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John Caddy
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John Caddy's
Morning EarthPoems
May 2000



At last a little rain! No soaking, just enough for sighs.

Mist this morning,
Mist about to burn off into light,
and across the dripping greenbud
spaces between trees,
fresh-gleam spidersilks.
Into this, the cries of loons.



Five golden goslings rapidly paddle the pond
between two huge adults who laze along,
giving the young birds all needed time,

But when I appear on shore all five
clamber up a wide parental back to ride,
downy gold crouched on feathers black and gray.

As they reach the farther shore
the hungry golden five leap off
to aim their bright black eyes and beaks
at every leaf of green they see
while the big birds look and look at me.


Often when we observe the other animals, we are not sure why they do what they do. Both the goslings and adults are doing exactly what they should be doing: the babies' only job is to eat and grow; the parents' job is to make that possible. Nature has always been the mirror we hold up to the human face.



Flowered trees enclose my morning dream,
flowers named for tails of cats,
catkins dance from every ironwood,
every birch and willow, every oak,
These spikes of tiny flowers
start out green but
pollen-dusted turn to gold
candles dangling upside down
lit by sunrise from behind
even as their leaves unfold.
And in this waking dream I see
high in every oak small birds
which flit from branch to branch
like petals patched with gold.


Pollination never stops.



I wake this morning into singing,
the long nightsurf of trilling chorus frogs
continues in the gathering of light,
as redwings wake to dawn,
and whitethroats pipe the day.
And then sing all the birds named song.


Rose-breasted grosbeaks have returned, violets and rue anemones are in full cry.


I could have gone on to name each singer as its voice came in, but at the risk of numbing the reader's ear. Beginning with a list is often a good start to recording observations, but you have to select and know when to stop. Today, naming only the voices crucial to my waking turned out to be enough.



We are so tender toward the young,
so gentle in our eyes are lives just opening:
little ones, the risen seed, the nestling’s gape,
grasshopper nymph in perfect miniature,
a tulip bud just coloring,
the spotted fawn in ferns,
all the small who are potentials,
all the lives of innocence: but how
helps this survival? Why feel
so far beyond our kind?
To make us tender for a moment toward ourselves.

It is not fashionable to explore our interconnectedness with the Others. It is almost reflexive to accuse any such attempt of excessive sentiment, but this is really just a last gasp of the gendering of science. I dislike emotion overstated to the point of Disney dishonesty, and writing about such subjects requires caution, but knowing ourselves to be part of the whole is essential to an eco-centric worldview. Explore your own responses to other lives; wonder how such feelings came to be.



The trees today
a tapestry of green revived
by soaking rain, and the pores
of every life have opened wide
to moisture in the air,
and gray sky softens light
and bolds the blacks
of wetted branch and trunk.

There is nothing more satisfying than the end of drought.



The green heron lifts his crest,
every feather on his head erect
as the snake dangles from his beak,
His yellow hunter's eye burns bright.
He stretches high his russet neck,
flips up his beak and swallows long.
He folds his neck and crouches
just above the water on a branch,
and as his crest settles to his head
His yellow hunter's eye burns bright.


Killing to eat is not cruelty. Predation can be hard to watch, but it's important; it stirs us up in ancient ways. See the ecosystem view; the energy and life-materials in the system are always transferred from life to life, are always shared. But keep your empathy alive; feel for the snake, and feel the mystery of intertwining life and death. Balance is the crucial part.



Tulip petals now surprise the soil
with colors bright, but wild cherries
are in fragrant bloom,
clustered stars of gold-tinged white
by next week beads of green
that will swell and ripen purple black
to aim themselves
at the eyes and beaks of August birds.


Think about the why of things. Why are berries? Why cherries? Why are fruits sweet? When a bird or mammal eats a fruit, who is in charge of that transaction? Both benefit. In this ancient symbiosis, the animal receives food and the plant receives a mobile seed distribution service. The plants make their fruit available just when six billion birds need to carbo-load for migration energy. Maybe plants are a lot smarter than we think. Maybe everything is.



Watched a pair of mating dragonflies
bumble awkwardly around the pond,
eight stiff wings engaged in birth.
The male's wings held her just above the surface
as the tip of her abdomen dipped below
and pulsed eggs into the pond.
Each time, they lumber off to find another spot
to give their offspring every chance,
around and round the pond.
I watch and every day see something
wonder-filled I've never seen before.


