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John Caddy
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John Caddy's
Morning Earth Poems
November 2000

 


11.1.2000

Five crows assemble in the tallest oak.
They caw and caw. Across blue air
more crows fly in, first three, then five, three more.
Another five wing in from all corners of the sky.
Crows sprinkled like raisins
on the garrulous oak

Soon the oak is quiet of crow.
The conclave flown to all the corners of sky.

 

Take your time observing. This is difficult in the culture of the sound-bite. But natural events are all process, streams of ongoing experience that we dip into now and then and drink from. Rather than suggest slowing down or 'taking your time', suggest using wakeful attention, an intensity of seeing. Think about how time slows down when something compelling is happening, how all persons have the power to experience time slowly when they choose to do so. Gaining a new power is an attractive idea, but being told to slow down is just another control.

 

11.2.2000

The last blossom of Stella d' Oro opens wide
as on the road a possum's mouth bleeds bright red..
Newly dead, her hairless tail is warm in hand.

Bare trees wave but the pond is still.
Impatient breezes toss small birds about in early gray.
Now breezes dip and riffle light across the calm.
In the water, birches disappear.

 

Earth regularly offers us images which seem to fit together, images rich in possibility. Jung called these perceptions “synchronicity”, and suggested that our linear sense of cause and effect sadly limits us. Artists and naturalists search for meaning in these strange conjunctions of image offerings, and sometimes find a true piece of the story of the earth. Be alert to simultaneous images that somehow 'fit' together and make meaning.

 

11.3.2000

Just in front of me a russet scythe
as the redtail leaps from brush,
beats three tight circles,
climbs his ancient spiral up the sky.

Among bare oaks the pines
deeply brood in green
and sough in strong south wind,
children of the glaciers lost in time.

 

A sense of deep time is crucial to understanding what we are and where we've been.Ask yourself, when you notice some natural event, how many times another has watched the same thing before—a thousand years ago, fifty thousand years ago. Imagine that long ago person and his /her response to the event. The immensity of time is what awesome truly means.

 

11.6.2000

In a warm bed I listen to
November rain spattered
and scattered by wind
in the dark before gray dawn.
My pulse thuds in my ear,
I listen to my echoed heart:
My blood and brain have been this rain before.

 

Cycling and recycling of all the raw materials of life is a fundamental principle of ecology. All the molecules of water on earth have been circulating everywhere on earth for at least three billion years, time enough for each molecule to visit everywhere and be part of everything that water can be part of. We humans are some 70% water. Our brains are about 90% water. So the last line of this entry is not a metaphor, but for me lying in bed, a goose-bumpy recognition of a literal truth. Explore the implications of the general principles you learn. Make the water cycle personal and fascinating.

 

11.7.2000

Cut off carrot tops
sprout now on the compost,
green sprouts curled like ferns,
insisting in their vegetable way
that even chopped life
responds to light..

 

11.9.2000

In this moment the edges of the pond
Grow thin ice aimed at the center,
some discolored by decay.
Dark waters still below.

Suspended in this wink of time
We hang thin as this pond ice fringe.
We don’t know what we dread,
we only know we are amazed
we have become so thin.

 

Poetry is the art of the impure. Please encourage
kids to include in their entries any pressing emotional
business they have going in their lives. The EarthJournal is primarily a celebration of Earth’s daily gifts to each of us. The celebration in this little ‘election’ poem is that the pond gave me the image I had to have to grasp and express some of what I felt .

 

11.10.2000

Out of thin driveway snow
Lifts a green weed.
I pluck its budded top,
roll it in my fingers, smell
pineapple weed, the same
as when I would clear a space
to shoot marbles out by the garage,
draw the circle with a stick,
pull the weeds, pack the dirt flat,
smell my fingertips for luck.

 

Memories are what the human mind recycles to make art. Many memories are triggered by sensory events such as fragrances. Smells are time-machines that transport us into the past. Find yourself some personal time-machines.

 

11.13.2000

A grainy snow melts into the pond.
Meanwhile, below the surface
painted turtles sleep dug into mud,
absorbing oxygen through veins.
Greenfrogs sprawl, abandoned. Meanwhile
translucent in the water, minnows hang
barely finning, while beneath them
ten billion tiny eggs of daphnia and cyclops
rest on sunken leaves stirred by springs
that draw circles in these waters.

 

Encourage awareness of all that's going on simultaneously. There is more than we can grasp, of course, but even a small awareness of all this other life helps us place ourselves in a true and ancient context, and helps us see humanity as a part rather than the whole.

 

11.14.2000

As a breeze stirs the mirror
of the unfrozen pond
gray sky bleeds into
the black nets of leafless trees
and birch trunks lose their edges
as they shiver in the water, as if
the mirror murmured of
unreflective snow on rigid ice.

 

When you can't think of anything to write down, simply write one beginning line or phrase such as "As a breeze stirs the mirror" and stick with it for a few minutes to see where it might take you. The joy of writing is that you never know where anything will go; the continual surprise is what compels the writer. Emphasize two things when you are stuck: (1) your starting line should describe a direct sensory experience; (2) it should begin with words such as “while” or “as.” Once you have a syntax marker of time (as, while) , action will follow.

