Monday, November 5, 2018

Just a little something I felt compelled to write today

In the pitch black of the future there materialized a pair of eyes. Small, childlike eyes without the slightest hint of judgment in them. And they didn't look at me so much as past me, focusing on the present state of things and the goings-on all around. Suddenly I was aware that I'd failed to do my best, like so many others that live alongside me, in our time (yes, there is progress, and much to be proud of, but that isn't to be dwelled upon when there's so much else at stake).

And then those eyes, grown familiar, began to glisten and harden and fade into the lightless beyond. And I was left in silence.

Just a dream? A passing image? It doesn't matter. What matters is the messenger. Because the eyes were those of my son. And they were the eyes of every child alive and every child to come. And if I'm to truly realize the potential of my humanity, to let rise the best version of myself, then I must apply the change that occurred within me at the moment those eyes departed. Because it wasn't just disappointment that I saw in them, it was a cruel smothering of innocence.

And that is unforgivable.

IMAGE: The Little Matchgirl (2006)

Friday, November 2, 2018

Book review published in The Green Book

There was a slight delay in publication but Issue 11 of THE GREEN BOOK is now available for pre-order. This issue contains my review of THE GHOST IN THE CORNER AND OTHER STORIES by Lord Dunsany (edited by S.T. Joshi and Martin Andersson; Hippocampus Press), and happens to be my first professional book review. Lord Dunsany is one of my favorite authors and I was thrilled to be given an opportunity to review one of his books. Not only that, but THE GREEN BOOK is a top-notch journal featuring commentaries, articles, and reviews on Irish Gothic, Supernatural and Fantastic literature. I highly recommend it.

Thank you to Brian J. Showers at Swan River Press for accepting my review for publication. To pre-order the issue, follow the link below.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Book review accepted for publication

My review of THE GHOST IN THE CORNER AND OTHER STORIES by Lord Dunsany (edited by S. T. Joshi and Martin Andersson; Hippocampus Press) has been accepted for inclusion in the next issue of THE GREEN BOOK, a journal dedicated to Irish literature. This is my first professional book review and I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to write about one of my favorite authors. It will be published in the spring.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

I want to be...

I want to be that junco on the powdering of snow beneath the tall pine. I want this cup of hot chocolate to last forever. When we opened the kitchen window this morning a bunch of snowflakes blew in, and one got caught in a spider web. I want to believe in magic; I want to have faith that our plush tomte will keep us safe from harm. The blue-gray days of the season are closing in. I want the strength to slay a waking demon or two. Hope is found in the web of winter stars.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Ca’erpiwah

In the rising warmth of the morning, while playing in the yard, my son 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, probably 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

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 my son 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. Hands in pockets, I stood 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: our human habitat within windows and walls, a cozy jungle of wired, and wireless, distractions. But with plenty of toys, books and music, too. More good things of the world!

Outside I imagined the thrush flicking rain off its wings, its body perfumed by a northern forest of hemlock while 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!


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.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Whip-poor-will Road (an account)

In birding there are 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 searching for words where none are needed?

Anyway, such an experience was had 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, almost dreamy state of mind. 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, quickly shutting off her lights. I got out of the car, and together we listened for the whip-poor-will.

By now the owls were quiet, and the dawn chorus was just beginning: cardinals, robins, a phoebe. I checked the time: 7:09, nine minutes later than when the bird was reported calling the previous morning.

We cupped our ears, 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, going on for nearly a minute.

Though for me, it went on forever, too.

eBird report:

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!


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--birds of winter 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 cry 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 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 light. Call me boring, but I really look forward to seeing them.