Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Something Different

A year ago, I retired from teaching (well, mostly!).  I wanted to have time to pursue two passions -- travel and writing.  A year later, I have had an amazing 4-week trip to Europe (mostly Spain) that I will talk about another time.

Looking around, I realized I had not truly committed to writing -- I do a little, but my insecurities and fears are keeping me from putting in the time that I think I need to become a better writer. A couple of books I've read lately have talked about the "10,000 hours of practice" that are needed to become proficient at a skill.  Looking at my writing time, I'm waaaay short of that.  So I've made a commitment to a daily hour of practice -- writing, studying other writers, reading about writing, etc. In the words of the immortal philosopher, Nike, just "Do it!"

So, in a leap of faith, I'm sharing a poem I have been working on lately.

 Three  Summer Poems


Birds converse with the dawn,
sleepy questions in the shimmering air.
The brightness creeps across the sky,
stalking my dreams and chasing the night back into its pocket.
Later, tire treads will scream their challenge and then growl their departure.
But now we are still the only ones awake.

July 5

In the quiet of morning after,
I walk amidst a conversation of small waves,
Bringing gifts to lay at my feet:
Remnants of last night’s florescent frenzy
That imitation of cannons we use to celebrate
Our greatness.
Now our pride is tarnished by sodden paper cups
And shreds of old styrofoam washed in
to shore.
This expansive country may be our undoing,
The trees and rivers and mountains and lakes
We have taken as our due, to use as we will.
We had so much,
we thought it would last forever.


White curtains give shape to the breeze, dervishes
The blinds clack against the sill in reply, like funeral castanets,
The breathing of summer,
with heat and sometimes smoke. Cinder-scent
vies with the smell of roses, rioting in the garden,
with their green fingers and crimson tongues,
rooted in one place.


Sunday, October 9, 2016

...A Rocky Road

“A rocky road.”  That seems like an understatement of where I've been and where I am today.  What is it about rocks?  They don't (usually!)  fall from the sky; they are already there, waiting to catch our toe and make us stumble. A lot of rocks, gravel or a streambed, make for very unsteady footing -- one has to step lightly and be nimble, ready to shift weight and take quick steps to keep from falling. Little rocks keep us on our toes, metaphorically and literally, and big rocks can trip us up.  Then there are the boulders -- so big we have to climb over or find a way around them.

Rocky roads are prone to landslides and washouts, even avalanches. A tiny pebble or patch of snow and ice breaks loose and tumbles downhill, really following the path of least resistance, gathering more rocks or snow, until it becomes a devastating force of nature; one we cannot stop or even survive if we are in its path.

This last year has been like the aftermath of a rockslide.  Forces of nature that I could not anticipate or control swept over the smooth path of the life that I had planned. The path I was on is blocked by boulder, and it is now lost to me. The paths around the boulder look like mine fields, full of unseen hazards and pitfalls. Every step is a choice and a new direction.

Many years ago, Jim, Kevin, and I visited Hawaii. We walked lava flows that looked like lunar scenes, black and barren, devoid of life, even in the form of bugs or birds. Those are landscapes one wants to hurry to cross over, seeking the comfort of life on the other side. The early months after a catastrophic loss are like that.  I remember feeling like I had landed on the moon, on a dark and unfriendly surface where everything familiar was missing.

How does one navigate such a desolate path?  Step lightly and move carefully forward, believing that there is a path, however hard to see. 

Know that this is a temporary touch down, not a permanent landing. Believe that there is more, that this path will lead you to a different place, not the same place you were before, not better or worse, just different.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Treasures from the Sea

I love to walk on the beach and look at what the ocean has scattered on the sand. 

Sand dollars and wave patterns show us their rhythmic beauty. I see many fragments and pieces, but it takes a long time to find one that is perfect.  So graceful and symmetrical.

 A little research tells me that sand dollars are the shells of flattened, burrowing sea urchins. It also tells me that sand dollars that are dark in color and have hair-like cilia on their surface may still be alive and should be left in place. 

I collected a couple of shells that were perfect and whole, but clearly not alive; then I saw another shell that was broken. 

I could see the internal structure that gives the shell its strength to withstand all the battering of the waves and tides. 

There is another kind of beauty in this brokenness, the lacy delicacy of ribs and space.   

As Leonard Cohen said, 

“There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in.” 

 I've heard that a broken bone that has healed is stronger at that spot than before.  I wonder if that is true for our hearts and souls? It's like the difference between new wood and weathered pine -- both are beautiful in their own way. 




Friday, August 12, 2016

The Gift within the Storm

More than anything, this past year has taught me to value time.  I am constantly asking myself, “What would I regret most if my time suddenly ran out? And how can I use my time to avoid having that regret?” The thing that I most value, and the thing that brings me the most peace, is writing.  But it’s so easy to get caught up in my daily routine and “to do” list and let time get away from me once again. Since I’m so task-oriented, I joined a writing workshop.  Having a weekly “assignment” and deadline helps me to focus, and the members of the group are a great source of encouragement and support.  A recent assignment was based on The Book of Qualities by J. Ruth Gendler,  a delightful book that personifies qualities as characters.  Here’s my personification of the emotion that has been my most recent companion.


Grief is Love’s shy twin.

You meet Love first, and she invites you to dance with her.

As you dance, you can see Grief waiting in the shadows,

but you think, “Not now, not me.”

Grief is patient; she waits quietly, almost out of sight.

She can wait a lifetime.

But when Love has had her dance and her day,

Grief will come to you.

She has waited long enough,

and now it is her time.

She has grown strong in her waiting,

she rages like a storm,

and she can destroy everything.

For a while, all you can do is huddle in her path,

praying that she will soon pass by.

Sometimes she is quiet and you might think she is gone,

but it is only the calm at the eye of the storm,

which soon begins again.

Still, nothing lasts forever, not even Grief.

You will survive, but you must find shelter;

your friends, your family, your faith

will be your safe place, the place where you wait

and grow strong, strong enough to stand in the

storm and tears that are Grief.

Finally the storm passes.

When you emerge from your safe place,

you see a different landscape, one that has been

scoured by the storm

one that has been washed clean

of all that is shallow or trivial.

Only the things that have strong foundations remain.

Grief has worn out her power,

but she and her twin, Love, will remain with you.

Both can be your friend. 

August 5, 2016