Lilace Mellin Guignard Reflections

Shaver's Creek
Jan 21 · 22 min read

The Creek Journals, also known as the Long-term Ecological Reflections Project (LTERP), began in 2006 as Shaver’s Creek celebrated 25 years as Penn State’s nature center. At that time, Penn State’s Archaeological Field School was conducting a dig on the former Daniel Massey property near Shaver’s Creek, where they unearthed artifacts from the late 1800s — about 150 years before this project began. The archaeologists had to speculate about what happened at these locations and what the artifacts meant. Through the Creek Journals, we intend to record a piece of the next century’s history in some fashion so that future generations can better learn the story of this place.

The project is, according to conceiver Ian Marshall, a “study in place.” It seeks to record what happens at eight locations in and around Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center over the course of a full century — through the lens of authors and artists from a variety of disciplines. Below, we are happy to introduce writer Lilace Mellin Guignard’s reflections from her visitations to each site.

TWIN BRIDGES

September 4, 2020

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At Twin Bridges, image courtesy of Lilace Mellin Guignard

A hemlock is wasted on a beaver.
Today, forget the trail, forget the map.
Bridges mean nothing to a river.

Go wade upstream. Time wastes all we give her.
Take a seat — a swooning tree spans the gap.
A hemlock is wasted on a beaver.

Sore feet sing praise of cold. Oh Great Weaver,
banish binaries, that old warp and weft!
Twin Bridges mean nothing to a river.

Pulling down or holding up the other?
Roots on the banks are caught in the act.
These hemlocks are wasted on that beaver

no more — snared by a well-meaning neighbor.
What can we do now to stop the trap?
Bridges mean nothing to a river.

Jack in the Pulpit, red-berried believer —
preach the gospel: what will and won’t come back.
A hemlock’s not wasted on a river,
Bridges mean nothing to a beaver.

The line “A hemlock is wasted on a beaver” is from Scott Weidensaul’s 2006 eco-reflection on this site (Reading Shaver’s Creek, p. 22).

BLUEBIRD MEADOW

September 5, 2020

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At Bluebird Meadow, image courtesy of Lilace Mellin Guignard

What I came looking for I didn’t find —
peace in a burning world, sweet songs,
birds with backs blue as summer sky.
Instead, a riot of forbs and knee-high thistle.

Peace in a burning world, sweet songs?
This is no fairy tale. The blue bird
vanished into the forbs and knee-high thistle.
What’d I expect? Help with the housework?

This is no fairy tale. The blue bird
box stands manmade, small door left open.
(What’d I expect?) Is one there? Did the house work?
I’m no Goldilocks, so pass by their home,

the manmade box. Spot a small door left open
in the looming trolls of Autumn Olive.
Maybe I am a Goldilocks. I pass by their home
to the shadowy cave half as tall as me

in the looming trolls of Autumn Olive.
I peek in. No one’s home so I tuck into
the shadowy cave half as tall as me,
hoping if I’m still and quiet the bird will return.

I peek out. No one yet. I tuck into a ball,
for warmth. The tall shrubs mock
my hope that, if I’m still and quiet, birds will return.
Beyond the tangle, walnut trees and locust stretch

in the warmth. The tall shrubs mock
the meadow: you can’t withstand our pull.
Beyond the tangle, walnut trees and locust stretch
toward the Olive creeping toward the thistle.

Oh meadow! Withstand their pull
to become forest, at least while I’m inside.
The trees. The Olive. The thistle. All in transition.
The cicadas buzz the minutes while I try

to become the forest. I burrow inside.
And here it is, the peace I sought. I’m a child
hearing cicadas buzz the minutes while I try
not to be found until the seeker gives up.

And here it is, the peace I’d lost. I’m a child
playing a game of grown-up. It’s tough
waiting to be found. If the Seeker gives up
what can anyone do? A rustle of wings!

Playing the game of grown-up is tough,
and this bird is not blue. Drab goldfinch?
What can I do? More rustle of wings.
The mama comes toward me then veers off.

