sna poems, supplementum anthropocenum #13: atlas pit (aka kiwanis pond)

it’s strange to me that i haven’t yet visited this site for the series. atlas pit (it was re-named ‘kiwanis pond’ but i can’t bring myself to call it that from long and early association) is a former gravel quarry a couple blocks from where i grew up in janesville, wi (rock county).

the old story goes that atlas sand & gravel dug until they hit a spring and then it filled in. i haven’t been able to fact-check that to my satisfaction, but the pieces of confirmation i’ve found have lined up with the general story. sounds like it filled up in the ’50s.

my childhood neighborhood was at the top of the quarry, and the pit was down the hill in a green corridor near a large wooded park, another pond, and a golf course. i learned in my research on wisconsin natural history during the pandemic that my hometown sits atop one of the outwash fans of the last glaciation, and my neighborhood above the rock river is at the edge of the fan. so it actually makes very good sense that there’d be a gravel quarry here, and there are other quarries in the area.

we used to come down here to play frequently, and back then it felt like a forest, a real wild place. it’s not quite so expansive now as an adult, but there are still pockets that feel more remote than it really is. when i visited the wind was blowing on a cloudy morning, and it smelled of childhood and good life.

first id of common cocklebur!

a.

here goldenrod bends

in the breeze

and i never knew

b.

this the native air

where we found

fraternal snappers

c.

glassy algal pond

quarry-wrought:

so good to see you

self-portrait

new poem and translations in _dappled things_

dappled things has just released their new issue, in which i have one original poem and three translations of old english galdru. while i do encourage any and all to buy a copy, thankfully, they’ve made mine accessible on the issue’s webpage as well. you can read the original here and the translations here.

this is a particularly satisfying publication for me because 1) the poem is about my extended family and our time together in different areas i have great fondness for, 2) the translations are of galdru (“charms”) which i think are some of the most interesting material remnants of early medieval culture, and 3) dappled things was where my first ever poem, a triolet about st. levan’s in cornwall, appeared almost a decade ago now. thanks, dappled things!

here’s that triolet, in case you have an interest:


st. levan’s well

we walked along a forest path

and drank from selevan’s well.

for a moment, we lived the past;

we walked along a forest path.

and tho’ we knew it wouldn’t last

as the spring flowed to the wind-swept swell,

we walked along a forest path

and drank from selevan’s well.

New Personal Essay on Contemplation in _Spirit & Life_

I’m always grateful for the support of Spirit & Life, the Benedictine magazine that the congregation of sisters I’m affiliated puts out every other month. But especially so right now. On the occasion of the Exultation of the Cross coming up on the 14th of this month, they’ve published an essay of mine that brings together American neo-bohemia, altered states of consciousness, devotion to the Sacred Humanity of Christ, and contemplation. (!) You can find it here.

This is by far my most personal essay so far, and I find it’s getting easier over the years to just say what I want to say. Spirit & Life has helped foster that growth for sure—if you like what you see there, please subscribe; it’s free and a very pleasing material publication!

pax inter spinas

Webinar for Paraclete Press with Abbot Primate Gregory Polan on the Divine Office

I had the distinct privilege yesterday of having a conversation with Abbot Primate Gregory J. Polan, OSB and Rachel McKendree of Paraclete Press about the practice and virtues of the Divine Office (also known as the Liturgy of the Hours) and my new book, The Saint Benedict Prayer Book.

We discussed a bit of the history but more so the vision of reality that is conveyed by the performance of the Hours, why it matters as a form of prayer in the world today and how it shapes who we are. It was a fabulous discussion with much wisdom from Abbot Primate Gregory.

If you have an interest, you can watch the full conversation here, and you can pick a copy of the book here.

