Saturday, April 30, 2022

To Be Human Is To Bear Witness


To Be Human Is To Bear Witness

Spiral milkweed pushes up green shoots
And dirt is blowing
And turbines are spinning

Oak flowers dream of acorns
And glaciers are melting
And panels are absorbing

Dandelions spread rampant joy
And wildfires are raging
And coal plants are shuttering

Hummingbirds return all abuzz
And extinctions are accelerating
And bald eagles are rebounding

This world within a world within the world
And all the excruciating truths
And every glimmer of hope

To be human is to bear witness.

© Mary Lee Hahn, 2022

Friday, April 29, 2022

My Chlorophyll Heart


My Chlorophyll Heart

I’m for photosynthetic optimism –
the bulbous kind you plant in the fall
in spite of squirrels who dig ruthlessly
and urban deer who nibble indiscriminately,
the kind that seed packets hold through the winter
believing in butterflies and hummingbirds
before they’ve ever known sun and rain.

Here’s to the blazing green energy of plants–
from the toughest blade of crabgrass
to the most tender spring ephemeral,
from the massive trunks of riverbed sycamores
to the tiniest pond-floating duckweeds.

I’m for the plants –
for the roots who go about their work
silently, mysteriously,
collaborating with mycorrhizal fungi.

And I’m for the leaves of trees –
especially sweet gum’s stars
and ginkgo’s fans.

I’m for the way we share the air with plants –
us breathing out, plants breathing in.
I’m for the generous chemistry of leaves,
combining carbon dioxide with water and sun,
creating carbon building blocks for itself, then
sharing the extras back into the soil for the microbes.

What moves me?
What plays me like a needle in a groove?

© Mary Lee Hahn, 2022

This poem is an attempt to write in the style of Taylor Mali. The poem I used as my mentor text is Silver-Lined Heart.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Nature Has Something To Say


Nature Has Something To Say

My name is Mary Jane.
I have a twin.
Don’t treat me as property.
I am alive.
I can hear and hold memories.
I have rights, too.

Save my neighborhood.
Save our lake lives,
our woodland and wetland lives.
If your corporations have legal personhood,
so should we.

We are alive.
Do not treat us as property.

© Mary Lee Hahn, 2022

"Threatened by development, five bodies of water are suing the State of Florida, making the unprecedented argument that nature has legal rights, too." -- Does This Water Have Legal Rights?

Mary Jane and her twin, Lake Hart, along with two other local waters and a marsh in Orange County, Florida have filed a lawsuit that would protect their neighborhood. Shifting the legal system to recognize personhood is not new. We did it to recognize slaves, women, children, corporations, and Indigenous people as citizens. Ecuador, Columbia, India, and New Zealand are leading the way with earth law. Shouldn't we ALL be on board?

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

What I Know About Farming


What I Know About Farming

When I was a kid,
local farmers raised sugar beets.
Migrant workers hoed acres of fields
by hand.
Junior Soliz ate everything on his lunch tray,
even the orange peel,
and we laughed at him.

When I was a teen,
I babysat Phil and Mary Sue’s irrigation,
monitoring the pump and the furrows.
Their corn was lush and tall and impossibly green.
The water was pumped up from the Ogallala Aquifer,
which is geologic water.
When it’s gone, it’s gone.

When I was a young adult,
my father died of lung cancer.
He had been an ag pilot,
drenching himself and the farm fields below his plane
with toxic chemicals,
not realizing he was causing
silent springs.

When I imagine the farms of the future,
their workers are valued.
They grow crops appropriate for their climate.
They give life, rather than taking it.

© Mary Lee Hahn, 2022

Looking back, it's astonishing to me that I grew up in a farming community that had been ravaged by the Dust Bowl years, and yet I learned nothing about the Dust Bowl, or what caused it, in school. Groundwater and the Ogallala Aquifer were not a part of our science curriculum. 

My dad's cousin Bob insisted on using dryland farming techniques rather than succumbing to both the allure (and cost) of irrigation, as well as the government subsidies that funded crops requiring irrigation. But he was an anomaly. 

