Nature’s Plain Language

In this guest post, award-winning visual artist and author Jennifer O’Neill Pickering explores changing patterns in nature. Her writing is featured on Restore/Restory: a People’s History of the Cache Creek Nature Preserve. Her poem “I Am the Creek” was selected for the Sacramento site-specific sculpture, “Open Circle”. She blogs at Jennifer’s Art and Words.

Summer Garden Spirit. Original art by Jennifer O'Neill Pickering.

Summer Garden Spirit. Original art by Jennifer O’Neill Pickering.

Madonna and Child

This morning on the plaza choirs of starlings sing
from canopies of sycamores nonnatives
adapted to lakes of brick and stone.
I negotiate the worn trail in clickety-clackety heels
to the watering hole–the frenzy over French roast.
The air is thick as cream and sweet with gardenia
urine in the granite door wells.

Sky rumbles angry, as a she bear
lightening will be next.
I know this from summers in Wichita
followed by a steady sobbing of clouds
strange weather for California
Augusts of pale-shafted grasses dry as dead December limbs.

But then, so were whales in the river last spring
bringing out moms with strollers
beer-bellied men camped in lawn chairs
bevies of barefoot children
risking muddy banks wielding sodas and hot dogs.
All present to feed a hunger for magic
missing in the sermons
of the evangelists, landfills of electronics.

They cheer the finned family
Madonna and child
speak a plain language that needs no translation
some of us keep them in our prayers
others track their progress
on Google Earth
as they swim toward Mount Shasta
upstream to the source.

as they make a U-turn
follow the current
toward the Pacific wounded
survivors swimming in the right direction
hope scrolled in their wake.

–Jennifer O’Neill Pickering


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