Tag Archive for Nature and the Wild



of nature

and its tendency for life.


I will ride to the sun

on the chariots of gold,

and listen the mountains play

what stars have long foretold.


The lake does live and breathe,

the wind does speak to me,

the trees are still immortal,

and the rivers know the sea.



of nature

and its tendency for death.


Does not the earth still quake

at every command of God?

Does not the wind lash out

and beat us with its rod?


And hail of heaven and of stone

that is the poor man’s plight,

and storms that send the land abroad

into the simpleton’s sight.



of nature

and its tendency to be.


It is early in the morning when I rise. The light of day has yet to grace this side of the earth with its presence. No longer do I need my alarm; my very instinct, something deep within, tells me when it is time to awake. Gathering my surfboard, a swimsuit, and other necessary equipment, I step outside and pause at the bottom of the stairs. Listening intently, I realize that the shouts from the amusement parks have not started, and the noise of civilization has yet to arrive. Everything is virtually silent save the waves crashing in a location just beyond my view and the summer gulls trying to collect their food for the day.

I smile and begin to walk. Up ahead, the boardwalk comes into view, and memories abound within me from childhood summers spent on that walk: bike rides I’ve shared with my family, trips up to the shop in the evenings for ice cream, chasing seagulls and even learning how to fly a kite. This boardwalk defines my past, each individual board somehow tells a part of my life story. As I make my way up the steps and onto the worn, splintering boards, I look down both lengths. The numerous stores that line the expanse are closed. Their lights, once welcoming and bright are off, as if they need a rest themselves. As I make my way across and finally off of the wooded walkway, the undeniable and easily recognized smell of the beach, a combination of salt and seaweed, overwhelms me. I pass through the dunes, covered with ocean grass and the most beautifully natural sight greets me.

“Tranquil,” I think to myself. If any word could possibly be fitting enough to describe the sight before my very eyes, tranquil would be the word. It might even be something beyond that, to some it could even be considered spiritual. It is a beauty recognized or at least acknowledged by the common person, but only truly appreciated by those like me.

We’re more than surfers. Our love of the single sport that binds us is built less on our own skill than by the secret we share, that the ocean is mystical. It heals inner wounds that nothing else can and is capable of consuming your very soul. Respect for the ocean, the result of the driving force of nature and our communion with it, define who we are.

As I sit on the sand, still cool from the previous night, with my board by my feet, I realize beyond a doubt that I am the luckiest person on the planet. The waves are breaking in perfect sets of four, some splashing into the jetties, while others make their way to greet me on the shore. I take a moment to close my eyes, and everything is free and completely at rest. Like the pieces of even the most intricate puzzle, everything just fits.

Then it starts to happen. This is something I have been a witness to on countless occasions before, yet it still never ceases to amaze me and never will. The sun, the very light of the world, begins to make its appearance over the distant, ever-present yet mysterious horizon. It is almost as though a giant light switch has been flipped on as glorious rays of silken purples, radiant pinks and delicate blues shine bright. The sun’s likeness reflects off of the vast ocean waters in front of me, and, despite its blinding qualities, it is mesmerizing. I do not blink at all, for fear I will miss a single second of the sight that is far too beautiful for words: something beyond mere mortal comprehension.

Now, almost as quickly as it had begun, it fades away before ceasing. The moment in time connecting the opposites night and day is gone. The sky shines clear and blue and the coolness of the night before vanishes. The day has brought its life and night has been chased away under its vanishing horizon to bring darkness and mystery to the rest of the world, before making its return.
As I grab my board and head for the ocean, the wholeness of day and with it, reality returns. I face it with excitement, regardless of the unknowns because this one thing I know with certainty. Tomorrow, that marker in the space of time will return and once again I know I will be awed and captivated by a secret known only to those who fail to take it for granted and remain humbled by it.

An ocean sunrise, tranquility at its best.