Eastern Colorado is again in the midst of a severe drought, with dirt storms that last all day and reduce visibility to under a mile. I understand the enormity of shifting our agriculture system from huge agribusinesses to farms that are responsive to the land and climate. I understand that "huge agribusiness" can mean "land accumulated by families over many generations" and change can seem like an attack on a way of life. I understand. I am hopeful that change will come from the farmers and landowners.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Collard Green Seed Savers Give Me Hope


In the section of ALL WE CAN SAVE titled "Nourish," there are essays about Black cultural ties to the soil, and the need to reimagine agriculture so that we can save our vanishing soil and protect our (mostly Hispanic or Latinx) farm workers. Large industrial farms need to be replaced by smaller farms and more robust home gardens. More people need to get their hands dirty raising their own food. If we are intimately connected to the soil, or to the seeds and their history, as the members of the Heirloom Collard Project are, we will be more invested in saving the whole planet.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Let's Talk


Let's talk. Let's talk about the wildfires there and the flooding here. Let's talk about the decreasing numbers of butterflies and bees in our gardens. Let's talk about solar energy and Green policies. Let's talk to Indigenous people, whose deep ancestral knowledge of the earth can teach us so much about conservation and ecology. Let's stop ignoring what's going on and work together to change our trajectory.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Ode to the Minuscule


Ode to the Minuscule

To worm castings –
bubbles of fresh soil,
froth of loam.

To beech’s leaf buds –
tightly wrapped
bronze spikes.

To Squirrel Corn –
your heart on your sleeve,
treasures hidden at your feet.

To Harbingers of Spring –
salt and pepper
of the forest floor.

To gnat –
the first Trillium Grandiflorum
is all yours.

© Mary Lee Hahn, 2022

This Earth Day weekend, I traveled to South Bend, IN to celebrate the life of April Pulley Sayre. On Friday afternoon, between rain showers, April's husband, Jeff, took us on a wildflower walk through April's favorite woods. All but the worm castings were sighted there. Those I spotted as we walked to Lake Marian Island before the luncheon on Saturday. 

During the memorial service, I jotted this note about April's belief: we can "...change the world by changing the way we look at it." Yes, we need to look at the big picture. Yes, we need to give everything we've got to reversing the warming of our planet. And yes, we need to seek out and appreciate all of the tiny intricate wonders of the natural world.

The photo of worm castings is via Project Noah, and the beech leaf bud is via Wikimedia Commons. The others are photos I took on Jeff's nature walk.

earthworm castings

beech leaf bud

Squirrel Corn

Harbinger of Spring ("Salt and Pepper")

Trillium Grandiflorum (can you spot the gnat?)

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Urban Wildlife


Last Wednesday, while I cleaned out the garden beds on a rare sunny morning, three Cooper's hawks gave me quite the show, swooping and diving and calling back and forth right above the garden and nearby neighborhood. It was magical. 

Just as magical, but also gruesome, was the sight we came upon week before last as we pulled out of the alley behind the Clintonville Resources Center after doing our pick-ups and deliveries of donations to the food bank. There, where the alley met the street, was a Cooper's hawk, valiantly mantling over a pigeon nearly his/her own size.  The pigeon was squirming, and the hawk was having a hard time making the kill. A delivery truck turned onto the street from the alley across the way, and it was too much for the hawk. It flew away. I used a plastic-bag-covered hand to move the pigeon up into the yard, in the hopes that the hawk would come back, finish the kill, and have a meal.

City hawks give me hope. We are losing lots of species, but some are adapting to life in urban environments. These wild neighbors are precious to me.

Friday, April 22, 2022

Earth Speaks



are dying.
My forests are
cut down or burning.
My systems are weakened,
and my glaciers are melting.
So many species are extinct.
How can I convince you to help me?

© Mary Lee Hahn, 2022

Today, Earth Day 2022, I'll pass the mic to Earth and let her speak.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

At the Bird Feeder



I am the cardinal who flashes bright red.
I am the junco who wears a gray coat.
I am the wren who sings from the fence
with a body so small and a voice so immense.

I am the hawk who swoops overhead.
I am the crow who caws an alarm.
I am the silence – all have dispensed
till the robin comes back and breaks the suspense.

