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!
sedge sings out in tussocky throbs
to lonely kettle’s close
skunk cabbage now green parasols
riveredge creek slinks on
rivulets run like a web
while silent iris strains
riveredge creek and ephemeral pond state natural area is part of the riveredge nature center, a 61-acre slice of land that includes fen-like habitat with lots of skunk cabbage and spotted cranesbill (wild geranium).
thanks to the riveredge nature center for protecting and rehabilitating this area.
a programming note for myself and anyone who might care: as the final lines of both these poems allude to, i think the timeline of this project has closed. it was originally conceived as a way to get out of the house in safety either alone or with my family when the pandemic first really hit and we were all sheltering in place hard. but with the return of the warm weather and the first serious pushes of reopening, it feels like this project has done its work. i may continue to add more here and there when i get out, but i’m retiring the series as a reason/impetus to go out in the first place. i know several folks have been reading lots of these, and i appreciate your time and care. thanks for reading.
we’ll see if more press themselves on me…
In the midst of all our troubles in the States and around the world at the moment, this may seem frivolous, but the liturgical year presses on with the vicissitudes of history. Today is the feast of St. Petroc, a relatively obscure sixth-century saint of Cornwall. (Not on the universal calendar, but his feast is still in the current Martyrologium Romanum.)
I did work on St. Petroc at UW-Madison under the wonderful medievalist Dr. Sherry Reames and ended up writing my first long poem on his life. It’s basically a verse adaptation of his Latin prose life, and you can see it here if you’re in need of a momentary retreat/diversion.
St. Petroc, pray for justice and peace!
we spook a blue heron
treading up prentice creek
stone streaming to pebble
Durward’s Glen is a gorge of sandstone and conglomerate in Caledonia, Columbia County, Wisconsin, thru which runs Prentice Creek. Bernard Isaac Durward, a Milwaukee painter and poet, purchased the Glen in the mid-nineteenth century, and it has been a center for retreat and natural beauty since.
The day I visited, there was a steady rain all day long and Prentice Creek was swollen. It is one of my favorite places on earth.
man mound’s horns
in spring rain
(Baraboo River, just southeast of Man Mound.)
Man Mound is the last remaining anthropomorphic effigy mound in North America, located in Sauk County near the Lower Narrows of the Baraboo Range. It is one of my favorite places on the earth. If you missed it, I have a new, brief essay set at Man Mound in Commonweal.
I visited yesterday in the cool spring rain. It was glorious.
Thanks to the Sauk County Historical Society for keeping this place. You can support their upkeep here.
wild turkey up the gorge
forget-me-nots support the sky
the mind saturated by oak
springs seep from the bluff-face
over eastsoil baking in sun
rivulets and restless children
Donges Bay Gorge Natural Area is a small upland forest and upland lake bluff with a steep ravine running thru. Thanks to the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust for keeping this land.
My new essay in Commonweal is a meditation on the overlapping sanctity of place embodied by both the Late Woodland effigy mounds found throughout Wisconsin and the Catholic tradition of shrines set in natural areas.
The essay is set at Man Mound, a county park tended by the Sauk County Historical Society (which watches over a couple other sacred sites in the area). Man Mound is the only remaining anthropomorphic earthwork in North America, and the Sauk County Historical Society got the mound recognized as a National Landmark in 2016 to protect its future. It’s a drastically underappreciated part of the indigenous contribution to North America’s cultural history, and well worth a stop if you’re ever in the area.
If you’d like to help the Society protect Man Mound and improve the grounds, you can donate to the Man Mound Project here.
Essential to the rumination in the essay, too, is Durward’s Glen, a small property in the same area as Man Mound, called the Baraboo Hills. The Glen was turned into a homestead and artist’s colony by Milwaukee poet and painter Bernard Isaac Durward, whose poems I’m currently editing, and I’ve enjoyed time at the Glen since I was a young child visiting my grandparents up in Baraboo. I can’t recommend a walk or a sit at Durward’s Glen enough. You can arrange a visit to the Glen here.
Thanks to Commonweal for helping me share these treasures at the meeting point of nature and culture.
*Photo of Man Mound by Ethan Brodsky, courtesy of Sauk County Historical Society.
this ad hoc project, dreamt up to stave off cabin fever during the safer at home order in wisconsin, is too good for my soul to limit solely to official state natural areas any longer—the river has overflowed its banks to other places we’re going, so here’s “supplementum #1,” a and b.
the trout lily’s retired for the year
trillia haunt the ridges
heart speaks to heart
lurking the mudstones
carp ride the tide
tanagers look on in silence
Bratt Woods is a 17-acre nature preserve managed by the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust. A trio of scarlet tanagers and the an all-points circle of oriole song high in the canopy were highlights of the trip.
Thanks to the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust for keeping this land.
tangled cluster of boughs
lain low among the pines—
red and mottled survivors
at the marsh edge
tussocks of moss watch,
rich with mucky life
the redwing blackbirds live
in a world all their own
cattails and fenreek curve,
cradling the earth’s bounds
Tichigan Springs and Fen in Racine County is a calcareous fen, meadow, and springs running from an esker, with adjoining marsh and woods in the surrounding Tichigan Wildlife Area. The cowslip (aka marsh marigold) were particularly lovely when we visited.
Thanks to the Wisconsin DNR for tending this place.
you point feverishly to warblers
as swifts swarm the marsh
trout lily is in bloom
brilliant flash of orange
breaks over cedar creek:
your eyes against the sky
Jackson Marsh is a southern wet forest with a white cedar-tamarack swamp of 590 acres. Exquisite, and a much needed break from the city… Thanks again to the Wisconsin DNR for watching over this land.