If you ever lose heart and the earth seems as distant as stars fading into the noise of your busy mind, know this. That a tiny island exists in the blue hands of the ocean. That a tree grows upright into the salted clouds. That two eagles love each other enough to spend their lives greeting the morning sun together. That two eaglets stand in their nest, gazing at the heavens. Looking down to the forever ground. They eat and sleep and flap their wings. And one day in July, one by one, they will jump into the air. They will know the difference between existing and what is beyond. They will hold onto nothing. The hurricane will come, courage catching their pinions on fire, as they mount the wind, climbing ladders into realms of the invisible.

--T.L. Stokes

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Younger

Photography by Doug Carrick, and WildEarth

The Younger

The days and nights of innocence
are black rivers bending away,
moving like air
and the unnamed mystery.
We drop into the space
of there being no time.
Mother's head drops down,
thin shells close over
her eyes.

Alexandra, the older,
sings like a tea kettle,
begging bits of small torn fish
from Mother.

I, in the white ceiling'd place,
chip away with dagger,
a doorway through my
impossible sky.

Oh weary going, I faint from effort.
Sleep drags me away
into feathery seas.

I would leave my dreary work
yet my belly cries. I hear
a strange familiar song
and it leads me.

And in the still night
heavy on my circular shell
I hear puffs of mother's breathing
and clap of father's

I hear them call and sing
and it brings visions of
what flying will finally
feel like.

You don't know me yet.
I don't know myself.
I am still the riddle,
the small second,

the courageous,
the enigma.

for Egg #2
in the process

c2011 T.L.Stokes (all rights reserved)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Spirit of the Teacher

Spirit of the Teacher

In the glorious day of the eagle
while the watchers danced and prayed
I asked the teacher:

Do you remember
when we talked about grief,
Norfolk happened the next day

and then we talked about balance
and the white egg cracked so its voice
could come to us,

and then we talked about Hope,
and honesty and patience,
and you taught us another thing
about the position of life

and possibility of death,
and you held onto us,
teaching in silence and words
typed into the white spaciousness
of the universe.

And you waited with us
as we played Native chants
and Enya
and prayed.

Then in the silence of the great mystery
a little life was spilled
into our eyes.

Alexandra Morton--new abundant vision
of all people--hatchling,
and now AJL you honor us
and vigilant more than most,
you count the small things
noting that all miracles

can be held and charted and
marveled over.

Above all, that these finer things
from a spirit who must love us
more than we will ever understand,
are gifts

to be shared. Teacher
in the treetops. Pointing a finger
into the darkness

for the watchers
in the woods.

for AJL

c2011 T.L.Stokes (all rights reserved)

As the orb of heat and yellow
lays ribbons across the high pillar,
my father listens for me. Out the window
I came slowly into your world. Now as I sleep
I dream I am covered in mother feathers
and the warmth of her heart drums
into my visions. Father tucks blankets
around me and his body is all that I need
right now.

Excuse my weakness I am so small. Weary,
my eyes close and dream of a dream
I am dreaming.

When I open my eyes again, the orb has moved.
I sense a thousand spirits guard me. I don't
see them. They are clouds hovering off beyond
the waters.

I feel my heart beat stronger and stronger
as my father watches the earth and sky.
From my mouth, new songs spill forth.
Then tired, so tired, my eyes fall down.
I am heavy, and delighted, the air
is all around me now. So much room
in this new place.

Soon I know mother will come again.
Always, like the waves to the shore,
my mother then my father come to me.
Always the soft umbrella, uncountable
streaks of light and air and earth
woven into row upon row of my safe

Shhh quiet, I am falling again into sleep.

for hatchling number one
1:39pm 4/28/2011 Hornby Eagle Nest

c2011 T.L.Stokes (all rights reserved)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

the watchers in the year of the eagle

It was the year of the eagles,
across the sea an island
comes apart, waters moved like trains,

mountain clouds rose
and swept God's hem dropping
cinder and jewels.

The earth settles back into her
circular wisdom holding seasons
like kites in the wind.

The watchers count eagles
shiny in the rain. Gold in the first
daylight ribbon. White-headed,
massively winged. On island, in gardens,
over hatchery ponds. We huddle along with them,
breath next to breath.

Guardians. All of our thousand eyes
sweep nests. Places where the white
gems are laid, oh fragile cages.

Then quickly symphony of flight machine
screams and feathers dashing away with a life,
an eagle is torn and machine falters.

This is when the violin plays.
This is when the young in the great nest
listen. This is when the people reach in
and wrap them in a safe darkness.
This is when the father returns.

