Her Pivoting Ear



same pair, two months ago

Near dusk, near a path, near a brook,
we stopped, I in disquiet and dismay
for the suffering of someone I loved,
the doe in her always incipient alarm.

All that moved was her pivoting ear
the reddening sun was shining through
transformed to a color I’d only seen
in a photo of a new child in a womb.

Nothing else stirred, not a leaf,
not the air, but she startled and bolted
away from me into the crackling brush.

The part of my pain which sometimes
releases me from it fled with her, the rest,
in the rake of the late light, stayed.
~C. K. Williams  “The Doe”


Oh little one
to have been born
in June over three decades ago
so wanted
so anticipated
but lost too soon
gone as swiftly
as a doe disappearing in a thicket,
a memory that makes me question
if you were real,
but you were
and you are
and someday
I’ll know you when I see you.



The Winged Keys



The set seed and the first bulbs showing.
The silence that brings the deer.

The trees are full of handles and hinges;
you can make out keyholes, latches in the leaves.

Buds tick and crack in the sun, break open
slowly in a spur of green.


The small-change colours of the river bed:
these stones of copper, silver, gold.

The rock-rose in the waste-ground
finding some way to bloom. The long

spill of birdsong. Flowers, all
turned to face the hot sky. Nothing stirs.


That woody clack of antlers.
In yellow and red, the many griefs of autumn.

The dawn light through amber leaves
and the trees are lanterned, blown

the next day to empty stars.
Smoke in the air; the air, turning.


Under a sky of stone and pink
faring in from the north and promising snow:

the blackbird.
In his beak, a victory of worms.

The winged seed of the maple,
the lost keys under the ash.
~Robin Robertson “Finding the Keys”


If only there were verbal keys as plentiful
as those that twirl from the maple branch,
words freed, ready to unlatch life’s secrets
and push ajar the doors of heavy hearts.

May we open just enough
to listen,
unlock horns,
and receive what falls
into our empty arms.




Like a Blessing Vanished

above the construction zone on the south end of the Western Washington University campus

Empty and filled,
like the curling half-light of morning,
in which everything is still possible and so why not.

Filled and empty,
like the curling half-light of evening,
in which everything now is finished and so why not.

A root seeks water.
Tenderness only breaks open the earth.
This morning, out the window,
the deer stood like a blessing, then vanished.
~Jane Hirschfield from “Standing Deer”


And think I must fall on my knees
to see them standing there,
Breasting the misty tide,
Sniffing the misty air.
~Charles Norman from “The Deer”

same pair, two months ago
same doe and fawn, two months ago, on the WWU campus

An Incomplete Answer

ahmamaHe loved to ask his mother questions. It was the pleasantest thing for him to ask a question and then to hear what answer his mother would give. Bambi was never surprised that question after question should come into his mind continually and without effort. 

Sometimes he felt very sure that his mother was not giving him a complete answer, was intentionally not telling him all she knew.  For then there would remain in him such a lively curiosity, such suspicion, mysteriously and joyously flashing through him, such anticipation, that he would become anxious and happy at the same time, and grow silent.
~Felix Salten from Bambi


Where Minds and Gardens Grow



As I go between meetings on the Western Washington University Campus in Bellingham, Washington, I can’t help but admire the work of the stewards of the gardens and landscape, as well as some of the four legged visitors.  These are iPhone photos, taken on the run.

cornflower and pollinator
officially a weed but lovely nonetheless
officially a weed but lovely nonetheless



rose garden outside Old Main after a shower
rose garden
geranium outside the Academic Instructional Center
hedge of ornamental grasses near the Rec Center
Hollyhock seed pods
blackberries sneak in here and there
ornamental hedge berries
nigella seed pods
Queen Anne’s Lace with its “bruised” center



zinnia patch



The Path Between the Thorns

on the WWU campus yesterday

I love the way the doe knows how to go
through the tall brambles: She ambles
her hips first to one side,
then another; tosses her nose high
to sniff the trails of air; and
proffers only a passing glance to
the chickadee on his slanted
branch. She knows the way;
she knows the turn of a hoof print
here, to the right of the wild rose brier;
there, past the tip of the raspberry twig;
she knows the sun even before
his fine arced dome appears
on the eastern horizon, and
she goes that way,
into the still of the dew
into the hills of the morning
in through that path between the thorns
that is so hard for us to see.
~Pat Campbell Carlson “Deer Wisdom”

The deer on our university campus stroll about like students themselves; they taste this, nibble that, try things out to see how they like it.   It is rare for a cougar to stray down from the hills to campus so the deer find themselves unchallenged as long as they stay off the asphalt competing with four wheeled predators.  The campus is a refuge from the world, an idyllic place to hang out, to see and be seen, just like students.

On our farm, they are not so unconcerned.  Life is very uncertain;  one never knows who can be trusted.  Thorns define the pathways and to be safe, a deer must be willingly swallowed by the thorns.  When I approach, she dives into an indiscernible opening in the brushy undergrowth and disappears, leaving no trace she was ever there.  Yet I know she is, peering out from her camouflaged sanctuary, waiting for her moment, undisturbed, in the sun.




Breathing Fog

photo by Nate Gibson
photo by Nate Gibson

“An absolute
Trees stand
up to their knees in
fog. The fog
slowly flows
cobwebs, the grass
leaning where deer
have looked for apples.
The woods
from brook to where
the top of the hill looks
over the fog, send up
not one bird.
So absolute, it is
no other than
happiness itself, a breathing
too quiet to hear.”
–  Denise Levertov, The Breathing