Climbing to Devil’s Kettle

Brule 3

Brule River

“It’s a rugged hike, but not that bad,” the young park ranger at Judge Magney State Park assured me. “I’ve seen a three-year-old and a little dog and a 70-year-old do it.”

Not much doubt which category I belonged in.

“How far is it?” I asked.

“About a mile to the stairs. That’s the hardest part – a lot of stairs. You go down the stairs to the upper falls and then climb back up a little and go farther to the Devil’s Kettle. And of course you can continue on with the Superior Hiking Trail, if you want to go further.”

“So … maybe an hour for two miles there and back?”

Mendaciously, she agreed. Continue reading


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Ninety in the Shade

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Summer fills my ears:
finches, cardinals, robins sing before dawn,
jays scold on my morning walk,
cicadas buzz in afternoon heat,
crickets chirp away the evening.

Bees and butterflies and blossoms,
late summer’s goldenrod fills the air,
pollen mingling with smoke from Canada,
toxic and intoxicating.
Living dangerously, I ignore health warnings,
go outside and walk through this heavy air.

Ninety degrees again.
Ninety in the shade and nowhere to wade,
no Aunty Helen to take us to the river,
no Dad and Grandpa with fishing poles and worms.
What good is ninety in the shade without them?

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Garden Mysteries


Foundlings, wrapped in cotton,
cradled in a plastic shell,
left on a doorstep without a clue:
no names, no note, nothing at all.

“I can’t raise these,”
my sister said.
“You take them.”

Mystery seedlings.
I recognized tomatoes,
guessed at peppers,
planted them in my garden,
hoping for the best or, at least,
for something. .

Watered, caged, watched tomatoes grow,
setting on big fruits,
some round, some lobed, tripartite,
bright green shading darker through July,
a soft, hazy red creeping up from the bottom.

Most potted pepper plants produce jalapeños,
first green and growing, then red,
then poppers stuffed with goodness.
sweet hot from the oven.

A single pepper plant produces nothing
but branches and bushes through July,
finally flowering in August.

My foundling tomatoes hang heavy on their vines,
still green and red, not changing color any longer.
Brown scars mark where they have almost split.
I lift a big tomato gently, bounce it in my hand:
soft and heavy. Maybe
this is ripe?

Taking a chance, I cut it from the vine,
wash it, cut the lobes apart, remove the stem, and taste:
so sweet!
Essence of tomato, in
a nameless, orphan heirloom.

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Ode to a White Cat


Strong, supple muscles wrapped in soft white fur,
leaping, landing, stretching, settling in,
demanding petting, responding with purr.
Contesting with sleep, this cat scores a win:
Of course, he says, you need me here, shushing
birds and books and dreams. Creating bliss is
easy. Stroke my fur in thanks and go on. Continue reading

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Trees believe

IMG_0653.JPGTrees feel death’s chill as
winter freezes down hard
but they remember.

Trees believe in spring
hope for new life even as
sap freezes
snow blows
ice coats and clacks their branches.

All through the hardest winter
trees remember spring,
believe it into coming again.

Trees remember and believe.
Sap rises.
Hope buds.

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Spring Coming, 2018

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Half a dozen gray-and-black-and-white
Canada geese swim
in a small corner of water melted
under a bright afternoon sun:
above, all incandescent blue,
below, all gray and white and black.

A pheasant skitters across the still-frozen pond,
long-tailed, ring-necked bright spot against snow.

Two swans stand
white against a plowed black field, wondering
which way to a lake?

Water burbles into city sewers,
puddles on sidewalks,
during the day,
freezes glassy overnight.

Spring sun shines,
birds return,
sap rises,
snow melts,
rivers flood,

a cataract of voters in Pennsylvania,
a flood of firings in Washington,
a trickle of resignations-on-principle,
a torrent of protest,
youth rising
unstoppable as spring.

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The Dreaded Darwin Road

First miles leaving home,
last miles coming back,
once gravel, now paved,
ices quicker,
drifts deeper, clears slower,
than any other road,
runs seven miles through beauty.

Spring greening,
teal and mallards waddling,
turkeys strutting,
red-winged blackbirds singing from reeds,
plowed fields and ponds alive with promise.

Summer growing,
an eagle soars and
a red-tailed hawk perched on a road sign
watches the hearse go by.
Corn grows
knee high by the Fourth of July,
higher yet, until
a person could get lost in the fields,

Autumn glowing,
geese honk high,
rooster pheasants parade roadside,
seagulls follow the plow.
Trees turn gold,
fields to sere stalks, then stubble.

Winter freezing,
crows complain,
deer ghost through fields at dusk.
Frost, snow, silver
trees, fields, ponds, roads.

Call ahead:
is it icy? drifted? plowed yet?
that dreaded Darwin road
to home.


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