This bird is not blue. Drab goldfinch!
I look up. A perfect cup of twigs above my head.
Poor mama! My thoughts veer off. A bird
that no one nailed a box for, and here I am

looking at a perfect cup of twigs above my head.
A house she made herself, far away from
the people that nail boxes, and here I am —
dragon, ogre, in her enchanted thicket.

A house she made herself. Far away from
the trail. But innocents always meet a
dragon or ogre. In this enchanted thicket
of invasives, full of berries she can eat,

she avoids the trail. But innocence always meets
an end. There is no steady state, no ever after.
Invasives, like these berries birds can eat,
are useful first, then evil as the plot unfolds.

In the end, there is no steady state. No ever after.
The maiden is always becoming the crone,
useful at first, then evil as the plot unfolds.
The fruit feeds birds who help to spread the seed.

I’m the maiden becoming the old crone.
I have little say in this story. After all,
the fruit feeds birds who help to spread the seed.
I mean, there’s magic (nature) beyond what we can see.

I do have something to say. This story is, after all,
full of birds with backs blue as summer sky.
There’s nature (I mean magic) beyond what I can see.
What I came looking for I didn’t find.

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On Lake Perez, image courtesy of Lilace Mellin Guignard

LAKE PEREZ

September 6, 2020

Socially Distant
I’m at one of the few empty picnic tables at Stone Valley Recreation Center eating lunch when Ian and Megan drive in. It’s a perfect summer day — low humidity, clear sky, eighty-one degrees — and the third full day of my residency. The Stone Valley cabins, which nature writers usually stay in, are closed due to the pandemic. A young woman doing R&M work — repair and maintenance — says she doesn’t know when they’ll open. On my First Day tour of reflection sites, Ian had mentioned how usually there’s an evening of sausages over a fire with Shavers Creek staff, and some guitar playing and beer. But of course, that can’t happen now. Let me know, he said, if you need some company. I guess you could drive over and hang out on our deck.

As we’d walked, we talked about the standup paddleboard (SUP) I brought, can it keep up with kayakers, how this spot on the Boardwalk Trail is where they were married, how Megan felt under the weather today and was sorry she missed me, how their anniversary was Sunday and maybe they’d come for a paddle. Eventually we circled around to a loose plan and exchanged numbers. I’m not sure why. I don’t get cell service here.

Megan has spotted me and walks over to sit at the end of the next picnic table. Outside with good spacing, masks aren’t necessary. But neither of us goes for the hug we would normally share. I haven’t seen her in over a year. My reading at Penn State Altoona she’d set up for mid-March was cancelled just as Pennsylvania was shutting down. Soon she goes to help Ian unload kayaks, and I get my SUP off my car.

The parking lot is full and crafts of all types are on the small picturesque lake: canoes, kayaks, inflatable boats (one with an umbrella), and a couple others on SUPs. There’s a small sailboat being readied on shore, dinghies and paddleboats line the edge. My friends have never seen so many people here. Maybe three boats at most. Of course the lake was drained for years, and, once it was full again, Ian and Megan didn’t come at popular times. Like Sunday of Labor Day weekend during a pandemic when experts and Democratic politicians warn against large indoor gatherings. But it does not seem especially crowded to me. On the water there is plenty of room. Even the picnic tables are in small groups far apart from each other. And families of multiple ethnicities and generations are making use of them.

We head toward the dam, against the mild breeze and, it seems, current. Does damming cause the river to turn back on itself underwater, like a vertical eddy? The Stone Valley side of the lake is long and straight, with a crowd of tall pines and hemlocks that look beautiful, though oddly unreal without the usual understory. Instead, there’s the shock of lawn where it should be rusty brown. How do they keep the grass so green in a drought year? Must be the shade. But that bright green that’s separate from the deeper hues above reaches some pastoral pleasure center inside of me, and I can’t stop gazing as Ian describes what the lake was like when dry enough they could walk on it rather than around it.

