Blue season

Today I am not driving along the backroads and byways to work, for that work is over and done for a season. There are a number of things I will and won’t miss but this morning I am thinking only of the drive. It has taught me much about noticing. And composition. Twenty minutes of travel in the countryside imprints images in my mind; I study them over and over.

For one thing, as I watched the verdant lushness of grass and trees deepen and the crops in the field bursting forth in their furrows, I thought about spring being the season of green. But not only green. Besides the blossoming and blooming of pinks, yellows, and whites, there’s the flash of fiery cardinal red, the dusting of robin-breast orange, the electric pop of the bluebird, the soft, quivering brown of Rabbit. It’s all poetry to me. Stirring a nameless longing. Maybe just for life itself.

Robert Frost comes to mind:

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

And then I contemplate how green is really a combination of two colors, yellow and blue. If nothing gold can stay, that leaves…blue.

Which is so utterly fitting, as nearly every morning on my drive to work this spring I’ve been awed by the sight of a great blue heron in a pond. I pass three ponds, actually, and in two there’ve been herons. I have learned to look for them and there they are. Standing tall, serene, peaceful, almost elegiac. Once a pair of them flew across the road ahead of me. Dazzling. Somewhere in the brush I know there’s a nest with baby blue herons. In all my life, I cannot recall even glimpsing great blue herons. This is the birdiest spring I have ever known.

The herons are part of me now, and I think on the layers of meaning. Typically self-reliance, self-determination, progress… these seem surface level, like the color green. There’s more than meets the eye. There’s blue, a color I don’t usually associate with this season. Now I do. As I play with blue in my mind, it carries me to shadows, a time of day when the golden hours are transitioning to evening, and a fleeting memory of youth. A time of preparation, maybe going to dinner, gathering with friends, celebrating… all this, flickering and cool like tree-shadows when the day is nearly done and the blue hour descends. Again, a nameless longing. A heron in a pond.

I have had a hard time writing during these last weeks of school. Partly due to demands on my time. And physical limitations. And my psyche. But none of these are the blue longing.

Nature knows infinitely more than I about creating…and that is the pull, for nothing gold can stay.

Here’s to the blue season.

“Creativity is the Blue Heron within us waiting to fly; through her imagination, all things become possible.”

—Nadia Janice Brown

Photo: Great Blue Heron on the Coast of Texas, McFaddin Beach. Texas State Library and Archives Commission. CC BY 2.0

Spirit lifter

Upon arriving
at church
to teach a lesson
on the work of
the Holy Spirit
what should greet me
but the wafting fragrance
of cinnamon coffee
brewing serenely

so good and perfect
restoring my soul

even though the world
is no less broken

it is no less loved

for God so loved

as I read
the Scripture
sipping my
cinnamon infusion
what should appear
on the windowsill
but a little bird
looking through
the glass
at our class

a swallow
who’s built her nest
under the eaves

Even the sparrow
has found a home,
    and the swallow

a nest for herself,
    where she may have

her young—
a place near your altar,
    Lord Almighty, 

my King and my God

they know, birds
they know

wingbeats flutter
in my struggling
human heart

it’s all
the work
of the Spirit

I came to teach
I am being taught

I know
I know

my cup
runneth over

And then there were more

Dear House Finches With The Nest Atop The Magnolia Wreath On My Front Door:

I wondered why you’ve been lingering so long.

The four babies you hatched at Easter surely took to the wild blue yonder weeks ago.

I haven’t checked the nest because I feared your fledglings might be reluctant to go; after all, there’s no place like home… not to mention that in a previous season I think I may have accidentally force-fledged babies who could fly but were still cramming themselves into the nest. They gave me quite a turn, flying out that day when I came to investigate. So little. I worried if they were really ready to make it on their own. It would be my fault if they were not…

So, Finches, I have left you to come and go as you please, without interference, and I confess that the whole reason is purely selfish: your music. I savor your beautiful song. So bright and pure…sunlight is woven through it even on the dreariest day. Your song gets under a corner of my sometimes-heavy spirit and lifts it, floods it with peace and a longing I cannot quite explain. I know the day is coming when you won’t be gracing my porch any more and then I will be bereft of these joyful little interludes… so I haven’t questioned your lingering. I’ve only treasured my extended finch fantasia with a grateful heart.

Yesterday my husband asked: “Can’t we use the front door now? Those babies are gone, right?”

Bless him for his great patience with my bird sanctuary. He is a minister, after all…

I said, “Probably. Let me go check the nest to be sure.”

And then.

Then then then.

Oh, it’s going be a while yet before we can open the door.

Now I know what you’ve been up to, my beloved Finches.

Encore.

Finch fantasia

fantasia
noun

Music.

