poetry and prose about place

Archive for January 2012

eight days – ice storm

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During my eight-day stay in Ontario, the highlight of uncertain weather was an ice storm.  The freezing rain fell for hours and coated every surface with a layer of icy glass.



freezing rain


trees, bare branches, wait

wood snaps in the stove

budgies peck at cuttle bone

pellets of rain, tossed

at the skylight

a second transparency


bare twigs turn in wind

to even their coating

in these last moments

before temperature turns

the snowpack on the picnic table

shrinks at the edges

shoves over, makes room


branches gloss so gradually

candles dipped in a vat of wax

over and over, acquiring thickness

the sky, through the skylight

dimpled tile, rumpled mosaic


rain stipples bark as narrative

appends to memory, pane here,

light there, layers of glass

cedar twigs turn downward

as fingers, ice builds

layers of skin



© Jane Tims 2012


Written by jane tims

January 30, 2012 at 6:49 am

eight days – witch ball

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When I was visiting my family in Ontario, my eye was constantly drawn to a window where plants were growing.  Suspended above them in the window’s light was a ‘witch ball’.  The ‘witch ball’  is a hand-blown glass ball with glass threads in the internal space. 

The ‘witch ball’ was used in 18th century England to ward off evil spirits.  In its modern form, these balls are used for decoration.  When the light traverses the glass and enclosed area of the ball, it creates patterns of light and shadow, beautiful and mysterious.



witch ball


topsy-thwarted, turn

and tangle, strands

of glass and atmosphere

in innerscape of melted

ash and sand dendritic

paths a maze and morph


light and shadow





©  Jane Tims 2012


Written by jane tims

January 28, 2012 at 7:25 am

eight days – snow storm

with 8 comments

During my eight days in Ontario, we had a snow storm whose memorable characteristic was the size of its snowflakes.  They were the biggest I’ve ever seen, as big as large marshmallows.   Every fluffy snowball must have been the composite of a dozen individual snowflakes.   After the storm, the trees were coated with white.  The cedar were particularly beautiful, with their evergreen leaves each hanging beneath a personal burden of snow.



deep snow


snowed all day, sealed us in

knee-deep, snowflakes

the size of mittens, wrists

of cedar hang

weight of snow, on backs of hands

boughs of fir, three-thumbed

and frosted, fists on fence posts

impressions of boot

in the hollow of leg-prints, fingernails play

the wind chime, brief

reminder of summer, signals

in-coming cold



© Jane Tims  2012


Written by jane tims

January 27, 2012 at 7:27 am

eight days – glass floats

with 4 comments

In days before plastic and styrofoam, fishermen used glass and wood to make floats to keep their nets buoyant. 

These floats are colorful symbols of the people who make their livelihood from the sea.  In fishing communities in the Maritimes, we often see fences and walls festooned with painted wooden floats and buoys. 

Glass floats are rarer because they are so breakable.     At home, my Dad’s collection of sea shells was always accompanied by a couple of glass floats he found at auctions.  On my piano, I have a small collection of glass floats in my favorite color, green. 

The tradition lives into the next generation… when I visited my family in Ontario for eight days, earlier this month, I was delighted to see a basket of variously-colored glass floats on the hearth of the wood stove.



glass floats


the fog’s still glow

penetrates glass

and air incorporated

an age ago


weightless, flamboyant

on salt water



glass inflation

tethered by hemp

on an ocean

whipped to froth



© Jane Tims  2012


Written by jane tims

January 25, 2012 at 6:57 am

eight days – inuksuk

with 4 comments

Recently I was able to take eight days and visit some of my family in Ontario.  While I was there, I spent some time drawing and writing.  In the next few posts, I will show you some of these drawings and the poems I wrote to accompany them. 

The first concerns a small statuette of an inuksuk, carved in northern Canada by an artist who created a gentle, thoughtful tribute to this traditional form. 

For more information on the inuksuk, see my post for November 18, 2011, ‘monuments in stone’, under the category ‘the rock project’.





soapstone smoothed

and sculpted, carved

by a hand, skilled as ocean

salt-polish and sand

corners discovered

and shadows

edge of stone and surfaces

between solid and liquid

solid and air


©  Jane Tims  2012


Written by jane tims

January 23, 2012 at 6:51 am

in the shed

with 4 comments

At my Mom’s old home, there was a shed, housing the stored and discarded miscellany of her family.  It had been built by my uncles in the distant past and the floor tipped and slanted after the settling of years.  The shed had a special smell, not musty or unpleasant, but definitely tinged with the smell of mothballs and camphor. 

There were two rows of shelves, built against the walls and around the small windows.  These were grubby and cracked, but the quality of light shining through had a ghostly, ephemeral quality.  I spent hours in the shed, armed with the assurances of my aunt … I could keep anything I found, as long as I promised to love and care for it. 

I can never remember studying anything so intently as the items stored in the shed.  I particularly remember an old trunk and its contents.  Most of these were old clothes, but I found a fox fur with beady glass eyes, a fur muff in a linen bag, a small carved metal container my Mom said had once contained perfume, a small locket with a medical insignia, and a little embroidered tape measure and matching needle case.  I also found two small framed pictures of flower arrangements.  All of these things are still in my possession.  The fur muff has been taken on our annual drive to see the Christmas lights for 31 years.

I also found a bolt of white lacy fabric I eventually used to make my wedding dress.  This fabric had an important history since my grandmother had worked as a live-in nurse for the Carnegie family in Pennsylvania and received the lace as a gift.

