fieldnotes 12.28.16

Woman Of

I don’t know where to begin.
There is something I want to see,
but I don’t want to be seen.
We both need the sun today.

Even the tiny lapse reverberates to the bone.
We beat our wings against the bars.
Still, I would do all within my power
to help you from these cages within cages.

We take to the ice,
hoping to keep our feet.
The low sun reflects it,
then catches in the cattail tops.

You said time was on my side.
In the dream, it always is.
(The mother. The queen of dreaming.)

In the lull, in the thaw,
the winter residents arrive.
And I muddy my knees in the melting frost,
here where the prairiegrass is bent,
repeating whispers whispered by deer in the night.

I kneel there and beg to turn
every beat
every step
every bone
every word
every stroke of breath or pen
into an act of resistance.



cardinal. song sparrow. coyote on the ice. a dark one. bikes on the wet path really fuck up your footing when it freezes again, but you can’t blame people for getting out to try their new xmas bikes if it’s warm enough. ‘you think i’m like your mother.’ harrier. as much as i’d like to learn how not to tip into the pit of doom, it is impossible to deny the value of that darkness. here’s some gray and black fur, matted on the ground. squirrel? someone who got eaten. I need to get my shit together or I’m going to be walking with a cane. laughter… too far to see… some sorta woodpecker. crows along the edges. cracking of ice along the pond, how it thaws and freezes along the bank, leaving ghosts … shelves too fragile and lace-like to describe, catching the light. how long does it take if you fall through the ice? chickadee. mallards. canada geese of course. nuthatch. redtailed hawk. bluebird.

Quote 1: (mother): Joni Mitchell / ‘Woman of Heart & Mind’ from For the Roses (1972)

fieldnotes 12.20.16

‘if you tell me it’s a gift’

For a minute I imagined
something other than exclusion.
I can face the winter,
adapt to its binding,
but these other ropes are in everyone’s hands but my own,
and tight enough to draw the blood toward the skin
every time I reach the end and snap back into
my proper place again.

Too long to force a fit,
and only stifling depletion left —

it was an easing,
but no thaw,
and I left the bootprints behind to wander wild
where we are soon overwhelmed
by its weight
and its weightlessness.

And then the wind gets mean —
a reminder that the only way to keep on
is to keep on,
and how stillness is the sweetest gift.



coyote tracks — lots — all the way around. lots of paths cutting around the south overlook. goldfinch. self-examination. half moon heading west. light and dark and cold. it is long, but it’s still alive. striation of snowdrift reflects striation of blue sky on the windy hill where the snow’s untouched. how the wind pushes us along. can’t be still too long. redtailed hawk up in the wind. the wind. everything the wind. 4 starlings. sharpshinned hawk. and here is where I almost always see my first indigo buntings… in may? in june? don’t think about the summer. blue heron, like an old man. 5 cardinals. 7 song sparrows. mourning dove. chickadees. all the mallards. all hunkered down.

Quote 1: (a gift): Fiona Apple / ‘Fast as You Can’ from When the Pawn… (1999)

about fieldnotes

fieldnotes was written at the Marsh beginning Sept. 26, 2016 and ending near the same time in the following year, collected in memo books over the course of many rambling walks.
Beginning on Sept. 26, 2019, three years after the writing, fieldnotes will be published in its entirety, with posts appearing as the corresponding write-dates occur.
(at least to the best of my ability)

fieldnotes 12.13.16

Barefoot Snow

Were it not for these birds
whose flight is an anchor,
it would be easy to be taken by winter —
to allow the bitterness.

And now that bondage has passed,
we face strange, strong temptations —
there is nothing so keen as endurance.

There is a heat we generate deeply,
but it will never be enough
to stay the progress of this ice:
maintaining balance,
a treacherous game.

(there is nothing you can do;
eventually it will catch us up.)

Bare feet in the snow
are not so much re-living,
as a reminder
of what it is to live.

We could follow the firebreak
to find something that still moves.
We could be so simply stifled,
or become the defiance we seek.

Take off your shoes.
Roll your pants to your knees.
See how it feels to feel it.
It never takes long.