Risk Assessment
I keep thinking about Doug’s statement that because of COVID-19, now going outside is seen as less risky than staying inside. On social media everyone is looking for used kayaks, canoes, and SUPs. Fishing and hunting license sales are up. Where open, cabins and campgrounds are full, RV sales booming. It’s the hotels that are hurting.

There are no islands on this lake. Either that or every craft is an island, most with only one person. Yet I can talk and laugh easily with Ian and Megan. We trade stories and memories, things that can pass more easily between us than even this virus. May it always be so.

Once Ian and Megan go home, I paddle to the shady side of the lake that has fewer boaters to float and write in my journal. I face the busy side and the current pulls me backwards, making it seem like a limb stretched over the water is sneaking up on me. Seated, I won’t topple if we connect, but there is a risk of dangling fishhooks that have been snipped and left. Earlier, we three saw a bright orange bobber above our heads, which we first mistook for a persimmon.

I set my pen down to paddle back out into the open.

Connection
On the lake, I’ve gained a new perspective on the trees I’ve been studying. Unlike when I’m in the woods, on the lake I can step back, or paddle back, and see them all at once. Suddenly the difference between locusts and walnuts is clear. Why was I confused yesterday on Bluebird Trail? The basswoods no longer hide amongst the oaks and birch. On the first day of class, about a third of the student faces stand out to me. Then there is the day, a week or two later, when I realize I don’t hesitate before calling any of the young women with long brunette hair by name, that I know the young short-haired men even when they wear a different ball cap. That’s how I feel today looking at the northwest bank.

Turning back toward Stone Valley, pausing between strokes to look around, I appreciate how the hardwoods on the hill beyond the picnic area evergreens are darker and more rounded. The contrast of textures — needles against leaves, curve against thrust. My eyes follow the bank to the right, to where the trail to the Dark Cliffy Spot diverges. Once the semi-clear area is left behind, the usual lakeside hardwoods huddle at the edge, while behind them hemlocks start joining the other evergreens along Shavers Creek Trail. Remembering how the light on that trail suddenly changed at a very distinct spot, I can now see why. The hemlocks become a solid block (at least from this distance) and seem to lean back toward the hill, with an angled edge like a man’s fade haircut. Then the hardwoods take over again. But that thatch of hemlocks projects a visual quietness. It’s as if even from here one can tell there’s a whole different feel to that part of the forest.

Back at the boat ramp I step off my board, tuck the paddle under the deck cords, and carry everything over to the Corolla. I lean it against the car as I fish the key out and stow the gear inside. When I go to pick it up again I have my hands reversed so that when it slips, I have to let go. No big deal. It drops a couple feet and bounces (it’s inflatable). As I swap hands, easily lifting its twenty-five pounds above my head, I hear a man behind me say to his friend, “Oh, she’s got it.”

I smile. “It’s light. Did you see it bounce?”

“I’m always afraid to ask,” he admits. He’s probably a little older than me. “Some people get offended if you ask if they need help.” Neither of us is wearing masks. We stand on opposite sides of the gravel lane.

“I think we should all ask everybody if they want help. And we should listen to their answer.”

“Yes,” he agreed. “That’d be nice.” He unloads kayaks with his companion, and they head to the lake. I turn and head back to my empty temporary abode.

CHESTNUT ORCHARD

September 7, 2020

I see you outside the hatch, hesitating.
I thought it was about time
they sent another. Well, here we are.
Stop staring and get on with it,
your reflecting.

Was that so hard? Come closer.
More meadow than orchard now.
Your kind stay away because
you don’t like the taste of sorrow
or the look of this fence,
though both are your doing.
Keep your pity. The fence
doesn’t bother me.

I know my looks aren’t
what they once were.
Stunted and gawky beside
the showy relations from afar.
They aren’t so bad. Turns out
we have a lot in common.
We both laughed when folks
used to walk by barefoot.
Your howls sweet as veery song.

