A Summer Afternoon

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It’s summer and I am

writing my first book.

I’ve barely eaten, and have

discovered a twin set of calluses on each of

the heels of

my hands where they

lean on my laptop to type.

This is serious business, it seems.

Birthing a book.

 

Outside the window there are

swallows swooping and diving

their arial acrobatics drawing

my eyes away from my screen.

Outside the window I can see a hummingbird

frantic among the flowers.

Outside the window I see bees in

the thistles and for a moment

nothing is that serious.

My calloused hands are done aching

And my heart twirls like

the sparrows on a summer afternoon.

The Desert Changes Her Clothes

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Photo: Crissi McDonald

 

The desert wore different clothes this morning.

Her trees and sharp cacti

decorated in modest rain drop diamonds.

Gone are the sultry tans and

look-at-me cerulean skies.

Gone are bird clamorings:

hrrch! hrrrrrch! Waaaaaah!

In modesty she’s covered her skies with

clouds shaded in watercolors.

Her birdsong sigh voice is

rrrreeeee-hoo? reeeehoo?

Her perfume mesquite and acacia.

I look down, greeted by emerald grass of the same sort

I’ve seen in Ireland.

The sand, ruffled by dog paws, has seashells in it.

And up past rain clouds of purple,

gray (I’ve seen this similar hue on

three different continents) I share the same

swirling elements

as stars.

When the desert changed her clothes

this morning, she told me

everything contains a bit of everything else.

 

Moon’s Baptism

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An old buck follows the deer trail

that runs through our yard. His footsteps as though

he waltzes through feathers. It’s sundown,

under a flamingo pink cloud.

The full moon rises to pine branches

tossed and ocean soughing  by a racing wind.

This solstice moon an augury of lengthening days.

Silver white brightness illuminates

the buck, the pines, and me.

This lover’s moon strokes the bark of

lashing trees, kisses the buck’s  shimmering and wind ruffled hide.

I stand swaying with the pines,

surrendering to the winter wind’s chilled fingers,

watching the buck disappear,

letting the moon baptize me into its sterling light.

 

 

 

500 Years

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How insignificant forty-nine years

on this planet feels

when embracing a Redwood tree.

The fog-caressed branches

far above me

climb for the sky.

Five hundred years this

whale of the forest has swam

through storms, winds, fires

and droughts.

 

I’ve stood five minutes,

my cheek roughly pressed

against the red roughness,

my arms stretched to hold

this enormity to me.

 

I long to send my feet

into chocolate soil

to there wrap and spiral with

these roots of the Redwood tree:

that my skin turns to bark

that my breath becomes fog

that my arms become branches

climbing toward the sky.

A Fall in Three States

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A Walk Through New Hampshire Morning Woods

I don’t know

the names of trees nor the bird voices that

sing out

unseen.

I don’t know (but I do now)

what the irregular woody thumps are

behind me

(turns out: I’m being stalked by falling acorns).

I don’t know the scent of these woods,

gingercinnamoneucalyptus

as my feet cicada scuffle through

red and

yellow and

brown fallen leaves.

I don’t know the sight of sunlight through

these deciduous and temperamental

eastern trees

But I do know,

as in Nature,

I am a part of the whole woods

and the birds

and the stalking acorns that

squirrels gather for their winter

marathon.

 

A Walk Through Maryland Woods, Evening

The trees of these woods

still hang on to green.

Pinking rays of sunset slatting through

their trunks.

The dogs scatter undergrowth and

there are iridescent green small (ferns, trees?)

things growing in clusters,

huddling their pliable bodies in a community.

I avoid stepping on them.

The dogs race on, chasing through vines and grasses

panting in counterpoint to

cricket song.

 

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Morning, An Iowa Pond

Here, there are

five different birdsongs,

bursts of arpeggios

a ululation

an exaltation that

births the morning

bright and brilliant as

the trees that adorn themselves

in wardrobes of orange and yellow.

 

 

 

 

 

Thistles

 

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A late night rain

has released the

fragrance of thistles

that line our driveway, a

modest hint of the  jasmine

I used to smell on my half-asleep

morning walk to the meditation hall in India.

Eyes that saw weeds,

now dance at the raindrops

cradled in their spiky leaves.

Where once those spikes and stalks

called to be ripped from the earth,

now my fingers

my cheeks,

dare to stroke the soft purple

down of a flower that

stubbornly refuses its

place in this world as a weed.

