Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Falling in Love with my Mid-western Life

This morning, I woke to a soft glow rising over the chicken coop - another day at Lonewolf, this place of unending beauty. The sun soon revealed a world covered in hoarfrost, a sight I never tire of seeing. I remain in awe of this immeasurable wonder.

As the morning opened further, the chickadees sang among the branches, and, as they sang, the hoarfrost quietly let go. I stepped outside to witness it, to feel it on my skin as it silently drifted down...

After returning to the kitchen, I opened a book of poems to William Stafford's, "One Home." And now, I've fallen in love all over again with my life and his words...

"One Home"

Mine was a Midwest home—you can keep your world.   
Plain black hats rode the thoughts that made our code.   
We sang hymns in the house; the roof was near God.

The light bulb that hung in the pantry made a wan light,   
but we could read by it the names of preserves—
outside, the buffalo grass, and the wind in the night.

A wildcat sprang at Grandpa on the Fourth of July   
when he was cutting plum bushes for fuel,
before Indians pulled the West over the edge of the sky.

To anyone who looked at us we said, “My friend”;   
liking the cut of a thought, we could say “Hello.”
(But plain black hats rode the thoughts that made our code.)

The sun was over our town; it was like a blade.   
Kicking cottonwood leaves we ran toward storms.   
Wherever we looked the land would hold us up.

~ William Stafford

My images from this morning

Thursday, February 21, 2013

While Poetry Holds the Mirror

In returning this morning to a poetry anthology from the early 1970's, I was again amazed at how little things have changed. We appear doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over again, brandishing our weapons and then using them, whether they be guns, bombs, or drones. I urge you to familiarize yourself with what is happening, and not just how we are using drones to conduct warfare around the world, but how they are being used right here at home. The FAA has issued 30,000 permits for drones here in the U.S. which have the capability of gathering and cataloging our every move. Many drones are armed, which means they can be detonated anywhere, at anytime, with no advance warning. I don't know about you, but I don't sleep as well as I used to.

I'm very concerned about the direction this country is taking, our utter disregard for human life in other parts of the world. What our government refers to as "collateral damage," is really the tally of those we've killed along with the intended target, and that number continues to grow. The official number of children killed in Pakistan since early September of last year still stands at 176, children murdered by our drones because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, but it's a number which has really grown to just under 300. Somehow it never gets updated.

This poem by Olga Cabral, rediscovered in my anthology this morning, reveals the sad, awful reality: war has become a way of life and greed is commonplace. Poets continue to hold up the mirror that reveals the truth, a truth we may not like, may even blanch at, but ignorance is not bliss, it's just ignorance, and in this day and age there is no excuse for not being informed. Change the geographical location from Vietnam to, well, pretty much any place in the world where we are taught to believe the Other exists, and here we go again:

"Another Late Edition"

This morning the sun
for the first time in 7,000,000 years
reported late for work.
A major disaster was declared,
the major crawled underneath Manhattan
with his Mark Cross survival kit,
governments in Saigon
chased each other through revolving doors,
molten metal fell from the eyes of Bartholdi’s Statue
which went public and was sold at noon
on the Stock Exchange.
    Leaving our dinosaur footprints through the streets of cities
    what future tarpits will reveal our bones?
    what amber of what eye
    preserve this age?

Sheriff Rainey shifted his plug
of Red Man tobacco
and spat clear to Washington,
staining the White House and the white walls of the Capitol
with dark runnels of derision.
Whose blood? Whose Blood
on the Lincoln Monument?
Chaney’s. Goodman’s. Schwerner’s.
They are dragging Walt Whitman through the streets of
(Bearded Jew from Brooklyn.)
They’ve got a rope around Abe Lincoln’s neck.
(What’d we do that’s wrong if we
killed two Jews and one Nigger?)

    Then all the ovens of Maidanek
    opened their mouths.
    I saw the enemy, a seven-year-old boy.
    I heard him screaming for his cooked eyeballs.
    I saw the granny blazing like a bundle of reeds,
    heard the infant wailing in a winding-sheet of flame
    in a village of thatched huts
    hit by napalm.

The stones hate us.
The eyes are bitter.
Every tree is out to strangle us.
The grass mistrusts us.
We are strangers here at a million bucks a day.
They say the richest man in the world has just
foreclosed Fort Knox.
A million bucks a day can buy
a President. A war. A world.
    But not one hair of the head of the
                   seven-year-old boy
    in a village that went up in napalm.

