Green: After Five Years of Drought

Bright green grass and dark green oaksAfter five years of drought, I had forgotten about the restorative effects of green. Living on the western slope of the Sierra surrounded by evergreens, I thought I remembered. The large, drought-resistant ponderosa pines and the incense-cedars growing near the cabin where I live led me to believe the mountain landscapes flourished in spite of the lack of rain. The thick-bark ponderosa pine, with its long, dark-green needles and the bright-green plumes of the cedar were a soothing sight on hot summer days. The trees provided refreshing shade and filled the air with the pungent fragrance of pine. But if I had looked closer, I would have seen the dead branches at the tops of the trees, the brown needles hidden in the green. I knew the drought had damaged the less drought-resistant, but the sight of green provided some relief during those hot, dry years.

Each week, I drove down the mountain and into the valley to buy groceries. Unlike my forest home, the low-lands were thirsty and the ground hard and cracked. At the sight of the parched earth, my mind worried and my heart felt heavy. The once prolific willows spread along the waterways had yellowed as the streams dried up. The wind-wavy grasses became still, brown stubble. The drought-savvy blue oaks dropped their leaves in their effort to retain moisture. For weeks, fire filled the valley, and a thick-grey smoke choked the skies. The land lost its color: blue skies became haze and ash, the ground- dust. I felt relief when I arrived home to my patch of green in the mountains. It was a luxury I savored.

Then the rains came, and after five months of continuous precipitation, I saw the full spectrum of green. I drove through the valley where the clouds were grey and a light, spring mist sprinkled the sky, creating contrast against the green hues. The once brown fields were bursting with emerald grasses, and the deep-blue-green leaves of the blue oaks hung in heavy clumps. Bright-green mosses clung to clusters of rock. Long, tapered, waxy-green leaves lavished the tall, camphor-smelling laurel. The valley oak’s lime-green foliage grew thick and abundant. New life popped, splashed its glow across the landscape. My own limbs lightened, as I reveled in the return of the heart-slowing, mind-calming restorative effects of green.

Kandi MaxwellKandi Maxwell lives and writes in the Sierra foothills of Northern California. She walks through forests, soaks and splashes in rivers, lakes and hot springs, and bends frequently in downward dog. She is a retired high school English teacher. Her work has been published in Fair Haven Literary Review, KYSO Flash, The Raven’s Perch, One in Four, Foliate Oak, and others. Her work has been nominated for The Best American Essay series.

Photo by the author

To Go Look Soon

There are leaves out on the ground,
on the gravel of the driveways,
along the alley and main road, lodged
in the hedgerows and emptied limbs: waiting.

Each deserves a little inspection of its own
and knows it, senses a curiosity hanging
like some next shift of air studying on where
to make important things happen.

One particular leaf, a river delta
of white veins grown over sunburst orange,
tips still sharp as a sewing pin, is buried
under a mat of last night’s browning carpet,

promises to hold on out there
only so much longer now. Nothing waits
for nothing in the weight of a season’s press
of the clock, when rot is the day’s color.

By Larry D. Thacker

autumn red and yellow wet leaves on asphalt sidewalk

Larry D. Thacker’s poetry can be found or is forthcoming in more than ninety publications including The Still Journal, Poetry South, Mad River Review, Spillway, The Southern Poetry Anthology, Mojave River Review, Mannequin Haus, Ghost City Press, Jazz Cigarette, and Appalachian Heritage. His books include Mountain Mysteries: The Mystic Traditions of Appalachia and the poetry books, Voice Hunting and Memory Train, as well as the forthcoming, Drifting in Awe. He’s presently working on his MFA in both poetry and fiction. Visit his website at:

Photo by Mario Kovac

Slanting Cypress

Cypress goliaths
tilt in arrested topple,
border winding trail,
separate ceanothus and oxalis
from wave sculpted beach.

Sunrise illuminates
textured trunks,
splayed boughs,
etches crone limbs
in ethereal gold.

Ravens flap,
settle upon curved branches,
telegraph morning gossip,
curse trespassers who disrupt
their ebony covens.

Harpies within tormented trees
offer raspy predictions:
coming turbulence,
contused thunderheads,
battering deluge.

By Jennifer Lagier

Monterey cypress leaning toward morning sun

The author, Jennifer LagierJennifer Lagier has published ten books and in literary magazines. She taught with California Poets in the Schools, co-edits the Homestead Review, helps coordinate monthly Monterey Bay Poetry Consortium Second Sunday readings. Forthcoming books: Harbingers (Blue Light Press), Scene of the Crime (Evening Street Press), Camille Abroad (FutureCycle), Forthcoming: Like a B Movie (FutureCycle Press, 2018).Click here to visit her website. Photo by the author.

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

The Dark Green Conifers

another day in the woods. on Strawberry ridge
looking out over undulating green hills to
the next great wall ridge of mountains. the last
morning clouds left from last night’s storm
hanging in the valley mistily. the sun eventually
burns them away.

the respect between old Paul Karlsen and I continues
to exist. even though he’s a Mormon and I’m a fallen
New Yorker. the work is comparatively easy, lifting
hundred pound bags, so you can just imagine what
we do other days. in fact, it’s fun, especially for
young Bates. we get all white (and our lungs dusty).

on the way to and from the work site I read
in Silent Spring, the chapter against herbicides, gathering
inspiration for the upcoming controversy. in the end
perhaps I’ll be fired for refusing to lay down Tordon
beads. realizing this, as I drive with Bates,
I see the dark green conifers and begin to miss them.

Rocks and rattlesnakes, bluebells
and mountain daisies, grasses and cactuses, mahogany
bush, lodgepole pine and quaking aspen, lush forest
and dry sun-tortured mountainside, wind and seed
carried by wind, ants, streams, hummingbird
and hawk, deer, badger, ground squirrel, wolverine.

By Robert Ronnow

fir trees by meadow overlooking foggy mountain valley

Robert Ronnow’s most recent poetry collections are New & Selected Poems: 1975-2005 (Barnwood Press, 2007) and Communicating the Bird (Broken Publications, 2012). Visit his web site at

Photo by Mykhaylo Pelin