Dining with the Woodpeckers

pileated suet

While visiting my brother and his wife this summer in East Aurora, New York, we experienced a truly wonderful and unexpected visit from three pileated woodpeckers at the suet feeder Jim had filled. His wife, Paulett, said the woodpeckers were frequent visitors to their lovely back garden. This was a first for me. Although I’ve been an on again, off again birdwatcher for most of my adult life, I’ve only seen one pileated woodpecker in person before. Seeing three at the same time was simply brilliant. Watching their acrobatics as they fed on the suet, flew back and forth to peck at a tree, and generally manoeuvered their rather large bodies in amazinglying agile ways was pure delight. After a feeding frenzy, they flew away and it felt amazingly still and empty where they had been. Much like a visit with beloved family and friends, the ‘after’ part comes all too soon and leaves a void in our hearts. This poem is dedicated to Jim and Paulett, two of the kindest and most caring people I know. Thank you for sharing your home, your family and your amazing woodpeckers with us.

pileated 5

Dining with the Woodpeckers

In the late August garden
The quiet afternoon now

Comes to a languorous close.
Out of nowhere, a flash of red,

Bright scarlet crests crowning
Zebra-patterned feathers.

Three Pileated woodpeckers
Begin to feast at the suet feeder,

Fluttering, flying tree to tree,
Tree to feeder, alternately

Pecking at thick maple bark,
Then shifting to soft silky suet.

The youngest, now the size of its parents,
Joins in to grab his share, and father

And mother dutifully give way.
For a few Cirque des Oiseaux moments

All three woodpeckers hang right side up
And upside down, their brilliant red heads

Flash like stop lights in the early evening sun.
We sit around the table eating an early supper

And sipping local wine. Conversation drifts
As we watch in these avian acrobatics.

Just as quickly as they arrived, so soon are
They are gone. More wine is poured,

Seconds of hot buttered corn and fresh
Heirloom garden tomatoes are passed

From one to the other. Like the birds,
We share this meal together, enjoying

The richness of what the day has given.
A light wind blows the leaves outside,

A beautiful evening for us to be together
Knowing that summer will end all too soon.

Picture by Beth Brandkamp

Picture by Beth Brandkamp

The Second Lamentation of Demeter ~ (Poetry and Myth)

Narcissus, 1912 by John William Waterhouse

Narcissus, 1912 by John William Waterhouse

Persephone’s abduction by Hades is swift, violent and over so quickly that no one hears her scream except for Hecate, a goddess who helps Demeter find out where she has gone. Could there be anything worse for a mother than to lose a child? Demeter’s grief is profound. This is the Second Lamentation of Demeter.

The Rape of Proserpine, Hans Von Aachen, 1587

The Abduction of Persephone, Hans Von Aachen, 1587

To hear me read this poem, please click on the link below and wait a few seconds for it to begin.




The Second Lamentation of Demeter

The earth groaned, then opened briefly.
That’s all it took.

He appeared out of nowhere
Like a wild flume of fire,

The flickering golden chariot with
Four black stallions at full gallop.

He sprang upon her so quickly
That when the earth closed back

Upon itself like a wound healed over,
All that was left was a circlet of flowers

That she and the daughters of Oceanus
Had been stringing together. Irises, roses,

Violets, hyacinths, and the faded blossoms
Of sweet narcissus plucked by her hand.

The scar in the earth and grasses torn apart
Were all that told the story.

I always knew he watched her…
I sensed when he was around.

Clouds gathered overhead,
Shadows clothing him in darkness,

To whom sunlight is a stranger.

My sweet Persephone is gone now,
Gone with him.

O, horror…
My sweet child is his.

circlet of flowers 2

Persephone’s abduction is well represented in art. It is my personal opinion that one need look no further than the magnificent sculpture done by Bernini in 1622. The details of the hands and arms as well as the force and resistance between their two bodies is powerful. Persephone’s tear stained cheek tells us more than any words can.

