Owl Farm (Redux)

This will be a short post that reflects a busy time here in the shire. I’ve been working feverishly on a new book (Covid-free!), helping with the house improvement projects where I’m able, prepping for a short visit to Cape Cod, getting more acquainted with my “back forty” than I’ve ever been in 40 years, gearing up for a resumption of trout fishing, and attempting to ignore as much as possible the nonsense and mayhem in the realm of politics (though hoping every capable U.S. citizen gets out on Election Day and votes, remembering the good fight for racial justice and environmental health, as well as a host of other critical issues for our day).

All the pics arise from recent walks on Owl Farm, my home acreage for many years. The poem comes from my book called Uplands Haunted by the Sea, published in 1992. It’s an old one but it works for me today.

Owl Farm

We came to this, our homestead,

in an autumn when the screech owl

whinnied out its welcome from the dusk

that wrapped us closely

with the walnut tree it perched in.

We knew the place was old and

broken, knew that it had known

prosperity and neglect. Seven autumns

have arrived and flown

from a house abandoned by

its careless and defeated dwellers,

from a barn that once was house

to horse and cow, a coffin now

to the husks and tools of failure.

We arrived here in our need

and witnessed load on load of

trash hauled through the years

of cleaning and rebuilding,

through the cold and warmth

of seasons spinning out sameness.

Planting, pruning, harvesting–

we sense our labors shed like sweat

from the ground accepting us.

In a pre-dawn blackness we

awaken to the barred owl’s hooting,

to the hen’s nervous squawk,

our bodies aging, drifting

into sleep once more, the dark

changes that absorb us in

the fitting contours of this land.

Sadly, most of my white ash trees (like many in the region) have been hit by the emerald borer…

trying to reestablish the great white pines…

poplars growing from a glacial sandbank…

I’ll miss my woodlands on the Cape, but the fish want to make a fool of me again…

About rivertoprambles

Welcome to Rivertop Rambles. This is my blog about the headwaters country-far afield or close to home. I've been a fly-fisher, birder, and naturalist for most of my adult life. I've also written poetry and natural history books for thirty years. In Rambles I will mostly reflect on the backcountry of my Allegheny foothills in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York State. Sometimes I'll write about the wilderness in distant states, or of the wild places in the human soul. Other times I'll just reflect on the domestic life outdoors. In any case, I hope you enjoy. Let's ramble!
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27 Responses to Owl Farm (Redux)

  1. Brent says:

    Beautiful tribute, in poetry and photography, to a special place that you’ve both poured yourself into for many years…and through some pretty thin times. Good things do take time, and I’m glad you’re in a position to enjoy your rustic surrounds for many more years.

  2. Morning, Walt. You live in a beautiful area. As for Cape Cod, where on the Cape do you fish? Chatham?

    • We’ll be staying somewhere in Dennis & moving around from there, but it’s a first for me so I can’t be sure at this point. Just playing it by ear, but open to any suggestions or ideas of places to visit… Thanks!

      • I know nothing about fishing. But as for good places to explore: Tops on my list are the huge, expansive dunes in some parts of Truro and Provincetown. They can be accessed via High Head Road (in Truro), or Snail Road (in Provincetown).

  3. alex55manta says:

    You know me Walt – I’m not such a literary guy but, that is a great poem! I really loved it! Great pictures and a great place to be able to explore and walk/hike you got there. The purple and yellow center flower – is that a domestic or wild aster? What is the yellow stuff behind it? Glad to see the temperatures cool the waters down around there but I feel there hasn’t been enough rain to increase the volumes of the creeks/streams in the greater Northern PA and Southern NY – unfortunately. Maybe you got some localized rain that helped more than in Slate Run? Great post Rivertop Rambles! UB

    • Marion, thanks for reading & commenting on the poem… Wild asters (very common here) puffed out by fuzzy goldenrods… Cooler temps but, as you say, water volume remains deficient here, as well… It’s raining now, maybe that will help… Am looking forward to some changes.

  4. Neil, Thanks for the above comment regarding the Cape… This is more than a fishing trip, thankfully, so we’ll be sure to study the aforementioned locales, especially at the national seashore. Looking forward to it!

  5. Leigh Smith says:

    You live in a beautiful and inspiring place. Go show those fish on the Cape how it’s done!

  6. Don T. says:

    My familiarity with your region made me feel the words of your poem. Thank you for that.
    As for the fish, don’t take it to heart. We are all fools from time to time!

    Enjoy the Cape. Steelhead season is upon us.

    • Glad you got something from this, Don. I feel lucky to have met you (other readers may be interested to know that Don, a fellow from my neck of the woods, left the area before I moved into it in the early ’80s, but he stays in touch & still has roots nearby). Thanks for the comment, and I hope you have a good steelhead season. I’ll head north on the 21st & hope the run is decent.

  7. plaidcamper says:

    Happy to read you’re continuing to enjoy the fitting contours of your surroundings. As suspected, you’re not having a feet up retirement! Enjoy your trip, safe travels, and here’s to you returning home, settling in for a pleasant winter, secure in the knowledge that the bigger political picture has shown signs of improvement…
    Oh, and I enjoyed the fall colours you’ve shared here.

  8. tiostib says:

    A touching tribute to the work you and yours have done to build that most sacred of human places, home. May your travels bring you smiles and gratitude.

    • Thank you for the kindness, understanding and appreciation of what goes into this, Tio… The writing, the home, and life itself. A lot of sweat and love, as you so very well know.

  9. Bob Stanton says:

    Stewardship. Of things you own and things you don’t own. Which is exactly as it should be. That’s what I thought of as I read this.

  10. loydtruss says:

    A lot of memories brought back from my childhood relating to your poem; absolute gorgeous images—-thanks for sharing

  11. Thanks UB! Glad you’re back at it… Were we still planning for a meeting this Saturday, or what? I think that was the decision but I’ve been away for almost a week & now I’ve lost the thread. Unless I hear otherwise, I’ll be checking out the SR grounds on the 10th.

    • Correction: make that the 17th! duh

      • I think the plan is to meet at the Hotel at 11am but that isn’t written in stone. There are several that want to meet in person, and a few that think we should keep our distance. Both side – I understand. Best advice I can give is come on over and we’ll see what transpires. I’ll email you if or when I hear anything more definitive (BEFORE you make the long trip – so… by Friday evening? I don’t have phone here – just internet so… email is best way to get in touch with me). UB

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