Pax et Bonum!

state natural area poems #25: sapa spruce bog a & b

a.

downed logs saturated

cobbles for white-tail hooves

spring thru grass and water

b.

sumac flair

prevents entry—

bog country

sapa spruce bog is a black spruce-tamarack bog (southernmost instance in wi) located in a kettle hole left by the receding glacier at last ice age’s end. it’s very acidic and has what is called “houghton muck” for soil–wow. we stopped by the northern edge (access is restricted to research) to see and smell the hardwood swamp habitat and met a buck wandering along the road. he quickly disappeared into the bog with lots more knowledge of such things than us.

thanks to the university of wisconsin-milwaukee field station for tending this pristine bog.

state natural area poems #24: cedarburg bog a, b, & c

a.

glacial lake

water dream

mud fossil

b.

tumbled rock above

glistening eyes below

twilit bog life

c.

geese call at sunset. white cedar,

tamarack—tall family. feathery

splays in moss, grass, sedge, peeping

over duckweed. basswood sleeps unstirring.

cedarburg bog was once a glacial lake. the bog contains six lakes, shrub-carr, and a string bog (typical of much farther north in n. america). birches and basswood live here, along with white cedar and tamarack swamp forest. on my way thru, i met a very talkative black-capped chickadee.

thanks to the university of wisconsin-milwaukee field station, wi dnr and friends of cedarburg bog for tending this land.

New essay on “Monastic Tradition and the Problems of Big Tech” in _The Windhover_

An essay of mine bringing together my interest in the Benedictine monastic tradition with my concerns about the pervasive (and pernicious) influence of Big Tech has just been published in The Windhover.

In the essay, I bring to bear on our screen-saturated consciousnesses two key, foundational insights of the western monastic tradition: the daily practice of calling to mind one’s own death (Rule of St. Benedict 4.47) and the call to treat all things like “the vessels of the altar” (Rule of St. Benedict 31:10).

In light of these and other teachings of the monastic tradition, I suggest that “If we were to tend to our own attention with care and concern, we might individually and collectively find ourselves again, find the stable parts of who we are, and begin to build something new with the technological advances that we have surrounded ourselves with . . .” Doing so would bring us into accord with Benedict’s prescription to “let peace be your quest and aim” (Rule of St. Benedict Prologue.17).

The Windhover doesn’t make its contents fully available online, so if you have an interest, please do help support a literary journal open to a variety of Christian perspectives and that publishes solid poems, fiction, and essays by buying a copy here.

Pax!

state natural area poems #11: the ridges sanctuary a & b

redwings and frogs in the rushes

call—croak—call

earthtime marshmusic

ridges 2

porcupine lumbers clumsy

a nameless karst swale

into his whitecedar root home

silence all around

ridges 1

the ridges sanctuary was the first land trust set up in wisconsin, in 1937. among other features, the main point of interest is the series of ridges and swales that resulted from the lowering of lake michigan’s shoreline. due to its ancient history, its southward facing, and its proximity to lake michigan, the ridges contain largely boreal forests similar to those found far northwest in wisconsin, while the swales mostly contain marsh and bog flora. they are a sight to behold. this unique ecosystem makes the site one with a high ratio of rare plants in the midwest. –oh, and we saw a porcupine!

special thanks to the ridges sanctuary, inc. for protecting this site for almost a century!

photo credit on amanita above and porcupine: mamie riyeff again

state natural area poems, supplementum #5: heins creek nature preserve

watercress succumbs to the current

where crayfish come to die

blueflag holds even glaciers

can’t change everything

heins creek 1

heins creek 2

heins creek 3

heins creek nature preserve is located on an isthmus in bailey’s harbor, door county, wi. the creek flows from kangaroo lake (a former bay) to lake michigan, keeping the lakes connected despite centuries of land incursion.

northern blue flag was in arresting bloom when we visited, and the mosquitoes plentiful. thanks to the door county land trust for preserving this unique spot.

photo credit on amanita: mamie riyeff!

Thanks to all retreatants of New Camaldoli this weekend!

I just finished co-leading a retreat on bringing insights from the Upanishads to bear on Christian contemplation with Fr. Cyprian Consiglio “at” New Camaldoli Hermitage. Our first attempt at a Zoom retreat–a few tech snags, but such a delightful and invigorating experience.

Thanks to Fr. Cyprian, the Hermitage and its staff, and everyone who participated–I appreciate your time and sharing with all of us in ways I can’t say. Stay in touch and press on!

Pax