Still Winter

With the last storm, we have been taking advantage of the deep snow and of the days when the sun shines with a brilliance. It has been a great time for strapping on the snowshoes and exploring the woods. Two days ago, we tramped up over the ridge across from the farm. It was late in the day and the deer were just descending from the high ground. We counted 10 in a relatively short time. There were tracks everywhere! We came across many places where the ground had been pawed, signs that the deer are digging their way through the deep snow in search of acorns. A Barred owl swooped through just in front of us and landed on the branches of a giant oak tree. Now is the time we hear them calling back and forth to each other with their classic ” who cooks for you, who cooks for you” call. Listen here if you’ve never heard the call of the Barred Owl. They do have other calls as well but this is their typical mating call. Very distinct and one we hear often in the woods of Maine. We are hoping that we get a chance this weekend to head into the woods or trek across the lower fields at the farm. I suppose it’s what we need to do when any thoughts of spring have been put on halt. Spring will come, I believe it will, really I do. But for now, it’s still winter.
Let’s end with a poem about winter and snowshoeing by Sidney Beck…


This valley’s empty blueness
Is filling now with clear sunlight.
Snow clumps tumble from branches
Into man-deep drifts soft bright –
Warmth-rounded, but still chilled.

Big snowshoe-footprints harden
Into pools of blue shadow –
Setting off from a house and garden,
Half-hidden, marked only by the low
Recent prints half-filled.
by Sidney Beck


Sunday and snowing. Sunday with 3 new books to read… a chapter here, a chapter there. A kettle of soup on the stove. Firewood stacked indoors and outdoor chores are done for the day. You know, it won’t be long and the sun will shine and the days will be long and we’ll be turning the soil and planting seeds and kneeling down in the woodland gardens to see that very first ephemeral to emerge. For the hundredth time, I’ll look at the amazing blue of the brave little Hepatica or the scalloped leaves of the bloodroot that unfurl offering up its vivid white flowers. But today, while it’s still snowy and cold and while the ground is still frozen, I’ll tuck in and read. Mary Oliver’s latest, called Devotions, is one of the three I’m working through. So dear readers, here’s a poem. A Sunday poem on a snowy day just for you…

At The River Clarion

I don’t know who God is exactly.
But I’ll tell you this.
I was sitting in the river named Clarion, on a water splashed stone
and all afternoon I listened to the voices of the river talking.
Whenever the water struck a stone it had something to say,
and the water itself, and even the mosses trailing under the water.
And slowly, very slowly, it became clear to me what they were saying.
Said the river I am part of holiness.
And I too, said the stone. And I too, whispered the moss beneath the water.
I’d been to the river before, a few times.
Don’t blame the river that nothing happened quickly.
You don’t hear such voices in an hour or a day.
You don’t hear them at all if selfhood has stuffed your ears.
And it’s difficult to hear anything anyway, through all the traffic, the ambition.
If God exists he isn’t just butter and good luck.
He’s also the tick that killed my wonderful dog Luke.
Said the river: imagine everything you can imagine, then keep on going.
Imagine how the lily (who may also be a part of God) would sing to you if it could sing,
if you would pause to hear it.
And how are you so certain anyway that it doesn’t sing?
If God exists he isn’t just churches and mathematics.
He’s the forest, He’s the desert.
He’s the ice caps, that are dying.
He’s the ghetto and the Museum of Fine Arts.
He’s van Gogh and Allen Ginsberg and Robert Motherwell.
He’s the many desperate hands, cleaning and preparing their weapons.
He’s every one of us, potentially.
The leaf of grass, the genius, the politician, the poet.
And if this is true, isn’t it something very important?
Yes, it could be that I am a tiny piece of God, and each of you too, or at least
of his intention and his hope.
Which is a delight beyond measure.
I don’t know how you get to suspect such an idea.
I only know that the river kept singing.
It wasn’t a persuasion, it was all the river’s own constant joy
which was better by far than a lecture, which was comfortable, exciting, unforgettable.
Of course for each of us, there is the daily life.
Let us live it, gesture by gesture.
When we cut the ripe melon, should we not give it thanks?
And should we not thank the knife also?
We do not live in a simple world.
There was someone I loved who grew old and ill
One by one I watched the fires go out.
There was nothing I could do
except to remember
that we receive
then we give back.
My dog Luke lies in a grave in the forest, she is given back.
But the river Clarion still flows from wherever it comes from
to where it has been told to go.
I pray for the desperate earth.
I pray for the desperate world.
I do the little each person can do, it isn’t much.
Sometimes the river murmurs, sometimes it raves.
Along its shores were, may I say, very intense cardinal flowers.
And trees, and birds that have wings to uphold them, for heaven’s sakes–
the lucky ones: they have such deep natures,
they are so happily obedient.
While I sit here in a house filled with books,
ideas, doubts, hesitations.
And still, pressed deep into my mind, the river
keeps coming, touching me, passing by on its
long journey, its pale, infallible voice

Merry Christmas To All!

