(tbt) breathe

From Autumn 1993

breathe

it starts with breathing
the moon waxes
the moon wanes
the stars change
leaves grow
and fall
and grow again
the fish go deeper
and deeper
you are happy
she is full
you are crazy
you are sad
she is new
you are calm
it goes deeper
breathing
light comes —
grows —
light leaves
it becomes dark
you wax
you are full
you wane
it becomes dark
and then light again
you play by the ocean
you are a child
you play by the ocean
you grow old and die
you play by the ocean
you are born
and again
going deeper
and breathing
you cross a river
your heart is troubled
you cross a river
your heart is at peace
the moon grows full
you celebrate
you mourn
you grow full
the moon is a sliver
reflected in silver water
you mourn
you celebrate
you grow empty
it starts with breathing
going deeper
deeper
the moon waxes
the moon wanes
you grow empty
you grow full
it ends with breathing

Big Bluestem

I got lost in the big bluestem,
higher than my head.

There are more witnesses than we can manage —
and they misread everything —
hammers and nails driving home my mistake.

You need summer still,
and I am starting the fall but —

still hanging on the sun where it gets caught up,
tiny seed stars in the wind and prism cloud —

our skins resist the fade.

We wait and hope it all comes at once —
and then we learn to do the work
and do the work
and do the work —

open the windows,
whatever the weather!

I am giving up on names.
And you, like me, are a maker of myth,
and, like me, let down to find it unreal.

(10.4.18)

fieldnotes 10.20.19

Circe or Siren?

I’m not sure what this is —

do I name everything else
to avoid naming it? —

(trees so orange you don’t need the sun)

— how we love that it is limitless

— how to name is to limit,
to confine and contain.

(Oh this endless wandering,
timely, timeless,
in my left hand I crush the yellow coneflower seeds,
breathe it in,
no, more deeply than that —
sow it in the wind for next year.)

There is just that mystery in the Sirens’,
in Circe’s story —

endlessness of ocean,
prairie seen from above,
autumn trees at the edge of a gray sky,
milky way when you can escape encroaching light

— which makes us long and loathe to tell it.


10.20.16
(56/46, gray and windy after overnight rain.)

autumn. october, for sure. ‘and if your boat is broken out on the rocks.’ flock of robins. it’s brisk enough i could’ve used mitts. a hat. remember next time. dried yellow coneflowers. save enough to pick when you’re longing for that late-summer smell in the dead of winter. northern pintail. 4 pelicans, real close. redwings and canada geese of course. the prairie grass — tall and brown in the wet wind behind the rain. the oaks even going now, subtle and varied as their wakefulness, if you care to listen. golden crowned kinglet. bit windy for bluebirds today? quiet, relatively. a day to relish the wind. still the barest hint of singing bugs, just close enough to the edge of hearing to make you wonder if it’s just your ears ringing. chickadees. there is no sunlight, but the milkweed seeds still seem to catch it. siren. awe of endless ocean before anyone knew it had an end. beauty of the near. bluebird, heard not seen. big flock — 3 dozen or so — of sparrows, caught like leaves in the wind. undergrowth has died back. this time i remember where the old fenceposts are and don’t trip or fall. big puffball. (you can always use one more field guide… fungi, trees, tho perhaps the most useful would be a guide to homo sapiens … how would you name them if you didn’t know their names?)

Circe — a lure so strong as to feel almost holy. a thing of the gods. meant.

singing trees are done for now, leaves crunch underfoot. big flock of robins. still frogs, down by the water. white crowned sparrow. 30-some-odd pelicans, still. 3 herons. 1 egret. sandhill crane. grebes. hundreds of robins, by the river. little flock of goldfinches, not at all gold anymore, as I leave.

Notes:
Quote: (broken boat): Joan Shelley / ‘Stay On My Shore’ from Over and Even (2015)


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 10.18.16

Euterpe’s Promise

The sun chooses one distant golden tree,
and it is blinding.
How nothing changes.
I still can’t stop watching them —

(We are naming the bluebirds.)

— your fingers like wings in the meadow,
unexpected sweetness.

And I could be more persuasive,
but the sun rises where it rises.

I want to put mine over yours,
a laying on of hands,
as if something good were still possible in them —
some calling-forth you look for.

And just as we grow timeless,
the moon hunts us out,
the weather grows seasonless —

(The bluebirds are everywhere —
everywhere.
An aulos echoes —
and they are everywhere.)

— and I am lucky,
and so are you.

We don’t really believe in the Devil,
anyway.
And we can walk away from what does not serve.
No specialists —
we keep our visions vague.

