Feral Friends, sometimes the morning is so perfect in a place with little human imprint or racket that the world appears as it is, naked of poetry or science, writing her own dances and all we can do is breathe and be. Beauty shows her face. Virgin light finds our eyes. We are reflected wildly in the other, find ourselves in the primal gaze.
Find yourself in wild silences. Leave your phone in the car.
— Jack Phillips
Jumping spider (family Salticidae) hiding in a spring blossom of pawpaw (Asimina triloba) in Fremont County, Iowa on 30 April 2023. Photo by Tess Houser.
One way to stop seeing trees, or rivers, or hills, only as “natural resources” is to class them as fellow beings — kinfolk.
— Ursala Le Guin
The Weight of Waking [poem]
Those of us who fall restless around equinoxes and solstices know moon-rounds and the slides of sun do addle and stir every living thing and those that come to life in a squint or a poem
slip over stones made smooth by time and turtles, ancient ambers and vernal sapsuckers aroused and fuddled, we wake as one. And here our future lies:
in mating owls (woot-woot) chitter doo-wikitty Carolina wrens kon-ka-ree blackbirds bud-breaks hylas’ kreeek (the first frogs
and after) caterwauling coons, in dreaming (we) of bloodroot/faerie-cup/mossy seductrix tiny cotyls tips and midges, the weight of creation no more than an eyelid.
And for this we saunter our Sunday mornings in the Southern Loess Hills and sometimes the Nishnabotna and the Kitskatuus river (known in settlement times as Platte). Come along with us or find alone a wild and quiet place to wake and walk and spring lively.
– Jack Phillips
*Why poetry? The constraints of language even in wild company can make the sounds of soft muscles (though native to our species) a means of distance and separation. Free verse and unfettered speech can uncivilize us a bit, rewild our tongues on the path to recovered creatureliness – naked of form – to embrace the skin of rhythms, the taste of vowels and the feel of harder sounds. I especially enjoy the fricatives. No one needs to see your writing. Just sing it with the frogs.
Photos from our Saunters — just before and just after vernal equinox — in Fremont County, Iowa: blue-winged teal, turkey vulture, Troy Soderberg. Scarlet-cups, filamentous algae, Angelica Perez.
A little time passed, a little bit passed quickly.
A goldeneye came, a straight-flying bird it fluttered about
Seeking a place for its nest, considering a place to live…
So then the mother of the water, mother of the water, virgin of the air,
Raised her knee from the sea, her shoulder blade from a billow,
For the goldeneye as a place for a nest, as an agreeable dwelling place.
…On it she builds her nest laid her golden eggs,
…Suddenly she twitched her knee, make her sinews tremble;
the eggs tumbled into the water, are sent into the waves of the sea;
the eggs cracked into pieces, broke into bits.
The eggs did not get into the ooze, the bits not get mixed up with the water.
The bits were turned into fine things, the pieces into beautiful things:
the lower half of one egg into the earth beneath,
the top of half of another egg into the heavens above.
The top half of one yolk gets to glow like the sun,
the top half of one white gets to gleam palely like the moon;
any mottled things on an egg, those became stars in heaven,
Anything black on an egg, those indeed became clouds in the sky.
Every year to welcome the Solstice we gather on a pond or near one (sometimes a river) to read from the Kalevala, the compendium of ancient Finnish creation stories. Solstice is the perfect day and the beginning of the new solar year; this year doubly so, as the new moon comes tomorrow. A far-north cosmogony works well in Iowa when our glassy pond moans and cracks to give birth to something new. May we find ourselves cracked open and blessed and the frozen soul freed – brightened and warmed – under the mottled sky.
With the coming of the Solstice we will begin our 20th year. Since the formative days on Mendums Pond near Barrington, New Hampshire, we have planted, sauntered, written poetry, made ephemeral art, and helped countless people of all walks grow closer to nature.
We have helped homeowners eliminate dangerous toxins from their property and lives, save water, reduce emissions, and go native. We have documented thousands of native creatures and rescued countless turtles, ducks and frogs from traffic, planted trees with school kids and residents of a homeless shelter. We have taught classes for arborists, architects, yogis, foresters, massage therapists, lumberjacks and land managers.
