What I Otter

SAC refuge Otter2358-2358

I laugh, I cry, I pull my hair

But I mustn’t forget to come up for air

The benefits of being aware

Are less in showing that I care

Than knowing the difference between scare and….


One will lead me to despair

The other over mountains where

The other side will of course be there

And I will laugh, I’ll cry, I’ll pull my hair

If I don’t forget to come up for air.

My Neighbor Has Hives

bee-8193778I was up on the roof, trying to fix a leak
It came out of nowhere and stung me on the cheek

The malicious little bastards were in a frenzy next door
I locked myself in the house, swollen and sore!

Honey Bees!—with their devious and hedonistic way
Out drinking and dancing every day!
In the Garden, God clearly erred,
when he made the decision not to turn them away

The neighbor called to apologize for the pain and the fright
Said he had accidentally killed their queen in the middle of the night

Hmph! “Love thy neighbor.” That is such a tall order
Much easier to build a wall along the border

With those prison stripes and stingers, we know they are up to no good
No one will be safe until they are out of our neighborhood

Meanwhile, I am marooned in my house! I am no longer FREE!
And all I have to eat are some apples from my tree.

Uncle Ralph Got His Wings

The End of an Era


From left: Rose Miriam, Blaine, Ralph Sr., Ralph Jr., Jean (my mother)

Ralph 1921-2016, Jean 1919-2006, Blaine 1922-2013

Ralph 1921-2016, Jean 1919-2006, Blaine 1922-2013

Ralph, Blaine, Jean

Ralph Sturtevant, Feb 7,1921 – July 12, 2016

The last of my mother’s siblings, my uncle Ralph, has moved on from this world.

During the 1960s, I spent most of my summers with my grandfather, Ralph Sr., on his ranch in California’s Sierra foothills. Any trip to “The Ranch” included a stopover at my uncle Ralph and aunt Bev’s place in Modesto. Uncle Ralph always picked me up at the bus station—even the one time he didn’t know I was coming. Surprise! My mom had told my grandfather, but that is as far as the word got.

Ralph and Bev were always very supportive of my creative endeavors. They were big fans of the bands I was in, Woodputty and Cobblestone. They kept me abreast of local media coverage concerning any subject I was interested in at the time.  I’m pretty sure Ralph was the best customer at my Zazzle.com photo site.

Since Bev passed in 2014, Ralph has been living with his daughter Jan in Santa Cruz. Just over a month ago, we learned from Jan that Ralph had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Exactly a month ago he was told he had 3 to 5 days left—his liver was failing fast.

I drove down hoping I wouldn’t be too late. Happily, I wasn’t. There was Ralph out feeding the chickens, and, except for the color of his skin, you wouldn’t know he wasn’t an exceptionally healthy 95 year old—a little tired, but who isn’t? It was a bit surreal holding what amounted to a week long wake for someone who seemed pretty OK. He would be out every morning and afternoon taking care of the chickens and yard, as well as providing us with spot-on analysis of the evening news.

Meanwhile, we ( sisters, cousins, extended family) played music, told stories, watched baseball, assembled puzzles, and visited. Ralph’s grandson, Noah—the chef—came in from Hawaii to ply us with gourmet meals. After five days, I reluctantly headed for home, leaving Ralph in the ever-present and loving care of his son, Jon, daughter, Jan, the grandchildren and others.

My uncle Ralph was a gentle man and the consummate gentleman. I think he would have thought it just too rude for him to leave without allowing for his loved ones to come to terms with the idea.

Uncle Ralph got his Wings

In my uncle’s final hours, as he soundly slept

After we altogether and individually had laughed and wept

A Scrub Jay stole into his room with no one else about

It began knocking on the mirror when it was time to go out

It perched on the bed rail for one final goodbye

Then cousin Jan showed it the door and it took to the sky

Hmm, why a Scrub Jay, I thought, why not a hummingbird or a dove?

Why not a bird that more people think highly of?

“Judge not lest ye be judged” I heard myself say

Then it made perfect sense that Ralph would want it that way

Without a script, Ralph lived the Golden Rule simply because it makes sense

Would that we all could be so wise from this moment hence

I suppose Scrub Jays can bring to mind any number of things

But I’m going to remember when my uncle Ralph got his wings

Why?! Really?

