Here you can laugh in February
the unexpected is to be expected—
a midnight creature leaves
bay nuts for you
and the creek is singing for its supper

woodpeckers and owls
tell you what time it is
but what about the new birds
that weren’t here in dark December?

You might think that February
is dreaming spring,
the equinox on her mind.

It’s easy enough to do
but not to get ahead of ourselves
is a good morning task—
February is dreaming February.

The season is laughing
stinging nettles
and coughing up hail

The month is grinning meadow flowers as pink ox eyes at dawn

and yes, a yellow saluting
affirmation of the still slanting sun
inching higher in the sky
day by day by day
like a toddler learning to stand

urging the arroyo willow
and wild currants
to see who can bud best
by the end of the month.

No, I’m not opposed to opening
my sun-starved belly to it all
skin smiling wildly
with mild stone fruit
freely singing its scent
into the canyon breeze

like only this season can

so see it while you can:

a one-tree performance
of Pink Petal Extravaganza
as the western wind applauds
and kicks his heels up
to play the eucalyptus
like a harp
and runs his fingers through
Cedar’s long hair
when he really gets aroused

and they seem to like being tickled in that way
letting out a moan
now and again
as if stretching for the first time.

It gives one ideas
on a February morning
here in the Nearby Faraway
which is not unlike a thousand
other mornings
that have come before
and will come after.

But it is.


Rock Beats Scissors

rock beats scissorsI’m going camping and I’m bringing…
a sudden death

I carried with me two broken kidneys (1.2%)
and a bit of heart disease (26.9%)

Scissors beats paper and paper beats rock
rock beats scissors and cancer beats all (37.3%)

Hopscotch and jump rope
with chronic respiratory disease (4.7%)

I played leapfrog with stroke (4.0%)
and kissed her in the dark
I had a little accident (3.0%)
a fire from a spark

I’m going camping and bringing truth or dare
and miss my home in Georgia
I miss my lovely hair

Red rover, red rover, send diabetes (3.8%) right over

A little game of musical chairs
a bashful game of a liver I fear
has chronic liver cirrhosis tears (2.4%)

If not the body, then the soul
the brain has a mind that can’t be controlled
I went camping and split mine in two (schizophrenia 1.2%)
now which one is me, which one is you?

I’m going camping and made a marvelous leap
I killed myself and became a lion asleep (suicide 1.2%)

What time is it Mr. Wolf?
It’s time to play, it’s time to die
It’s time to wonder, wonder why

Tag, you’re it

My Book of Poems of Earth and Soul Is Here

BB758211-32E7-49CA-A28F-2CF5E5BD1D6DI’m excited to announce that my book Re-Membering: Poems of Earth and Soul is now available.

Re-Membering has 75 earthy and soulful poems in it, an unabashed celebration of the sensuality and mystery of wild nature. Redwoods reach without apology towards the sky, rivers flow with unflagging energy towards the ocean, and souls add rings towards their biggest expression. This collection re-collects for all of us a time when our kinship and inter-connectedness with the natural world was self-evident, and invites us to fully re-inhabit and say “Yes!” to our sensual natures, our animal bodies, our playfulness and creativity, connection, mystery, and our instinctive love for this beautiful, sentient Earth. In turns evocative and playful and always vivid and soulful, the poems in Re-Membering are beautiful catalysts of remembering, little sparks in the dark of forgetting that make one gasp, “Oh, I remember that!”

Gratitude and much love to everybody who has been there all along and believed in me and found inspiration in the poetry (you know who you are, my inner redwood circle)!!! I have been equally inspired by your fierce and big wild nature hearts.

If you have enjoyed some of the flavors of my poetry here on Rumi and the Shadow, you’ll probably love the poems in Re-Membering. Or maybe you have a friend, lover, family member who loves nature and poetry–it makes an easy and affordable gift. Pick up a copy here–and if you like it, leave a review on Amazon-I’d really appreciate the love!

Early Praise of Re-Membering:

“Bless Ryan Van Lenning for listening to the wild voices and bringing back the news for those who have lost their way. Bless him for reminding us of our original love affair with the earth and of what we know deep in our souls. His poems give wise counsel: let go of the debris, remember who you are, do not abandon your luminous thread.” —Lorraine Anderson, editor of Sisters of the Earth and Earth & Eros

“Grandfather knew to ‘Look out for rattlesnakes and rusted nails’ and he also knew what too many have forgotten, the primacy of the earth and our place with her. Ryan Van Lenning’s poems restore what’s been lost to our souls, knowledge and love that was once considered basic and obvious. Poems are the perfect form for this remembering— Van Lenning takes us back to mud, to fire, roots and leaves, restoring what our species will not get far without.”
-Patrice Vecchione, author of Step into Nature: Nurturing Imagination and Spirit in Everyday Life

