"What do you plan to do with your one, wild, precious life?" -Mary Oliver

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Wrong Side of Town (Flash 55)

Beside a three-story house in Romanesque style
that’s falling down,
a station wagon is parked
in the tall grass on two flat tires.
An old man sits behind the steering wheel
and reads the newspaper,
oblivious to the crumbling ruins.
He does this every day,
past All Saints,
warm in his sunroom
but going nowhere.


If you can write a story in 55 words, let Mr. Knowitall know. TGIF party animals!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Miner Dorm

I remember the radio I won
selling magazines
and the song playing
the last time I lay with you.
The dorm was emptied for summer—
wisteria in bloom.
We lay on the bed
and listened to the closing of the doors.
We didn’t make promises to keep in touch
because we knew that we wouldn’t.

This is a Flash 55. And least I forget, Mr. Knowitall is the motivating factor.

Monday, July 12, 2010

If It Were My Home


If It Was My Home is a new site that will allow you to quickly compare the breadth of the BP oil spill to your home town or city. Just type in your location and it will take the spill out of the Gulf and put it in your backyard. I did it. It filled Lake Huron and the Georgian Bay and spilled into Lake Erie.

The photograph of the struggling brown pelican is from Charlie Riedel at AP.

Pelican, brown pelican, preen once more for me.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

49th Festival Of The Trees

Welcome to the 49th Festival of the Trees. When Jade Blackwater first contacted me and asked if I would be interested in hosting July's celebration, I didn't know what to expect. I certainly didn't expect the outpouring of artistic expression that I received. I would like to thank Jade for seeking me out and Dave Bonta , co-founder of the Festival of the Trees, for all his help with coordinating submissions that came in through the blog.

July 1st is the first day of the heat moon, and we're on the cusp of the dog days of summer... thunderstorms and fireflies, straw hats and cold drinks, days of lazy summer heat when finding shade under a tree is sometimes all one can think about. So, without further ado, let's check out some trees.

I'd like to kick this off with my favorite childhood hiding spot. This old pickling pear tree.
Yes! it really is a pear tree and, yes, there has been a rope swing (recently updated) hanging off the same limb for seventy years. Three generations of inquisitive adventurers with scabbed knees, bare feet, and dirty faces have wrapped their legs around it. If you climbed up the trunk to the fork and then higher.... out on this limb,
your mother couldn't find you, nor your older bossy siblings. You could read uninterrupted about adventure on the high seas or about a little girl in the Maritimes, or just watch squirrels navigate the narrow branches above while you, blameless, dropped hard, inedible pears on your brother's head as he tried to swing.

From Tricia O'Brien at Talespinning, we have a few of her amazing photos complemented by her signature haiku, as well as a flash fiction piece about a young cypress tree (relatively speaking as a cypress can live for thousands of years) that wishes it were a boy.
His roots had long ago stretched so far around his base they looked like a nest of pythons.
When reading Tricia's short story, I couldn't help but think of the Ents, the endearing talking trees in Lord of the Rings. Tricia weaves a story the Ents would give a magestic nod of the head to. She even has a Part II later in the fest.

Speaking of The Ents, I think it appropriate to elaborate a bit on what these, my favorite fantasy trees, are. They're a fictional race of people who closely resemble trees from J. R. R. Tolkien's fantasy world of Middle-earth. They appear to have been inspired by the talking trees of many of the world's folklores. At the time The Lord of the Rings takes place, there are no young ents (known as entings) because the entwives (female ents) were lost.

This is Treebeard, the oldest of the Ents. His motto was: "Do not be hasty." I think I shall make it mine as I try to live with a lunar calender and stay out of the rat race of modern society. The fate of the Ents is something I couldn't get out of my mind as I collated everyone's favorite trees.

Next, I would like to present Suzanne Casamento, who writes young adult fiction and, as she has now proven, poetry, writing about her favorite tree in poetic form. I think you'll all be spellbound by Suzanne's poem, drawn up the ladder to climb inside her secret hiding place and then...
Turn to yesterday’s last page
Its telltale folded corner begging me to finish
Someone else’s story

This next entry from Ed Pilolla juxtaposes nicely with Suzanne's poem. Ed is living the writing life in Hermosa Beach, California (am I a little bit jealous?), writing like a fool, in his words, but still taking the time to compose and submit Tree Rings. Hauntingly beautiful...
We journeyed our entire lives to arrive here, both of us with knots lodged within the rings of our lives,
this poem lodged in the roots of my soul. Thanks Ed.