Suspended like this,
I promise
never to say anything
untrue.


10.18.16
(75/56)

flock of killdeer. singing bugs. none of the woolly bears seem to agree, at any rate. egrets, up in the trees. gnat swarm. shoo! it looks like, but does not feel like, october. osprey. plenty of water fowl, but i’ve left my binos behind — no time for closer looking today. cattail tops going fuzzy. redwings still calling from deep in. bluebirds. heard, then seen. downy woodpecker. ‘you were such a good girl then.’ red admiral. all kinds of fungi! a new thing to learn. ruby-crowned kinglets. bluebirds again. 12. butterfly, a white. ‘you’re lucky to even know me / you’re lucky to be alive.’ look: still a handful of pelicans. asters not quite done yet. bluestem proving it’s not either. more bluebirds by the singing trees. yellow-rumped warblers. the counting! fillmore’s years’ of records. all the birds. and counted, too. but only birds of course, and especially songbirds. sparrows and warblers. a specialist. sowing indiangrass again. it’s so hard to resist. dragonfly, frenetic by the pond. a startled egret. flock of … shovelers? … river is still all blackbirds and robins. fallen tree in my path makes a small hole in the canopy. sun through yellow trees. here’s the old man, his leaves just starting to turn, and further in, the grandfather, almost no living branches left. who knows how long he has? as i leave, the geese arrive in their hundreds…

Notes:
Quote 1: (good girl): Isobell Campbell & Mark Lanegan / ‘The Circus Is Leaving Town’ from Ballad of the Broken Seas (2006)
Quote 2: (lucky): Liz Phair / ‘Polyester Bride’ from Whitechocolatespaceegg (1998)


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)

Hunter’s Moon

An idle infection —
the cyclical skewed

as we look for those continuities that sustain us.

Are your sins of omission dishonest,
after all?

It’s hard to wake when the season sings sleep.

I would settle for the truth of it,
now.
If only you could own your part.

I don’t tend toward irrationality.
And the illusion of it formed by this half-truth
is a weight.

fieldnotes 10.13.16

love, jane

An alarm of geese —
unsettled and darkening —
provoked by a raincoat perspective shift.

44 degrees,
and the Pelicans are wheeling up
in their dozens,
black wing edges striking from below.

And the difference was how we divided the lines of identification.
Who is whom?
He’ll be him. I’ll be her.

He sees some opportunity for redemption
from this accident of taking for granted.
And she feels the curse of a troubled eye unseen —
the unknown that will always sleep
beneath the surface of seeming,
a futile waiting.

He doesn’t understand.
You can’t mend it by wanting it to be whole.
And eventually everything breaks for good,
if you leave the mending long enough.

And so I weep over the words,
and because I don’t want them to leave,
or signal some passage of time,
when I can no longer bear the speed of its passing.



(10.12.16 first frost)

10.13.16
(56/38 crisp and sunny)

(but look! here is permanence, too, of a sort. any constraint of time and space that is home to bluebirds is bearable)
I park in the same spot year-round, as long as no one else is in it first. in summer, it’s shady, and in winter it faces the sun. 5 pelicans are flying over the lot as I arrive, and I worry they’re leaving. yellow-rumped warblers. i can hear a few pelicans on the other side. 5 egrets, one flying southward. coots and mallards. 3 killdeer. is the pelican respite almost over? the work of recognizing and exercising strength. a leaf poses like a bird and I am tricked for a second. (how we learn to be wary young and live it forever.) he tells me I can’t live in the dreaming mind. ‘yeah i know that, so?’ how much starker they are: berries on bare branches. little flock of yellow-rumped warblers and white-crowned sparrows. chickadees, of course — always curious. robins. the winter flocks forming in the in-between woods. thinking how, two springs ago, right here was where the ice lingered longest. I’m slow to focus today, and the little birds keep escaping my naming. tufted titmouse (tee-hee). flock of bluebirds. we are the wintering ground for a number of species, and a nesting ground for even more, but exponentially more are just passersby. lucky. lucky. a kingfisher. flock of bluejays. goldfinches. a redbellied woodpecker. my old oak is full of spiderwebs catching the sun. pelicans in the air on the northside, and about 50 on the water. sandhill crane. grebes. fluffy joe pye weed catches the sun. white-crowned sparrows. am I keeping a record? ‘you’re living for nothing now’ mending’s end.

Notes:
Quote 1: (i know that’s so): Dave Ramont / ‘Prison Yard’ from Scofflaws (1996)
Quote 2: (living for nothing): Leonard Cohen / ‘Famous Blue Raincoat’ from Songs of Love and Hate (1971)


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 10.11.16

yeah, i know

You have gone to scare the crows.
I am taking what I can find
and calling it enough.

