Tom Stock

Poet, Essayist, Photographer, Naturalist

Month: March 2017 (Page 1 of 2)

Regularity – the poem

Right on time

Like it was yesterday



No wait time

You call, we answer

No voice mail for you

Heartbeat, yes

Breath, yes

It’s all there,

The rhythm

The rhyme

It’s going to happen for sure

On time

Every time


The moon

The sun

The tides

It’s all clock work


You know it will happen

Before it happens

I like it that way

It does what’s it’s supposed to

I know you’ll be there

When we agreed

It is what it is

One bodily function

Needs a tune up

Needs regularity

Fiber, more fiber


To Dr Jeffrey Ashkin


Tom Stock

Abandoned Lot Connections

Young praying mantises have hatched. I found them holding on to a wall in my office and decided to catch them and bring them outdoors. The stiff, foam, gray egg case was taped to a large piece of paper that I put in a folder. I managed to catch and release dozens of these miniatures. A couple of questions arose.  What do these perfect imitations of adults prey on? Will the released ones survive?

The egg case was attached near the top of a dead mugwort stalk in an abandoned lot, a fenced in area in the heart of the Village of Babylon within a short walk. I happened upon this area and decided to explore through a breach in the chain link fence. You say “Mr Stock, you’re trespassing”. You are correct. But…I have a worthy, noble, friendly, environmental cause. Curiosity drew me into an opportunity to trespass, to survey nature raging in the face of thwarted human “progress”. I am contributing to science…the ecology of abandoned lots. Earth herself has a built- in mechanism to restore herself. Look at an abandoned parking lot. You’ll find cracks with weeds coming up.

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Rock Grafitti

March 30, 2017

Today was a sad day in the Manorville Hills.  A large glacial erratic, one of the best in the entire park, was vandalized. Blue spray paint on two sides. This beautiful, gray boulder, is an oasis, a welcome break from thousands of trees, brown straight forms until one comes upon an “elephant back”. It looks as if a live elephant was buried here. I am shocked because this is the first time I’ve seen this kind of thing. Earlier, it was ATV’s. Now this. I thought the hills were going to stay perfect. I can’t walk this way any more. Or else I have to fix this.

“It looks like a witches sign.” Said Mark. “Look at that star in a circle. That’s the sign they use.” Coming upon this was very disheartening for me. It will take hours of work to clean these lines off. “They make paint spray removal.” Said Mark.

Finding a deflated mylar balloon, metallic blue, stuck in the shrubbery I grabbed it. Exotic colors are totally out of place here in this pine barrens forest.picking this up to dispose of didn’t relieve the dull pain I’m  feeling. I came here to escape graffiti and now, here it is, in the middle of hundreds and hundreds of acres of knobs and kettles, valleys, and trails. The boulder was a surprise when I first discovered it. It was a highlight. Not any more. I feel like I’ve been robbed.

I thought of a response. Fence the entire park; post a guard at the rock 24/7; use guard dogs; drones; motion sensors; hidden cameras; patrols; bring people who have to do community service to this rock to clean it;

There are other boulders here and there. Will they suffer the same? These boulders stimulate my imagination as to the power of the ice. I’ve studied them, finding cracks with blueberry bushes growing out of them, moss, lichens, major cracks fro lightning strikes.

Vandals have little to fear because there is practically no chance that they’ll be caught. This is a wakeup call that no matter where I go, there will be signs of uncaring people. Where to go next? Perhaps the best thing to do is to eliminate the trail that leads to the boulder.

As a naturalist, I expect to come across environmental destruction. Even a Styrofoam cup is destruction. It reminds me that these people have no strong connection to the outdoors. Thank god I have many friends who feel the same way I do. Hanging out with them is as close as I can come to remove the thought of that painted boulder up in the hills. I’d love to call them together so we could clean the rock, deepen our friendships, and strengthen the strong bond we already have.


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.

Vape Me

Lay your cloud on me

Let your cloud ascend

Like the smoke from

A peace pipe

A Native American tradition

A lot less primitive

Their cloud is spiritual

Yours not so much

Allow your cloud, vapid one

To join with real clouds

Up there is the sky

Where all clouds belong

Let them pass overhead

As those with their heads down

With their faces illuminated

By glowing hand-held screens

While fabulous big, bulbous

Snow-white cumulus clouds

Glorify the day

Bringing us alternate patches of blue

Fair weather clouds they are

Yours not so much

From your vape sticks

Artificial clouds

Right there in your vape lounges

Add your cloud to the

Great mother of all digital clouds

Where data lives


Point Blank

A finger at the ready

On an ak-47 gun stock

A tad reach to the trigger

Only takes a second to fire

To kill, to injure, change everything

Pull, press, boom,

Or turn a toaster knob

To choose your darkness level

Or press the darken/lighten button

At the Staples Xerox department

To select the level of darkness

Like on an antique TV set with its dial

To change the brightness of the image

It all boils down to us

Who can lighten up or darken down

The mood, the circumstances

A finger to swipe, a click, a touch

Turn a page, or to kill

It only takes a finger

To point to ourselves and choose


Accelerate: The Poem

Faster internet?

That’s so 2000

Fast isn’t fast enough

Keep accelerating

Like how else will we reach

Trappist – #1 star to check out

Only 476 million light years from Earth

An earth-like planet

If we don’t go 100 times

Faster than the speed of light

We’ll never get there in our lifetime

Which lasts about ten seconds

Like a runner nearing the finish line

The sprint, the pour it on, pump it up

Fast enough to win a mile race in 4 seconds

Talk faster so you

Can talk about the next fast thing

No more calm, no more slow dance

Music performances so quick, you don’t even hear them

Work faster

Play faster

Do everything faster

There’s no time left

Time is running out

Rush rush rush

No more fast lane

Time for blur lane

Cars aren’t passing any more

They’re flying, like meteor streaks

Texting so fast

Fingers are sore

Finger tips hurt

A split second takes a nanosecond

e-mail so fast, the message gets there

Before it’s sent

Earth is rotating faster

We have to keep up

Time has been redefined

An hour only a second

Days weeks months, years

Much shorter as we wiz through lifetimes

Five minutes old – that’s like birthday number 7,900

The odometer on the dashboard

Starts at 220 MPH

The speed of light – way too slow

Birthdays so fast you’re and can’ blow out candles

Run on sentences the size of 1000 page book

Gotta go, gotta accelerate

Speed is everything

No time to stop and smell the roses.

What happened to the time? You ask

Daylight savings, forget that

Century savings is more like it

World trade center elevators – 3 seconds up and down

Two hour movie – one second, better pay attention

Heartbeat – 200 beats per minute

Breathing rate – no time for that

Go go go – phases of the moon

It’s full all the time

Can’t slow down

Gotta keep up

LIRR to Penn Station from Montauk – seat belts required

Cross country flight – there only jiffy flight

Clocks are having a problem

My nap is over before it even starts

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.”


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