A Rehearsal of Wind

A December sky
left ducks to shiver
and take refuge
in the swamp grass
of September.
I walked backwards
on my journey
around the lake today,
feeling my sojourn
was one of rewind.

No amount of huddling
could bring summer back.
As a child of warmth,
I could not return to August sun.
It had faded into hiding,
where worms measure daylight
by the segment.

By Harding Stedler

ducks sheltering in grass on a winter pond

After graduating valedictorian of his high school graduating class, Harding Stedler went on to earn his B.S. in Ed., M.S in English Education, and his Ph.D. in English Education as well. He taught writing courses under the umbrella of the English Department in universities where he taught. In 1995, he retired from Shawnee State University in Portsmouth, Ohio, with 34 years of service. He now makes his home in Maumelle, Arkansas, and is an active member of the Poets’ Roundtable of Arkansas as well as the River Market Poets in Little Rock.

Photo by Ben Thomasian

A Great Time for a Climb

That’s a very big tree
and a boy scout could climb it
with all the right gear.

But it’s a condominium, too.
You would disturb families.
Blue Jays don’t feature

interruptions when they
have young in the nest.
They put up with

squirrels scampering
across the branches.
Robins have young too

but they have no interest
in seeds or nuts and
no one else likes worms.

Sparrows chatter away
and raise a ruckus since
they have young also.

Why not wait until fall
when the young leave the tree.
Fall’s a great time for a climb.

By Donal Mahoney

Blue nuthatch feeding chicks at nest in tree

Donal Mahoney, a native of Chicago, lives in St. Louis, MO. He has worked as an editor for The Chicago Sun-Times, Loyola University Press and Washington University in St. Louis. Read more of his poems in Eye on Life Magazine here.

Photo of Velvet-fronted Nuthatch by Prin Pattawaro

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

Going Home

After working a long nightshift,
the owl is up late.
Light that just now touched me
glints on no-nonsense feathers,
three or four shades of brown.

His flat face shoves the air aside,
unhindered by its resistance
like a ’47 Jimmy cab over truck.
And behind those eyes, a bone-weary
homunculus steers toward home.

By Don Thompson

Don Thompson was born and raised in Bakersfield, California, and has lived in the southern San Joaquin Valley for most of his life. Currently the poet laureate of Kern County, he has been publishing poetry since the early sixties,including a dozen books and chapbooks. For more information and links to his publications, visit his website San Joaquin Ink.

Driving in Cars, with Birds

When I practice my new birding skills in field or forest, I work hard at being still and patient, a skill at odds with barreling down Route 9 at 65 mph plus. But, while highway-side perches chosen by birds are viewed at a clip, they are often unobscured, putting the birds on stage for any commuter who looks up.

My favorite pastime as I drive is to keep an eye out for raptors. As I rounded the ramp to Route 9 one day, I hastily pulled my car over on the narrow shoulder. How could I have done otherwise when a handsome Bald Eagle graced a rather low craggy branch nearly within arm’s reach? We gazed at each other for a while and then we both launched — he back toward the Connecticut River and me to my work desk.

woman birdwatching by riverMiddletown, a small city along Route 9, is a raptor hot spot, at least along the highway, which for a while runs directly parallel with the river. Red-Shouldered Hawks are what I see most on that stretch, peering down from the green road signs and lamp posts. I wonder if they go after the Rock Pigeons, who form blue-gray huddles on the posts. I like to count them. Nine on one post is the record.

Spotting a large raptor can make my whole day. Each workday last summer, I happily anticipated the Exit 69 sign during my commute home, where a large Osprey often perched, right at the start of a high bridge. I wanted to pull off in Old Saybrook, park at the Quality Inn, and walk the nearby fenced pedestrian path toward Old Lyme on the other side of the river. This would allow me to get close to the bird, albeit with the distraction of cars and fumes. I’d be able to stare up at his brown and white magnificence, scrutinize his tail feathers through my binoculars. Maybe he’d scrutinize me, too.

Always, I had to be somewhere, or get dinner on the table. Although the workday was over, its tenor was still driving me and my daily to-do list, and apparently my car. If the Osprey comes back to Exit 69 this summer, I am determined to wrestle the car away from its well-worn rut and go visit with the bird this time. For now, I take River Road home once I’m off the highway. Now that the day lingers longer I can cruise this curvy path with the river to the right. Near Pratt Cove I peer over at the two Osprey aeries planted in the salt marsh. I park in the Cove’s gravel lot and walk the short distance to the Osprey path, where I stand on a jutting rock and watch the bird watching the marsh, hearing him or her (they take turns on the nest) calling, wondering if there are eggs deep in the pile of sticks. I think the highway Osprey and relish the thought of his return.

Visit Katherine Hauswirth’s blog, First-Person Naturalist.
Click here for Kathrine’s book, Getting Started with Nature Writing.
Her new book, The Book of Noticing, is available from Homebound Publications.

Book of Noticing cover

Photo by Leung Cho Pan