You are caught up in stories
of a time you didn’t know —
how we never lacked for company
of our own kind, how we fed
great and small, deer and
dammers, how we crowded
out the oaks who, unlike us,
couldn’t keep up with demand.

Sounds grand enough. But
I wonder what stories
your kind will tell of these days.
Your days. What they’ll imagine
you spent your days enjoying.
Are you?

Aren’t boundaries good
sometimes? Haven’t you
learned the hard way?
When deer browse the strip
between fence and road,
they look over and I know
they’re too young to remember
what they’re missing. If they
understand the fence is due to them,
it’s because they were taught loss.
For what purpose?

On this side of the fence
there’s wildness too. After all,
here we have no roads —
isn’t that how you gauge it?
Or is it by the lack of danger?
If we’re so safe then why’d you
check the ground carefully
before sitting?

Perhaps this experiment,
this great atonement, will work.
Perhaps not. Whether this situation
is your fault is hard to say
and beside the point.

The only reason you’re going to this trouble
is so you can use me as you once did.
Still, it’s lovely to have you stay
and listen to my clear day whispers.
I admit I felt a shiver of nostalgia
myself when you crouched
to sit under my shade, awkward as it is.
It’s been a long time since someone
wanted so little.

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At Rudy Sawmill, image courtesy of Lilace Mellin Guignard

SAWMILL SITE

September 7, 2020

The creek’s so low there’s no point
soaking my feet. Opposite the millrace,
a hemlock lies down. It’s late summer,
drought times, and the creek
is too busy surviving to sing.

They came for the hemlocks last,
so maybe this one was standing
or sprouting when Mrs. Martin Rudy
walked the half mile here, the noise
and dust as hard for me to imagine
as it would’ve been for her to imagine
these traffic sounds filtered
by so many branches and leaves.

I walk the Homestead Trail and wonder
if her way became straighter, if it
took less time as the woods thinned.
Did she skirt the mill site and head
straight for Mrs. Emanuel Erb’s
kitchen or porch to talk about children
and canning? Their men’s lumber
and tanning? Or did they meet halfway,
upstream where it was quiet?
A place in the woods for women
to discuss the curtains they sewed
for windows that didn’t use to need them.

Around me are trees, which generations
have worked to bring back from
when anything that burned well
was sent to the furnaces and
hemlocks were stripped
of bark and left behind, as if
that was all they were good for.

I hope her house was built of lumber,
that she didn’t have to live like a tailor’s wife
with a torn dress. I hope she had time
between the farming and birthing
and raising to visit and swap stories,
that she wasn’t too sad when the Erb’s
moved away. I hope someone
remembers her first name.

THE DARK CLIFFY SPOT

September 8, 2020

There are few things sadder
than a big creek so low
it doesn’t make a sound.

I stay back from the exposed stones
and murky pools, avoiding skeeters,
hunker under three shagbark hickories,
four oddballs among dark hemlocks,
like a handful of dems in a rural county.
Here scattered sunlight warms
last year’s nut husks.

It’s the most remote spot so far,
more eerie than peaceful. Blame
the dog day and scissor grinder
cicadas, which have hid below ground,
like a neighbor’s hate that goes
unsaid till election year.
They buzz in several frequencies,
the AM radio of the woods,
and I’m searching their dial
for good news. And now they’re louder,
more rattle than buzz.

When the quiet comes, I know
it’s temporary. I shouldn’t blame them,
paint my angst on creatures smaller
than my middle finger. They survive
by sheer volume, giving predators
more than they can consume.

Like the dark cliffy spot, I show
the strain of a difficult season. I regret
not loving this spot more. Still,
I am drawn to these hickories
that deep in their sapling heartwood,
held the knowledge that to grow
meant their skin would shatter.
Look how straight and tall they are.
The stiff banners of their bark,
each a lesson in hanging on.

