Bird Nest

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Recently, I found an empty bird nest tucked into the top of a rose bush. I thrilled to touch it, imagining some bird selecting and weaving each thread, instinctively constructing a home. The outside was loosely woven and rougher, with strips of grape vine, maybe? The inner nest cavity was tighter, made with a softer material. Such care was invested in this home and its selected location, safely nestled amidst the thorns. As I ran my finger over it, I thought of one of my favorite Mary Oliver poems, “With Thanks to the Field Sparrow, Whose Voice is so Delicate and Humble.”

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Using her work as an inspiration, I wrote this:

With Thanks to the Unknown Bird,
Whose Nest is so Carefully Constructed

I do not live happily
within the harshness of our times
The talk is crass and crude
the politics of hatred and division
Violence stalks the streets
and walks our school halls
The world weeps
Yesterday, in the crown of a blooming rose bush,
I came upon your hidden nest
gently I held it between my hands
marveling at the intricate construction
moved by the knowledge that
within this nest
you warmed your eggs and tended your young
From this nest
your brood took flight into summer skies
My fingers traced the woven fibers
I took comfort in the reminder that
such wonders still happen
within our world

©2018 M. Hogan

For more poetry this week, visit Sylvia Vardell’s blog, Poetry for Children. She’s hosting Poetry Friday Roundup and sharing her (and Janet Wong’s) new book, “Great Morning: Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud.” Be sure to stop by and get an overview of this wonderful soon-to-be-released book!

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A Place Time Left Behind

 

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We’d heard about it for years: Swan Island in Richmond, Maine. An island that once was occupied, but now wasn’t. Antique houses with no residents. Natural beauty. Rich history. Trails and fields. A place accessible only by boat or ferry. Finally, this past Sunday, we traveled there.

Swan Island Map.jpgThe island is about 4 miles long and the ferry sets you down at one end of it. We set off to explore, intent on seeing the entire island. The dirt road sloped up from the dock and led us through towering pines and swathes of fern. Hidden birds serenaded us, darting between the trees, until the vista opened to a field full of milkweed. The scent reached us first, heavy and sweet in the warm air. Then, we saw the monarchs, flitting from blossom to blossom.

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Walking further uphill, we saw the first house amidst trees. Was there an abandoned air about it, or did I just imagine it?

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The Tubbs-Reed House, built just after 1800

We wandered around the base of the home, past overgrown apple trees, peeking in the windows, noticing the huge central fireplace, an old spinning wheel, bed frames. Remnants of long ago lives.

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The homes or past home sites are spread along the length of the island. Most of the houses are no longer there, but at each house or site, plaques gave a brief overview of the home and its owners. As we stopped and read, we imagined all the lives lived here, reading between the lines of text. The layers of experiences, the hopes and dreams and the tragedies of each home and its residents, seemed present in the air. The houses aren’t open, except on a few special occasions, but some of them weren’t secured, and we could easily have entered. We didn’t. It wasn’t so much a “following the rules” kind of thing, but I, for one, felt reluctant to stir the dust of these places.

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The Gardiner-Dumaresq House, built between 1758 and 1763  (That’s Kurt, peeking in the windows.)

The island is a peaceful place, though, rich in natural beauty. We walked for hours, enjoying the scenery and the beautiful Maine summer day. We talked about the stories we’d read, wondering about how life once was here. We enjoyed a picnic overlooking a field mosaiced with dozens of shades of green, purples, and pinks. We saw a bald eagle, a great blue heron, turkeys, and a hawk and heard and saw masses of unidentified birds. Assorted butterflies in a rainbow of colors fluttered over the milkweed-laden fields. Red squirrels and chipmunks popped up all over the place, and fish swam in the shallow waters of ponds. Leaving the road, we walked along woodland trails, which periodically cut through sunlit flower-strewn meadows.

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The brilliant green just left of center is wild rice, which surrounds the island. Experts believe it was first acquired by the Abenaki in trade as the strain is identical to wild rice found in Minnesota.

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Yet, under the beauty, there’s a poignant mood to the island. Somehow without the veil of the present, the past becomes more tangible. The weight of human history lingers. Lives begun and ended. Stories long forgotten. Once beloved homes, now empty houses. Beautiful. Sad. Lost. Melancholy.

My husband put it best. “This is a place that time left behind.”

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Note: Swan Island has a fascinating history and you can read more about it here. There are stories of Abenaki princesses, visits from Benedict Arnold and Aaron Burr, drownings, kidnappings, and then the more routine ice harvesting, ship building and farming.