Liza Carens Salerno at Middle Passages posts a lovely ode to New England stoicism and how she happened upon the perfect tree.
Fall seeps in via the patch of burnt-umber on the tree by the market in mid-August, through the crimson poison ivy vine twisting around a pine deep in the woods.
Thanks Liza for a native's perspective of color-seeking tourists. I want to crack a lobster and, somehow, you've made me yearn for fall colors before the Fourth of July!

V.R. Barkowski who lists amoung her accomplishments, recovering sociologist, mystery writer, and museum whore (my participants have some of the most interesting professions!), pays homage to her favorite trees through photography. You will absolutely swoon (in Tricia's words) at the photo from Savannah. And I wonder at those who could be in the shadow of such as these and not really see them at all, a thought brought to mind by her use of a William Blake quote...
Some see Nature all ridicule and deformity, and some scarce see Nature at all.

Kenneth Pobo also wrote a poem for the festival. I was thrilled to get so many poems, the highest form of human expression. Ken doesn't yet have a website or blog but I loved his poem so much I was compelled to include it anyway. He can be reached at kgpobo [at] verizon [dot] net if you want to offer your accolades.

BACK YARD BIRCH

Tall Wisconsin birches
line the highway. Light sifts
down, leaves almost translucent.
If I were the moon, I’d talk
all night with a birch, or
a forest of them, but I’m just
a guy with too much

weeding to do. Our one birch
provides good conversation.
Small, but airy, a tree
with nothing to prove. I put
violas at its base, an offering.
Catbirds, tasteful but busy,
like this tree too, a fine

launching spot on their way
to a blueberry bush. Wrens
turn leaf into recording studio.
In winter, a gray sky wraps
empty branches. Spring
will come. And when it does,
the birch will be ready.


You know I could relate to this one....to a guy with too much weeding to do but who will still take time to talk to a birch. And the last four lines are alive with imagery. Let us know, Ken, as soon as you get your site up and running!


Next, from Biologist, D.N.Lee, at Urban Science we have this entry from her travels in Europe, introducing us to the Mimosa Tree, which is also her favorite tree from childhood-

"My,fancy seeing you here. Are you here on holiday in France, too?"
"No, the trees replied, "we live here. You must be mistaking us for our cousins who live everywhere".
Indeed, I didn't know the Mimosa tree was so widespread. Nor did I realize it is sensitive to the touch, as shy as a praying mantis, and its leaves fold inward if you should touch them. Don't touch this! Thank you Ms. Lee for sharing with us your favorite tree along with memories from your grandmother's backyard.


From Marian Veverka we have this ode to the trees, a whiplash of a poem that sets us amoungst the branches of trees standing naked before the storm, limbs tossed and tangled like a schooner in a typoon. And, yet, again,
"your limbs provide the home the sparrow needs."
Thanks, Marian, for a beautiful poem that left me breathless. And honest folks, I'm not usually given to such gushing but you have all left me awed by your talent.

Next, to Lye Tuck-Po at Fieldsketches

where we have something really different, a tree/temple in the Cambodian woods. Tuck-Po, who is an anthropoligist living in Malaysia, photographed these ancient trees in Prasat Sambor, Cambodia. I think this is one of my all-time favorite trees. Who wouldn't want to enter this door and curl up inside with a dog-eared book? (One of Suzanne's!)
Just click the link to view more of these ancient trees of Cambodia. The second one is eerie and reminds me of the Alien curled up in the spaceship. I digress. Thank you Tuck-Po for sharing these stunning photos from the Cambodian woods.

From Australia, Jacqueline Yetzotis at Saving Our Trees takes us for a stroll down her street into the fork of a red flowering gum, the tree that most symbolizes Australia for her. Bird and bees love them and you will too when you see their amazing blooms. They reminded me of birds of paradise, or like something out of The Wizard of Oz with their little rosy faces. Check it out and see what I mean.

Next, from an Australian transplant, we have the unbudding of a Tulip Poplar. Joan Knapp, a microbiologist who now lives in Georgia, gives us a frame-by-frame video of the development of the beautiful flower on a Tulip Poplar tree. The progression is amazing and I was almost sad to see the dying of the flower but then realized that, too, is beautiful and essential, the closing of the circle of life.

Casey Harn shows us the inside of a different sort of a cathedral, the sort that man can't replicate with hammer and nails and architectual genius, a cathedral in the woods on the 15th Day of the Rose Moon. Now if that title doesn't pique your interest, I don't have one that will. Rose Moon is a Native American name for the moon that appears in June.