Gian Lorenzo Bernini, The Rape of Proserpina, 1622, Galleria Borghese in Rome

Gian Lorenzo Bernini, The Abduction of Persephone, 1622, Galleria Borghese in Rome





An Autumn Long Gone ~ a Reverie

An Autumn Long Gone ~ a Reverie  (prose poem)


An audio of me reading this prose poem can be heard by clicking the link below. It will take a few seconds for the sound to begin.



It was the year we lived in London, some 25 years ago, when autumn began like any other autumn. The fall, the changing, the color shifting, the soft breezes, the sporadic thick fog and the leaves dancing, even floating upward at times. What I hadn’t anticipated, being so far north for the first time, was how short the days grew. How dark it became earlier and earlier all during that autumn. The days were ‘closing in.’ That’s what they called it, and I loved that phrase. It brought a certain comfort of pulling heavy curtains closed and shutting out the darkness. It was a time for wearing coats and warm sweaters, and I dressed my son in practical English clothing and soft grey mittens while he ran ahead enjoying what was left of the day. He was only three, but he knew the delight in using what was left of the day’s sunlight. I learned to enjoy the simple pleasures around me that came with this quiet season. Victoria plums were my new delight. They appeared at the Greengrocer’s shop just as autumn set in, later replaced by apples—Bramley and Cox’s Orange Pippins, names that twirled on the tongue and tasted as good. Burning leaves were an unexpected, half-loved sensory pleasure. The smoke was pungent, but it brought back memories of childhood. I loved even the rasp of raking, bamboo or metal combs gathering leaves in sacred piles waiting their turn to be sacrificed in an autumnal pyre. In the English light, I found the colors were softer, quieter than the brilliance of New England woodlands. Each morning I left my son at school and then walked through Hampstead Heath. I found my own favorite route through woods and meadows up to the large ponds. Purchasing a single cup of tea that warmed my hands, I made my way to that empty bench that faced the pond. I thought about all the people it had held before. And every day without fail a lone Scottish piper played his bagpipes as if on cue. Each day I sat and listened. A world so far from my own. From where he stood near the peak of Parliament Hill, the mournful songs became a wordless chanting, charging the air with a lamentation to this closing season, every day briefer, softer than the day before.

Lost in Reverie (c) 2014 by Isotel, The Obvious and Hidden blog on WordPress (with her permission)

Lost in Reverie (c) 2014 by Iosatel, The Obvious and Hidden blog on WordPress (with his permission)

Four Autumn Haiku

Today is the first day of autumn, and for my writing practice in the next few weeks I’ll begin a series of autumn or fall poems. This is my favorite season, my soul season. I’ve done a few different types of haiku ranging from traditional 17 syllables to a poem in a single line. Do you have a favorite?


biting into a Victoria plum, such guilty pleasure



spent blossoms–
the last swallowtail
sips alone

best swallowtail pic


soup 1

the season’s first soup
almost ritually cooked
stirs our senses


sweet windfall apples…
bruised memories
autumn of long ago

fallen apples

Modern English language haiku are not always seventeen syllables. A haiku can be many things, but always it is a brief poem with a strong image that evokes a season and a moment of time captured simply in lyrical language. Scroll to the bottom of today’s blog to find a list of essential qualities of haiku.

The following list from the wonderful journal, Heron’s Nest, lists important qualities that make a haiku.

 Here are some qualities we find essential to haiku:

  • Present moment magnified (immediacy of emotion)
  • Interpenetrating the source of inspiration (no space between observer and observed)
  • Simple, uncomplicated images
  • Common language
  • Finding the extraordinary in “ordinary” things
  • Implication through objective presentation, not explanation: appeal to intuition, not intellect
  • Human presence is fine if presented as an archetypical, harmonious part of nature (human nature should blend in with the rest of nature rather than dominate the forefront)
  • Humor is fine, if in keeping with “karumi” (lightness) – nothing overly clever, cynical, comic, or raucous
  • Musical sensitivity to language (effective use of rhythm and lyricism)
  • Feeling of a particular place within the cycle of seasons