Archives for posts with tag: nature

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The Great Smoky Mountains
by Jennifer Su

I trusted that my cousin’s intuition was sharper than mine. I glanced at the path we emerged from, a mix of crushed leaves and twigs that tunneled back into a tangle of branches. Sunlight poured over the canopy, tingling the skin on my shoulders. It had been nearly three hours since we last stepped into broad daylight, and the sun had shifted from its sleepy state to a blazing, unsympathetic glow above us. The only ones that challenged its dominance in the sky were unsuspecting wisps of clouds and the smoky mist cast on mountaintops. My eyes panned away from the sweep of green, turning instead to the new terrain before me. The water lapped up against the pebbles on the shoreline. Its gentle ebb and flow either indicated a sanctuary for a quick prayer or a calm before the storm.

With a leap of faith—figuratively and literally—I jumped from the gravel to a light grey stone peeking out of the water. Once my left sneaker left the shore, my arms began making circles—forwards and backwards and forwards—like airplane wings tipping my balance just when I thought I would fall. My momentum continued thrusting my upper body forward, and desperate, I hobbled off to another slippery stone. My eyes darted from side to side, scrambling to find my next destination—the creases around my eyes wrinkled as I braced myself for the icy waves of the roaring river to submerge me—but there was only a splash. My sneakers were soaked instantly, but my knees were dry. Perhaps I overestimated my athletic feat: we were just five feet from the shore. Our laughter bounced from mountain to mountain, and I honestly didn’t mind if we could be heard from miles away.

PHOTO: The Great Smokey Mountains near Gatlinburg, Tennessee .Photo by Dave Allen Photo, used by permission.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: The Great Smoky Mountains are a mountain range rising along the Tennessee–North Carolina border in the southeastern United States. A subrange of the Appalachian Mountains, they are best known as the home of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which protects most of the range. The park was established in 1934, and, with over 11 million visits per year, it is the most visited national park in the United States.

PHOTO: Little Pigeon River, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee. Photo by Darrell Young, used by permission.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I remember this experience quite vividly during my trip to Tennessee in 2013. This account was inspired by a five to ten minute experience when my cousin and I ventured off to dip our hands in the nearby river. I wrote about the experience in my Smoky Mountains journal almost exactly seven years ago, and I’m glad to retell the moment again with some new life.

PHOTO: The author during her visit to the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee (2013).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Su is a high school senior who writes short stories, prose pieces, and speeches. Both her written and artistic work has been featured in magazines and in local libraries. Jennifer enjoys creative writing as a means of documenting stories in her life. She finds inspiration everywhere, from a handwritten sign in a small shop to a summer trip across the continent. She is a member of several literary and Toastmasters groups and looks forward to refining her craft.

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Grand Canyon
by Veronica Hosking

No brick wall impedes
long trip down into canyon
I keep my distance

PHOTO: The Grand Canyon (Arizona) by Sonaal Bangera on Unsplash.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The Grand Canyon is practically in my backyard. Every time we visit, I keep my distance from the edge. It is a spectacular view, but not recommended for anyone like myself with acrophobia.

PHOTO: The author at the Grand Canyon (2019).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Veronica Hosking is a wife, mother, and poet. She lives in the desert southwest with her husband and two daughters. Her family and day job, cleaning the house, serve as inspiration for most of her poetry. She was the poetry editor for MaMaZina magazine from 2006-2011. “Spikier Spongier” appeared in Stone Crowns magazine (November 2013). “Desperate Poet” was posted on the Narrator International website and reprinted in Poetry Nook (February 2014).  Silver Birch Press has published several of her poems upon first accepting “Rain Drops” in  the Half New Year poetry collection (July 2014). She keeps a poetry blog at vhosking.wordpress.com.

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Camels at Font’s Point
by Cynthia Anderson

At dawn, the badlands hide
nothing, their ridges and washes
repeating, impenetrable—

tale upon tale of entrapment,
a labyrinth of extinction.
The present wavers, enfolds

a mirage of water and grass,
drama of ghosts. Gold light
shines on golden flanks.

They were here.
For millions of years,
they ate and drank their fill,

roamed in herds and alone,
laid down trackways
and bones.

Time holds them tightly—
time and rock, sun and dust—
and the gusts scour their footprints.

