Monday, February 9, 2015

Waiting on the Irises

Well, I hadn't planned on taking a break, but, apparently, that's what I'm doing. I hope all is well with all of you. I'm still posting over on my poetry blog and hope you'll visit me there. Spring is just around the corner ...

Painting: Vincent van Gogh

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Love is the Answer Always Has Been Always Will Be

Tony Zimnoch's posts are consistently intriguing, and this is no exception. I hope you'll go over to his post, read the intro. and then click on "read more" for one of the most beautiful pieces I've read in some time.

Photo of Simone Felice by John Huba

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Prelude to a New Day

Prelude ...

I've always liked that word. For me, it is the hour before dawn ... life's tender beginnings ...

The photograph is mine.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

In a Country Called October

"The October country ... that country where it is always turning late in the year. That country where the hills are fog and the rivers are mist; where noons go quickly, dusks and twilights linger, and midnights stay. That country composed in the main of cellars, sub-cellars, coalbins, closets, attics, and pantries faced away from the sun. That country whose people are autumn people, thinking only autumn thoughts. Whose people passing at night on the empty walks sound like rain."   ~ Ray Bradbury, from, The October Country

Saturday, September 27, 2014

For the Woman In Ithaca

The only time I recall hearing someone cry I didn't know or couldn't see was in the tent next to me outside Jackson, Wyoming in the middle of August in the middle of the 1970's. It  was also the middle of the night. I thought perhaps the bar had closed and disappointment had set in. I went back to sleep.

The next day, my companion and I stopped in a bar/cafe somewhere up the line to get a bite to eat. A few people were shooting pool and playing the jukebox. I noticed every song they played was by Elvis and thought, "They sure are Elvis fans." You know where I'm going with this, right?

We drove through Yellowstone, saw some elk, stopped at Old Faithful - the usual things one does in Yellowstone - still out of tune with the rest of the world. It wasn't until we were leaving Yellowstone that we finally turned on the radio. Just as I did so, the announcer said, "They're lining up at Graceland to pay their respects ..."

When I read this poem today, that came to mind. But, the poignancy of this poem far outweighs, for me, the poignancy of losing the King. This is about a real person hurting over a real life who, for all we know, still struggles through the occasional night when she wonders ... I like how the poet honors that grief.


There was a woman in Ithaca
who cried softly all night
in the next room and helpless
I fell in love with her under the blanket
of snow that settled on all the roofs
of the town, filling up
every dark depression.

Next morning
in the motel coffee shop
I studied all the made-up faces
of women. Was it the middle-aged blonde
who kidded the waitress
or the young brunette lifting
her cup like a toast?

Love, whoever you are,
your courage was my companion
for many cold towns
after the betrayal of Ithaca,
and when I order coffee
in a strange place, still
I say, lifting, this is for you.

~ Leonard Nathan

Painting by Edward Hopper

Friday, September 5, 2014

Things to Consider When Closing a Door

I'm afraid I've discovered a new poet. I'll try to go easy on you, not overdo it. This is the one I started with:

"A Brief Lecture on Door Closers"

Although heretofore unconsidered
in verse or in song, 
the ordinary door closer is, I submit, a device
well worth considering. 
Consisting primarily
of a spring and a piston, in combination, 
here's how it works: 
                  You open a door, 
either pushing or pulling. 
The spring is compressed, the piston extended. 
Now, having passed through the doorway, 
you relinquish control, 
and the door closer takes over. The spring remembers
how it was— 
it wants to return. But the urge is damped
by the resistance the piston encounters, 
snug in its cylinder
filled with hydraulic fluid. 

Such is the mechanism of the door closer, 
invented in 1876
by Charles Norton, when a slamming door
in a courtroom in Cincinnati
repeatedly disrupted
the administration of justice. 

Whether concealed beneath the threshold
or overhead in the head jamb, 
whether surface-mounted as a parallel-arm installation
or as a regular-arm, 
door closers are ever vigilant, 
silently performing their function, rarely

Whereas doors can be metaphorical—as in, 
for example, "He could never unlock
the door to her heart"— 
door closers cannot. 

Remember this when you
pass through, and the door closes behind you
with a soft thud
and final click
as the latchbolt engages the strike.

