Strawberry moon

Sweet start to summer,
though it’s not necessarily pink,
this bright disc in the portal
of night easing itself along
the southern horizon,
warm, misty, welcoming.

Open the blinds: Let it spill
its milk on the floor, pool
and soak in, pearly and

Step into that light—
outside, if you can—
and moonbathe a little.

Watch the trees, the roses,
the dewing grass.
the ripening strawberries
soak in the champagne
reflection of our nearest

You, too.
Allow astonishment.
A little more.

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See the sea

for Klaus and Gundi Heinemann

Let us see what the sea
has delivered this day
with a quick walk down
the meadow path to
the beach,

perhaps taking the sandy
trail through the dunes,
past the lemony lupine
tossing fragrance at
us as we pass, enticing
us to stop and sniff,

then dig our heels into
soft sand down hill to stand
where sea meets land
and survey what’s been
washed and tumbled here—

moon jellies, lacy kelp strands,
rubbery bulbs with tails,
limpets and mussels beached
after their journey from
seafloor to shore.

We stand transfixed,
as if our feet have not
found their way here
before, try to fill every
crevice of empty with
wavesound, hoping
to carry it with us,

dripping through
our fingers, to our
inland lives, inhale
the lifesource,

willing it to fill us,
to sustain us,
have faith that
it will return us
to the peace of
this place
one more time.

Overlooking Walk On Beach, The Sea Ranch / Jan Haag
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Yellow pad

for Pat Schneider
on the 89th anniversary of her birth

So if I write a poem each day,
that’s one kind of prayer,
which I think you tried to
show me long ago,

writing having become your
spiritual practice, after decades
on your knees, after years of
serving churches and believers,
after you no longer called
yourself Christian, though you
still adored Jesus—

you, pathfinder, waymaker,
you who embraced multitudes.

Near the end you said that writing
was one way the light gets in,
that your hand on the yellow pad
connected you to spirit, that
washing dishes at the kitchen
window, gazing down into
the back yard was a holy act,

as you set out seed for birds
hovering like angels, especially
in winter, as you planted seedlings
when the earth was warm enough
to receive them,

as you sit with me now
as the poems show up unbidden—
or did I ask for them
in some way I can’t recall?

And I feel you, deep in mystery,
smiling as they appear, these
gifts from the divine,
dervishly spinning words
on the page,

as they dance their way      
into breath,
into voice.

Pat Schneider writing / Photo: Jan Haag
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Be careful
when you bend
to smell the stalks
of yellow lupine
flourishing on
the sandy path
to the beach

industrious bumbles
are at work here

you are intruding as
they busily hover
seeking the upright
banner with the helpful
spot at its base to direct
pollinators to the
nectar reward

as you inhale
you catch a glimpse of
a black-and-yellow
striped worker
close to your cheek

zeroing in on a
particular floret
the color of
fresh butter

resist the startle

she does not
mind your

just wait

she will collect
her prize in
her pollen basket
quickly wing
her fuzzy way
to another flower

leaving you
to admire her
gentle industry
in this fleeting


The western bumble bee (of the genus Bombus) was once common in western North America, but increasing temperatures, drought and pesticide use have contributed to a 57% decline in the occurrence of this species in its historical range, according to a 2023 U.S. Geological Survey-led study.

Photo / Jan Haag
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Following you

for Sue Lester

I have followed you
since we were 8, you
always a head taller and
eight months older,

down dusty paths strewn
with all manner of loveliness—
poppies, blue dicks, soft
green grasses—and potential

danger—poison oak,
crumbly granite underfoot,
so easy to slip on, all
manner of bite-y insects—

through Girl Scouts and
band, into college and
careers, grownup lives
and loves.

And nearly six decades
later, I still fall into step
behind you on a seaside
blufftop trail, watching

you lope ahead, leading
the way—how I still love
to follow your lead—
heading toward fascination

and discoveries I would not
have seen—or names
of flowers, birds, marine
life I would not have known
without you:

anthopleura elegantissima
clonal anemone

eriogonum latifolium
coast buckwheat

pisaster ochraceus
purple seastar

lupinus arborus
yellow lupine

I will follow you as
long as this body holds
up, heading, like Pooh
and Christopher Robin,

into the world for a big
explore, or little ones,
wherever we find us two,
my girl-next-door best friend,

still a head taller, even
as we shrink a bit,
as we grow to each other—
anam cara, soul friend—

more precious with
each passing year.

Photo / Jan Haag
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Seaside haircut

for Dickie

Of all the places I’ve cut your hair—
and if I could math, I might be able
to calculate it, but I don’t, so I won’t—

perhaps my favorites are within
sight of the sea, the ocean refilling
our spirits, saltwater and sand

reminding us from whence we
came, when animals first transitioned
from saltwater to earth more than

300 million years ago, the source
from which all life comes on this
planet we consider ours.