PHOTO: Camel metal sculpture by Ricardo Breceda, Borrego Springs, California. Photo by Eric Laudonien, used by permission.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: It was April 2000. My husband, Bill Dahl, and I were on a desert getaway to Borrego Springs—one of our favorite spots, a place we have visited countless times over the years. On this trip, we got up before dawn and bounced down a washboard dirt road to Font’s Point, barely making it to the overlook in our Honda Accord. Our goal: to catch the sunrise over the badlands. ¶ The vista spread out before us, a spellbinding maze. No sound, no movement—only stillness, stretching far back into deep time. Bill got the photo he came for, and I got something totally unexpected from a battered sign: an introduction to the ancient creatures that once lived here among streams and meadows—horses, camels, mammoths, sloths, bears. ¶ Out of this prehistoric bestiary, the camels captured my imagination. I had no idea that camels originated in North America, and that many species of camels, small to large, used to roam throughout Southern California. I started following their trail, visiting camel fossils in museums and learning about their history. Many years later, I completed a long poem about the camels which appears in my book Desert Dweller. This is the first section of that poem, commemorating where my journey began. ¶ For anyone interested in the ancient camels, two of the best places to see fossils and learn more are the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles and the Alf Museum of Paleontology in Claremont. Also, for Borrego lovers, the book Fossil Treasures of the Anza-Borrego Desert (Sunbelt Publications, 2006) is an excellent resource.

PHOTO: View of Anza-Borrego Desert (California) from Font’s Point by Bill Dahl, used by permission.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is a California State Park located within the Colorado Desert of Southern California. The park takes its name from 18th century Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza and borrego, a Spanish word for sheep. With 600,000 acres, representing one-fifth of San Diego County, it is the largest state park in California.

Cynthia Anderson in 2000 at font's point

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Cynthia Anderson lives in the Mojave Desert near Joshua Tree National Park. A Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, she has published nine poetry collections, most recently Now Voyager with illustrations by Susan Abbott. She is co-editor of the anthology A Bird Black As the Sun: California Poets on Crows & Ravens and guest editor of Cholla Needles 46. Visit her at cynthiaandersonpoet.com.

PHOTO: The author standing at Font’s Point with the Anza-Borrego Desert behind her.

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The Walk to St Ninian’s Isle
by Stephen Howarth

Contrary currents and conflicting waves
have marked this place out: Saint Ninian’s sands,
dividing the water from island to island:

a beach that reaches across the sea,
a boyhood playground with multitudes of
memories, to be told another time —

Today, let me walk you to the thistle-bound isle
to show you the remnants of the ancient
chapel in which a Pictish silver hoard was found:

the feasting bowls, the dragon-headed brooches
used to fix the folds of a cloak, the sword-hilts,
the chapes and thimble-shaped mounts,

all buried here for St Ninian’s protection,
twelve hundred years ago in defence against
the horror of the Viking raids – which helped create

Hjaltland, Shetland. An easy walk through
a thousand years of this almost holy island,
this almost heart of Shetland, absorbing

the light, the wind, the bleating of the sheep,
the washing of the sea, and the whispering waves.
In the ebb lie flattened pebbles, stones

shaped for skimming in moments when
the sea is smooth. The waves say
Hush, this calm afternoon, take rest in

our music, we will play as you play. In this country,
this is unique, a sea-crossing sand, and we,
we are the eternal beach-makers.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: This photo shows St Ninian’s sands, looking from St Ninian’s Isle to Mainland and the village of Bigton. Mainland is the name of the main island of the Shetland archipelago. Bigton was pretty much my Shetland family’s home there when I was a boy, with another vital set on the island of Bressay. I still have one aunt living there in Bigton, a Scrabble fanatic, whom I hope to see and play against in September. She is 88 and will probably win. Photo by Stephen Howarth (August 2019). 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I am English by birth but only 3/8 English by blood: for the rest, I’m 1/8 Scottish and half Shetland. Shetland (the most northerly part of Britain) is officially Scottish, but geographically and emotionally the archipelago is as close to Norway as it is to mainland Britain. I am positively internationalist. I call myself British, identifying as European, and have active treasured friends in many countries – not least the USA, literally from coast to coast. In pre-lockdown years I loved to travel widely and hope to do so again. Meanwhile, I invite you to a tiny taste of Shetland.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stephen Howarth has been an independent professional author of history all his working life. He served in the Royal Naval Reserves both on the lower deck and as an officer and wrote the official centenary history of the RNR – for which he was appointed an honorary Commander by HM the Queen. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and of the Royal Geographical Society, and a Life Member of the US Naval Institute and The 1805 Club. He earned a Master’s degree (with Distinction) in creative writing at Nottingham Trent University.

