Re-encountered this poem this week and thought that it was fitting for this time of year…

A Prayer in Spring
Robert Frost

OH, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.
Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.
And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.
For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfil.

Sorry for the lack of posts recently.  We just found out that our youngest son Noah (3 years old) has cancer.  We’ve had a bunch of testing done and are awaiting a specific diagnosis.

It has been warmer and sunnier here in Indianapolis this week, and this weather reminded me of this poem:

John Clare.

The hazel-blooms, in threads of crimson hue,
Peep through the swelling buds, foretelling Spring,
Ere yet a white-thorn leaf appears in view,
Or March finds throstles pleased enough to sing.
To the old touchwood tree woodpeckers cling
A moment, and their harsh-toned notes renew ;
In happier mood, the stockdove claps his wing;
The squirrel sputters up the powdered oak,
With tail cocked o’er his head, and ears erect,
Startled to hear the woodman’s understroke;
And with the courage which his fears collect,
He hisses fierce half malice, and half glee —
Leaping from branch to branch about the tree,
In winter’s foliage, moss and lichens, drest.

Last night, I was reading through a new collection of poetry from the early twentieth century jazz poet Kenneth Patchen (You can read my review here if you want), but in the middle of his poem “I Went to the City” I found the following lines that really resonated with these explorations in urban naturalism:

Yes, I went to the city

And there I did bitterly cry,

Men out of touch with the earth,

And with never a glance at the sky.

…   (from We Meet: Poems, 135)

I must confess that for too long I have been one of the men in the city who are “out of touch with the earth.”   Maybe, just maybe these explorations will help me reconnect with nature.


Chris Smith here, this blog will be a place for me to record my adventures in urban naturalism in the little Englewood neighborhood of Indianapolis, in which I live, work, worship and explore.

I’m currently working on an essay that describes exactly what I mean by “urban naturalism,” but until that is finished and ready to post here, let me launch this blog with a poem from Liberty Hyde Bailey that has been kicking ’round my head for the last three months or so, and that lies at the heart of my inspiration for these explorations.  [Liberty Hyde Bailey is probably the preminent botanist of the early twentieth century, who was also a farmer, a philosopher, and would later become an inspiration for Wendell Berry.  He wrote one amazing little book of nature poetry entitled Wind and Weather, of which I have had the distinct pleasure of writing the introduction for the current edition.]


TELL me, 0 Poet, where thou dost live

Show me the place whereon thou dost stand

Lead me to the crests that give

Those wondrous scenes thou dost command

And let my waiting soul enwreathe

The rarer airs that thou dost breathe

Upon thy diamond shore.

He took me by the hand

And led me to my own hearthstone

We paused upon the wonted floor

And silent stood alone-

Till all the space was over-pent

With a magic wonderment;

And I found the Poet’s store

On the threshold of my door.