Tom Stock

Poet, Essayist, Photographer, Naturalist

Category: Short Essays (Page 1 of 9)


Six museums over a two night stay in New Haven, Connecticut. The Port Jefferson Ferry and a short drive along the Connecticut coast and we entered New Haven.

The city has several buildings with great architecture. This might be expected in the vicinity of an ivy league University.The Yale campus and spires are limestone and sandstone. Handsome is the word that comes to my mind. No cookie cutter design here. Four story dorms, blocks of secret societies. A town square open to the sky.   Skyscrapers in down town New Haven may reach 25 floors.

The ferry swayed as we crossed the Long Island Sound. Strong westerly winds rocked the boat enough to warrant an announcement. “Attention.  Please stay seated or accompanied by someone”. I watched the horizon rise above the window sill, then dip below. A March Madness basketball game kept my attention.

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Long Island Natural History Conference: 2017

Sixteen power point presentations, each 40 minutes long, in the semi-dark auditorium of Berkner Hall on the campus of Brookhaven National Laboratory. Presentations were made by well-qualified presenters who have done scientific research on Natural History subjects that focus on Long Island subjects.

After two talks, the morning break buzzed with conversation in the display area. There was networking, reconnecting, and not much doom and gloom from like-minded people who have strong connections to the out doors.

A new crop of young enthusiasts manned many of the displays. They were anxious to engage visitors in their particular organization. Eric Powers, long-time naturalist, showed off a new “startup” called Center for Environmental Education and Discovery. The group is raising funds to restore a house in Brookhaven to conduct environmental education programs.

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Spinach comes in several varieties. I discovered Kookabarra in a Johnny’s seed catalog and liked the characteristics. One is savoyed leaves which are bumpy rather than flat.

I planted the round, white seeds according to instructions. A week later I saw small leaves in the shape of propellers. I dropped the seeds in furrows by hand. It is difficult to space them evenly. Some of them were too close together. I transplanted these rather than thin. Thinning is another name for killing. Upoon germination, Kookabarra starts sending down a tap root to insure a good supply of water.

It took over a month to see savoy pattern in the leaves. Soon after, the harvest was enough for two small portions. I harvested all summer long. We may have had 15 spinach side dishes with our main courses.

I watered frequently because Suffolk County was in a drought. This drought is going on two years. It has been called a severe drought by meteorologists. Some marshes have dried up. A shallow lake is only dry mud cracks. Some creeks have shortened due to the dropping water table.

I harvested kookabarra all winter long. I pulled a plant and discovered one reason the plants did not respond to drought. The root was an extremely long tap root able to draw water from up as much as ten inches deep.

I covered many plants with clear plastic caps. Those plants grew larger leaves than the ones with no caps. I have yet to see this variety bolt.

In the meantime, I ordered more Kookabarra seeds. “We are out of stock”. W woman on the phone said. No wonder. Lots of other people besides me know about Kookabarra. I decided that the only way I can get kookaburra seeds was to let the old spinach plants flower and go to seed.

I have never had such success growing leafy plant as with Kookabarra. I don’t know how this name arose, but that’s some reader whose curious will find out. Please tell me.

Lets Talk About Art

Whether you do art or appreciate looking at art, to really get into it you have to work at it. The impact of art may be immediate, and hanging with it will bring thoughts that are triggered by that art no matter what art form you choose.

If you are an aspiring artist, your unique, individual expression will start consciously, and slowly morph into the unconscious. It takes a long-term commitment and determination to “emerge” Emerge means that you’ve found your path and you are following your voice. As you do so, your voice will slowly change as you mature, perfect your skills, and try new approaches.

It is important to have a work place, a studio, with no interruptions where you can leave your stuff and come back to it. It is essential that you “inhabit” your studio even if you don’t feel creative. Your surroundings will convince you. You may start with doubt, but that will quickly change once you start.

Thomas Merton, a monk, says it best…”Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” As we work at our craft, the world shrinks as we fully inhabit our creativity. There is no better place to be. Once you mindset kicks in, your awareness changes and things start to happen. You are onto something, a theme emerges and you go with it. “happy accidents begin to occur” which you recognize and incorporate.

