poetry and prose about place

Archive for the ‘shelter’ Category

my COVID-19 kit

with 4 comments

Since March 12, I have been almost nowhere. I am so careful, washing my hands until I have developed a thin outer layer of skin. I have stood six feet apart, even when no one else is there. I wore a mask when I went into the only store I’ve been inside in two months. My husband does the same. We quarantine every bit of mail coming into the house. I wipe down all our groceries. The grocery bags go into quarantine as well.


In spite of all these precautions, I worry. I am probably paranoid. The only thing that helps me be OK is my COVID-19 kit. Each morning and each night I pull it out. I take my temperature with my thermometer. 36.2 Whew! I lift my little bag of lavender to my nose. Sweet, potent, floral. Whew!



A high temperature and loss of the sense of smell are not the only symptoms of COVID-19. Our New Brunswick Department of Health lists the following:

fever above 38°C or signs of fever (such as chills);

a new cough or worsening chronic cough;

sore throat;

runny nose;


a new onset of fatigue;

a new onset of muscle pain;


loss of sense of taste or loss of sense of smell; and

in children, purple markings on the fingers or toes.


Do you have a ritual that makes things seem OK? Even when they are not?


All my best,

staying at home,


Written by jane tims

June 1, 2020 at 7:00 am

the worry in weather

with 4 comments


On Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Snowman waited on our back deck for the Nor’easter to begin …


We are coming to the end of the rains associated with this week’s storm, a Nor’easter that brought snow, ice pellets, sleet and a lot of rain.  In our area, we had about 45 mm of rain, but some parts of the province had over 100 mm.


Many people in New Brunswick are coping with flooded basements as a result of all the rain.  After our flooded basement experience in 2010, I spent the last couple of days in worry – hoping our drainage issues are fixed and making endless trips to the basement to make sure we had no water on the floor.


Today I am grateful – we had no problems with flooding.  Our space is safe and we are warm and dry.



Last night, on the back deck in the dark, after all the rain, Mr. Snowman lay on his back. The rain took most of the snow but he is still smiling. He knows more snow will come!



Copyright  2014  Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

December 12, 2014 at 7:49 am


with 13 comments



I woke on Saturday morning to the easy fall of snowflakes.  A good day to write Christmas cards.  Amazing how a frail curtain of flakes can create a personal, comforting space.



Copyright  2014  Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

December 8, 2014 at 7:44 am

february chill

with 4 comments

memories of a walk on a cold night …




spaces in the dark


white on the pasture

interrupts the night

clings to cold twilight



beside me


a black horse

assembles from shadow

ponders the snow


your coat

folded around me


the horse lifts its head

knows where deer hesitate

where wings brush against barn boards

where I stand in the snow

and shiver


never so warm again


chill spaces around me


no feathers to fly





Copyright  2014  Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

February 10, 2014 at 1:25 pm

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snippets of landscape – vernal pools and the spring migration

with 17 comments

At the edges of our Grey Woods are several places where ‘vernal pools’ form.  As a result, these spring evenings are alive with the peeping and croaking of various frogs and toads.

‘Vernal pools’ are temporary accumulations of water in depressions.  This water may originate from snow accumulations or from rising water tables.  The word ‘vernal’ comes from the Latin ver meaning spring.

Although vernal pools are ephemeral, they create habitat for many animals, including insects and amphibians, often at critical life stages.  Amphibians such as Wood Frogs (Rana sylvatica), Spotted Salamanders (Ambystoma maculatum), and Blue Spotted Salamanders (Ambystoma laterale) depend on vernal pools for laying their eggs and development of tadpoles.  Other amphibians you may encounter in a vernal pool include Spring Peepers, Grey Tree Frogs and Bull Frogs.

