at the last night of 2010. I have already been out for a sunny walk and late lunch with a friend and am waiting to go to a New Year's Eve / birthday party at another friend's house. It feels good to celebrate the changing year on the calendar, the changing year in my life. Tomorrow will be a fresh start.

Back in October, my poet friend Guy Reed described his wife Beth Humphrey's wonderful idea for each incoming year. "My wife, Beth, likes to pick a word for the year. Last year it was savor and we did. This year it is nest and we are doing that. It's amazing how well it has worked in our lives to pick an 'organizing' principle to shape the year." I love this idea! Looking ahead to 2011, two simple possibilities fluttered into my mind: yes and love. Another word came up at late lunch: open. Since love should always be the overlord of the days anyway, I select the word YES to carry me through 2011. To remind me to place yes before no, to be positive and compassionate -- and, yes, open to new ideas, friendships, adventures and possibilities. What's your word for the new year? Let me know, if you feel inspired to share. Happy New Year!

Thanks to Beth and Guy for giving me permission to mention Beth's idea and to quote Guy. The photo was taken this past summer at my cousin Laura's graduation party. Thanks for the festive lights, a perfect celebratory touch for this New Year's Eve as well!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Almost Winter

Now winter nights enlarge
This number of their hours ...

-- Thomas Campion

The photo was taken this evening in Rhinebeck, New York. Click on image to enlarge.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Shadows Over Rilke

I love these shadows, cast by a glass over the cover of a collection of Rilke's poetry. The patterns on the glass fell with beautiful, matching grace across the spiraling design of the book on my table. A November gift: found art. Rilke is one of my favorite poets. His words, so perfect for today:

... But, listen: a rake at work this early.
Above, alone, in the vineyard,
a man is already talking with the earth.

-- Rainer Maria Rilke, from The Essential Rilke, Selected and Translated by Galway Kinnell and Hannah Liebmann

The photo was taken 11/7/10. Just click on image to enlarge.

Saturday, October 30, 2010


On a walk just a short while ago, I had fun setting up this photo. Perfect for tomorrow's holiday and the wheeling season. Happy Almost-Halloween!

For an eerie experience, click on Her Kind on The Academy of American Poets site to listen to Anne Sexton read her famous witch poem. Here's the first stanza of "Her Kind" to get you started:

I have gone out, a possessed witch,
haunting the black air, braver at night;
dreaming evil, I have done my hitch
over the plain houses, light by light:
lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind.
A woman like that is not a woman, quite.
I have been her kind ....

-- Anne Sexton

Continue reading and listening to "Her Kind" by following the link above. For more about the troll, visit this earlier 2008 post, "Troll, Raku, Orkney Islands."

Click on photo to enlarge image.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Thank you, Charles Wright, for the following beautiful lines from "Poem Almost Wholly in My Own Manner" in Black Zodiac:

Interstices. We live in the cracks.
Under Ezekiel and his prophesies,
under the wheel.

Poetry's what's left between the lines --
a strange speech and a hard language,
It's all in the unwritten, it's all in the unsaid ...

-- Charles Wright, Black Zodiac (1997)
(Please forgive the formatting.)

The photo of lichens was taken 10/22/10 at Ward Pound Ridge Reservation in Cross River, New York. Click on image to enlarge.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Heart Like a Compass Needle

These days my directionless heart twitches like a compass needle. The mind wants to hold it firm -- steady north -- but the heart longs for the wild meander; wants to skip a beat; to race, breathless; to dance to its own syncopated music. Shrugging off the mind's stubborn grip, where will the heart point? Where will it wander? And toward whom?

I want to feel my life, even when it jangles the heart. I want to exist fully, intensely, inside its expanding borders. The world has suddenly opened up in all directions, revealing both turquoise seas and thorned thickets, blinding sunlight and startling darkness. I want to look both joys and shadows directly in the eyes. My pupils constantly dilate and contract. Which way shall I head out into this flickering light?

As guidance, my friends and family offer amazing advice, comforting wisdom, and their own experiences. One of my "invisible friends," superb singer and songwriter Wendy Lewis, came to me as an unexpected gift through poet Guy Reed. A fellow participant at a group Riverine anthology reading in Poughkeepsie, Guy thought Wendy and I would appreciate each other's creativity. We absolutely did. We have never met or even heard each other's speaking voice, but I have listened obsessively to Wendy's powerful singing and lyrics on CD's of her music she assembled and mailed to me. She gave permission for me to quote some of her wise words from our e-mail correspondence.