LAKE TRAIL

September 8, 2020

My Hero’s Journey today begins in the Ordinary World of the small house with the cute name that normally shelters interns. Tim Morey, a friend who’s the environmental education specialist for my local state parks had interned at Shaver’s Creek back in college. “I hope you aren’t staying in The Roost,” he joked when I told him about the residency.

I can imagine it’d be crowded and humid for summer interns. But alone here at summer’s end, I only need the fans late afternoon. It’s quiet. In fact this whole residency I’m alone and quiet — the environmental center is closed because of the pandemic. Those who care for the raptors, and Siara who staffed the welcome tent over Labor Day weekend, have been my main conversation. No guitar and beers with Ian and Megan (though we did have a lovely paddle). No campfires.

Every day I take my laptop to the pavilion at Shaver’s Creek to download student work to grade later at the kitchen table at The Roost, or sometimes on the deck. I don’t have internet or cell service here, only at the Center, so it feels more remote than it is. I’d rather be unplugged completely, but teaching online seems to mean teaching all the time. It’s my first-year seminar I can’t abandon. They’re learning about the Hero’s Journey, applying it to movies we watch and then writing a story. “Soon,” I tell them, “you’ll see these stages everywhere.”

Today I got up early, stretched, and had coffee with the black-and-white warbler on the deck before setting off down the private trail that connects with the Bluebird Trail. I plan to go right, counter-clockwise, when I reach the Lake Trail. From The Roost, you’d never know there was a lake down there. I was disappointed when I first arrived. I’m drawn to water, and there was no spot on this side of the Lake Trail to put in with my standup paddleboard.

By 7:45 am I’m headed downhill. It’s a bit chilly, but I know that won’t last and want to be done before the families and heat arrive. It’s Tuesday after Memorial Day. The previous three days there were lots of people. Last evening a car alarm somewhere in the direction of Stone Valley was triggered and called for hours.

My Call to Adventure, of course, is the task of reflecting on this hike, this trail. And I want to savor it. I am determined not to rush, not to take shortcuts, not to think about teaching, and not to have an agenda. It doesn’t take long for me to Meet My Mentor. I walk right into the orb web as soon as I’m on the Bluebird Trail. I was looking too far down the trail, focused on reaching the lake. The spider sits in the center of the web with its rust-colored front and black-white-gray bulbous backside. I move back and forth, admiring how it changes from visible to invisible depending on my speed and its backdrop. The spider seems to admonish me: Don’t focus too far ahead. You’ll miss what’s in front of you.

A red squirrel tells me to beat it. I walk slowly, challenging my astigmatism by trying to focus on the air in the middle of the trail, and am rewarded by seeing two more webs in time to dodge. But as soon as I see water through the trees, I abandon the lesson of the spiders. This is the stretch I explored early in my stay, willing to carry my SUP down if I could put in and paddle to the Center, but found the brush was thick with no solid bank. I head right at the junction.

Soon the trail leaves the lake edge at my left, and as I walk in the woods I surprise a doe. It spooks and retreats, a soft brown creature merging with the hard brown trunks of trees. It will be archery season soon, and I can’t help thinking I better practice walking more slowly and carefully if I want to fill our freezer — something more crucial this year since I won’t be teaching next semester.

In what could be a Refusal of the Call, I veer off the trail onto the paved road that leads to the Civil Engineering Lodge. I got a glimpse of this through the trees when paddling with Ian and Megan. When I come into the open, the lawn rolls away downhill to the lake, and the lodge’s stone porch offers me a place to sit and journal. The chair is comfortable. Maybe too comfortable. My mind wanders as I study the small taupe cabins with green roofs that stretch behind the lodge like ducklings behind Mamma. When they grow up will they have stone porch plumage?

I rouse myself. Leaving the Lotus Field, I quickly retrace my path to the trail, hunting a little for it after crossing the road at the west entrance. I’m surprised the Lake Trail goes right by Vertical Adventures. I guess they don’t have to worry about vandals or unauthorized use.

