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Also by Jamie K. Reaser for Hiraeth Press

Courting the Wild:

Love Affairs with Reptiles and Amphibians

with Susan Chernak McElroy

Courting the Wild:
Love Affairs with the Land

JA M I E K . R E A S E R

Hiraeth Press
Danvers, Massachusetts
Copyright © 2010 Jamie K. Reaser

All Rights Reserved. This book may not be reproduced, in whole or in

part, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any
means without permission from the publisher, except by a reviewer who
may quote brief passages.

First Edition 2010

Cover and text design by Jason Kirkey

Cover photographs: © Jamie K. Reaser

ISBN: 978-0-9799246-7-5

Published by Hiraeth Press

Danvers, Massachusetts
For the beavers
for their faith and perseverance




More Information



About the Author


F or the sixteen years I lived in suburbs of Washington D.C., my
favorite natural area was Huntley Meadows Park in Fairfax County,
Virginia. As a birdwatcher, I well remember the king rails walking along
the boardwalk, seemingly oblivious to the human admirers clustered
around them, and the Mississippi kites skillfully capturing dragonflies on
the wing. And, as a not-too-successful mammal-watcher, I still feel a tinge
of frustration over never having caught a glimpse of the Park’s elusive
family of river otters. But, in fact, it isn’t the rare species that make Hunt-
ley Meadows so special; rather, it was the sheer abundance and variety
of common species, from birds to bugs, that made it such a wonderful
Indeed, these common species are stars of Jamie K. Reaser’s poetic
journal. With them she tracks the passage of the seasons, explores her
own sense of place and purpose, and contemplates the relationship of our
species to the myriad others with which we share the land, water, and sky.
I, too, have spent time with the mallards, milkweeds, and minnows that
inhabit her poems. Yet, in surprising and enlightening ways, her experi-
ences with these species—what she saw in them and how they affected
her—are different from my own. And that, I believe, is the fundamental
message of her journal. Each of us has the ability to enrich our lives in
profound, personal, and unpredictable ways by looking at and listening
to nature, especially if we are patient, receptive, and appreciative. Yes, it
helps to live near a place like Huntley Meadows, but it can happen any-
where, from a backyard in New Jersey to the Amazon rainforest.

David S. Wilcove
Princeton, New Jersey


H untley Meadows is a rarity. The 1,500 acres of wetland and
associated upland that make up the Park lie within just a few miles
of our Nation’s Capital. Green space at the urban fringe. Presidents and
Congressman have flown above it as long as they have flown. And some,
perhaps, have walked Her trails.
The boardwalk at Huntley is frequented by every manner of person.
Every age, every culture. Children grow up there. Adults reconnect with
their inner child. Dreams are dreamed. Blessings are counted.
Huntley Meadows is where people go to look deep within their souls
and to be a part of something greater than themselves. Even if that’s not
the intent, it’s the outcome. A single duck or a muskrat or a butterfly has
the power to make it so.
As our landscapes are increasingly urbanized and fragmented by sub-
urban lawns, places like Huntley Meadows Park grow in value—not only
because they become refuges for wildlife, but because they are refugia for
the wildness in each one of us.
We must save a place for the Wild both within and outside ourselves.
Go into the green spaces of your life. Value and protect them. Grow
them. Let them become the sacred places of humanity where humans are
. . . and our future is defined.


The stillness.
Meadow snuggled under blanket white,
Grasses laid long and down.
Brown—ochres and siennas,
an occasional umber.

Just enough green to say,

“Life stirs here still.”
“Faith. Patience.”
“Spring. She will remember to come again.”

The feathered, warm and witty.

Crows as they fly:
“caw-caw” American,
“eh-eh eh-eh” fish,
mobbing red-shouldered because they can.

chipping poetic verse
in remembrance of insects.
Seeds they say sustain, but bore.

What of geese and mallard?
Skeins kept aloft in frustration.
Language becoming obscene, obsessed
for want and demand of open water.

The trees don’t know what to do today.

