Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Ca’erpiwah

In the rising warmth of the morning, while playing in the yard, my son Garion and I found a tiny green caterpillar on the patio table. I offered it my finger, which it grabbed trustingly, and it crawled around my hand several times as if trying to make sense of the strange landscape.

By now Garion was inside the curtain of the moment, trying to make sense, in his own way, of the odd little squirt of life in my hand. All the while I told him what I knew about this "baby" insect, not so unlike himself, who was on a singular quest for food and growth, and who was destined to blossom into something amazing.

Time was spent passing the tiny creature between hands of father and son (and once to and from our noses, which is funny for grown-up and toddler alike). I was glad for the opportunity to teach my son something new about nature, and more so for the lesson in compassion it afforded — for we were gentle with the caterpillar, and never addressed it as a lesser thing, or called it "gross" when it left a bit of poop on our hands.

When it was time to let the larva go, Garion and I carried it over to a nearby tree (the one I assumed it had come from) and carefully placed it upon the lichen-encrusted bark. There it crawled into a shadowed furrow and lay still. "It's napping," I said quietly. And Garion, already familiar with naps, and by extension the colorful dreams which shower down upon them, leaned in close to his new friend and whispered, "Good night, ca'erpiwah."

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Hermit Thrush poem

Hermit Thrush—
So old, so wise; so
rooted in earth’s antiquity
he’s already gone rust
from bottom up.

"Hermit in the park" by Matt MacGillivray
CC license via Wikimedia Commons


First published in the February 2017 issue of through the biKNOXulars, the official newsletter of the Knoxville Chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society

Monday, February 27, 2017

Bloom of Gray

Bloom of Gray
for Chloe Viner Collins


Sometimes the day begins
and ends
in a bloom of gray: a static ceiling of clouds,
our minds too paralyzed to imagine the sun.
No colorful birds pass the window,
none pierce the silence with music.
We’re sunk then, you and I,
like stones at the bottom of a sea.
Melancholia dances about us, grabs us
by the hair, grins in our faces.
Tomorrow he may be gone.
But then again, maybe not.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Daffodils blooming...

Daffodils blooming all around Knoxville. Little bursts of buried sunlight rising out of hibernation. Spring is almost here! 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Monday, November 7, 2016

Brown Creeper poem

Trying to get back into the groove by writing some short, simple poems. Birds be good subject matter for this. This bird, the Brown Creeper, is a personal favorite. Thanks to Jimmy Tucker for letting me use one of his photos. Cheers!


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Photos featured in new field guide to rare plants

Botanist friends, check out this free, downloadable field guide to the rare plants of Chicago's Calumet region. Includes my photos of a Black Oak and the federally threatened Mead's Milkweed.

You can download it at http://fieldguides.fieldmuseum.org/guides/guide/821

Thursday, October 27, 2016

All the Good of the World

This morning a Hermit Thrush returned to our yard for the season. I heard it — skreee! — as Garion set off on a mini-quest for rocks and acorns. A falling leaf — russet, corner-curled, emptied of summer's light — floated soundlessly over G's tiny shoulder. I stood, hands in pockets, listening to the harvest-time voice of my favorite bird, and watched as my son absorbed all the good of the world.

And then it started to drizzle. Indoor creatures we became, once again. Human habitat within windows and walls, a jungle of wired, and wireless, distractions, yet surrounded by boundless books and music. More good things of the world!

Outside I imagined the thrush, flicking rain off its wings, perfumed by a northern forest of hemlock, engaged in a mini-quest for bugs and berries. Though shy, hidden, and non-existent to most, this feathered thing is no less important, or needed, in life. It, too, is part of all the good of the world. Something my little man will one day come to know.




First published in In God's Hand, an anthology from the Writers of Grace in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

It's the small things

I love it when I'm sitting at a red light and suddenly a dragonfly appears in front of the windshield. For a few brief moments it lingers there, carrying sunlight on its back, before zipping away.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

New chapbook

On sale now!

WILDERNESS & LOVE (2016)

A limited edition chapbook of poems written or re-envisioned in the early 2010's, during Sturner's first few years in Tennessee. Love, nature, relationships, and the universe are just a few of the themes contemplated within these pages. Contains artwork and photography by family and friends....

PRINT version $5. Includes the cost of shipping. Contact the author for details.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Wildflower photo used for book cover

Here's my photo of a rare Mead's Milkweed being used for the cover of Kara Rogers' new book The Quiet Extinction: Stories of North America's Rare and Threatened Plants. Looks like an interesting read.



Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Wildflower photos published in nature magazine

Two of my wildflower photos have been used for an article in the Spring 2016 issue of The Conservationist, a quarterly publication of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County (in Illinois). The article, called "Spring Woodland Wildflower Guide," was written by Scott Kobal, an ecologist I know from my days at The Morton Arboretum.

Now is the best time to learn about spring wildflowers, so if you're at all interested in reading the article, visit the following website to get a copy of the magazine. They also have digital versions, which are free.

http://www.dupageforest.com/District_News/The_Conservationist/The_Conservationist.aspx

Friday, March 18, 2016

Whip-poor-will Road (an account)

In birding there are, as some know, wonderful moments. They happen all the time. But sometimes there are multiple moments that accrete into a singular experience that defies words. "Magical," perhaps? Cheese. But why bother looking for words where none are needed?

