Greening Rain

June 30, 2020

Last Thursday the dearth of rain that Mainers have been experiencing for the past month and more was given official recognition. US Drought Monitor on its weekly map marked Maine extensively with yellow and beige, indicating areas of abnormal dryness and moderate drought. These are historically uncommon conditions for the State.

But yesterday, the long dry spell broke; several inches of rain fell over most of the State and the rain is continuing today. Thankfully, we seem to be a different color now.

Steady summer rain,
even trunks of trees turned green—
Emerald Land of Oz

Warm Solstice Nights

June 20, 2020

Northern New England and Eastern Canada are experiencing an unusual heat wave right now, registering some of the hottest temperatures in North America. The 92-degree days are difficult to bear (unless you’re lucky enough to be immersed in water), but the nights beckon with soft breezes and magical forms of life.

Night of fireflies—
close by moths with wings like bark
grip the window screens.

Photo credit, Mike Lewinski of Milo, Maine.  Lupines and Fireflies No. 3.

Needing Rain in the Days of Rapid Growth

June 6, 2020

We had gone two weeks without rain right at the time of most intense growth, when a heavy downpour broke the spell yesterday afternoon.  This was followed by a significant shower in the early evening. It was not just us humans who were feeling a sense of relief.

Early summer rain—
ten thousand times ten thousand
tender leaves rejoice.

Getting the Work of Life Done in a Narrow Window of Time

June 5, 2020

In Maine, the growing season is short, but what time there is is packed with the effort of regenerating and extending life.  Right now, there is more energy available from the sun here than in the tropics.

Jungle-days of June—
every tree with blooms or seeds
each bird has a nest

What the Shadbush Trees Tell Us

May 19, 2020

Shad used to swim in large numbers up the coastal rivers of Maine.  This was before the heavy industrial pollution (prior to the Clean Water Act of 1972) and the building of large dams ended the large-scale seasonal migration of this anadromous fish. The rivers are cleaner now and efforts are being made to restore the runs, but dams still present a major barrier on most rivers.  (Fish ladders don’t seem to offer the fish much help.)

But even while the shad are gone or scarce, the land remembers them.  The shadbush  (a.k.a serviceberry) is a tree that, in a variety of species, is native to North America.  Here in Maine we mostly see the smooth shadbush whose leaves have a beautiful soft reddish color when they first unfold in spring.  Native Americans of the eastern coastal areas knew that these small, graceful trees came into flower when the bountiful runs of fish were heading up the rivers.

For ten thousand springs
copper leaves, white breaths return—
shadbush trees in bloom.

Leaf Bud Breaking

May 5, 2020

During most of the year I do not notice how little I know about the trees around me.  I can name the bigger and more numerous species—the white pines, red oaks, sugar maples, etc., and I have a little knowledge of their ways.  But there are countless smaller trees in the understory or on the fringes of the woods or growing along the road that I seldom take in closely.  I don’t even realize I am not seeing them.

But it is May now.  Buds are breaking, tightly folded leaves are beginning to open like butterfly wings.  Each tree has a unique bud shape, its own sure process of coming into readiness for summer food production.  And each one has a name.

Wanting knowledge to
rightly hail each tree, each twig—
woods at bud-break time.

Spring Sun

April 20, 2020

As the Pandemic continues to wreak havoc in human society around the world, life in the non-human world goes on more or less on course.  In Maine, we are fortunate to be able to go outside and spend some time in the non-topsy-turvy natural world.  As many people report, it feels good.

Bathed in clean spring light
old trees too seem younger now—
slap of wave on stone.

Supermoon in Troubled Times

April 8, 2020

Last night was utterly cloudless.  The moon was full and close to the earth in its orbit, closer than any other full moon will be this year.  This made it a supermoon, larger and brighter than most, and, in last night’s clear air, exceptionally beautiful.

Sadness, worry, fear
touched by its keen light lose strength —
April’s supermoon.

Spring in the Time of the Pandemic

April 5, 2020

Today confirmed COVID-19 positive cases number 1,268,468 globally, the number of recorded deaths is 69,172.  In Maine as in most states in America we are under a stay-at-home order. People in the grocery store eye one another warily from above their cloth masks.

At the same time, a north country spring has arrived in central Maine.  The snow is gone, and ice out on our lake was yesterday.

Budded twigs wind tossed,
water’s slap, fresh beaver cuts—
These can ease our fear.

At a Time of Physical Distancing, Spring Snow

March 25, 2020

In the US and around the globe we are battling the COVID 19 pandemic.  Government measures to stop the spread rightly include social distancing mandates and stay-at-home orders.  Freedom to walk outside is now limited for many people, especially those in crowded urban settings.

In these times, I feel especially grateful to be living in central Maine surrounded by woods.  The new coronavirus is indeed present in the State, but it is not difficult to be outdoors in a safe way.

I would give to all
this path, these woods, this pure air—
morning of spring snow.