And my heart turns to the violin
and I sing and sing. The father's white head
lowers and looks at the woven limbs,
circled twig place of quiet.

I take the violin and play while we wait
and then away his wings take him, clutch at the sky.
Listen, far away. He can almost hear
his lost mate,
her feeling, the leaving,
the wanting to stay.

His eyes gather up silence, stars,
as he flies the burnt umber fields,
and I hold out my hand

for pieces of his wounded heart
like small white tufts
blown free.

in honor of the eagle family
of Norfolk

c2011 T.L.Stokes (all rights reserved)

I have always loved you

I have loved you from before the time
I met you,

I dreamt of you as light striking sky,
as wing-true-beat,
wisdom in flight,

and I dreamed again before I knew you
as my heart, hot bowl of my chest
grew warmer,

as you were drawn to me,
and I to you.

I have loved you more than my own flight,
my own freedom,
my own sky.

I have loved you more than the wind,
the stars,
the night.

I have loved you deeply
in my arms
through the day, the night,
the sky.

Our bright promise of youth
hatched and fledged
year after glorious year.

I still feel your warm body
next to mine,
listening to the crackling song.

My gifts, strewn across forever,
for you, my love.
Yes, I have loved you

and always will love you
my dear.

for father eagle of Norfolk
for his family
and for the final flight of his mate

c2011 T.L.Stokes (all rights reserved)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Old Fishermen Never Die

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Nisqually Wildlife Refuge

Sunday, April 10, 2011

to my father's best friend

photography by Matt Eldridge

The Outgoing Tide

On the island off Vancouver
a drenched eagle pulls her ragged hat down
while the rain turns black falling
off her shoulders. Horrible mess we agree.
She dresses for it and her eggs
are warm.

All day we watched the Hornby eagle
while south into Puget Sound
Fox Island's north wind
falters a moment
then stands stock still
as the last heart beat
leaves the old man.

I think the shadows took to the ceiling
in a flutter of change. His life streaking
away like a seal and the waves
sometimes unrelentless, parted.

I know the loon called, and also
the barn owl in languages they
taught us at birth. Now my father
cries at 9:35 tonight
on the phone with me. Memorial
will be Saturday at 3. He never
went to church so they'll call it

His church was his boat
in the morning on the sky-colored
water. His bible the throttle on
the outboard motor. His prayer
was his eyes and the quiet
of his thoughts.

It was hard for the old fisherman
to live beyond Rosie. Hard for him
to leave the cabin after that,
so he spent his time looking
out the window. Dad thinks he watched eagles
along the north shoreline,
the loons and ducks beyond the dock.

Maybe he counted the strands of sun
coming over the mainland in morning.
Coffee in a mug on the table.
Or maybe he listened for the song-voice
of Rosie baking another Sunday brunch.
Seems he missed her more than the salty air,
or the tug on the fishing line,
or the heavy breezes wild and
dancing across the passage.

Wardie told half the old stories I heard.
He and my dad taught me how to bait
a hook, fish until twilight.
A good common man of the earth.
Smoked a pipe, raised children.
Knew how to fight a fire.
What gentle thing to say
and when to say it.

My favorite memory is a photograph.
Wardie sitting by the campfire,
hands smoothing the hair of our
old dog Rusty. His wife, my mom and dad,
all sitting by the fire with him,
that mesmerizing smoke look
in all of their eyes.

Beyond these things is nothing,
it is a silence, the night,
as I begin to sleep. My brother
comforts my father and if you
listen closely enough
the sea rises slowly
for the next high tide.

"May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be ever at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face and the rain fall softly on your fields. And until we meet again, May God hold you in the hollow of his hand."

Safe passage Wardie. Tell Rosie hi from
all of us old Fox Islanders.

T.L. Stokes

Friday, April 1, 2011

365 Days of the Shamen

Day 3

You are the patient one
turning your white-haired
container of thought.
Which eye do you see from,
the one pointed at the sky

or downward
toward the secret under your coat,
the pocket where your heart lies?
The crackling has already started.
A wet mass of feathers
and spindly sticks
still folded,
small dagger
chipping away at the wall.

Thirty hours of hungry work
in the dark
while you wait.
The owl calls from across the field
and the wind holds out cups
of tea singing slightly.

I have never seen your king
though I hear he must be glorious
like you. His gifts scatter across
the floor of your high throne.

A sparrow calls to the air. I will look
once more at the circle of limbs,
the softness of grass, your breath,
the steel arrow of where your eyes
travel to next.