I am the cardinal who again flashes red.
I am the junco who fluffs his gray coat.
I am the wren back atop of the fence
with a body so small and a voice so immense.

© Mary Lee Hahn, 2022

I saw a quote from Lisa Congdon on IG yesterday:
"Be a joy monger."
Delving deeply into the realities of the climate crises has severely depleted my stores of joy and optimism. But yesterday was a rare day without rain (one of our local climate changes is more frequent and more extreme rainfall) and it looks like perhaps we've had the last freeze. So out to the garden I went for some joy mongering. I cleared the beds of last fall's oak leaves and looked for hidden signs of spring. My notebook lay open on the porch, and is now full of joy, and smudged with mud and notes for future poems.

Section 6 in ALL WE CAN SAVE is all about the emotional and psychological toll of the climate crisis and its work.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?


This poem comes from the recent archives. It was written in February for Laura Shovan’s 10th Annual February Poem Challenge. It is a response to the Chicago song by the same title. Here it is performed by the cover band Leonid & Friends, which is comprised of musicians from Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, and Belarus who have never heard Chicago perform live.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

What If



What if democracy
does not exist in opposition,
is not the weight on one end
of the beam of our future?
What if democracy is the fulcrum,
holding everything in balance?

What if democracy
is a force of nature
equal to gravity, symbiosis,
evolution, and tides?

What if democracy
is a synonym
for love?

© Mary Lee Hahn, 2022

"Inequality and climate change are the twin challenges of our time, and more democracy is the answer to both." --Heather McGhee, p. 91 in ALL WE CAN SAVE

I fear the loss of democracy with the same panic-inducing terror that I feel for our planet. But my belief in science and in the power of love is greater than all of my fears, and those beliefs are what help me to have hope for our future.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Culture Change Work Is Climate Change Work


This non-rhyming villanelle is a found poem, created with lines used both directly from and paraphrased from ALL WE CAN SAVE, mostly from the essay “Harnessing Cultural Power” by Favianna Rodriguez. The lines can be found on these pages:
278, 125, 123;
125, 124, 278;
125, 125, 123;
126, 126, 278;
126, 127, 123;
127, 127, 278, 123.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Three Rs Times Four

The phrase "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" dates back to around 1976, when Congress passed the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act to increase recycling and conservation efforts. 

More recently, the second three Rs (plus a couple more) came about. 

Worthington, the area of Columbus two streets away from where I live, is holding a Pre-cycling Day on April 23. Their three Rs are the third set. 

I invented those last three Rs, because the foundation for meaningful and lasting change on our planet will have to come with a cultural shift -- we must "Create culture to challenge consumption."
"Imagine the power of being exposed to an abundance of stories, songs, and images that challenge our fundamental consumption culture and expand our perspectives by helping us feel the consequences of our choices. " p. 125-125 in ALL WE CAN SAVE

Our culture of unlimited consumption and unbridled consumerism simply has to go. 

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Loveliest of Trees


Yesterday, my poem witnessed the insect apocalypse. Today, a different kind of witnessing. The kind that gives me hope: Spring is returning, and the redbuds are in bloom. 

I distinctly remember the first time I saw a redbud blooming. I was walking across the OSU campus after a spring rain. At first, I was amazed to hear the sound of water being sucked into the ground! But then a small tree near the sidewalk caught my eye and I could NOT believe what I saw -- there were blooms coming right out of the bark on the branches! In that moment, redbuds became my favorite spring tree

A.E. Houseman's Loveliest of Trees is one of my favorite spring poems. I have it memorized, and I recite it every spring to remind myself to witness this season of rebirth as if it might be the last one I ever see.

"...loving this vanishing world feels like a kind of prayer sometimes." p.263-264 in ALL WE CAN SAVE

Friday, April 15, 2022

Witnessing the Insect Apocalypse


From the essay, "Loving a Vanishing World," by Emily N. Johnston in ALL WE CAN SAVE:

"It's a constant question for me every time I'm entranced by the beauty of this world: What does it mean to love this place? What does it mean to love anyone or anything in a world whose vanishing is accelerating, perhaps beyond our capacity to save the things that we love most?"

Here's the 2018 NYTimes article about the insect apocalypse that's been haunting me for four years.