Chris: I like what you said: "You seem lighter -- and denser, all at once." You're insightful ... that sums it up somehow. I do feel lighter, but more intense, more focused, more me. After all those months of being in robot warrior mode, it feels good to start peeling off some of the armor. Only problem is, it makes you vulnerable. Hey, it was good/essential to get stronger, just don't want to permanently impair the sensitivity and trust.

Wendy: Yeah—"stripping off of armor" does make a person more vulnerable, but I guess I've always seen vulnerability as strength. It takes a lot of courage to surrender to ones' circumstances, roll on your back and just float down that river, trusting the current to take you somewhere, anywhere away from where you've been. The armor is all about protection—and I think both you and I would agree that life doesn't work that way for long, if ever. Clearly, from your entries over the last year, your sensitivity has been intensely illuminated and I've come to understand that trust is as ethereal as humanity is fallible.

Yes, "vulnerability as strength." Thanks, Wendy ... and thank you to all the others who have stood by me, pointing my heart in the right direction.

The above photo seemed like a good match to Wendy's words, as well as the post topic. It's another meaningful/symbolic shot, taken on July 12, 2008, a day of momentous decisions, at Ward Pound Ridge Reservation in Cross River, NY. (Yes, I will float. Onward!) To enlarge the photo, click on the image.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Newborn Face of the Poem

At the end of August I went with three of my oldest friends to the wonderful sculpture garden at Art OMI in Ghent, New York. So many intriguing and mysterious works of art grace the fields and woods. A huge sheet of riddled metal suspended among the trees captivated us for quite a spell. The reflections were a funhouse mirror paradise. Later, the resulting self-portrait above gave me a little surprise. Examined more closely, I can see my mind being siphoned by one of the powerful black holes. When I looked even more carefully, I noted a strange little newborn face emerging from my pointed head, near the rim of the bullethole abyss. Must be the face of a poem just being born. Yikes -- it's slippery, somebody catch it before it vanishes into the darkness.

Saturday night I joined editor/poet/musician John Amen and The Pedestal Magazine to read at KGB Bar in NYC. Thanks, John, for the invitation to read. What a delight to be in a room crowded with people who respect and believe in the power of the poem. How rewarding to look up while sharing a prose poem and see every face actually paying serious attention. One of the pieces I read was "They Seek an Inky Elixir," which first appeared in Cerise Press. It was just recorded and is now available online at Whale Sound, a terrific new audio anthology of poetry. If you would like to hear this prose poem read by another voice, the haunted and elegant voice of Nic Sebastian, click here to listen:

They Seek an Inky Elixir

For additional references to the piece, scroll down to the July 1st post, reached by clicking "Older Posts" at the bottom of the page. The words to the prose poem are there, with links to Cerise Press.

The photo was taken 8/28/10 at Art OMI in Ghent, New York. Click on image to enlarge.

Friday, September 3, 2010



This photo was taken in my yard on May23, 2009. I have been eagerly awaiting the perfect day to post it. To enlarge, merely click on the image. Feel lighter? Oh yeah.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Orange Unfurling

I love this blossom! Just took this photo a little while ago in my neighbor's vegetable garden, on a stop on my walk. I went back uphill to get my camera to capture its intricate unfurling. It makes me want to draw.

From Walt Whitman's "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry":

The glories strung like beads on my smallest
sights and hearings, on the walk in the street
and the passage over the river.

-- Walt Whitman (1819 - 1892)

And a perfect thought -- why not? -- from Whitman's "Song of the Open Road":

Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am
good fortune.

-- Walt Whitman

Click on photo to enlarge image.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Staircase in Her Eye

While doing sit-ups the other day, I looked up to see this riveting reflection. My line of vision and the angle of light combined to create this collage of my younger and older daughters' self-portraits from high school. I love the way my older daughter's face looks down the stairs from the landing into the eye of my younger daughter and the way my younger daughter's eye contains the staircase leading to my older daughter. The way my eye holds them both.

Here are some related words from John Steinbeck:

Man, unlike any other thing organic or inorganic in the universe, grows beyond his work, walks up the stairs of his concepts, emerges ahead of his accomplishments.

-- John Ernst Steinbeck, from The Grapes of Wrath (1939)

The picture was taken 7/25/10. Click on photo to enlarge image.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Nature's Infinite Book of Secrecy

In nature's infinite book of secrecy
A little I can read.

