Grouse Magic

The circle

inscribed itself

around me

on bare ground –

an aerial thread.

 I lay there watching 

breathing deep.

Grouse plumes

mark the

Four Directions.

Sharp shafts

at the tips

of feathery paintbrushes

  pinpoint center.


by mycelial filaments

I slip

out of 

 tired skin


into down. 

 Silken brown 

 skeins weave

a grouse nest 

around what

is left –

Mole brown,

black ink, a breast

full of eyes

 hold me fast

 in the snow

until I sleep.

Postscript: I have a particular fondness for grouse and turkeys.

This winter I do not have turkeys living here but I do have grouse, although with the crusty snow I no longer see their tracks and it will be another month or so before they explode out of the tree wells (places where these birds nestle down during inclement months).

When I think about these birds I see them as body birds – that is, birds that are most comfortable living on the earth, although both can fly.

So am I!

In the spring I look forward to listening to the males displaying their beautiful fan shaped tail feathers as they drum in my woods, and if I am fortunate one or two will gather around to eat the seed I scatter. Later the females may have a chick or two. In the last few years I have noticed that many babies don’t survive.

I just read that grouse (these are Ruffed grouse) are one of the birds that are seriously threatened by the way we treat the earth and by climate change. It is shocking to read statistics that tell us that in the US we have lost 60 billion birds since the 1970’s. Every state except Maine has a declining population and yet here we shoot them while encouraging out of state hunters to come and slaughter more.

This is the first winter that I am noticing a sharp decline in the diversity of all birds (except pine siskins) that visit my feeders, and I feel a deep sense of grief that this is so. I hope that the grouse around here will be able to find a safe haven for a few more years.

Meanwhile I treasure each feather they leave for me.

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