Anyway, such an experience was had this morning in Knoxville as I sat in my car at the end of a silent, forested road to listen for a whip-poor-will. It was just before dawn. And while I sat there, glancing at a dark blue sky bordered by black trees, I was lulled into a peaceful state of mind, my breath the only sound for a million miles.... I was about to close my eyes when suddenly a pair of Barred Owls began conversing in the woods to my left. The exchange was brief, yet energetic. Owl romance? Maybe. But I won't speculate as to what they were discussing; that is their business.


For a time things were quiet again after the owls stopped vocalizing (with the exception of a cardinal, whose periodic yawning of a few notes sometimes broke the silence). And then, something unexpected—a low, confident hooting. A Great Horned Owl. I say "unexpected" because the Barred Owls were very close, and the former have been known to kill the latter. I found myself scowling at the bloody-feathered thought when suddenly a friend drove up and shut off her lights. I quickly got out of my car, and together we listened for the whip-poor-will.


By now all the owls were quiet, and the dawn chorus was rising: cardinals, robins, a phoebe. I hated to check the time but I did anyway (I am what I am) and saw that it was 7:09, nine minutes later than when the bird was reported the previous morning.

We cupped our ears anyway, kept listening. Nothing.

And then, at the strike of 7:11, of which a nightjar knows nothing, we heard him: That unmistakable churning out of "whip-poor-will whip-poor-will whip-poor-will" into the purple air. It rose off the wooded slope and elbowed its way through the dawn chorus to greet our ears.... The song only went on for about a minute.

But it went on forever, too.

eBird report: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S28377954

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Update on the new chapbook

I'm happy to announce that the new chapbook is nearly done and that orders are now being taken! The cost is 5 bucks, which includes shipping. I'm also happy to reveal that partial proceeds will go to Ijams Nature Center in Knoxville, a very special place in my community.

Please email me if you are interested in purchasing the book.

FYI: The book contains 20 randomly themed poems (love, nature, happy, sad, etc.) as well as other bits of writing. To make up for the relatively small amount of material, the book also contains wonderful artwork by Stephen Lyn Bales, Vickie Henderson, Bryan O'Blivion, and Kyle Sturner, along with photographs by Melinda Fawver, Bill Foster, Barry Spruce, Kelly Sturner, Jimmy Tucker, and myself.


Thank you to everyone who preorders the book. I REALLY appreciate the support!

Jay

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Brown-shaded Gray

I love this time of year, when first-of-spring things mingle with last-of-winter things. This morning I've juncos, finches, and siskins zipping about the yard, winter birds not quite ready to return to their breeding grounds. Beyond them, down in some wet spot in the woods, newly awakened chorus frogs and peepers are crying out for mates. They'll come, and an orgy will ensue--you can be sure of that. And then there are the less noticeable beauties (all around us, if we're looking) such as this Brown-shaded Gray moth, watching me silently from the patio window as I go about my morning. Soon this cryptic critter will flitter off to do whatever it is such quiet, mysterious things do (probably sleep on a tree somewhere, if I know anything at all) and I'll be sorry to see him go. Thankfully he'll return at dusk--along with the bats and Barred Owls--when he and others like him cling to the house like little impermanent ornaments to bask in the artificial lights. Call me crazy, but I really look forward to seeing them.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Gold 'n' Blue Sunrise

Gold ‘n’ Blue Sunrise
Forks of the River WMA, Knoxville, TN
July 7, 2015

On glistening sunflowers,
In ghosts of morning mist,
Whistle-buzzy buntings
Open us to joy.

Indigo Bunting by Jimmy Tucker



(From the book Wilderness & Love)


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Sunday, May 10, 2015

A Climbing Rose in a Ruin

Somewhere between soft touching
and hard kissing, I swerved into love;
somewhere between a dead end
and a wreck at a hairpin turn.

I wrote exotic poems for her,
sang them through a hedge of nettle and wire.
And when she drained my heart pallid
I crumbled comatose for years, for years.

O rose of my chest, bramble of the bones,
where love sleeps amid a ruin of brick and leaf—
Bloom in my teeth, pollinate the tongue.
Press your thorns gently to the backs of my eyes!



(From the book Wilderness & Love)

Winter from Below

Oak leaves tremble in the wind,
drip with recent rain.
They turn orange and fall
to know winter from below.

I know winter from above.
My place at the window,
coffee in hand
as thoughts rise and take shape.

I’ve seen the leaves shine and die.
Seen them shake in storms
and fall from crowns.
From this I have gathered insight:

In each moment, a heart shines,
a body dies. Lives bend beneath wind.
They’ll all go orange inside
to know winter from below.

One day I too will fade:
drip with a lifetime of storms—
float leaf-like
into the hands of winter.



(From the book Wilderness & Love)

White Heart

See the eagle spread his wings,
soar across the sky of white dreams.
Watch as a million arms reach
for a falling feather on the breeze.

See the elders shake their hair,
fling an old song to the four seas.
Watch as oiled machines
plow through red clay and sky.

We of this country burn with the hope
of softening our heart’s history,
yet polish our cups of tarnished gold,
strike with hot guns and false tongues.

We drive stakes into the skin of Earth,
hang our hats on melting icebergs.
How long till we clip the eagle’s wings?
Stick him in a cage all fat and tame?


(From the book Wilderness & Love)

Friday, May 1, 2015

Poem published in 2015 Rhysling Award Anthology

Earlier this year my poem "Intimate Universes" was nominated for a Rhysling Award in the Short Poem Category. Winners have not yet been announced, but an anthology containing all the nominated poems is currently for sale.

Paperback and PDF copies can be purchased through the Science Fiction Poetry Association website (you'll need to scroll to the bottom of the page). Paperback copies are also available at Amazon and CreateSpace. A few other places may also be selling it.