Thursday, April 14, 2022

Dear Generation C



Covid, Carbon, and Climate will define you.
Cohorts, Connections, and Community will unite you.
Collaboration, Cooperation, and Citizenship will move you.
Capitalism, Consumerism, and Colonialism will be Constrained by you.
Compassion will guide you.

Your Challenges are Colossal.

We Cede to you a world in Chaos,
but seeded with Cautious optimism
and the saplings of a Conservation Culture.
It’s not much,
but we’ll Continue to Cultivate all the Changes we Can.

We’re Cheering for you! Be Courageous!

The Baby Boomers, Gens X, Y, and Z, and the Millennials

© Mary Lee Hahn, 2022

Today's poem was inspired by ALL WE CAN SAVE and also by Seth Godin's newsletter "Seth's Blog." In it, he wonders,
"So what to call the next generation?

My co-authors Bruce Clark and Paige NeJame have coined the term “Generation C.” It’s so well-suited, I believe it’s going to stick.

C is for Covid, C is for Carbon, C is for Climate."

I agree. I think it will stick. Generation C it is. Now let's work to make the changes necessary to keep the global average temperature rise below 1.5° and let's arm Gen C with all the skills and attitudes they will need to carry through to the next generation.  

Wednesday, April 13, 2022




Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockle shells
And pretty maids all in a row.

Mary, Mary, now organic,
What’s in your garden soil?
A humble creature, long and thin
Not asking much as it toils.

Mary, Mary, worms are essential,
Their tunnels aerate the earth.
They mix soil layers, help decompose:
They make the terra less firma.

© Mary Lee Hahn, 2022

I love earthworms. They are amazing creatures who do such essential and often overlooked work.

Yesterday was one of those after-a-day-of-rain spring mornings when the sidewalks were covered with worms. I must have tossed two dozen back into the grass during my walk. 

There's an excellent chapter on soil in ALL WE CAN SAVE: "Solutions Underfoot," by Jane Zelikova.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022




Banana, Bonobo, and Bumblebee
all share DNA with me!

Hickory, Cherry, Birch, and Oak
share DNA with me – no joke!

Humans differ by a tenth of a percent.
We’re exactly the same, for all intents.

Each life is connected in this way –
with common strands of DNA.

© Mary Lee Hahn, 2022

“Science has finally confirmed that human beings share genes with all living organisms.” p.20 in ALL WE CAN SAVE

What could be more hopeful than realizing that we’re literally all in this together? And what could be more anxiety-inducing to remember that one species has caused – and needs to repair – all the problems on our planet?

Monday, April 11, 2022

The Truth



is an obstinate drum

beating a steady bass line of facts
rattling a snare of reality

setting the tempo 
pacing the march

for change.

© Mary Lee Hahn, 2022

Jane Hirshfield, in her poem "On the Fifth Day" writes about the attempt to silence the truth. Spoiler alert: the truth cannot be silenced.

Sunday, April 10, 2022



Courage is hard work. As an individual, I waver. As a species, we are wavering. The earth will move on with or without us, but my greatest hope is that humankind will have more courage than cowardice to do what’s best for our planet.

The quote in this poem's striking line can be found on p. 30 in ALL WE CAN SAVE.

Saturday, April 9, 2022




mover of air
through the atmosphere,
flung by earth’s rotation
and sun’s uneven heating.
Pollinator, turbine turner;
hawk lifter, energy provider;
bringer of rain, hope for our green future.

© Mary Lee Hahn, 2022

I have a complicated relationship with wind, having come from a father who grew up during the Dust Bowl in the arid high plains of Eastern Colorado and having myself lived with its nearly constant presence and the very real consequences of dust storms and drought. But it gives me great hope to see a new "crop" for a part of the country that may eventually have to transition away from agriculture as the current drought worsens and the water table dries up: wind energy. 

Tucked at the bottom of a recent post on Reasons to Be Cheerful (thank you, "Cousin" Tanita) was this: 
"The world has passed another mile marker on the road to sustainability: according to a new analysis, clean power provided the planet more electricity than coal in 2021."


