Poetry Studio... Writing poetry with children - On My Walks

On My Walks

Nature is a great source for poetry. I get many ideas for poems from my walks on my path through the trees and around the pond. The scenes in these photographs inspired some words or lines of poetry that might appear in one of my poems someday.

Kauai Snail


What a snail (near the beach) finds when it unpacks its shell:

the weight of the waves
the sound of the surf
the scent of the sea
a soupçon of sand

Ocean's secrets

I found this snail near the beach in Kauai, Hawaii. Through my research, I was not able to positively identify the kind of snail. It is large for a snail - the shell is about two and a half inches! According to Hawaiian folklore, some snails sing. That sounds like a good idea for a poem!


tufted ears, bobbed tail,
black-spotted brownish coat
ambles by on silent paws.
Unlikely morning visitor
camouflaged in sunlight and shadows,
It pauses, stares, before slipping away.

Imagine my surprise when I saw this animal walking across my backyard! The bobcat is the most common type of wildcat in the United States. It hunts mostly during dawn and dusk hours and is rarely spotted by humans. The bobcat's black-spotted brown coat blends in with rocks, bushes, and other plants. It is about twice the size of the average house cat. The bobcat is named for its short ("bobbed") tail. The poem example here is an etheree, a 10-line unrhymed poem that begins with a one-syllable line and adds one syllable in each following line.


Deer hoofprint

February 14

A deer tiptoed by my window
while I was still sleeping
and left me a Valentine
in the snow.

The hoofprints of deer often appear heart-shaped. This print is perfect for today!


In orange frock
and black pinafore,
gossipy ladies flash
a bit of white petticoat
as they flit
flower to flower.

We are enjoying an explosion of painted lady butterflies! They always pass through Nebraska heading south in late summer, but rarely as many as we have this year - hundreds of them in the flower garden. Painted ladies especially love purple and pink flowers, but will suck nectar from just about any late-blooming plant. They don't damage plants or cause problems and will likely benefit gardens next year because butterflies spread the pollen that plants need to produce seeds.

Painted Lady butterflies

Painted Lady butterfly



Late spring baby
meadow child
left behind   for now
hidden by your mother
though she is never far.

Sun and leaves play shadow tag
with the spots
on your silky rust coat

your wobbly stick legs
tucked beneath you
in the tall grass.

Motionless   you stay
not even a twitch
of your tiny tail.

She knows
you are safer

This fawn is a white-tailed deer. Its reddish-brown coat and white spots helps it blend into the woods. The mother deer (doe) has hidden her baby in the bushes, but she will be back soon. White-tailed deer (named for the white underside of their tails) are the smallest of the deer family. They are herbivores, meaning they will eat almost any kind of plant (including my flowers!).

February 2

Read a Groundhog Day poem.

Groundhogs are rodents and the largest member of the squirrel family. They eat plants, fruit, and tree bark. They eat a lot in the summer to build up their stores of fat. After the first frost, they move to their underground burrows and sleep until spring. Other names for groundhog are woodchuck, marmot, and whistle pig.


Turtle Under the Ice


In a house of ice
the turtle sleeps waiting for
light from spring's weak sun

Remember the pictures of the snapping turtle (see below)? Snapping turtles usually hibernate in the mud at the bottom of a pond during the winter, but it is possible to see one under the ice…like this one.


On the first day of Christmas,
Mother Nature gave to me…
a possum in a crabapple tree!

Possums (or, opossums) are nocturnal, but the one in the picture was moving about in the daytime. It seemed too heavy for the tree branches, but its balance was good. Its prehensile (is able to grasp objects) tail helped to stabilize it. Possums are North America's only marsupial.


Frosty Leaf


Old and whiskered,
the last leaf
pulls up its collar
against wind's icy fingers.

In these lines of poetry, personification helps to create a word picture in your mind. Personification gives human qualities to inanimate objects.


