Ruminations on Bear Corn and Creeks

At the Center for Religion and Environment’s first retreat for the creative arts we spent time contemplating nature for inspiration. After a couple encounters with a plant and a stream I decided to stretch a bit and tried my hand at some blank verse. Here is the result, with a bit of explanation preceding each poem.

Bear Corn

Bear corn is a non-photosynthesizing parasitic plant (see the above photo) that draws its nutrients from the roots of oak trees. Bears supposedly eat this plant when they come out of hibernation to clear their intestines that have clogged up from disuse over the winter months. Biologists report that they obtain sixteen percent of their annual energy intake from this plant.


They call me bear corn.

One who feeds on others’ roots, who does not feed himself.

Drab and brown, emerging from the forest’s dead leaves,

few notice me as they pass by.

Some think ill of me,

judging that I only take and reap where I did not sow.

Yet, by drawing upon others’ strength I give life,

cleansing from the fruit of their inaction

those who consume my offering.

So, do not dismiss me for my color but consider instead:

If one does not give life, who then is the parasite?


Chance Meetings


Watching the water swirl down at the creek, I noticed a swath of small bubbles resting on the edge of the water. Wondering where they came from I saw that, when smaller bubbles ran into the quarter-sized bubbles kicked up by the miniature waterfall a couple feet away, they burst, forming tiny bubbles quickly encircling the larger one. When the larger bubble finally burst, it left a flotilla of small bubbles, some of which must have made it to the safety of the side of the creek.


Long-lined water, mossy falls of molten glass,

the brook sings

in barely heard bass and multi-trebled choirs.

Ephemeral bubbles float o’er their seas,

merging one-by-one,

graced all about by their many small children,

fruit of past meetings.

Soon only bubblets,

these fish eggs come to rest at water’s edge.

I, a mere bubble in time,

am also the offspring of past encounters.

When at last I burst and come to rest on the shore,

will I, too, have left behind my story

in the bubbles of those I met?


Center for Religion and Environment


Author: Robert "Robin" Gottfried

Director, Center for Religion and Environment at Sewanee: The University of the South, and Professor Emeritus of Economics at Sewanee. Contemplative Christian, musician, blogger for the Huffington Post on religion and environment, and hiker living on the Cumberland Plateau of Tennessee.

2 thoughts on “Ruminations on Bear Corn and Creeks”

  1. Hi Robin,
    Second verse called to mind Alfred Lord Tennyson’s phrase: “I am a part of all that I have met.” Am I to a part of all who have met me? If so, I’m more inclined to impart ‘good’ thoughts, experiences, etc. L.B.


    1. I do think that I am a part of all who meet me. Good point that we’re more inclined to act generously to those we meet when we realize that – at least we’d be more so if we are positively inclined toward ourselves.


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