Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Charm Stones

She still walks these hills
In her long black veil
Softly singing her solemn tunes
With her raspy, dry throated cries

Scratching the hillsides
With only soft breaths blown
Yet hard against the rock
Clinging to ageless holds

With boney fingers she caresses
Fingertips rustling through the oak limbs
Rusting some leaves to russet tones
Leaving others untouched just yet

We have gathered her thirteen charm stones
Which have fallen from her boney, cracked wrists
Encircled them in the Earth
And tindered small fires within them

Some we have left tied among the willows
So they droop just above the ground
Charming waters once again
To flow in these ancient creekbeds

We sing songs to send her on her way
Hoping she will leave us in peace
And let her fourteenth sister join the dance
Bringing happier hymns more playful in her youth

Toke'-un lih'-nuh      Wa-tin-hin      nah      Yo'

Hi-yo-um'-ne      Ah-he      oo-nook      mi-uh-wah

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Songs of Healing

Dry empty lands follow the roadside dust of the West
Staring skyward with hollow eyes
Peering deeply into the black of night
And the hard trials of the silver light of morning

Gone are the storms that blow in from the ocean
Replaced by the tribulations within the sea foam
Frothing hymns coughed up from the murky depths
Out of tune lamentations riding the swells

Here now is the witching hour
As a dark haze of putrid blackness
Settles upon all the land
An eery spell cast down from above

We drop tears into our bread bowls
Sit simmering in our winter cauldrons
Slowly stirring ingredients of the downtrodden
The spices of congestion weighing down

The surrounding hills remain barren brown
Dirt exposed as open lungs
Absorbing the orange and yellowing rays
Licking cracked lips and swallowing dry

Creases deepening to darkened depths
Fissures in the dust dried sinew
Hearts and arteries hardening under folded scowls
Slowing blood flow to the marrow

Needed are the healing songs of the magpie
Screeching softly among the incense cedars
To sing winter's rejoicing tunes
To throw moisture to the winds

Lonely, lively songs to unearth the spirits
Upturn the soil to dig at the roots
Search among the herbs for ancient cures
And bend an ear to the ground

To listen for the music playing idle
Strings, woodwinds, horns,
Hanging notes softly steady rolling....

Bass drums slowly rumbling
Like constant thunder....

Forever on....

Building and falling in the same instant....

Bringing peace to calm the mind....

Visions of waters resting
Below white, heavy snow laden peaks to the East....

Clouds building nearby intensify the crescendo....

Tinkling chimes ring out in graceful unison....

Then softly the music fades away as the wind picks up....

In the distance the magpie takes shelter
Deeply inhaling the clean cold mountain air
Reveling in pure winter fresh breaths
Letting the medicine work its course...

For Lu

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Wolf Hunt

This poem was based off the American Grouch's latest adventure into the wilds of Northern Minnesota. It was a grand journey in search of the ever elusive wolf that turned into a struggle to just get home with his life. 

His journey began here:  http://www.americangrouch.com/2013/12/day-one.html

Normally I do not write about other people's adventures, but this one gripped me from the beginning and was very inspirational. Not only was his story a great read, but it was a fun exercise for me in writing this poem. As he updated his story day by day, I in turn updated this poem as well. It went along very well with how I write these poems. Not knowing where the story will end, or what will happen the following day in the story. This was a natural fit for me as I usually do not know where these poems will end, let alone what the next line will be as I write. They come to me word by word and line by line with no direction known. That is why most of them do not rhyme. That would take some backward and forward writing and revising to make the words fit together. Mostly I enjoy writing these as they appear to me, flowing onto the page as quick as they show themselves. That to me is a very enjoyable way to write.

So anyways, check out the Grouch's story and enjoy the poem if you will.

The Wolf Hunt

The boreal has its own ways
Beauty that can break a man
Or help one to find himself
Among the wilds unchained and alive

It is depths of green unseen
Almost singing in the sunlight and breezes
Summertime scents of Labrador tea
Brewing in the warm air of splendor

Of damp leaves upon the earth
Among beds of luxurious sphagnum
Soft as a bed of pillows in every direction
Spring back resilient with every silent step

For the mosses are the friends of trackers
Quiet when in the tension of pursuit
Senses heightened in the brilliance
That the boreal autumn delivers with pride

Rust reds and flames so bright
They blind the eyes with fiery spectrums
Leaving all who pass through
Unable to wonder of a grander time

When the summer rains wash away
And the autumnal ruins are chilled throughout
And the snow bound flurries blow once again
A silence falls upon the land

The forest scents escape the wilds
No pungence of understory
No piney wafts of spruce
Just the crispness of cold clean air

And of the woodsmoke of the hunter's camp
A warm sanctuary of slow cooked meals
Wafting along with anticipation on the air
As the wolfs howl among the ridge tops

Singing more like it
Haunting songs for communal pack gatherings
Lamenting in the grayness of the wild
Roaming woods ghosts of the north

Where one ghost will fall
If the hunter finds his way
For among the snow and ice
Even apparitions leave a trail

