Saturday, March 27, 2010

Desert Notes

"The land does not give easily. The desert is like a boulder: you expect to wait. You expect night to come. But you expect some-time it will loosen into pieces to be examined." - Desert Notes, Barry Lopez

Later the author goes on to say:
"Your confidence in these finely etched maps is understandable, for at first glance they seem excellent, the best man is capable of; but your confidence is misplaced. Throw them out. They are the wrong sort of map. They are too thin. They are not the sort of map that can be followed by a man who knows what he is doing. The coyote, even the crow would regard them with suspicion."

Read this years ago, and recently re-read it. Desert Notes and the companion volumes River Notes and Field Notes are the work of a master craftsman.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Written especially for the Equinox performance of New Voices Poetry and The Undoctored Originals (Jazz Improv Band), Chattanooga, TN. com/watch? v=dsbQaOF_ Awo

March 20, 2010
Ray Zimmerman


Equinox is the sun
Stretching toward zenith
Reaching zenith
But not here.

Equinox is the red fox
I saw beside Scenic Highway
Walking about
The last night before spring.

The chorus frogs
Wind up their serenade.
Spring began for them
Two months ago.

Equinox is the bull
Fleeing Orion in the east.
The hounds join the chase.
The Twins look on.

Equinox is a tadpole
Hatching from an egg,
The sun spinning out
Cosmic dust from beginnings.

Red maples reach full bloom.
The forest seems to blush.
Bloodroot spreads white blossoms,
Oozes red sap when bruised.

I seek the crescent moon
Already beyond the horizon,
Fill with joy,
Howl my lament.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


A brief segment from my soon to be published book.

I remember the words of Edward Abbey in Beyond the Wall. “The more often you stop, the more difficult it is to continue. Stop too long and they cover you with rocks.”

It appears to me that I have been a pretty tame environmentalist. I have not taken much action to preserve wild lands, nor have I done much to raise awareness. I need to preserve the lands I love – no more sentiment without action. I have stopped too long and need to get going before they cover me with rocks.

I think of how small and powerless I am compared to the giant government, indifferent to conservation and frequently complicit with business and industry in despoiling the natural environment. I think of how small I am compared to the developers and giant corporations, with their wealth. I wonder what I can do with my small resources.

Thinking these thoughts I heard the piercing call of a red tailed hawk and looked up to see the great raptor pursued by a kingbird. The kingbird is no larger than a blue jay or a mockingbird but it controls its territory, it chases away the bigger birds. Lord, give me the strength to be a kingbird.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Levee Revisited

The following piece is an excerpt from my article, The Levee Revisited, which appeared in Hellbender Press some years ago. It is also included in my soon to be published book, Guardians and Other Sightings.

The kingfisher I normally see at this marsh is strangely absent from view today. I am surprised by its absence, since I see the bird on nearly every trip here.

On my return trip, walking back toward the parking lot, I heard the rattling call of the kingfisher from the willows across the water. The bird was present, but in hiding, revealed only by its unique call.

Then it lifted from the cover and flew across the water, low. It was hunting for a fish dinner. I saw the kingfisher stop and perch on a fence that ran right into the water.

The bird perched only briefly. Then it was up high, hovering over the marsh like a miniature osprey, preparing to descend and deal death to the fish below.

Only the hovering is like an osprey through. The kingfisher is not a raptor like the osprey or bald eagle. They grasp their victims in the talons of their feet and barely wet their feathers. The kingfisher hovered and dropped. The descent ended with its whole body immersed in the water. Then it emerged, with no fish in its beak, and flies across the water.

Not easily discouraged, the bird is hovered and dropped again and again. Finally it moved to the trees across the marsh, perhaps with meal in beak, though I really couldn’t tell from my vantage point.

As I left the Marsh, the bird hovered over the water yet again. I am uncertain as to whether it failed in its last attempt, or is simply hungry for more fish. In either event, the marsh will provide a feast for kingfisher, heron, egret, and duck. It provided a physical feast for the birds and a psychic feast for me as I left, happy with the day’s observations and discoveries.

As the march of progress continues to assault the natural environment the question remains, will we preserve the unique beauty of this wetland and its bird species both resident and migratory, or will they become only one more monument to “progress.”

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Excerpt for "The Guardian," first section of my unpublished book, Guardians and Other Sightings.

The guardian has a thick body, like the biceps of a body builder. Her body is filled with membranous eggs without shells. They hatch when expelled, snakes born alive.
The young snakes will have a rattle, just like mom. They will shake their rattle as a warning. Beware their presence as you stop to admire a pink lady’s slipper orchid or a Catesby’s trillium with delicate, lavender, recurved petals. The guardians may be there, just off the trail saying, “Don’t tread on me.”

Monday, March 1, 2010

New Voices Poetry

New Voices Poetry includes talented local poets and writers as well as improvisational jazz by the Undoctored Originals.
It all takes place in the St. Elmo Living Room, in the same building as Pasha Coffee House, Blacksmith's Restaurant, and Asher Love Gallery. Food and Drink are readily available at the coffee house and restaurant.

Saturday, March 20, 2010
6:00pm - 9:00pm
3914 St. Elmo Ave. Chattanooga, TN 37409