Category Archives: Conservation

Water in the Ditch

As a child reared in New Jersey, our family set off cross country about every three years to visit relatives in Utah, 2,200 miles distant.  How I loved exploring Grandma’s yards and gardens and sheds and coops, and the irrigation ditch hugging the dirt road in front of her bungalow house built by Grandpa.  Fifty years later, I can hear the water trickling, see my leaf boats bobbing, feel the song inside.  Today, the entire scene has been erased, except in memory, in the song inside, and in this poem.  (My father painted the bungalow before its demise.)

Water in the Ditch

water in the irrigation ditch
babbled
alongside the gravely road,

          bermed banks sprouting
tangled sunflowers, where
Grandma lived neatly

in a bungalow built
by her groom
in Depression years,

          where I skipped and crowed
and threw rocks
and floated little boats of leaves

and sticks down the trickles,
where the parched yards opened themselves
to receive irrigation floods

          and nightcrawlers rose and wriggled,
where my heart whooped
and sang little-boy melodies

that sing still,
though
the ditch has been piped and buried and the house bulldozed for a parking lot

 

Roger circa 1970 on a ditch culvert, complete with bug box.

The Turtle Pond Before The Subdivision Came

As a teenager, I relished my hours in the woods near my home in New Jersey.  I followed the meandering paths on my 10-speed.  One day I happened upon a little pond.  Painted turtles sunned themselves contentedly on a floating log.  At my approach they slipped into the murky water and disappeared from view.  I waited long minutes.  But, losing patience, I left before they resurfaced.  New subdivisions came, and the paths and ponds disappeared.  Looking back 40 years has transformed this happy memory into a new poem.

The Turtle Pond Before the Subdivision Came

When you pedal
on a wooded path, all brown
and green shadow, framed houses
out of view, you might discover
a little pond, water brown
as forest earth and gray
as autumn sky, fallen log
stuck at half past two,
a perch for turtles, carapaces
painted red and yellow, for what purpose
I am sure I do not know, but
perhaps from the sheer joy of their aliveness,
sunning unconcerned, but slipping
quickly, when I arrive,
into opaque shallows, hiding,
holding longer than my patience,
safely unseen.

(Image by Scottslm from Pixabay)

Roger Baker is the author of Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road.  The book tells the true life story of an obscure farm road and its power to transform the human heart.  The book is available in print and for Kindle at Amazon.  See Rabbit Lane reviewed in Words and Pictures.

Rabbit Lane Preserved

My local newspaper, the Tooele Transcript-Bulletin was so kind to publish a feature article about my book Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road.  The writer, Gwen Bristol, captured perfectly my purposes in writing the book, as well as what the road and the book have meant to me for 20 years.  Thank you Gwen.  You can read the article by clicking on the link below.

The article follows on the County Commission’s recent Resolution to close Rabbit Lane to motorized traffic and to preserve the road as part of the County’s pedestrian trail system.  Thank you County Commission.

I look forward to the Tooele Arts Festival June 14-16, where I will have a booth featuring several handmade crafts as well as copies of my book.

A walk down Rabbit Lane-Tooele Transcript Bulletin (06-07-18)

Anniversary of Rabbit Lane

Today is a happy day for me: it marks the 1st anniversary of the print publication of my book Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road.   The book tells the true life story of an obscure and magical farm road and its power to transform the human spirit.  Thanks to the nearly 200 of you who purchased and read the book in its inaugural year.  Thanks to those in my community who are working to raise awareness for the preservation of Rabbit Lane as a pathway for walkers, joggers, and cyclists.  Thanks to those in your communities who are finding and saving Rabbit Lanes everywhere.  These are special places that deserve to be preserved as a legacy for generations.  I hope we have the vision and persistence to preserve our respective Rabbit Lanes as special historical, cultural, social, and environmental icons.

Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road is available in print and full-color Kindle at Amazon.  See Rabbit Lane reviewed in Words and Pictures.

