March snow

haiku story

gray Sunday morning
in spite of springing forward
it begins to snow

first time all winter
big white flakes now descending
on riotous blooms

purple-pink redbuds
bright yellow forsythia
pollen-laden pines

suspend certainty
while birds rush in, unafraid
of crystallized grass

melting away in soft earth
—seems a sheer delight

to countless robins
hopping with newfound vigor
and the cardinal

on a blood-red blaze
toward the bare crape myrtle
where his mate awaits

and dark-eyed juncos
living up to their nickname
ground-flitting snowbirds

while papa house finch
forages in the clover
on the old dog’s grave

for seeds he’ll carry
to mama finch on the nest
incubating eggs

bluebird on the gate
ruffles his blue-flame feathers
in exultation

two crows come and go
strangely silent, for they know
the benediction

Carolina wren
hidden somewhere in the pines
sings Holy Holy

the earth’s aflutter
with myriad wings and things
returning blessing

in spite of the snow
life springs forward, brightening
gray Sunday morning

2020-0417_CentreCoPA_WestMain_Eastern Bluebird in the snow -01amOBX. CC BY-NC 2.0.


with thanks to Two Writing Teachers for the monthlong Slice of Life Story Challenge


Winter mornings
in the half-light
I leave home for work

out on the lawn
a stirring of birds
so small
I can’t quite see
if they’re actually birds

maybe they’re
gray-cloaked fairies
performing secret rites

or the grass itself
sprouting feet for a night
and ethereal wings
for breaking away
at dawn of day

tiny tufts
of earth, unbound
with promise of
heavenward flight

For a couple of months I’ve tried to figure out what little birds are flitting in the tufts of grass each morning. Gray and ghostlike, they’re elusive as fairies. I finally got a good look at a few of them through the kitchen window. I am pretty sure they’re dark-eyed juncos, which my Merlin Bird ID app has picked up and identified by song. They are sparrows, “birds of the ground,” hopping around on lawns looking for seeds. They even nest in the ground.

To me, they give the illusion of the grass transforming into birds.

I researched them and learned that the junco is a symbol of impending winter weather, nicknamed “Snowbird”.

Merriam-Webster says the first known use of “dark-eyed junco” was in 1974—when I was a child. “Junco” itself seems to have originated from a word meaning “rush”… as in rushes, synonymous with grass.

It just so happens that grass is a personal symbol for my father. I’ve often written of sensing his presence in the scent of fresh cut grass; this is steeped in childhood memories of him mowing the lawn. He was meticulous about it. Daddy enjoyed CB radio when it became a fad born of fuel shortages in the 1970s. I can’t recall his handle, but I recall the one I made up for myself, having never heard it before:


It seems to have come to me around the same time the name “dark-eyed junco” was first used...

out on the lawn
a stirring of birds
so small
I can’t quite see
if they’re actually birds

maybe they’re
gray-cloaked fairies
performing secret rites

—Maybe they are memory itself.

Dark-eyed Junco. Kurayba. CC BY-SA 2.0.


with thanks to Two Writing Teachers for the monthlong Slice of Life Story Challenge

Intimate conversation poem

with thanks to Barb Edler for the Open Write inspiration on Ethical ELA. Barb invited poets to speak directly to a subject, perhaps a person from the past or present, a beloved or loathed object, or even a dream, frustration, or desire.


In the dead of winter
in the dark of night
in the starlit silence
you come

to sleep
in the old
twig-vine wreath
on the front door

tiny warm presence
of which I’d be unaware
if not for the pull
of the stars

the frigid bite
of the night
is worth the sight
if only for a moment

so I open
the door

soft sudden flutter
wings taking flight
in the cold cold night

oh little bird
that I cannot see
you cannot know
how your presence
comforts me

that in this barren season
before the time
of nesting
you find your place
of resting

upon my door

little winged creature
of first blessing


Note: Sea creatures and birds were the first living things blessed by God, Genesis 1:22.

Said wreath. When I woke before dawn, remembering there’s a comet to be observed, I bundled up to try for a view from the front porch. The little unseen bird flew out of the wreath as I opened the door. There is no nest; I am not sure where the bird tucks in but the idea of it sleeping against the safety of my door in winter makes a metaphor of immense comfort to me. I can’t determine if it’s a house finch (they build nests in my wreaths each spring) or a Carolina wren, tiny bird with a big, gorgeous song. In the darkness I can only hear small wings beating for a split second as it takes flight. Whatever it is… it is welcome.

The feather

on the second anniversary of school shutdowns due to COVID-19

Bleak days. A long, rain-spattered, windswept season, gray as ashes, as stones, just as hard, cold, and immovable. Day to day to day the green promise of spring seems like a dream barely remembered; naked tree branches twist skyward as if beseeching the heavens for renewal…

We go through the motions, automatons numbed by a pandemic not quite past and the ripple effect of unprovoked war on the world stage, as if we’ve somehow fallen through a wormhole to eight decades ago… what year IS this?

I am tired, my colleagues at school tell one another. So tired. Some don’t know if they’re coming back next year. Some don’t know if they’re going to stay in education at all. Our principal is leaving in four weeks.

The children have seemed shell-shocked most of this year. Maybe I seem the same way to them, especially now that masks are optional and I find myself not recognizing some of them; I’ve never seen them without masks before. I don’t know their faces below their eyes.

As I walked the hallways last week, I had a sense of dragging myself over a finish line, except that there is no finish line. Not now, not yet…

But even in the bleakest, rain-spattered, windswept season, when gray goes grayer still, bits of brightness are always swirling. Maybe as tiny as a feather, a soft semiplume shed from a creature with the gift of flight. It might appear to be half one thing and half another… it might have the appearance of dark, wispy, wayward hair as well as a tapered tip dipped in fiery red, altogether like an artist’s brush with which we might, we just might, begin to dispel despair by painting our moments as we will…

So much symbolism in a feather. In the bird that releases it.

It is said that when cardinals appear, angels are near.

I don’t know about that.

I just know a cardinal feather is a symbol of life, hope, and restoration. And courage. And love. And sacrifice…

Falling from the grayest sky
Ethereal, riding the wind
Alluding to nearness of angels
Tiny trace of a nearby cardinal that
Has lost a bit of his insulation
Ephemeral, perhaps, to him
Restorative tincture, to me

Semiplume cardinal feather photographed by my friend,
E. Johnson, 3/11/2022.


with thanks to Two Writing Teachers for the Slice of Life Story Challenge every day in the month of March.

Bookends of winter days

Winter mornings
dawn in gray monochrome
before the sun bursts on the scene
like a passionate artist
with its gilded palette

Driving to work
in this gray in-betweenness
I note the doves
always sitting on the power lines
like heralds
their plump bodies
of soft sandy colors
framed by the oyster sky

reminding me:
look for the peace this day
live as peacefully as possible
this day

Then, in the strange way
of life
as I drive home
weary and worn
the golden part of the day
nearly spent
what should I see
on other power lines?

big and breathtaking
still as statues
painted in shades of rust

They might remind some people
of raw bloodthirstiness
or predatory fierceness
but their beauty
fills me with such awe
that it’s all I can do
to keep my eyes on the road
driving home

as I think about how my winter days
are bookended by birds
and how there’s something
inherently sacred
and profoundly satisfying
in that.

DoveJim, the Photographer. CC BY 2.0

Red-Shouldered Hawkgoingslo. CC BY 2.0

(One of these days, when I can stop the car safely, I am going to get my own photos of my hawks…)

with thanks to Ruth at SOS-Sharing Our Stories: Magic in a Blog
for today’s inspiration to write:
“You are invited to linger in your winter memories, reach deep and pick a golden moment to share.”

A game played long ago

This morning I woke to the sounds of wind gusts and snowflakes striking the window…brought back the memory of my oldest boy and a game we played long ago. A pantoum:

A game played long ago:
Little boy crawling into bed, whispering
“The North Wind will blow,
we will have snow!”

Little boy crawling into bed, whispering
“It’s so cold—I can’t get warm.
We will have snow!
Let me sleep here in your arms.”

“It’s so cold—I can’t get warm.
Until I am grown and gone,
let me sleep here in your arms”
—the memory of these moments!

Until I am dead and gone
the North Wind will blow
the memory of these moments,
a game played long ago.

Winter evening

A winter’s drive
as night falls
colors band the sky-
rose gold-
framed by trees
in black silhouette

stars appear
one by one

fairylights glow
from all the houses
scattered along
the rolling countryside

barns and haybales
swallowed by shadow

the road twists
through woods
past a pond
smooth as glass
reflecting the banded sky
in reverse-
rose gold
rimmed with silver

patches of snow
along the roadside
sparkle like glitter in
the headlight beams

deer are not out tonight
nor is the big rabbit
that feeds in my front yard

but I am home at last
full of winter enchantment
deep stillness in my soul

ready for a little bowl
of snow cream.

Winter bluebird (etheree poem)

like snowflakes
in the silence
finding asylum
in the holy places
where it perches plump and blue
a quiescent electric spark
sent to shock the soul from its stasis
with a sudden gasp of winterclean air

Bluebird in the falling snow this afternoon, perched on the birdhouse my father-in-law made when my boys were small. They still call it “Pa-Pa’s bird church.” Those sparks are reflections of my Christmas tree lights in the window where I stood to capture this picture of awe.