– (‘it’ll never be enough’) –

He is beginning to call it schizophrenia.

And it is sparrow time. Wind time. Snake-in-the-sun time. Praying mantis time. Milkweed bug time. Crickets-and-locusts time. Aster time. Slowly-with-the-bees-still-in-it time. A little indian summer.

Please, just one more minute before you cut me again.

Let your breath fill you
’til you run over with it,
then pour it into them —
the sunny jars you save.
But wait —

just one more minute.

There will be enough long dark
for learning that to eat carrion
is no curse.


10.11.16
(73/54, warm enough in the sun to shed one shirt, cold enough in the cloud to put it back on)

Hickories in a hurry now. white-throated sparrow. pelicans back, they seem restless. small flock of grackles. redwing warnings. I count 60 pelicans visible from here. have they been regrouping all along? 2 herons (they don’t like to share their territory, much.) sandhill crane. 5 egrets. northern pintails. coots. blue-winged teals. a robin scolding. and i think how before long i’ll be overjoyed to find robins nestled in the winter woods. redwing. sudden abundance of them. chickadees. our winter residents settling in. how the now-people don’t understand the value of lingering and lose sight of fall. I hear a bluebird. how they’re often startled to silence but start up again when you pause. big flock of robins. bluejay. whole flock of yellow-rumped warblers. omnivores. orange-crowned. there are still singing bugs. undergrowth dying back makes it easier to avoid cockleburs on my rest stop (but i still get a few). another bluebird. ever look close at a burr on a bull thistle? no wonder the birds love them!

a wing.
a detached wing on the ground with two frayed black feathers crossed in an x.

don’t let it feel like an ill omen. maybe a tether is a good thing, keep me from witching out too much. anyway. moment of anticipation. before you open the envelope. drop the needle. leaves are rattling by the raspberry spot, giving it a desolate sense, with dozens of wailing geese for emphasis. little brown moths hiding in dead leaves. have the swallows gone? anglewing in young oak. field sparrow. funny shapes of things done being flowers. couple of slow mosquitoes and some still-purple lobelia. late hatchers and late bloomers. a tremendous flock of blackbirds on the river, drowning out everything else. why am i so paralyzed outside of the Alone? cedar waxwings. (it was all an invention.) sometimes two oaks growing side-by-side make a perfect symmetry. (it’s not anymore, is it?)

Notes:
Quote (never be enough): Grinderman / ‘What I Know’ from Grinderman 2 (2010)


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 10.9.16

afternoon notes

Hickory’s gold and gone.
Oaks are finding sweet,
making caramel,
butterscotch,
bourbon catching candlelight —
and the geese on the move wobble down
in sloppy circles —

more fall than descent —

like our own miscalculated landings.

No solid ground is needed, just …

try a little tenderness …

how we trip along the edge of the dream,
bugs still singing.

— (how I will keep saying the bugs are still singing just as long as I hear them. how, in this way, we will know when they stop) —

Be wary of the snare
and glory in your broken chain.

How I want to lie in the sun,
among the clouded sulphurs
and slip
into the long slow sleep.

— (somewhere in the distance, the
drums of a marching band) —

Bountiful as it seems,
it is hard to reconcile.

And we worry
that we will only ever become half
of what we are.


10.9.16
(62/50, sunny, but chilling)

so heavy and dull after traveling. help, sun! it’s still got some warming power this early in the season. clouded sulphur, fighting the wind. yellow rumped warbler. some kind of flycatcher. seems like not a lotta snakes this year? another clouded sulphur, catching rays, and now two dance an updraft out of sight. anglewing. who’d have thought it would be a good butterfly day?
remember butterfly blood?
here’s a snake. in the sun. i try to shoo him from the path and he coils. i tell him to be careful of bikes. a praying mantis poses for a sketch. on the high hill, another anglewing. milkweed like silver silk.
how seeds catching the sun are still sad.
left hip riddled with sorrow. right foot a stone I can barely lift.
goldenrod fading to gray. another sulphur, then three more coming to the high prairie. so many up here in the sun! goldfinches too! all the yellows finding slower where the sun still makes sweet. leaves scud into the grass, rattle down the trail. another anglewing. by the pond.
how best to press flowers? (i need to relearn it)
in the woods along the catbird trail, chickadees, warblers too tricky to name, little flock of white-throated sparrows. blackpoll. ‘in my mind i was a child /
and it felt good’ around four dozen white pelicans now. i share my binos w some visitors. the usual array — egrets, herons, geese, sandhill cranes. on the exit through the woods, a great horned owl echoes from growing under-tree twilight.