Crossing the Threshold of the dam, I stop to appreciate the view and peace. Abruptly, over at Stone Valley Recreation Area, the reverse-beeping machines awaken. Off to my left are two silent kayakers. The quiet is shattered and it will only get louder as people start to arrive.

At the end of the spillway I stop and listen to Shavers Creek as it ripples down the concrete ramp. Amazing creek, how sweet the sound that soothed a soul like me. You once were lake, but now are not, were trapped but now are free.

I’d like to think I’m allies with the ducks quack-calling in the lake and crows that scolded me till I left their woods. But to them I have more in common with the beeping drivers I’d prefer to see as separate, as enemies. I cross the pine-needled lawn that the sun pulls a sweet scent from. I take my face mask from my wrist — pandemic corsage — and put it on before entering the restrooms. Adapting routines to the pandemic has been a real test. I’m grateful Doug found a way to host this residency. It hasn’t taken me long to figure out how to do what I need to.

The kayakers have returned. There are two cars at the Stone Valley office and one at the boat launch. They are quiet as they load their boats. The beepers have gone off to do whatever beeping work they do, and it’s quiet again. Normal voices would carry out here, but the paddlers are not new to this. We nod as I pass by and head into the trail at the far end of the lot.

The boardwalk over the marsh was one of the places I was shown my first day, and I’ve visited every day since. If this is my Approach to the Inmost Cave, my inmost cave has been visited by coyotes. Some scat is left on a bench, all twisted and full of hair like dreadlocks. What do coyotes symbolize? The scavenger within? The opportunist? I’m not sure, but I preferred Wiley to the damn Road Runner as a child. Maybe it was all that beeping that made me hope the bird would get caught. Wiley looked hungry, all skin and bones. Maybe I was always meant to be a hunter. Of course lots of hunters go after coyotes (the season is year round), and I have no desire or reason to do so.

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Scat found on the Lake Trail, image courtesy of Lilace Mellin Guignard

I follow the trail to the Center, passing the bit that always smells a little, well, like sewage, making me think that’s the septic field. There’s one car parked in the spots closest to the building, but it’s not Doug’s. I can email him and see if we can meet tomorrow, my last full day. It’s nice to sit down at the pavilion — my new office — eat my snack and answer student emails. But my phone isn’t connecting to Wi-Fi. I move to the Rock Porch and try. No luck. I try several more times and give up. Clearly this is my Ordeal, but it is also my Reward. I didn’t want to deal with the other world anyway.

After my snack, I follow the trail past the parking lot and sugar shack. Will there be educational programming by the time the sap runs next spring? The shelters I pass look lonely. I can imagine this place full of kids, led by college-age interns telling stories and demonstrating skills. At least the pandemic has gotten more people outside more often. This is one type of COVID-19 exposure I can celebrate. I hope our Road Back to normalcy, if there is one, will retain this greater appreciation for our outdoor spaces and the critters living there. Maybe we’ll realize we’re the critters living there.

This part of the trail offers no glimpses of the lake through the trees. Mostly birch and oaks, with walnut and locust trees I’m finally learning to tell apart. And is that a basswood? I know Montgomery County, Pennsylvania has the largest linden in the United States, but I still associate them with Western North Carolina where I learned to identify them. Their heart-shaped leaves are large and perfectly imperfect. I find the asymmetry endearing.

And now over the footbridge to the Bluebird Trail junction. My circle is done but not my journey, so I turn right and see the web just in time, and the crows are pissed I’m back. There are five in a group of trees to my right. I’m not sure what they’re complaining about, but every Hero’s Journey needs a whiff of death. In this case the murder is mostly semantic for me, not so for whatever is stuck in the web. I pass the other two webs, still in tact. Did I learn the lesson of the spiders today? Perhaps “Don’t focus too far ahead” is also the lesson of the pandemic.

