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11: Poetry & Crows

Updated: Feb 27

Dear Friend,

I’m hoping that you are having a good day even if you have lost an hour of your life due to time springing ahead. Time change or not, every moment is a gift. Let’s make a note to take back that hour in November.

This morning at 2:35 am, a flood-light suddenly illuminated a great portion of the front of the house. The light is attached to the pump-house on the other side of the driveway and is wired with a motion detector. I quickly went to the window to see who or what had tripped the light.

One night, several years ago, in a similar, early morning flood-light event, two black bears wandered through the front of the property. We watched the bears on the driveway below from the upstairs bedroom window. The larger of the two bears walked up next to our truck. His shoulder was the height of the windows. The smaller bear lead the way. It was so neat to see them! They were not in any hurry but apparently didn’t want to hang out in the glaring light, so they eventually moseyed on down the hill.

Along with beautiful views and incredible quiet, (here, where we’re house/dog sitting), there are also many opportunities to see wild creatures. Rabbits often come through, as do Quail, migrating birds, lots of reptiles, squirrels, bears, bobcats, coyotes, and mountain lions. In fact, just a couple nights ago, a mountain lion wandered through the property right up next to the house and left its tracks in the snow. The electricity had been out for a couple of weeks, so the flood-light hadn’t come on. But PG&E restored power to the area a few days ago and something or someone had triggered the flood-light last night.

I watched and waited to see if perhaps the mountain lion had returned. Well, if it had, I didn’t see it. I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. I kept watching for a long time after the light went off. It was a good time to think and to practice describing the world as I saw it, through that upstairs bedroom window.

Even in cloud-cover, the blackened, leafless trees stand out against the moonlit snow. The fire had come so close to the house last summer. Our friend had been out of town, so I had been the one to evacuate with Miss B, it was her 5th evacuation. Now, where erosion-controlling scrub oak and weeds have been burned away, iron-rich, red-dirt-mud is bleeding through the melting snow. Charred tree roots are protruding, dangling in the air along the steep ridge above the driveway. Tops of boulders, now slowly loosening their grip on the hillside, sit exposed and reveal the sharp drop from the water tank, high on the hill, down to the paved drive where the snowplow sits in puddles of rain and snowmelt.

Just a few days ago, before the heavy rains, that hill was covered in snow, a gentle, magical, perfect blanket of beautiful, clean, white, hiding all evidence of the dangerously jagged rocks and dead, splintered, broken trees beneath. We'll miss this snow but the rain is very nice to hear and to have. I’m not sure what the water situation is where you live but, Yay, for this rain and all the snow before it!

The gift of this water is so beautifully purposeful and yet it is a thing of nature. But people want to know if it will end the drought... I don't know if anyone can actually predict that accurately. I guess all I can do is to thank nature for this gift and continue to respect the preciousness of its presence!

Do I sound too flowery and poetic for you?

Poetry is important to me, words and their meanings, rhythm and sometimes rhyme; to me, a poem is a song, a painting, something old revealed in a new way or something new discovered. Not everyone enjoys poetry, reading it or writing it. I do enjoy the puzzle of it, of all communication, really.

In Placerville, CA, there are many opportunities to participate in Poetry; when I lived in El Dorado County, I frequented a variety of Poetry read-arounds in or near Placerville, facilitated by Taylor Graham. Though Taylor was the Poet Laurette of El Dorado County 2016 – 2018, she had nurtured a growing poetry community for decades. And she is still actively creating opportunities for Poets to share their work. She is a rare and dedicated person.

Tuesday at 2:00 is one of the weekly poetry groups that I would try not to miss. And even now, on the road, I receive the weekly email on Wednesday that lists the Word Can words from the day before. T@2 Word Can Poems are a way that I practice my poetry writing.

I’d like to explain how it works and then give you a Word Can list so that you can try your hand at writing a Word Can Poem of your own!

When attending a Tuesday @ 2:00 poetry meeting in Placerville, CA, the first half of the hour-long meeting will be reading poetry. One week it will be other people’s poetry and the next, it will be your own (usually following a prompt assigned two weeks prior).

Then comes the Word Can poem writing.

Taylor has a coffee-can full of 1/2” x 2” strips of paper. On each strip of paper is a word (or phrase), these are the Word Can Words.

Each person will draw one word from the can and read it out loud so that everyone can write it down.

Everyone will have the exact same list of words to use for their poem. If there are 8 people attending T@2, there will be 8 words drawn from the Word Can.

You all will now have around 10 to 15 minutes to write a poem using any words from anywhere as long as the Word Can words are also used. The average Word Can Poem writing time is 12 minutes.

Then you will listen as people will read their Word Can Poems (unedited) one at a time. When it is your turn, you will realize that you have created something unique. No two poems are alike.

Here is a list of words from the Word Can List that was created at T@2 on Tuesday, Jan 31st, 2023.

anthology, tremor, sky, wrist, marvel, foil, feasting-cup, digging up, snow crust, applique

If you wish, get a piece of paper and a pencil and set your timer for 15 minutes and see what you come up with!

When we were staying at Stove Pipe Wells, Death Valley, CA, (See Tracks by the Post letter no: 6 ), Red Tail Hawks flew over and called out, their cries filled the sky at the quietest times of the day. Ravens would appear out of nowhere. They would pop about and call out to us in their long, trilled-squawks. They look like crows except for their size. Ravens are larger, about the size of a red-tail hawk and they usually hang out in small groups of two or three, and they don’t ‘Caw.’

Crows ‘Caw’ (and they tend to hang out in bunches). There were also Great-tailed Grackles (the black birds with the very long tail-feathers) at the campsite. The following poem is about the crows, written at Stove Pipe Wells on February 1st.


This Raven felt the need to photobomb each of my attempts to photograph the crows.

Poetry and Crows

Seven large black birds, desert crow, campground healthy,

arrive at fire ring in morning light, no watch on my wrist, I’ll guess the time,

sky blue before the dawn, and black bird

whoosh whoosh whoosh in flight

marvelous soft whoosh

one after another land with hops

greet with clacking beak

together in the quiet

spend this moment digging up what slopped from human late-night feasting cup

and a foil scrap is treasured, scraped, and discarded.

Nothing from this campsite to add to the anthology of breakfast delights.

Sudden CAW! a tremor of beak and breath,

away they fly, feathered wings whoosh

whoosh whoosh across the desert valley toward snow crusted peaks.

Seven dots – black applique on blue.

(This poem needs some culling but I hope that it encourages you to try a Word Can Poem of your own). If you do decide to write a Word Can Poem, please consider sharing it with me and know that I will not share it with anyone (ever) unless you let me know it’s ok for me to share it!

If you are interested in learning more about Poetry in El Dorado County, CA, here is the contact information that Taylor Graham shares in her emails.



I hope that you have a wonderful week, the last full week of winter.

Thank you for your thoughtfulness and checking-in to read. When you have a moment, please write, I’d love to know how you are and how things are going in your world.

Until next week,

Gently Be,



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