Notes:
Quote (in my mind, a child): Widespread Panic / title track from Ain’t Life Grand (1994)


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)

reconstruction.10.8.19

1.

How my back was broken for the untrue —
the closed hip —
the torrent that was confined there.

The damage,
permanent.

2.

How it still takes work
to keep it from being obvious.

Who would dive into that wreckage?

3.

How the wild shadow witched me.

How the bluebird soothed
and courted me.

How this landscape was my only true love.

… . …

During the fall migration, on these cool but sunny, warming sorts of fall mornings (from 49 to 60 degrees F while I walked today), I come across a lot of mixed flocks of birds.
Robins and redwing blackbirds.
Cedar waxwings and purple finches.
And 3 different flocks of bluebirds mixed with goldfinches, 2 of them with some field sparrows, too.
Most of these are year-round residents.
Robins can be found in large flocks along small wooded waterways in the deep winter, usually on days when the temperature gets close to or above 30 degrees F.
Goldfinches can be found taking cover in the woody edges on cold days and looking for seeds among the prairie plants on warmer days in winter. They sometimes even pass through the backyard in the less frigid winters. You have to plant native things that they like to eat. Asters. Sunflowers. Coneflower. Black-eyed Susans.
There’s a value in attempting to re-create continuous habitat. Let’s do that.
Bluebirds can be found on the coldest winter mornings, if the sun is shining, quietly singing a single note at the top of a tree. They like the woody edges.
Filmore, the bird guy who long ago moved — to Arkansas? to Oklahoma? — told me that in winter, you could look in the nesting boxes and find sometimes a dozen bluebirds all nestled together.
In the last flock of bluebirds I saw this morning, I counted more than two dozen (along with a dozen or so goldfinches). One of the largest flocks of bluebirds I’ve ever seen.
Perhaps it was a successful year for them.
There were some loners this morning too, of course. A hermit thrush singing its heart out at the inlet, the evaporating fog over the cattails like smoke.
Saw a warbler of some sort. Blue-winged warbler, I’d say.
Later I saw a kestrel. It frightened a whole flock of goldfinches my way. They’re almost completely changed from yellow now.
Seeing the diversity of species in the relatively small acreage of the Marsh (without really trying! I forgot my binoculars today) makes me wonder how it would have been 30 years ago. Before we lost 3 billion birds. (https://www.audubon.org/news/north-america-has-lost-more-1-4-birds-last-50-years-new-study-says)

fieldnotes 10.4.16

‘there aint no remedy for a song come to an end’

Even in the midst of it and trying to be mindful,
the change is a sudden blink of an eye.

Remember how hard it is to grab hold the spinning wheel.

Gods, I have wasted so many years.

Bees on the aster,
a full and frenzied final gathering,
though the oaks are still mostly green.
They will be the last.

The anticipatory.

We are all wondering —
have we gathered enough sweet to withstand the freeze?

(In our Januaries, will we remember those raspberries?)

Redwings call —
a reminder it always comes back ’round —

but we remember —

each time they are fewer,
fewer familiar,
to come with it.

And we need to know all the names before we are lost.


10.4.16
(63/57)

(we will never know all the names, so settle on what we love best.) meadow flowers have peaked. trees getting ready to. milkweed bugs crawling on each other on the dying seedpods. a goldfinch flock at the top of the hill. butter-and-eggs on the way down. indiangrass fiery. ‘there is no home. there is no bread.’ chipping sparrow. magnolia warbler. pelicans still at the north end, funny heads aslant. 4 egrets. canada geese of course. a frog that sounds like a peeper. cabbage whites. white crowned sparrows. yellow rumped warblers. colors on the prairie a heartache that fades. flock of robins. red paper wasp. 10 o’clock siren, I’m slow today. how much longer will there be singing bugs? clouded sulphur. dry tops of queen annes lace. can’t resist walking into the bluestem again, its seeds in my cuffs and pockets. in my socks and hair. a flicker. tie my shirt round my hips. yellow warbler. egret’s throaty growl. bluebird across the river echo on the water. damn cockleburs. geese by the dozens over the trees sliding onto the marsh. eastern comma. eastern wood peewee.

Notes:
Quote 1 (remedy): Kev Russell’s Junker / ‘Twilight of Song’ from Buttermilk & Rifles (2002)
Quote 2 (no home or bread): Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds / ‘Stranger Than Kindness’ from Your Funeral … My Trial (1986)


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)