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Poetry of Nature | Late Summer | Geoff Oelsner

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A photo of a very vibrant Flame Skinner on a thin reed-like plant.

Geoff Oelsner’s PONderings

Dear PON Friends,

Cool is coming. The Autumn Equinox arrives on Thursday, September 22 at 6:04 PM PDT. During this time, the sun shines directly on the equator, and the northern and southern hemispheres get the same amount of rays as sun transits the equator towards the south.

Here are some…

Poems Of Regenerative Oneness With The Earth

For the Coming Autumn

A pause can permit

an open moment,

can admit you to a realm

of rest and renewal.

Let these autumnal poems

prompt pauses

and possibly poems of your own.

We’ll take a sacred pause

when we meet together

on September 12

at the threshold of autumn,

and return to the below poems

and write poems of our own

as we celebrate

the advent of autumn.

~ Geoff Oelsner


for Gurney Norman, quoting him

The woods is shining this morning.

Red, gold and green, the leaves

lie on the ground, or fall,

or hang full of light in the air still.

Perfect in its rise and in its fall, it takes

the place it has been coming to forever.

It has not hastened here, or lagged.

See how surely it has sought itself,

its roots passing lordly through the earth.

See how without confusion it is

all that it is, and how flawless

its grace is. Running or walking, the way

is the same. Be still. Be still.

“He moves your bones, and the way is clear.”

~ Wendell Berry


I love the fitful gust that shakes

The casement all the day

And from the mossy elm tree takes

The faded leaf away

Twirling it by the window-pane

With thousand others down the lane

I love to see the shaking twig

Dance till the shut of eve

The sparrow on the cottage rig

Whose chirp would make believe

That spring was just now flirting by

In summers lap with flowers to lie

I love to see the cottage smoke

Curl upwards through the naked trees

The pigeons nestled round the coat

On dull November days like these

The cock upon the dung-hill crowing

The mill sails on the heath a-going

The feather from the ravens breast

Falls on the stubble lea

The acorns near the old crows nest

Fall pattering down the tree

The grunting pigs that wait for all

Scramble and hurry where they fall

~ John Clare (1793-1864)

Pleasant Sounds

The rustling of leaves under the feet in woods and under hedges;

The crumpling of cat-ice and snow down wood-rides,

narrow lanes and every street causeway;

Rustling through a wood or rather rushing, while the wind

halloos in the oak-top like thunder;

The rustle of birds' wings startled from their nests or flying

unseen into the bushes;

The whizzing of larger birds overhead in a wood, such as crows, puddocks, buzzards;

The trample of robins and woodlarks on the brown leaves.

and the patter of squirrels on the green moss;

The fall of an acorn on the ground, the pattering of nuts on the hazel branches as they fall from ripeness;

The flirt of the groundlark's wing from the stubbles –

how sweet such pictures on dewy mornings, when the

dew flashes from its brown feathers.

~ John Clare

The Spider and The Bowl

"A noiseless patient spider,

I mark'd where on a little promontory it stood


~ Walt Whitman

An anarchistic spider—

I mark'd it where it crouched,

spinning luminous filaments

pitched out to gales gusting leaves

over light-baked ledges by a lake

where a somnolent tribe of its kind

hunched sunning one late autumn afternoon.

I mark'd as its compadres stirred

and scuttled over the ledge

toward a bar of pemmican

left in my Ozark walnut bowl.

The inspired spider kept on spinning,

stringing some invisible wind-lyre.

Honor to you, lone arachnid bard!

And you, O my bowl,

in your limited compass complete,

concave conclave of great Earth's harvest,

old camping friend useful, empty and generous,

you thickcut brown concentric-banded

polished walnut branch become bowl,

my bowl in the sun, I mark well

how we hosted that hungry herd of spiders

to a fine Thanksgiving dinner

in the presence of a singular

minstrel of their kin.

