Archives for category: Nature


“The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always. No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree. The feeling they produce is not transferable. From them comes silence and awe. It’s not only their unbelievable stature, nor the color which seems to shift and vary under your eyes, no, they are not like any trees we know, they are ambassadors from another time.” Excerpt from Travels with Charley: In Search of America, memoir by JOHN STEINBECK


by Jane Hirshfield

It is foolish
to let a young redwood
grow next to a house.

Even in this
one lifetime,
you will have to choose.

That great calm being,
this clutter of soup pots and books—

Already the first branch-tips brush at the window.
Softly, calmly, immensity taps at your life.

SOURCE: “Tree” appears in Jane Hirshfield‘s collection Given Sugar, Given Salt  (HarperCollins, 2001), available at

IMAGE: “Young redwood amid dead tanoak” by the Redwood Forest Foundation.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jane Hirshfield is the author of several collections of verse, including Come, Thief (2011), After (2006), shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot prize, and Given Sugar, Given Salt (2001), a finalist for the National Book Critics Award, among others. Hirshfield has also translated the work of early women poets in collections such as The Ink Dark Moon: Poems by Ono no Komachi and Izumi Shikibu, Women of the Ancient Court of Japan (1990) and Women in Praise of the Sacred: Forty-Three Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women (1994).

by William Oandasan

around the house stood an
orchard of plum, apple and pear
a blackwalnut tree, one white pine,
groves of white oak and willow clumps
the home of Jessie was largely redwood

blood, flesh and bone sprouted
inside her womb of redwood
for five generations
the trees now stand unpruned and wild

after relocating so many years before the War
the seeds of Jessie have returned

afternoon sunlight on the field
breezes moving grass and leaves
memories with family names wait
within the earth, the mountains,
the valley, the field, the trees

SOURCE: “Grandmother’s Land” appears in William Oandasan’s collection Round Valley Songs (West End Press, 1984), available at

IMAGE: “Light Coming Through Redwood Trees” by Kaj R. Svennson. Prints available at

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Of mixed Yuki and Filipino heritage, William Oandasan (1947-1992) was a member of the Yuki tribe of Round Valley, California. An advocate for Native American writers, he founded A Press in 1976 and edited A: A Journal of Contemporary Literature. He is the author of the poetry collections Taking Off (1976), Sermon & Three Waves: A Journey Through Night (1978), Moving Inland, A Cycle of Lyrics (1983), Round Valley Songs (1984) — winner of the American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation — Round Valley Verses (1987), and Summer Night (1989).

by Dana Gioia

Stand in a field long enough, and the sounds
start up again. The crickets, the invisible
toad who claims that change is possible,

And all the other life too small to name.
First one, then another, until innumerable
they merge into the single voice of a summer hill.

Yes, it’s hard to stand still, hour after hour,
fixed as a fencepost, hearing the steers
snort in the dark pasture, smelling the manure.

And paralyzed by the mystery of how a stone
can bear to be a stone, the pain
the grass endures breaking through the earth’s crust.

Unimaginable the redwoods on the far hill,
rooted for centuries, the living wood grown tall
and thickened with a hundred thousand days of light.

The old windmill creaks in perfect time
to the wind shaking the miles of pasture grass,
and the last farmhouse light goes off.

Something moves nearby. Coyotes hunt
these hills and packs of feral dogs.
But standing here at night accepts all that.

You are your own pale shadow in the quarter moon,
moving more slowly than the crippled stars,
part of the moonlight as the moonlight falls,

Part of the grass that answers the wind,
part of the midnight’s watchfulness that knows
there is no silence but when danger comes.

SOURCE: “Becoming a Redwood” appears in Dana Gioia‘s collection The Gods of Winter ( Graywolf Press, 1991), available at

IMAGE: “Muir Woods” by Patricia Stalter. Prints available at For more about Muir Woods, a redwood sanctuary near San Francisco, visit


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dana Gioia is a poet and writer who also served as the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. After attending Harvard and Stanford Universities, Gioia has published four books of poetry and three volumes of poetry criticism as well as opera libretti, translations, and over two dozen literary anthologies. His third poetry collection, Interrogations at Noon, won the 2002 American Book Award. Gioia’s poems have been reprinted in numerous anthologies, including The Norton Anthology of Poetry and The Oxford Book of American Poetry. The first poet to chair the NEA, Gioia created a series of national arts initiatives, including Poetry Out Loud, Shakespeare in American Communities, and the Big Read. In August 2011, Gioia became Judge Widney Professor of Poetry and Public Culture at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, California. Visit him at

by Barbara Curtis

Let us take the time to look
Upon the lowly buttercup
Her beauty is there for all to see
She sits there very prettily
Full of golden glowing grace
A sunny smile upon her face
She feels no need to compete
With others who are more elite
She grows where others wouldn’t dare
Brightening a patch once bare.

