Into the Woods

Palm Sunday in Smith Oaks Sanctuary

Phoebe H. Dishman

April 14, 2019


In Sunday school I taught rather tiredly something about

full-bodied worship and stones crying out.

Silver on black I had painted an actual stone

we passed from hand to hand

to absorb the cool weight,

ancient and alive,

more than capable of sound,

for those with ears to hear.

Then came afternoon.

First step into the woods with my friends

I could feel my mind let go or at least shift to

watching for the weightless, that is to say,


Dappled shadow scent of honeysuckle spangle of wildflowers

group of strangers coalescing

around four professional guides.

So many seekers we divided into two groups.

(Deep in the afternoon the two groups crossed and we were told

to keep moving, with no hybridizing – a birding joke ahaha.)

One afternoon of holy inquiry no super-abundance of answers.

But sufficient.

Oh the brilliant scarlet tanager

the blinding orange of a Baltimore oriole

the splendor of a rose-breasted grosbeak

the cryptic yellow-bellied sapsucker, who blended so neatly,

appearing as a mere lump on the side of an oak,

ah but betrayed by her bright eye!

One woman murmured to her spouse

that she would certainly like to see one of those ‘alleged’ catbirds

and I wanted to help her, wanted to help her see

one of those black-capped beauties who sing to me

every morning in my own backyard.

But as I told her they are notorious skulkers.


We all saw or at least I hope we did

a yellow-billed cuckoo who was kind enough to display his

snowy breast and his unmistakable tail spots white on black

fairly close rather than torment us elusively as his kind are inclined to do.


A prize for me was a wood thrush of chestnut brown

his dark-freckled breast and pot belly full of joy as he sang his rolling song.


And then, and then my friends, two hours in,

Deet heavier than honey suckle necks tired from looking up

the agony of de-feet upon the venerable we heard the glad cry:

fork-tailed flycatcher! Oh rare Tyrannus savana

oh black-capped beauty he led us a merry chase then lit at last

in full sun, high and clear for all to see.

He displayed his snowy front.

Then he turned to show his slate-colored back.

He exercised his wondrous tail.

He casually snapped at a fly and missed.

Such cries of wonder such snapping of cameras and all of us

the dour the guarded the friendly the chatty were one,

in awe.


Author: Phoebe Dishman

Phoebe H. Dishman was born and raised in Beaumont, Texas. She is a wife, mother, and grandmother. An essayist and poet, she teaches adult Sunday school, compiles a monthly prayer calendar, edits the Big Thicket Association quarterly bulletin, and keeps a keen eye and ear open for birds.

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