No leaves to unfurl or hoist or drop.
No wind in which to bend and shake and dance.
For a few, a perching place—momentarily—is their only mission.
They and I can watch the blue-gray cast of clouds crawl past

And meditate.

Winter berries,
winged sumac in a frown,
garlands of grape,
and Smilax daring with thorn.

We have not a nightingale

to offer in sacrifice.

Red fox
amongst cattail, tussock, tupelo.
I saw him fleet,

sun warmed honkers
at midday,
gossipy and restless,
descending into crowded puddles
from ragged Vs,
So thankful for the water
under breast,
and mud for dabble.

Grass tassels
edging icy marsh,
woven by roots into
the tapestry of the Earth.

So much to say
with this art.

Words will never

speak of it
and be truthful.

The boardwalk vibrates
with the step and stride
of visitors.

Father with child comes to

get from Mother’s hair.

Retired couple on their

millionth jaunt together.
They know the stories of the
seasons here.

Solitary man deep

in thought and heart,
searches to nourish
what food cannot.

Gortex-cloaked, binocular-eyed woman

wishes for waterfowl,
but finds contentment in a song sparrow.

Even in the winter,

the marsh is full of life and love
on many planes.

They are happy today—
the bluebird, chickadee, and wren.
Energy may be spent foraging.

The sun offers warmth and

stirs insects to wake and wonder—

Don’t be foolish.

The moon will claim Winter’s

hold once again.

Sleep tight, be eaten, or freeze.

Nature’s options
are earnest.

The smell of thaw and rot
is sweet, pungent.

Wind wafted into the soul,

where it
awakens senses that
sleep all too often.

Muskrat draws a crowd
at edge of icy water and tussock.

Tuber muncher turns ice skater.

He has no figure for the sport,
but there is joy in his simplicity
and the judges rate his performance
with high marks.

All he needed to be was a muskrat
visible on a warm Saturday
in Winter.

A tree fell
and I was there to hear it.
Watched it land.

A red-bellied woodpecker
offered thoughts
on a supermarket now closed.

Leaves whispered condolences.

When Spring does come

the red-backed salamanders
and perhaps a ring-necked snake
will find new lodging
and appreciate the death
that secures their lives.

There is a dampness,

The chickadees are twittering

with kinglets high in cedar and oak,
complemented by downy percussion,
“tap, tap, tap, ta, tap, tap.”

Each woodpecker species has

a signature knock.
Did you know?

Grayness hides jets to and from National.
They are a roar and growl without form.

The crows are carousing about.
Loquacious mob—
moving low through open woodland
as if they really had something
credible to say.

Flocks of Canadians
are gathered in marsh and
muck at the boardwalk’s first turn.

They slide and shake beaks and

heads beyond the chin strap
into the cold and wet, knee deep too,
pulling up grasses,
tugging at each other’s tail feathers
with a short-tempered honk and a wag.

The dabble sound is soothing, like

the pitter patter of rain dropping into puddles.

I wonder if they notice.

What would they think of a human chewing?
Not much.

The great blue stands solitary today
along the incoming creek,
Barnyard Run.
Hunkered in his best attire.

The day seems a backdrop

painted just for him.
He makes gray so elegant and profound.

Red-wings take to black gum
like vibrant balls on a Christmas tree,
barely an inch to spare
between pairs of hangers on.

They chip and chuck,

exchanging places like this is
merely a game
meant to entertain until someone
comes up with a better idea.

There are many here today
who have come to warm spirits
on a dreary gray holiday.

Muted colors can be calming

and a ruckus among geese can
make any sour soul laugh.

Herring gulls jest at us

having to take holiday hours to
come be recharged
so that we can survive another week
without a flame in heart.

The true power in this town rests

with those who are not even
eligible to vote.

The mallards are horny.

Bright, dashing males—

charming with lifts and whistles,
preening each feather into place

under wing, across back,
the precise arrangement of tail.

Water beads off a duck’s back

back into the pond from which it came.

Soon things will get more serious.

There will be hens chased, grabbed by
the nape, dunked, and raped.

Mallard drakes are no gentlemen

when hormones rage.