Some signs faint as wisps through the trees
Some prints deep in the ice
Some vanish into nothing
Leaving the hunter to his wits

Wits that sometimes fray at the edges
As he is constantly reminded
That the boreal has its own ways
And that man is not often one with nature

Quickened pace footsteps are heard
Plodding through the light snow
Footsteps not from afar
But muffled by the hunter's deepening breaths

Legs once numbed from the frigid waters
Of falling through the beaver pond's icy roof
Now churning their way back to camp
Bearing the hunter's capacity to withstand

To withstand the frozen north
To withstand sighted prey out of range
To withstand the waves and tremors
Of anticipations gone wrong

Thoughts of rifle fire amidst the treeline
Fade now to woodstove warmth
Relishing hot brewed coffee and comfort
In the heated canvas tent of old

For the second day is done
And the hunter's trove contains no fur
But a treasure of stories to be told
And the morning will bring another try

Another attempt in the gray light
That has lingered long above the trees
Casting the flatness that forbids shadow
And hides much in the mist

The morning of the third day brought these familiar
Ominous gray clouds descending upon the woods
Strange beaver sign of hasty retreats
And ever increasing tracks of wolves

Cold, dreary trails in the ice
Paths heading into deep woods snarings
Brambles in the tangling thickets
And trees that seem to enclose at will

Another uneasy feeling sets in
Have the wolves now set their trap
Has the hunter become the hunted
In this unforgiving gray of the timber lands

With these woods tokens held close
The hunter heads back to the noontime camp
Passing under the watchful eyes
Of phantoms perched in the mists

Back at camp he gathers his thoughts
Over smoked ham and eggs
Fried up right along with coffee
Black as looking down the rifle's barrel

Then back out into the fray
Of dropping temps and darkening skies
To the stillness of the beaver valley
Where the hunter's callings are emptied windward

For time alone in the bush
Brings thoughts of old and folded
Tucked away and kept safe from ruin
But laying just beneath the surface

Reasonings and ramblings
Of backwoods trampings long told
Bearings and pitfalls along the paths
Aged grooves upon the stones

Forms and function flowing together
Senses and sinews connecting eternal
Utterings felt deep in the marrow
Below currents coursing heavily throughout

Thoughts laid upon the rough hewn table
Play across the hunter's mind
Like waters finding their way
With patience they will overcome

As the rivulets form through time
And trickles become strong flowing streams
Springs well up in the rocks
To form new points of new beginnings

Creekbeds gathering in the valleys
Their courses altered and spread
Across the lands dammed by beaver
And push the forest to the water's edge

These edges call the wolves
With summons of migrations
And of hunting circuits spiraling outward
Like rings upon the pond

Now the hunter summons in the cold night air
Conjuring spirits above the firelight
Shamans in the sparks rising beneath the clouds
With ancient spells for wolves again

And as those spells mingled above
The darkening clouds took hold of them
Swirled them about inside and around
Until they could travel on the wind no more

Instead they gathered energy within
And released their fury upon the land
With great joy they called the hard blowing wind
And snowfall of great abundance

A storm to hinder the hunter's quest
Though his heart is good and strong
For he laughed at what was brought upon
And ventured deeper amongst the wilds

When at last the tracks were covered
No sign of wolf nor bird upon its perch
The hunter turns towards home at last
But not without some other quarries first

For it is not the end result that matters
But the journey along the way
Sights, sounds, and stories to tell
Go home with the hunter to stay

Monday, December 9, 2013

Fire, Wind, and Water Together

The fires are lit
Not as signals among the hilltops
But for warmth in the halls of the orange belt
Where tangerine tapestries clutch the walls

Peach pits smolder in the groves
Tended by loyal citrus shepherds of the night
To shrug off the winter's breath
And shed fears to the air

Fans upon the landscape
Seem out of place in a way
Unusual turbines to blow down warmth
To flush the freeze away

Waters spread upon the ground
Soak roots to their depths
And wash away ice in the fibers
To give life again to the core

Smoke clouds rise in the East
Along the mountain's doorstep
Peaks now blanketed in cold
Resting still in the silence

Low foothills dusted with snowflakes
Cool in the clouded shades
Shine bright when rays glimpse the hillsides
Sunlight seeing what it can

These are the scenes of Decembers
When the hills are yet to green
When the oranges set the stage
For outcomes good or bad

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

New Season of the Tule

Golden rose burning hazily
Through the mists that hide
The tule fog season begins like this
Before the cloud banks
And the land gets socked in for good

Mists eerily rising like ghosts
From a ghosted lake's old tomb
Creeping along with awakened limbs
Laying low and pressed down upon with inversion

Lite and airy as a dry cloud in the blue
Or heavy as words of faith held close
Soaking throughout to chilled bones
Not yet warmed eternally

Dewey on quick standing hairs
A coat of hazes droplet adorned
Sparkling in the moonlit aldered glade
Swishing and strutting through mosses
And hallowed paths of stone and waters