~ Clemens Starck  (1937), from Traveling Incognito

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

I Am Not A Rock, I Am Not An Island

On Labor Day, I labored. It felt really good. I sawed dead branches from trees and from shrubs near the greenhouse. They needed more sunlight, both the shrubs and the greenhouse. There is great satisfaction for me in this work. I have grown to love piling brush, something I hated doing as a child. I like knowing I'm clearing away those things that need clearing, both in my physical and spiritual life. Sometimes, we just need to do it.

Half a century ago, my father developed lakeshore around Ox Yoke Lake - the lake of my childhood - building cabins for summer and weekend residents. The family spent many days clearing brush, hauling it into piles, and then, in the evening, we would be rewarded with hot dogs roasted on sticks over the fire, followed by s'mores. If you've never eaten a s'more, well, time's a wastin'. Here's how: graham crackers with a couple of squares from a Hershey chocolate bar, and a marshmallow, also roasted on a stick. This is the preferred method. When times get tough, other methods may be employed. You'll figure it out.

After clearing the brush, I worked on a new compost pile out by the garden. As they say, next year in Jerusalem.

I followed that with much baking of zucchini bread, some with dried cranberries added. Fortunately, I froze most of it. I also decided I needed to find other ways to use zucchini, so I shredded a bunch (that's Minnesotan for a lot) and have added it to BLT's and other sandwiches, also omelets. It's non-stop zucchini season, as some of you might know. Years ago, there was a wonderful writer for the Christian Science Monitor, named John Gould. He did a weekly column for them about life in the northeast, Maine, if I remember correctly. In one column, he wrote of zucchini season and how, out of necessity, everyone started locking their cars. If you didn't, you might return from your errand with a back seat full of zucchini. This type of story has now become ubiquitous, and I more fully understand it.

Later in the evening, Buddy and I were treated to a sky show. With thunder rumbling overhead and the sky lowering, the sunset went on as usual. It turned all shades of pink and violet. Across this beautiful expanse came some amazing horizontal lightening bolts. Buddy soon decided he'd had enough, so I let him in the house and continued to stand on the porch at what I was sure was a safe distance. But, Buddy must have faced reality sooner than I, covered in fur and all. With the next one, I could feel the small hair on my hands stand up. It was time to go inside and watch from the window.

I like summer, but I love fall. The Farmer's Almanac has purportedly predicted another long, very cold winter for my neck of the woods. So, I'm going to relish every day of this slanted sunlight and prepare for what may come. I have short story collections by my favorite writers and more than a few books of poetry. I have a set of watercolors yet to have the package broken open on them. I have the cooking channel (I'm hooked on "Chopped"). I have music, I have Buddy, and I have all of you. I am not a rock. I am not an island. But, I'll post the song anyway because who doesn't like Simon and Garfunkel.


Today's poem:

The photograph is mine, taken in the fall of 2012.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Labor Day: For the One Hundred and Forty Six


The back, the yoke, the yardage. Lapped seams,
The nearly invisible stitches along the collar
Turned in a sweatshop by Koreans or Malaysians

Gossiping over tea and noodles on their break
Or talking money or politics while one fitted
This armpiece with its overseam to the band

Of cuff I button at my wrist. The presser, the cutter,
The wringer, the mangle. The needle, the union,
The treadle, the bobbin. The code. The infamous blaze

At the Triangle Factory in nineteen-eleven.
One hundred and forty-six died in the flames
On the ninth floor, no hydrants, no fire escapes—

The witness in a building across the street
Who watched how a young man helped a girl to step
Up to the windowsill, then held her out

Away from the masonry wall and let her drop.
And then another. As if he were helping them up
To enter a streetcar, and not eternity.

A third before he dropped her put her arms   
Around his neck and kissed him. Then he held
Her into space, and dropped her. Almost at once

He stepped to the sill himself, his jacket flared
And fluttered up from his shirt as he came down,
Air filling up the legs of his gray trousers—

Like Hart Crane’s Bedlamite, “shrill shirt ballooning.”
Wonderful how the pattern matches perfectly
Across the placket and over the twin bar-tacked

Corners of both pockets, like a strict rhyme
Or a major chord.   Prints, plaids, checks,
Houndstooth, Tattersall, Madras. The clan tartans

Invented by mill-owners inspired by the hoax of Ossian,
To control their savage Scottish workers, tamed
By a fabricated heraldry: MacGregor,

Bailey, MacMartin. The kilt, devised for workers
To wear among the dusty clattering looms.
Weavers, carders, spinners. The loader,

The docker, the navvy. The planter, the picker, the sorter
Sweating at her machine in a litter of cotton
As slaves in calico headrags sweated in fields:

George Herbert, your descendant is a Black
Lady in South Carolina, her name is Irma
And she inspected my shirt. Its color and fit

And feel and its clean smell have satisfied
Both her and me. We have culled its cost and quality
Down to the buttons of simulated bone,

The buttonholes, the sizing, the facing, the characters
Printed in black on neckband and tail. The shape,
The label, the labor, the color, the shade. The shirt.

