The Art of The Earthworm

This is a departure from my usual content.  I just posted this on my other blog, One Sweet Earth but I thought it might be of interest to my readers here with an added poem… 

I have always been fascinated with the unseen world of nature that exists beneath our feet or is too small for our eyes to see. Some years back on a forest field trip for my 6th-grade science students, the guide pointed out small mounds covered with small bits of debris on the muddy parts of the forest floor.  I’d seen these before, never giving them much thought.  “Those are earthworm middens,” she said.  HUH?  How did in all my years of natural science and ecology did I miss this one?

The guide informed us that earthworm middens are the entrances of earthworm burrows.  The reason they are built up like little volcanos is they pile their casings (poo) outside and alternately store bits of organic material at the entrance to later come up and feed upon.  In January I came upon in one in the yard with a magnolia leaf sticking straight up from the entrance like a rock from Stonehenge. It appeared that this leaf was too large, tough for this worm to manage.

Continue reading “The Art of The Earthworm”

The Art of Getting Out of Bed- COVID 19 Version

This is a rehash of a post from 2018 with some new modifications for the times…

monalisa-4893660_1920It shouldn’t be that difficult.  Most people open their eyes, pop out of bed, and voila!- on with their day.  For me, making the transition from Dreamtime to wakefulness is a sacred ritual.  This can sometimes take up to an hour. Even when I was working full-time I always allowed some time for this. Now with COVID 19 &  sheltering in place, there seem to be no people to be held accountable to, nor yoga or pool schedule to meet and no medical appointments.  Now I am left up to my own motivation.  It’s gotten to be more difficult not to be tempted to sleep in.

First step- avoid reading or listening to the news.  I fail to see the point of starting the day feeling depressed.  It’s curated to produce nightmares. (Plus, there is a dearth of good news to be had even though I know it exists.) My phone is in silent mode or better yet turned off.

Place my 15-year-old dog, Bandit on the bed.  He makes me smile.  Then have to free the  “wild img_2131hamsters” that populate my head and if I don’t get rid of them my day seems chaotic.  Essential to that process is to brew a cup of tea, heat up my “hottie” for my tight back, and do a quick meditation.

I spend a few minutes in my planner thinking about my goals for the day or week. I have been finding that scheduling joy into my day can really help to keep the lonely demons away.  Anything from reading a good book, walking the dog, gardening, phoning a friend, or watching a movie IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY.  Then onto my journal where I may write anything that’s been lurking in my mind, a poem. Finally, I add a funny daily doodle in my planner for fun.

Now I am ready to transition from human being to more of a human doing with a foundation of centeredness that I hope to carry with me throughout my day.

Next step- remove body from bed and get to living in this simplified yet complicated world.

Continue reading “The Art of Getting Out of Bed- COVID 19 Version”

Trespassing in Nuthatch Territory

img_3614There are many species of birds around the acreage of our country home. I feed them and provide some housing but some find shelter in unlikely places. Recently at dusk, we spotted an avian form fly down and slip through a crack in the slats of our well-house.  “That better not be another starling, “I remarked. Starlings harass the native birds and we often block their nesting sites. We investigated but could not see in the dark recesses. With a gooseneck flashlight made for engine repair, I spied a female nuthatch sitting on her nest looking up at our invasive bright light…

Trespass

As I peer through the hole 

enlarged by tiny pecks

the  bird’s white face gazes up 

feathers spread wide over her nest 

eyes pleading

the dark fortress breached

I leave her in peace

holding close a sacred memory

 

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image coursesty marthastewart.com

Rebooting 2020

keyboard-393838_1920Let’s just start over, look back to the resolve we had at the New Year and reframe those goals and hopes into the context of Covid 19.  They may still apply- but if they don’t, convert them into something simpler, kinder, from lofty accomplishments to simply a better state of mind.  My word I set for the year 2020 was “acceptance”, still so applicable but now I am thinking about it in different contexts than I originally intended

At first, I thought that was lowering the bar, but maybe for our culture by slowing down and taking time to reflect we have somehow raised the bar to what’s really important?