Why would this behavior of laying eggs in several different places come to be? What survival advantage could it give the eggs just laid? (Hint: imagine all the hungry mouths in the waters of any pond.) This dragonfly behavior is intelligent, but surely flies are not big-brained, not all that smart. So where does this clear intelligence reside? The community, the ecosystem, is what is bright. That suggests that we (all of us living things) live within intelligence. Talk about your sense of wonder!




Earth is a tapestry woven by life,
Life is a tapestry woven by light,
The name of the cloth is Holy.

We are wetted dust
that hungers when the soil is dry,
our spirit’s drought,
when a single drop of rain or sweat
embraces a million tiny lives with possibility
for making and unmaking.



Mama Woodchuck does her waddle-run
across the grass when I come outside,
her black tail bobs, green clover
dangles from her mouth.
She is making once again
her mammal-miracle of spring,
rich white milk from leaves.



Woke to see Red Squirrel
racing up an oak
whipping through wet morning leaves
as if afire with day.



Watch a female cardinal
pull the fibers from
last year's honeysuckle vine.
She crushes the stem along its length
with her strong beak, then strips
each fiber out while standing on the rest,
and one by one flies off with them
to weave her secret nest.



Oriole flutters at my window sill,
pecks twice at glass
to remind me that the nectar's low,
then burns away across the day
in orange flame and black.


Be very cautious when attributing motives to the cousins. But the male oriole does do this when he first arrives in spring, and later when the nectar in the hummingbird feeder is lower than he likes. I suspect the hummer has a longer tongue. When a friend described this behavior to me I scoffed, then apologized after watching the orioles perform it the past two years. He sings gloriously these days as long as I behave. "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.



Wood thrush pours morning into me
like early light through basswood leaves,
a song that glows me out of bed.
Then pileated woodpecker cries out
his ululating almost-laugh,
gives me goosebumps on my joy,
wakes inside me all the wild.



Light half-shines through green
leaves which soak the light to grow inside,
huge basswood leaves splay wide, tippy
aspen leaves collaborate with breeze, vine
leaves twine and climb,
oak leaves depend on pure height while
grass leaves count on verticality, every blade
inch blessed as sun traverses sky.
Saturated with all this green
growth, earth feeds.


All plants have strategies to gather light. The most elegant is the floating alga's sphere, which maximizes light gathering. This is echoed in the hemispherical domes atop trees and wetland shrubs. Life lives in circles. In this season of explosive growth the green is overwhelming. Consider light as a metaphor for energy, knowledge, wisdom, love, and ask kids (or yourself) how they go about gathering the light they need.



The toads are in the pond
dangling from their golden eyes
while the throats of males swell
to fill the night with songs
antique before the dinosaurs.
The ancestors of song
now sing the pond and thrill
my still wet-behind-the-mammal-ears.


How blessed we are that some beauties last. Encourage a sense of Deep Time, for without that we can't know who we are and where we've been. And what obligations we've picked up along the way.

Next time you pick up a garden toad, look closely at its eyes. They are gold on black, and deep. Many years ago in a poem I said, Cellini cried when he saw these eyes.



Indigo Bunting and his calmer mate
graced the feeders yesterday,
him electric in his iridescent blue, her
neat and self-contained in two-toned tan.
Every feather groomed, with bead-bright eye,
she is not drab, nor even plain,
she looks like Mom,
and perhaps electric males should note,
a day or so ago, he spread hopeful wings
and danced around her in a dizzy circle,
while she calmly watched and chose.


Generally, resist the temptation to do what I just did, using a bird to make a human point. But sometimes it is irresistible, like spreading one's wings and dancing in a circle. Nature has always been the mirror we hold before the human face to learn more of what we are and where we've been.



I was pleased to see the earthworms
while I troweled soil to set-in plants,
but they were displeased by
my rude delving in their dark.
They were silent concertinas
expressive in their hurry to be free
of my tamping soil around the roots:
It must be the vibrations, for
all around they arched from soil and left.
Embarrassed, I explained I was an organic gardener,
but by then their heads were dug back in,
and they could not hear me say,
That compost you made free with came from me,
so they still don't know my selfless generosity.



The Wages of Virtue, or He Never Learns

Painted Turtle should not cross the road,
but thinks she must to lay her eggs.
I turn her around, point her to my sandsoil
where her eggs are welcome,
but she hoists herself around and points
her determined turtle nose again across the road,
where the sun is right to hatch her eggs,
so when I play Good Samaritan and pick her up
incautiously, OOPS! turtle pee all over me!