Poetry in motion

Haiku Hike today (5)

April is National Poetry Month and April 17 is International Haiku Day. It seemed fitting, poetic justice even, to observe both with a weekend Haiku Hike in the nature preserve. Eight humans accepted the challenge.

Red Fox Cabin in
The woods above the quarry
Deserted homestead

Spring itself is a muse that inspires with emerging wildflowers, pale green hints of tree leaves and birds inviting each other to call. With honeysuckle hiking staffs and a memo pad between us, we called out and wrote down words and phrases that described what we were experiencing and used them to create haiku.

One-hour walk turned into two (7)

A sycamore watched us from the opposite bank as we descended into the floodplain. Cranberry Run is showing signs if nutrient overload, with early ropes of algae sounding the alarm. The algae will grow in the low warm water, clogging fish, mollusk, crustacean and insect habitat then decaying to leave them starved for oxygen. Algae was added to our streamside words that included “waterfall”, “nest”, “goose”, “rocks”, “shells”, “cardinal”, “sycamore” and “violet”.

Algae in the stream
Face on the sycamore tree
Saturday hike scenes

We are on a hike
Yellow purple violet
Spring rising from soil

“Shed deer fur” was added to our haiku toolbox. What with David’s land bridge guarded by a nesting goose and a gander in the southeast shallows, we trekked north around the quarry wetland through the mammoth log gateway. David’s honeysuckle-rooting maddock leaned against an old honey locust that he calls the Hand Tree.

Deer sheds in the woods
Goose sitting on land bridge nest
Guarded by her mate

Spring beauties, mayapples, buckeye seedlings and violets in three colors are coming to the light in the floodplain that just last year was overgrown with bush honeysuckle. More deer fur lay at the base of a honeysuckle skinned by rubbing antlers (more power to the whitetails!)

Honeysuckle cleared
Deer fur beside shaggy bark
Birds serenading

Up we walked, past the Settler’s Well and the tall grass prairie. A female bluebird gave us a glance and ducked into a woodpile. Fresh piles of dug soil indicated a activity in the ridge burrows downhill from Nature’s Classroom. As we tiptoed past the mama goose, she raised her head but allowed us to move along without incident. Two black-capped chickadees spun in a quarrel. We hiked up and out, ate donut holes and ambled south to visit the farm animal sanctuary.

Time flies with poets (5)

(Thanks to the creative, hiking poets who wrote the haikus shared in this post.)

Zen and the Art of Chicken Dancing

For those of you who’ve been paying any kind of attention, the fact that I have a singular fascination for one particular type of bird should come as no surprise. Chickens. I’m talking about chickens. For those of you who thought, “crows”, fair enough, but no. While all corvids caught my heart long ago, they’re a different chapter in the work-in-progress that is The Quarry Farm.

So, chickens. And, more to the point, my fascination with them. And, to grind out an even finer point, how that fascination manifests. I’ve spent more than a fair amount of time wandering with the birds that share this piece of ground with us. I’ve fed them, held them, chatted with them, sung to them and simply sat and pondered the meaning of life with them. And they do, in my opinion. Ponder the meaning of life. I assume, anyway, that that’s what they’re doing when they grow still and quiet, their eyes unfocused and staring. They’re trying to make sense of the nonsensical, resolve order out of the chaos that surrounds them. Or so I choose to believe in more contemplative moments.

Chickens. They’ve proven fine companions, a wellspring of calm and the source of a flurry of creativity. They have, and here we get right down to the point, served collectively as a literary muse, even going so far as to inspire a unique style of poetry. It has Asian roots, but its own voice and a distinctive East meets Midwest vibe.

We call it Chaiku.

Chaiku, in its most basic form is nonsense, but nonsense with a direction. Take this piece, entitled surprise and the very first chaiku originating at The Quarry Farm:

buck buck buck buck buck
buck buck breeawwk-uck buck buck
buck buckGAWWWK buck buck

There are, of course, other pieces that fit a more traditional mold. They range from the absurd

unconventional wisdomPriscilla
Angry chickens dance,
feet drumming their dark fury.
A wise earth trembles.

to the comical

a matter of perspective
What is now a hen
was, times past, a dinosaur.
Respect your breakfast.

to the truly zen

scratch
Hungry red chicken
stalks the yard in fits and starts.
Too late, cricket jumps.Big Girl

and

evening
red and purple sky
horned owls stir in cottonwoods
in the coop, silence

and

morning
little yellow house
staccato taps on white door
chickens are restless

Audrey, Too and Anne

Audrey, Too and Anne

Postscript This winter, eight new chickens, four roosters and four hens, joined the flock that calls The Quarry Farm home. They were part of a larger seizure of dogs, ponies, horses, pigs and fowl carried out by the Allen County Humane Society in the middle of what climatologists called the Polar Vortex and that I simply thought of as The Damned Cold Days. Suffice it to say that the conditions all of the animals were in were inadequate. The chickens came here skinny and dehydrated and while all bore signs of frostbite, some were missing toes and pieces of toes. One, a big white congenial rooster, didn’t survive the winter: a consequence, we believe, of both age and injury. So now there are seven: Wesley, who we suspect to be a bantam rooster cross; Audrey, Too, a red hen who has developed the habit of leaping to our shoulders or onto our arms; and two white roosters and three spotted white hens who have yet to reveal their names. At present, the individuals in the flock total 31, though with Easter on the horizon, that number is likely to rise.

A Brand New Intimidation

For those of you unfamiliar with The Quarry Farm, we’re a small, nonprofit conservation farm and nature preserve located in Riley Township, Putnam County, Ohio, just about halfway between the villages of Ottawa and Pandora. It’s a family operation, as are most undertakings in this little corner of the state. Taking this whole adventure one step further, we’ve decided to start blogging; it seemed the likeliest avenue down which we should optimistically skip. In theory, at least. In fact? Well, that remains to be seen.

As this whole concept ultimately gelled, for me at least, around a small flock of reddish chickens … this, then, and I’ll bow out (for the moment):

red and purple sky
horned owls stir in cottonwoods
in the coop, silence