For The Sake of Pines

I have always loved pine trees. Ever since I was a child, the sight of pines has been a constant presence in my neighborhood, their evanescent green constant through the changing seasons. In my area of Oklahoma, pine trees are not a native species, but my family’s next door neighbor planted pine saplings over fifty years ago and they were giants in my childhood.

I would go across the street and pick up needles and pinecones, exotic oddities on our block filled with soft wood, enjoying the smooth feel of the needles and the rough texture of the cones. The contrast between the two made me love pines even more as I grew up, and as an adult I longed to have pine trees in my own yard. But since I now live in a dry West Fort Worth area, that is not possible.

father and young sun looking at tree in sunsetYears have passed since I was a child, and my parents’ neighbors who owned the lot died long ago. My parents now own the lot, and when my twin sons and I come to visit, we often go that that yard to explore and play in the shade of the pines. Last weekend while my sons played, my son Ivan pointed at the pine needles of a low-lying limb and asked “What is that Daddy?”

I plucked a clump of needles and showed them to him. “These are pine needles. See how green they are. Touch them and feel their smoothness.” My three and a half year old son touched the smoothed needles and laughed, his smile flashing like the sun in a darkened room. I playfully ruffled his hair as he soon went off to play something else.

As I watched him and my other son Aden play with fallen twigs and pinecones, I hoped that they would remember this time, this golden memory they shared with me. I want them to remember that their father shared with them his love for pines, and I hope they share the same love as me. Seeing them run and play chase in the tree-filled lot, I felt the years pass, my mind flashing back to when I was a child and did the same thing.

A lot has changed since I was a boy, but my love of nature still holds true. I can only hope this simple love can be cherished by others and pass that legacy on. For that I believe it will happen.


This is an article in my Subdivision Journal series. I am trying to use mindfulness to observe nature in my neighborhood. Other articles in the series:
Signs of Decay, Signs of Life
Meeting With Magpies
The Tree Blossoms
The Dead Bird
A Budding Tree
An Encounter With a Falcon
The Carrying of Sounds
The View from My Window


Author PhotoCarl Wade Thompson is a poet, essayist, and the graduate writing tutor at Texas Wesleyan University. He has published poetry and memoir essays in The Mayo Review, The Concho River Review, One in Four, Anak Sastra, The Galway Review, The Blue Collar Review, Piker Press, The Eunoia Review, Blue Minaret, Nebo Literary Magazine, Alphelion Literary Webzine, and Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas. He lives on the outskirts of Fort Worth, Texas. His poems explore the link between the urban and the rural.

Photo of father and son by Jozef Polc

Signs of Decay, Signs of Life

Father and son looking at autumn leavesI took my twin sons to visit my parents this Saturday, a weekly two hour trip we take to spend the day. My toddler sons love going to visit Mimi and Paw Paw each week, and we spend most of the daylight hours outside in their big backyard.

My parents’ house has an enclosed back yard which is about an acre in size and enclosed by tall plank fence. Their yard used to be smaller than it is today, but after a neighbor decided to sell their yard, my parents quickly took the offer, which doubled the size of the lot. After they had the fence put up for the yard, they had a large deck built right outside the backdoor.

Each Saturday, I watch my sons run up to my parents when we arrived, only to run out the back door to the back yard to drive their big bikes. Sitting out in lawn chairs while sipping iced tea, we’d sit and talk while watching the boys run wild, chasing each other while laughing.

While we were out this past Saturday, my mom and I would stare up towards the blue sky, looking for birds and pointing them out to the boys. As we talked and scanned the clouds, I saw three buzzards fly into view circling high overhead like hang gliders from some distant mountain. The more I watched for them to fly off, I saw that they kept circling, nearly hovering with their oversized wings, like toy birds on a child’s mobile playing over a crib. Watching them circle, I pointed them out to my mother.

“Have they been around here long?” I asked.

My mother nodded and pointed at them. “We’ve seen them around here for a few days. We think they must be nesting somewhere near here, but we’re not sure.”

I nodded. “Yeah. I just wonder what died?” And the conversation went off in some other direction.

But still I watched the buzzards, my eyes transfixed on them while my sons played like only children can. It was strange really, seeing these birds, totems of death, beings that appeared when the dead had begun to decay, and at the same time seeing my sons play like kids who have no idea of death, of harbingers, omens against the eventual darkness that falls on us all. I kept watching them both, the vultures and my sons, my mind carrying the dual possibilities that we all share, life and death with each breath we take.