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Continent’s Edge
by Jeanine Stevens

Imagine a shoreline, its own salty foam.
Not by Muir Beach or Shelter Cove
but just beyond Red Hawk Casino—gold country:
scrub oaks and ghost pines.
Granite outcrops and below, ocean floor basalt,
marl‘s crumbly clay, shell fragments.
This is Wakamatsu Colony (1869), Japanese
farmers attempting to grow silk, tea trees, rice.
Where are the dwellings, bamboo groves?
Someone would know, perhaps
a grad student researching ancestry.
Near the trail, buttercups, vetch, Rat Tail radish
(a delicacy in Asia). I nibble spicy pods.
Streambeds dry, few miners’ flakes remain.
You may discover garnets in your shallow pan.
Over the foot bridge, simple joy
to walk planks: bounce, sponge, lift.
Tides, first sensory,
something of womb, suck
pull back—thrum tide.
Under a perigee moon, I wonder if bedrock
heaves, upends remains of shellfish?
Behind the electric fence, a Jersey mother has tender eyes.
Long time since I’ve been close to such
a large mammal, her heat shimmering,
dancing in amber sun.

Two identical calves recline,
slowly munching meadow grass.

PHOTO: Wakamatsu Farm in 2019, its 150th year, by Ken Mahar.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: The Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Farm Colony was made up of a group of 22 samurai and one woman during the Boshin Civil War (1868–69) in Japan preceding the Meiji Restoration. This is believed to be the first permanent Japanese settlement in North America and the only settlement by samurai outside of Japan. The group purchased land from Charles Graner family in the Gold Hill region after coming to San Francisco in 1869. Though the group successfully displayed it produce during the 1869 California State Agricultural Fair in Sacramento and the 1870 Horticultural Fair in San Francisco, the farm as a Japanese colony only existed from 1869-1871. In 1969, the year of the colony’s centennial, it was proclaimed California Historical Landmark No. 815. The American River Conservancy purchased the 272-acre location, 50 miles northeast of Sacramento, in November 2010, with the National Park Service placing the site on the National Register of Historic Places.

PHOTO: Historical marker at Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Farm Colony, Placerville, California.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: When I write in natural settings, it is usually a pattern of walk, stop, listen, and write, then begin again. This goes back to sixth grade and our bird walks every Friday afternoons. The poem “Continents Edge” was written in one afternoon, step by step, with periods of rest so I could to notice even smaller things like the ragged rattail radish and the bouncy footbridge. This pattern works well for me even in cities, say St. Mark’s Square in Venice. There is so much to take in just by sitting on a bench, watching people and pigeons, the Adriatic creeping over the stone steps.

PHOTO: The author and fellow travelers at Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Farm Colony

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jeanine Stevens is the author of Limberlost and Inheritor (Future Cycle Press). Her first poetry collection, Sailing on Milkweed was published by Cherry Grove Collections. She is winner of the MacGuffin Poet Hunt, The Stockton Arts Commission Award, The Ekphrasis Prize, and WOMR Cape Cod Community Radio National Poetry Award. Brief Immensity, won the Finishing Line Press Open Chapbook Award. Jeanine recently received her sixth Pushcart Nomination. She has participated in Literary Lectures sponsored by Poets and Writers. Her work has appeared in North Dakota Review, Pearl, Stoneboat, Rosebud, Chiron Review, and Forge. Jeanine studied poetry at U.C. Davis and California State University, Sacramento.

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Windmills of Western Kansas
by Lindsey Martin-Bowen

Like roods with revolving crossbars,
they line the flat horizon, roll on and on—
Grateful Dead concerts
tumbling through riffs that morph
into different melodies before you know
your mind’s flowing there—far beyond

Kansas and its flat pastures
that seem to never end, except
through the Flint Hills—but then,
they flow back into plains,
now mauve in the western sun.
And more windmills churn on

atop a round horizon
of brown-gold bluffs interlaced
with the green Northwest brush.
Its verdant hue lets you know
Kansas isn’t far enough away
from traffic you want to escape.