-- William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of Antony and Cleopatra (Act I, Scene ii.)
The Soothsayer's words

Apparently, I keep reading the same passages over and over in nature's infinite book. Every summer I take countless photos of the wine berries on my road, gorgeous in color and texture at every stage of development. I never tire of those multi-hued jewels that emerge from the purple-whiskered casings. I keep coming back to the crimson, orange and chartreuse of the ripening berries, glittering against the green foliage.

The picture was taken on the 4th of July this year, uphill from my house. Click on the photo to enlarge the image.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Box of Green Light

There were plenty of twinkling lights at my cousin's graduation party, but there, in the shadows of the garage: a box of green light, glowing like a treasure chest of kryptonite. In reality, it was a cardboard box of glow sticks and glow toys. One of the youngest cousins shared my delight at discovering this container of celebratory light. Inspired, he quickly and decisively selected pieces from the collection to create a bold and clean design on the floor. It looked like a neon hieroglyph. Then he wanted to photograph it. At eight, what an eye! I loved observing the young soul of an artist, glowing.

An artist observes, selects, guesses and synthesizes.

-- Anton Pavlovich Chekhov, from a letter to A. S. Suvorin, October 27, 1888

Click on the photographs to enlarge the images.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Spathe, Scratched Light

Spathe? No, that's not what it really is. I don't want to erase the mystery and atmosphere of this photograph by revealing the subjects. (Perhaps you have a suggestion or inspiration?) I took the picture this afternoon, found this shrunken world while playing with light and elusive reflections. To enter, click on image, lean forward, and disobey gravity.

What is called a sincere work is one that is endowed with enough strength to give reality to an illusion.

-- Max Jacob (1876-1944), Art Poetique

Thursday, July 1, 2010

They Seek an Inky Elixir

Okay, I know this is an unfocused photo, but it's got its own fuzzy-dreamy energy, and I like it. It throws you off for a split second, until you realize the moth is clinging to the kitchen window, not floating. It's a bit unsettling the way the moth stares inside, directly into your eyes. Watching you. Odd, how you have the inclination to stare back. To be absolutely still and silent. I found this picture while searching through my photos for a match to a prose poem of mine, "They Seek an Inky Elixir." The prose poem was just published in the summer issue of Cerise Press, a fascinating literary magazine, along with "My Flickering Body," a lyric poem.

Here's the beginning of "They Seek an Inky Elixir":


Poems cling to the trees in the dark, glowing like white bandages. They have traveled unimaginable distances, arriving in flocks from all directions. Windblown, tattered, they are exhausted from flying. They are half-dead from endlessly circling human heads, searching for an entrance to those moist and dreaming brains. All but a few have failed to do so.

The sound of the poems settling is a many-voiced hiss. Here, in the thickest part of the woods, they cover every trunk and branch. Their thirst is terrible. Sticky and breathless, they seek an inky elixir drawn by roots from the underworld. They crave that earthy flavor, the taste of clay and rust. Their unfurled tongues bore into the sapwood.

In an earlier life, they gathered in the crowns of trees and chewed. Now, in their fullness, graced with wings, they desire only that which flows. The words they seek have nothing to do with sunlight and chartreuse leaves. They wriggle deeper between the shingles of bark. All night long they siphon what they need from the trees. They greedily swallow cold shadows ....

--continued in Cerise Press--

To finish reading this piece, click on the title (in bold, above) to be transported to Cerise Press. You will also find "My Flickering Body" there. Here is the first section:


Unwrap the silt-blanketed stone
at the bottom of your heart.

Reveal yourself.

Dredge the pond.

Find your other body.

Bring her back to the surface,
where the bobbing copper sun
will balance again
like a penny on her lips.

The water is covered with weightless coins:
copper, gold, silver, bronze –

She keeps her eyes pinched tight.

Shake her awake.

For a moment,
there is no one inside the body.
The body is mere reminder,
receptacle for the lost stone,
the stone that skipped across the mirror
in defiance of gravity,
then finally obeyed.

--continued on Cerise Press--

Again, to read the rest of the poem, just click on the title in bold above. Thanks to the fine editors of Cerise Press for including my poetry. I'm honored. Do visit the summer issue online to savor an impressive assortment of writing and art.

The photo was taken from my kitchen, a couple of years ago. Click on the photo to enlarge the image.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Grokking the Toad

Coming home from work on June 10th, I encountered a toad at the bottom of the stairs, as if waiting for me. I ran in to get my camera before the toad disappeared and came back to find it still peacefully sunning. I took several shots, very close, amazed that the toad didn't leap away. I sat on the stairs, enjoying the late light and watching the toad, checking out the wild designs on its back, its topaz eyes.