First Snow Moon, Corn Moon,
you spy through leafless branches
with eyes of wonder

Native American nations traditionally name full moons to represent months of the year. "First Snow Moon" and "Corn Moon" are two such names for moons of the autumn season. The photograph shows the "supermoon" that appeared tonight for the first time in 68 years and will not appear again until the year 2034. A supermoon occurs when the full moon is the largest, brightest, and nearest to the earth.




See that apple?
It's ready to pick.
Reach up.  Twist.  Pluck it from the branch.
Smell the autumn in it.
Rub its satin skin against your shirt.
Now  C-R-U-N-C-H!
Lick the sweet tart juice
as it dribbles down your chin.

You use all five of your senses in this bit of a poem. My walk this time was through an apple orchard…a very sensory place in all of the seasons.


Up from the mud
black eyes glint in the sun.
Thirteen moons of lore
etch the carapace.
Around her neck
folds of age drape
like a well-worn sweater.

Wrinkled stocking legs
belie strength.
In the air
a moldery scent
bitterbut not unpleasant

the smell of ancient dirt
old leaves
the end of summer.

What a surprise it was to find this snapping turtle in the front yard! Snapping turtles live in ponds with muddy bottoms and seldom leave their habitat. This one had crawled quite a distance from the pond. Its shell, called a carapace, was longer than 12 inches, and its muddy tail was almost that long. A snapping turtle has a VERY strong jaw (with no teeth) and sharp claws. It is dangerous to handle. (If you see one, do NOT touch!) We returned it to the pond in a wagon…extremely carefully! (The "thirteen moons" in the poem refer to the number of moons in a year in many Native American cultures. Each moon has its own name and its own story.)

Snapping Turtle Eye

Snapping Turtle



Who sneaked about
in the still of night
and built these ghostly houses
with moon roofs?

A toadstool is a fungus with a stem and a cap like an umbrella. Toadstools are also called mushrooms. They often appear after it rains for a few days. Some are poisonous so it is a good idea not to eat them.


leafy shafts swaying
tipped with gold feathered arrows
point summer toward fall

Goldenrod is a wild plant that grows in many places around the world. (It is the state flower of Nebraska.) Goldenrod is nutritious and has health benefits. Historically, it has been used to heal wounds and treat some diseases. Its pollen does not cause allergies, as many people believe. Its flowers and leaves may be eaten and can be used to make tea. The leaves may be cooked like spinach or added to soups and casseroles.





of glidingbeak




When they are flying, turkey vultures appear to make a "V" with their long wings. They float in large circles, teetering a bit and rarely beating their wings, looking for carrion (dead animals) to eat. Unlike most birds, they use their sense of smell to find their food. Their bodies are covered with feathers except for their red heads. A bald head helps make their eating not such a messy business after all!


monarch butterfly
dressed in orange and black silk
queen of the garden

You can attract monarch butterflies to your yard by planting milkweed. They lay their eggs on milkweed plants. The larvae hatch and eat the milkweed, eventually becoming caterpillars. Monarchs are born at different times during the summer. Only monarch butterflies born in late summer and early fall migrate.

Monarch Butterfly

Turkeys in the shade


Sacks of feathers
plopped in the shade.
Too hot for turkeys!

It is VERY hot today—over 100 degrees. These wild turkeys were right outside our window using the house as shade from the afternoon sun.


Little Bird, little Bird,
try your new wings.
Jump out of our nest.
See what the sky brings.

Fly north to Alaska.
Fly east to the sea.
Fly west to the mountain.
Then fly home to me.

Several pairs of barn swallows have built their mud nests under the deck of our house. It is interesting to watch them swoop, abruptly turn, and dive, putting on their "airshows." What is most fun to watch is the flurry of activity that takes place when the mother and father barn swallows are trying to encourage the fledglings to leave the nest. Two or three pairs of adults join the parents, and all of them fly around it, circling, swooping in and out, with noisy tweets to the young birds as they teeter on the edge of the nest, not quite ready to take the plunge.

Baby Barn Swallows

Goose family


Fuzzy yellow bundles
in and out of water

Canada geese seem comfortable around people, but they are a bit camera-shy when they are with their young. They live in my part of the United States year round. Male and female partners usually stay together for life. The female chooses the site for a nest, builds the nest, and incubates the eggs while the male stands guard. Goslings often stay with their parents for their entire first year.


