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Ken Hartke

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I'm retired and living solo "out west" in the New Mexico desert. I've been an observer and blogger for years and usually have four or five blogs going but wrote for myself or for friends. A lot of it was travel stories or daily random postings -- but it was a good experience. Red Room allowed me to share things on a wider scale and with its demise, I (maybe) found a more public voice.

Fishing Solitaire

Fishing is a solitary thing.
At least for me.
Over the years, I cherish
most those solitary hours.


I recently had a few hours
alone on a small stream
meandering through
a mountain meadow.
The setting was almost
beyond description.
A high meadow,
set part by itself.
Fishing was slow.
The wind was difficult.
The ground was boggy.
It was wonderful.

One is totally mindful
at such a time.
Every second —
every movement counts.
The sun. The wind.
The current. The shadows.
The sky. The grass.
The fish. The strike.
In my deep concentration,
with only a few rising fish,
I heard an odd sound.
Was I not alone?


There – I heard it again.
I was in an open valley.
I could see for miles.
I saw no one.
Cast. Drift. Retrieve. Repeat.
You get into a rhythm.
Each cast promises success.
But few are perfect.
There it is again.
What am I hearing.
I moved a little.
Upstream. Downstream

My company has mostly been
those Red-winged Blackbirds.
They seem to own this
valley and the stream.
They scolded on my arrival.
Unhappy – they complain
of my very existence.  But
that is not what I hear.
Fishing is slow. I catch one.
Too small – liberated, it
swims away. I moved farther.
I go upstream by a bridge.


Here is a quiet, grassy pool
with a current flowing out
from under the bridge.
It looks promising.
There – I hear it now.
Much closer. There — again.
I look around — searching
the shore and grasses.
It’s an unfamiliar sound.
And just then a Coot
paddles out from the
streamside grasses.


A solitary Coot. Black
in color, with a facemask
bill. Not a duckbill. More
pointed and pronounced.
It reminds me of the
months – years – spent
with our pandemic masks.
He – I assume it’s a “he” –
seems much happier than
the Blackbirds. He does
his thing and I do mine.
I stop and watch.

We coexist for a while,
moments on a quiet pool
high in a mountain meadow.
On the most beautiful day
of the year. He paddles a bit.
I fish a bit.
He calls once or twice.
He and I are placid
companions on this stream.
Neither of us have a complaint
or a care. I pass to the other
side of the bridge. He watches.


 *     *     *

Recent Comments
Rosy Cole
Tranquil. Energising. Tows a deep sense of refuge with such a delicate hook. Thanks for sharing. It's what we all need these days.... Read More
Monday, 12 June 2023 11:07
Virginia M Macasaet
One with nature! Beautiful photos and writing..
Monday, 03 July 2023 01:04
Stephen Evans
I had to look it up to see what a coot was, though I have heard the phrase you old coot before and never knew what it referred to.... Read More
Friday, 07 July 2023 00:04
280 Hits

Hummingbirds at Night

Experts tell us that Hummingbirds are not nocturnal creatures.
They need their sleep -- surely as much or more than I do.
They are amazingly energetic and have abilities that other birds
can only dream of. They are acrobats and flying aces with
aerial combat and near constant feeding.


But one night recently, it was under the Sturgeon Moon, I found
myself sitting outside under the portal. The super moon was bright
and making it hard for me to sleep.  I have trouble sleeping
under a full moon as I grow older. There is an urgency that keeps
me awake on those nights. It was very late, or maybe early.


On this night, the planet Jupiter was shining bright just a short
distance from the moon, or so it seemed. It was at the ten o'clock
position in relation to our moon.  The moons of Jupiter are
visible with a zoom lens on a point-and-shoot camera.
I had my camera with me and was visually alert.


DSCN5406xy Jupiter2

I soon began to see Hummingbirds. Several of them. They
were visiting my Desert Willow, now in partial bloom with its
sweet-pea flowers. It is a little late in the season but there are
still some late blooms. My home is a refuge for late bloomers. The
Willow tree and the Hummingbirds, and me, perhaps.


Were the Hummers stimulated, as I am, by the bright moon?
Once I saw one silhouetted against the moonlit sky, I saw several.
They are territorial creatures and protective of their space but they
seemed to be at peace with each other as they visited the blossoms.
I sat and watched in amazement.


Of course, I tried to get a photograph but to no avail. They were a blur
if I caught them at all. The combined effect of the moonlight and the
silhouette of the birds and the blossoms against the gray-blue expanse
of the universe was not to be captured in any way other than my own
memory. That was fitting on such a night.


The hummingbird is sometimes considered to be a spiritual messenger.
I have lost several friends this year. My own thoughts have been locked
in on my own loss of almost fifteen years ago, to the day. American Indian
folklore holds that seeing a Hummingbird at night foretells an encounter with
someone bringing great joy and happiness. I'll go with that.