Juniper Tree

Upon the sun-beaten hills

In the hot and citric embrace of the wind

Under the benediction of the coyote who loves

—the moon

Sanctioned by the sage and the deer, a quiet

—people without judgement


There dwells the Juniper, Old and gnarled

Arms open in an embrace of the midnight sky

He reaches to the stars in prayer and reverence.

His soft and weathered lips, whispering without



Waiting for the stars to answer back

Waiting for deliverance and absolution


I will miss him, that sad old man who is



Lost in a world of which he is no longer a part and

yet still watches over


You see we are so much alike

My soul and I.

Lessons in Taxidermy

The silly humans who inhabited the Earth before us had a bad habit of using their mouths and throats for speaking, instead of for eating. All the time they would talk. Blah blah blah. Some of the more obsessed would even do it in their sleep, sharing their secret aspirations and dreams with their pillows.

—Kurt Vonnegut

Sometimes it can be like trying to type while wearing mittens.

Somewhere around second grade my mother decided that even in the summer I would have therapy for my stuttering. Lured by the location of the therapist (a cabin on a beautiful lake about a half-hour drive away), I couldn’t refuse. Once or twice a week I would be driven out to this cabin and would sit and talk with the therapist. She would talk about things I did, the things I should be doing.

We would go for walks, or take the canoe out and scare off the ducks, or just talk. There is one example of her teaching I still remember well which eloquently summarizes every theory, method, and protocol for speech therapy. I no longer participate in any therapy but I believe that it is no longer necessary for me.

It was a blistering seventy-five degrees in Willow, Alaska. Joan, the therapist, and I were lounging on her porch and she was playing a tape recording she had secretly made of us playing monopoly during our last session. I had been speaking fluently as I usually do when doing complex things with no specific purpose—in this case, playing a board game.

As we sat on the porch, she asked me why I found it easier to speak in more crucial situations rather than less important ones. I answered something about how doing difficult tasks were slower than easy ones. She then went inside for a moment without telling me why. Soon I heard her footsteps returning and turned to see her carrying two oranges in one hand. I wandered back over to the chair and she handed me an orange.

“I want you to try and peel this orange all in one piece, Ben,” she said. She began showing me how to accomplish such a feat. “You start in the middle and work the two hemispheres off in a spiral.” After she finished the peeling she held it out for me to admire and use as an example. ‘See? All in one piece, like a pelt, almost.”

I felt over the smooth and porous skin of my orange skeptically. Eventually I dug my fingernails in and haplessly tried to make a little pelt as well. I couldn’t do it, of course. I made one piece after another until it was just a decomposing pile of peels. She didn’t seem too disappointed, though—I still got to eat the orange. A few minutes later my mom showed up to take me home and the incident was forgotten for the time.

So, my life went on. Yet something from that day must have stayed with me. One day some years later, as I held an orange in my hand, the dim memory of fruit pelts came back to mind. I decided to make an effort to peel it in one piece. I began on the middle equator as I had watched Joan do so long ago and started to work the top half off slowly and carefully. Even with all my carefull dissection it ripped. I wasn’t discouraged and I liked the way this particular orange tasted, so I found another one and successfully skinned it, holding my new citrus pelt on my lap proudly.

Sometimes when I eat an orange now I try to peel it in one piece. The simple action of being calm and focused enough to skin an orange in one piece does more than any therapy has ever accomplished for me. Any physically able person who cannot, or does not have time to peel an orange pelt is too tense, nervous, or busy, even if not on the surface. Occasionally people will tell me I stutter simply because I’m nervous. I am no more nervous than they are; I wish it was that simple. They say this, of course, because it is they who are nervous being around me if I am disfluent. As to why it does happen sometimes more than others, I wish I knew. But even with people who make such accusations I will share an orange.

Black Mamba

As graceful as a swan

But steel fast and deadly


Its leathery and slippery coat


Shines under the African sun


Its lengthy and lean body


Rests tranquilly in its masters firm hand


While the slave obediently

Gets ready to be whipped.

