sna poems #127: woodland dunes

woodland dunes is a wooded swale and ridge topography near lake michigan in manitowoc cty. the ridges and swales are from the receding of lake michigan’s shoreline in stages over millennia. the swales are wet year round here, while the ridges are often very sandy and more open.

we found some fantastic old trees and some delightful fungi—one highlight of the trip was a small stand of amanita muscaria var. guessowii (i think the var. is right there…). i hadn’t seen fly agaric in the wild since i was about twenty.

we also visited the nearby river marsh at the woodland dunes nature center to the northeast, where we found a spectacular boardwalk that gets you way into the marsh. at the end of the line where more open water occurs, we were greeted by a small family of otters! one of the great moments of this whole pandemic project of almost 200 site visits to see otters swimming freely in a marsh, and have them see us—they were inquisitive but clearly surprised!

first id’s of river otters, arrowhead, swamp sparrow, spotted beebalm, chanterelle waxy caps, and marsh skullcap.


here on our platform

feathered sprite

hums in the marsh breeze


arrowhead quiet

on the bank,

swamp sparrow singing


little brown muzzle:

our eyes meet

for mutual shock


green frog on the ridge

much too late

for lake michigan


red-gold fungal body

standing tall

amongst the cedars

sna poems #126: two creeks buried forest

two creeks buried forest is a fascinating site. a small prairie on the side of a highway that falls off into a sandy bluff over lake michigan, the bluffside is the amazing part here, tho the prairie was a solid walk too.

according to the dnr page for the site, the woody material partially uncovered by the wave action and other erosion is actually a buried forest grown and submerged in between periods of glaciation. when the cary glacier retreated, a boreal forest grew; then the valders glacier enabled the flooding of the area, flattening the forest, and covering the area with deposits. debris from the forest like “needles, cones, mosses, and terrestrial snails” are present in addition to wood, the radiocarbon dating of which has revealed it to be 11,850 years old. in addition to making the dating of the interglacial periods clear, the site’s evidence shows that entire forests could establish themselves in between glacial waves. i haven’t been so fascinated by the dnr’s description of an sna for a long while.

our walk was good, especially seeing a small flock of geese fly in and play around in the surf below. it would have been cool to go investigate the remains close up, but the sensitive nature of the site kept us respectfully atop the bluff.


seven geese splashing

as they light

honking in the surf


the mummified wood

white, blasted:

forest memory

sna poems #125: cherney maribel caves

the cherney maribel caves are part of a 50-ft outcropping dolostone bluff in manitowoc cty. most of the “caves” are indentations at the foot of the exposed bluff, but a small army of very dedicated volunteers have been clearing out the actual cave in the bluff. apparently (our very informative tour guide in the cave informed us), water has been trickling down thru lifelines in the dolostone for millennia, carving out the caverns with all manner of fantastic features. but then the last glacier filled in the cave with till and moraine from a sinkhole. they’ve been slowly removing the deposit, which filled the caverns about six feet high before removal.

beautiful hardwood wood too, with cedars on the base of the cliffs. well worth the visit.

first id of herb-robert!


carbonic acid

thru lifeline,

leaves, and living rock


amphibian legs,


over the caverns


inside dolostone—

what to say

about the rock’s heart?

sna poems #124: waupun park maple forest

waupun park maple forest is a remnant old growth southern mesic forest. set in a county park, the wood is dominated by sugar maples, with a mix of oaks and linden, walnut and ash. a lack of shrub growth and abundance of spring ephemerals suggests the continued health of this forest.

this was at the end of our day, so it was a shorter exploration than it might have been. but beautiful trees and so much fungi—late summer mycelial riches.


the sugar maples

up from earth,

mushrooms brown and orange


the skull’s dark pits gaze

on nothing,

but souls all around

sna poems #123: oakfield ledge

oakfield ledge is a section of the niagra escarpment of dolostone that ranges from new york up thru canada down into wisconsin a bit west of where i live in milwaukee. here the outcroppings are not as dramatic as door county’s shoreline cliffs, but they’re quieter and more heavily colonized by life given that they’re surrounded by woods.

at this site in fond du lac county (not manitowoc like i put on twitter a few times!), deep fissures have formed in the dolostone’s fractures. b/c of this, we were able to get down into the escarpment, a first for me. usually the ledge is the side of a hill or a dropoff into water, so one can see it or walk on top of it, but not thru it. we spent a good amount of time down in the canyon. lots of life all over though, in the wood and in the little oak savanna on the edge of the site. late summer in the midwest.

