Life With Horace

poetry & essays

pond below the mountain


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a haiku for place with notes

up the dipping road
mountain arm is bear’s shoulder
my home lies below

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multiple joys of September, cloud fingers dip into mountain creases, swamp maples step forward, my pine flags flying, one more trip around the sun complete

Copyright©2016 Kate Rantilla, all rights reserved.


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the sound that quiet makes

this day of gratitude
is warm
wrapped with a hush
across the wild place
outside my door
hours lived at stop action pace
intermixed with grace note quiet moments
two horses graze across the road
jay scrabbles punctuating feeder flights
cars mostly absent never missed
trees almost bared
their shapes old friends
I look out to woods and placid beaver ponds
where birds flicker as small animals move
darting in counterpoint to anchored brown
such richness.
such richness in this temporary state
layerings of memory and love
not quite speaking underneath the flow
from earth to foot to heart
gravity confounded by life
flowing to the sky
and thanks are offered up


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over the hills

in and out of light
driving on a road into the hills
to the left a wall of rock
with innards blown away
to upright face
brief travel with a hawk
its shadow leaps onto the road
then passes over me
and for a flash
I follow him
to fly out over
still leafed hills
light footed mist
escaping from their folds
bits of thought deposited by rain
caught on the arms of trees
memory tucked into shadow
waiting for the sun to lift it clear
and dance again

sun turtle moonstones


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moonstones

countless shed
in rage and grief
for loss of life
and love’s escape
but know my friends
that tears
rejoin the earth
to fall again
as rain
and with these
moonstone drops
comes life renewed
a moment’s chance
to heal and wash
the stench of hate
into the sea
and pray
the only swords
we need are
gentle arcs
of green
sun turtle lines
of remnant tears
safe havens
for our memories

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a poem for a day that always brings the echoes of a loving grief. I send these words to join those voices raised to shout aloud their sadness in the face of tragedy.

squirrel pantry


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haiku for wednesday with notes

red squirrel leaping
apple held fast in its mouth
single thought is food

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Day 27. An encounter with a determined little red squirrel. I was outside eating a green apple. The squirrel saw me; I waved at him, apple in hand, then tossed it, almost eaten, on the grass near a rhododendron. Running around the back of the bush the squirrel emerged at the front, snatching the apple and ran up a spruce tree with it. Came back down a minute or two later. Looking for the nest I imagined to be in the tree, I came upon the squirrel’s pantry. The apple sat on one of the branches.


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really

outside my door the guard has changed
a day of wet and gloomy gray
whisked off by racing clouds
abdicated winter steps in minuet retreat
the sullen blue gray glow of rained on slate
is caught by short lived slants of morning sun
and wind, a small all-hands treetop voice
is loath to roar (for now)
the dripping cloak that wraps this house
begins to dry and shed small gleams
the morning raven fly by
lacking winter urgency
green daffy blades push up
brash in return, migrating from the soil
no longer threatened accidents
almost time to prune and clear a way
for the celadon and smell of spring

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I’m mindful that March in New Hampshire is fickle, and for a good long while snow will be a possibility. the path to spring is never straight up here.


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the thrum

chords reach in with certainty
fingering my waiting bones

sometimes as undulating touch,
wispy fog that knows no barriers

gently casual hands on shoulders
arms outstretched announcing their intentions
patient for response.

then there are other passages of notes
roaring by on chariots of glory,

powerful as basso lama horns
thrumming from dharamsala
straight to the chambers of my soul,

until waves of tears
escape to fold me into beauty,

ebbing only slowly,
limpet companions to the day

tree in the pasture, Jon Katz 2014


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dancer in the mist

I stand alone, counting time
wrapped in the kiss of fog,
sensing but not seeing
others of my kind
waiting, shouldered, upright
at the edges of this pasture

I dream in solitude, aching
for the touch of other roots
however faint, to feel
earth’s water flow to
reaching deep dug tendrils
of my kindred in the woods

I dance in secret, moving
with prevailing winds,
my branching shape their echo,
but in summer dark or autumn mist,
the sounds of crickets, calls of flying geese,
lend their beat to summon ecstasy
as I sway until the dawn

_____________________________________
the tree in this photo seemed to move in place.
photograph by Jon Katz, copyright © 2014,
used with permission.

Gull watching for bread


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field notes: gulls watching us watching them

Rye Beach at the end of August. A very windy day. A flock of gulls hunkered on the beach, a mix of immatures and adults. Anchored on the sand until we threw pieces of bread high into the wind for them.