  • Being happy with what you’ve got
  • Taking good care of yourself and family
  • Reaching out to others in need
  • Unwinding ourselves to the forces beyond our control

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Finding Order by Planting Seeds

When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.    John Muir

There is a verse in Ecclesiastes which says,” a time to plant a time to mourn.”

This would seem to be a good time for both.

img_3580I’m always amazed that every spring no matter what mess the human race has gotten itself into, the crocus pop up in their bright colors followed by daffodils, and fabulous tulips in my yard.

I planted cool crops such as peas, kale, onions & lettuce earlier than usual this spring.  It seemed more urgent to get things growing as we face this Covid 19 pandemic.  The growing of plants affirms order in an uncertain world.

The first garden I grew was when I was a college student in N. CaliforniaIMG_2158.  I grew up in suburbia and had never grown anything except an avocado tree from an avocado seed (which was actually pretty exciting).  Each student in my horticulture class was given a garden plot.  Our semester-long project was to grow a vegetable garden.  I remember being so nervous as I planted the seeds in my plot- were the seeds deep enough, too close together, watered too much, or not enough?  To my delight, everything came up and I feasted late in the spring and summer.  I discovered that seeds wanted to grow. I still peak every day to see what seedlings might have emerged from my garden plantings- such a delight when they do.

As a 6th-grade science teacher I purchased a grow light and had my students plant pea seeds in paper cups they filled with soil.  Every day they would come in and check their “pet peas” and such a hubbub when those pea sprouts poked their heads out of the soil!  Of course, they named them. Eventually, they proudly brought their pet peas home complete with a blossom on the plant.  This was cheap magic and full of learning opportunities.

If you (or your children) need a little magic in your life right now, go out and buy some seeds, soil and plant them in pots or even paper cups.  Flowers like zinnias and marigolds are very easy to grow- or if you are more ambitious, try a tomato. Water and place in a sunny location in your home and in 7 days or so watch the show begin. You will not be disappointed.IMG_2148

In Every Seed a Promise

A germ of possibility

Tucked into a tiny package

Waiting to unfurl its cotyledons

Up in the sunlight

From the depths of fertile ground

 

The sprout will grow vigorously

With the right conditions

Beneath the sun’s rays and the spring rains

With the breath of nature whispering

“grow, grow”

 

Tend it with care

Lest it be choked by weeds or eaten by pests

Then feast from your labors

and natures’ mystery

The wonder of a tiny bit of matter

That waited to reveal its purpose

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Pandemic Poetry

Bringing light in these uncertain times is a plethora of poetry being shared.  It’s amazing the power that poetry can have bringing our attention to the matters of humanity. The last of these is mine.

And the people stayed home.

And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply.

Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows.

And the people began to think differently. And the people healed.

And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.

And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.”

– Kitty O’Meara.

Continue reading “Pandemic Poetry”

The Art of Surrender

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I spent several years working and exploring in remote corners of Alaska as a young woman.  This required transportation in floatplanes and small boats to rocky shores, arctic lakes, meandering rivers

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and remote airstrips.  The weather played an important part in determining departure and pickup times. It seemed that the pickups were often the most delayed.  Maybe that’s because it was the end of a trip when I was tired, cold, and desperately in need of a shower and my own bed.

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An Old Take on Going Viral

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My university education steeped me enough ecology and natural science where I developed a different view about modern humanity and our dismal treatment of our natural environment.  A couple years back I wrote this poem to give myself some comfort (in a sciencey kind of way) that the Earth will be just fine without our presence.  I never shared it until now as it seems so appropriate to the times…

 

 

STARTING FRESH

Beyond the scope of our perceptions

They live, thrive even

Unseen

The precursors of life 

That once rose out of primordial goo

Giving rise to our modern-day selves

In the span of millennia

 

Now they keep house 

In the dark soil

On doorknobs

In the lining of our guts,

Or riding on the currents of air and water 

 