Warm and cozy and couldn’t be more delighted with the Christmas gift of more snow! Merry Christmas, everyone!

The Snow-Storm

Announced by all the trumpets of the sky,
Arrives the snow, and, driving o’er the fields,
Seems nowhere to alight: the whited air
Hides hills and woods, the river, and the heaven,
And veils the farm-house at the garden’s end.
The sled and traveller stopped, the courier’s feet
Delayed, all friends shut out, the housemates sit
Around the radiant fireplace, enclosed
In a tumultuous privacy of storm.

Come see the north wind’s masonry.
Out of an unseen quarry evermore
Furnished with tile, the fierce artificer
Curves his white bastions with projected roof
Round every windward stake, or tree, or door.
Speeding, the myriad-handed, his wild work
So fanciful, so savage, nought cares he
For number or proportion. Mockingly,
On coop or kennel he hangs Parian wreaths;
A swan-like form invests the hidden thorn;
Fills up the farmer’s lane from wall to wall,
Maugre the farmer’s sighs; and, at the gate,
A tapering turret overtops the work.
And when his hours are numbered, and the world
Is all his own, retiring, as he were not,
Leaves, when the sun appears, astonished Art
To mimic in slow structures, stone by stone,
Built in an age, the mad wind’s night-work,
The frolic architecture of the snow.


Today we’ll slow things down a bit. No racing about, no running for things in town. We’ll spend some time at the farm, visit with the donkeys, we’ll layout the picnic basket. As often as I can, I walk a loop with Sally’s dog, Frazier. He and I travel the narrow and windy roads away from the farm, passing the neighboring fields of cows and sheep, just to admire and take in the incredible beauty of Ireland.

An afternoon tea with “Teddy”….try and tell me that Teddy is not adorable!

The word ‘profound’ always comes to mind when I am asked to describe the landscape here. It is a landscape that seeps into your soul….it feels grand, it feels bigger than life. An arrangement of green and rock, mountains and expansive field, that is close to God.

Today,I am thinking this….
“Look around you. Appreciate what you have. Nothing will be the same in a year”.

Also, I’ll re-post this poem by Paul Corrigan( which I love). It always reminds me of how fleeting life can be…even with the things we savor. Then there are the uncertainties and unfortunate moments that fall on all of us, and we repeat the proverb “this, too, shall pass”.
Stay in the moment. Pay attention. Don’t wish a moment away.
Have a good day everyone.

He, To His Wife

Sit with me here on the landing
and watch how the moon hangs
like some pale, winter fruit
in the branches of our crabapple tree.
I noticed it last night, but you
had gone to bed. And since last night
the moon has ripened and is full
and looks ready to plummet off the tree
and drop below the horizon.
Sit down here beside me.
It’s not something we’ll see
every month. The leaves will hide it,
or the clouds. One of us will be away,
or we’ll both be asleep and it will rise
and hang in the branches without us.
How odd not to have seen it before now;
to have lived in this house a year
and not had a cloudless night when the leaves
were down and the moon was waxing.
How soon will it be before clear weather
again reveals it in its brightest phase
hanging in those bare limbs?
We ought to watch the skies more faithfully
and try to be here on the stairs
to catch the next rare conjunction
of the moon in our tree
Come sit with me in the dark for awhile.

by Paul Corrigan

My mom called this morning,”are you still writing the blog”, she asked. I think so. I’m trying. In between getting the firewood split and stacked, the last of the tomatoes harvested and preserved, the lower sheep field bush-hogged, after another fifty bales of hay are put into the loft, once the apples are picked and made into cider, “then I’ll write a blog post”, I say. I am not the least bit put off by the lengthy Fall chore list. Each beautiful autumn day is too precious to not want to be engaged in some outdoor task. Riding the tractor through a field of tall grass ( and a bit of goldenrod and aster) on a sunny afternoon….delight. Filling baskets of apples and scrutinizing the various varieties and tastes of each…joy. Knowing the freezer will be full of stewed and roasted tomatoes…comforting.
Yesterday, our friend Moe brought us some pears from his orchard. Pears are a lovely fruit, don’t you think? I’ll leave them on the table for a day or so, let them ripen some, and be happy to just look at their mottled green and tawny skin…beauty.

How about a poem? Now, for me, back to work!

Pied Beauty

by Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–1889)

Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.