Surprisingly, the toad jumped toward me, positioning itself between my feet, then turning around to face west with me. We watched the sky and trees, thinking our thoughts. This companionable silence seemed to go on for quite a while. It was probably no more than five or ten minutes of stillness and complete ease, that shared, comfortable space illuminated by the gold evening sun of June. Time got nice and slow. I felt I "got" the toad, that I "grokked" the toad. Do you recognize that Martian word from Robert A. Heinlein's science fiction classic, Stranger in a Strange Land? Here is Heinlein's definition of grok:

"Grok means to understand so thoroughly that the observer becomes a part of the observed -- to merge, blend, intermarry, lose identity in group experience."

To my delight, the word was also listed in The American Heritage Dictionary:

Grok -- slang -- To understand profoundly through intuition or empathy.

And, here, from the Oxford English Dictionary:

"To understand intuitively or by empathy; to establish rapport with" and "to empathize or communicate sympathetically (with); also, to experience enjoyment."

From Heinlein again, grok is "associated with literal meanings such as 'water', 'to drink', 'life', or 'to live'."

Good word. Those Martians are deep. Here are more good words, from Marianne Moore (forgive the formatting):

.... One must make
a distinction
however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the
result is not poetry,
nor till the poets among us can be
"literalists of
the imagination" -- above
insolence and triviality and can present

for inspection, "imaginary gardens with real toads in them,"
shall we have
it. In the meantime, if you demand on the one hand,
the raw material of poetry in
all its rawness and
that which is on the other hand
genuine, you are interested in poetry.

-- Marianne Moore, from the last two stanzas of "Poetry"

To enlarge the photo, click on the image.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Purple Umbrella

When I went for a walk with a friend earlier this afternoon, we discovered a young neighbor and her friend sitting on a rock eating Italian ices. Too cute. Since the drizzle had eased up, one of the girls had left her purple umbrella upside-down on the lawn. The crazy cat is the base of the handle. I just realized that if you squint, you can see me and my camera inside the cat's brain.

Click on image to enlarge.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

That Dark and Twisted Little Laugh

Communication by e-mail and instant messaging can be the casual flounce of words screen to screen, ideas tossed lightly, loosely, telegraphically. The mediums seem to encourage the immediate and impulsive. Of course the words can also go deep and convey hard thought; the exchange can have the feeling of a serious conversation. The other day I received a wise and beautiful e-mail from a high school friend, Tom. Here's a brief excerpt:

... my learned lesson that I attempt to abide by these days is this: There are really only two things that for me warrant any prolonged concern - love and health. Everything else takes a distant back seat and ultimately is of fleeting value. This of course is not to say that other things aren't good, fun, sad, debilitating or something else; but they don't really alter life very much or at least should not be afforded the opportunity.

Here is part of my response:

I like your philosophy. Love and health. How about creativity/art (in the broadest, most inclusive sense)? What also surfaces in my mind: truth (yeah, even if it hurts), and, strangely, humor. Somehow the dark and twisted little laugh is what saves me again and again. I see a strong link between comedy and poetry ... they can work the same way. Metaphors and jokes ... think about it. Disparate things magically/absurdly linked. The way they cinch together the far edges of the universe. The way they turn things inside-out. The beautiful surprise of both. (Back in time, during an author interview, the interviewer asked me if there was anything I had left out in our discussion of poetry. Yes, humor! I've been meaning to revisit this topic on my blog. Maybe you've just helped me write the post.) How about Soul and Spirit? (Soulful and spirited?) Compassion? Yes, and hope, that flickering flashlight. And back to that word, magic. The sudden bursts of sparks in life. But I agree, love is the top item, and possibly the overlord of them all.


Note: I decided not to edit this exchange, since in its direct and unpolished way, it conveys the ease of communication ... and tells the truth.

Tom's words were reprinted here with his permission. The photo of bark was taken up the hill from my house. Click on image to enlarge.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Eyes of Niles

Niles, my friend Cindy's cat, posed so patiently and elegantly for the camera. Gorgeous, the way his pale green eyes caught the spring light.

One of the most striking differences between a cat and a lie
is that a cat has only nine lives.

-- Mark Twain, Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894)

To admire Niles' glory more fully, merely click on the image.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Something of the Marvelous

In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.

-- Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), Parts of Animals, bk. 1, ch. 5

Funny how you set out to take a photograph of one thing, then something else catches your eye and takes you in a whole other direction. This podlike, mummified ... thing ... was part of a box of potpourri. (Could it possibly be a slice of orange?) As I headed out to the deck, it was literally underfoot, aglow in the light streaming through the sliding glass doors. Outside, I held it up to the muted sunlight, played with the way it cast a shadow, then realized what a terrific composition it formed against the bold wood grain of the picnic table.

