MudSongs 22 & 23: Dear, dark dapple of plush!


Two poems by Mary Oliver. 

White Owl Flies Into and Out of the Field

Coming down out of the freezing sky
with its depths of light,
like an angel, or a Buddha with wings,
it was beautiful, and accurate,
striking the snow and whatever was there
with a force that left the imprint
of the tips of its wings — five feet apart —
and the grabbing thrust of its feet,
and the indentation of what had been running
through the white valleys of the snow —
and then it rose, gracefully,
and flew back to the frozen marshes
to lurk there, like a little lighthouse,
in the blue shadows —
so I thought:
maybe death isn’t darkness, after all,
but so much light wrapping itself around us —
as soft as feathers —
that we are instantly weary of looking, and looking,
and shut our eyes, not without amazement,
and let ourselves be carried,
as through the translucence of mica,
to the river that is without the least dapple or shadow,
that is nothing but light — scalding, aortal light —
in which we are washed and washed
out of our bones.



Little Owl Who Lives in the Orchard

His beak could open a bottle,
and his eyes – when he lifts their soft lids –
go on reading something
just beyond your shoulder –
Blake, maybe,
or the Book of Revelation.

Never mind that he eats only
the black-smocked crickets,
and the dragonflies if they happen
to be out late over the ponds, and of course
the occasional festal mouse.
Never mind that he is only a memo
from the offices of fear –

it’s not size but surge that tells us
when we’re in touch with something real,
and when I hear him in the orchard
down the little aluminum
ladder of his scream –
when I see his wings open, like two black ferns,

a flurry of palpitations
as cold as sleet
rackets across the marshlands
of my heart
like a wild spring day.

Somewhere in the universe,
in the gallery of important things,
the babyish owl, ruffled and rakish,
sits on its pedestal.
Dear, dark dapple of plush!
A message, reads the label,
from that mysterious conglomerate:
Oblivion and Co.
The hooked head stares
from its house of dark, feathery lace.
It could be a valentine.

Related owlish posts: Snowy Owls: a graceful poem in flightNews & CuriositiesMudSongs Seven & Eight: O, she says.

News and curiosities

From the arctic descending, manifested in both weather and white, yellow-eyed owls, to recent discoveries and new ways of thinking on extinction, there’s a lot to read, watch, and listen to out there. Here are some recent gems that I’ve come across.



Jonathan Rosen’s New Yorker essay on how the passenger pigeon became extinct (which also serves as a review of Joel Greenberg’s newest, A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction), is brilliant. The New Yorker published two fantastic (and deeply troubling) articles on extinction last month; the first on extinction’s history, the second on its present and future. Rosen’s piece, is in a similar vein, but in microcosm. All three articles are important, moving works which emphasize the need to be more creative and thoughtful in the ways by which we attempt to “save” the species with whom we share our earthly habitats.



WNPR produced a wonderful story on searching for snowy owls. The byline: “From Harry Potter’s Hedwig to the owl of Athena, there’s something magical about owls.” Irresistible. You can read and listen (as well as view some wonderful owl images) here.



The weather on January 8, 2014. Source.


I’ve been finding some pretty awesome articles & websites on Twitter lately. (No, I don’t just tweet about Downton Abbey.) This, from @rahmstorf, head of Earth System Analysis at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, is The Climate Reanalyzer. Go to this website and see in real-time color how the climate is changing before our eyes.


What the weather is on average on January 8th. Source.


For more up-to-date news and such you can always visit me on Twitter and Facebook.

Snowy Owls: a graceful poem in flight

People are getting purely blissed out on snowy owl sightings. These beautifully garbed carnivores, with legs booted in plumage and wings right out of a Japanese print, have traveled south from the Arctic in an irruption. What is an irruption, you say, and how is it different from a migration? Well, a migration is a “regular seasonal journey,” such as the annual odyssey of the monarch from Canada to Mexico, while irruptions happen in more capricious ways that are difficult to anticipate. Generally defined as “a breaking or bursting in,” irruptions are ecologically understood as the temporary exodus of a population when the checks and balances of their home environment swing out of control. In this case, the favored prey, lemmings, experienced a population crash, so their predator moved on to greener pastures.

While the wayfaring birds don’t seem to be especially drawn to cities, they do have a fondness for airports, with Boston’s being attractive enough to merit a mention in the New York Times. The airport actually sustains the largest population of snowy owls in the entire northeast. The terrain of Logan is very familiar to the owls, being so like their native Arctic tundra with its long, flat, treeless expanses. And while there certainly aren’t any lemmings in Massachusetts, the airport landscape is filled with delicate morsels such as voles (cousins of the lemming) and rats. For the birds, airports serve as an ideal home away from home, but the owls are large enough (over two feet tall, with a wingspan of nearly five) to pose a threat to aircraft. As a result they are typically captured, banded, and released in a less dodgy area. On occasion they are also fitted with tiny transmitters that allow researchers to map their wanderings.

As long as you live in the United States or southern Canada you should keep your eyes wide open during the next few months – with an owl seen as far south as Hawaii(!!), who knows where you may come across one. If you have already enjoyed an encounter with one of these beautiful birds I would truly love to hear about it in a comment.

Sources: Photographs – owl flying from, owl on wire from the Sam Zim blog. Title taken from Snowy Owl by David Lessard.

%d bloggers like this: