Tom Stock

Poet, Essayist, Photographer, Naturalist

Month: July 2016

Where is Light


I am a bittersweet vine
Arms and legs entwined
Around a tree trunk
I don’t have the strength
To stand on my own
A strong white ash will do

I twist and twine toward light
Obey my genetic instructions
Climb, climb from shade to sunshine

I hug, I squeeze, I circle
Tight swirls
Like a python

Forest helps the vines
Vines help the forest
Webs two into one

Accessing My Native American Genes

1500 years ago, our Native American brothers had a vastly superior technology than ours today. They communicated by smoke signals with no phone bills. They traded, bartered, made wampum, no savings bank, no ponzi schemes, and no retirement. Don’t call their technology primitive. They had no landfills, no pollution, didn’t bottom out their source of nutrition. They didn’t have to go to a lumber yard to buy materials to build a shelter.No traffic jams, no air pollution, no junk yards, no assisted living. Their hobby was survival. Herbs became medicine and on and on.

The earliest people learned the old fashioned way…no internet, yes trial and error, yes to passing on their skills and knowledge to the next generation. This doesn’t sound like savage living to me. They observed their environment without having to look at a screen. They learned the physical properties of plants and animals and learned how to use them.
They found stones that could be chipped into arrow points. They found bushes that had straight stems and used them to make arrows. They found hickory trees and found them flexible enough to bend to make the skeleton for a wigwam and bows. Deer skin became clothing. They found tobacco, burned it, and as it rose, gave thanks for nature. They were not materialistic. If they wiped out a species, they’d have to move. They learned how to fish, build canoes, and weave baskets from vines.

Fast forward to today I had a recent experience that might parallel their process. I happened to accidentally break off a branch of a bald cypress tree. This is a rare tree here in Babylon but found in abundance in the bayous of Louisiana. I wanted to inspect the needles. I noticed that the bark split where the break occurred. I tried peeling off the bark. It came off easily and in long pieces. The bark didn’t break. With more experimentation, I scraped off the outer bark. What was left was a tough, flexible inner bark. I tied one in a knot. I’d accessed my Native brothers skills. I’d found a plant that could help me tie a wigwam structure. No lumber yard necessary.

Cooling It Under the Dome

I fill a tall glass with ice and top it with club soda. Within ten minutes, all the ice is gone. The glass sweats and so do I. It’s hot. It’s the dome. The dam dome just stays over me like the cathedral domes in Rome. It’s time to chill. I refuse to use a fan or air conditioning. I’m saving the Earth. I’m watering the garden and myself with cool spray from the hose. Then it’s time for lunch and I’m hot again. Can’t use stove or microwave – saving Earth.

I open the freezer quickly to remove ice cubes. I,m drinking three bottles of club soda daily. No tap water…too much chlorine. I use a wash cloth held under cold running water and swash neck, arms, face, legs. Hot again in four minutes. It’s time for serious geoclimatical action. Blast the dome with dry ice..anything. we got to move the #@*% dome. As a former science teacher, I know that drinking a cup of hot tea will cool me down. Yes, for ten minutes while the dome is hovering.

Watermelon, (ice cold and don’t leave the refrigerator door open) is good for about five minutes. Taking long naps in a pool of sweat may last a whole half hour. But all this time, the dome is laughing at me. I can’t get into the car, close the windows, and turn on the AC…trying to save the Earth. The dome hovers stationary while the jet stream goes south. Iced coffee and a temporary breeze, what’s better than that?

Just wearing underpants around the house. Back to the bathroom to swipe with cold water. But alas, the dome wins out. At my desk, my arms collect all the loose papers. I snack on a Klondike Bar which doesn’t help. This only makes me curse the dome. Humidity is 150% I’m sweating in reverse. No hydration necessary,A friend invites me over for a beer. We sit in the shade, sip an ice cold beer and our conversation drowns out the dome. I’m starting to feel cool in his shade-filled grotto with a south shore on coming breeze, I’ve beat the dome. And…I’ve saved the Earth

Ten Mothers


All ten of my mothers are enclosed in a single garlic bulb. Garlic is medicine because it is full of amino acids, anti bacterial and antifungal agents, lowers blood pressure, strengthens heart and lungs, detoxifies the liver, balances the metabolism, and on and on. It is 100 mothers.

When I owned Sow Love Reap Joy Farm in Manorville, I planted garlic on Halloween. This was my way of stocking up the medicine cabinet. By the first frost, tiny sprouts peeked above the soil. Tiny roots set the process in motion. I mulched the plants with dried leaves and cast some soil on top of them to hold them down. Winter for garlic is waiting time.

Around March, the sprouts start getting bigger. The clove I planted last fall is feeding the seven garlic leaves that hard neck garlic develop during the spring and summer. Those seven leaves produce the “medicine” which travels down the stalk and build into seven cloves. Garlic cloves are heavy feeders. I had added compost and cow manure to the soil.

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The Finch Story

Nancy and I took care of a pair of Australian Zebra Finches while Darrel Ford recuperated in the Hospital. Soon, we were charmed. When Ford returned home, he gave us the finches as a thank you gift.

We called the male “Sweetie” and the female “Dear One” after our nicknames. We bought a larger cage because finches love to fly and need space. We researched and learned how to take care of them. They are a substitute for furry pets because Nancy is allergic to hair. The finches soon became members of our family.

I learned a lot about bird behavior in a few months. He chases her several times a day. She avoids him until it stops and they perch. She has a sad call, his is a high-pitches series of notes. They take baths. They shake and jiggle so fast that drops of water fly outside the cage. They spend a lot of time primping. They are messy. Life in a cage is boring. They eat all day long and deposit droppings on newspapers. They gnaw on the cuttle bone and swipe their finch bills on the perch to clean them. They also spend a lot of time preening.

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We passed through security, and finally boarded the ferry with about 200 others. We disembarked on Ellis Island, entered the immigration building and found our way to the docent who would lead us on a 90 minute “backstage” tour.

We were led through a gate and into a hall, a very long hall, a hall that connected 30 hospital buildings the purpose of connecting all the buildings was to contain any contagious diseases. We were about to tour the hospital complex, and complex it is. Dave, our docent, conducted the tour walking slowly backwards. We donned hard hats while he showed us a four-foot high water mark from Hurricane Sandy.

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The Copper Beech Tree at Sagamore Hill National Historic Site

July 3, 2016:

Massive does not describe a tree growing close to the Theodore Roosevelt summer home in Oyster Bay Cove. This tree is a frozen contrarian, a wrinkle skinned gray monolith.

The tree was its own wisdom. On one level, it suggests steadfastness in the face of disease and strong weather. On another level, the roots provide another message…stay put in order to know your community and hold on tight to family, friends, and neighbors.

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