Click on image to enlarge.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Clematis Shadows

I can't resist the immediate thrill of posting this photo of the clematis my neighbor brought me last night. She knows I love to arrange the flowers that arrive from her garden in vitamin jars, cans and juice bottles. Late this afternoon I lost myself in admiring the individual flowers with my camera. That rich purple ... those textures and shadows!

I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it.

-- Alice Walker, The Color Purple (1982)

The photo was taken 5/16/10. Click on image to enlarge.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Strangeness in the Proportion

There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626)
from Of Beauty, Essays

Thank you to Thea and Mark for the Mother's Day roses, and thank you to Shane for the Mother's Day creature, all featured in this picture. Emma, thank you for trying so hard to get here! The tinyitis "monster bug" was made by Deanne Neiburger of Deetsy on The photo was taken this afternoon, 5/15/10. Click on image to enlarge.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Reading the Sky

Walking downhill on my road at the end of April, my friend and I came across clouds like smudged words in the sky. I wandered ("lonely as a cloud"?) through a book here on North American weather, a thrilling find. According to the photos -- and with no true understanding -- the closest I came to naming them was altocumulus undulatas, under "middle clouds." Well, whatever they were, they were quite beautiful and mysterious. It was like finding an erased message written on a blue chalkboard. What did it say?

The poet is like the prince of the clouds
Who haunts the tempest and laughs at the archer;
Exiled on the ground in the midst of jeers,
His giant wings prevent him from walking.

-- Charles Baudelaire, "L'Albatros," st. 4, from Les Fleurs du Mal (1861)

The photo was taken 4/29/10. Click on image to enlarge.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Speak, Tree

Open to its inner map of color and texture, this dying tree on my street longs to tell its story. There, to the right, is its crackled, knowing eye. In the words of Shakespeare's Macbeth:

Stones have been known to move and trees to speak.

-- William Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act III, scene iv.

While searching for this quote, I got hooked on the vivid language and eagerly traveled on, arriving at the following familiar and beautiful passage several pages later:

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

William Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act V, scene v.

And now, I suppose, it's time to revisit Faulkner's book and meander through those pages.

The photograph was taken 4/11/10 on my road. Click on image to enlarge.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Float the Earth

Up way too early, I decided to walk up to the pond to see what was happening. I relished that lovely stillness, all quiet except for a mourning dove's lonely call and the distant tapping of a woodpecker. One to lull you, the other to wake you and make you pay attention. Thrillingly, countless black polliwogs were wriggling through the water like three-dimensional commas, or resting on submerged leaves, tiny tails pointed. I balanced on two rocks to get a close-up photo of them, which obviously was just not that great. (At least this time I managed to escape without a shoe full of muddy water.) That beautiful eastern light illuminated the muted April setting, placed the sky in the pond's silver bowl, and set the reflections dancing.

Here are two fitting quotes from Walden by Henry David Thoreau:

"It is well to have some water in the neighborhood, to give buoyancy to and float the earth." -- Henry David Thoreau

Later in Walden he writes:

"There can be no very black melancholy to him who lives in the midst of nature and has his senses still." -- Henry David Thoreau


Click on images to enlarge. Maybe then you can see the polliwogs in the lower picture. Both photos taken 4/11/10.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Startling Little Brains

I was startled when I crouched down to take a close-up photo of skunk cabbage and saw this alien presence nestled inside. (It's actually the spadix, covered with minute flowers.) Like a cross between a sprouting potato and a little pink brain, it was just waiting to surprise me on a glorious spring afternoon this past weekend. Our paths happily intersected when I went for a hike with a dear friend at Macedonia Brook Park in Kent, Connecticut.

This image reminds me of a piece from my latest book, Stirring the Mirror. Here is the opening paragraph to the flash fiction piece/prose poem, "Brain in a Birdcage." To read it in its entirety, simply click on the preceding title and you will be magically transported to The Diagram, an unusual and wonderful online literary magazine. Okay, hang on to your chair, here we go:

The little brain looked like a gray walnut, splotched in places with pink iridescence. At the bottom of a rusty birdcage, it reclined on a balsam sachet, one with a picture of a bull moose foraging, and thought its wicked thoughts unencumbered by a body. If it had vocal chords, it would have cackled heh-heh-heh under its breath. It did have one good eye. The eye floated above the brain in a baby food jar filled with oil, perched on the bird swing, optic nerve connected to the brain by a coiled copper wire. Iris up, it swam back and forth, flashing opal then emerald, pupil dilating and contracting, scanning the dome of its prison for a way out. Its unused vessels, tied in a knot, swished behind the eye, like a red squid chasing a beach ball ....