Friday, April 8, 2022



The Thing Is

contrails are pollution.
I’m sorry to be the one to break it to you
but a sky crisscrossed by blazing pink lines
lit by the rising sun
on a cold, late-winter morning
is not a sky full of kisses
is not a glorious gift
is not a positive sign from the Universe.
Contrails cause cloudiness
that contributes to climate change.
They are categorized as “homogenitus” –
clouds resulting directly from human activity.
This is just to say,
no matter how delicious or beautiful,
they’ve got to go.
Forgive me for saying so.

© Mary Lee Hahn, 2022

Contrails don't give me hope in a time of climate crisis. They play a significant role in aviation-related global warming by creating clouds that trap heat on earth. But the fact that scientists are studying them does give me hope. The sudden, dramatic drop in airplane traffic in 2020 proved to researchers at MIT that their mapping of contrails was accurate. 

Researchers at the Yale School of the Environment remind us that the ONLY way to shut down global warming is to curb CO2 emissions. 
"But if the world wants a big short-term contribution from aircraft to keep us below some specific temperature target, such as 1.5 degrees C, then action on contrails can provide it."

 Researchers at MIT are

"working with major airlines to forecast regions in the atmosphere where contrails may form, and to reroute planes around these regions to minimize contrail production.

Steven Barrett, professor and associate head of MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. "There’s an unusual opportunity to halve aviation’s climate impact by eliminating most of the contrails produced today."

"Most measures to make aviation sustainable take a long time," Barrett says. "(Contrail avoidance) could be accomplished in a few years, because it requires small changes to how aircraft are flown, with existing airplanes and observational technology. It’s a near-term way of reducing aviation’s warming by about half." "

Now THAT'S hopeful. Let's go, airline industry. The ball's in your court.

(This poem was written using The Thing Is by Ellen Bass as a mentor text.)

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Mend It!



There’s a hole in my jeans
too big to ignore.
Should I throw them away
and go buy some more?

No, I think I will mend them
with bright purple thread
because of statistics
I recently read:

Three-fifths of all clothes
are thrown in the trash.
A dump truck is filled
every second! That’s rash!

We need to buy less.
We need to mend more.
Use needle and thread,
don’t go to the store.

© Mary Lee Hahn, 2022

True story, those jeans. True story, my decision to mend rather than buy a new pair. I follow several "visible mending" artists on IG and I intend for all of the pairs of jeans that I've owned for more than ten years to last more than ten more. Mending gives me hope.

From the fabulous essay in ALL WE CAN SAVE, "Dear Fossil Fuel Executives," by Cameron Russell:
"Fashion's carbon footprint is big and growing, responsible for 8 to 10 percent of global emissions. We must accept responsibility for growing a culture of rampant consumerism, too. Three-fifths of all clothes end up in a landfill or incinerator within a few years of being produced. By some estimates, textile production is on track to use at least a quarter of the world's carbon budget by 2050." p. 205 (emphasis is mine)

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Daily Alchemy



Out and in trees silently breathe,
turning carbon into life:
a living clean-air factory.
Out and in trees silently breathe.
This spring we’re planting, saying please
help us, Trees, while there’s still time.
Out and in trees silently breathe
turning carbon into life.

© Mary Lee Hahn, 2022

Today's poem is dedicated to Friends of the Lower Olentangy (FLOW), who are sponsoring tree planting and invasive species removal projects weekly throughout the month of April in the Olentangy River watershed, and to the Ohio River Foundation, who does the same work on a larger scale for the Ohio River watershed.

Trees give me hope. They have so much to teach us about collaboration, if only we would listen.

"If humans are to help reverse global warming, we will need to step into the flow of the carbon cycle in new ways, stopping our excessive exhale of carbon dioxide and encouraging the winded ecosystems of the planet to take a good long inhale as they heal. It will mean learning to help the helpers, those microbes, plants, and animals that do the daily alchemy of turning carbon into life." p. 13 ALL WE CAN SAVE (with borrowed phrases in bold)

"The winded ecosystems of the planet..." Don't you love that? 

Tuesday, April 5, 2022




The dandelions are waking up
They’re stirring in their sleep
They stretch their spiky arms up high
And dream of green and gold and sky.