In the meantime,
it is this combination —
caution and care,
plus that flight of eyes,
and hands like wings —
that keeps us moving
across its surface,
instead of sinking beneath.


canada geese. tracks across the iced-over marsh. coyote, perhaps. the sun’s working on clouds overhead. where it wins, the snow is blinding. flicker. cardinal. the pond is frozen and snow covered, but after such a slow autumn, I’d never trust it yet. i hate stories of people going under. 4 mallards at the riverbend. more mallards and a black duck at the bluff. downy woodpecker.


for a minute, i imagined something other than exclusion.

fieldnotes 12.8.16

Have Mercy

‘Don’t believe in yourself.’

Your mercy’s not enough to make me
and I’m running low.
The wind is putting everything to bed —
prairiegrass on its side,
a hawk braving it over the bare oakwood.

It is not enough to ask,
and anyway you can’t even bring yourself that far.
We’re on the darker end of dark.
The winter birds —

sparrows, goldfinches, a nuthatch —

huddle where the branches grow dense,
not exactly hiding.

And which are we?
Do we seek prey or communion?
Can we learn all the ways to care for fire?

We are shaped and made early.

We wait for wind, flame, moon, mood —
we wait for it to refine us,
to destroy these small vanities
and find that our virtues have never been an opposite of sin
but something more —

something that weathers it all —
curiosity —
something that simply is,
whether or not we fashion it to faith.


bit of flurry. insubstantial. redtailed hawk. nuthatch. hairy woodpecker. goldfinches and sparrows. flock of sandhill cranes over the east end. the ink keeps freezing in my pen. my cheeks are going to be wind-burned. how wind this cold feels like fingers of ice gripping the base of your skull. the naturalist. learning never stops. more books. resolutions. shouldve worn 2 hats today. a whole flock of song sparrows, down in the snow on the grass. low moaning wind in bare trees and dry leaved oak… all the ways of wind. canada geese. mallards. where the river diverts and meets the pond. how the wind makes tears then freezes them. ice along the edge of water. willful ignorance vs. curiosity.

‘We weren’t lovers like that and besides it would still be alright.’

Quote 1 (don’t believe): David Bowie / ‘Quicksand’ from Hunky Dory (1971)
Quote 2 (we weren’t): Leonard Cohen / ‘Sisters of Mercy’ from Songs of Leonard Cohen (1967)

fieldnotes 12.6.16

Winter Weaving

It seems almost accidental —
instinctive —
so simple and automatic when present,
though its presence,
by all means,
is rare —
a kind of pattern recognition via fogged mirror —
from mostly not quite there
to beyond the surface,
from the then
to the next in the now.

I look to precision:
the rhythm of the shuttle,
the spacing of thin silk threads,
and that perfect sense of mechanical making sensory.
I watch you through the window —
your first snow —
and later walk into it.

And I’m afraid something’s gone awry:
breathe to the hip;
count back from ten;
how we bruise beneath the skin

(the overemphasis of sin).

Leave it long and the wound unweaves beyond repair.

(And my fingers are going numb with it.)


first snow.
spider in the snow.
coyote escort in the snow.
heron flying in the snow.
cardinals, chickadees in the snow.
geese and ducks in the snow.


tree sparrow. the Marsh almost frozen — no birds there. the way the snow emphasizes the architecture of oak. i keep thinking i’m hearing sandhill cranes. things you forget about. mud from snow melt splashed up the backs of your calves. bluejay. some kinda sparrow that hides before i know. redbellied woodpecker. i can hear the robins — down along the firebreak. how you’re proud of doing so much until other people realize you can do so much and leave you nothing but so much to do for them.
(how bemused i am by my vanity.)
little flock of mallards. shoveler. one black duck/mallard hybrid. on the pond. the pond. kingfisher heads down the river — muck! and mud!

fieldnotes 12.1.16

Belly of the Cauldron

When do we get to stop looking for it?
What combination of elements concocts such a thing?

