Tom Stock

Poet, Essayist, Photographer, Naturalist

Category: Short Essays (Page 2 of 13)

Notes on my 78th Birthday; October 19, 1939 – Present

I’ve seen lots of water go over the dam this past year. Projects come and go. Some actually reach completion. There have been droughts, deluges, and cracks in the dam. I am holding up, maintaining sanity, enthusiasm, and outlandish pranks.

I am still very much focused on the natural world. I recently found a huge patch o Honeysuckle vines which I collected for my basket making class at the Gallery North Community Art Studio where I am on the faculty. I found beautiful little fruits on the Honeysuckle, collected some, sketched them, and will try to germinate them (new project)

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Visit To Robert Moses State Park: October 2, 2017

Four birdwatchers perch on an elevated platform observing and counting migrating hawks. The air is clean and cool. A gentle sea breeze lazes north. Balmy full afternoon sunshine – a fine early fall day.

The bay is flat; the ocean casts 12 inch breakers on the sand. The sand is glistening light tan and fine. Robert Moses is one of the finest beaches in the world.

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Second NANCAT Sail: September, 2017

I raised my wind meter while standing on Cindy and Paul’s dock. The white Styrofoam ball hovered between 8 to 9 MPH. Not sure if I should cast off. There was a nice ripple on the water, but the situation is difference down stream where the creek  widens. Wind out of the north means an easy trip to the bay, but not so easy returning. Tacking in the narrow section of the creek is difficult. I decided not to sail on the weather report that said wind shifting to the east in the afternoon.

I left the dock in the early afternoon for another trip up and down the creek. I raised the sail and was underway immediately. I soon learned that I I forgot to lower the centerboard. The boat glided off course.

I encountered stronger wind when I entered a wider section. The boom is too low and as I changed sides, I had to duck every time I came about. To change direction, I have to do three things simultaneously. Shift from port to starboard or the opposite side, duck, tighten the sheet, and turn the tiller. This is the point where my boat is out of my control. I have to hurry to maintain control. The tiller is long. As I shift , my life jacket catches the sheet and tiller and I struggle to untangle.

Wind is always variable. Gusts luff the sail. I drifted and banged into pilings and bulkheads when the wind died. I fumbled, pushed off with the paddle I struggled, shifting back and forth, ducking, adjusting sheet and tiller. I thought sailing was supposed to be fun

I came about at the Babylon Public Dock and proceeded fast, slow, backwards, and becalmed. I still have not mastered my sailing skills. I managed to reach the narrows after many tacks. I finally decided to lower the sail and row to the slip.

I felt like had just finished an intensive gym workout. Dry land and safety at last. I experienced “nosing up” several times. This happens when I don’t have enough momentum and try to come about. I turn hard and the boat doesn’t respond. The bow keeps going in the unintended direction. I am turning away from the way I want to go.. Then, holding my breath, slowly, the bow turns to way I want. I find a place where I can get more speed. As I sail, I think about a coming hurricane, and three huge boats coming my way.


Art From Art: Ekphrastic Poetry Writing – an example


Jazz with the motor running; EMS van flashes past, loud beeping, and siren blasting warning drivers to the side/ this is emergency/ first responders have the right of way/ we are coming through/ move aside/ you block our passage/ life or death!


I crouch before yellow flowers of Goats Beard plants, relatives of dandelions, looking for insects / I catch tiny native bees in sunlight / their flights jerk and jump /  left / right / up / down /  hover – like me, manic/ impulsive/ darting like a half back who clutches a football down field / dodging in cubistic starts and stops/ fake left / fake right/ break a tackle/ charge through an opening into a clear field.

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The Four Women in Picasso’s studio:

Left to right:

Number one – bare breasted all fashionable, stares at the painter, posing    for the master who sees her form, color posture

Number two – she is reflected in a mirror – checks her hair and makeup,      competes with woman number one
Number three – charges stage right, angry,

Number four – lounging, exhausted, distraught,


Lakeland County Park

In order for visitors to experience Lakeland County Park, a series of boardwalks are necessary. This is because most of the park has a wetlands habitat. Elevated four feet above the ground, visitors have a grand opportunity to look down to see vegetation that required wet soil.

The maze of boardwalks is extensive. There are straight-aways, zig zags, and alcoves where one can sit. Touch-me-not or jewelweed is in full bloom in September. Dense stands of this plant are easy to spot. The orange blossom stands out against its green leaves.

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Black Box

And god said:
I am all knowing
I know every hair on your head

God is aware that an engineer created the black box
To record information on airline routes
That would withstand crashes and submerging for long periods of time

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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

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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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