Remembering Kate Wolf

It’s hard to believe Kate died in 1986, a quarter-century ago. Time spins past us these days, helter-skelter. But one of the sweet miracles of my lifetime is the way Kate’s family and fellow musicians have kept her music and her voice so intimately alive. It wouldn’t be in the least surprising, one of these sunny mornings, to spot Kate tromping across our front yard, guitar in hand, to ask if we had time to hear a brand-new song.

This poem has a bit of history, and a smidge of honor. In 1998, Roys Redwoods was the site of a 25th anniversary gathering celebrating the founding of the Marin County Open Space District. Poet Laureate Bob Hass read, and so did local poet and publisher Greg Darms. I was out of town, so it was several weeks before I heard, quite by accident, that Greg had chosen my poem, “Kate’s Hawk,” as the poem he read in that bright and shadowed grove of redwoods.

Kate’s Hawk
.    for Kate Wolf (1942-1986)
You would die within months
though none of us knew it
that gentle sunny day.
No one had named the thing
that stalked you in your blood.
Step by labored step
we climbed through spring–
trillium and twisted stalk,
the tiny bells of madrone
strewn beneath our feet.
Just below the ridge
a Cooper’s hawk flashed
and landed in the crook of an oak,
an arm’s-length from us, eye to eye.
Time was merciful, and stopped.
The shape of swiftness and certainty,
that hawk: her carnelian eye
had death in it, and life.
An innocent troop of chickadees
passed over and around her.
A jay shouted once and fled.
Then she was gone.
When we come upon this place
after all these seasons,
there still comes a prickling
at the back of our necks,
as if you’d step from behind that tree
and climb singing up the hill.
We almost hear your songs, Kate,
and the sudden sound of wings.


  1. Irene Brady said,

    February 23, 2010 at 8:11 pm

    Bill, you didn’t say — did you write “Kate’s Hawk?”
    It’s a wonderful tribute.

  2. slpmartin said,

    February 23, 2010 at 10:20 pm

    Wonderful poem and very powerful tribute…thanks for sharing it with me.

  3. Walter Magness said,

    February 24, 2010 at 1:56 am

    Hi Bill,
    Thank you post about Kate. I can tell you that I loved her and her music from the the first time I heard her play. I have always held her safely and sweetly in my heart. “GIVE YOURSELF TO LOVE” and the “TRUMPET VINE” are two of her songs that I hold dear. She will always live in my memories..

    • billnoble said,

      February 24, 2010 at 2:02 am

      Hi, Walter!
      “Trumpet Vine” is one of my touchstones for life. I wish I could live every morning in its world. Much love to you.

  4. John Snell said,

    February 24, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    Thanks so much for your beautiful tribute poem Bill. I’ve loved Kate’s poetic, skillfully composed music as she played it so well with her open heart since the late ’70s when I first saw her and Nina play together. Her wonderful spirit lives on here in The Valley and throughout Northern California.

    Thanks so much Bill for sharing your beautiful photography and interesting nature insights with us through your blog.

    • billnoble said,

      February 24, 2010 at 3:36 pm

      Hey, John,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for the kind words! 😉

  5. Nancy Cherry said,

    August 15, 2010 at 12:46 am

    Thank you, for bringing that day back to me with such clarity and heart. Nancy

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