“Ryan’s poetry speaks deeply and clearly to the awakening to our true interconnected nature, which is the only way we can transform our world.”
-Molly Young Brown, Author of Coming Back to Life: The Updated Guide to the Work That Reconnects (co-authored with Joanna Macy), Editor of Deep Times: A Journal of the Work That Reconnects

“Ryan’s poetry sprouts out of him from moist, fertile soil – painting a lush landscape of sensual and philosophical magic. His poems transport you to a way of living in relationship with the earth that is lovingly intimate. Ryan integrates body, spirit, and social commentary into a vision of how to live a nature-inspired life amidst noise and overrun technology. ” -Ariana Candell, LMFT, Founder of The Earthbody Institute

This provocative nature poetry is heart and soul enlarging. Try reading it out loud, especially to trees and rocks and humans too. Re-membering is likely to change the way you relate with the wild outside and the wild within you if you pay close attention and come back to your favorites often. Think of it as love songs written to the earth. I’m looking forward to the next collection by this poet. Highly recommended.” -Katie Baptist, LCSW, Co-Founder of Wild Nature Heart

Sea Lion Soul

21BD3703-16FC-4A5A-BC59-6A4AE3DBD582If just for a moment
that sealionsoul should swim

among the great green blue white eyes of the day
(to play)

and you meet him there
sunning himself and barking

and you bark back
out of respect
and celebration

recognizing in each other
the truth
of your animal selves

you might see bright proud beings of the sea and earth.
(and mirth)

Did you catch a glimpse of a grin?

Quick, look! It’s arcing like the pelicans
racing against time
in the thimbleberry sky.

Autumn Otters

E069896C-85F8-4E8B-9D19-19D051235319For William Stafford–the poet, not the pirate. A fellow Midwesterner and embedded West Coaster, a quiet of the land, who also inhabited the edges, evoked the nearby faraway, whose ‘job it was to find out what the world is trying to be.’ He was at home on earth and was up in trees ‘til the day he died. He met the world well.

Otter people are on the hunt
fishing for the best playground

Whatever the day has swept downstream
the otter people accept
with open paws and a keen eye

Even-tailed in the evening
they regard it all with a river’s grace
knowing they belong to all that.

“Here,” one says to the other.

“There,” the other says,
“over those rocks
around the next bend.”

There’s always that someone who wants to peek
around the corner.

But the first scrambles upon the far bank,
whiskering, “But how could it be better than here, now
with all the alder leaves
and autumn giving her debut dusk?”

All is negotiation in this life
no different among the otter people.

A compromise is reached–
first a dancing on shore
then a slinking back into the silver water
around the next bend
floating like river clouds
whisker-faced and free

It is a world well-met.

Instructions for Making a Perfect Ka-Blump

B5875C8A-FF32-4AB0-96CF-5F94889CFC85The first thing you’re gonna wanna do
is find yourself the prefect river-fed pool.

If you’re looking for a rainbow,
the colored stones on the bottom
will do just fine

Spiced with white and black stones
on the edge
where you will sit and stick your feet in.

You’ll notice the volcanic gneiss
the river falls over
looks a like a miniature mountain range.

You’ll also be forgiven for mistaking them as waves.

I assure they are not waves
–at least not of water–
as tested against my shin and skin.

But perhaps they are just very slow moving waves
harder than water, softer than diamond.

The liquid portion of the river sneaks
around and over and through these.

The technique I will show you
will have you making perfect ka-blmps
within three hours. Four tops.

Be sure to have eaten beforehand.

Find a medium-sized rock, preferably round.

Too large and it’ll sink quickly
giving you a little blump, without the ka-
which is really the whiole point.

Too small and you’ll get a quick
high-pitched blump.

Find one the size of a child’s heart.
If it’s beating, even better.

Now, you’ll want to find the perfect depth.
Too shallow or too deep
and you’ll find yourself in the wrong register.

You’re going for medium to low range,
with a healthy splash.

If a blue dragonfly comes by and asks what you’re doing,
just smile and say, “Experimenting.”

They’ll know.

After all, they are the ones who invented
tandem aerial fornication–
so yeah, they get experimentation.

The water bugs seem used to this sort of thing.
They’ll scatter for a few seconds, then re-congregate,
riding the ripples.

By this time, you’ll notice the changing light,
and subsequent patterns on the water,
creating stretch marks up the taller trees
and flip-flops of green and black on the smaller ones.

While trunks of firs become giant worms
grey and gyrating.

Don’t be alarmed. They rarely bite.

Once you get a dozen or so ka-blumps in a row,
you’ll notice a peculiar, but healthy side effect:

Concentric circles emanating
from where your child’s heart ka-blumped
ring upon ring
gently lapping at your ankles
ring upon ring
leaping up your torso
ring upon ring inside you.

Can you feel them?