Comes with Thumbs

Wilder Friends,

Something makes a rustle a fox (silently most usually slinks) or a toadlet barely a tadpole fantasy a poet folding a scrap of a poem or dryad shifting her saddle or ancestor spirits coming home late (or did someone lose a lens cap) the weight of sketch in a notebook or sound of the slowly days getting shorter but wait (!) a little lizard a shiny-stripe slither those tiny hands they even have thumbs. 

Wishing you skinks,

Jack Phillips

Plestiodon septentrionalis, northern prairie skink in Saunders County Nebraska on July 6th, 2021. Photo by Neal Ratzlaff.

Mouth of Summer

Wilder friends, one of my favorite poems of the summer is A New Language by Casandra Lopez. It holds the phrase:

…back to longer days when:
Ocean is the mouth
of summer….

But presently having no ocean here only the vestige of our primordial sea we look to a pond or tadpole puddle or to the celestial seas on heavenly bodies born on tender stems, solstice or the super-moon of June.

Open wide.

Jack Phillips

TNS Earth-house retreat just before the summer solstice in Fremont County Iowa. Photo by Kathryn Sutko Twit with students from College of St. Mary.

Top: Cephalanthus occidentalis on the solstice, Washington County Nebraska. Photo by Troy Soderberg.

Try This in Your Navel?

Members of the genus Sarcoscypha have sometimes been ground and stuffed into belly-buttons. In Wales they eat them. But where will the sprites and spirits collect the morning dew? Better to admire Sarcoscypha occidentalis as a late spring delight — resting on a log under tanager songs and maybe write a poem if one comes along. That’s how we do it. — Jack Phillips

Photo by Robert Smith, late May in the oak-hickory forest in Fremont County, Iowa.

Crazy on Foot

Canis latrans travels wild pathways invisible to us but older than our presence here. Coyote sightings have recently increased around Omaha, but they have been here longer than we. Photo by Troy Soderberg, Washington County.

Crazy on Foot (prose poem by Jack Phillips)

Omaha stands where an oak-hickory woodland once stood where Maple Street crosses a sylvan meander no one seems to notice where the long-ago living here wore no clothing or scant and yet 911 was flooded when someone wandered naturally into traffic and I wondered how he got here or more importantly where he is going (and what about us) perhaps a vestigial leak of an older self an oaken ghost being cut and laid bare (the bipedal zygote of Gaia) some refugee god in pedestrian flesh. Going native is almost as shocking as going on foot better get to the woods whilst no one is watching. 

Wild spirits in human form on a TNS retreat along the East Nishnabotna River. Such sightings are rare unless you know where to look.

Dicentra Meditations

Submit to the sweet the savage beauty of this world now is the time.

(American sentence by Jack Phillips, a form of haiku originated by the poet Allen Ginsberg. *Dicentra cucullaria with ant struggling in a spider’s web along the East Nishnabotna River, photo by Becky Colgrove.)

Mystic Spirals

Bluestem Lake

Leaf buds unwrap mystic gifts and in my life unfolding, there is also that unnameable pattern

spiraling out, sending sacred stretches towards the burning sun

Turning to it, I gather a beam of light

The moment of now runs away as I search out some lasting thing, knowing too well that all things erode

Poem by Joelle Wellansa, Naturalist-in-Residence

Photos by Troy Soderberg (top) and Robert Smith.

Ephemeral spiral in a winter ravine. Photo by Billie Shelton.

New-winter Light

Feral friends and wanderlings, for those of us who live by daylight and the stretch of purple night, the Solstice brings a new year. And for those of us with a talent and taste for wild silences, winter is the blessed season. In the coming weeks we will resume our Saunters and workshops, write frozen poems and make muddy ones come spring. For now, we wish you longer days and warmer socks.

— Jack Phillips and The Naturalist School

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Winter Scripta

The naked bark of winter writes a simple poetry. Graphis scripta is a common lichen on the smooth bark of living trees such as June-berry (Amelanchier arborea). Though native to our home-woods of eastern Nebraska and western Iowa, June-berry is much more common in New Hampshire, the birthplace of The Naturalist School. Wherever we find our wild friend June-berry, Graphis scripta gives us the first lines of a poem.

Graphis scripta on Amelanchier arborea in Fremont County, Iowa. Photos by Robert Smith.