Tag Archives: spring




Blessed are we with the diversions
of spring in bloom: colored orchestrations
of multisyllabic assonance rhyming

with short-clipped awe: an ever-changing tune
that steals the senses midst tumultuous times.
Blessed are we to be alive with work to do.

Always the War to measure the world by:
patriotic hawks enlisting reluctant doves
as fodder that shocked us into an explosion

of lyrics and melodies—an awakening
for music, a renaissance for humanity
we pray may come this way again soon.





The rafters rain with dry debris of nests
under construction, as finches dance
with crimson breasts upon the railing

crooning springtime love songs.
Hillsides splashed with islands
of Golden Poppies burn together

engulfing green, white skiffs claim
the flats with gilded fiddleneck as
the tender and translucent leaves

of oaks test unsettled weather
gusting within all living flesh
flushed with a mix of urgency and awe.

Killdeer claim the gravel drive, guard
speckled eggs that look like granite
as the crow pair cruise the layered

limbs of trees for homes, their own
secreted away in canyon Blue Oaks
as burnished eagles sweep the grasses

at feeding time—a great and brutal cry
fills the eyes as this troubled earth
awakens with unrelenting passion.





From creek to ridge alive with spring,
churned and feathered urgencies abloom,
from pink to purple petals opening

to the sky, to its great white ships
passing after a sunlit shower’s rainbow.
Perfumes stirred inhaled, this canyon’s

air is shared with two golden eagles
hunting for hungry hatchlings high
in granite outcrops, sailing low

to snag sunning ground squirrels
more frequently now, imagining
young yellow beaks in sticks

open to the sky. It is the beginning
of the end, the ripening of the seed—
the dramatic performance of scripts

with fresh actors little changed
in my life, in my flesh—dependable
feelings somewhat akin to love.





‘On the make,’ my mother’d say
of springtime sojourns, the lone tom
between gobbles of rafters a strut,

the fan and drag as damp earth warms
to steam the green to flower skiffs of color,
to dress the oaks in tender iridescence

while finches softly fall aflitter, giddy
with the fun of it stirred within the air
we breathe, inhale into our flesh.

Like quail paired, couples nested
near the creek in the old days, empty
cars parked along this quiet road

like Do Not Disturb signs, lovers drawn
by April’s pounding drum to taste the wild
just beyond the sagging barbed wire.





Upon redbud bloom, the earth
awakens, windblown pollen
stirs the flesh anew, colored

petals dress the drab decay
of summer’s dehydration
brightly, bring bees to work

and birds to play
house, raise young families
and sing—it is this time.






In the cattails, long leaves
like a thatch of swords
after a war, hem the water in—

veil the mud hens putzing
close to shore where bullfrogs
freeze in the sun

waiting for something good
to come along this irrigation pond
trying to go wild. I have come

to love their god-awful birdsong
like rusty hinges on a pipe gate
yodeling in the tight places,

musical cascades turned loose
to lyrics I still don’t understand.
I say I think they’re courting

because its spring, because
you and I have stopped
to watch them sing.



McKee Branding 2016

This gallery contains 14 photos.

A Chance for Spring




Ten days ago, I was bemoaning a warm and dry February and the prospect of weaning calves two months early. But within that time we have received over two inches of rain that has rescued our spring grass. Already our south slopes have recovered. To vacillate between the anxiety and dread of another tough year and our current relaxed gratefulness, in such a short time, might be alarming if this canyon didn’t look so good—it’s that overwhelming. And it’s not that we haven’t gotten rain this season, we’re above average, but with over half of the days in February above 70 degrees, the ground was dry and the grass was heading out.

Yesterday we went up to the Paregien Ranch to check the rain gauge, (2.27”), check the cattle and put out salt and mineral supplement, also taking a shovel and chain saw just in case. Cows looking great, it’s hard to believe that these same calves have grown so much since we branded three months ago. The time has flown. With more forecast for the end of the week, it seems El Niño is back on track and we have a chance for spring.


Stellar Jays




Well out of their territory, a pair of Stellar Jays moved in late last fall to spend the winter. Like the bears, drought conditions at the higher elevations have probably brought them here looking for food. These two are not as humanized as what can be found around High Sierra campsites where they can be a squawking nuisance, literally taking food right off your plate. With others on the ranch, I’ve never seen Stellar Jays this low before.

Our mornings are a flutter of birds getting breakfast, the usual finches, sparrows, killdeer and quail scouting nesting sites, blackbirds and phoebes busy in leafless trees. It’s not quite spring yet, but with urgency in the air. Taking coffee with my camera as the sun breaks over the ridge presents some tough lighting, and I’m learning that photographing birds is a bit more of challenge than wildflowers that only move when the wind is blowing.






On the semi-arid edge of jet streams,
already rattlesnakes and dust in the road
framed in rusty Fiddlenecks and green
filaree, lush as lettuce. Hard shell of clay
and granite bring us off the mountain
through the bluff of fractured boulders,
blue lupine spears in pockets of golden
poppies grinning, open to the sun.

I forget the year, but it was March 3rd
I killed two below the den beside
the steep and rocky draw to Buckeye,
that waterfalls after a good long rain—
the earliest ever, sunning in warm dirt.
They have no calendar, no date circled
to leave the medusa tangle, brittle rattles
brush in a black hole. No fan of fear
fogging climate change—another sign,
a new extreme for snakes: more days
to make a living between shorter vacations.

We add the signs, the trend is dry, despite
El Niño late to work as south slopes turn
summer blonde and brown. Two months
early to be thinking: weaning calves—
we take instruction from grass and water.
We may be sipping the last of spring.

February 25, 2015