December's rolled around
and Inanna's down to bare
trees and barer bones of weeds
as she limps further down dark caves
where she will soon lie down and dream up
Bearcubs who stretch and yawn in wombs,
wait to slide into life as mother dreams
of ripened blueberries
growing on their ancient granite shield.
Now Inanna dreams that under snow
the seeds of dandelion sleep,
old lion's tooth waits out one more round
to birth and bloom and butter children's chins.
Old December is the pivot of the year,
gray as sky today and early dark.
But the cubs of bears will soon be new
demanding jewels insisting on the nipple
returning to Inanna as she dreams.
The sacred myth of death and rebirth is one of our most potent, and evokes a multitude of associations within us, and within kids (whether they can speak them or not). Inanna's descent is our most ancient understanding of ecology, that re-birth requires death, that life and death are circle twins in this cosmic dance.
A little wind, and pointed oak leaves
have nestled into all the tracks—
deer, turkey, squirrel, rabbit, me—
which pock the backyard snow.
So earth mixes us again.
The skin of Life that covers earth is a seethe of atoms being used over and over again. All living beings are made of the same few kinds of atoms in roughly the same proportions. This vast pool of atoms is recycled endlessly by life, all mixed together. One day a given carbon atom is part of a redwood tree, the next morning breathed in by a tree-sitter, who makes it part of a skin cell on her ring finger, which is sloughed two days later and is eaten by a red mite beneath the sword ferns, and so on ad infinitum. Every atom of our flesh has already been everything and been everywhere—three billion years to cycle is as close to forever as we can imagine. Our bodies, in other words, are 100% post-consumer content to the umpteenth power.. Animal, vegetable, bacterium, protist, fungus—all churned and mixed in Time's blender.
Forgive my little lecture, but we need to take this stuff personally. Consider how trivial our differences are considered in the light of this knowing. Human differences, yes, but really ALL the differences among lives of every sort. Life is a great conglomeration of cousins and shirttail relations.
The moon is halved tonight but bright
enough to shadowlight the line of tracks
that stretch across the snow white pond until
lost in darkness on the other side.
The maker of the tracks curved left, then right,
stretched a long sine curve across the ice.
Each being who leaves tracks
travels so through life,
curving this way, that,
stretching into woods lost to living sight
Earth speaks to us in images, and reminds of how much we know, and how much we don't and won't. The heart of things is mystery. Encourage kids to see that a simple image offered to their eyes can pluck our strings and resonate deep inside.
Life as Journey is perhaps the oldest metaphor, and journeys always curve. Paths made by living beings always curve in an elongated S, a sine wave. Ask kids to think about times on their own journeys through life when the path curved even though they thought it was going straight.
All living beings share life's fundamentals. We all go forward (no choice) into the unknown. The human dilemma is that we know it. The important thing to realize is that in nothing are we alone.
clear and cold, twelve below.
Sky the blue of glacial ice,
a blue intense at the top of the bowl,
but pale at horizons, a sky
become a Frost Giant's eye.
Clear and cold: here
we shiver our way to beauty:
the spruce invent more stubborn green,
nuthatch's black head owns a new gleam
and our feet crunch happily on snow
below the blue Frost giant's eye.
The first really cold day heralds the season and deserves our praise.What special markers do you cherish at season change, aspects for you finalizes the turning of the year? Winter is necessity. Be nourished by what is. Celebrate the Now!
An inch of new snow
coats the hollows of yesterday's tracks,
which have become abstract,
as if they dream of becoming
sun cups on mountain snowpack.
The ability of snow to renew our vision is a gift. It transforms our eyes. Fresh snow is an opportunity to enter the world of
"What if …" When detail is obscured the artist's eye in each of us is freed to see.
As I round a curve
a red horse rises from a snowy field,
red as strong as burgundy.
In silent snort his nose puffs white,
his flanks quiver and he's lost
to the long curve.
At the turnoff
Cardinal swoops up
past the windshield.
The red fox runs
across the pond
white snow warmed.
Often earth presents us with daily themes. Here, yesterday, it was red animals on snow. Jung called this “synchronicity.” We only pretend to grasp causality, and haven't a clue why events cluster in this way. And that's fine. Relish mystery. It's fun. Collect examples of this theming of our days.
Life lives in circles, and events are always disappearing around the long curve. Events are brief. Driving a car on a curving road is as seminal a metaphor for our time as a panning camera. Be as aware as you can of the many ways our lives travel along curves. Begin with the planet's year and the wheeling of the galaxy. Then zoom in to the personal.
On this blue-sky bright December day,
sprinkled like great peppercorns among bare trees
and well pecked bones of weeds,
twenty wild turkeys crouch on snow,
heads tucked into feather down,
black wings folded large.
They all face north, source of this bitter cold,
backsides to the winter sun,
blacksides to the winter sun.
