Red-headed Morning: Pileated Woodpecker

It was a red letter morning, or perhaps a red-headed morning: I saw three Pileated Woodpeckers on the old willow behind my house, at least one male among them.

For the past few weeks I have heard and seen a female Pileated frequently in the neighborhood. Maybe the mild temperatures and weather of this winter have contributed to the activity and frequency. Maybe I’ve just been outside more as a result. I had assumed I was seeing just one, a female, visiting several “excavation” projects on nearby trees, in search of ants and other bugs. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen a male in the neighborhood. So this was exciting. Courtship, perhaps. Or a family group.

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I got just one photo of the male that is not too blurry. I have to face it — it’s very blurry.

But a bit later, a female returned to the hedgerow behind my house and resumed working on a hole near the base of a dead tree. I managed to get some video of her and made a little movie. It’s pretty shaky, so you might consider taking a dramamine before watching.

Spring Haiku – 2011

4/8/11

now my sunrise year
of gray to crimson beauty
has come full circle

april to april
spring to spring, sunrise sunset
i’m the book between

4/3/11

remember april?
birth, death, anniversaries
unforgettable

house finches scolding
heavy cat kneading my arm
red deer in sunrise

3/29/11

the itinerant
doves of mourning have returned
for summer love songs

3/28/11

the lake is fierce
whipped tourquoise and aubergine
brave gulls time their dives

3/26/11

damn snow obscuring
stealthy black frozen puddle
ouch – i have fallen

hobbled by mishap
suddenly i see grey wings
northern harrier

3/25/11

sunrise slides northward
each day a bit farther left
Democratic sun

3/22/11

caked, stained tails and manes
the old grey mare turns to brown
mud season is here

they open the locks
far far north of here and the
lake level rises

vernal equinox
i feel a gut twinge, a cramp
like a teenaged girl

"super moon" march 2011


supermoon rises
in a cold clear sky
due east: proud blushed perigee

3/9/11

all careful plans have
larger forces at work, like
weather predictions
..
ladybug plays dead
good strategy, good for you
and good luck with that
..
cardinal treetop
bluejays in the apple trees
no bobolinks, yet

3/8/11

sugary branches
ice fog: what chilling god would
create such a thing?

2/28/11

february gasps
trees are figured in the rain
resolving details

new winter haikus

More winter haikus on topics of love, travel, weather and the seduction of spring.

2/15/11
I betray winter
by beginning an affair
with a younger spring

1/16/11
kiss of winter dawn
leaves a rime on my chapped lips
empty calories

1/5/11
nineteen ninety-one
flashback to the new year’s eve
he didn’t kiss me

12/28/10
Irate woman rants
gate agent blamed for all problems
a day in the life

12/26/10
The wind knocks palm fronds
against the roof, mocking sleep
impossible rest

Song: When The Horses Start Singing

A deep winter song, for the longest nights, the coldest nights, when your breath opaques the air and the snow squeaks under your boots.

Video: When The Horses Start Singing

Lyrics:

On the coldest night of the year
Everything stops
No spin to the earth
No turn of the season
Words have no meaning

Black sky curves overhead
Inverse of snow
Sublime, absolute
We are mute with conviction
Then the horses start singing

We were waiting for the reset of time
We were waiting for this moment to arrive
We were waiting for it all to synchronize

On the coldest night of the year
when all the words fail
Our breath falls like diamonds
Language is silenced
When the horses start singing
We listen

Winter Haiku

The lake is freezing
seagulls float on mini bergs
crows stalk the shoreline

A half-grown cat’s tail
switches at the falling snow
winter under glass

Starlings tweak berries
from the tree’s winter fingers
oh, to fly as one

Here, invisible:
an eclipse eclipsed by clouds
better luck next time

Song: What I Am

Here is a song written recently, featuring water in 2 forms:

What I Am

I am a city of millions and millions of thoughts
Each one a snowflake ina storm of wars won and lost
Streets and boulevards, tunnels, alleys and towers
Neighborhoods, boroughs, parishes, heroes and cowards

Here is the church of thinking
Here is the temple of drinking
Here is the grotto of loving
Like Venice, I’m sinking
into the sea

I am an ocean foundering drowning in wishes
Pooled ’round a melody I offer anemone kisses
Undersea mountains, canyons, shipwrecks, harpoons
Icebergs and gillnets, hurricanes, dead calm and whirlpools

Here is the current of yearning
Here is the rip tide of turning
Here is the soft sand of landing
And oil rigs burning
All this is me

I am a phantom, a photograph, magnetic forces
A tracing of arteries, flock of birds, herd of wild horses
X-rays and gamma rays shot ’round a circular pattern
Throwing off photons, probing the essence of atoms

Here is the first explosion
Setting ­­the universe in motion
Here is the very last lesson
To answer the question:
what will I be?

John Martyn has died

My college friend Eric Amrine introduced me to singer-songwriter John Martyn in 1976, when we were just 20 years old. We were both guitarists and drawn to mind-altering experiences. Martyn’s Scots-folk-soul was instantly addictive: full of yearning, hypnotoc, melancholy, angry-yet-sweet.

Just the other day my doctor, who is British and the same age as Eric and me, mentioned Martyn and Nick Drake to me in the same sentence. We were standing in the barn as the horses came in for the night, and our breath fell from our mouths like clouds. In winter, when the air is so cold that we are reminded of the thin line between liquid and solid, this is the music we listen to: John Martyn, Nick Drake. Solid Air is the record I still own. Martyn dedicated the title track of his best-known album to the brilliant and insomniac Drake, who died of an overdose at age 24.

Eric and I went to college a mere 200 miles from Woodstock, NY, where Martyn and other lights of the music world also lived in the late 1960s. Martyn once said, “Jimi Hendrix owned a house literally over the road. He used to fly up every Thursday in a purple helicopter. He was very quiet and used to tell me how much he loved the animals.” I was surprised to learn John Martyn was only 60.

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My capacity for denial is selective and applies to the passage of time. Eric is forever 20, for instance, and Martyn’s music is frozen with our youthful faces in that time. Yet death looms. It always has and always will, of course, but as my own age trespasses on the  territory of the daily obituary, death is so close you can touch it. Every morning of this cold spell I worry about the deer and the feral cat that I have seen once, whose tracks I see in stringing through the snow. How do they survive? How do the birds keep warm in their tiny of feather coats? How do they hold on in the wind?

I don’t know. I hear Martyn singing, I don’t want to know about evil. I only want to know about love.