Tom Stock

Poet, Essayist, Photographer, Naturalist

Eclipse – Poem and Essay: August 21, 2017

Within the path of totality

So brief, but spectacular

Not so much in our side yard

A pinhole viewer

I call it my “eclipse-o-meter”


I held the device

Pointed to the sun/moon eclipse

A tiny image, the size of a period

A smiley-face Sun

The moon bite

No telescope, no trip

No glasses

To totality lane



As sunlight dimmed

A resident rabbit showed itself

In my tomato patch

Aha. Now I understand

The bite marks on tomatoes

Two parallel lines – incisor marks


As full sunlight returned

Rabbit ran for cover

Total eclipse



My Eclipse Story


I recall sitting on the front steps of my boyhood home with a pin hole view box. I watched the event with some neighborhood friends. This may have been a precursor for my future career as a science teacher.

I made a lamination of exposed film and smoked glass for another eclipse in my late twenties. Custer Astronomy Institute in Southold gave away protective glasses for another event. I took several pair for my students. For this eclipse, I asked my librarian who said ”Try Walmarts.” Media latched onto this one because the path crossed the USA in a diagonal stripe like a NO DOGS ALLOWED sign.

I made an “eclipse-o-meter using tin foil, corrugated cardboard. News reports predicted millions of people would watch, some traveling into the path of totality.

The science, the hype, the scientist interviews…all built momentum for the 2 and ½ minutes of perfect moon coverage.

For me it isn’t the science, it’s others learning science and having a brief encounter with the solar system. This event is but a blink, Earth’s biggest shadow. People actually got outdoors, forgot about cell phones and smart pads. They made actual boots on the ground contact with nature.

There’s so much more up there at night. I have a love affair with the universe, seeing star constellations, planets, comets, meteors, and northern lights.

The hype is over. It’s back to the grind. Our totality isn’t total any more. We stood in moon shadow these short moments yet we cast shadows all the time. If anything, I’d suggest that people look more at shadows. Shadows illuminate textures of Earth. Life without shadows would be boring. We need shadows for contrast.


Facebook Rant – the poem

Facebook is not for me

I let myself get sucked in

Commenting with stupid stuff

And this takes away

From my longing to be engaged

With the natural world

To have my hands in soil

Planting things

Watching things grow

Hearing the wind and rain

How can facebook complete

with a real tree?

Its bark, its limbs, its leaves

Its shape, its shade, its oxygen?

I friend shrubs, mushrooms, weeds

I’m friends with rabbits and birds

I like clouds too,  nice big puffy ones

I want real faces like I see

Passing me on the street

Smiling faces, happy faces, serious faces

Facebook is a drug

Stop it facebook, stop

You will not tempt me

Nor seduce

Tell me facebook,

What is so social about “like”?

I can’t see a real person who says “like”

How is this social?

Are you afraid of being out in fresh air?

Try walking barefoot in morning dewy grass

See how your mouse likes that

Listen to a bullfrog grumble

A bullfrog has a face too

And no book and it stares at you

And you think it likes you

Not. It’s waiting for a dragonfly

So it can ambush with its long sticky tongue


No U-Tube video’s for me

No viral posts for me

No no no

No thank you

I want real faces

That make eye contact

That show emotions

I can’t fall in love

With electrons on a screen

Go ahead and send me a message facebook

See what happens.

You will not get an answer from me

You will get nothing from me

Go get help. Join a support group

Take some time to smell the flowers

You are isolated facebook

You are nothing but a bunch of circuits

Try breathing, heartbeat

And other bodily functions

You are silly, stupid, sick, time wasting

Self serving, irrelevant, disturbing

You preach escapism

No no no

Not for me facebook

Try meditation, cooking, jogging

Try limiting internet time to 20 minutes a day

Go start a family

Go to church

Mow the lawn

Do volunteer work

Don’t be an idiot

Get a life

Try other forms of mindless activity

Like watching sports, sleeping,

Go for a bike ride

Get some exercise

I feel sorry for you

You have ruined millions of lives

You are not a social program

You are a machine

That steals people lives

Shame on you facebook

This Morning

Time to put on pants

And start the morning

Get things done

Anything is possible


Ready for action

Underwear phase is over

Time to do something

Bed time has ended


I woke up

Had my coffee

Read the paper

Covered my legs

Now it’s do time


August 16, 2017

Homecoming Farm Notes – August 8, 2017

This was the last day for the interns. Don will have a skeleton                    crew from here on out. I will miss their youth and energy.

Weeds dominate.

I found Don picking cucumbers. He left the fat yellow-orange                       overripe ones for seed.

“I’ve seen a big difference in the number os sparrows this year.                   There are large flocks flying about and landing to feed.”

The overcast sky and strong wind had a fall feel. The late spring                has affected tomato ripening.” Don commented. I walked a row of tomatoes and only saw a few that were turning. Late spring means late tomatoes.

I processed the last of the garlic. Belarus garlic has long,                       slender straight stalks which I saved for mat –making in my                       garage studio. The cloves tasted mild compared to other                        varieties. Because the bulbs were harvested so late, many had cloves so loose they fell apart.

I visited the bee yard. Tall grass blocked the entrances to the six hives yet bees managed to find their way in.

The share this week included a bag of small potatoes and                             onions, peppers, kale, the first tomatoes, okra, fennel,                                   eggplant and leeks.