During a rainy night in late April or early May, you may be fortunate enough to observe the early spring migration of Wood Frogs and other species as they make their way to breeding locations.  These frogs have remained all winter in hibernation and have unthawed in the early spring rains.  Unfortunately, many must cross roads to get to the ponds and vernal pools where they will lay their eggs, and many become casualties of their attempts to cross the road.



an uncertain spring migration


if it rains

the night road

leads home

to lowlands

and hollows

vernal pools

north of the highway

swollen with rain


mists crawl

towards me


sweep the windshield

frogs cross the roadway

follow ancestral memory

blurred by rain


some nights

the tail-lights ahead

are my only family

red streamers on wet pavement

tadpoles from the eggmass

grow legs

absorb their tails

follow the road


I watch

the phone poles

the potholes

the hidden driveways

the headlight echo on trees

frog legs

crushed on the pavement

mailboxes with uncertain names


the centre line is a zipper

seals the left side

to the right

the coming home

with the leaving

frogs plead

from the wetlands

never saying goodbye


Published as: ‘an uncertain spring migration’, Spring 1997, Green’s Magazine XXV (3).


© Jane Tims  2011


warm room

with 8 comments

We had another snow storm last night.  In our winter climate, can anything compare with being settled in a warm room with a cup of tea, perhaps reading a good book, and listening to the storm throw handfuls of ice-pellets at the window glass?

As I write this, I know everyone is not so fortunate.






winter lays a cheek against the glass   pecks at the window

rattles the door


the room is a yellow lattice   on the snow   a frail package

of warmth   firelight   a quilt     the pages of a novel

kneading paws


field mice and ermine etch    fleet trails in the thicket   breathe

in the velvet space beneath the fir


kettle and cat are purring




©  Jane Tims  2000

Written by jane tims

March 3, 2012 at 7:49 am

witch’s broom

with 8 comments

In the Balsalm Fir tree over our shed is a strange growth, like a dark mass of short deformed branches.  This dark mass of branches is known as a ‘witch’s broom’.

A witch’s broom is a common term for an abnormal growth caused by the action of an agent such as a mite, virus, insect, or fungus.  The agent causes a branch of the tree to grow from a single point, resulting in a mass of twigs and branches resembling a nest or broom.  Many kinds of plants can have a witch’s broom deformity, including many tree species.

Animals, including the Northern Flying Squirrel, use the witch’s broom as a nesting place.  The Northern Flying Squirrel is the big-eyed squirrel invading our feeders every night  (see ‘spacemen in our feeder’ under the category ‘competing for niche space’ for December 23, 2011).

Witch’s brooms occur frequently … we have at least three in our grey woods.  They lend an air of mystery to the woodland.  People used to believe a witch had flown over the place where a witch’s broom grew.

If anyone knows of another name for the witch’s broom, please let me know.  Years ago, we visited a small farm museum in northern Maine and an example of a huge witch’s broom was displayed in the shed, labelled ‘horrah’s nest’, but I have been unable to find this term used elsewhere.



wood witch


burdened by snow

a tree falls

tumbles a witch’s broom

the witch set free


a hex on the snowfall

slate where the dog walks

cuts her feet

soft rubies in every track


a hex on the room

cold as I left

now warm


too warm



© Jane Tims  2001


Written by jane tims

January 2, 2012 at 9:08 am

tracks in the snow

with 6 comments

On Tuesday I went for a walk in the grey woods.  Snow fell just before Christmas, so my walk turned into a quest to see who else had been walking (or running) in the woods. 

I found many tracks, large and small.  Mice had made their cylindrical tunnels, and occasionally had run across the surface.  At some places, you can see where their tunnels suddenly go subterranean…

Sometimes several paths converge at a sheltered area beneath a fallen log, like a woodland bus terminal…

There were lots of squirrel tracks, often ending at the base of a tree where their paths move into the treetops…  

Squirrel tracks crisscrossed with those of deer… 

I followed the trail of two deer deep into the woods, thinking they were long gone since the tracks were filled with a slight dusting of snow…

This made me a little careless, and the next thing I heard was a high-pitched snort and squeal of warning and the bounding of hooves through the woods.   I got a good look at two beautiful deer, but the camera was not ready.  I did capture the very fresh track of one of the retreating deer.



