Archives for category: Nature


“Whereas the beautiful is limited, the sublime is limitless, so that the mind in the presence of the sublime, attempting to imagine what it cannot, has pain in the failure but pleasure in contemplating the immensity of the attempt” IMMANUEL KANT, A Critique of Pure Reason

Photo: “Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park, Montana, 1942″ by Ansel Adams

by David Baker

heron is gray, not blue, but great enough
against brown-tipped bowed cattails to be
well-named, is known for its stealth, shier
than a cloud, but won’t fly or float away
when it’s scared, stands there thinking maybe
it’s invisible though it’s not—tall, gray,
straight as a pole among the cloudy reeds.
Then it picks up one stem leg. This takes time.
And sets it down just beyond the other,
no splash, breath of a ripple, goes on
slowly across the silt, mud, algae-
throttled surface, through sedge grass,
to stand to its knees in water turning
grayer now that afternoon is evening.
Now that afternoon is evening
the gray heron turns blue, bluer than sky,
bluer than the mercury blue-black still pond.
So when did it snag the bullfrog
hanging, kicking, in its scissor beak?
To look so long means to miss the sudden.
It strides around like a sleek cat
from pond to bank and back, blue tall bird,
washing the frog, banging it against stones,
pecking almost as if it doesn’t know
what to do now that it’s caught such a thing.
How fast its beak must be to shoot out
like an arrow or that certain—as it’s called—
slant of light. Blue light. Where did it go?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: David Baker received degrees in English from Central Missouri State University before earning a Ph.D. in English from the University of Utah in 1983. His first collection of poems, Laws of the Land, was published in 1981, followed by Haunts  in 1985. Since then, Baker has published many collections of poetry and is the author of three books of criticism. Among Baker’s awards are fellowships and prizes from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Ohio Arts Council, Poetry Society of America, Society of Midland Authors, and the Pushcart Foundation. He is currently a Professor of English and the Thomas B. Fordham Chair of Creative Writing at Denison University and is a faculty member in the M.F.A. program for writers at Warren Wilson College. Baker currently resides in Granville, Ohio, where he serves as Poetry Editor of The Kenyon Review.

Illustration: “Great Blue Heron,” Chinese brushwork painting on silkboard by Tracey Allyn GreeneThe Chinese calligraphy along the left is a Yosa Buson haiku, “Evening wind: water laps the heron’s legs.” Visit Tracey’s web page here.

by W.S. Merwin

This is what I have heard

at last the wind in December
lashing the old trees with rain
unseen rain racing along the tiles
under the moon
wind rising and falling
wind with many clouds
trees in the night wind

after an age of leaves and feathers
someone dead
thought of this mountain as money
and cut the trees
that were here in the wind
in the rain at night
it is hard to say it
but they cut the sacred ‘ohias then
the sacred koas then
the sandalwood and the halas
holding aloft their green fires
and somebody dead turned cattle loose
among the stumps until killing time

but the trees have risen one more time
and the night wind makes them sound
like the sea that is yet unknown
the black clouds race over the moon
the rain is falling on the last place

“Rain at Night” is found in Rain in the Trees, Poems by W.S. Merwin(Knopf, 1988), available at

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Born in 1927, W.S. Merwin served as U.S. Poet Laureate from 2010-2011. He is the author of over 50 books of poetry, prose, and translations — and has  earned every major literary prize, including the National Book Award in 2005 for Migration: New and Selected Poems and the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in1971 and 2009. He lives in Hawaii where he raises endangered palm trees. Visit his website at

Photo: “Rain Forest, Hawaii,” by Ariel Robbins, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED



by Mary Oliver

All winter
two blue herons
hunkered in the frozen marsh,
like two columns of blue smoke.

What they ate
I can’t imagine,
unless it was the small laces
of snow that settled

in the ruckus of the cattails,
or the glazed windows of ice
under the tired
pitchforks of their feet—

so the answer is
they ate nothing,
and nothing good could come of that.
They were mired in nature, and starving.

Still, every morning
they shrugged the rime from their shoulders,
and all day they
stood to attention

in the stubbled desolation.
I was filled with admiration,
and, of course, empathy.

It called for a miracle.
Finally the marsh softened,
and their wings cranked open
revealing the old blue light,

so that I thought: how could this possibly be
the blunt, dark finish?
First one, then the other, vanished
into the ditches and upheavals.

All spring, I watched the rising blue-green grass,
above its gleaming and substantial shadows,
toss in the breeze,
like wings.

“Herons in Winter in the Frozen Marsh” by Mary Oliver, from Owls and other Fantasies: Poems and Essays. © Beacon Press, 2003, available on

Photo: Ulanawa Foote, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Morning Poem 
by Jim Harrison and Ted Kooser

I want to describe my life in hushed tones
like a TV nature program. Dawn in the north.
His nose stalks the air for newborn coffee.


Find more poems by Jim Harrison and Ted Kooser in BRAIDED CREEK: A Conversation in Poetry, available at

Illustration: Label by Ray Troll for “Wicked Wolf: Raven’s Brew Gourmet Coffee” available at

by Jim Harrison and Ted Kooser

How attentive the big bear resting his chin
on the bird feeder, an eye rolling toward my window
to see if he has permission for sunflower seeds.