 

11.15.2000

The pond is frozen hard, and carries
on its face the memory of wind,
ripples locked in ice reflect a cold blue light.

So blue this breaking dawn,
so still this sudden cold:
when woodpecker flies across the pond,
the thrum of black-white wings.

 

Every year, early cold days offer us gifts that warm days don't. All season changes do this. Encourage kids to move beyond programmed responses (ala' local weather forecasts) and observe changed sights and sounds. How cold air amplifies the sound of moving feathers is a lovely mystery.

 

11.16.2000

Yesterday at ten degrees
ice ascended from my deck
not by mundane melting and evaporation,
but by a method more sublime,
for water is a pilgrim
that always finds a way.

This crystal water suddenly transforms
from solid state to vapor and lifts
without a trace into the heavens,,
invisible and powerful as angels.
This was named 'sublimation'
by a science once more devoutly inclined.
So this ice that just disappeared
has become sublime.
So water's very nature is holy.
It's what life's made of.

 

The mystery of water is very much alive. We simply don't understand much about it, but water is so ever-present that we overlook its mystery. Encourage kids to look at 'ordinary ' things sideways or slantwise. Help kids toward the discovery of awe.

 

11.17.2000

Walking in this cold I loudly crunch and creak,
large mammal loose on dawning earth,
my heavy feet make fresh snow squeak
as they leave sloppy tracks which
obliterate the tiny lizard feet of hopeful birds
who left these three-toed trails
searching out seeds, and here I scuff away
the first-light leap of cottontail.
Beneath the feeders scurry thread-thin
toe prints of voles
who dashed hearts tripping into night,
all these beings barefoot,
quick, while I clump along in boots

 

In the North, tracks in fresh snow are a great pleasure. In them we can read the night before. This is called reading sign. Ask kids to expand their sense of 'signs' to include all the visible events that we animals leave behind us.

 

11.20.2000

It makes the dark night glow
with lambent light,
softens shapes and makes them flow
in cleansing white
makes every claw and footprint show
unless wind fills the holes
with crystals in flight.
It brightens the black of morning crow.
We're all right!
Fresh snow.

 

Rhymed verse is often just light-hearted word play. Play to see what you have to say.

 

11.21.2000

Cold tracks in snow at ten below.
Frost moves deeper into soil.
Each twig wears a hoarfrost coat.
Early at the feeders,
bright cardinals and jays
begin to thaw the sky.

 

However cold we are, there is something in living nature that can warm us. Earth offers each of us the healing images we need. To receive them requires that we be willing and attentive. These are choices we can make or refuse. Attentiveness is fairly straightforward, but being willing to redeem our human suffering is difficult. Do everything you can to encourage yourself to be willing to receive the images of healing, beauty, laughter that earth offers.

 

11.22.2000

Twenty tom turkeys against fresh snow
gathered beneath the feeder
like a congregation of clergy,
dark-cloaked and preening.
The one upon the pulpit spreads his orange tipped tail,
while the brothers below
waggle their breast fans in wintry affirmation.

 

Wild turkeys, like us, can be both beautiful and funny. Toms are prone to look quite self-impressed, also like us. Have some fun with tuour nature observations. But also caution yourself to remember that each kind of being is its self, and not just a mirror for observers.

 

11.27.2000

1.
All day hoarfrost refused the sky,
Left roadside plants a crystal filigree,
and white-furred every twig
of bush and tree.

2.
In a snowy field three juncos feed:
Their weight curves down the stalks of weeds
as they pluck the fuel the fire needs.


Small winter birds are so intent and clear they continually astonish me. When I try to imagine myself into these juncos' minds there was nothing going on except "Eat these seeds." Stretch your imagination in such ways as often as possible with any living entity, be it bird or tree or the person next to you.

 

11.28.2000

A sluggish morning, fit for promised fog
that could not find its way here
or could not see its way clear
to grace me with confusion.
I must be content with a mind fogged
by close November drear
and stubborn lack of sleep.

But at this moment three chickadees
in the feeder hammer sunflower seeds,
and here are three
windowsill cats whose tails dance
to the hunger of three chickadees.

 

When stuck for a way to begin, the weather will always provoke some words as your inner state responds to it. Be consciously aware of the ways we are mirrors for the moods of earth. Allow earth to redeem your shadow moods.

 

11.29.2000

New snow just in time--
our bright albedo had melted down
but now the earth is windless white so
trunks and twigs and wizened leaves
are surfaced all with snow.
Tonight, the snow and clouds will
back and forth bounce
what light outstays the day
and undark winter night.

 

The qualities of light in a snowy night landscape are largely unknown in our electric world, Light does not leave when the sun goes down. The albedo (a measure of reflectivity) of snow can keep that light moving a long time and brighten night. Go outdoors in the country at night if you can (a problem when urban night has been stolen by fear). Notice the albedo of the visible snowpack as seen from weather satellites.

 

11.30.2000

The overcast has thinned
and color has returned to dawn.
Rows of rose clouds
glow against a growing blue,
and later we'll receive
an inch or two of white

And color has returned—
yesterday a jet black squirrel ran up a basswood
while behind him a red squirrel dithered
down an oak, then turkeys came
and brocaded tails against pure snow.

 

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