When rains are scattered haphazardly
The redwoods of mountains and coasts
Will drink the fog from the air
Grubstaking their claims
To whatever means necessary

At least they have their royalty
Their liquid larders in the droughts
Their ways to survive and stand alone
To look down upon the valley below

Where the tule fog beckons
And reflects the clear beaming moonlight
Back up towards the cloudless night sky
Filled with twinkling stars draped in the dark

Like crystal dewdrops wavering
On their quivering webs of light
Bending with the slighting breeze
And wait for the word

Monday, December 2, 2013

Acorn Harvest

With the Thanksgiving holiday upon us, I thought it the right time to process the acorns that I gathered in the late summer and early fall. I have a fairly good sized Valley Oak tree in my front yard, and since the acorn crop this year was rather abundant, I harvested about a third of what the tree provided this year - leaving the rest for the birds.

Speaking of those feathered friends, as soon as the acorns got to sufficient size, crows, doves, and mostly scrub jays began working on the nuts which they knocked to the ground. Yes, while the early nuts were mostly still green, I began picking the good ones up to hide away for myself before anything else got to them. Seems to me the birds would mostly eat a little bit of acorn and then continue to knock others down. Maybe they were only interested in the grubs that infest most of the nuts.

By picking about a handful a day off the ground, I harvested quite a nice little batch. Eventually the nuts ripened on the tree and the birds started knocking down mature brown ones. I ended up with just as many brown ones as I did green, and kept them separated in two different boxes to do this here little experiment.

I left the acorn boxes in my garage where they could dry out and age a little. About half of them split open on their own which eventually made shelling those easier. In early October I began shelling a few of the brown ones. Those I put in a bowl and left them in the fridge.

Something I had no idea would happen is how fast these acorns oxidize where they were bruised from the shelling process. If put in the fridge right away after shelling, the bruises would only turn a light brown, and remain somewhat "ok" looking. If not left in a cold environment, the bruised meat would turn black and eventually mold up. Moral of that story is to only shell them when you are ready to start the leaching process in the same day if you don't have access to refrigeration or cold temps.

So the 20 browns I first put in the fridge stayed good for two months and may have lasted longer. Of all the browns harvested, only half turned out not to have grubs, even though they all looked good when I first picked them up. Towards early November, I shelled the rest of the good browns. However, those I left in the garage overnight. The next day I found them half black and ugly. So I took out the good meat and added that to my fridge bowl. So overall I was only able to use about a quarter of the browns harvested.

Thanksgiving rolls around, and I decide it's a good time to cook these up. I take all the browns I have, which isn't much now, and start the process. I first shaved off some of the bruised meat that had turned dark brown. That probably wasn't necessary, but this was my first time doing this. I ground them to a fine flour with ease with the coffee grinder. That was a big help!

Luckily I had the rest of the materials for leaching out the tannins already which was nice. Using this leaching method, I found it was good for filling up the coffee filter with water once, achieving a good first initial flushing. However, when I tried to refill the filter with water, it slowed to a drip. So I put the mash into a piece of an old shirt and squeezed and pressed the rest of the tannins out into a bowl in the sink. This took many pressings to get the acidity out. When I was done, all that remained was about a cup's worth.

The next morning I started on the green acorns that were by now all brown, but we'll still call them green. About a third of these were edible, equaling around three cups of flour. Ground these up later that night, leached as before, and added in a cup from the brown batch. This flour when freshly ground is cream colored like the acorn meat, but I was again surprised how quickly it browns in the open air. Much like apples do.

Now there's many ways to cook acorn flour. You can make it stretch by using it with wheat flour in recipes. But I just wanted to fry up some cakes with a little brown sugar and salt. So I mixed up the mash, and fried them in a little butter. These nuts being rich and buttery already probably didn't need to be fried in butter, but again this whole thing was a first time experiment for me.

And no they do not look pretty, but I thought they were pretty damn good! Rich like Hudson Bay bread. With these a little goes a long way. I can see how civilizations made these a large part of their diet with some meat and berries to supplement. However the recipe I made was only liked by myself and one other that night. The seven remaining participants thought it was pretty nasty. Ha ha! Think of Jeremiah Johnson when he first eats the bread his new wife cooks him. That's the image. So adding it with wheat flour and doing a proper recipe would have been better for the masses. For this time, I didn't want to add too much other ingredients so that the acorn meat could really be the main item.

So out of a whole tree's worth of harvest, I came away with only a plateful of nutrient rich cakes. If anyone's doing the math, only 17% of the harvest was edible. And that was including the green acorns. Not sure if you're really supposed to eat those, but they seemed alright to me. When in the middle of autumn during the normal harvest time, all the acorns on the ground are brown, so it would be hard to tell which ones fell when green. That's my thinking anyways. As long as they look good, they should be alright yea? (Not an expert opinion obviously)

I'd lay the claim that one Valley Oak tree yields about 4 to 6 cups of flour. And these are big trees. The smaller prized Black Oaks must have been like a delicacy in times past.