the wdnr site says that a diverse snail fauna lives at the cliff base, but we sadly didn’t find any…

first id’s of white baneberry and pale-flowered leaf cup!


eastern wood pewee’s

two-tone call,

serenading oaks


red fungal body

on the ledge

going back to soil


in the niagra


stone and wet and fern


on the savanna—


we hear the redstart

sna poems #122: oakfield railroad prairie

first intimate stop of the day. a former railroad, this sna is 10 acres in a straight line. lined with shrubs and trees, but still a surprisingly diverse prairie flora all along the way.

i’m grateful folks have activated these old rail lines so we can get to meet plants we might not elsewhere in human-shaped habitats. beautiful start to the day.

first id’s of four o’clock, meadowsweet, giant ragweed, wild cucumber, and tick-trefoil.


straight-line habitat

all decked out:

white, purple, yellow


where boxcars once hauled,

st. john’s wort

nestles in the grass


little downy one,

now it’s just

you and four o’clocks

if you made it this far… caterpillars on toadflax! (plus a couple more plants)

sna poems #121: mullet creek white cedar wetland

this sna is a wet-mesic forest and wetland complex in a larger wildlife area, dominated by white cedar and surrounded by farmland. the wetland areas have indicator species for calcium-rich water.

it’s the end of summer, so plant growth is at its peak. this, combined with the navigability of the saturated soils, the lack of paths, and the disturbing sound of what we can only assume was a hog-slaughtering occurring on a farm in an adjacent valley, precluded us from getting deep into the forest. but on a stretch of road away from that valley i was able to get in a bit and nose around, to the less bone-chilling sound of sandhill cranes in the fields across the street.

a less immersive and interactive stop than those later in the day.

the shrieking of pigs

and swamp mud

stop us in our tracks

selections from my long narrative poem out from _adversus press_

in january of 2021 i was holed up in my bedroom in our flat for about a week w/ boxes of genealogy materials (courtesy of my mom), old books (digital and paper) on nineteenth-century mining and geology, old plat maps, and books on the blackhawk war and on woodland effigy mounds, concocting a long narrative poem in segments. the effort’s purpose was to forge in the imagination a commingling of my own family lives, my ancestral family’s history, our inhabiting of particular locales (esp’ly milwaukee, janesville (wi), vinegar hill (il), cornwall, and the black forest), and the geological forces that bequeathed the rock, hydrology, and plant life that we’ve all shared. all thru the master trope of mining, since my mom’s earliest family in the area came here as lead miners. it’s set primarily in a middle cornish meter of randomly alternating 7- and 4-syllable lines.

it was a task a long time in the making.

anyhow, it’s called leads and diggings: a conglomerated family history, and the new adversus press was kind enough to publish five sections of the longer work. you can read them here if you have an interest, and the full work will be featured in my new collection, be radiant: a sonata pome, coming out in jan 2024 (more on that soon…). (there will be images from those old books in the full version)

new paternal poem in _wild roof journal_

the kind folks at wild roof journal have published a poem of mine, “for my father,” in their fifteenth issue. this came out a bit ago, but things have been busy. all good, but very little slack time for posting things.

anyhow, i made this poem when i was hiding in the shade of some cypress trees from the midday sun on the shore of lake michigan in door county. i was daydreaming and suddenly my childhood saturday morning walks with my dad to stop-n-go (our local convenience store) for a newspaper and coffee came hurtling into my brain. had to write it down.

thanks, wild roof!

(pictures from “the old water quarry” gestured toward near the end of the poem)

sna poems, series supplementum #34: new camaldoli fence loop trail

new camaldoli hermitage, founded in 1959 by camaldolese monks based in italy, sits on a mountain in the santa lucia range overlooking the pacific ocean in big sur, california. it is a vibrant contemplative community of monks with daughter houses in berkeley and san luis obispo.

i have a particular affection for the camaldolese since my spiritual mother‘s teacher was bede griffiths, an english benedictine monk who ended up as superior at saccidananda ashram in tamil nadu, india, which ended up incorporated into the camaldolese order. plus, i’m very keen on the works of one of new camaldoli’s original monks, fr. bruno barnhart, and of the current prior, cyprian consiglio. the hermitage is well worth checking out if you’re in the area or looking for a spectacular place for a retreat.

the fence loop trail winds up beyond the hermitage, and we hadn’t climbed it before our visit a couple weeks ago. a beautiful walk with views of canyon and mountain and ocean and sky. redwoods and granitic rock.

first id of vetchling.



but standing:

a scorched redwood grove


purple pincushions


all god’s creatures hum


clouds rolling below

limbs weary

but the soul refreshed