Degrees of Latitude

Degrees of Latitude

and mute for weeks · eating sleeping
scraping the sand aside in the morning and fanning
the embers · cold the wind endless and the sun too high
not to lose the way-marks and pistes
the tropic of cancer and in all this atrophy
a present intent on nothing

our temples sometimes throbbing
because we drank so little as if the bone there was too thin
the tongue too clumsy to say: i
ridges of dunes and escarpments of a world in empty space
so far and real the further each track broke away
we knew only that it defied reckoning

not until we were back beyond the border
and below a plateau in the ruins of a roman town
did language come back chiselled as the name
i read on the wind-rose in the market square
my finger tracing the letters on the worn flags
as if every distance had its list of words to learn

one wind like bronze but browner and darker
one circling one as white as wheat-chaff over the plain
one as if the day had stolen its night-half from the equinox
the north named for the threshing-oxen of the stars:
told apart only by whether they smelt dank of soil and bark
or charred everything to ash from open urns

budding apricots on the valley floor
promising a return in the soft light of the pasture
dust on the lips · face turned to a wind
that was blowing into the sun and alone could not be read
i sat on eroded blocks of a temple wall
and evening began burned in the withered grass

to buy a house a bed and table and chair
enough for once and for you now and here
as if nothing were futile – something might last and bind
but i felt at once more wordless things: void
saw myself only ever gathering windblown branches for the fire
staring into smoke which the wind dispersed

from: Weissbuch. Carl Hanser Verlag (Munich, 2004).
©2004 Carl Hanser Verlag München


As a child I have spent countless hours looking up at people, recognizing them from their knees, their stance, or the delicate folding and unfolding of their ankles. I remember the gentle curve of delicate wrists and the startling laughter that rolled out easily through parted lips, punctuating  the grass perfumed air. Trees return me to that place of innocence, where every pair of outstretched arms is an invitation to be twirled around till the spinning world become a giant blur. So this post is dedicated to the magic of trees.


There is a word in Japanese that captures the magic of sunshine filtering through trees. It is made of three kanji and one hiragana particle. The first Kanji means “tree”, the second “escape” and the last one “light”or “sun”. Memories of summer neatly packed in a curtain of light.


“I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees. I speak for the trees for the trees have no tongues.”
-Dr. Seuss






“Trees are the poems the earth writes upon the sky, We fell them down and turn them into paper, That we may record our emptiness” – Khalil Gibran






In the forest, there was a crooked tree and a straight tree. Every day, the straight tree would say to the crooked tree, “Look at me…I’m tall, and I’m straight, and I’m handsome. Look at you…you’re all crooked and bent over. No one wants to look at you.” And they grew up in that forest together. And then one day the loggers came, and they saw the crooked tree and the straight tree, and they said, “Just cut the straight trees and leave the rest.” So the loggers turned all the straight trees into lumber and toothpicks and paper. And the crooked tree is still there, growing stronger and stranger every day.” – Tom Waits














Country Roads…


Retractable Fence  (wouldn’t that be fun?)


Behlen metal wire mesh corn cribs.


“Many iconic traditional wooden barns feature doors with wooden cross bucks. Originally, the cross buck design had a utilitarian purpose, fortifying gates, fences, and large barn doors by providing structural support. However, the X-design on doors appeared in the mid-1800s as part of what was called “Stick Style.”   – I just call it The Monkey House…






A Timber Burr Arch Truss bridge (Try saying that three times fast) under construction.


A completed covered bridge, beautiful on the inside and the outside. Queen posts can be see along with the Burr arch.






The kite, kept
Indoors, wears
Dead paper
On tight-
Boned wood,
Pulles at the tied
Cord only
By its weight—
But held
To the wind,
It is another thing,
Turned strong,
Struck alive,
Wild to be torn
Away form the hand

Into high air:

Where it rides
A small, clear
Wing, having
Nothing at all
To do
With string.

Poem © Valerie Worth, 1994. All rights reserved.


The French poet Henri Chopin’s poem “Vite” is another of my favorites. It consists of only one word yet the rhythm captures the excitement a child observes as a kite rises and falls with the wind. Fortunately the Getty museum has a link to it.

Lets go fly a kite!

As the last few days of school wind down I asked my class if they’d like to build a kite. Three- fourths of the students informed me they had never flown a kite let alone built one. So today we are creating a kite making station and designing a diagnostic questionnaire for why a kite might not fly.

A “kite hospital” is being set up for broken kites so the children learn to patch up their own kites. We will test plastic bag kites, paper kites, and then see if we can come up with other materials for kite making.

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(c) Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum


Summers full of blustery days, filled with colorful kites…these children are in for a wonderful treat.