Summer Music

5:10 am. The song of the wood thrush sounds a little forlorn, blending as it does with dreams not quite remembered. Sharing coffee with the internet doesn’t change my perception of its tone. I snap my laptop shut and harness Wally; we’re out the door by 6 am, hoping natural news will find us.
song thrush singing on branch,
Mist rises up from the hayfield, dissipating the scents of the night. Wally’s nose twitches. A cow has wandered outside its pasture, tasting freedom in the tender greens. We wander through the local nursery in the quiet before its gates swing open. Wally waters the hydrangeas, roots stretching from the confines of buckets, waiting for a home. I calculate how many creeping thyme plants with their delicate purple flowers will blanket my rock wall. The “cheer, cheer” of a cardinal coaxes the wood thrush out of its mood.

Back home, I find my way to the garden and let it work its magic while I free tomato plants from weedy neighbors. Dirt finds its way under my nails and mama spiders carrying pure white orbs scurry into recesses. Early bumble bees lumber by, pulled by the scent of milkweed drifting over the fence. Dream remnants evaporate in the morning sun. Slowly, the song of the wood thrush brightens. I am ready for the day.

Janice Sina, former biology teacher turned veterinary assistant, observes and writes about nature, human and otherwise. She lives in East Haddam, Connecticut, US, where she strives to tread lightly on this Earth with her husband, her pets, and several thousand honeybees. She is currently putting the finishing touches on her first book, Songlines in the Key of B. You can find out more at

Photo of Song Thrush by Michael Lane


Slowly, the gloom of morning’s rain lifts. From my father’s ladder-back rocker, I watch sunlight worm its way through the clouds’ ceiling cracks and admire how green the grass has become in our overgrown yards. Once again, a part has sprung on the tractor, and we’re stuck in research, trying to find the part that will make our tractor ride again. This is a yearly ritual. So much depends on how many times one can say, ‘dammit,’ in a low growl — the sputter and choke and plume of gray smoke — are all part of the rush.

The grass grows and grows and grows, and we watch. We wonder if the neighbors are spying; no doubt, judging the state of yards gone wild with a sudden rash of dandelions, spinning gold into seeds; waiting for a gust of lake wind to blow against the infantry of wizen heads, setting a thousand wishes in motion to start, again.

Pity, this stubbornness can’t be us; even though, we talk like sixteen penny nails, we know our place here is temporal. So, what’s the rush?

old tractorold barn cloudy sunshine

M.J. Iuppa is the Director of the Visual and Performing Arts Minor Program and Lecturer in Creative Writing at St. John Fisher College; and since 2000 to present, is a part time lecturer in Creative Writing at The College at Brockport. Since 1986, she has been a teaching artist, working with students, K-12, in Rochester, New York, and surrounding area. She has three full length poetry collections, most recently Small Worlds Floating (2016) as well as Within Reach (2010) both from Cherry Grove Collections; Night Traveler (Foothills Publishing, 2003); and 5 chapbooks. She lives on a small farm in Hamlin, New York, USA.

Photo by David Jones

The Empress of Flowers: Peony

“Had I but four square feet of ground at my disposal, I would plant a peony in the corner and proceed to worship.” –Alice Harding, The Book of the Peony, 1917

Colorful peonies in vasesWhen my mother died a few years ago, I planted her ashes at the base of my peony plants. The peony was her favorite flower, as it is mine. I have seven peony plants but only five bloom – the five that have her ashes. Today those five are in bloom but because we’ve had weeks of rain, I picked many of the buds in the early morning and now, in the house, they are blooming profusely. Peonies fully opened are heady in scent and profoundly beautiful — bowls of beauty. I’ve placed them all around my house – kitchen, living room, dining room, on top of the wood stove, in the bathroom, in the bedroom. I’ve two glorious bouquets next to me as I write this.

Peonies nearly make me swoon with their luxurious bounty, health and exquisite form. When I wake in the morning, I lay my face in their blooms, inhaling their luminous scent, and feel the silky, cool petals on my cheek. I can’t get enough of them.

Even the names of peonies are delightful and varied: Abalone Pearl, Angel Cheeks, Crinkled Linen, Princess of Darkness, Solange, Ursa Minor, and one of my favorites, Sarah Bernhardt. She is deliciously fragrant, and has a rose pink double bloom with a violet tinted center interspersed with salmon. Peony experts describe her as “very floriferous.”

Peonies are hearty, flourishing even when neglected. I like these kinds of plants best. Dandelions, wild chervil, milkweed, sumac – all these so-called weeds thrive no matter what we do to them and to my mind deserve to be respected and revered. When humans are gone, I imagine these plants will thrive, along with returning bees, bats and even more coyotes — creatures that are adaptable and thrive on diversity.

peonies in vasesMy peonies in vases last for weeks for two reasons. One is because I won’t let them go and leave them until the petals lace their way to the floor and the stems are bare. And two, because I change their water every other day with a homemade preservative, as well as shortening their stems slightly at an angle with a sharp knife.