Published in Thorny Locust (2020).

PHOTO: Ellis County, Kansas, Windmill Park (Dreamstime photo, used by permission).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: During the first decade of this century, we drove almost annually from the Kansas City area to Colorado to see our children. When we passed hills, primarily in Western Kansas, I was delighted to see the new windmills. By exhibiting an efficient method to create “clean” energy, those windmills give me hope for our civilization—and our planet. When we relocated to Oregon in 2018, we saw many more windmills farther west than Kansas, too. The Dutch were definitely onto something.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Pushcart and Pulitzer nominee Lindsey Martin-Bowen’s fourth poetry collection, Where Water Meets the Rock (39 West Press 2017), contains a poem named an Honorable Mention in Writer’s Digest’s 85th Contest. Her third, CROSSING KANSAS with Jim Morrison, won Kansas Authors Club’s 2017 “Looks Like a Million” Contest, and was a finalist in the QuillsEdge Press 2015-2016 Contest. Her Inside Virgil’s Garage (Chatter House) was a runner-up in the 2015 Nelson Poetry Book Award. McClatchy Newspapers named her Standing on the Edge of the World  (Woodley Press) one of Ten Top Poetry Books of 2008. Her poems have appeared in New LettersI-70 ReviewThorny LocustFlint Hills ReviewSilver Birch Press, Amethyst ArsenicCoal City ReviewPhantom DriftEkphrastic Review (Egyptian Challenge), The Same, Tittynope ZineBare Root Review Rockhurst Review, Black Bear Review, 12 anthologies, and other lit zines. Three of her seven novels have been published. Poetry is her way of singing. She taught writing and literature at UMKC for 18 years, MCC-Longview, and teaches Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, and other criminal justice classes for Blue Mountain Community College, Pendleton, Oregon. Visit her on Facebook.

Hiker in Front of Giant Sequoia
A Texas gal sees the redwoods, for the first time
by Sue Mayfield Geiger

I remember that trip to the redwoods
When you had just 24 hours before your next audition

Your Texas mom, needing a facelift, agreed
To go up the California coast to see

the massive beauties that had captured your soul
“You have to see these!” you said

Off we went with no agenda, little money
But you were persistent even though you knew

You could be called back at any time from
Your agent, telling you to show up for another

Audition, drop ’em dead, get the part, this
Could be it; or not; or maybe; who knows

Life is always about taking a chance,
Honing your craft, giving it your all

But right now, we were on a mission
Taking your below sea level mother

To the higher points of your state where
Trees dominated the sky, defying aging

Getting called back to L.A. numerous times
We’d take off again. You, not an unnerved bone

In your body.

Countless trips back and forth gave us a window
When two weary-eyed souls finally stopped

At a Starbucks and spent $40 on overpriced pastries
And expensive coffee before we fainted from exhaustion

Until we reached our destination and by God!
You were right.

It was worth it!

PHOTO: Old-growth forest, California, by Welcomia, used by permission.

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PHOTO: The author’s son, Adam Mayfield, in a grove of redwoods near Leggett, California, by Sue Mayfield Geiger (2013).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sue Mayfield Geiger is a freelance magazine writer, now in her seventh decade. She does not tweet or have a Facebook page. She got an English degree at age 57; sang professionally by the age of 20 (worked with Kenny Rogers); did a tandem parachute jump when she turned 50; has interviewed several celebrities, most memorable was Willie Nelson at his ranch near Austin; became a runway fashion model after the birth of her second son when she was in her early thirties; sang at that same son’s wedding reception in Guadalajara in 2016; soaked in the hot springs of Esalen at Big Sur, California at two a.m. with millions of stars above the night sky. She has traveled to Scotland, England, France, Italy, Bahamas, Mexico, and several states in the U.S., but her favorite adventure of all was tent camping at Inks Lake State Park, Texas, while growing up. The smell of bacon frying on a Coleman camp stove always finds its way into her meditation.

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Sometime in Yellowstone
by Karla Linn Merrifield

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If I do not subside
in Earth’s grand quake
I will become the vapor.

PHOTO: “Sunset, Lower Falls, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming” by SolsticePhoto. Prints available at etsy.com.