I think the shed and its contents inspired in me a lifelong interest in antiques and in collection.  One of my favourite places to spend time is in an antique shop, hunting for treasure.  And my house is filled with old ornaments and books, rickety chairs and collectable dishware.



from an old trunk


eventually misplaced

I will wonder where these items hide

shake boxes, ransack alphabets, indulge

in games of word association, regretful

as though a family detail

is forgotten


a teller of oral history

a stiff neck at the archives

a keeper of heirlooms

a liar


for now

I will protect these, tucked

in tissue paper and labelled boxes



© Jane Tims  2011

Written by jane tims

January 21, 2012 at 8:12 am

at the bird feeder #5 – Hairy Woodpecker

with 3 comments

Our Hairy Woodpecker was back today.  She was determined to get to the feeder, so we got a very good look at her in all her black and white splendor. 

This time the identification was not a problem.  This woodpecker is a noticably large bird, compared to the smaller Downy Woodpeckers we have seen at the feeder before.  Also, the outer tail feathers are white, not marked in black as they are with the Downy Woodpecker.

I like to compare illustrations in the various bird books.  Have a look at these two sets of Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers, both drawn by Roger Tory Peterson, first in his ‘A Field Guide to the Birds East of the Rockies’ (1980)…

Roger Tory Peterson, 1980, 'A Field Guide to the Birds East of the Rockies', Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston.

… and second, from his illustration in ‘The Birds of Nova Scotia’ by Robie W. Tufts (1973).  In the ‘Field Guide’ , the markings on the white tail feathers of the Downy Woodpecker are clearer.

Robie W. Tufts, 'The Birds of Nova Scotia', 1973, Nova Scotia Museum, Halifax. Color illustrations in this book are by Roger Tory Peterson.

Both Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers are cavity nesters.  They stay through the winter and are frequent visitors at feeding stations… they love suet and black sunflower seeds.

Written by jane tims

January 20, 2012 at 9:18 am

Zoë, watching

with 7 comments

Our feeding of the birds has given our cat, Zoë, a new form of entertainment.  She sits in the chair in front of the glass of the door leading to the deck and watches.  Her head swivels as each new arrival lands and selects its seed.  All evening, the pupils in her eyes are as black as those of the little Flying Squirrels she sees outside the window.

The birds and squirrels know they are being watched but have decided the sphinx behind the window glass cannot harm them.  For her part, Zoe knows she can only observe the antics around the feeder.  She contents herself with the pantomime of predation.



strategic hyphenation


patience nestles into space

between edge-wise foliage

strategic paw-placement where

no dry-leaf crackle, dry-twig snap

disturbs the nothingness downwind

of furred-or-feathered prey

no tattling breeze

can carry scent-anticipation


to be pounced-upon

all muscle-twitch contained

in nervous, horizontal




©  Jane Tims  2012

Written by jane tims

January 18, 2012 at 9:54 am

keeping warm

with 15 comments

After some variable weather over the last weeks, the cold has arrived.

The birds at the feeder are plumped and fluffy, and look twice their usual size.   The cat curls up a little more tightly than usual, puts her paws over her face, and finishes off with her tail coiled across the paws.

Inside we use our electric fireplace more often and cover up with some of the little lap quilts I’ve made.  But outside is a different matter and another strategy is required.

I’m determined to stay warm this year, so I make the following pledge:

🙂 I will wear mittens and a scarf … you would think I would be past the ‘scarves-and-mittens-are-not-cool’ stage.

🙂 I will have a warm drink before I leave the house … my new discovery is real ginger root chopped into fine pieces and steeped for tea.

🙂 I will take a chair seat from the house to warm the seat of the car … I used to make fun of my Mom for doing this.

🙂 I will warm up the car before I leave … this is in the face of my usual ‘no-idling’ policy.

And so I would like to know, on these cold days, how do you keep your niche warm????



stay warm


two mittened mourning doves

sit on the ledge in sun, exaggerate

their approach to keeping warm

fluff the pillows, bar the doors, make a nest by the fire

spaces between feathers fill with air and fibre, energy from

sunflower seeds, cracked corn and cider



©  Jane Tims  2012

Written by jane tims

January 16, 2012 at 9:34 am

at the bird feeder #4 – Woodpeckers

with 6 comments

The bird feeder had a new visitor last Thursday, a woodpecker.  My husband saw it at the feeder, but by the time he had the camera ready, it was gone.  Undaunted, he went outside and chased the little lady through the woods until he had several photos.

We identified the bird from the photos.  There were two possibilities, a Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) and a Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus).  Both have a white stripe on the back.  The males of both species have a red patch on the back of the head (the one at our feeder was a female).  The differences between the two are body size (the Hairy Woodpecker is the larger of the two) and the size of the beak (the Hairy Woodpecker has a much longer beak, about 3/4 of the depth of the head).

We are reasonably certain our bird was a Hairy Woodpecker.  Its beak is noticeably long.  Also, the round cut branch on the tree in the photo (in front of the bird’s feet) is at least an inch in diameter, making the length of this bird about nine and a half inches.




Downy Woodpecker  (Picoides pubescens)


daft little bird

propped, pubescent, plump

bang your silly

head against the tree

eat a bug


your sculptor used

deft fingers

to point your beak

solidify your tail

paint feathers

foam on black water

snow on dark woods

night sky with planets


your downy crown



©  Jane Tims 2012

Written by jane tims

January 14, 2012 at 9:45 am

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