~ Geoff Oelsner

Your Autumn Face

Now, there is no telling birds' curved shadows

from their crossing flights; the jeweled

antlers from winds that gorge them. Now all

flows in the veins of a darker rainbow

and motions couple in the dusk.

It is a time of coming together in the land.

Gelled sun bursts like a yolk on the

meadow-line; sky's violet eye deepens.

We lie scattered on the fading tapestry

of grass, looking upon ourselves with wonder.

One cannot own another (and I

could not lose you in this Mystery).

The leaf, the ground, the shadow meet

and fall into darkness together, as

the three of us-- you, me, and all of us--

join ourselves with the fading shadows

and enter the smoky land coming together.

~ Geoff Oelsner

Now…I promised in my August letter, to share excerpts from a journal my friend the Kansas landscape artist Robert Sudlow kept in August 1998 from when he was in his native Kansas to when he flew out to California to paint and visit friends. Its pages pulse with his quivery script and sketches of the changing landscapes. Here are dark lamentations about the human experiment, like:

“This is a world of noise. Reality is changed into possibility. A vagueness permeates consciousness, it has no beginning or end. True reality is forgotten, a word unspoken. Noise is manufactured in the city, just as goods are manufactured. The great city is a fortress against silence, around which destruction hovers in feverish activity. It is a striving toward destruction, a search for death, or the silence after death.”

Here too are descriptions of great natural beauty. I hope you’ll find some spiritual food in Robert Sudlow’s meditations.

Blessings to all,


Excerpts From Robert Sudlow’s Journal

August 7, 1998 Friday morning, outside Lawrence, KS

A still damp overcast morning, curiously breathing an air of nostalgia. The birds are stilled all sounds hushed and muted, almost dreamlike. My walk in the woods seems a passage into timelessness. The

past present and what will be strangely present also.

Sitting on the cabin porch, blending into the weedy hilltop old paths,

brambled woods. Sumac suddenly red, spiders with limp webs across my face, the dog sniffing mole hills. A jet liner unseen in the low clouds. Nothing clear but all things diffuse in a mixed morning dream.

Rest on the flight into Egypt. Camping at the source of many tributaries, crossroads. Without action, we are all wanderers, half asleep. From the throat of a high perched cardinal tentative calls of awakening, clear, assertive. Moss and mold begone, roots and things underground stir. The book of changes unfolds. Squat mushrooms, white puffballs, broken boughs, tireless weeds lead the way.

Silver-blue floating in a shallow sea earth reflecting liquid air.

What of the world and all its humans? Simply I would pray for their well-being—corporality I’m not sure.

August 10 [Bob flew to California via Denver—G.O.]

KCI to Denver 757—Two mouths large as truck wheels polished throats to gulp sky. A scattering of fleecy ewes. A long path down the concrete runway: distant and phantasy filled north route-then west along the Kaw {River}, Topeka—then all erased by cloud cover—

the plateaus of illegible whiteness. High over the plains—intricate patterns of farm lands. Like the intricate workings of wasps’ nest, the instinctive completeness of spider webs or coral heads. Human

reason mimics nature’s creatures.

Air gulping jet engine, a swallower of space condensed into thrust up and over the crusted city, spawned in foothills under the still wild mountains—up into towers of cloud fluff.

Forestville, CA August 4 morning by the pool

Cloudless sunrise with 3 balloons hanging near Mt. St. Helena.

Three jays squack in complete contempt of the hour riding on an ocean of air.

Silver morning sunlight lifts across mountains burning with heat glowing across the continent a grand overwhelming giant. This intensity carries the hour-awakening-and destroying indifferently. My dream scatters—time extends including names, hunger, and forgetfulness of night

New lifted joy. This peaceful seeming light across a distant murmurous valley-instead of pollution surrounding and madness it seems a place of heroes, this hill fit for a temple.


The old coastal highway, the foggy path and great coastal cliffs-return reawakened and full of infinite powers. Truly I am blessed with opportunities.

Monday on Big Creek

Blowing clouds-dark-flat gray sea. Painted AM in sunlight. Sleep and awake in a paradise of possibility.