~ Robert Pinsky  (b. 1940 )

Sunday, August 31, 2014

A Story From Joe Blair: Dog Days

Over early morning coffee, I read this story from Joe Blair and have to share it. It's about dogs and children and moving (again). It's about bittersweet life, beautifully written.

Joe Blair: Dog Days: "We’ve got most of the stuff moved out. The TV and the couch. And the mattresses on the floor. And the curtains and the clothes and the ..."

The cover image is from his book, published in 2012.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Time and Tiramisu

As I stepped outside to take a few photographs last evening, I could hear music coming from down the road, an early start to the Labor Day weekend, no doubt. I walked around the crab apple tree taking photos - various configurations of fallen apples in the still green grass of late summer - listening to, "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?" I thought of my friend, Amy, who passed in the winter of 2005. I remembered her telling me how much she liked the song as it played in the background at the Tesuque Village Market one Sunday afternoon. We would sometimes go there for lunch and a piece of their sinfully delicious tiramisu. Listening to it play in the distance brought a softly surreal feeling to the evening, an expansive sense of timelessness. As the last notes played, I walked back to the cabin and took a few photographs of black-eyed Susan and birdsfoot trefoil growing in the grass behind the cabin, none of which turned out very well. It doesn't matter. It wasn't about the photographs.


The photograph is mine, taken several days earlier, before they fully ripened ...

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Old Poets

"The Old Poets of China"

Wherever I am, the world comes after me.
It offers me its busyness. It does not believe
that I do not want it. Now I understand
why the old poets of China went so far and high
into the mountains, then crept into the pale mist.

~ Mary Oliver, from, Why I Wake Early

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Days of Fisher Price

When my kids were young, this is the telephone they had. They grew up to be thoughtful, articulate communicators. Tone matters. Emoticons are not tone. Letters are not words (a, I, and O are the only exceptions). Numbers aren't words. Sometimes, I worry about where this Flat Screen culture is leading us.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Our Human History

"The whole course of human history may depend on a change of heart in one solitary and even humble individual - for it is in the solitary mind and soul of the individual that the battle between good and evil is waged and ultimately won or lost."  ~ M. Scott Peck

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Hanging Laundry

Happy Sunday to my blogging friends. I'm so grateful for each one of you ...


 "Prairie Wind"

Trying to remember what my daddy said
Before too much time took away his head
He said we're going back and I'll show you what I'm talking about
Going back to Cypress River, back to the old farmhouse

(Prairie wind blowing through my head)
(Prairie wind blowing through my head)
(Trying to remember what Daddy said)
(Prairie wind blowing through my head)

I tried to tell the people but they never heard a word I say
They say there's nothing out there but wheat fields anyway
Just a farmer's wife hanging laundry in her back yard
Out on the prairie where the winds blow long and hard

(Prairie wind blowing through my head)
(Prairie wind blowing through my head)
(Trying to remember what Daddy said)
(Prairie wind blowing through my head)

Late at night, lights dancing in the northern sky
Like the Indian spirits trying to show me how to fly
You can see into the future but it may be a mirage
Like a new car sitting there in your old garage

(Prairie wind blowing through my head)
(Prairie wind blowing through my head)
(Prairie wind blowing through my head)
(Trying to remember what Daddy said)

There's a place on the prairie where evil and goodness play
Daddy told me all about it but I don't remember what he said
It might be afternoon and it might be the dead of night
But you'll know when you see it 'cause it sure is a hell of a sight

(Prairie wind blowing through my head)
(Prairie wind blowing through my head)
(Prairie wind blowing through my head)
(Prairie wind blowing through my head)

(Prairie wind blowing through my head)
(Prairie wind blowing through my head)

Prairie wind blowing through my head
(Prairie wind blowing through my head)
Trying to remember what Daddy said
(Prairie wind blowing through my head)
Before too much time took away his head
(Prairie wind blowing through my head)
He said we're going back and I'll show you what I'm talking about
(Prairie wind blowing through my head)

(Prairie wind blowing through my head)
Going back to Cypress River, back to the old farmhouse
(Prairie wind blowing through my head)
(Prairie wind blowing through my head)
(Prairie wind blowing through my head)

(Prairie wind blowing through my head)
(Trying to remember what Daddy said)
(Prairie wind blowing through my head)...