As the afternoon faded into evening, I knew the future would hold days where I would have to explain death to my sons. But not this day, I thought. Instead, I watch the cycle of nature and my children growing up. For now, I will merely watch the buzzards circle… Time moves on.


This is an article in my Subdivision Journal series. I am trying to use mindfulness to observe nature in my neighborhood. Other articles in the series:
Meeting With Magpies
The Tree Blossoms
The Dead Bird
A Budding Tree
An Encounter With a Falcon
The Carrying of Sounds
The View from My Window


Author PhotoCarl Wade Thompson is a poet, essayist, and the graduate writing tutor at Texas Wesleyan University. He has published poetry and memoir essays in The Mayo Review, The Concho River Review, One in Four, Anak Sastra, The Galway Review, The Blue Collar Review, Piker Press, The Eunoia Review, Blue Minaret, Nebo Literary Magazine, Alphelion Literary Webzine, and Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas. He lives on the outskirts of Fort Worth, Texas. His poems explore the link between the urban and the rural.

Photo by Olesia Bilkei

The Lost Seagull

I was driving home from work one night, going through the Fort Worth stockyards. Driving on the brick streets, I felt the familiar rattle of the tires bouncing over every brick. As I went past the stockyards and was about to make a left-hand turn, I stopped at a red light and looked at the empty streets and the remains of what used to be a Mexican supermarket.

Waiting for the red light to turn green, my eyes were drawn to the street lamps lighting up the empty parking lot, and it was then that something caught me. For a second, I could not believe what I was seeing, but as my eyes focused, and I saw a seagull flying over the parking lot, hovering here and there as it searched for some scrap of food.

The first time I saw seagulls was also the first time I had gone to the ocean, Galveston in my case. As a child, coming out into the brisk oceanfront morning, I heard and saw the seagulls, heard them call and swoop along the surf as my nostrils flared with the smell of salt.

Now as I saw the seagull flying over the empty lot, my memories carried me back to the Seawall and the sound of waves bearing down into an oncoming crash. Staring, I wondered where the seagull had come from and why it was so far inland, as it was both odd and unique to the Fort Worth night sky. As the light turned green and I made my way, I stared once more at the seagull seemingly hover overhead, almost as if it were a puppet dancing on strings.

Driving home, I thought about the seagull for the rest of the journey. Of seeing them swoop for fish and trash on the Galveston ferry, of the constant cawing as they flew, their wings tinged by the incoming sunset I remembered in my childhood. As I drove, I took a sense of comforting nostalgia in that memory, one of the fondest I had as a boy. Stopping in front of my house and pressing the garage-door opener, I hoped I could show my sons seagulls in exactly the same way. For that I hoped.

boy on white sand beach with seagulls


This is an article in my Subdivision Journal series. I am trying to use mindfulness to observe nature in my neighborhood. Other articles in the series:
Meeting With Magpies
The Tree Blossoms
The Dead Bird
A Budding Tree
An Encounter With a Falcon
The Carrying of Sounds
The View from My Window


Author PhotoCarl Wade Thompson is a poet, essayist, and the graduate writing tutor at Texas Wesleyan University. He has published poetry and memoir essays in The Mayo Review, The Concho River Review, One in Four, Anak Sastra, The Galway Review, The Blue Collar Review, Piker Press, The Eunoia Review, Blue Minaret, Nebo Literary Magazine, Alphelion Literary Webzine, and Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas. He lives on the outskirts of Fort Worth, Texas. His poems explore the link between the urban and the rural.

Photo of boy and seagulls by Irina Schmidtjk

Suburban Journal: Meeting With Magpies

magpie holding peanut in beakWe went to the Target shopping center today, trying to get out the house for a little while and stay out of the cold. As my family shopped, I went through the aisles and departments looking at things I didn’t want but knowing we would buy something anyway. Going through the checkout line, I thought of how hard it was to go a day without buying at least one thing, no matter the cost, for the sake of buying something. This instinctual consumerism that seems to be a part of American mentality is one of things I think about time and again. Walking to the car through the gray day, my free hand holding my youngest son’s, my thoughts were broken as I scanned the empty parking spaces near our car, and I saw an unusual sight on the dirty concrete.