This recipe I found years ago (but I don’t remember where). 1 quart H2O, 2 TBLS fresh lemon juice, 1 TBL sugar, 1/2 TSP bleach — I keep the mixture in the refrigerator.

I have a friend who grows her own peonies for florists and weddings. She can keep her peony buds in the cooler for four weeks as long as she picks the buds early in the morning and plunges them directly into cold water.

bright pink peony in a vaseA few months after my mother died, I bought a Félix Crouse peony, originally from Somerset, England. This peony has ruby red flowers with a silky luster — just like my mom. She had a hedge of these at her home in Connecticut with literally hundreds of blooms. I renamed the flower Fehr Judith, after her. Her maiden name was Judith Fehr (pronounced fair). Today my single plant has nine enormous blooms and more to come. I always try to leave blossoms on each peony plant so when I walk in the garden, my mother is everywhere.

And now, because of the rain, I’ve brought her into the house, to every room, gracing my world with enchantment.

This morning the green fists of the peonies are getting ready
to break my heart
as the sun rises,
as the sun strokes them with his old, buttery fingers
and they open —
–from “Peonies” by Mary Oliver

Auhtor PhotoDian Parker is a freelance writer for a number of New England publications, including Art New England, the White River Herald, OpEd News, and many others. She is the gallery director for White River Gallery in Vermont and an oil painter. Parker has written about porcupines, old growth trees, architecture, artists, inventors, and immortality. She lives in the backwoods of Vermont at 1800 feet; kayaking, gardening, and recently completing a short story collection.

View her work at the links below:
Porcupine Courtship: A Raucous Affair
Stones in Translation

Photos by the author of peonies from her garden

Early Summer

Like plush carpet,
grass thickens
along ditches,
fields and fencerows.

Warming on the stone porch,
a garter snake glistens
in the bright morning sun.

Emerald leaves drip over
heavy branches
speckled with bird nests.

The wind pauses
catching a cool green breath
before the dry throat
of summer.

By Carol Carpenter

Sunrise behind tree and green meadow

Carol Carpenter is a poet/writer/photographer living in rural northwest Missouri with her man and three cats. A former emergency medical technician and grocery goddess, Carpenter enjoys walking, writing, exploring and watching the birds. She also likes to travel and play with her grandson. Carpenter received a B.S. in English from Peru State College in 2010. Her work has been published in Fine Lines, Your Country Neighbor, The Lincoln Underground, Plains Song Review, NatureWriting and Missouri Life. Carpenter’s first chapbook, Earth Songs, was released in April 2015.

Photo by efired

Water Marks on Sand

Along the river bed as I walk, my left
hand leads toward water that receives sky
on its surface. Clouds and blue, wind
shivers the image. Drawn to the lightly
unfocused, I begin to understand:
I prefer the potential uncertainty gives.

River banks slope down as land gives
into the pull of water’s force, sand left
fixed as levels of surrender. They stand
in their geometry until the next storm when sky
will dump a watery flood no dirt can lightly
resist. Sand and water the playground of wind.

What stays, what goes? Weather winds
tangling tendrils around leaf and stem, gives
roots the shivers. Uncaring, it affords little light
to birches or oaks in a winter grip. What’s left
alive will not, however, be decided by the sky.
If Earth can mend its line to sun, the plant will stand.

I like a bridge, the in between, yet understand
it’s a man-made thing, a construct that wind
could eventually dismantle with years of sky
and worms and human neglect. Still, it gives
me pleasure to stand on the planks, my left
hand tracing waves as they move the light.

If allowed abundant water and right light,
aspens would form so thick a stand
I couldn’t pass through. I’d be left
needing an ax, or simply listening as wind
blew leaves into melody that would give
me reason to stay there under the sky.

I want to live in present tense, each sky
revealing my mind to myself, the way light
never grows stale. What I love is given
me the way a tumbling stream understands
there can be no holding back, or how wind
sprays mist onto my skin and I’m left,

surprised, new. Moss gives off chartreuse light,
a glow under a gray sky. What’s left for me to know?
I stand in the answer, my breath a small wind.

By Grace Marie Grafton

path with wooden bridge by the river

Grace Marie Grafton is the author of six collections of poetry, which can be reviewed on Amazon’s site. Grafton_Whimsey_CoverShe lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, with a redwood tree outside her kitchen door and a native live oak next to her deck. Nearby are red squirrels, raccoons, salamanders, and (never seen) mountain lions. Other of her nature poems can be found in Canary (online), Peacock Journal (online), Third Wednesday, Poecology and The Common Ground Review. Her book, Whimsy, Reticence and Laud: unruly sonnets, is rooted in her love of nature. She has taught for decades with CA Poets in the Schools, frequently taking her grade school students outdoors for their poetry lessons.

Photo by NejroN.