tracks in the snow


ephemeral proof

I follow the beacon

of a stash of spruce cones

stock-piled at the base

of a crooked tree

careen from a foe

slip beneath a log

dive into a hole

secret hollow 

a pause to still

thud thud of my heart



©  Jane Tims   2011


Written by jane tims

December 30, 2011 at 8:36 am

snow hollow at the base of a tree

with 11 comments

Words are the tools of a writer’s craft.  I literally wallow in words when I write a poem.  Sometimes the right word comes immediately to mind.  Sometimes I have to search for it, sometimes for days or weeks.  When I do the final edits for a poem, I ‘press’ on every word, to make sure it is absolutely right.

Sometimes, I encounter an idea or image that seems to have no word.  For example, I have searched for a word referring to the charming hollow that builds next to the base of a tree when the snow falls.  Sometimes small animals use this hollow for a temporary den.  Sometimes it’s a place where debris gathers, as it does in the corners of alleyways.  Sometimes it is a calm, beckoning place where snow shadows rest in shades of olive green and blue.    

I wonder if there is a name for these elusive places, perhaps in another language.



snow hollow


snow shuns the tree

manifest in the hollow

the empty gather of wind

at the base of the fir


where snow-shoe hares find

shelter or dry leaves skipping

across a crust of snow

assemble and rest


inside curve to fit

the spine of an animal

the heart of a man

curled against the cold


a place where shadows meet

select blue from the prism of all

indigo to illustrate the space

of no snow, no warmth, no light




©  Jane Tims  2011


Written by jane tims

December 26, 2011 at 10:41 am

a safe space in the bridge

with 10 comments

This past week I have been in Halifax for a conference.  A part of my morning commute was the slow moving traffic on the ‘old bridge’ across Halifax Harbour, the Angus L. Macdonald Bridge.   The second day, I was more familiar with the traffic and the correct lane to be in, so I had a chance to experience the architecture and some of the wild life of the bridge (by this I do not mean that the commuters are holding wild parties). 

The Angus L. Macdonald is an amazing structure, built the year I was born and opened in 1955.  It is a long-span suspension bridge, supported by cables between two vertical towers.   The bridge is 1.3 km long, with a supported length of 762.1 meters. 

The bridge is usable by pedestrians and cyclists.  Because of its reputation as a suicide bridge, it is equipped with various barriers to potential suicides, including high inward-facing bars on the pedway and nets suspended in the open area between the traffic deck and the pedway.   

In these areas, hordes of starlings (Stumus vulgaris) gather, creating a din and an occasional cloud of startled starlings.  Starlings are known for their synchronized group flights – the birds move as one in a shifting horde of birds.  To hear the birds, I had my car windows open, but I quickly rolled them up since the birds were flowing very near to my car!

Starlings are an invasive species, introduced by Eugene Schieffelin to Central Park in 1890 as part of a project of the American Acclimatization Society.  Their goal was to introduce all the birds mentioned in Shakespeare’s writings into North America.  All of the birds I saw in the bridge are descendants of the 60 to 100 birds released in 1890! 

A group of starlings is known as a ‘murmuration’.

For those of you familiar with the excellent series of made-for-TV Jesse Stone movies (starring Tom Selleck), The Angus L. Macdonald Bridge is the bridge featured in the movies (although the setting for the movie is a small town in Massachusetts).  



morning, Angus L. Macdonald Bridge


traffic huddles and a thousand Shakespearian

starlings squabble one another

yellow beaks and feathers packed

soft slate bodies rolled into the safety

of the suicide net and pedway bars

porous barriers:  a cyclist whips by

and starlings sift through wire

a mumuration between orange

cables and green girders

impossible way, red and blue

pulse of bridge security

weaves the path materialized

within three tangled

lanes of traffic


©  Jane Tims  2011


Written by jane tims

December 11, 2011 at 7:04 am

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