I was particularly fascinated by the tale of one island resident, Frances Noble, who in 1755, at about one year old, was kidnapped by the Indians (along with the rest of her family), and sold to a French couple in Montreal, Canada. She was adopted by them and raised as their daughter. When she was 13 years old, she was found by government agents and though she didn’t want to leave her Canadian parents, was returned to Swan Island. In her absence, her mother had died, and her father was now living in poverty. Frances eventually became a teacher. What a story!

 

Breaking the Heat With Some Light-Hearted Verse

unnamedI’m still in that “adjusting to summer” mode and am beginning to wonder if it might last all summer long. I’ve been writing lots, but it’s been more of a “notebook nature,” mostly not for public consumption or even conducive to longer pieces–a least not yet. Here are a couple of recent light-hearted efforts.

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Suet Feeder
Red squirrel, bold and hungry
gorges on the suet feed
quick skedaddles up the tree
clasps a branch with tiny feet
cops a pose innocently
What?
Who?
Not me!

©2018 M. Hogan

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What a funny cat bird
perching in that tree
sounds different
looks different
but what else could it be?

©2018 M. Hogan

 

ITCHY

I’m prickly, I’m scratchy
I’m covered with bites
A few are scabbed over
Some swell to huge heights

My blood loss is epic
My sleep is disturbed
The bugs keep on feasting
Their hunger uncurbed

My skin’s polka-dotted
My best friend’s an itch-stick
I can’t write much more now
I think I’m anemic…

©2018 M. Hogan

You can find this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup at The Miss Rumphius Effect. Find a quiet moment, a cool spot and stop on by and enjoy some poetry!

My third what?

11454297503_e27946e4ff_h“Your opalite earrings are gorgeous!”

The smiling blond stranger reached her hand toward me, gently touching the earrings that dangled from my ears. She stood behind us in line at the rest area Starbucks in Kennebunkport, Maine, where we’d stopped for a quick break on our way down south. I reached up and touched the earrings, trying to remember what pair I’d put on that morning.

“Oh, thanks,” I said, thinking, “Opalite? Huh. Who knew?”

“You know opalite opens up the third eye and the crown chakra.” She gestured with her hands in the middle of my forehead and above my head. “It’s associated with pure heart, potential and manifestation,” she continued.

“Well, that sounds good,” I said. I nudged my husband, “Did you hear that? Pure heart…potential!”

As we waited in line, she continued to expound enthusiastically about the wonderful properties and powers of opalite, while I struggled to keep up. After a bit, we moved on to other topics and continued our conversation as the line moved slowly forward. Well, actually, mostly, we listened, and she chatted happily about her life, an upcoming Yoga Fest, her daily Starbucks habit, places she’d visited in Maine, etc. She exuded good will and high energy.

After ordering, we met up again while waiting for our drinks, and she dove right back into conversation. “Well, as I’m sure you know, we’re at the beginning of a new 4,000 year cycle. People are speaking from their hearts….on the land…a time of consciousness…”

I didn’t want to disappoint her, so I said nothing, merely nodding as she spoke, but I had NO clue what she was talking about. What 4,000 year old cycle? I can’t even remember what else she said. Something about a moon? The universe? I think I was stunned by her assuming that I knew what she was talking about (maybe those opalite earrings were misleading?) and maybe even a bit flattered. Then, I was too busy trying to keep the lost and confused look off my face to follow her winding trail of words.

“I’m a Spiritual Medium on Facebook,” she finally said. “I lead live meditative immersions and then follow up with private yoga sessions to read your vibrations.” She reached into her bag. “Here’s my card.”

“Huh?” My brain was still struggling to translate, but I reached out and took the card. I loved this woman’s energy, even though I was still totally at sea.

At that point the barista handed us our beverages and we turned to leave, saying our goodbyes.

“Opalite is perfect for you!” she called out as we walked away.

It felt like a compliment. I was a bit dazzled by this whole encounter, but regardless, I walked away smiling. That woman personified positive energy!

 

Elizabeth Coatsworth and Poetry Swap

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I used to live down the street from Maine author Elizabeth Coatsworth’s home, Chimney Farm, but I’m embarrassed to say that I haven’t read much of her work. (Note to self: add that to the summer list!) Elizabeth Coatsworth wrote poetry and fiction for adults and children. She was both accomplished and prolific. Her 1930 book, “The Cat Who Went to Heaven”, won the Newbery Medal, and over almost 50 years, she wrote more than 90 books.