So where else to best apply scissors
to your straight, snowy fringe,
carrier of keratin that also makes

fingernails and DNA that makes you?
Why, on a cliff overlooking the sea,
97 percent of water on Earth, what

makes life here possible and the
planet look blue from space.
As one of our nearest and dearest

takes photos, you sit and I stand
on the continental edge, doing
what I have done hundreds

of times over our decades of
togetherness—apply silver blades
to the hair on your sweet head,

making you feel lighter, look
younger, and yes, ever more
handsome. I promise.

Jan cuts Dick’s hair above Walk On Beach, The Sea Ranch, Sonoma County / Photos: Sue Lester
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for Sue Lester, tidepool buddy

At low tide
bejeweled anemone appear,
nestle like olive green breasts
between slick black rocks,
tentacles tucked in tight,

the ample girls showing off their
seabling—lacy coralline algae,
once pink, now bleached white,
random shell bits, washed
rainbows of abalone, limpets like
tiny volcanos, cobalt mussel pieces—
artfully assembled mosaics
decorating many sizes of fullness.

We think of some we know who’ve
lost one or more, some who’ve
decorated themselves with loving
ink in place of what was taken.

We step carefully, bend to admire an
anemone sporting a stylish turban shell
jauntily perched on one side.

We marvel at the pale crab
claw centered over its mouth,
just where, on some of us,
a nipple might have once been,
an extra flourish of adornment,

a touch of originality bestowed
by chance, swirling in on the next
tide, to land gracefully in just
the right spot.

Anemone in tidepools, The Sea Ranch, Sonoma coast / Dick Schmidt
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Aurelia and the Vellelas

She has washed ashore with dozens of her
sea sisters, moon jellies with translucent
bell bodies, tumbled with feathery kelp,
along with blue-rimmed, tentacled disks
sporting clear sails, hundreds of
by-the-wind sailors.

Vellela vellela, the cosmopolitan, free-floating
seafarers, sail across the ocean’s surface,
while Aurelia labiata pulse beneath,
complex blobs of jelly that head for shore
near the ends of their lives.

Offering no resistance to tidal currents,
flood tides beach them, which is where we
find them on the first evening of our visit
to the north coast, Aurelia and the Vellelas—
the nautical girls and their sailor boy
backup band.

We pick them up off the sand, set them
on our palms, these mariners that, once
under sail, have no way to navigate, that
find themselves at the mercy of the winds.

We prop the moon jellies on our upraised
fingers, study them in the light, marvel at
their gelatinous bodies, now minus tentacles,
all of these stranded marine invertebrates
having seen better days at sea.

We imagine them in their rock star prime,
prolific old salts that delivered only the mildest
of stings. We walk with reverence through
their sandy graveyard, think of them
in their rowdy youth—the sailors and
the jellies, oh, the music they must
have made—and wish them
a fond farewell.

Top: Vellela vellela, by-the-wind-sailor. Above: Aurelia labiata—moon jelly. At The Sea Ranch, Sonoma coast. (Photos / Dick Schmidt)
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End of May

As the first wildflowers fade,
as early grasses yellow,
as summer’s beginning approaches,

the morning offers a near-perfect breeze
as I meet an out-of-town friend for breakfast,
as he has just delivered another friend to my city

for outpatient surgery to help her see.
He and I talk about how good it is to be seen,
as he likes to say.

How we long for those we can no longer see,
how they show up for us in the most ordinary ways
like last night, standing with these two friends,

saying goodbye, looking high in the sky at
the waxing quarter moon, Venus nestled nearby.
There she is!” he said of his departed beloved

with whom he fell in love under such a moon.
There they all are in the stars, the ones
overhead, the ones embedded in our cells,

we who are, after all, made of starstuff,
our guiding lights never leaving us high and dry,
leading us home, fixed points on our compass.

May it always be so.


For Ron. For Sue. For their departed beloveds.

Quarter moon detail / Antsy McClain
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We call this Heebie-Jeebie Day,
the day before we leave on a trip.
He likes to say, “It’s easy—just
throw things into the car. Not like
we’re getting on a plane,” which
requires more compression of stuff,
of the too-much gear I tend to bring.

But heading for the coast, I never
know (despite weather predictions)
whether I’ll need the warm pullover
and scarf and jacket or lightweight
pants and T-shirts. We linger at
the doorstep to summer, and the
Northern California coast can plunge
into a month of fog, or blaze with
sunshine and tiny purple iris
sprouting in every meadow.

We never know. Which is why
packing for the journey is difficult,
why I’ve amassed too much stuff
in this lucky, lovely life, why I
labor now to divest myself
of much of the stuff—the rest
of my life’s work.

Now I unpack, closet by closet,
room by room, pile by pile
of accumulated paper.
Unhanger the professorial outfits,
box the unremarkable books,
shred, trash, scrap, eliminate,
jettison, dispose of. Adios. Aloha.

This is the time of shedding.

Right after I pack a bag or four
for the forthcoming sojourn,
this pilgrim’s progress to the sea,
remind myself to resist the temptation,
as my feet traverse the Bluff Top trail
and pummeled quartz sand, to pocket
smooth stones and bits of shells,
to fill my pockets with tiny treasures
of this fleeting world.

Photo / Jan Haag
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