Red Rock Trail

Living in Utah, I have come to love what we call “red rock country.”  Bizarre twisted shapes dominate canyon landscapes, in every hue of red and orange, remnants of ancient tectonic upheavals and eons of erosion.  On the trails winding through these hills I have found inspiration and wonderment, pondering the forces of creation and nature.  I have held my young children’s hands as we scrambled over boulders and up screes.  We have marveled at the prickly-pear’s crimson bloom and the aromatic sagebrush.  We have laughed at the lizards and cottontails scurrying for cover beneath black brush and Mormon tea.  All, the stuff of awe and sweet memory.  In this poem I look back at an early red-rock-country explorer on horseback.  Enjoy the trail.

RED ROCK TRAIL

shod hoofs
stumble on stones,
leave glintings
behind, sparks,
scramble to rise
to the high red butte;
desert varnish trickles
below, springs
sprout cottonwoods,
beaver chewed,
beaver felled,
feeding, damming
all but flashing
floods from distant rains
beyond, where
snows melt
under desert sun
on the high red butte

Snow Canyon, Utah

Dove Season

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In September I hear the plinking of low caliber (but still lethal) rifles through Erda’s country neighborhoods as hunters harvest pretty Mourning Doves and Eurasian Collared Doves from where they sit perched on power lines, fence posts, and tree branches.  I find it hard to believe that the State and County governments allow and even license such hunting.  I find it hard to believe that people still go to the trouble of making pigeon pie.  I believe the birds are simply killed.  To these hunters I say, please leave my pretty doves alone.  Let the hawks and falcons do the harvesting.  This poem further expresses these sentiments.  (See the post Of Boys, Pigeons, and an Evil Rooster for more on doves and pigeons.)

DOVE SEASON

A soft crying floats down
from the cottonwoods and power lines
to mingle with the morning mist:
a penetrating, mysterious cooing,
haunting calls of ghosts in the trees.

Pushing off from tree branches and the tops of fence posts,
doves’ gray tails fan wide with white-border bands,
wings beat powerfully with percussive whirring.

A .223 rifle cracks, pop, pop-pop,
plinking doves off power lines like cheap arcade prizes.
A shotgun shouts its BANG!
obliterating delicate birds in a whirl of flying
feathers twisting in air as they fall.
Another open season
to “harvest” my pretty mourning doves.

I think that I may write to the County government,
ask my elected officials why:
Most Honorable Commissioners:
Is there such an overabundance of doves,
as to create an unbearable nuisance,
as to pose an unarticulated threat,
that you feel compelled to countenance this slaughter?
Or do you dispense merely a license to kill,
a tolerance found in pioneer history that
modern man delights to perpetuate?
Please consider
shooing the rifles off our roads,
chasing the guns from so near our homes.
Please consider
letting the harmless doves alone
to grace my morning walks
with their woeful cries that take me
to the edge of somewhere sweet and tender,
laced with loss and mystery.
Sincerely, your humble constituent (voter).
I may write.

Mornings seem quieter than they ought to be
September-time.

Chapter 48: What Is To Come

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–Wherever you live, find your Rabbit Lane.–

(Photo credit: Jeanette Baker Davis)

Christmas day.  A warm south wind had begun to howl in the early morning hours, the kind of wind that tears off siding and rips at shingles.  A particular set of vulnerable shingles had flapped irritatingly above my bed all night long, as if under the sticks of a novice but indefatigable drummer.  All day long the wind had blown, with frequent gusts that shook the house and trembled the floor under my chair.  The bird feeders swung wildly on their wires, like marionettes under the hand of a demented puppeteer.  We knew the pattern: the wind would blow and blow until the climactic dissonance resolved in a downpour of driving rain or sleet or snow.  At 9:00 o’clock in the evening, Angie called us to where she stood by the front door opened wide to a world covered with new whiteness.  The south wind had stopped, replaced by a steady northern breeze bringing the snow from over the lake.  Brian, home from his first semester of college, announced happily that he was going for a walk.  He bounded away with enthusiasm. Continue reading