I get on my feet with some difficulty: it is vaguely humorous.

I have six paintings from this trip—likely frivolous sketches from a fading eye—yet it is worthwhile because it comes from a naked wonder. Somehow it is a witness of something holy that I could glimpse no other way.

Tuesday August 11

Painting in West’s lost field.

[The field sloped a long distance down to the shore of the Pacific. Bob painted there often. I could feel how the surrender and power in his highly energetic artistic process precipitated joy and blessing there—G.O.]

Finally the energy in grass stems seems to inform my painting. All the landscape waits for this release. How fortunate when it happens.

“Imagine the westerly squalls you have seen

Battering clouds in a silver sky.

The waves curl and blister on the sea below

and lines of spray sheer off in the wind.”

~ Stanley Lombardi

[Other quotes from Robert’s friend Stanley Lombardi’s translation of the Iliad precede and follow the above one in the journal. The next entries were made in California between August 21-31—G.O.]


High noon brilliant sky blue...the southern ranch road.

On the hills high above the ocean, an incomprehensible expanse. The blue waters rise to whitecaps, pound white on the cliffs. I look but do not understand. Like in a double sky, a universe beyond this shore.


This is a world of noise. Reality is changed into possibility. A vagueness permeates consciousness, it has no beginning or end. True reality is forgotten, a word unspoken. Noise is manufactured in the

city, just as goods are manufactured. The great city is a fortress against silence, around which destruction hovers in feverish activity. It is a striving toward destruction, a search for death, or the silence after death.

There is no world unity of the spirit of religion or politics. But there is a world unity of noise. In this all men and things are connected.

Painting after dinner as the joy moves across West’s field. The tall grass rises in shafts of green gold. The fallen grass is silvered, a web of etched swirls. A palpable drift moves across the tall tree walls.

I try the slope falteringly-yet an improvement over last time.


The time of this trip has been rich and good. Already I joy at the harvest.

Driving the coastal highway in my rental red car, leaning back

as in a comfortable lounge the old panorama unreels. The highway

is crowded and tin vehicles joust for position. Dreamlike journey edged with mortality.

A salt breeze travels inland, some resonance of the ocean resides in us all. I see and feel it even here. Ancient shades climb upward. The hills reflect a salty sunset. Look again—the last rosy light now

makes its last stand on the distant eastern hill...

Friday, August 28th

Sun travel, climbing from eastern shambles, through silver shrouds. Resurrection again in the grasses, among the quail and me.

Warmth of creation

the difference between heaven and earth

Behind a valley of radiant haze, a constant noise of a million automobiles, like the humming of a doomsday ceaseless activity of the hive, the coming and going of a blind and doomed species.

At Goat Island Look Out

—a god’s view of the edge of the world, sea rocks sky and sand, wind, grass and the fragrance of salt breeze

The beach-one of the few settings where humans become ennobled by contagion (taken into their own beginnings). A child hunting for curious pebbles removed the wrath of wild waves—Aphrodite ashore,

a languid sea creature—the mother memory.

Oil on the gearwheels; sidereal lubricants-for the operations of the universe-a hum still remains. I can hear it now.

Forestville, CA Sunday morning again

A morning in the world, an open passage, a time to awaken and witness near hill and distant Mt. Helena, cloudless sunlight rising warmth. To realize continuous beginnings like a chilled lizard awakening…a quail stirs to life in the warmed grass.

“The morning wind spreads its fresh smell.

We must get up and take that in,

that wind that lets us live.

Breathe before it is gone.”

~ Rumi

An empty hour before dusk, when the shining brightness climbs back into the sky...a stillness of distance returns. In this space my eyes

can rest and draw nourishment. The mountain slopes become

fields of dream, and I find home—radiance—levitation of place

[Bob flew back home to Kansas on August 31, 1998.]

* * *

A photo of a small pile of dead leaves on a ceramic plate with the number 65 written in sharpie with a :) next to it.


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