A few months ago, I stumbled upon her poem, “July Storm.” The imagery immediately grabbed me, and I’ve been wanting to share the poem ever since. July arrives on Sunday, so today seemed like the perfect time. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

July Storm

Like a tall woman walking across the hayfield
the rain came slowly, dressed in crystal and the sun.
Rustling along the ground, she stopped at our apple tree
only for a whispering minute, then swept darkening
skirts over the lake,
…(click here for the remainder of the poem)

On another note, last Friday was the final day of school and I came home to find a package awaiting me. What could it be? I saw Margaret Simon’s name on the return label and instantly realized it must be my first Summer Poetry Swap! Yay! What a delightful way to begin summer.

I opened the package to find a card from Margaret and a book. Not just any book! A handmade-by-Margaret book filled with different types of paper, prints, pictures, etc. and tied with a lovely gossamer ribbon.

Then, on the first page, Margaret, knowing of my recent dandelion obsession, crafted and typed this fabulous dandelion poem:

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Thank you, Margaret, for starting my summer off so beautifully and with such style!

For more poetry goodies, visit Carol at Carol’s Corner where she is hosting this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup and shares a powerful poem from Lynn Ungar.

 

First Day of Summer Vacation

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hOn Saturday morning, I woke early. Summer vacation had begun! It was about 4:30, my regular school-day rising time, and coming downstairs, I glanced outside. The sky glowed with streaks of pink and red.

Ooh. I thought, I could go down to the river and take some pictures.

Now, really, nothing stops me from doing this on a regular Saturday morning during the school year, but the idea of going down spontaneously felt like a bold step out of my routine–A declaration: Summer is here! Delighted with the idea, I quickly made my coffee, poured it into a travel mug, threw on a sweatshirt and headed out.

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At the river, the colors weren’t as brilliant as I’d hoped, but it was still lovely and the air pulsed with birdsong. Tendrils of mist drifted across the water’s surface and periodically a fish jumped, sending rippled circles outward.

I walked over to the bridge to get a different vantage and took some more pictures, enjoying the cool, fresh air, and the feeling of unscheduled time stretching before me. After a few minutes, a car  pulled into the lot and moments later, an older man walked up, camera in hand. We nodded to each other.

“It’s a beautiful morning, isn’t it?” I said.

“Oh, yes,” he agreed, smiling.

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We chatted casually for about 20 minutes, stopping every so often to take pictures as the light changed. It turns out, perhaps unsurprisingly given the context of our meeting, that we had a lot to talk about. Each of us enjoys rising early and coming down to the water to take pictures, though our spouses think we’re slightly insane.  We compared favorite sightings and photos–muskrats and beaver, multiple bald eagles, a cormorant eating a catfish, a heron silhouetted in flight against a pink sky. We shared our favorite local spots for taking pictures. I told him about the Baltimore oriole that had been visiting me this spring, and he told me about watching a fox cross the iced-over river this past winter. He lamented that he hadn’t seen any kingfisher or herons this year. We shared anecdotes about our cats.

“My wife makes my photos up into photo books on Shutterfly,” he told me at one point. “I’ve got one in the car. It just came yesterday…but I wouldn’t want to bore you.”

“Oh, I’d love to see it!” I enthused sincerely.

After a few more moments of conversation and picture taking, we returned to the parking lot and he pulled the book from the backseat of his car, handing it to me. The cover photo was a stunning shot, a late afternoon picture with a silhouette of a scull and several rowers. I opened the book and paged through, and he shared additional information and background stories about the photos. As I expected, natural scenes with birds and animals featured prominently. I admired the photos, asking for help identifying some of the birds that were unknown to me.

“Oh, what a great picture of a cedar waxwing!” I said pointing at one picture. “I haven’t seen one of those in years.”

As we talked I saw a movement in the river.

“Oh, look! It’s a beaver or a muskrat!” I said, pointing.

He turned and together we watched the animal swim across the river, then dive and disappear before we could identify it. A bird fluttered into a bush near us. We both turned again.

“I can’t believe it!” I exclaimed, “I think it’s a cedar waxwing!”

And it certainly was. It didn’t cooperate enough for either of us to capture a good photo, but we delighted in watching it dart in and out of nearby bushes.

“Ok,” I finally said, “I’m going to head home now.”

“Well, I’m going to head up to my favorite spot on the tracks,” he said.

I turned and then moved closer to the water to take yet another picture.

“It’s addictive, Molly!” he said, smiling and shaking his head.

“I know!” I replied. “There’s just always that possibility that something wonderful will happen.”

He nodded and smiled again, and I knew that he knew exactly what I meant.

What a wonderful way to start summer vacation.

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I went back early this morning and captured this photo of a cedar waxwing.