Not Enough Seasons in a Lifetime

There’s not enough time
to know every corner of this home
a bird a season’s all I can manage
a constellation to find and remember
a plant to sketch, classify, remark.

One winter never long enough
to know the varying star fields
below Orion’s belt, flashing blade,
the tender blood born there;
enough cold nights to see the King
and Queen’s lovely daughter, Andromeda,
with naked eye, ringing clarity.

More than one spring to know
Yellow-bellied, yellow-rumped,
yellow warbler, one from another;
song of white-throated sparrow
from humble chickadee:
long, leisurely, pleasured.

One summer’s promise
the great southerly triangle:
Altair, eye of the eagle
Deneb, tail of the swan
Vega, the brightest note in Lyra;
a lifetime of summers just isn’t
long enough to know prairie cinquefoil:
constant yellow petals, white woolly undersides
variations in soft silver grey – dozens of species.
To know June grass from northern
rough fescue from northern wheat,
vanilla grass, the crush of sage;
one late summer to know
spent heads sticky purple geranium,
minty taste Western wild bergamot,
prairie carpet: brown eyed Susan,
blazing star.

No number of autumns to tire
the sound of cranes,
their long slender forms
dancing slowly overhead;
no count of migrations
recognition, the outline
of great blue heron
perched by a drainage ditch
eyeing waters for fish, frogs, ducks –
in early morning passage.

~ Audrey J. Whitson

Audrey J. Whitson’s memoir about the wild, Teaching Places (Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2003), was shortlisted for several awards. Her poetry, essays and short stories have appeared in FreeFall, Confluence, Toward the Light, Legacy, and Alberta Views, among other publications. She is currently at work on a collection of short fiction.

“Ecosystem, ecology, economy – we use the prefix all the time, but I’m not sure we realize what it means.’Eco’ comes from the Greek word oikos which means ‘house.’ Home means the earth to me.”

Read more of Audrey J. Whitson’s poetry:
Walking Meditation

Editor’s note: This poem is from Home and Away – a sequel to the bestselling Writing the Land (2007). Look for one poet to be featured each day as Alberta poets ponder the question “what is home?” and explore our complex relationship with working on, living with, exploiting and protecting our land and our home. For more information about the project, click here.

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