Hues (Memories of Africa)

Liquid orange silver sliding;

clichéd crimson sky and still

more lovely than a postcard.

Tinted lilac firelit granite

crinkles, smiling, at the sun

shadowed smoky grazes stretch.

Rumpled sheets of powdered ice cream

gently stained by molten gold

sculpted quartz by careless feet.


Rippling panes of tufted tundra:

terracotta pastel-fired

sharp mosaics of thirsty loam.

Cold-still branches soak the sunlight

dappled brown from burlap-greys

silent in the crystal haze.

Blinkless, bloodwashed, bloated, blazing

daylight heaves into the sky

burning whitewashed morning brown.


We came, we came,

I don’t know why,

It wasn’t just to watch the sky,

The spinning step and hidden path,

I thought with such a tired heart,

Every breath would be my last,

Compared to you I have no past.

The moon, the stars,

We claimed them ours.

Life of Birds

their eyes don’t need to pierce cloud

wings don’t have to be told to extend

see how they coax the wind into submission


watch them tumble in harnessed waves of sky

their silent agreement

in effortless flight


their grace lands with them

sinks into the earth as they struggle to walk


children chase them back into the clouds

watching their small bodies soar

wishing more than ever that they had been birds


the blades of their wings

scar the mountains, the hills

yet they flinch upon the movement


of the white blouse in the window

the young woman who holds a wineglass to her ear

and listens


for the husky whisper

of crows’ wings navigating the fog

but there are no branches here for them

no perch where they might curl their toes

where she could study the darting blues and purples

on their backs


where can they go to avoid setting foot

on the rocky ground

upon which they are destined to stumble


we pray

let there always be a gentle sea

an uplifting wind

a forest lush with lazy years


the gulls cry out

where can they go

the waves are churning


Practically a Joke

We huddled anxiously; five flashlights

switched off to let our eyes adjust,

all systems Go after a week of planning.

We pushed from our canvas

platform tent into the scattered moonlight,

crept to Ricky’s tent, carefully

lifted the stiff fabric door flaps—

he was asleep. Counting on fingers:

1, 2, …3, we lifted his cot and carried him,

cleverly, into the woods on a path

we’d cleared and marked. A hundred feet,

holding back laughter. We snuck away; he

snored. We flocked around the picnic table.

Leigh, usually quiet behind his thick Welsh accent,

cackled, and we busted up. Seth hopped

on the table and ripped off his shirt,

dancing around, reminding someone

of the one-armed stripper joke.


Then we heard twigs snap,

whispered shut up.

Ricky emerged from the trees,

feet bare, hair awry—

our laughter erupting. Then,

his look of confusion

magnified by his voice:

Guys, I woke up and

I was like, ‘Where

the fuck am I?’

and we howled.


The words aren’t that funny, anymore—

too many times I’ve

fallen asleep, been carried

into the woods,

slept there so long

that when I finally wake

up, I think nothing different.


Finally, Matt, the dumbass,

booted a tin fire bucket like

a soccer ball, sent it clanging

over rocks and roots,

and a flashlight beam darted

out from Ricky’s father’s tent.


I see the bud slowly opening

Its pale petals to the sky.

The sun welcomes it with its warmth—

Warmth of love.

And life garlands it with pearls of dew.


The flower sways gently in the breeze—

Breeze of comfort.

It nestles in the safety of the leaves,

Inconspicuous—but beautiful.


The breeze builds to a gale,

Rocking the frail stem.

But the flower stands still,

Fighting with courage,

For it wants to live to see life,

To be greeted by the sun every day,

To sleep under the night’s stars,

To lend nectar to the bees,

To do what it can for the earth’s peace.

To die, only when the petals

Shrink to nothingness.


I see God’s every creature as that flower,

Fighting to live in a cruel world.

Yet longing to give and help,

Longing for joy—and peace.

Every heart is a soldier,

And a beautiful flower.

A flower that will give

Its radiance to the world.

A flower that wants to live,

Not simply survive.