Theler, Almost Home

It may not be home, but Theler and Port Orchard are certainly my at-home birding destinations. Rain or shine, I try to get there at least once a week when we’re home. In other words, I have a lot of shots on my hard drive that I’ve never posted, that I’m just now getting back to sorting out.

One of the special delights of late summer is watching the American Goldfinch (Washington’s state bird) eating thistles.


Nothing says sunshine quite like golden feathers flashing back the mid-day sun.

Late summer is also a great time to see juvenile birds, like this Downy Woodpecker,


or this juvenile Tree Swallow.


Occasionally you even encounter a never-before-seen frog/toad in the middle of the path who looks like he’s been here long before you ever were.


Merwin’s The Carrier of Ladders

During our recent remodel I found several more poetry books that I bought while I was teaching and never found the time to read until now. One of them was W.S. Merwin’s Pulitzer Prize Winner The Carrier of Ladders. I know I had to have boughten it quite awhile ago because the University of Washington bookstore sticker price was $5.95.

After trying to finish it for over six months now, I suspect I may have actually started it but put it aside for another of the books I must have bought at the same time since I could never go the University Bookstore without coming away without a stack of poetry books. Truthfully, I prefer Merwin’s later poems more than these early ones, though I haven’t quite figured out why that might be.

I suspect that one of the problems is that he doesn’t seem to have a particular strong “voice,” at least in this collection, and I’ve always preferred poets with a strong personal vision. I wonder if he was so influenced by the many translations he was doing that the found it difficult to develop his own vision. I’ll also have to admit that I have seldom been fond of collections of poetry from different poets; even as a college freshman if I found a poet I particularly like in a survey class I would go buy a volume of his/her poetry and read that instead of reading the assigned poems. Turned out that wasn’t a truly effective way of getting good grades, but grades were never particularly important to me anyway.

Though I might not be the best judge of this particular book of poetry, I did mark several poems for further study. As you can probably guess, I strongly identify with “Kin.”


Up the west slope before dark
shadow of my smoke
old man

climbing the old men’s mountain

at the end
birds lead something down to me
it is silence

they leave it with me
in the dark
it is from them

that I am descended

This almost sounds like a summary of my retirement years when I finally discovered birding. I suspect it is birding, and perhaps my return to photography, that has even made me fonder of poems that rely on imagery rather than mere words to reveal their vision.

Which, of course, is not to say that I only like concrete, imagist poems, as shown by Merwin’s


Those who cannot love the heavens or the earth
beaten from the heavens and the earth
eat each other
those who cannot love each other
beaten from each other
eat themselves
those who cannot love themselves
beaten from themselves
eat a terrible bread
kneaded in the morning shrouded all day
baked in the dark
whose sweet smell brings the chaff flying like empty hands
through the turning sky night after night
calling with voices of young birds
to its wheat

I must admit I don’t really know what this poem means, particularly those last lines from which the poem derives its title, but there is enough truth in those opening lines to make the poem intriguing. Though this poem appears later than the previous poem, it seems to further develop the same idea.

Back to Ridgefield

It was time for my semi-annual teeth cleaning recently, and, as usual, I combined my dental appointment with a lunch out with fellow retired teachers and a quick trip to the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge. I only managed to get shots of the wildlife refuge, though.

While it’s no Malheur or Bear River, I seldom visit without finding something that peaks my interest. On this visit, this seemed like the most interesting sight.


I have never seen this many Great Egrets in one place, certainly not in Vancouver. In fact, until recently it was rare to see a single Egret at Ridgefield though they’ve become a familiar visitor in the last few years. That doesn’t explain why there were so many gathered in this relatively small pool of water. I wondered if there was an abundance of food because the drought has forced all the fish into a much smaller body of water or if the drought has dried up so many small lakes and wetlands that this is one of the areas to still have water.

It’s certainly not rare to sight a Red-Tailed Hawk, but I rarely get as close to one as I did to this one that glared at me as I took a shot.


Closeups have a magical way of forcing us to see common sights in a new light.

The morning visit was capped by a sighting of a pair of American Bitterns.


I used to see American Bitterns regularly at Nisqually until they took out the dike, but I don’t think I’ve seen one for over a year now.

It was a delightful way to start a long day, though it was nearly 80 degrees already by the time I left the refuge at 10:30. Originally I’d planned on returning in the evening after my dental appointment, but with smoke in the air and temperatures hovering at nearly 100 degrees I decided instead I would cap off my day with a visit to Burgerville for a real ice cream Shake, a Pepper-Tillamook Cheese Burger, and Walla Walla Onion Rings.

Who knew dental appointments could be this much fun?!