sna poems, series supplementum #42: happy hollow

bit of a late entry; end-of-term was something else!

happy hollow is a 192-acre park in rock county, wisconsin between janesville and beloit. i grew up in janesville, and used to drive to beloit quite a bit down hwy 51; never knew this was here. apparently my parents used to visit sometimes when they were younger.

the land, along the rock river, was purchased in three installments by the county from private landowners. it’s still in kind of a ‘u’ shape due to there being a farm field on either side of the drive in.

mother’s day morning neither of us could sleep, so my wife suggested we venture out before anyone else was up. we laid there for a bit, then i said, ‘well, those birds aren’t going to watch themselves.’ i hung a “gone birdin'” sign on my parents’ tv and we lit out down hwy 51 in the breaking dawn.

so many song birds, delightful flowers, a quadruped skeleton in the underbrush near a false-solomon’s seal stand, and some bald eagles flying downstream. the highlight though had to be the prothonotary warbler who hung out with us for a good 10-15 minutes overlooking the river. chipper little guy.

first id’s of waterthrush, prothonotary warbler, and small-flowered buttercup!


blue-grey gnatcatcher

on hornbeam

algae collecting


grass on the mudbank

the rock flows

all brown and lovely


the oriole’s call


over morning mood



bouncing call

clear by the outlet

sna poems #140: oshkosh-larsen trail prairies

another former railroad right-of-way that has been turned into a trail with prairie remnants running along either side. this was a quickish stop on my way back from oshkosh to milwaukee (a bit out of the way but not so much i didn’t take the opportunity). after two+ days of silence, it was a treat to walk with the birds singing and the wind moving thru the new leaf buds.

again, not a terrible lot to report since it’s still early spring, but as ever i refuse to make this series about a particular nature-aesthetic and will continue making it about what i find when i go places, wherever whenever.


april weather’s back

green and grey

pileated calls


this morning’s raindrops


in new leaf-furling


miniature mirror

of wetland

tussocks back to life

sna poems series anthropocenum #23: jesuit retreat house

the jesuit retreat house sits on fahrney point in lake winnebago. had a silent retreat here for the first time last weekend. a real god-send. my nervous system recalibrated dramatically. a delight to listen to the northern flickers and cardinals, cranes every now and then. to simply walk the grounds and listen to the lake.

had my first dip in lake winnebago—crazy cold still and the mammal body recoiled but was invigorating. muskrats, mallards, a pileated woodpecker, turtles, jumping sturgeon, and a trio of white pelicans. trees budding and silence from lots of humans.


cross of black and white

stretched between

blue clear and rippling


glistening bodies

green and brown

splash in sheer delight


small green legs on log

plop below:

amphibian life





mussel shells forming an island in the inlet…


great blue mass winging

at sunset

gracing fahrney point


honk-plaint from field-geese—


in meditation


wishing i could lune

two herons

roosting in the dark

ha—that’s me in the willow. photo (taken before i knew he was there) courtesy of a friend i met on retreat!

sna poems #139: koro railroad prairie

a short stop at a 3-acre stretch of former railroad right-of-way converted into a path. along both sides soil from a former prairie has remained relatively undisturbed due to property rights and fire from train-wheels. big-blue stem dominant.

a soothing walk, lots of birdsong and wind in the trees. as with the last, not too much to report given the early spring timing, but well worth the time anyhow.


catkins roar above


just starting below


black-cap twittering

blue jay chips

at last year’s milkweed

sna poems #138: rush lake

wetland complex in a larger wildlife area in winnebago cty. i was on silent retreat nearby, and had a larger break, so i silently drove twenty minutes to visit a couple sna’s. 🙂

there are three different units to this sna, only one of which actually meets up with marshy rush lake. the whole area is an oasis for migrating water birds. i chose the unit most readily available, which is a glacial habitat rehabilitation site, according to a sign posted near the parking area. interesting to see what they end up doing with it. in the meantime, seemed like a wet prairie, grading into marsh perhaps, but i didn’t go far enough in to get real wet. just had a good time walking around the dried grass and feeling the open breeze.


two old oaks standing

in the wind

one reaches in jest


slow rustle of grass

and leaf buds

land stretching awake


someone or something

is crawling

beneath bleached grass stalks

if you made it this far: across the southern boundary highway, presumably blasting took place to expose the sandstone bedrock below this area. lots of blocky texture!

sna poems series supplementum #41: pewit’s nest again

a sna we’ve visited several times, and that i’ve written about on several occasions.

but we went back again easter monday on a lark and weren’t disappointed. a gorge in the sandstone along skillet creek, we visited with the creek for a bit—one child fell in again, no worries—snail shell near the bank, huge lichen and walls of fern on the cliff face, and the barred owl we saw last year perched in the same tree. an idyllic surprisingly warm late-afternoon.


sixteen elf cups

and barred owl

cool in the pine boughs

sna poems #137: ableman’s gorge

a gorge cut into baraboo quartzite, cambrian sandstone, and conglomerate by the baraboo river. the scene here in the upper narrows is very interesting, with van hise rock (an outcropping that helped charles van hise of uw-madison geology fame articulate principles of structural deformation and metamorphism) popping up over the road along with old quarry scars and a public spring for drinking water.

a gorgeous, clear, unseasonably warm spring morning, me and the kiddos piled into the van and drove here from the dells where we were staying. we checked out the spring and van hise rock, then climbed a bluff to the southwest of the baraboo river.

couldn’t believe how game the kids were, going straight up the bluff, but the first really clear morning with sun and heat on the back and cardinals singing out over the valley—couldn’t resist. also, the first liverwort buds and trout lilies coming up. also took a moment down by the river to pay my respects. would like to get back here sometime.


skirting gorge’s ridge

cardinal call

atop the cherries


the upper narrows

at dawning

liverwort flowers


baraboo river

cut quartzite

here and gone a thief

sna series supplementum #40: shorewood nature preserve

around five acres of forested bluff and shoreline on lake michigan just north of the city of milwaukee. a steep fall down a ravine off lake drive goes to a trail that skirts the line where lake michigan eats away at the coastal bluff. good beach time with my youngest today.


down to the lakefront

past new squill

mussel shells abound


agate and granite

schist and gneiss

my second son’s smile