Peach Season

Peaches are in season. Not the final fruit to be harvested, eaten and preserved, we still have apples and pears to look forward to. But doesn’t a fresh peach pie along side some home-made ice cream (ginger ice cream, maybe? Yes!) seem just about the most decadent thing you can devour at summer’s end?
Here’s a poem by Kate Barnes about peaches…and a reminder that what we think we know may not always be true. Enjoy!

by Kate Barnes

Jenny, because you are twenty-three
(and my daughter),
you think you know everything;
and because I am fifty-three
(and your mother),
I think I know everything.
A week ago you picked up two green little peaches,
only half-grown and still hard,
from under the loaded peach tree
and put them on the kitchen window sill;
and I thought
(though I didn’t say a word):
they’re too small, they will just rot
but I won’t move them, Jenny put them there.
Now the summer is over and you are gone,
the mornings are cool, squashes conquer the garden,
the tree swallows have flown away, crickets sing—
and the sweet juice of your peaches runs down my chin.


Well, pretty close to done. We still have to add the batts to the boards once they’ve dried and shrunk a bit. We’ll put a latch on the inside so the door doesn’t mistakenly swing open while in use. We need to find some appropriate reading material for any “extended visits”. So, that’s the last of the outhouse posts from Fernwood. If you want to see more, you’ll just have to come and see it…or use it. I’ll leave you with an outhouse poem by an unknown author….

The Outhouse

The service station trade was slow
The owner sat around,
With sharpened knife and cedar stick
Piled shavings on the ground.

No modern facilities had they,
The log across the rill
Led to a shack, marked His and Hers
That sat against the hill.

“Where is the ladies restroom, Sir ?”
The owner leaning back,
Said not a word but whittled on,
And nodded toward the shack.

Some fine words to be thinking and perhaps to live by….

Linnaea borealis here at Fernwood

“To live content with small means. To seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion. To be worthy not respectable, and wealthy not rich. To listen to stars and birds and babes and sages with an open heart. To study hard, think quietly, act frankly, talk gently, await occasions. Never hurry. In a word, to let the spiritual, the unbidden and the unconscious rise up through the common. This is my symphony.”
—William Henry Channing

Old Buggies

I once owned, back in the day when draft horses stood in our fields with the sheep, a nice old cream delivery sleigh. When I sold the last horse, the sleigh went as well. It was a beauty. Green with gold painted detail work. The drafts were meant for work, pulling the hay rake or hauling out logs, and these were some of the chores I used them for. However, when there was good snow, out came the sleigh and in we all piled…kids, friends, and neighbors. Boy was that fun! The sleigh was built as a pung with a set of both front and back runners. Just thinking about it makes me want to consider another horse…hmmm? So, here is a poem by Kate Barnes celebrating the days when sleighs and buggies traveled these roads. (The buggy in the photo is from my Mom’s family. They owned a small grocery and this is how they made their deliveries). The Buggies

“When I first began to practice,”
said the veterinary, giving a shot
to the new foal, “ this countryside
was full of old carriages. The barns
all had some. You could buy
a good top buggy for ten dollars. But now
a lot of the barns have fallen down
onto them.

Those old farmers
used to hang their good buggies from the rafters,
safe and out of the way. And some people
went on using them a long time.

I remember
one place in Warren, “he said, putting iodine
on the umbilicus, watched anxiously
by the mare with her flickering eyes, “ they had
this perfect drop- front phaeton. The top
was always up, the seat was plum-colored wool
with a cloth cover over it. Beautiful.
The old lady wouldn’t go to church
in anything else.

But now that I think of it,
she must have gone too, the last time I was by there
the barn roof was down.

They were
nice, those old things-
well made, you know.
They could stand up to a lot.”

He climbed
into his white truck and drove away,
rattling down the lane. Behind, in the stall,
the mare nickered once as her foal began to nurse
and was silent.

The cold March evening
was darkening toward night, the patterns
of old snow made stripes in the dusk, the stars
were slowly coming out but the lake
at the bottom of the hill went on picking up
the last daylight. Its surface glowed
softly as if it were lighted
from below, as if a distant sun were submerged there
under the ice, still shining, alive, an
d warm.

Today….We Had Rain, Glorious Rain

Today it rained strong and steady throughout the day. I am quite certain that every living thing had their mouths tipped skyward to catch every precious drop. Rain, glorious rain.
And here a poem… by W.S. Merwin

Empty Water

I miss the toad
who came all summer
to the limestone
water basin
under the Christmasberry tree
imported in 1912
from Brazil for decoration
then a weed on a mule track
on a losing
pineapple plantation
now an old tree in a line
of old trees
the toad came at night
first and sat in the water
all night and all day
then sometimes at night
left for an outing
but was back in the morning
under the branches among
the ferns the green sword leaf
of the lily
sitting in the water
all the dry months
gazing at the sky
through those eyes
fashioned of the most
precious of metals
come back
believer in shade
believer in silence and elegance
believer in ferns
believer in patience
believer in the rain

—W.S. Merwin, from The Rain in the Trees, 1988