Sunday Before Christmas

C2681DA1-DA6A-4845-9841-FEC395106A91Though this is a multi-lifetime piece
it drops in the Sunday before Christmas
when the rain is still a soundtrack
on your multi-hijacked ears
and the multi-brew merriment is several streets away
and the only sweater you have has holes in it
and a stain from olive oil

You feel you should be lonely
but in fact you’re not, not because
the dog perks her ears up when you do

But because unlike her
you’re no longer chasing
the wrong things


Leaving the Grass

First rain of the season!
Though the stalks are dry
though they may have been dead for years

How you, in the tall grass, still hide

Though whatever hunts you–
or you think hunts you–
hunts you there as well

And while you feel safer
among the reeds
you can’t see well
nor stretch your powerful legs

Nor cast your astonishing voice
into the wide-net sky

The sky, who needs your songs
to unlock the clouds
and release the new rain

So today, walk out and cast it—
So much depends on you
leaving the grass

Kneel for Your Mugwort Blessing

IMG_8932Here’s the final installment of my winter Haiku series! (technically a few days overdue, as Spring Equinox was Tuesday). My goal was a total of 107 Forest Haikus. I achieved it and added one more for a total of 108. Some of you may know the significance of the number. (See the others haikus in the series: Plum Blossom Blankets, Skinny Dipping Water, Fiddlehead Fern Plays an Early Note, Cricket’s Eye Point-of-View, Being Stalked By A Forest, Wings Like Boomerangs, My Tent is Leaking Haikus, Always Coming and Going, and Dancing Naked In the Rain)

Me and Ms. Otter
surprising one another
in the morning fog

Sunday morning church:
kneel for mugwort blessings
as turkeys sing hymns

Jackrabbits jumping
during their morning commute
no time for hellos

A pair of mule deer
eating the forest buffet
from sunrise to dusk

Egret flying by
when I open my tent door—
sure beats traffic jams

Final winter rain
spiders think my bed’s a raft
to float into spring

Last day of winter
an island in the river
sweet swallows swerving

Water’s edge at dawn
the fog and great blue heron
sipping life slowly

Hummingbird hovers
in a cerulean sky
chirping for the moon

Because words are food
chew on them and let them roll
around in your mouth

Spring arrives with rain
someone left their antlers out—
their head must be cold

Nearby faraway—
where the seasons still dance for
all our relatives

Last day of winter
geese are honking up a storm
for a midnight snack

From first light to dusk
back and forth and back again
geese fly the river

When Quiet is Queen
Winter speaks undying love
in her holy ear

Water’s edge at dawn
a river otter splashes
cold spring on his face

—Ryan Van Lenning

Resurrecting the Language of the Earth

rainbow shadowAfter my grandparents died many years ago, I spent a week going through the old farmhouse. Among the cast iron pots, old magazines, and toys from two generations ago, I discovered fragments of old letters that were from my grandfather’s grandmother. Her name was Atalier, and she apparently spoke neither Dutch or English. Growing up playing on the farm, I never heard anything about Atalier, but occasionally I would hear strange words emerge from my grandpa as we ‘walked the beans’ together in the early morning….Ajana minoet a’lan…(the Ulaba song) or from my grandmother when she was picking strawberries in her garden as a light rain fell…patepete arila a’lan….

It was Aduana, the language my grandmother called “language of the earth.” And even they only knew a few words here and there and some lines of songs. The letter fragments of my great-great-great grandmother, along with consulting elders from the old country and listening deeply to the land, have helped me excavate and resurrect it, this rich and endlessly versatile language, with deep roots in the earth and flowing water.

This is the beginning of the Aduana-English Translation Project, perhaps a dictionary for a new era. The translation difficulties are immense, in part because English simply has no one-word equivalencies to Aduana words. The specificity of Aduana to complex natural phenomena is astounding.
Aduana – 1)the name of an ancient earth language, 2)the force that draws things back to the earth (as in leaves falling to the ground. It is like a combination of the concepts of gravity, spirit, and longing)

A’ndula – The force that draws things in circulations through time (blood, water cycle, etc. When emphasized in an ascending-descending tone (or capitalized) refers to that at the largest scale, which has been translated as “Great Circulation”

nuomi – Season. Each season has its own word for the way something is and looks and feels. There are two words signifying rainy and dry season (iji, uti)
but then 8 further words signifying early fall, deep fall, early winter, deep winter, etc. (nuj, anuj, ota, aota, etc.)