Where The Rubber Meets The Chicken

Where The Rubber Meets The Chicken

I know what you are thinking

And it it’s none of your damn business

Not even funny

Tiresome really

Varied Thrush – Upon Reflection

Back in the mid 70s, I spent the night at a campground in the redwoods along the coast of California. At dawn, a patchy ground fog had created that scene in a movie—deep in the woods—where some spiritual being—for good or evil—is about to make its appearance. The sound track was a chorus of Varied Thrush announcing their presence from every direction. Though I had seen them in the yard at home many times, I had never heard a Varied Thrush before, so their call, often described as “eerie, haunting and mysterious,” was all those things, and perfectly befitting of the scene. The birds themselves were illusive and it took a lengthy effort to determine what the source of that peculiar sound was. Since then, I have heard them individually on many occasions, but the multitude in the misty woods left a lasting impression.

Having this photo selected as a semifinalist in 2016 Audubon Photo Contest forced me to give it some in depth analysis, which, of course, as you might expect here at poetphoto, inspired poetry.

Varied Thrush

Varied Thrush

The Varied Thrush cheers the dawn
But then in case the day should prove him wrong
He sings a much more plaintiff song
Then with that base covered
He goes back and sings the other
So, is it the edge of winter
Or the cusp of spring?
Is it yin, is it yang or in between ?
Has it always been so
Or has it not?
Are we just a reflection the gods forgot?
Each morning’s mirror appears ambiguous
Can what I see and me
Actually be contiguous?
Before my brain has turned to mush
I think I’ll ask the Swainson’s Thrush

If you have never heard a Varied Thrush, follow this link to Audubon’s Varied Thrush page, scroll down to the bottom right and listen to the recordings. If you have never heard the glorious song of the Swainson’s Thrush, more’s the pity. Get out and take a spring hike in the woods of the Pacific Northwest. In the meantime, follow this link to Audubon’s Swainson’s Thrush page, scroll to the bottom right and listen to the recordings.

Bird Shot

I love where I live! I love it when I can grab my camera, run out into the yard and catch the neighbors flying by.

Eagle in flight (1 of 2)

My neighbor dropped in unexpectedly

I shot him, not the least bit regrettably

There was nothing to fear

I’d made it perfectly clear

All are welcome, at least theoretically

Eagle in flight (2 of 2)

Afternoon Feather Report

Fall colors cheer on the swans

Swans in Skykomish Valley

Rising mist lifts my spirits beyond

Daly South 0109-

The shorter days that may make me scowl

Daly South High Rock

I shall remain unflappable while the weather is fowl

Geese clouds 0037-2

Damsel in Distress

The Damselfly is a predator

Eating other insects and such

They have thrived on Earth for 300 million yearsDamsel fly-Said the spider,

“Thank you very much.”Damsel in distress-

Seamstress for the band–apologies to Elton John

Tiny Dancer-2-2

Sew my clothes up tiny dancer.

Make the hemlines high! That’s my way!

Don’t skip town and leave me hangin’.

You’re mad. This is the way you earn your pay.


I don’t know. It just came to me while I was staring mindlessly at Katie’s sewing machine with my aunt Janie’s pincushion doll standing on it.

The Audition

I’m sure all of you have looked at clouds from both sides by now and often seen in them fluffy animations of bears, poodles, Albert Einstein, etc, etc. When I put this cloud photo together with itself foursquare, all kinds of creatures emerged. It soon became obvious I was seeing two Sandhill Cranes auditioning for a Mother Goose rhyme. Yep.

I found a photo of my sister Virginia that projected the attitude I was looking for.

I persuaded Katie to costume up for for MG’s body.

For the little dog, I found a picture of my childhood pet, Tasha—a very silly, but beloved pooch.

I’m in there too, if you can find me.

I spent a lot of time on this one, but still somehow I really don’t know clouds at all.

Thanks, Joni.The Audition blog-3

Mother Goose detail

Mother Goose detail