~ Neil Young

Image from Neil Young's album, Prairie Wind

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

For My Fellow Searchers

Once in a while I find something on another blog that I cannot help but steal. Thus it is with this poem. It encapsulates so much of how I feel about my own life. Perhaps you will find yourself here, as well:


Some people do not have to search -
they find their niche early in life and rest there,
seemingly contented and resigned.
They do not seem to ask much of life,
sometimes they do not seem to take it seriously.
At times I envy them, but usually I do not understand them -
seldom do they understand me.

I am one of the searchers.
There are, I believe, millions of us.
We are not unhappy, but neither are we really content.
We continue to explore life, hoping to uncover its ultimate secret.
We continue to explore ourselves, hoping to understand.

We like to walk along the beach – we are drawn by the ocean,
taken by its power, its unceasing motion,
its mystery and unspeakable beauty.
We like forests and mountains, deserts and hidden rivers,
and the lonely cities as well.

Our sadness is as much a part of our lives as is our laughter.
To share our sadness with the one we love is perhaps as great a joy as we can know -
unless it is to share our laughter.

We searchers are ambitious only for life itself,
for everything beautiful it can provide.
Most of all we want to love and be loved.
We want to live in a relationship that will not impede
our wandering, nor prevent our search, nor lock us in prison walls.

We do not want to prove ourselves to another or compete for love.
We are wanderers, dreamers and lovers,
lonely souls who dare ask of life everything good and beautiful.

~ James Kavanaugh

I found this wonderful poem here:


Sunday, July 27, 2014

From Gary Snyder: Learn the Flowers

Some of you may recall my crush on the poet, Gary Snyder. His gentleness comes through every word he writes. You can find my previous posts that mention him linked at the bottom of this one. Some of you may also have read this poem earlier today. The Writer's Almanac continues to deliver some fine poems. It's a good way to start the day, like a prayer for myself, and for the world. From a book of poems by Gary Snyder, published in 1974 ...

"For the Children"

The rising hills, the slopes,
of statistics
lie before us,
the steep climb
of everything, going up,
up, as we all
go down.

In the next century
or the one beyond that,
they say,
are valleys, pastures,
we can meet there in peace
if we make it.

To climb these coming crests
one word to you, to
you and your children:

stay together
learn the flowers
go light

~ Gary Snyder, from Turtle Island. © New Directions, 1974.

The photograph of wild mountain hollyhocks by Montucky:

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

This Shining World

What does the world
mean to you if you can’t trust it
to go on shining when you’re

not there?

Look, I want to love this world
as though it’s the last chance I’m ever going to get
to be alive
and know it.

One morning
the fox came down the hill, glittering and confident,
and didn’t see me—and I thought:

so this is the world.
I’m not in it.
It is beautiful.

~ Mary Oliver, excerpts from, October 

The photographs are mine.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

She Lived In An Old Black Van

Yesterday, the public radio station, KAXE, featured my poem, "Yellow Pears," on their morning program, The Beat. I'm sharing it here, as I have with the others, and the link to the original posting of the poem:

It's one of my favorite childhood memories.

My reading:

Image: Cristal Reza

Thursday, July 10, 2014


I love how the universe mirrors our thoughts back to us. At least, I think that's how it works. It sure seems to. For example: a few years ago, shortly after I returned to Minnesota, I was staying at a friend's house near Duluth. Driving into town one day, a song by Tom T. Hall came on the radio, "That's How I Got to Memphis," one of my favorite classic country songs. I hadn't heard it in years. As the song ended, I got a message on my phone from one of my son's old friends. She'd just had her first child. His name? Memphis.

A few folks have done versions of this song, including Bobby Bare, whose version I very much like. But, it belongs to Tom, the man who wrote it. I've always loved the feel of it, as they say ...