If you didn't dare open the story with the link above, but now want to see what happens next, you may enter the story PORTAL HERE. Happy motoring ...

To see the true beauty of the spadix, simply click on the image to enlarge the photo.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

No Permanent Planting

I don't know about that. It sure looks pretty permanent to me.

This cemetery sign always makes me laugh to myself as I drive past to visit a friend. I've always wanted to take a picture of it, so yesterday I finally did. (Click on image to enlarge.)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Frog Eggs

Second day of spring. I just walked back from a visit to the pond at the top of my hill. For those of you following the amphibian progress up there, here's today's (3/21/10) photo of the sunlit clusters of thousands of eggs. The party is still going strong ... wild and noisy. Harper & Row's Complete Field Guide to North American Wildlife describes what I referred to as the frogs' "chuckle-grunt" as "A short rasping clacking almost like clucking (not quacking) sound of domestic ducks." To me, their combined effort still sounds like a TV laugh track. Apparently they call only during breeding season, which begins very early in the spring, "even before ice has completely melted." Their range extends north of the Arctic Circle. Rana sylvatica doesn't hibernate under the water, but in logs, stumps, and under stones.

The top two photos of frogs are from their arrival day, St. Patrick's Day, 3/17/10. There were so many photogenic amphibians on hand! Just click on the images to enlarge the photographs. (Then you can admire the frogs' "prominent light dorsolateral folds.") See previous posts for more on the pond. You can do a blog search for the word "pond" and see what comes up as well. I think I am going to check that out right now .... Okay, I'm back. I did the "pond" search of the blog -- how clear it is how much that place means to me. And since the frogs' 2009 arrival comes up, it was fun to revisit those posts and see how closely they correspond with this year's observations.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Spider Zero

A week ago, across from the path leading up to the pond, this hardy March spider posed at the exact center of the zero on a house number sign. Snow still on the ground, ice on the pond, and -- strangely -- spider on the cold metal zero. Bull's-eye! I was able to get one shot right up close (he/she patiently waited for me), but when I blinked, the spider had vanished. The striking black and white pattern the spider had formed was like a fleeting, coded message, if only I could decipher it.

Here's another bull's-eye from poet Paul B. Roth, "Invisible":


I know well
the black spots
in apple leaves

I'm intimate
with the moist dust
each eaten center

with blonde-green
threading webs
through each one
of these holes

and who
when they see me
through this emptiness

by balling up
as if each
were one
of my unknown selves

-- Paul B. Roth

This piece is part of Paul Roth's beautiful and whispered collection, Cadenzas by Needlelight: Three Winters of Poems from Cypress Books (Rio Rico, Arizona, 2009). When someone whispers, you listen. "Invisible" was first published in Timber Creek Review. To read an excellent review of the book, visit Cerise Press online. "Invisible" is reprinted here with the author's permission.

The spider also reminded me of a poem that was one of my favorites as a teenager, "Design" by Robert Frost. You can read this poem on The Academy of American Poets Web site.

Pond update: Instant frogs! When I walked up to the pond this morning, the frogs had arrived. I could hear the loud chuckle-grunt of their mating calls from the road. When I got up there, there were countless sparkling little heads at the surface of the water. Noticing me, they suddenly disappeared underwater and all went silent. I was patient and quiet until the wild song began again. I stayed for a long stretch, surrounded by the noisy action. Then I heard rustling in the leaves. More frogs were appearing, converging on the pond, leaping toward the water from several directions. (And those were amazingly long, eager leaps!) I've never witnessed their actual arrival before. Lucky. (You can read two previous posts about the pond by scrolling down.)

The photograph was taken 3/10/10. Click on image to enlarge.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Six Days Later

Same pond, this morning, six days later. No snow, no ice, but still no visible wood frogs. I did see the leaves move under the water in one place, so something is in there. After the wild rains, the path to the pond had become a running stream, gurgling out into and across the road.

All they could see was sky, water, birds, light and confluence. It was the whole morning world.

-- Eudora Welty, The Optimist's Daughter [1978]

Note: See the 3/17/10 post to read about the frogs' overnight arrival.
Click on image to enlarge.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Thawing Mirror

The pond begins to pull back its curtains of snow and ice, revealing layers of mystery. It holds the sky and still-naked branches in its thawing mirror. With narrow fingers, the upside-down trees reach for last fall's leaves.

