December 2013


Visiting family in L.A.
I am struck
by abundant plant life,
especially blossoms
and fruit,
everywhere.
In the garden
in front of this 1940’s
Hollywood bungalow
are Lilies, Birds of Paradise,
Heather, sublimely blushed
and scented
Roses.
In the back,
Bougainvillea and Lemons
hang across the fence
over the concrete parking area.

We watched half a moon
rise
over downtown L.A.’s skyline
and a few stars shine
through the city lights.

A richly-coated brown
neighborhood cat
visits mornings and evenings.
A busy blue bird—
a jay?—
breakfasts in the lemon tree.
I hear the story
of a squirrel
who scampered out into the middle
of the driveway
and stood high on its hind legs
chattering—”shouting”—
at a human trying to get to the gate
to open it.
Wisely, I think,
the human retreated
before the squirrel.
Then, last night
the legendary raccoon family
made its presence known
in a tree a couple of yards down.
They chased and snarled at each other,
shaking the tree,
arousing the human residents,
some of whom had firecrackers on hand
to chase the raccoons away.
The raccoon racket
continued for quite awhile
anyway.

Profoundly disturbing
is the tragedy
that hundreds of species
become extinct
each week—due,
partly, to habitat loss.
Maybe that’s why I am surprised,
delighted,
for all
who survive
in a deeply urban ecosystem.

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December 25, Christmas
at the sea
with Starfish
anemones,
mussels,
Dolphins,
Seagulls,
Cormorants,
people
who get excited about
seeing
life in tidal pools,
walking on sand
and letting cold waves
wash over their feet,
thrill at dolphins swimming;
drink up the sun,
also shimmering the sea.
It is a Christmas
reminder,
celebration:
love revealed.

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Our January 2014 Newsletter
A New Year at Turtle Rock Farm

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Ice and snow.
I didn’t know before this storm
that birds get icy.
Droplets of ice
are frozen to their tail feathers.

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They eat at the feeders
all day long.
And that’s about all I can do—
watch them,
take out more seed,
tend the fire in the woodstove,
take photographs.
Still,
I can’t capture
or hold
the beauty.
Or think of anything
more important,
than to behold.

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If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy,
don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty
of lives and whole towns destroyed or about
to be. We are not wise, and not very often
kind. And much can never be redeemed.
Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this
is its way of fighting back, that sometimes
something happens better than all the riches
or power in the world. It could be anything,
but very likely you notice it in the instant
when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the
case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid
of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.

— Mary Oliver
“Don’t Hesitate” Swan

DSCN2282Ann and East Coast friends, Jeanne and Bill Finley

When I lived on the East Coast,
I usually took a week-long winter vacation
at the beach.
It was easier to see the great expanse,
the austere lines
of the ocean
without so many people
in the water,
along the shore.
Bundled up
for long, cold walks on the sand,
alongside foaming,
thundering waves,
I savored every delicious moment.

The prairie in winter
is like that too—
except that the waves
are made of grass;
ocean water dried up here
millions of years ago—
leaving the great expanse,
the austere
and sublime curve
of prairie.

So it is not a surprise to me
that East Coast friends
come to visit
in the autumn,
and this year,
winter.
From the embrace
of the straw bale hermitage,
they can look out its south-facing windows
at the curve
and the spaciousness
of the prairie;
watch the grasses bow in the wind;
listen for the coyote,
see Seagulls—I mean Red-Tail Hawks—
soar in the endless expanse of blue,
hear their plaintive call;
breathe in the depth and exquisite beauty
of winter’s night sky.
And then,
come in
from that cold north wind—
to a fire,
a bowl of soup,
a cup of tea
and the welcoming cheer
of prairie friends
eager for the warmth
of those engaging conversations
from which no one wants to leave
the table;
for it is much too long
between
communions.

DSCN2224Female Red-Winged Blackbirds

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Great flocks
of  Red-Winged Blackbirds
glide and dip
in black waves
across this ancient ocean bottom
that we now call the prairie.
Their shadows flitter briefly
through the windows
on sunny winter days
as they fly silently over the house.
Morning and evening,
they descend upon
the small sparrows
feeding on birdseed scattered
and feeders hanging under the Hackberry.
Atop the Hackberry,
their chattering
is welcome music:
not lyrical like spring’s warm song;
more rhythmic,
spare,
like a cold wind
blowing leafless branches against each other.
They are a choir fitting
for winter.

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