Nature has her assurances.

I startled a squirrel.

He had his head deep among leaves,

searching with perfect memory
for what he had forgotten long ago.

Pulled up short with a shock, jump,

flick, and scold.

As if it were I being careless!


In the parking lot at quarter to ten,

me and three crows.
Feasting they were—
enthralled in a delicate carnage:
leg of young deer,
severed at the blade of shoulder,
from a body absent.

They had been feeding for sometime;

Bare bone and tendon strings.
Belly bloated crows.

What is the story Tupelo
told by Death and scavengers?

Poachers? Dogs?


You and I are alone here today—
Me and meadows and meadow folk.

There is a difference in you when

you are barely peopled.

Like me when I am free of societal constructs.

Clarity, lightness.
Spirit elating even in coldness, dampness.

Like witnessing a sacred gesture.

Openness into oneness.
Neither of us is more than landscape.


The waters are high and the creek
runs weaving woven ripples
around branch and log.

You can hear the cascades through

beavered walls,
and it soothes.

Even under thick gloves,
my hand screams from the cold,
the heart pumps in a rush,

blood to buy seconds and minutes

I can count your feathers mother goose

and in this chill would like
to warm my fingers for awhile
under wing.

I love the gulls in their indignity—
ring-billed, herring, and black-backed the greater.

They’ve come in from coastal storms

to quiet marsh,
where they mew and cry on wing.

There is something about gulls that

makes them at once angelic and demonic.

Maybe it’s this contradiction that

keeps me intrigued.

There are people like that too.

Hooded mergs are adrift.
Shy fellows,
mid pond in open water,
riding low,
barely enough to call a
silhouette on the paddle,

Privacy seems important to

them today.

Towhee in his elegance
invited me to tea.

Such a furor.
The geese are very angry;
honking, wind beating wings
shaking head—beaks
in full force of protest.

The sky is crying—

icy cold tears of anguish boil.

Great blue nearly croaks,

but grunts instead his

Anxiety, anguish.

I know why.

It snowed last night.
Interesting how the cold
today exhilarates,
prior to penetrates.

The sky must have fallen,

gray come to Earth as white,
leaving blue and brightness
even warmth in shining sun.

Young boys with father,
roughneck and snow balls,
but find sugar gums
more true to their mark

“Let’s get Dad!”

Snow and slush crunch under foot.
Each step packs millions of flakes
with their individual geometries,

There is something comforting

about this sound and feel.
It comes back to me
far returned from childhood,

When there were snowmen and

snow angles and snow forts.

Bad weather is good for school children.

Adults must seek their inner child,

even in the snow.

How odd.

Waterfowl delight today
in every corner
of the marsh.

Bathing seems to be the thing to do

and there is no desire to go unnoticed.

It’s a communal thing—

Be brash and brazen.
Show off your breast,
not to mention a little tail.

You can tell where the sun has
visited today—

The boardwalk and trail are bare of snow
caressed by finger tip rays of light,

But left damp from the lovemaking.

The geese have paired off,
three of two.

Quarrelling like neighbors over

a tiny plot of land,
a beaver bank of mud.

It’s a flood zone, I warn them.

But that doesn’t matter to people.

Why should it to geese?

In the powder along the forest trail
I can pretend I’m a cross country skier
and go for miles.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

Days disappeared into blue sky.

Only the sound of sliding ski,
wind born score, rustle dead leaves,
beech and oak.

That is an abyss I could become.

The sphagnum is awake in the bog,
covered in water.
It awaits Spring
and toads and salamanders
reunion, renewal.
Then a water beetle moves


T hese practices are selected from Courting the Wild: Love
Affairs with the Land edited by Jamie K. Reaser and Susan Chernak
MacElroy. I also recommend exploring the “soul tasks” in Bill Plotkin’s
Soulcraft: Crossing into the Mysteries of Nature and Psyche.

