poetry and prose about place

Archive for the ‘shelter’ Category

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

in the branches of the White Pine

with 6 comments

Since finding the bird nests at our lake property last weekend, I have been thinking about the birds we see there in summer.  Our cabin looks out on a very bushy, young White Pine where birds love to nest and hide.   
the White Pine is the larger tree to the left of the road

The most frequent denizens of the pine are a pair of Bohemian Waxwings (Bombycilla garrulus).   They prefer berries for food and so are in their ideal habitat.  Our property must look like a big dinner plate to them, with its orderly presentation of wild strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, hawthorn and winterberry.

Another bird who stops to rest in the pine is the American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis), also known as the Thistle bird.  These are seed-eating birds who fly across the fields in a distinctive pattern of loops.  They are also one of the most common birds at our winter bird feeder. 



building homes


we fly kites

to learn the field and sky

set copper whirligigs to spin


          yellow flirt crosses blue


          potato-chip potato-chip potato-chip


we build our cabin

with 2 by 4s, boards and trusses

woodscrews and spiral nails


          firm framework 

          woven grass and birch 

          bark rim and spider silk


you fill walls with fiberglass

I quilt curtains for windows


          goldfinch waits while his female tucks

          her nest with thistledown

          tufts of cattail, puffs of dandelion


© Jane Tims  2011

Written by jane tims

December 7, 2011 at 6:01 pm

a nest in November

with 4 comments

On Saturday, we drove to the lake to gather boughs of fir and pine for our Christmas decorations.  While we were there, we poked around in the thicket.  We found a few bird nests, still intact, easily seen now the trees and alders are free of leaves.

The first nest was cup-shaped, made of tightly woven grasses and weeds.  Nests of songbirds are not easy to identify since they are similar in size and construction materials.  If this little nest survives the winter, perhaps I can watch who uses it next spring.

The second nest probably belonged to a Robin.  It was high in a tamarack tree, welded firmly to the branches.  Robins often return to the same area and sometimes use the nest of the previous summer, so I’ll be watching this nest too.

The last nest we saw was a beautiful little hanging basket covered with birch bark and woven with grasses.  It appeared to be frail but it was very sturdy and stubbornly clung to the bough in spite of its exposure in the November wind.  I think it is the most delightful sight I have ever seen.

A biologist with the New Brunswick Department of Natural Resources was able to identify this nest from my photo.  The nest probably belonged to a red-eyed vireo, one of our common songbirds.  I have never seen this bird at our lake property, but we hear it all summer, endlessly asking its question and giving an answer.



Red-eyed Vireo

(Vireo olivaceous)


drab little

olivaceous outlaw

black masked

red eye


can’t see you

can’t find you

can hear you

where’re you?

over there

where’re you?



in November

ghost-self flutters

in birch bark tatters

a basket in the alder

remnant of summer


gone now

what’d ya do?

did an answer finally

come to you?


©  Jane Tims   2011

Written by jane tims

November 30, 2011 at 6:37 am

cave beneath the waterfall

with 10 comments

In the cold weather, I think about the waterfalls we saw this summer.  As the temperature gets lower, they succumb.  First the water freezes at the edges, building up on the rocks and ledges.  Then, gradually icicles build and the surface water freezes.  By mid-winter, the waterfall will be a frozen cataract, a glass house of ice.  Within the frozen falls are ice caverns and icicles, places where water runs and where water stands still, and places where the ice traps sunlight to shimmer and sparkle. 

One of the waterfalls we visited this summer was Smith Falls (see ‘niche beneath waterfall’ under the category ‘waterways’, published October 21, 2011).  At the base of the waterfall was a small cave.  In winter, the entrance to this cave must be a crystalline curtain of icicles and glass.  

Below, in my poem and drawing, I remember the cave and waterfall in summer.       



