National Poetry Month: Enchantment and Wonder

This month I will be writing poems in response to the ideas, connections and echoes between All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis, edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K. Wilkinson and Rooted: Life at the Crossroads of Science, Nature, and Spirit, by Lyanda Lynn Haupt.

Lyanda Lynn Haupt includes “Enchantment and Wonder” among the tenets of Rootedness. She explains that the word wonder “derives from the Old English wundrian – to be astonished by the presence of the wondrous.” (p. 27) She also explains that we humans, so preoccupied with our busyness, have to be open to the “visitations” of the wondrous. Sometimes I can be a bit too open to wonder. Although I haven’t driven off the road while gazing at some bird, cloud, or tree yet, I’ve come close. That is what happened one day last November. Driving to work one morning, I noticed something hanging from a tree near the road. As I got closer, I slowed almost to a stop. (So I wouldn’t drive into the tree!) Wonder of wonders, it was a Baltimore oriole’s nest! Sadly, it was too far off the ground to get a good look at, but I’ve been marveling at that nest all winter long. Late last week when I drove by, I was enraged to see that the tree had been cut down! I hope whoever cut it down noticed the sock-sized miracle they destroyed. I decided to write a tanka-ish poem in its honor.

hidden since last spring
among dense, sheltering leaves,
an oriole’s nest,
a beak-woven wonder,
survived the winter

but not humans.

Draft, © Catherine Flynn 2022

From Nests and Eggs of North American Birds, by Oliver Davie, 1900
Internet Archive Book Images, No restrictions, via Wikimedia Commons

Previous NPM Posts:

Day 3: Reciprocity
Day 2: Kith and Kin
Day 1: The Thing Is

National Poetry Month: Reciprocity

This month I am writing poems in response to the ideas, connections and echoes between All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis, edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K. Wilkinson and Rooted: Life at the Crossroads of Science, Nature, and Spirit, by Lyanda Lynn Haupt.

At its heart, reciprocity is the idea that all beings, plant and animal, “facilitate one another in beneficial ways,” Janine Benyus writes in her essay “Reciprocity” (All We Can Save, p. 9). For several years, we have been witnessing reciprocity in action outside our kitchen window. The stump pictured below is all that’s left of a beech tree that died. Worried that it could fall on our house, my husband and son cut it down, but never got around to digging out the stump. I’m glad they left it to finish its natural cycle.

Reciprocity

Red-crested pileated woodpeckers
Excavate the stump of an old beech,
Carving cavities, feasting on
Insects who’ve settled inside the
Pitted, pulpy wood, all that
Remains of a towering tree, where a multitude of
Organisms still thrive, a
Community 
Inextricably intertwined, supporting,
Tending, nourishing one another for
Years to come.

Draft © Catherine Flynn, 2022

Previous NPM posts:

Day 2: Kith and Kin
Day 1: The Thing Is

National Poetry Month: Kith & Kin

One of the first essays in All We Can Save is “Indigenous Prophecy and Mother Earth,” by Sherri Mitchell. Mitchell writes that “everything is interrelated and recognized for its sacred place within the web of life.” (p. 20) This understanding is central to kincentric awareness, the understanding that “life in any environment is viable only when humans view the life surrounding them as kin.” Lyanda Lynn Haupt includes kith and kin as two of the fundamental tenets of “rootedness” in her book Rooted. She explains “where kin are relations of kind, kith is relationship built on knowledge of place–the close landscape…Kithship enlivens kinship.” (p.26)

Our house is built on land that was once part of my great-grandfather’s farm. I feel deeply connected to this land, although I never knew this was really meant by the word “kith.” I also know that before European settlers lived here, people of the Schaghticoke and Paugussett nations lived on this land. We have tried to be good stewards and remember that we share this land with others.

Some of you know that we have a new grandson. I know his parents will help him understand that “each element within creation (including humans) has the right and the responsibility to respectfully coexist as coequals within the larger system of life.” (Mitchell, p. 19) Today’s poem is dedicated to Eamonn.

Kith and kin

On the night you were born,
the moon bathed you in its silvery light,
welcoming you into the world.

Deep in the woods,
a chorus of peepers sang
out in jubilation, celebrating
your arrival.

And sap coursed through
trees and plants
swelling buds,
greening the earth,
greeting you, their brother.

Draft © Catherine Flynn, 2022

National Poetry Month, Day 1

Poetry Friday: Welcome, National Poetry Month!

What a happy coincidence that National Poetry Month begins on a Friday this year! And, because the Inkling challenge is the first Friday of each month, today is a trifecta of poetry goodness. This month, Mary Lee challenged us to “Use “The Thing Is” by Ellen Bass as a mentor text. Keep the title, but choose a theme/message either from your own life or from current events.” Bass’s poem is full of the pain and contradictions of life, asks questions, and reaches a resolution.

Today is also the first day of my month-long poetry project. For the past two years, I’ve explored the natural world through poetry. Two years ago, my poems were about News from the Natural World. Last year’s project was inspired by Kathryn Aalto’s Writing Wild: Women Poets, Ramblers, and Mavericks Who Shape How We See the Natural World. That journey was such an incredible learning experience that I wanted to do something similar this year. My friend and fellow Inkling, Heidi Mordhorst (who is also hosting today’s Roundup), suggested reading All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis, edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K. Wilkinson. But I also recently discovered Rooted: Life at the Crossroads of Science, Nature, and Spirit, by Lyanda Lynn Haupt. At the risk of being indecisive, I’m not going to commit to one book or the other. Rather, I envision this month’s writing to be a response to the connections between these two books. Who knows where that will lead?

So, using “The Thing Is” as a starting point, this month’s journey begins with a walk in the woods.

The thing is

I have so many
questions,
so many 
things I. Don’t. Understand.

But I know
a walk
in the woods
on a cold day
in late March, 
will hold surprises.

Maybe sharp-lobed hepatica 
are erupting from leaf litter,
scattered beside the trail, 
their pale pink petals
streaked like the morning sky,
each flower with a 
a dazzling supernova
of stamens at the center.

Or a lone antler
rests at the base
of a scarred oak,
or a jumble
of hawk feathers
lay in a heap
by a fallen log.

As I study 
the remains 
of this fierce predator,
my need for answers
becomes urgent.

I realize, though, I don’t know 
who to ask.

Draft © Catherine Flynn, 2022

Please visit my fellow Inklings to read their responses to Mary Lee’s challenge, and the Poetry Friday Round up at Heidi’s blog.

Heidi Mordhorst @ My Juicy Little Universe
Linda Mitchell @ A Word Edgewise
Margaret Simon @ Reflections on the Teche
Mary Lee Hahn @ A(nother) Year of Reading
Molly Hogan @ Nix the Comfort Zone