…Find more poetry by Jim Harrison and Ted Kooser in BRAIDED CREEK: A Conversation in Poetry, available at

Illustration: “Grin & Bear It” label (by Ray Troll) for Bruin Blend® coffee, available at, where the product description is pure poetry…

Bruin Blend®
by Raven’s Brew Coffee®

Decadently luxurious. 
Heavenly syrupy body 
in a laid-back orchestration 
of pleasant earthy, 
herbal and warm-spice flavor notes 
creates a pool of deep ponderance 
for your palate.

by Linda Pastan

It is November
and morning — time to get to work.
I feel the little whip
of my conscience flick
as I stand at the window watching
the great harvest of leaves.
Across the street my neighbor,
his leaf blower already roaring,
tries to make order
from the chaos of fading color.
He seems brave and a bit foolish.
It is almost tidal, the way
the leaves keep falling
wave after wave to earth.

In Eden there were
no seasons, and sometimes
I think it was the tidiness
of that garden
Eve hated, all the wooden tags
with the new names of plants and trees.
Still, I am Adam’s child too
and I like order, though
the margins of my poems
are ragged, and I stand here
all morning watching the leaves.

Credit: “The Way the Leaves Keep Falling” appears in Linda Pastan‘s collection Carnival Evening: New and Selected Poems 1968-1998 (W.W. Norton & Co., 1999). Find the book at

Photo: “Falling red maple leaves, Boone County, Missouri” From the postcard book: Sierra Club Nature in Close-Up. ©Gay Bumgarner,1988, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Contact the photographer at her website gaybumgarner.comFind the 160-page book at Amazon here.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Linda Pastan has published at least 12 books of poetry and a number of essays. Her awards include the Dylan Thomas Award, a Pushcart Prize, the Alice Fay di Castagnola Award (Poetry Society of America), the Bess Hokin Prize (Poetry Magazine), the 1986 Maurice English Poetry Award (for A Fraction of Darkness), the Charity Randall Citation of the International Poetry Forum, and the 2003 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. Two of her collections of poems were nominated for the National Book Award and one for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. From 1991–1995 she was Poet Laureate of Maryland. (Read more at

by Marge Piercy

The sky is streaked with them

burning holes in black space –

like fireworks, someone says

all friendly in the dark chill

of Newcomb Hollow in November,

friends known only by voices.

We lie on the cold sand and it

embraces us, this beach

where locals never go in summer

and boast of their absence. Now

we lie eyes open to the flowers

of white ice that blaze over us

and seem to imprint directly

on our brains. I feel the earth,

rolling beneath as we face out

into the endlessness we usually

ignore. Past the evanescent

meteors, infinity pulls hard.

NOTE: The Leonids is a prolific meteor shower associated with the comet Tempel-Tuttle. The Leonids get their name from the location of their radiant in the constellation Leo: the meteors appear to radiate from that point in the sky. (Read more at

Photo: Leonids meteor shower, 2009


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Poet, novelist, and essayist Marge Piercy was born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1936. She won a scholarship to the University of Michigan and later earned a master’s degree from Northwestern University. She has published fifteen books of poetry, including Colors Passing Through Us (Alfred A. Knopf, 2003), The Art of Blessing the Day: Poems with a Jewish Theme (1999), Early Grrrl: The Early Poems of Marge Piercy (1999), What Are Big Girls Made Of? (1997), Mars and Her Children (1992), Available Light (1988), Circles on the Water: Selected Poems of Marge Piercy (1982), and The Moon Is Always Female (1980). She is also the author of a collection of essays on poetry, Parti-Colored Blocks for a Quilt (1982). The most recent of Piercy’s fifteen novels are Three Women (1999), Storm Tide (with Ira Wood, 1998), City of Darkness, City of Light (1996), The Longings of Women (1994), and He, She and It (1991). Piercy lives with her husband, writer Ira Wood, in Wellfleet, Massachusetts. Visit her online at (Source:

by Ronald Johnson

Today I saw the word written on the poplar leaves.
 It was “dazzle.” The dazzle of the poplars.
As a leaf startles out
from an undifferentiated mass of foliage,
so the word did from a leaf—
A Mirage Of The Delicate Polyglot
inventing itself as cipher. But this, in shifts & gyrations,
grew in brightness, so bright
the massy poplars soon outshone the sun . . .
“My light—my dew—my breeze—my bloom.” Reflections
In A Wren’s Eye.

 ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ronald Johnson (1935-1998) was a Kansas native who lived most of his adult life in San Francisco. He spent 20 years writing a long poem titled ARK, completed in 1991. His subsequent work included rewriting Milton’s Paradise Lost by excision – using an 1892 edition and omitting most of the text to create a text of his own. His other work includes the poetry collection The Book of the Green Man (W.W. Norton and Company, 1967). (Read more at

ART: “Lane with Poplars,” drawing by Vincent Van Gogh (1882).

By Emily Pauline Johnson

A thin wet sky, that yellows at the rim,
And meets with sun-lost lip the marsh’s brim.

The pools low lying, dank with moss and mould,
Glint through their mildews like large cups of gold.

Among the wild rice in the still lagoon,
In monotone the lizard shrills his tune.

The wild goose, homing, seeks a sheltering,
Where rushes grow, and oozing lichens cling.

Late cranes with heavy wing, and lazy flight,
Sail up the silence with the nearing night.

And like a spirit, swathed in some soft veil,
Steals twilight and its shadows o’er the swale.

Hushed lie the sedges, and the vapours creep,
Thick, grey and humid, while the marshes sleep.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Poet and performer Emily Pauline Johnson (1861-1913) born and raised on Six Nations Reserve near Brantford, Ontario, was the daughter of a Mohawk chief and his English wife. After her father’s death in 1884, Johnson began writing to help support her family. She performed her work on stages across Canada, wearing the costume of a Native princess for the first half and an English drawing-room gown for the second. Her first collection of poetry, The White Wampum (1895), includes both poems and tales. Two more collections of poetry followed, as well as three fiction collections. (Read more at

PAINTING: “Marshland, Medfield” (1890) by Dennis Miller Bunker