 

Ode to A Morning Dog Walk

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I walk, and

the morning breeze

carries its secrets

to the raised nose of my dog.

It’s the way of

his world.

For me,

the breezes are a mystery.

While my brain chases

regret, plans, resentment and

apathy,

My dog,

perhaps,

is only concerned with

the mating season of elk

and their droppings that

pepper the forest floor.

Catching his gaze, I wonder:

does he contemplate why I

am uninterested in

joining his morning

scent chase?

What Happens After It Happens.

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We don’t talk much anymore of rites of passage, those rituals that have been lost the further we trek into the industrial/technological age. Those things that, as we age get farther apart and measure not how much life we have to live, but how much living we better squeeze out of life.  The rituals particular to humans,  celebrating achievements and witnessing deaths. These moments are easy to spot and feel and remember. How we relentlessly strived, how disciplined and focused we were, how we couldn’t wait for THE day to arrive. For us to arrive; a grown up version of Christmas. A graduation, a driver’s license, a marriage. A trip on your own to Europe, testing out the waters of adulthood.

What also interests me is what happens when something grows us unexpectedly?

A pregnancy has gone wrong. Years pass and another pregnancy is about to get derailed when you know you’re married to the wrong man to be a father because he can’t even be a decent husband.

The moment the veils lift in a great flash of light, and all your preconceptions of someone you know well (or not) is so beautiful, whole and so lovely it makes you ache.

The moment you feel an animal, once abused and defensive and fearful and terrorized, lays it’s head in your lap or closes their eyes as you stand next to them.

The moment, when you once felt terrorized and helpless, you lie down in another’s presence and welcome them with a heart to match your open arms. Or lie down in your own presence, feeling safe in your skin. 

The moment one love dies, and another is born.

What happens?

What happens is that we grow closer to our shared humanity. We relish our shape and breath. We weep from joy, or sorrow but the despair has moved out of the small noises we can’t stop from escaping when we cry.

The moments of growth (though at the time I called them torture) caused me to set up a metaphorical garage sale.  All the things someone else told me I needed, I got rid of. At the end of many days stood looking at a stripped bare room. Holes in the walls where pictures (not mine) used to hang. The smooth whiskey voice of self-loathing and every other voice that sought to put me in my place weren’t mine either and so began the process of teaching them to use kinder words. 

There’s a point at which getting rid of clutter can also be an escape. I crossed that line many times. Whatever is at operation in this numinous universe, whatever force has a hand in this great big beautiful messy life, is the same hand that has guided me to know who I am. I don’t have any other explanation because I have at times been weak, and cowardly. Passive, lazy, self-sabotaging. And while I have also been the flip side of all those things, I can’t say with any certainty that I was the only force. There have been too many life preservers thrown my way for me to take credit for them all. I believe mystics used to call this Grace. It’s probably still called Grace (as a recovering Catholic, this way of thinking needs some WD-40).

I’ve come to realize that many things happen after life’s happenings. It’s not the pinnacle. It’s not the end. It’s not a way station that we mistake for a home. What it is, what it blossoms into, is the knowledge of the beauty of who we each are and how we share this universe with a great mystery that can sustain us. And while dearly held beliefs say more about us than about them, I am also at the point in my gray-haired life that I am willing to admit that I don’t know. The Great Mystery is now a comfort, and though my rooms aren’t grandly furnished, everything in them is mine.

 

Van Gogh

Words are wild animals,

not satiated by

regular feeding hours

or sanitized habitats.

They claw from inside, roar and thrash

until we throw open 

the doors to our peril.

We are under no illusions.

Words are knives, and

the apples with which we cut them.

The deliverance from the cages of

Regret.  Time. Even ourselves.

Words don’t want to be hand fed,

they don’t want guarantees of safety.

They want, they slaver,

for unadulterated soul.

Will they be the blade of a murderer,

or the knife of a cook?

When we unleash the words,

what sheds its crimson blood into earth?

Regret? Time? 

Our white-knuckled clenched

beliefs about who we are?

Or who we think we are.

As violent as words

can be, they are honest.

Trustworthy.

And the words with their blades and knives,

their claws and roars,

is the garden that greens beyond.

When words are caged, 

it is as though we have found an

original Van Gogh,

cheap plastic framed it, 

and hung it in a basement closet.