     *        *        *

The Home Place — 2022

Recent Comments
Rosy Cole
Lovely! Captures the spirit of birds so blindingly fleet, they almost look still beside the flowers. I do hope your American India... Read More
Saturday, 20 August 2022 22:23
Stephen Evans
"My home is a refuge for late bloomers. The Willow tree and the Hummingbirds, and me, perhaps." Love that phrase.
Sunday, 21 August 2022 14:39
Ken Hartke
Thanks for the kind comments. You make me blush. I love to watch them but I'm a little wary of Hummingbirds after one mistook my ... Read More
Monday, 22 August 2022 00:12
565 Hits

The Clock Tells the Time – the Bells tell the Century

Umbria, 2010

It seems like a timeless place. But in the old town in the hills, the bells count the hours and the quarter hours, as they have for generations -- for five or six centuries. The broad cobbled Corso winds through the town. The main drag we might say. It passes through the centuries old city gate, much older even than the bells, goes through the piazzas and past the market stalls and the sidewalk cafes. Past the worn and repurposed palazzos. The town folk enjoy their evening stroll. They meet old friends and relations and pause for a glass of wine, an espresso, or a grappa and share stories or the news of the day. There are those obligatory kisses, and near misses. Much of the business of the place passes in the evening hours on the Corso.

The old clock in the town hall sounds its bell -- a dull clanging sound. Not a sonorous or pleasant tone. It was meant for business: get up -- get out -- take alarm. The old city fathers were a most frugal lot and knew not to spend scarce city money on a large bell. A long minute later, after the clanging has died away, the great bell in the cathedral rings out its time. That is where the tithe money went, centuries ago, to call attention to the cathedral. Mostly to impress.

The clocks have been slightly off for generations. They just are, but don't have to be. They could be timed better and synchronized… or they could settle on one. But there is a purpose and an intent to the minor discrepancy. It is an ageless dialogue. A slight discord but the Church has the last word. This place was once part of the Papal States. The town hall may clang away at the precise and proper time, but the church bell responds and commands attention.  There is a certain stubbornness to this old rivalry that marks the quaint and timeless character of these hill towns. Such is Italy.



Recent Comments
Stephen Evans
Sounds, charming.
Saturday, 14 May 2022 20:22
Rosy Cole
Bells are so atmospheric and evoke layers of history, putting us instantly in touch with the past without a single word being utte... Read More
Wednesday, 18 May 2022 16:34
744 Hits

Cusco by Starlight

It was a golden evening and Barrio San Blas was charming.
We were well fed on the local version of Ají de Gallina
and a favorite local pilsener followed by Pisco Sours.
It was sunset when we arrived, but we lingered long,
sobremesa, talking and sipping our drinks.
What’s the rush?

We needed to walk, and it was dark as we left the café.
It was pleasant for the hour. At this elevation, Cusco
can be cool in the evening.  The stars were out.
There were others strolling along the calles leading
out from the plaza. Couples out enjoying the night
or heading back to hotels.

We strolled downhill, heading to the Plaza de Armas.
It’s not a long walk and the ancient cobblestones and
polished Inca stone walls glinted in the reflected light
showing us the way.  There were a few young people
laughing and hurrying toward the backpackers’ hostel.
Maybe late arrivals.

We heard music as we passed the Irish pub,
so out of place in the Incas’ capital city. We passed
the old archbishop’s place piled high atop its Inca
palace foundations. The ancient city and its footings
survived earthquakes but barely survived the Spanish.
We are wrapped in history.

We wandered out into the Plaza de Armas,
flooded with light and flanked by the massive Cathedral,
Jesuit churches and Spanish colonnades.  The lighted
fountain in the plaza dominates the scene, topped by a
larger-than-life gold fiberglass Inca Emperor.
He points toward the mountain heights.

It was at the fountain, today or yesterday - I forget now,
that we watched a wedding party come out of the
Cathedral to pose for photos in front of the Emperor.
The bride and groom, tied together with the traditional
lariat, seemed shy with all the attention. Children played
while the tourists snapped pictures.

But the night scene is etched in my memory. Cusco,
already at great height, is surrounded by even higher hills,
dark and almost invisible at night. The slopes are punctuated
by a thousand points of light marking the homes of people with
little more than a million-dollar view. The lights merge
with the sparkling stars…unforgettable.


Recent Comments
Rosy Cole
Atmospheric and compelling. In the present day when we tend to skim the surface of life, what remains of any culture can be so tel... Read More
Wednesday, 23 March 2022 14:04
Monika Schott PhD
Beautiful, gorgeous, felt every word. Thanks for sharing.
Wednesday, 23 March 2022 20:00
2182 Hits

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