Within those almost endless variations which can be identified by syllables inserted in the middle of the word. They are commonly used adjectively to describe someone’s mood, clothes, stage of life (and someone includes non-humans). It is extremely versatile and specific. For example, “You look deep winter with sunny sky and light mist” can be captured by one word (aotahonariki).

j’anwika – 1)The transition between seasons,  2)Turning the wheel,  3)Life changes (from root wek = change, and a’jan = turning/movement)

wooni or uni – The force that brings a group of animals together (as in when ladybugs clump, bees swarm, humans gather for council, ravens congregate)

awikry – When the weather changes in rapid succession, alternating between sun, rain, hail, etc. (from root wek, meaning change)

lotanna – The force that decays wood

owa – The force that draws things up

hihilan’lan – When worms come out after a rain

patepete – A steady, light rain. With variations: (apatete – A steady, medium rain, opatete – A steady, hard rain, patepet – An unsteady, sproradic rain, patepeni – A warm rain)

loyo-oto – The experience of time-space from a tree’s perspective. Trees experience movement of most animals as time-space jumpers

sono-oto – The experience of time-space from a rock’s perspective. Rocks experience even tree movement as rapid.

o a’lan – The in-between moments just before dawn

ish’a’ish – The sound of lichen growing. said to be heard only by the elders

arduaka – The condition of being muddy, wet, and decaying. Used to refer to seasonal condition or cultural

unche – The sipping of roots, especially by trees (with very soft, barely heard n)

unche-unche – The sound the sipping of roots makes

Apparently, there are no Aduana words for weed, fence, or lie.




That Hour Is Not Today

IMG_7507Winter arrives with an ocean
on my head–
a good time to hibernate
and maybe get lonely and despair
of the horrors of the world
my own losses and wasted hours…

But I can’t seem to do it.

That’s just an idea I have–
just the worst hibernator ever!

Besides, the golden birds are out
singing the drizzle delight
beside a creek that’s chirping
and the soft lichen and baby mushrooms
keep me occupied with warm conversations.

Neruda sang odes to bees
and even his own suit
and laziness.

So certainly I can summon
a sonnet for a day such as this.

That hour of shadows will come
and the missing-ness of things
will hum a melancholy tune
with a moist eye–
but that hour is not today.

No Less Than Rain Am I

raincloudNot less than rain am I
What thought of flood or mud endured
when flung from ample glandular?

“Secrete!” commands the cloud.
“Release it all and fall to earth,
unleash your fine and furied mirth.”

Of life nor death but both
and that which strikes the heart of it
through an endless flowing forth

Suck up what can be drunk
Dip your eager, root it swelling.
Yes, sate your dipsomania.

Once flung, the deed is done
the wetting fills the gaps still dry
calm falling from a patient sky.

For now, a beat sustained
’tis but the mood and form of day
and tends to match her thirstiness.

But come the night of storm
When touch is lost with ordered land
No cloud will lend a calming hand:

A mood mercurial to varied motions lend
an amorous discourse earthward bends:

of sudden pace it abandons form
to whipping gale spinning uttering thundered breathless patterns pounding
lightnings’ tonguish flame in wettest
omni-operant flicked and folded
orgasmatic undulating
inundation slams!
and meets her gaping, groping
in old and ancient passion play.

“Too much! But More!” the ground it cries.
“Our mouths entaste in gulps of you
Let us resting, digest it full.”

Then dawn dips in again,
Absorbing night’s emissive mission.

The land is clear and still.
The sky, and I, reposed fulfilled.
and new, fine feature geologe.

Not less than she, do I
this etch upon the face of things
does flow-a river, freshly born.

To where she goes, do I
from whence she came, like rain, is round
and wrung from sky spectacular.

Yet night is nought, but mark
’tis on its way around again
to give its gust(o)racular.

Not less the rain am I
Nor less the wind, and storm unleashed
Obeying throbbing pulsity.
To spend itself again, again
In hallowed-born necessity.