Running on the trails behind the high school today, a owl swoops through the woods, heads along the path, and then veers rapidly into the canopy. I run after him, but he’s gone.

Omen, clearly. But of what?

My luck to see this winged beauty?

Or a warning to keep my eyes open? Or just an owl searching for supper? I can look back on my life now and see all kinds of omens I missed — or blatantly ignored — but maybe, I keep thinking, those were merely owls, then, too….

Then, sometime during the fourth year, the omens will abandon you, because you’ve stopped listening to them.

— Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist





Dede’s Book

A day of cold rain, when I think of Janisse Ray’s line: Some days, all day, rain falls.  Driving home, I take a detour and follow the river, swollen threateningly along its banks, grabbing at trees still barren with winter.

All through graduate school in Bellingham, Washington, I wrote of flooding rivers, clogged septic tanks, the persistence of moisture.

In Montpelier this afternoon, the lights are already glowing on, and it’s poetry month. Poetry: not of sterilized honey, but nourishing, sweet and yet filled with the debris of dead bees.

At Bear Pond Books, I buy Dede Cummings’ beautiful new book of poetry. Oh Dede. On this April day fattening itself with water, wisely using the sodden gloom, readying for the splendor of blooms, I stand in the aisle, devouring her words. A friend of mine, reading a new book of Mary Oliver’s, said she always found poems she knew were written just for her. Then she said, But maybe many others think that way, too.


I am not the cause of your misery
I am peepers in springtime in the dark pond
I am footsteps and shadow approaching on the dark road
I watch for salamanders but none of them are crossing on this dry night.

I measure my steps, and I count my dreams:
I am driven home by drizzle, by children.

A small vase of crocus blossoms
you left on the cutting board this morning
reminds me of what we once had.

– Dede Cummings, To Look Out From