A dozen blackish-brown magpies were pecking at the ground, eating scattered popcorn kernels someone had spilled. It was strange to see so many birds out in one place this time of year. Most of the time I saw them in ones and twos, Now, here they were, a dozen birds all together in the cold, eating an errant spill on the parking lot that was once a pasture.

“Look, look at the birds!” My sons cried, pointing in wonder at the flock.

“Yes, look at them,” I said, wishing I had the same degree of newness and wonder for the world around me.

Most of the time I walk through life with my mind either looking forward to what I’m going to be doing or to the past. I’m not mindful of what I’m doing, of the action in front of me as I try to do half a dozen things when I should be focusing on the one task. But here, now, I was focused and mindful, not passing judgment, but merely being aware of what I was experiencing with my family.

Looking at the magpies, birds I have traditionally paid no attention to, for once I could clearly see them as they ate the kernels of corn. I could see them, be mindful of what was transpiring, and I knew I was making progress with my practice. For that I am thankful. As we got in the car and drove off, I knew the picture of the birds was one I would carry. Let mindfulness set my consciousness free.


This is an article in my Subdivision Journal series. I am trying to use mindfulness to observe nature in my neighborhood. Other articles in the series:
The Tree Blossoms
The Dead Bird
A Budding Tree
An Encounter With a Falcon
The Carrying of Sounds
The View from My Window


Author PhotoCarl Wade Thompson is a poet, essayist, and the graduate writing tutor at Texas Wesleyan University. He has published poetry and memoir essays in The Mayo Review, The Concho River Review, One in Four, Anak Sastra, The Galway Review, The Blue Collar Review, Piker Press, The Eunoia Review, Blue Minaret, Nebo Literary Magazine, Alphelion Literary Webzine, and Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas. He lives on the outskirts of Fort Worth, Texas. His poems explore the link between the urban and the rural.

Photo by Micha Klootwijk

Suburban Journal: The Remnant

neighborhood road in snowy winterFebruary had been a strange month for weather. It was like the weather couldn’t make up its mind on whether it was going to be warm or cold, changing every few days like hypomania, never going the full extreme into full-blown mania. Yesterday it had been 70 degrees, a taste of what late spring would bring, but today the temperature dropped, and the day was cold in the 40s, the north wind blowing with a bitter chill that told its true nature.

My parents and I had just finished watching Circus Soleil, and walking out of the big top, the wind blew across our faces like a straight razor. Standing for a moment in the parking lot, where 500 yards away stood an immense mega church, I turned my face straight north and let the wind hit my brow, rubbing across as it were barber ready to give me a shave. The wind had come hundreds of miles down the long plains, hurtling down Kansas and Oklahoma that unfurled in North Texas, a winter remnant reminding that spring was not here yet.

Overhead, the night was clear, stars shining eons away as we walked in the cold toward our car. A few hundred yards away, I could see some trees and the incline of a hill, and I thought about what this area must have looked like a hundred years ago. It was probably prairie, a small farming community, all of that gone now, progress moving forward with urbanization, remorseless in its precision and expansiveness. All that remained native was the wind, the North Wind from the plains.

It had blown cold and hard each winter, each gust crossing the years as change came in the way of a booming economy. The land would change, people would die, but the wind would be the witness to it all, for now until the end of time. Getting into our car, the wind lingering on my hoodie’s shoulders, I know it would be with me until I passed. With that, Nature ran its course in one way or another, even with so much change. And that thought gave me comfort. We drove on home through the night, and the wind kept his company all the way home and into Morpheus’ sleep.


This is an article in my Subdivision Journal series. I am trying to use mindfulness to observe nature in my neighborhood. Other articles in the series:
The Tree Blossoms
The Dead Bird
A Budding Tree
An Encounter With a Falcon
The Carrying of Sounds
The View from My Window


Author PhotoCarl Wade Thompson is a poet, essayist, and the graduate writing tutor at Texas Wesleyan University. He has published poetry and memoir essays in The Mayo Review, The Concho River Review, One in Four, Anak Sastra, The Galway Review, The Blue Collar Review, Piker Press, The Eunoia Review, Blue Minaret, Nebo Literary Magazine, Alphelion Literary Webzine, and Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas. He lives on the outskirts of Fort Worth, Texas. His poems explore the link between the urban and the rural.

Photo by Pavel Cheiko