Forest fairies tied white satin bows on stems
to mark a secret hiding place
Butterflies halted their frantic flit and flutter
to rest on some stems and gossip.

These wildflowers are commonly called "Dutchman's breeches" because they look like pantaloons or a pair of bloomers hung upside down. (Notice the three different words you can use for "pants"—they have slightly different meanings.)

Butterfly Banner



s-s-s-striped s-s-s-slithery his-s-s-ser

Garter snakes enjoy the spring sun. Notice this one's racing stripes. Its flicking bright orange tongue is hidden by the shadows. They are harmless. The only "danger" associated with a garter snake is the surprise one might generate as it darts across the path of an unaware walker!


pieces of sky scattered in the grass

What an amazing color!
It is not likely that these pieces of a robin's egg were the former home of this fledgling (a general name given to baby birds that have their flight feathers). Notice its coloration. It blends in well with its surroundings. It will be flying soon!


Robin Egg

Baby Robin


Shy maidens flounce their purple frocks
at the spring dance.

Violets are not shy about blooming everywhere!




Statue on stick legs
egret stands
poised and patient
in quiet waters


Dagger beak


Great white sheets
above the water

A dazzling surprise this morning…three egrets on the pond! We seldom see them here. From a little research, I learned that these were probably great egrets, which have yellow bills and black legs. Snowy egrets have bright yellow feet and more feathery plumes.


buttery cups spill
sweet sundrops awakening
  Earth's tired winter eyes

Always among the earliest of spring flowers, these daffodils inspired a haiku.



sun settles
on a slender stem,
makes a splash

Alliteration describes the forsythia!


Forsythia blossoms

Forsythia bush


Goldfinches perch
ready to swap
drab wintry garb
for sunny coats

A tiny bit of yellow is beginning to show on the goldfinches. They spend the winter here, and their feathers change color. The male goldfinch is easy to spot in the summer with his bright yellow body and black cap. In winter, his feathers are brown with a light yellow throat. The female is olive green with yellow underneath in the summer, but turns gray in the winter.




Bare brittle branches sigh
weary from holding up winter clouds
but each tiny twig
bears the promise of a green prom dress

This scene rarely changes in late winter.


Primeval night music
on a black ribbon river
gives way
to exultation
at dawn

Sandhill cranes do not cross my walking path, but they do migrate across Nebraska and stay for awhile. More than 500,000 of these birds stop along the Platte River in central Nebraska during March to feed and prepare for the long journey from their winter homes in Mexico, Florida, and Texas, to nest in northern Canada and Alaska. In the evenings, they drift onto river islands, singing their crane song. When the sun comes up, they take off in an explosion of sound and wings.




Pointy green ears
poke through dry leaves
listening for spring

Warm, sunny days are forcing these tulips to venture above the ground much earlier than usual. They should know we have more winter days ahead!


raw umber
the ocean's palette roils
and tumbles
to shore

This week, my walking path is a beach in Hawaii.

Hawaii beach

Hawaii is famous for its sunsets. The tiny bright spot on the hill is the last of the sun going down.

Hawaii sunset

People call this flower a "bird of paradise." It looks like a brightly colored bird in flight. Its scientific name is "strelitzia"—I like the sound of that word.

Bird of paradise

Fluing geese


Ragged strings of geese
in jumbles    angles
following a leader
who seems to know where to go
How does he know?

There are hundreds of thousands of geese on the move, every day now. I hear them before I see them. I have to search the sky until, suddenly, there they are!


Bitter wind pulls at the dusty rags
caught in spidery branches.

Squirrels' nests (called "dreys") are easy to spot in the winter.

Squirrel nest


February 14

A snowy cedar is decorated with red hearts this morning.

Fitting for today. After all, male and female cardinals are partners for life…nature's Valentines.

All Content Copyright Prairie Sunshine
Photographs by Tom Wendelin