Part One (Getting Grounded)
• Dress appropriately to be out-of-doors for at least an hour.
• Bring an adequate supply of water, pen, and journal.
• Go to a place in nature that you will be safe and uninterrupted. This
location might be just outside your home or school or in a remote
wilderness setting.
• Choose a specific location and stand there with your head looking
forward and your shoulders back and down slightly.
• Place your hands in prayer position at chest height
• Take a quick inward breath through your mouth as you tilt your hands
toward your face, so that the finger tips end up pointing to your lower
• Repeat this in rapid sets of three. On the first breath set the intent to
bring the breath to your belly button area, the second to your heart,
and the third to the area between your eye brows.

Part Two (Becoming Centered)
• Take in a long, deep breath.
• While holding the breath, turn your head to the left, then right, and
bring it back to center.
• Release the breath at the center point.
• Repeat in sets of three. You can, as before, choose to breath into each
of the three energy centers.

Part Three (Opening Your Heart)

• Bring your hands into prayer position at chest height.
• Extend them, hands together, toward the ground and say “Earth”
• Extend them straight out in front of you, still held together, and say
• Extend them straight above your head, held together, and say “Sky or
• Separating the hands, lower each to your sides, shoulder height and
say “Balance”
• Bring them back to prayer position at chest height and them draw
them together to the chest and say “Heart.”
• Repeat in sets of three.

Part Four (Inviting In Nature’s Energies)

• Extend your right arm above your head as far as you can reach and
wiggle the fingers on your right hand. See and feel (or at least imag-
ine) the energies from the sun and other aspects of Nature coming
into your hand. You might even cup your hand and imagine a hand-
ful of energy golden forming there.
• Extend your left arm above your head as far as you can reach.
• Bring your right hand to your left hand, and imagine spreading the
energy into your left hand and down your arm.
• Bring both hands together to your heart and let the energy enter your
• Bring your hands to the ground and imagine releasing any linger-
ing mental heaviness (e.g., anxiety, doubts, “to do list” distractions)
• Repeat in sets of three until you feel the flow and lightness of Nature
moving through you.

Part Five (Introducing Yourself To Nature)
• Lift up your shirt, exposing your belly button (Note: in some indige-
nous cultures the belly button is considered the door way to the soul).
• Place your right hand over your belly button and open it forward as if
it were a door with the hinges at your wrist.
• Walk around repeating this procedure while “saying hello” to aspects
of nature (e.g., trees, the sky, the earth, bird). You might also want to
try this with other people and “man-made” objects.
• Notice how you feel and what images or thoughts come to mind.

Variation: Lay face down upon the earth with your bellybutton exposed.
Breathe in and out as if through your belly button. Repeat several times.

If you so choose, journal your observations for each of these practices.

You might also want to draw pictures or write poems or songs (etc.) that
reflect your experience.

Credit: These practices are modifications of those taught to JKR by don

Americo Yabar, a mystic in the tradition of the Q’ero Nation.


Jamie K. Reaser has a deep fondness for the wild, intimate, and unnam-
able. She received a BS in Field Biology and Studio Art from the College of
William and Mary and her doctorate in Biology from Stanford University.
She has worked around the world as a biologist, international policy nego-
tiator, environmental educator, and wilderness rites-of-passage guide. She
is also a practitioner and teacher of ecopsychology, nature-based spiritual-
ity, and various approaches to expanding human consciousness, as well as
a poet, writer, artist, and homesteader-in-progress. Jamie has a passion for
bringing people into their hearts, inspiring the heartbeat of community,
and, ultimately, empowering people to live with a heart-felt dedication to
Mother Earth. She makes her home in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Vir-
ginia. Visit her poetry blog at:

We are passionate about creativity as a means of transforming conscious-
ness, both individually and socially. We hope to participate in a revolu-
tion to return poetry to the public discourse and a place in the world
which matters. Of the many important issues of our times we feel that our
relationship to the environment is of the most fundamental concern. Our
publications reflect the ideal that falling in love with the earth is nothing
short of revolutionary and that through our relationship to nature we can
birth a more enlightened vision of life for the future. We believe that art
and poetry are the universal language of the human experience and are
thus most capable of transforming our vision of self and world.

Visit us on the web at:


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