We have built miles of trails and helped to write preservation plans, collaborated with filmmakers and artists and indigenous healers. We once met in Aldo Leopold’s shack. We have brewed naturalists in small batches across the continent and closer to home in the Missouri River watershed and the Platte, Nodaway, and Nishnabotna too.
Together we have discovered ways to heal the planet and the earth under our feet — barefoot in our boots. You can learn more about our current projects on the Support Rewilding 2022/2023 page above. And as you wander the website, you can learn about our history, our collaborators, and the work that we do.
Our members and friends have made this possible with wild energy and passion, poetry and hand tools, homemade soup and ginger snaps. But anyone can help us to keep and grow our programs by making a donation and asking your friends and colleagues to do the same. Clink on the Donate and Join us page to make a donation.
And if you love contemplative walks, planting acorns, wild silences, reading the bellies of tadpoles and want to connect more deeply with the creative rhythms of the cosmos, join us! Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how.
Peace and be wilder,
*Dark-eyed junco (Junco hyemalis) in Washington County, Nebraska. Photo Troy Soderberg. Troy’s photography is featured in previous posts and throughout the website.
Like the crescent moon, a poem can wax or wane; three simple lines can reveal the contours of wild silences and draw us in. An American form of haiku — the lune — forms a crescent, waning or waxing, without the constraints of syllabic count. It is the perfect form as the shortest days of the year ring the solstice, simple days of beauty and stillness, waning days soon to wax. Some of our friends can even write a lune with a camera, like Kristin’s waning lune (top) and Troy’s waxing lune. See how the crescents curve this way and that? With every walk in a wild place (or a wild walk in any place) we write a lune with our feet as we follow the round of the earth.
Seems that the confluence of the Blood Moon, lunar eclipse, Sauin, going off daylight-savings time and not to mention the midterm elections has dithered and kerfuffled many among us greatly. But those of us devoted to rewildling the soul and the world around us take joy in earlier moons and later dawns, the rhythms of day-lengths and the waxing of lunes and of course the trading of bluebirds and changing of leaves. If you are just too busy to measure your days (and your life!) thusly, perhaps a little time in the woods or in an autumn meadow might be just the thing. Leave your phone behind. Read a wild poem or write one.
Consult the moon,
My friend reported hey my bluebirds are back and lest you think no big deal they were here all summer same goes for robins sometimes sapsuckers – but no. These winter squatters northern feather-peddlers boreal storytellers fill the bird-shaped spaces when Sauin travels to Solstice (and Gaia warms her bottom) with the southering sun.
Photos: Eastern bluebird (Sialia sialis), winter resident in Fremont County Iowa. Summer bluebird tending a nest box in Washington County Nebraska. Photos by Troy Soderberg. Prose poem by Jack Phillips.
As long as the earth has spun her way around the sun there has been Samhain, Sauin — in any case pronounced sah-win to mark the halfway point between the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice. As she rounds herself round the primal tide within the cell of every living thing desires the moon, this year to our eyes less than half but nonetheless always full. And so it is for the lovers of moons and juncos, russet rustles and the lingering of crickets, just one more time turtles belly-up logs on a thin afternoon under low-slung sun, looping buteos, stripping canopies showing off muscles. We can almost believe that we spin this orb under our feet with just the right poem, October at our backs, the weight of an eyelid on the cloudy horizon and a path that turns us ever wilder.
Love November in the woods,
Photos: Loess Hills Saunter by Kristin Zahra. Poets under Grandmother Oak by someone using Kristin’s phone.
Funny how close you can get to a turtle in a canoe, as those who might eat them tend to approach from above or below. Perhaps in silence — save for the reading of a poem by Natalie Diaz or one of our own composing — we move as tracelessly as the passing of days. The planetary impress of human presence grows ever heavier, but those that dip lightly in lyric and paddle write the lines of kinship. Or maybe we remind them of a distant cousin they knew so long, long ago.
Welcome the Equinox in quiet awe. Turn off your phone.
Turtles by Kristin Zahra, poets by Jack using Kristin’s phone.