They are the good guys and the bad guys

Working the magic of digestion, decomposition, disease 

Keeping life on Earth in a delicate balance

As they go about their quiet business

While we humans multiply and innovate

Thinking the planet is ours to consume

And ours to fix

 

In the end will come the justice of Nature

Indiscriminate of zealot, terrorist, or model citizen

From microbes, having no other intelligence 

Than the genius of mutation

A plague perhaps, unleashed with a single sneeze

 

Our technology, heroes, and gods will not save us

The Earth will rest, then heal in its time

Nature will learn from her mistakes

And new life will rise

Our presence recorded in a layer of rock

Six inches thick

 

On that note…

Be well everyone and make the most of your social isolation! 


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How to Fall in Love With Poetry in Eight Minutes

“Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.”

Robert Frost

His voice made me halt abruptly as I walked my dog down a country road. I was listening to a new podcast on my phone. It was a most comforting, soft Irishman’s voice, padraigotuama_headshot-300x300-1the kind you know the speaker has depth, an old soul worth a listen with total commitment.  That voice was that of Pádraig Ó Tuama, the host of the podcast “Poetry Unbound”, part of the On Being Project  He was introducing himself and the podcast.  Then he began to read the poem  “What You Missed That Day You Were Absent from Fourth Grade” by Brad Aaron Modlin.  Not only was I was utterly transfixed by the way he read the poem, his interpretation that followed illuminated this piece in a way that I never could have in my own reading.

I came late to poetry, the reading and writing of it.  To be honest there are few poets and poems I really love. I have been guilty of quick reading,  passing over an author’s words like speeding down a road without noticing the scenery. But with Padraig’s reading and interpretations, I am finding new love in unlikely poems.  He pays attention deeply to what the author is saying in each line and then makes the poem come alive to the listener.  After his guidance, he reads the piece again so you can fully appreciate the poem’s magic.

Continue reading “How to Fall in Love With Poetry in Eight Minutes”

Dealing with Your Inner Critic

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If you are any type of creative person you probably have a cheerleader on one shoulder and your inner critic on the other.  My muse is my cheerleader, that voice that feeds me sparky ideas and inspiration.  My muse is the positive force in my life.  My inner critic, in contrast, argues with my muse.  She likes to shout words of discouragement and fear in my ear to the point I quiver with self-doubt.  Unfortunately, she’s an annoying fact of my life.

I have come up with strategies to deal with this bitchy pest that tries to drown out the voice of my sweet muse.  One of them was to give her a name and draw a picture of what she looks like….

Helga, my IC, is an ample pickle-shaped-figure with spiny whiskers protruding all over her grotesque, gelatinous body.  She has a high whiney voice resembling the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard.  The only facial expression she has is a grimacing frown of disapproval.

Daphne, my muse is a sprite of a being that emits light from her colorful body.  She dances with joy and speaks to me in cheerful songs of encouragement. Her voice is softer than Helga’s and can be easily drowned out.

I’ve become more adept at isolating those two voices by putting an identity to each.  When Helga gets too annoying I visualize swiping her off my shoulder with a THWACK and then dropkicking her out the door. (So satisfying).

Inner critics tend to love periods of creative inactivity.  The best way to keep the beast off your shoulder is to diligently keep up your work on a daily basis in some form. Even 15 minutes a day of seat time can make a huge difference can add up to a full article in a matter of days, a chapter, a painting. Set a timer and go.

You can read about the creative process and motivation all you want but the only way to have to leave your squawking inner critic behind is to build momentum. The bike won’t go unless you start peddling. The muse loves to feel the wind in her hair.

Best of luck.

MUSE

Come out & play with me

you my best of friends

I am happiest when we hold hands

& dance our secret dance.

Whisper in my ear

& fill my head until it is overflowing

with sparks & flowers

of inspiration.

Let’s bring forth from the cauldron of the ethos

a new incarnation of matter & thought

an offering of our magic

to the altar of the earth.