This afternoon I walked up to the pond in search of returning wood frogs, but all was silent. Soon, soon.

The photo was taken 3/10/10 at the pond at the top of my hill. Click on image to enlarge.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Unblinking Stare

Back to anemones, only closer. This flower's bold eye radiates energy. Its unblinking stare is a hypnotic explosion in red, black and white. It's March. Time to wake up.

Somehow the following words from Joseph Campbell, from the prologue of The Hero of a Thousand Faces [1949], fit this image:

Myth is the secret opening through which the inexhaustible energies of the cosmos pour into human cultural manifestation. Religions, philosophies, arts, the social forms of primitive and historic man, prime discoveries in science and technology, the very dreams that blister sleep, boil up from the basic, magic ring of myth.

-- Joseph Campbell

Yes. "The very dreams that blister sleep." Beautiful, that.

The photo is of a hybrid anemone I got at Battenfeld's Anemone Farm. Click on image to enlarge. Scroll down two posts to read more about anemones.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Never-ending Snow

My yard. Today. The snow just keeps coming, transforming the trees into something magical, dreamlike. The sleepyhead pines and cedars bow their heavy heads. Like a visitation, a hawk swoops overhead to land in a nearby tree, shaking down clots of snow. Then perfectly still, he/she watches me back.

From "Silent Snow, Secret Snow," a short story by Conrad Aiken:

The hiss was now becoming a roar -- the whole world was a vast moving screen of snow -- but even now it said peace, it said remoteness, it said cold, it said sleep.

Conrad Aiken (1889-1973)

Click on image to enlarge.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Anemone Eyes

Listening to the mix of sleet and rain and snow coming down, I turn away from the ping and drip to look in the eyes of these splashy anemones. On a recent wintry day, a friend and I visited the light-filled greenhouses of Battenfeld's Anemone Farm in Red Hook, New York. It's a great place to go with a camera, in search of color and light. (What were Goethe's legendary last words? Supposedly "More light!" Is that true? Even if not, they're perfect words.) While at Battenfeld's, you can pick up a small bouquet of hybrid anemones at an extremely reasonable price, leaving your money at their self-serve station.

Click on image to enlarge.

Friday, February 19, 2010

More Shadows Filled with Light

I love the way this paperweight casts a golden, swirling shadow while holding the sunlight captive inside its little world.

The photo was taken yesterday, 2/18/10. Click on the image to magically enlarge the photo. Thanks to Kim from my women artists' group, who gave me the paperweight before she left for Bhutan.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Pretty Candy Shadow

I took this picture just a little while ago. I don't know ... it just makes me happy to look at it!

Merely click on the image to enlarge the candy and shadow. Thanks for the holiday candy, Thea. Too gorgeous to eat ... and I don't think I really want to taste a sugary treat that is bourbon-flavored. What can I say? My kids like to give me weird candy. Scroll down to the "Cosmic Piglet" post to see the marzipan pig Emma gave me at Christmas.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Heart Swollen with Secrets

Happy Valentine's Day. For you, a prose poem, "Heart Swollen with Secrets," from the new manuscript I'm working on:


The heart, swollen with secrets, learns to disguise its voice.

It mimics the reedy peep of a schoolgirl reading, nail-bitten thumb prodding each perplexing word.

It pleads in the cracked baritone of a prisoner begging for water, pressing the pattern of bars into his glistening forehead.

It complains about the heat wave with the bitter whisper of a ballerina in a body cast.

In a teenage voice, it wheedles with the speed of an auctioneer, needing car keys for cruising.

Sometimes, grinning, it charms even you with the oily tones of a politician. Yes, even you, standing there with the empty leash in your hand, blinking and scratching your chin. Too many false voices. Where oh where did your real heart go?

Lately the heart pretends to have no voice at all. Stone-lipped and sulking, it glares out at the world through its gray-green mask of lichens and moss, silent as a boulder.

This evening, in the steamy dusk, you think you hear – at last! – the beautiful, watery song of the wood thrush deep in the oaks. But it is only the heart, that brassy little mockingbird, stealing another song. It practices throwing its own voice, its true and dark and sparkling voice, as far away as it can.

-- CBK

For your holiday entertainment, do a search of the blog, entering the word "heart."