Karla Linn Merrifield at Yellowstone
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I wrote this gestalt-form poem in situ during a visit to Yellowstone National Park with my late husband in 2009. It was our second visit to the park.

PHOTO: The author at Yellowstone National Park.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Karla Linn Merrifield has had 800+ poems appear in dozens of journals and anthologies. She has 14 books to her credit. Following her 2018 Psyche’s Scroll (Poetry Box Select) is the 2019 full-length book Athabaskan Fractal: Poems of the Far North from Cirque Press. In early 2021, her Half a World of Kisses will be published by Truth Serum Press (Australia) under its new Lindauer Poets imprint. She is currently at work on a poetry collection, My Body the Guitar, inspired by famous guitarists and their guitars; the book is slated to be published in December 2021 by Before Your Quiet Eyes Publications Holograph Series (Rochester, NY). Find her on Twitter @LinnMerrifiel and on Facebook @LinnMerrifiel.

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Three Flakes on the Front Door
by Barbara Leonhard

Front doors, gateways to stories
held in the arms of lovers.
Brides and babies travel
over thresholds that welcome
spring’s warm breeze, summer’s first bees,
autumn’s tumbling leaves, winter’s freeze
for child play in drifts of snow
cushioning the stalwart door,
where Mystery gifts

three flakes, cut-out lives
of transient travel
through passageways to greet
weddings, rituals, blessings,
celebrations, holidays,
date nights, lives guarded
by peepholes
and double-bolt locks
until the last flake
melts.

Clothed in frayed lives,
the dead flutter as birds
released
from their cages
out the front gate
into new gardens.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I find the concepts of doors, portals, and passageways inspiring. One winter day, someone pasted cutouts of three snowflakes on our modest front door. In this poem, I see the three snowflakes as metaphorical for the transience of seasons and the stages of life with all the occasions and celebrations that take place across our thresholds, including death, the sacred passage of life through a new gateway.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Barbara Leonhard is a writer, poet, and blogger at Extraordinary Sunshine Weaver.  Her podcast Poetry: The Memoir of the Soul explores universal themes such as Grief, Kindness, and Presence. She taught writing for many years at the University of Missouri, and is the author of Discoveries in Academic Writing. She is also a regular contributor to Free Verse Revolution, Phoebe, MD: Poetry + Medicine, and Go Dog Go Café.

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My Front Door
by Eileen Wesson

Before I was a door
I was an old oak tree
A canopy for fledgling life
The heart of the meadow
Barn owls hid their nests
In the nape of my branches
Squirrels slept in my hollow cavities
Woodpeckers returned year after year
Drumming acorns into my limbs
Widening the holes to raise their young
I was shade in the summer while
Families gathered
Children played hide ‘n seek
Squeals of laughter circled my trunk
Couples celebrated their vows
Promising to love one another forever, then
Promises were broken
I listened to their stories
My leaves brushed away their tears
I felt pocketknives carve initials
Deep into my core as, sober shattered
Stargazing lovers spent the nights with me
Asking endless questions
Demanding guarantees before risking
To love again
I said nothing
I was the heart of the meadow

Tract housing sectioned off the meadow
I was deemed unmanageable
I took up too much land
Oversized, they said
Too many low-hanging branches
A hazard, they said
Someone could get hurt, they said

Now I stand guard to
The entrance of my family
Protecting all that is precious
I listen to music
Hear their stories
I open and close to the
Gathering of families
Grandchildren playing, barbeques, weddings
Sometimes I
Smell like last night’s dinner
I’m adorned with wreaths
As the seasons change
I bloom year round
Painted green like the meadow
I once stood in
I am the heart of the house

WESSON IZZY
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My process as a writer combines decades of acting, voiceover work, and my love of communicating with animals that has widened my perspective of life.  This is a photo of Izzy and myself. She was my constant companion for 18 years. I rescued her off the streets of LA. She remained (feral) wild till her last day. I learned more from this beautiful soul than any of my animals. Izzy could not be touched, bathed, or nails clipped, so I sharped my telepathic skills to communicate with her.  She smelled like fresh wheat fields and was never sick.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Eileen Wesson is an actress/writer & animal communicator who is a member of the Los Angeles Poets & Writers Collective. Her poems and essays have appeared in FRE&D publications, Silver Birch Press, CG magazine, and other journals and anthologies. She rescues all living creatures and lives in LA with a bunch of dogs.