Don’t rush, pause, stand back, make midcourse corrections. There’s nothing wrong with walking away with an unfinished piece. Something tells you to stop and refuel. I am a collage artist and when I’m stuck, I leave the project and let it sit. It calls me back when I’m ready to proceed. When I have an idea, I walk about my daily business brainstorming that idea until I HAVE to return to my studio and follow the idea. Don’t be afraid to be impulsive and don’t call yourself an artist because saying that holds you back. Better to say “I’m not an artist yet, I’m still in the starting gate.”


Baker Tom

Nancy bought an Oster bread maker at a yard sale for $3.00. She downloaded a 50 page instruction booklet so we can make our own bread. Translate we to me.

The machine gathered dust for more than 2 years. “When are you going to make bread? That was my prompt to try the automatic break maker and read the instructions first. “Today” I responded. This should be easy. Load the ingredients and press start.

The machine was brand spanking new.  I read ten pages of the instructions. The rest of it were recipes. I picked the first recipe on the list – white bread. If I followed the instructions, all I had to do to make bread was to press one red button and wait 3 and ½ hours.

I found a recipe for white bread.I needed yeast and powdered milk which I didn’t have. I went shopping. After not finding powdered milk at three super markets, I finally found powdered goats milk. Close enough. So far I’ve spent an hour and no bread yet. I read the instructions again after assembling all the ingredients. The recipe called for Gold Metal (better for machine bread) flour. We only had King Arthur flour.  I drove back to the super market to visit the baking isle. The baking isle had four brands of flour. Finally I found Heckers unbleached flour “perfect for bread machines because of its higher gluten” content. I liked Heckers for two other reasons…the picture on the front is of a little boy with a huge knife carving a huge loaf of bread. the fact that their company started way back in 1853 suggesting to me that this was the flour the bread machine.  Now it was bread making time. My mouth started to water just looking at the little boy with the huge knife.

There were a few warnings in the instruction book. Don’t let the yeast get wet. All ingredients must be measured accurately.  The ingredients called for water first followed by the flower, sugar, salt, goats milk, soft butter, and finally yeast on top as far away from the water as possible. I measured everything very carefully. So far I’d vested in 2 hours time and 20 dollars and I had to made an expensive loaf of bread.

I closed the top and pressed start. There is a small window on top. I looked in with a small flashlight and the mixture turned into a white wad slowly turning. The kneading process was taking place. The machine does everything. I’ve measured and loaded and now the wait begins 3 1/3hours.

The house slowly smelled like a bakery. I checked after two hours, then three hours, then hung out in the kitchen waiting for the “ding” sound the machine made. By this time, the machine and I had become friends.

The busied myself in the kitchen, washing dishes, putting away the left over ingredients, arranging things in the refrigerator. Another peek…ten seconds to go. The countdown, a drum roll. Ding! Ah, now let’s see my very first loaf of bread with the help of technology. I raised the lid and saw a loaf of bread. I lifted the pan and slid it out onto the counter. It had a nice brown crust, spongy interior, and smelled like BREAD! The loaf looked like a block a big square block, not like a store bought loaf of Wonder bread.

I let the bread cool, then cut two slices that were equal to a slice and a half of a regular   bread slice. I made two open faced sandwiches with turkey, cheese, mayo, and lettuce.

That loaf of bread cost $20 and took two hours of my time and my friend, the automatic bread maker 3 ½ hours. I now have a new respect for supermarket bread. While passing pushing my shopping cart, I grab a loaf and keep going. Total time? One second. Total cost? $3.50.  But the taste, the crust, a freshness… this is far superior bread. I approached the bread machine, patted it and said “Thank you.”

A Bowl

An old girlfriend had only one bowl in her tiny apartment. She ate her only meal from that bowl. She is a yoga teacher, thin, and has the appetite of a bird. I thought about her bowl as a symbol of simplicity and hunger. Children holding a bowl with hunger written on their faces stopped me cold once too often. I’m going to start using only a bowl for nourishment. I get edgy when seated at a fancy dinner party where the place setting is fifteen pieces. Where’s my bowl?

I remembered her as I prepared a small salad in a medium-sized bowl. I thought…I am living large. My bowl is always full. I will never go hungry. In fact, I think about food way too much. I need to live more like a bowl than a lavish dinner setting.

A bowl could represent the entire Universe. Although no one knows what the shape of the Universe is, a bowl is just as good as any. The Universe holds itself together within its rim. A full bowl represents a step on the food chain. I make Potato leek soup from the produce at Homecoming Farm, where my wife and I have a work/share in a community of supporters. Whether my bowl is empty or full, it holds energy which is passed on. I am, along with my bowl, part of an interconnected web of life. When I volunteered at a soup kitchen, I watched the guests faces as a volunteer ladled soup into their bowl. I don’t have that look on my face when I accept a bowl of soup. My circumstances are different.

