February 9, 2017
“Did you too see it, drifting, all night, on the black river?
Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air —
An armful of white blossoms,
A perfect commotion of silk and linen as it leaned
into the bondage of its wings; a snowbank, a bank of lilies,
Biting the air with its black beak?
Did you hear it, fluting and whistling
A Shrill dark music — like the rain pelting the trees — like a waterfall
Knifing down the black ledges?
And did you see it, finally, just under the clouds —
A white cross Streaming across the sky, its feet
Like black leaves, its wings Like the stretching light of the river?
And did you feel it, I your heart, how it pertained to everything?
And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
And have you changed you life?”
— Mary Oliver, Swan: Poems and Prose Poems
I went to the Skagit Valley to see snow geese, but they were not in their usual places. Instead, I saw swans — trumpeter swans, I think, although both trumpeters and tundra swans overwinter here. Mary Oliver’s images — white crosses in the sky, black feet like dark leaves — capture the swans’ presence so perfectly.
February 8, 2017
“The sound of geese in the distance,
in our minds
we rise up
and move on.”
— Robert Sund, “Spring Poem in the Skagit Valley”
“Wild Geese Alighting on a Lake”
by Anne Porter, from Living Things
I watched them
As they neared the lake
In a wide arc
With beating wings
They put their wings to sleep
And glided downward in a drift
Of pure abandonment
Until they touched
The surface of the lake
Composed their wings
On the rippling water
As though it were a nest.
“Wild geese fly overhead.
They wrench my heart.
They were our friends in the old days.”
— Li Ch’ing Chao, translated by Kenneth Rexroth
I didn’t have much luck photographing snow geese on my most recent visits to the Skagit Valley. I saw only a couple of flocks, and they were in distant fields. I could not drive closer. I love to witness big flocks taking to the skies, whirling around, and settling again. How do they swarm and yet not run into each other? I am always reminded of M.C Escher’s prints of birds:
In past years, I’ve gotten closer and came away with some photos that captured the breathtaking whirlwind of wings. One of my snow geese photos was chosen for the cover of Bearings Magazine‘s Autumn 2016 issue (it’s a publication of the Collegeville Institute in Minnesota).
November 26, 2016
The Wild Geese
by Wendell Berry
Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear. What we need is here.
November 25, 2016
“. . . in solitude, or in that deserted state when we are surrounded by human beings and yet they sympathise not with us, we love the flowers, the grass and the waters and the sky. In the motion of the very leaves of spring in the blue air there is then found a secret correspondence with our heart.”
— Shelley, On Love
This quote is the epigraph of Mary Oliver’s new book of essays, Upstream. A timely message for me these days when I am feeling so out of sync with my countrymen and women. Nature can help to heal a bruised heart.
November 11, 2016
“I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.”
— T. S. Eliot, “East Coker,” Four Quartets
June 28, 2016
May 12, 2016
“The real world, in my opinion, exists in the countryside, where Nature goes about her quiet business and brings greatest pleasure.”
— Fennel Hudson
I am drawn to the countryside. I love its “quiet business.” The pre-dawn hour is especially lovely. I enjoy pulling to the side of the road, turning off the car’s ignition, and sitting in the quiet, watching the world awaken.