IMAGE: “Buttercups in a sea of yellow flowers” by Joana Kruse. Prints available at

by Bruce Weigl

           The robin is so quarrelsome. He barks to no one in the trees; 
he fluffs his body twice its size and rattles in the leaves.
           He doesn’t know or won’t accept the nest is empty now,
the eggs a tatter on the ground. The storm was quick, 
           we didn’t see it come; no sound above the hum

a summer morning makes when god is in his place
           and we are free of tragedies that pile up along the way.  
The robin is so quarrelsome; 
           he thinks his life is gone just like the nest,
but he’s like the rest of us, it’s only just begun.

Photo: colonial1637(off & on)’s, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Bruce Weigl served in Vietnam in 1967 and 1968 and was awarded a Bronze Star. His first full-length collection of poems was published in 1979. He has received two Pushcart Prizes, a Patterson Poetry Prize, and a Yaddo Foundation Fellowship. Weigl was awarded the Bread Loaf Fellowship in Poetry in 1981 and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1988. He was also nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1988 for Song of Napalm.



Illustration and Text by Patterson Clark

(originally published 5/1/2012 in the Washington Post)

Not much point in looking around for a nearby nest when you find an American robin eggshell on the sidewalk.

Soon after a chick hatches, the female robin grabs the eggshell and flies off to drop it far from the nest. Leaving the baby behind for a few moments is worth the risk, since the bright white insides of the eggshell can attract predators.

But before the egg hatches, blue-green pigments on the outside surface of the egg might help with camouflage. Pigments might also strengthen the egg and help protect it from solar radiation.

A robin coats her eggs with the same turquoise-hued compound found in our bile and bruises, biliverdin, an important antioxidant. Female robins with higher concentrations of biliverdin in their tissue lay darker, more vividly colored eggs, which apparently sends a strong signal to males.

“Males seem to use egg color to gauge the quality of their mate and the eggs she lays, putting more effort into rearing babies when they are more likely to survive and prosper,” says Robert Montgomerie of Queen’s University in Canada.

With Philina English, Montgomerie determined that when eggs are more colorful, male robins will invest as much as twice the amount of energy helping feed nestlings.

SOURCES: Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology; Bird Coloration: Function and Evolution; Stanford University

by Marge Piercy

That afternoon the dream of the toads rang through the elms by Little River and affected the thoughts of men, though they were not conscious that they heard it.”Henry Thoreau

The dream of toads: we rarely
credit what we consider lesser
life with emotions big as ours,
but we are easily distracted,
abstracted. People sit nibbling
before television’s flicker watching
ghosts chase balls and each other
while the skunk is out risking grisly
death to cross the highway to mate;
while the fox scales the wire fence
where it knows the shotgun lurks
to taste the sweet blood of a hen.
Birds are greedy little bombs
bursting to give voice to appetite.
I had a cat who died of love.
Dogs trail their masters across con-
tinents. We are far too busy
to be starkly simple in passion.
We will never dream the intense
wet spring lust of the toads.
“Toad dreams” appears in Marge Piercy’s collection Stone, Paper, Knife (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1983), available at

Image: “Prince” by Shane Holsclaw. Prints available at


The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always. No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree. The feeling they produce is not transferable. From them comes silence and awe. It’s not only their unbelievable stature, nor the color which seems to shift and vary under your eyes, no, they are not like any trees we know, they are ambassadors from another time.” Excerpt from Travels with Charley: In Search of America, memoir by JOHN STEINBECK

Photo: Jon Von Neumann, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


by Robert Bly

After writing poems all day,

I go off to see the moon in the pines.

Far in the woods I sit down against a pine.

The moon has her porches turned to face the light,

But the deep part of her house is in the darkness.

“The Moon” appears in Robert Bly’s collection Eating the Honey of Words (HarperCollins, 1999), available at

Photo: “Winter Moon” by Mark Rutley, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.