The dandelions are waking up
They’re waiting for more sun
So they can bloom and spread and seed
Not knowing some think they’re a weed.

The dandelions are waking up
A hopeful little flower
Reminding me that like the grass
Our work done best, is done en masse.

© Mary Lee Hahn, 2022

The theme of collaboration is powerful vein that runs through most every chapter of ALL WE CAN SAVE. From the introduction:
"...building community is a requisite foundation for building a better world."
Dandelions annoy many, but they delight me and give me hope. They are a definite sign of spring, and they are persistent and resilient and prolific. They spread joy en masse. Just think what we could do to repair the climate if we used dandelions as our role models!

Oh, and just coincidentally, today is National Dandelion Day!

Monday, April 4, 2022

A Small Patch



it’s a small yard
with a small garden
and a small patch
of milkweed

it’s a small thing
for a small creature
this small patch
of milkweed

many small acts
make a big difference
plant your own small patch
of milkweed

for the monarchs
for the miracle migrators
plant them a small patch
of milkweed

© Mary Lee Hahn, 2022

In her essay, "What is Emergent Strategy?" in ALL WE CAN SAVE, (the most underlined two pages so far in my copy of the book) Adrienne Maree Brown quotes Nick Obolensky to define emergence: "Emergence is the way complex systems and patterns arise out of a multiplicity of relatively simple interactions." In her words, "...the whole is a mirror of the parts. Existence is fractal--the health of the cell is the health of the species and the planet." And later, "...species survive only if they learn to be in community."

Small actions matter.

Sunday, April 3, 2022



In the chapter "Reciprocity" by Janine Benyus in ALL WE CAN SAVE, she tells the fascinating story of an ecologist in the early 1900s who was the first to demonstrate that "...plants were cooperators as well as competitors." This view lost favor, coinciding, "to the year, with the release of the Truman Doctrine and the onset of the Cold War. For decades, communism was a third rail best avoided, even when talking about plants." I love this statement by Benyus: 

"But here is what I love about the scientific method. Though culture seeps into science and sometimes holds its finger on the scale, it cannot stop the relentless search for measurable truth. Un-American or not, the math has to work." 

The symbiotic relationships between animals (mutualism, commensalism, parasitism) are widely known (and taught in 5th grade Life Science in Ohio). Scientists are beginning to understand the mutualistic relationships between plants, and they are finding a truth we need to remember as a human species:

"The more stressful the environment, the more likely you are to see plants working together to ensure mutual survival."

Let's use mutualism as our model moving forward -- for both our species and our planet.

Saturday, April 2, 2022

Science Is



Science gives us data
Science provides the proof
Information is the house
Science is the roof.

Science looks at details
Science depends on facts
Experiments are signposts
Science is the path.

Science is objective
Science can’t be swayed
Observations are keen eyes
Science is the gaze.

© Mary Lee Hahn, 2022

The thing that gives me the most hope right now is science. I started following @thegarbagequeen on TikTok and am buoyed up by her #goodclimatenews in the midst of all the work that is still needs to be done. Knowing that we are making progress helps: improved air quality in Beijing, sustainable tires, forest restoration in Indonesia, composting laws in California, and ten nations in the western Indian Ocean working together to create a "great blue wall" in order to conserve our oceans. 

Friday, April 1, 2022

The Thing Is


The Thing Is

to face a challenge, face it even
when you have no stomach for it
and you’re sure you don’t have enough
strength, stamina, or skills to conquer it,
you need more than a bird in a storm
or a sunflower in a siege.
Your hope must be a verb
a muscular verb
a rugged superhero verb
with enough strength to
spin the blades in a wind farm
find alternatives for concrete
plant billions of trees
write policies grounded in justice and equity.
Hope is the verb
the creative verb
the innovative verb
with enough durability to
lead us to a sustainable future.

© Mary Lee Hahn, 2022

This poem was inspired by a bumper sticker I saw: "Hope is a verb." That's what I want for this National Poetry Month project -- a strong hope founded in truth about the things we can do and that are being done to help turn around climate change. It's easy enough to become paralyzed by fear for our future. Let's remember that we all have the power to act.

I used The Thing Is by Ellen Bass as my mentor text for this poem.