            ‘a small cave is hidden beneath the falls’

                                        –  trail guide


sip of tea

candles lit in evening

a lap quilt tucked

relief from freshet


cave,  respite

beneath two newly reconciled

slabs of bedrock

or where vulnerable sediments finally fail

succumb to the reach of water


spurt and shard

the brawl subsides

and damp recedes

pollen settles


concentric rings

and space is made

to occupy


© Jane Tims 2011


© Jane Tims 2011

Written by jane tims

November 28, 2011 at 6:58 am

in the shelter of the lane

with 6 comments

Now, when the trees are shedding their foliage in yellow, red and orange, have you taken the time to stroll down a lane crackling with dry leaves? 


1 lane  n.  1: a narrow passageway between fences or hedges;

2: a relatively narrow way or track …

2 lane  Scot var of LONE


Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, 1979

Words are so laden with connotative and denotative associations, those similar in meaning may not convey the same idea at all.  For example, the word ‘lane’ is vastly different in meaning from ‘road’, yet a lane is a type of roadway.

A lane, to me, is a narrow corridor, built to admit people from the ordinary world of community to the private world of home.  A lane is bounded on each side by trees, hedges or fences.  A proper lane must have ruts for the tires and a centerline of grass to challenge the clearance of any vehicle.  Once you are in the lane, it is difficult to see anything outside.


When I was young, visiting my mother’s family took us to ‘the old home place’.  It was sandwiched between the main road and the river, but because it was connected to the outside world by a long, bent, shady lane, it was truly a ‘world-apart’.

I spent many happy hours in the lane, wandering up and down its length, singing and dreaming, exploring and examining.  I loved the small woodland habitat created on either side.  I picked the wild blueberries growing there, watched squirrels busy at the workings of their pine-cone industry, and made friends with specific trees. 

One young Silver-leaved Poplar (Populus alba L.) was a particular favourite.  It stood just before the bend in the lane, its bark marked with black diamonds.  When the wind blew, it turned its leaves over in a generous offering of silver.

I have other pleasant associations with the lane.  I remember my Dad working there with a shovel and a pickaxe, trying to fill in the worst of the ruts to save the undercarriages of his car and trailer.  I remember listening to my Mom’s stories of how she and my aunt pushed their doll carriages up the lane to visit imaginary neighbours.  I remembered how excited we always were to see the gate at the end of the lane wide open, since that meant my aunt or uncles were at home.



trees along the lane


to guard its ways

            cone scale mounds

            acorn stashes

            the silver undersides of poplar leaves

            doll carriages with squeaky wheels

            blueberries in slants of light


the lane a wooden shelter 

            its base the rutted track

            its sides the trees, muscled arms 

            branches overhead with fingers locked


charmed paths

moss tablecloths 

fairy rings and follows

protected by

the closing of eyes


©  Jane Tims 2011

Written by jane tims

October 23, 2011 at 7:54 am

refections on the water

with 2 comments

I have realised there is a sequence to the vanishing of the autumn colour. 

First the maples lose their leaves in the early autumn winds.  The next will be the poplars, now glowing with banana colours. The oak leaves, ruddy and slick with reds and oranges, will succumb by late October.  Tamarack, a deciduous conifer, will lose its amber needles in early November. The beech trees will keep their ochre, papery leaves all through the winter, finally losing them in spring when the new leaves emerge.

This past weekend, we found some maples still in autumn garb.  At Watty Brook, flowing into McDougall Lake in south-west New Brunswick, at least one maple has taken longer than most to lose its leaves.  At its sheltered location in the low valley of the brook, the tree has eluded the winds.   It was reflected clearly in the brook, and its orange and gold were captured in the rocks showing through the tea-coloured water.

  In spite of the movement of the water, the tree was reflected in all its splender.


in the millstream



deer are drinking

and the raindrops

swell the running

this I know

from bubbles



I am a rock

in the millstream

seasons and freshets 

have smoothed

my edges


once I met the water

a cleaver


now I ask the water

to flow

around me


© Jane Tims 2003

Written by jane tims

October 22, 2011 at 6:31 am

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