~ Olga Cabral

Olga Cabral was born in the West Indies and then moved to New York (1909 - 1997).

Painting "Under the Palms," by Winslow Homer.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Hummingbird Gives Birth to Summer

This morning I'm dreaming of summer: hands in the earth, bare feet on cool grass, and hummingbird wings.

In a tiny nest of moss and seeds and spider webs - a nest no bigger than a walnut shell - the hummingbird lays her eggsI find this fascinating:

Image from the National Geographic

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Slow Irregular Blooming of Peace

"When Great Trees Fall"

When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.
When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
gnaws on kind words
promised walks
never taken.

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of dark, cold

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly.  Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed.  They existed.
We can be.  Be and be
better.  For they existed.

~ Maya Angelou

Image of a forest in Arizona courtesy of Google wallpaper.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Monday Morning with Vincent, Mary, and Lao Tzu

Waking early and not wanting to do anything but relax into the written word, I decided to open a book of Mary Oliver's poems (at random, of course), and see what she had to say. Lately, I've been appreciating images with small bursts of color, or words that immediately bring a certain color to mind, particularly in the form of a berry:

"This Morning I Watched the Deer"

This morning I watched the deer
   with beautiful lips touching the tips
of the cranberries, setting their hooves down
   in the dampness carelessly, isn’t it after all
the carpet of their house, their home, whose roof
   is the sky?

Why, then, was I suddenly miserable?

Well, this is nothing much.
This is just the heaviness of the body watching the swallows
   gliding just under that roof.

This is the wish that the deer would not lift their heads
   and leap away, leaving me there alone.
This is the wish to touch their faces, their brown wrists-
   to sing some sparkling poem into
the folds of their ears,

then walk with them,
over the hills
and over the hills

and into the impossible trees.

~ Mary Oliver

After sitting with this for several minutes, I turned to Lao Tzu for illumination on a question I had posed to myself as I lay in bed this morning. The answer came in the form of a poem I opened to, first the book and then my heart:

Thinking and talking about the Integral Way are not
   the same as practicing it.
Who ever became a good rider by talking about
If you wish to embody the Tao, stop chattering and
   start practicing.
Relax your body and quiet your senses.
Return your mind to its original clarity.
Forget about being separated from others and from the
   Divine source.

As you return to Oneness, do not think of it or be
   in awe of it. This is just another way of separating
   from it.
Simply merge into truth, and allow it to surround you.

~ Lao Tzu

Both images are by Vincent van Gogh

Friday, February 8, 2013

Light Action on a Minnesota Morning

When I awoke this morning, a little later than usual after a good night's sleep, there was a mist hanging over the yard, the old chicken coop, and beyond. It was such a peaceful thing to wake up to I wanted to capture it so I could share it with you. Yes, I've taken its picture before. The beauty of really learning to see the world around me is in this very thing: I could photograph that coop every day of my life from the same place and always see something new, something slightly different from the day before.

Apparently, there is a big storm moving into New England and plans are being made. There is something very satisfying about being snowbound, if one is well-stocked and ready. All that snow creates a shelter in one's mind and a perfectly good excuse for shutting out the world for a while, something we could all benefit from now and then.

Not long after I arrived in Santa Fe, after turning the corner on the winter of '02, I went to a reading at a bookstore downtown, just off the plaza, called Collected Works. It had long been a favorite stopping place when traveling through in earlier times and I was very grateful I could now frequent it at my leisure. Barry Lopez, one of my favorite nature writers, was going to be reading from his latest book and I was very much looking forward to hearing him read and seeing him in person. I had a sense he would have very good energy, and I was right.

He spoke for a while about the world and the changes that had been wrought by recent events. I'm certain I'm not the only one in that small room who found his words comforting. Then, he read a selection from his book, Light Action in the Caribbean, followed by a brief period of questions. Afterwards, I took my place in line with the book I had just purchased while trying to keep at bay the anxiety that kept wanting to intrude. Another marriage had recently ended, 9/11 had changed the world, and my own view of it was riddled with angst. This did not go undetected by Mr. Lopez.