I was trying for some action shots with my Sony RX100, with its sharp Zeiss 1.5 lens. Set it to Shutter Priority and then tracked and clicked away. The images are cropped and resized, but otherwise unedited.

Once things started, there was a rhythm and routine to their actions. They knew to fly left to right, into the wind, waiting, then zooming in. Almost like sets of waves.

Shooting, I couldn’t see them watching for the start of a throw or their captures, with the marvelously angular leg positions and their wings holding their bodies steady into the face of the wind. What a great bonus!

Clicking on an image will show it full size, with more detail.

Aiming for the prize. Look at the angle of the neck and head!

Aiming for the prize. Look at the angle of the neck and head!


Almost there!

Almost there!

See the legs aiding the effort of slowing down and the mid-air catch?

See the legs aiding the effort of slowing down and the mid-air catch?

An immature gull cruising by, on the alert.

An immature gull cruising by, on the alert.

Starting the swoop.

Starting the swoop. You can almost feel the drop that starts the next instant.

It was almost eerie, seeing the intensity up close.

I was surprised by the intensity on this face, but shouldn’t have been.

See what I mean?

See what I mean?

Horrie looking intently at something in the grass.


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field notes: when is a swamp a wetland?

The dogs and I get to our wetland walk on average once a week. I’ve been going there for the last six years, getting into the rhythms and seasonal contrasts and year-to-year changes. The first year that everything wasn’t exactly the same as the previous year I remember wondering how that could have happened?

One of many varieties of ferns there, this one in the leafy tunnel of trees at the beginning of the road.

Late summer afternoon light catching one of many varieties of ferns there, this one in the leafy tunnel of trees at the beginning of the road.

It dawned on me that a living, wild place will change (unlike a cultivated garden), certain plants will take over or disappear or diminish, the beavers won’t always be at the same spot. At that point I began to really take notice. And record its ongoing history in my mind and with photographs.

A couple of things make the place almost unique as far as wetlands go. In the first place there is a road right through it, allowing access on foot through its heart. Down the middle-ish.

The Summer Road.

A patch of “captive water” on what used to be a Summer Road.

When I first came there it was a Summer Road (don’t you love that term?) meaning go there at your peril once there is snow and ice because it won’t be plowed! Now it is a Class Six, or completely unmaintained. Farmers and townspeople in trucks, yahoos on motorbikes, and folks on bicycles use it for a passage of sorts. The rest of us simply walk.

The second is that the land is still owned privately. I have gotten to know one member of that family who also walks her dogs there (she is lucky as there is a trail down to it from her sister’s place across the road). From her I have learned that there is at least one bear skulking about in the woods at the north end, and gotten the very welcome sense that this is a family that feels strongly about preserving what is there.

Animal path through the lilies.

“Main Street” through the (yellow) waterlilies in the widewater off the earthen dam.

There are subtle signs of land management, such as placing beaver-cut tree limbs to get walkers across wide areas of wet along the road, or keeping the bittersweet trimmed back. And they do keep a path clear along one side of the road or the other.

There are beavers here, otters too on occasion. Dragonflies and damselflies. Lots of them. Mosquitos, black flies, green flies.

Birds range from year round woodpeckers and jays to seasonal hawks, crows, buzzards, ravens (rarer), red-winged blackbirds, cedar waxwings (new this year for me), all sorts of sparrows, warblers, at least one American Bittern, and Great Blue Herons.

A dragonfly resting. The big "bombers" however rarely seem to rest.

A dragonfly resting. The big “bombers” however rarely seem to rest.

I try to be observant about the birds, but my eye is drawn by the plant life and the water, so aside from large birds and clouds, my orientation is more down than up.

Fall seems to be coming early this year. Many of the Swamp Maples (small maple saplings that live for a few years and drown off) are already turning, not their usual cheery bright red, but a dusty maroon.

A pair of damselflies in an acrobatic clinch.

A pair of damselflies in an acrobatic clinch.


My daughter remarked yesterday that there are no swamps any more. They are all “wetlands”. Semantics, really. I think it all depends… There are some places that look pretty darned Swampy to me, as in the Great Dismal Swamp. The Great Dismal Wetland has much less cachet, don’t you think?

Swamp, wetland or bog it is all wonderful. And Aggie thinks so, most certainly. After all, not too many places that a dog can go that hits the Lab & Newfie trifecta: walking, lovely smelly things, and water.

Aggie loving yesterday's walk waiting for us to catch up on the way back.

Aggie on yesterday’s walk, waiting for us to catch up on the way back.