(how even the most heart-moving, soul-crushing dream fades in time)

— the hand to soothe — the relief of kissing — the exuberance — the mutual vision — the ritual — the habitual — the carefulness — the consecration — the conservation of all that becomes endeared to us as we circle in and in —

(hearth and heart, affinity of time and rhythm)

What transformative fusion hides in the dark belly of the cauldron?
Is it through degrees of light or dark that we face our metamorphoses?

It’s a biting wind —
one to make us move and forget.
And these things are impossible:
the right answer;
the way home.

That doesn’t mean we’ll ever stop looking.

(when you feel you need to,
don’t forget to leave a note)


bluejay. deer in the sumac. a proper december day. cloudy and chill. wind biting. numbs my fingers. no birds on the Marsh. cardinal quietly tsit-tsitting. ever-friendly chickadees. mallards circling down to where the wood floods. winter stomping grounds. 4 robins in flight. now and again, a slight touch of rain in the air. not enough to soak. come and go. northern harrier. the intersections along the migratory path. how many nerve endings in thumb- and finger-tips? what made these trees here all grow sideways? sun? wind? the opening of the understory has extended the view in the woods. 9 canada geese on the pond. 5 or 6 cardinals. how the traffic seems louder after the leaves are down. black ducks. robin.

Treehugger Goals: My Plastic Problem

The Little Bird and I were having her favorite (chili) for dinner because she had a bad day at school, and bad days need better endings.

I felt like I started it off badly with early-morning ranting about how the world’s going to hell and no one cares, brought on by the radio news that popped on as I turned on the car to take her early to school for jazz band. She interrupted my rant, turning to her pal in the backseat and saying, “My mom’s a treehugger.”

At dinner, I brought it up again. “This morning you said I was a treehugger.”

“I tell all my friends that you’re a treehugger.”


“I mean it in a good way, Mom.”

I was quick to reassure her that I wouldn’t take it any other way than as a tremendous compliment, only…

I’m not sure I live up to the moniker. Oh sure, I do plenty of easy things. But I feel like there’s a million things I let slide. And truth be told, one of the reasons I so often end up ranting about the world going to hell and no one caring is because I lump myself in with the uncaring.

Which isn’t quite true. I do care. It’s just so hard, as an individual, to believe you can make any difference. Because… well… can you?

But then I read this by Jonathan Franzen in the New York Times. And then the Little Bird called me a treehugger.

In some ways she’s right. We don’t drink water from plastic bottles. I compost, most of the time. I keep adding native plantings to the yard, and I grow some amount of food every year. I use no pesticides, herbicides or non-organic fertilizers. I am a pollinator-lover and a bird-watcher. I holler if the lights are left on.

But still.

It doesn’t feel like enough.

It’s not enough.

So, acknowledging that new habits take time. Acknowledging that the little bit I can do will have virtually no real effect on the state of our ecosystem much beyond the borders of my own yard. For the sake of eliminating some degree of the shame I feel for participating in this vastly destructive human experiment, I’m going to try to take on the cognitive dissonance I feel when I hear myself called a treehugger.

I want to deserve the name.

First up?


Why plastic?

It’s a completely selfish choice, in its way. I’m choosing plastic because news about plastic seems to be the sharpest stick poking my shame and apathy.

So the intention is set. Reduction, as much as possible, is first. Then, of course, reuse. And finally, recycling as a last-ditch attempt to keep plastic somewhere other than the ocean or a landfill, where it takes hundreds of years to decompose.

Join me? Join me!

Starting… right… now!

Have ideas on ways to reduce and reuse plastic? Share them in the comments! And I’ll pop back in after a couple of weeks to talk about what we’re doing here.

Good luck out there!

fieldnotes 11.29.16


With no clear sight then,
I cannot say I knew content —
but oh, the safety of delusion,
until resignation becomes disruption.

It is not schizophrenia.

(…the unending curse, not of misinterpretation but worse — the absence of a common language…)

It is colder than I thought —
the wet iron cold of deep November
but with sun still in it
as the wind rattles their tops,
what used to be flowers,
on these days when the coyotes know us.
And the oaks are nearly naked now.

None of these ever learned to resist winter.

We need more of what each other has.
Like looking in a mirror,
each with too much and not enough,
alone and not.

And within these means of confinement —
still —
the world just keeps getting bigger
and more beautiful than we ever imagined.

Despite the way I keep stumbling
accidental cockleburs and thorns —

(…how in winter, the thorns turn too,
red and blue so we can see…)

and after all this time,
I am finally learning to carry the prairie with me.

You taught me that.


‘the best and the very worst thing’
10 shovelers. flock of grebes comes in. this is not schizophrenia. robin. how as the goldenrod’s leaves die back, a million things that grew in between are revealed. chickadee. 3 geese. then 9 geese. all in the air. muddy going into the woods, and the pond is high and birdless today. river flooded and running into the overflow. cardinals. mallards at the riverbend. slip into the woods by Old Twisty for a rest stop. go ahead and make a proper visit to the Hand Tree. try to avoid cockleburs. mostly succeed. that hunger is a virtue. (he sits. he eats. he drinks. he sleeps.) redbellied woodpecker. nuthatch. shovelers and shovelers and shovelers. 2 coopers hawks. couple out to spot pelicans. i hate to tell them they’re too lat,e but they are. by the time i’m on my way out, it’s getting warm. properly warm. unseasonal warm.

Quote 1 (best, worst): Dave Ramont / ‘Lisanne’ from Taw (2009)

about fieldnotes

fieldnotes was written at the Marsh beginning Sept. 26, 2016 and ending near the same time in the following year, collected in memo books over the course of many rambling walks.
Beginning on Sept. 26, 2019, three years after the writing, fieldnotes will be published in its entirety, with posts appearing as the corresponding write-dates occur.
(at least to the best of my ability)

fieldnotes 11.26.16


Taking for granted the pound and hum,
invisible machinery —
a trembling electrical storm in the blood.

That red fruit is buried deep below the bone —
an earth’s worth of feeling.

We push our fingers into sweet black dirt —
mine into yours,
yours into mine —
drilling holes for surprising seeds.

And the roots thicken as they feast beneath,
taking known and unknown —
to name it,
and again to name it.

We are suited for something better than this,
but I suppose we must make do.

And it’s quiet in the woods.
We must name each other without making a sound.

In another season,
those unseen branches will burst from our chests.

Just like everything else,
we keep pushing inward to dark,
growing a hardness
and a skin to withstand it,
so that maybe when it comes back
we’ll be better gatherers of light.


45 degrees. cloudy. and still. the hundreds of geese wobble into the Marsh. blue heron. lots of shovelers and a blue-winged teal. my fingers freezing on the binos. flocks of robins. junco. sharp-shinned hawk.
the world showing us how neutral is anything but.
flock of goldfinches in flight. a seeming sleepiness. an illusion. i try to ignore my whiskey head. walking it off. ‘get out of my way.’ angry stomp. envy. despair. rage. frustration. how do i not burst into flames? drown? suffocate? freeze? goldfinch. clouds and smoke and naked trees. mourning dove. undergrowth still mostly green. mallards on the pond of course. red bellied woodpecker. blue heron at the riverbend. rustling of oaks that hold their leaves through winter. until new ones grow. harrier. boatload of canada geese. coots. another heron.

Quote 1 (out of my way): Dave Ramont / ‘It Ain’t Funny’ from Taw (2009)

about fieldnotes

fieldnotes was written at the Marsh beginning Sept. 26, 2016 and ending near the same time in the following year, collected in memo books over the course of many rambling walks.
Beginning on Sept. 26, 2019, three years after the writing, fieldnotes will be published in its entirety, with posts appearing as the corresponding write-dates occur.
(at least to the best of my ability)

(tbt) Ramble

From November 21, 2012


The river smells of ghosts again.
Sometimes we worry they’re our own —
that this rambling brings us
to no good end.

Was a time
we were strong and settled.
Now is expectation —
and we must trust
to take on what defense
we can no longer manage.

And we should be so lucky:
that something might happen
to break the intensity
of this day-to-day.

But this loneliness we looked for


We celebrate
the dark and the dead,
and can wish it were otherwise —
but know

you will never find us here.

And the answers
are dust —
something to be found out
and cleared away.