I put my pack down inside the door, grab a cold seltzer, and sit on the deck. Am I a new woman, resurrected, returning to The Roost at the end of my adventure? I tried to have no agenda on my walk and failed. But what is a trail if not an agenda or plan or storyline? It’s for certain a trail is not a “spot” or “site.” I certainly didn’t get teaching out of my mind, but I did keep bringing my thoughts and senses back to the now-of-the-trail. The patterns above, below, beside, and inside of me. A journey strung with fairy filament that appeared inches in front of my crossed eyes. My gaze and thoughts bobbed far, then near, then midway — like the bluebird’s ground sallying, not staying long on a perch. The experience of walking a path freed my thoughts to associate with anything and everything, which in this time of computer screens and forced focus is a precious elixir indeed.

RAPTOR CENTER

September 5–8, 2020

MATILDA, BLACK VULTURE
She’s not quite right in the head, they say.
Not since that close call with a car.
But that’s not why she woofs.
She likes attention. Her Oreo complexion
so much prettier than the redhead next door.
The one who makes a fuss of spreading wings
longer and showier than Matilda’s ever were,
even before what done brought her here.
Our eyes meet through the screen.
We both know that kind.

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Alula at the Raptor Center, image courtesy of Lilace Mellin Guignard

ALULA, RED-TAILED HAWK
Sunbathing on a ledge, long red tail feathers
stretched flat behind, wings pointed up,
the staff say she looks like a roast chicken.
Not to me. Starlet, pin-up girl, suggestive
of a by-gone innocent age. You can’t
say her name without kissing.
Alula: the wrist feathers all raptors
use to control flight. When she stands,
her pantaloons fluff in the breeze.
Go on, come close. She’s not shy.

TEA, BROAD-WINGED HAWK
Her peeps, her banded brothers,
are swooping into nearby Hawk Mountain,
the kettles calling her to Columbia.
Every year in April and September
she flies from perch to perch to swing
until the others land north or south
and Tea can settle. This year is the same.
It makes no difference to her
that my summer plans to visit family
down South were canceled. That a virus
has caged the ones who cage.

ROSALIE, JUVENILE BALD EAGLE
Skirting the aviary, I see her perched
above Charles. Is she making friends?
Or was it just by chance I’ve only
seen her at the far corner? Ah,
strangers in the courtyard after hours.
No one to keep them away. Just ropes
and signs saying the aviary is closed.
Because of her — a newcomer and young,
(no bald noggin yet). Give her space!
A white-haired couple I passed on the trail
stare at the owls. Three college boys
cluck at the vultures. Good girl.
We’ll stay as far from them as we can.
None are wearing masks.

CHARLES, ADULT BALD EAGLE
I didn’t even notice his amputations
until he hopped off the perch. I think of
my daughter’s Monster High dolls,
arms gone past the elbow. Of the man
with the boy who wanted to visit the birds
but the aviary is closed. Of how he turned his
wheelchair around, his boy calling
bye birdie to the Broad-winged Hawk
in the corner mew, the only one he could see.
How Paige said any bird found today
with the damage Charles had
wouldn’t receive this care. How care
is a simple word until you look close.

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Lilace Mellin Guignard lives with her husband and two children in rural Northcentral Pennsylvania, where she enjoys playing outdoors. She has taught creative writing, outdoor recreation leadership, and women’s studies at Mansfield University and is a member of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association. Her poetry has appeared in Calyx, Ecotone, and Poetry magazine. She is the author of the chapbook Young at the Time of Letting Go (Evening Street Press) and the adventure memoir, When Everything Beyond the Walls Is Wild: Being a Woman Outdoors in America (Texas A&M University Press). For more information see A Tent of One’s Own.

Shaver’s Creek

Stories about the natural world

Shaver's Creek

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Shaver's Creek is Penn State's nature center! Programs for kids, families, schools and PSU students. Friend us @ http://facebook.com/shaverscreek

Shaver’s Creek

Stories about the natural world

Shaver's Creek

Written by

Shaver's Creek is Penn State's nature center! Programs for kids, families, schools and PSU students. Friend us @ http://facebook.com/shaverscreek

Shaver’s Creek

Stories about the natural world

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