In the North we all find ways to cope with cold. Necessity is the Mother of Invention. Imagine how very long that turkeys have been relying on solar heating to live through bitter cold. Recall the ability of black to absorb heat rather than reflect it. Recall the different kinds of old Sol's (sol-ar) radiation: Light and Heat (infra-red), and the current villain, now that we’ve trashed the ozone, ultraviolet. Consider also that sometimes the best survival strategy is to hunker down, stay quiet, and absorb what you can.
In cold moonlight
rows of treetrunk shadows
sprawl like black-edged knives.
So sharp this shadowcast tonight
that the furry tracks of rabbit hops
are lined with darkness almost bright.
Blue and pink seep into
this clear and bitter dawn
as if thick, reluctant
to open day and wick up the sky..
"Darkness almost bright" is nonsensical, but paradox does communicate. Paradox is a daily part of life, and in writing it is one way to emphasize strange truths about how we really see. "Furry tracks" is a similar thing. Rabbit tracks are softer edged than some because their long feet really are quite furry and fuzz the print. Even when cold moonlight makes everything edgy, rabbit tracks are furry. Use words in unusual ways, so that your unique visions of Earth can be shared.
Rabbit's day tracks across the pond
fall tight-linked as chain
and wear in snow a simple path.
Night tracks fall wide bounds apart
as rabbit leaps through dark
with hammered heart, half
expecting to take flight
in the talons of the owl.
Life is perilous. Encourage kids toward empathy by imagining themselves into other lives. Think about why rabbit's eyes are almost on top of his head, and why so large? For how many million years have owls been snatching rabbits off snowy fields? Cultivate a sense of deep time; it gives us a context in which we can understand ourselves.
All these tunnels on the face of snow
pushed hollow by the nose of vole
who stayed beneath the blanket
in last night's freeze
until her anxious eyes demanded that she see,
and out vole popped her nose.
Small rodents are in evidence everywhere there's snow—their tiny tracks, their surface tunnels. Why those tunnels in very cold weather? The answer has to do with how quickly a small body loses heat. The foot or so the vole runs above the snow between tunnels is as far as it can go without losing too much heat. Then it dives back under and tunnels again. Even under only an inch of snow it's much warmer. "Snow is a blanket" is one very tired metaphor, but it is rooted in plain fact.
A fall of snow so filled with light
it gathered from the moon
as it gently fell last night,
so filled with moon's light
its crystals glowed all day
on shapes softened by its fall.
Encourage kids to express their response to earth's beauty in fanciful (figurative) ways. Snowflakes, of course, do not gather light from the moon, but equally, of course, they do.
Figurative (metaphorical) language, whenever newly minted, is intensely personal language. As people discover this personally powerful way to make words celebrate their joy of earth, it strengthens the bond between self and the rest of nature.
Turkeys forage under oaks:
Two steps forward, reach out
one scaled three-toed foot,
plant and scratch
snow and leaves straight back,
next the second clawed foot scrapes,
then two steps back to stretch down beaks
and gobble bumper acorns gifted them by trees.
Encourage kids to discover natural relationships. All lives depend upon the bounty of plants, of course. This fall our feet slid about on an enormous acorn crop—this winter that means fat turkeys, and more young birds surviving winter to grow up and breed. These things occur in cycles. Wildlife eats what is given when they can. As I watched this turkey flock, I was struck by how ancient their snow removal strategy must be; it was probably invented back when they were flocks of theropod dinosaurs.
Their broad backs steaming white,
already they have rolled
in crystals fresh fallen
from the circling sky turned blue
for them this spreading day.
Black horses toss their heads and race
thunder down the field,
kick powder into light, rear and chase,
cavort like colts,
and my feet yearn to flow into
this pure horseplay at ten degrees below.
When adult animals of any kind, including you, frolic like they did when new, especially under a blue sky, the earth rejoices. Fresh fallen snow is opportunity for expressing joy of life.
I hesitate to plant my feet
in newly fallen snow,
this white so pure—
but if I do,
a trail will grow,
and wherever it goes
my trail will show
feet that stumble,
wander wide in curves
until wind comes up to blur
my tracks in newly fallen snow.
No matter how awful or corny your beginning may be, stick with it for awhile and it's likely to begin to say some truth. I think this happens because when we talk to ourselves in written form, we really do want to speak what truths we can discover in this talking. Personal writing opens paths to self-discovery.
The squirrel pops off his perch,
helter-skelters down the tree
and leaves my eyes tracking
across snow empty of squirrel.
Looking then I see
he's run straight into a tunnel
where trunk meets white,
where he's dug a hole into
the world of undersnow,
then one oak over, up he pops
and races up that tree.
Sometimes when you write you discover what you want to write more about. I just realized I wanted to say more about the world of undersnow. And I will. See writing as a way of discovering subjects and personal agendas.
This long night solstice sky is filled with fires
that burn through air so cold
on this small northern place
of tilted Earth, air so cold
it carries echoes of the void,
the heatless absolute of space,
Yet these ancient stars
are the memories of fires
that burned long before eyes
ever tilted up to them
and thought of light.
Happy Solstice! Twenty below this morning.