I had a friend named Linda who was a ceramicist. We became friends. When she visited my house, she brought me four soup bowls that she made. That was fifteen years ago. Only one of those bowls survives. Every time I use that bowl, I remember Linda. Cupping that bowl, I hold the world, indeed, I hold the Universe. As I eat the food in my bowl, I share that same process with millions of others who may only use their bowl a few times a week. My bowl reminds me to restrain myself.   I can do with less and get along just as well.




April 29th. 2017

9:30AM – 1:30PM

Theodore Roosevelt Nature Center

Jones Beach – west end ( near the U.S. Coast Guard station)

$4 to the Long Island State Parks Commission

Come prepared with lunch and drink, outdoor dress, and writing tools

Brief ½ hour introduction with handouts

Two hour outdoor experience – Jones Inlet, dunes, shoreline

Quiet writing time

Discussion, feedback, sharing

Leader: Tom Stock is a naturalist, essayist, poet, hiker, and experienced workshop leader. He assisted Max Wheat for several years and has taken on facilitator-ship to honor and remember Max

Please RSVP:


Check out Stock’s writing at

Port Washington Writing Workshop



April 15 2017 10am – 12noon; Saturday

You are invited to participate to improve the craft of writing poetry. Bring pad and pencil. We will use prompts for inspiration, writing time, discussion, and sharing.

Registration: call or e-mail by Monday, April 10 deadline

By e-mail:

By phone: Tom Stock 631-578-9220

Tom Stock offers enthusiasm and support in a comfortable atmosphere. He conducts writing workshops at the Theodore Roosevelt Nature Center on Jones Beach;
At the Hempstead Plains; the Poetry Powwow at the Walt Whitman Birthplace; A poet and essayist, you can see examples of his work at 100 published poems, 200 published essays; Taproot Leader; host of Spoken Word poetry at Jack Jack’s Coffee House in Babylon Village.

Snow Shoe

A pair of old fashioned (I prefer this to antique) snow shoes lay in the garage loft for 360 days. I acquired those 15 years ago in a trade. They have a hickory frame that is shaped like a droplet. They have gut webbing and leather bindings. I can reach them from the floor by grabbing the trail guides which help me stay on track when I’m walking.

An 11 inch snow yesterday woke them up. I have the 9 hole golf course ½ mile walk from the house. I was anxious to try the new bindings. I brought the old bindings to Angelo, my sweet 90 year old shoemaker and he made new ones for me. I strapped the shows onto my boots and looked out over a perfect unmarked snow that draped over gentle hills, filled sand traps, stopped at the edges of water hazards and hid the greens.

With full sun and enough wind to wisp snow off the surface and twirl it into little vortexes and gauze curtains. The white pines are magnificent and stand out as icons. On the edge of the fifth green, a mature willow tree is remarkable. This is paradise. Snow storms come as surprises, wonderful opportunities to connect with snow.

I intended to tramp a figure eight, and then repeat my tracks in the opposite direction to pack an 18 inch track that I can cross country ski later. I have to work fast. Snow doesn’t last. The first day on the ground is the best…dry and fluffy with lots of air. This is what I encountered as I stood on the edge of a grand white blanket.

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Bi-Monthly Hike Schedule

Let’s get together and take a hike
No fees
This schedule will be in effect for 6 months
Male and female are invited
Hike length last from 4 – 6 miles meet parking lot, Manorville Hills County Park – Route 111
A short hike report will appear after the hike at
Contact Tom at 631-578-9220 or
8th – 9AM Manorville Hills….. Wednesday
18th – 10AM Manorville Hills…..Saturday
4th – 9AM Manorville Hills …..Wednesday
15th – 10AM Manorville Hills…..Saturday
3rd – 9AM Manorville Hills…..Wednesday
13th – 10AM Manorville Hills…..Saturday
6th – 9AM Manorville Hills …..Wednesday
17th – 10 AM Manorville Hills….Saturday
5th 9AM Manorville Hills…. Wednesday
15th 10AM… Saturday
2nd 9AM Manorville Hills…Wednesday
12th 10AM Manorville Hills …Saturday

“If you want to learn something new, take the same trail you took yestarday” John Burrouoghs

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