"Heart Swollen with Secrets" was originally published in The Bitter Oleander. The photo is of a tree's heart, up my road near the pond. Click on photo to enlarge image.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Salt Art

During snowstorms, I cringe when the flashing lights of town trucks blink past on my steep hill. The trucks hurl arcs of huge salt crystals in their wake. Sigh. (No, I do not drink my well water.) However, in the aftermath, the sun reveals an ironic beauty: these crackled mosaics of salt-encrusted pavement.

Thank you for the poetic words of William Blake, which always hold strange truths:

Improvement makes straight roads; but the
crooked roads without improvement are
roads of genius.

William Blake, 1757-1827

I'm all for the meander.

The photo was taken yesterday afternoon, 2/12/10. Click on image to enlarge.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Hungry for Color

The snow continues to fall, drifty flakes spiraling down. All sounds are muted into a muffled silence; the pace of the day thickens and stalls. Yes, the view from my window is beautiful, but I'm so hungry for color. Although I'll likely take some wintry photos later when I venture out for a walk, right now I want to see something vivid and alive. Scrolling through last spring and summer's photos on my quest, I came across this glorious, opening rose, captured at the cusp of fullness. Just looking again into its face thaws the spirit.

John Keats wrote these stunning lines in "The Eve of St. Agnes":

Sudden a thought came like a full-blown rose,
Flushing his brow, and in his pained heart
Made purple riot.

-- John Keats, 1795 - 1821

Those three words instill spangled commotion in your mind, don't they? "Made purple riot"! And inside the "pained heart." Perfect. Wandering through Keats' writing, I came across these additional powerful and unsettling lines from "The Living Hand," a fragment. I wasn't expecting this haunted feeling, this visitation, to overcome me. See what happens to you after reading these eight lines:

This living hand, now warm and capable
Of earnest grasping, would, if it were cold
And in the icy silence of the tomb,
So haunt thy days and chill thy dreaming nights
That thou would wish thine own heart dry of blood
So in my veins red life might stream again,
And thou be conscience-calm'd -- see here it is --
I hold it towards you.

-- John Keats, 1795 - 1821

Shiver. This makes you want to leap fully into your skin, fill your lungs, and take off running to live your life in the deepest way you can. Do you remember what you needed -- with your whole heart -- to do?

The photograph was taken at White Flower Farms in Litchfield, Connecticut on 6/7/09. Click on the image to enlarge.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Windshield Feathers

This so-called "arctic blast" has us hibernating. On soul-chilling Saturdays like this, I welcome the morning mug of coffee with both hands. This has been another season of spectacular ice formations -- fantastic, fleeting patterns only the camera can hold on to. These swirling ice-plumes surprised me on December 14th, as I hurried to my car on the way to work. I had never seen such an intricate windshield bas relief. I found my camera and took this photo from the driver's seat. I love the way the bare black trees loom like giants beyond the glass. Hard to stop looking; harder yet to scrape away the art and head toward my other reality.

To enlarge the photo, click on the image.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Disobey the Current

Drawn by the curled wave of snow and ice against black water, I stood as close as I dared, not knowing where the ground ended and the stream began beneath the snow.

Thoughts jotted down while revisiting the image this silent Sunday morning:

Thinking of all the forces that rush past – unstoppable -- that freeze and melt our edges, that swirl our thoughts into beauty and darkness, that form patterns of poetic clarity, that ripple cold and warm past the heart, as boundaries thaw then re-form, then give way again, as -- quivering -- we inhabit shape after shape. Yet, how still and immutable, how solid: that place at our core that disobeys the current.

The photo was taken 1/9/10. Click on image to enlarge.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Cosmic Piglet

Up way too early this morning, I was playing around with my camera, a Christmas marzipan pig from my younger daughter, an old etched copper plate from printmaking days, and some bubbled glass. Oh, and the muted morning light coming in through the sliders. I don't know what there is about this photo, but it makes me laugh. The floating pig seems to be looking down on Earth with goofy wonder. Just something silly to start the day, a little effervescence for you.

Does anyone actually eat marzipan? To enlarge the image, just click on the picture.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Real Sky Was Better

Tonight's sunset: the inky trees were crosshatched over the blue and rosy stripes of clouds. I like the tangled nest of lines gathered at the lower right, with the last pastel light peeping through. It was well worth braving the icy air to go for a walk earlier in the day. Later on, coming home with groceries, I drove beneath these gorgeous colors. I grabbed my camera to try to capture the fading sunset from my neighbor's driveway. The real sky was so much better, unwilling to live inside my camera.

I wish you all a creative and colorful 2010!

To enlarge the image, click on the photo.