As I stood before him, the book lying on the table awaiting his signature, he stood and looked directly in my eyes. While holding both of my hands in his, he told me he hoped I would soon find peace and healing, and reassured me that life was a good place to be. His smile wiped away the tears that were threatening to fall and then he signed my book with a kind personal message. I have to tell you, the man has beautiful handwriting to match his beautiful soul.

This morning, I picked up that book and opened it to this:

My father, David Whippet, moved a family of eight from Lancaster, in the western Mojave, up onto the high plains of central North Dakota in the summer of 1952. He rented a two-story, six bedroom house near Westhope. It was shaded by cottonwoods and weeping willows and I lived in it for eleven years before he moved us again, to Sedalia in central Missouri, where he retired in 1975. I never felt the country around Sedalia. I carried the treeless northern prairie close in my mind, the spine-shattering crack of June thunder--tin drums falling from heaven, Mother called it--an image of coyotes evaporating in a draw ...

That first summer in North Dakota, 1952, the air heated up like it did in the desert around Lancaster, but the California heat was dry. The humid Dakota weather staggered us all. I got used to the heat, though the hardest work I ever did was summer haying on those plains. I'd fall asleep at the supper table still itching with chaff. I grew to crave the dark cold of winter, the January weeks at thirty below, the table of bare land still as a sheet of iron ...

These paragraphs were a good reminder of why I can, at times, still embrace living here in Minnesota and even love it wholeheartedly. The cold air and the fresh snow often bring the world into a much-needed balance. It also was a clear reminder of why I love words, how they're placed on the page, the sounds and the images they elicit as they roll through our minds and off our tongues. My lord, that man can write.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Creation of Bayou Summer

In my last post I mentioned my questionable relationship with Twitter and it's highly addictive nature. It's where I go to give my blog posts an additional audience, to rant a bit about politics and the issues of the day that give me pause for concern, and to laugh at the spectacularly creative and funny people who inhabit that strange universe. It has also become something else for me, something wholly unexpected when I first signed up almost two years ago @TeresaEvangelin.

I noticed a few Twitter pals were writing what is known as micropoetry, wee poems that must stay within the 140 character limitation of Twitter, which requires writers to winnow, refine, and reduce.

Poetry is often very personal and intimate. So, in order to be more comfortable, and with the encouragement of my friend, Cletis Stump, I created a persona, Bayou Summer, and asked the few who knew to help me maintain anonymity. Bayou came out of my deep love for the city of New Orleans and my inexplicable sense of familiarity with its streets. You may find her @bayousummer

After a month or so of hiding behind this persona, and with the encouragement of those who knew, I'm now comfortable revealing that Bayou Summer is Teresa Evangeline. For those of you on Twitter who wish to do so, you may find a gallery of those I consider my best micropoems @bayousummer2.

Here are a few of my micropoems. I hope you enjoy them.

Whippoorwills calling in the cool August night ~ a woman's handbag ~ left open on the table

A silver earring ~ an unfinished poem ~ a sandal with a broken strap

Blue heron sings in the river as the ocean swallows the moon

How many tears will fit inside my grandmother's blue willow tea cup ~ this small cup ~ that once held snowflakes

I awake to your voice ~ a poem so bittersweet ~ I turn to you and we drift into morning

We float down the river of longing on a raft of fallen leaves...

You drive ~ I'll put my head in your lap ~ and my feet out the window

Storm clouds move over prairie ~ in tall grass ~ the meadowlark sings

Crow walks past puddle ~ filled with morning rain ~ sees only sky

Butterflies tremble on raspberry stained fingers...

Grass stains on her eyelet sundress ~ longhorns in the distance

1) Five miles down a gravel road ~ farmhouse on the river ~ curtains blowing in the breeze ~ above the kitchen table

2) Lilacs rest beside the sink ~ bare feet warm as summer ~ these need a drink she said to him ~ and then I'll be right over

Swans against a darkening sky ~ on perfect wings of being

Inside my cupped hand ~ a baby bird's last breath

He plays dulcimer on city streets ~ with gold dust in his hair

He slips into the room ~ to where she sleeps in shadows ~ a box of stars in his strong hands

On his tongue ~ the beautiful rolling of words

In Jackson Square ~ a piano plays ~ the fan turns and shadows melt into air

A bluebird's empty nest in the corner of the attic ~ sometimes at night I hear it ~ slowly filling up with longing

Images by artists Jonathan Green and Rene Magritte, and a photograph from NASA.