On the steppingstones that cross the creek 
your boot left tracks thin as cat whiskers.

“Leave no trace,” they say.
And though, one day, we will leave no trace,

for now, we pack out trash 
and secure our gear on limbs 

sturdy as the saplings 
the beavers gnaw for their lodge.

One day we will leave no trace, 
but even so I like to believe 

we will leave behind
something of who we were,

something of who
we hoped to be.

A flower’s a labyrinth 
for pollinators. 
A sapling’s 
a log for a beaver.
A riverbed’s home 
for the snowmelt.
The belled flower, 
a beacon for the hummingbird—

who jostles among  
uplifted stalks 
but never visits for long, 
who sips while suspended, 
a flurry of wings, 
who resists capture 
even by photograph—

If you have ever sewn a dress—or 
tried—you must be impressed 
with the flower who tailors 
her blossoms seamlessly 
and perfectly proportioned.

Think how the beaver 
articulates a shelter 
of wood hewn from 
the living branch 
to weave a cradle of protection.

I came to a field
of flowers, seeking
nourishment, like a bee.

Those we love 
never seem to know
how much we love—
The bee hovers over 
the bee balm
the way I listen to
Einaudi, the way I 
crave you.

The tree offers shade
with roots deep
as mother’s love.
The tree shades us, 
her leaves, a manufacturing 
plant for chlorophyll
but even they, powerless 
without the deep work 
of the roots.

The roots never
upstage the leaves, 
nor even the branches.
More so,
like the unsung toil
of rootball, 
or heart’s muscle,
so much of 
the work of love 
is hidden.

Flowers along Bear Creek Trail
I walked seven miles alongside 
a creek. The stream ran on and on 
over rocks. A squirrel clambered 
over roots, rustling pine needles. 
Wild roses lifted pink goblets 
to the sun, rain drops shimmering 
on fragrant petals. Nature
spared no expense. Even 
the short-tailed weasels
popped their heads playfully 
from between rocks and ran 
in circles. I did not solve 
any problems for the world, 
not even my own. 
But the stream rustled: 
“Here I am! Here I am!” 
And the bird sang: 
“Just be!”

First, they perch 
on the front porch lamp. 
Then, they smuggle mud and twigs 
to lay masonry: 
each plucked twig, 
an expenditure of wings, 
each mud bead, 
stucco that trusses
sprig to sprig.

On tiled steps, 
their cup spills, 
the overflow of twigs that don’t fit, 
the clay slip of pearls 
that drop from beaks.

Watching the nest grow, 
I don’t sweep discards. 
Each dry blade of straw is long as a tailfeather. 
Each clod of clay, an opaque pearl.

Swooping and diving through air,
the barn swallows catch insects
on the wing,
then scoop mud for the nest
without once touching down.
They are restless 
creatures of feather and flight.

Day’s end, the barn swallows 
perch again on lamp and nest, 
and peer at me through clerestory windows. 
Looking within and without, 
in each other’s lives we see the detritus
of misfit straw and misfired clay,
that multiply like loaves and fishes.

Yet, in each scrappy act, 
we see that love is restless 
once the work’s begun,
that love meanders like a stream 
until its task is done.

Love is like a river. When blocked by debris it forges a new route. 
When it appears frozen on the surface, it moves still below the surface of the ice, 
swift as fins on a fish.

Love is like a river. Love holds nothing back but gives all, rounds every corner. 
Hoard love in a Hoover dam of thirst and you damage the entire ecosystem. 
Yet the beaver tames the river just long enough to raise its young, 
then lets the river unwind. Everything depends on the river.

Love is like a river. When you are hot, it soothes your ankles. 
When you are lost, the river says: “Follow me.” All of life, 
and even the earth itself, depends on the river. Because 
the river loves all, it nurtures both trout and blue heron. 

The river holds two opposing elements in its mind and resolves 
any conflict by giving itself over and over, drop by drop 
over to the hard heart of the rock, so that even bedrock, 
worn down by the river, is softer 
than the human heart.

The river folds itself between a rock
and the hard place
of your heart—that parched
watering hole—
where love crafts the riverbed. 
Love is a river.

The axe is a mighty wedge. It can splice trees to fell logs 
for a home.
The beaver’s tooth is a wedge. It shapes rivers.
The wedge in your heart, well,
let it be a ship wedge.
For the ship wedge bears a ship—heavy 
as the grief of the Titanic—effortlessly,
and then releases it at one stroke,
and launches it,
and sends it off to sea.