1. a composition in fanciful or irregular form or style.
2. a potpourri of well-known airs arranged with interludes and florid embellishments.

—Dictionary.com

They’re still here,
the finches
with the nest
in the magnolia wreath
on my front door

four weeks after
their Easter-egg hatching
I feel certain
these babies can fly

yet they linger
every little singer
adding its glory
to each new day

how I wish
this gold
could stay

Short recording of the finch fantasia

Whip-poor-will aubade

He sings alone
just before light
Farewell, farewell
beloved night

Summer is nigh
yet again keep
echoing hope
—all do not sleep

Whip-poor-will in the woods behind my home about an hour before dawn. Such longing and long-ago in the sound, for me. When my oldest boy was three, our family moved from Virginia’s Eastern Shore to the North Carolina Piedmont. We lived in a parsonage beside a little church high on a hill. It was June. All that first summer, when dusk settled in and I put my boy to bed for the night, the whip-poor-wills began calling. Over and over and over. Usually just one. The sound carries; it echoes through the darkness from the woods across the ponds and pastures, from old and deep places, affixing itself to the listening soul. I rejoice in its returning.

Eastern Whip-poor-willtcmurray74. CC BY-NC 2.0

Osprey acrostic

Overlords of sea and sky
Sunward soaring, unafraid
Precise piscivore pair
Riding the winds with
Easy grace
You see and seize the moment

Osprey pair. Photo by my friend E. Johnson.
“Fierce beauty,” as Sy Montgomery would say.

When I’m by myself poem

Today on Ethical ELA Jessica Wiley invites teacher-poets to compose in a form invented by her ten-year-old daughter, entitled “By Myself.” The challenge: Keep the first and last stanzas from the model and write eight rhyming lines in the middle, beginning with “I am.”

As I began to write this morning, quite by myself (so I thought), I heard a sound outside… I had to stop, open my back door, and listen. Naturally it had to become part of the poem, as it’s part of me, now…

Lines Composed Before a Late-April Dawn as Birds Begin Singing and a Barred Owl Is Calling

When I’m by myself
And I close my eyes

I’m flickering candleglow
I’m a rainstreaked window
I’m sky-scouring birds
I’m the wings of words
I’m snowflakes, driven
I’m mistakes, forgiven
I’m an ivy-covered portal
I’m the voice of the owl, immortal

I’m whatever I want to be
An anything I care to be
And when I open my eyes
What I care to be
Is me

A recording of my owl out back in the pre-dawn darkness this morning.

One of the many symbolic meanings of the barred owl is sacred space… which is always calling to me.
It’s also known as a hoot owl.
I have stories and an old song about that, for another day.

Barred owl. Jon David NelsonCC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Annotation found poem

Today on Ethical ELA Jessica Shernburg invites teacher-poets to find 1-3 short texts to read and annotate or texts that we’ve previously annotated (“examples you have modeled for your students, your responses to student work, books you have marked up, etc.”). The idea is to use your own annotations in creating a found poem.

This is the kind of thing that could keep me busy for days, weeks, infinity…

My annotations come from an eclectic mix of professional development, research, an old but much-loved novel, and the Bible: Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain: Promoting Engagement and Rigor Among Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students (Zaretta Hammond), The Power of Moments (Chip and Dan Heath), The Forgotten Beasts of Eld (Patricia A. McKillip), and John 16.

Might I violate the expectation
of an experience
with the right amount of tension
keeping the rubber band taut

bearing in mind that
there must be trust enough
for productive struggle

risking vulnerability
even as a disciple unprepared
for the terribleness
of what is to come

imagine tapping inner power
to call creatures with ancient magic
unto myself

while tasting
the freewheeling thoughts
of birds

More birdspiration

Finch eggs in a nest
on my front door wreath
captivated me
to such a degree
that I failed to see
what was happening
outside the back door:
a bright flash of blue
disappearing in
the little bird church
-bluebird occupants
brought Easter eggs, too.

On my back deck, Easter afternoon: a male bluebird is either bringing food to his mate or helping to feed babies. He entered and exited multiple times; once I was sure he was flying off with a bright blue piece of eggshell. These are the first-ever occupants of the little bird church, which has just been sitting on the deck as decor. I’ve seen the female as well. So hoping to get photos of bluebird babies soon (I need a better camera…this was taken with my phone through the kitchen window and screen).

My soul rejoices in this proliferation of feathered life, that songbirds have chosen my home for their own.

How lovely is your dwelling place,
    O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, yes, faints
    for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and flesh sing for joy
    to the living God.

 Even the sparrow finds a home,
    and the swallow a nest for herself,
    where she may lay her young,
at your altars, O Lord of hosts,
    my King and my God.

Psalm 84: 1-3