FIELD and Track; World Championships – London 2017

I love the ten athletic field events. Track events are exciting, but their sport is competition with others. Field athletes compete to improve their best result  and to try to break a world record, and win the gold.Track runners run. Field athletes have to master several skills.

I thrill over the high jump and pole vault.  Although it only takes a few seconds to complete the event, I obsess over seeing an athlete fly through the air, arch their back, then flip their legs and pass over the bar. It’s like gravity weakens slightly for their ascent. They chose their event based on strength and skill. They practice, train, and enter events all to reach the pinnacle at the World Championships. It is inspirational to watch the results of sacrifice and determination.

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A Brief Morning Reflection

It is a quiet, early Sunday morning, in my reading chair, with back to the Sun. with a cup of coffee, I have a fresh moment of solitude. As the sun rises, shadows form on the opposite wall created by the slats from a Venetian blind.  Sunlight is chopped into parallel bands of light and dark. I gaze at the shadows and notice that they are shifting slowly in the opposite direction to the suns position. As it moves up and to the right, the shadows move down and to the left.

Willow Street is busy 6 days a week. This morning, no rumbling…I am immersed in rare quiet what will soon be broken. Special moments like this we are privileged to encounter each day are precious and longed for. Even if it lasts for a half hour, it grounds me. I can hear the cardinal, wren, dove clearly with no background sounds.

I imagine the solar disk rising above Southards Boatyard across the street. It pops up above the sail loft, above the white plastic covers of boats in storage.  This is something to be thankful for. I try to actually see the shadows move but can’t. At times, I think I see them move but they don’t. If I look away for a few minutes, another glance at the same spot and the shadows has moved slightly. I am tangled in the arc of a rising Sun. How can I find another moment during the day when I am enveloped in the shadows that play with the Sun?

One Monarch Butterfly

Two zinnia beds in the front yard attracted a monarch butterfly. I was watering when it landed on a big red flower. I turned off the hose and watched. It probed the circle of tiny yellow flowers in the center. I opened its wings, closed them then jumped off flutter- gliding to another flower – always the red ones. It landed on many red flowers always jumping into the air and browsing.

`        It flew off to the neighbor’s front yard, then back to the zinnias. It stayed in the area for a half hour. I could see its two bulbous antennae touching, always touching. Then it flew off again. I waited. This happened five or six times. It was trying to find more flowers but always returned to the two zinnias beds. It nervously probed with its proboscis several times for each flower. It looked to me as if this animal was `desperate for food. Sometimes it kept this long tubular tongue in one flower probably finding more nectar. All the time, it’s silent wing motions contrasted with a siren of a passing EMS truck, a landscaping crew, and a couple of teenagers shouting.

I ran into the house to fetch my camera. The monarch was gone. I recall seeing hundreds of monarch holding onto a shrub on Fire Island. During migration, they stop flying as darkness descends.  Those days are gone.  Where will my monarch go?

At the Edgewood Preserve, a New York State Department of Conversation in Deer Park, I came upon a huge stand of milkweed plants…hundreds of them. They are a small island refuel oasis for monarchs. I hope they find these plants.

I started orange milkweed plants from seed. I planted two dozen seedlings (also called butterfly weed) in a center island of wildflowers in hopes of attracting monarchs. However, there are hardly any monarchs any more.

I had the opportunity to observe one for a half hour. It is easily the most beautiful living thing in the neighborhood. The color and patterns on its wings, the way it flies, how it jumps off a flower, and its choice of flower. There was plenty for me to see right outside in the front yard. I grow zinnias every year mostly to have cut flowers of us and friends. But with the visit by a single monarch, I have the best bouquet ever, a single butterfly found an oasis.

“We have met the enemy and it is us.”

Planet Earth has only one enemy. These beings have broken the carrying capacity barrier. They have over run the place by their sheer numbers. Overpopulation is the term. Too many, too dam many of US.

It is each and every one of us. No one and everyone is to blame. We are at war and we don’t even know it. It is far worse than nuclear war, or any other kind of war. No other species is doing battle and winning. We are war mongers and we keep on, day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year, century by century, all the way back to when we became homo sapiens. We only think we are “sapiens” we have lost our minds.   

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My Breast Plate

Even since I saw the movie “Dances with Wolves,” I wanted a breast plate vest. Indians in the movie, presented Kevin Koster with a breast plate as a symbol of trust and friendship. They knew he was on their side as military troops ambushed that killed them at the frontier moved westward.

I’ve seen many pictures of Indians wearing breast plates in books and movies. They are cultural icons of form and function. The bone pieces come from buffalo. The bones were rasped into tubes slightly tapered at each end. They were hollow and strung together to form a protection against arrows like today’s bullet proof vests.

It was a sign of bravery, protection and pride. I saw one in the Peabody Museum of Natural History in New Haven, Connecticut.

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Fall Planting: Spinach

I planted spinach seeds today during a hot, humid day early August day. We’ll start harvesting in late September cool weather increases.

The instructions say, each seed inch apart and inch deep. In the past, In the past, I have sprinkled the seeds using index finger and thumb. This doesn’t not guarantee following the instructions as seeds dribble out of hand onto soil in uneven patterns. I have a manic nature. This time I intended to override this behavior and plant slowly and carefully.

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