Casey posts by the Lunar calendar and uses the Native names for each moon cycle. July is the Heat Moon. Thank you, Casey, for sharing some of your Native American culture and your cathedral in the woods.

Next up are the fragile branches and purple berries of the Elderberry tree. Brought to us by Elizabeth Enslin, an anthropoligist and recovering academic based in Oregon, the elderberry has a long, rich history of delicious sustenence. (Especially in the dead of Prohibition.) Check out her pictures of elderberry clusters and tips on how best to enjoy them. I can't resist relating a personal story about how my grandpa got himself in a heap of trouble over a neighbor's jug of elderberry wine. But I'll save it until later.

The most poignant submission I received was this video story from wildlife biologist Jackee Alston who just suffered the loss of her mountain's old-growth ponderosa forest due to the human-caused forest fire in Arizona. Thank you Jackee for sharing this amazing video. We can only hope that the ponderosas will return en masse for future generations to enjoy.

From Poetry Daily, we have a killer of a poem, Twin Tree, by featured poet, Carol Muske-Dukes, Poet Laureate of California.
I stood beside you weeping,
trying to hold your heart together with my hands
at the fork where you'd leaned apart,
There is nothing else for me to say. My words pale next to hers. Hers are enough.

Suzanne Murray, an artist based in North Yorkshire, UK who specializes in calligraphy and lettering art submitted these samples of her work. I can see why these are some of her favorites.
I know a pine tree that leans over near a sea.
Suzi also blogs at Spirit Whispers and there shows us the birth of a baby Scots Pine cone and why her work is inspired by pine trees and also by the words of George Seferis- Greek poet, essayist & diplomat, and winner of the 1963 Nobel Prize for Literature-
One night I stayed awake all night under this tree...

On a lighter note, we have an amusing anecdote from Michelle Markey Butler who is a freelance writer living in Pittsburgh and blogs atHeir Raising. Boys will be boys, but really....you wouldn't want to do this to your favorite tree!

From Becky Miller at The Rainy Day Wanderer you can browse a photo gallery of amazing tree photos she arranged just for us, from her backyard to the Asheboro Zoo and in an array of seasons. Thanks Becky.

Have you ever been to a hazelnut tree farm? Erika Rathje has. Enter here and scroll down until you come to the geometric marvel of the hazelnut tree farm with her description underneath the photo. I may never get an opportunity to visit a hazelnut tree farm. I didn't even know there was such a thing. So thank you, Erika.

And finally, I have Tricia's Part II, as promised. Waylaid at last with her, trussed and captivated, she sets us down gently.

Oh, would you like to hear that story about grandpa and the elderberry wine? I cornered my dad on the porch yesterday and made him repeat it to me so I would get it right. This is what happened.

It was 1928 and the country was tiring of Prohibition. But people became resourceful and ingenious. My grandpa, along with many others in these parts, made elderberry wine out of the elderberry blossom, which makes the best wine according to the experts, and he and neighboring farmers often got together to spin yarns and compare homemade concoctions.

Grandpa always planted the navy beans on June 6th. That morning after breakfast a neighbor came over with a jug of elderberry wine and Grandpa opened up a bottle of his. They got to talking and exchanging stories, and several glasses later he looked at the clock and said, “Hey! I have beans to plant.”
The neighbor said, “I have errands to run.”
And off they went.

Grandpa hooked up the team of horses to the drill he used for planting beans and drove them out to the field.

My dad was only eight but he remembers my grandmother looking out the window later and saying,

“I wonder why your dad is riding on the drill…”

He usually walked behind it, but there he was, sitting atop it, swaying with the motion of the horses and singing at the top of his lungs.

The next morning after chores were done, Grandpa hitched the horses up to the drill and started out towards the field.

Grandma said, “Where’re you going, Raymond?”
“Out to plant beans,” he replied.
“I thought you did that yesterday.”
“I did,” he said. “But I forgot the seed.”


It is fitting that I should close with Roberta at the Growing with Science blog . She gives us the walnut tree. I'd forgotten how beautiful this tree is. Once again, an example, I think, of a tree we take for granted. Thanks, Roberta, for reminding us of the walnut tree!

The August 1 edition of The Festival of the Trees will be at Growing With Science Blog
Theme: Trees Through a Child's Eyes
Send to: growingwithscience [at] gmail.com
Deadline: July 29

That’s all folks. I have enjoyed reading and compiling all the entries. I learned so much myself, I hope you have all gained something too. If I've made any mistakes or left anyone out, please contact me and I will right any wrongs immediately! Whew. I want to thank everyone who participated and helped make this a success.

Thank you all for reading. Happy Heat Moon!