Sunday, January 29, 2017

Counter-News


The small birds in my yard
singing
are not aware of world events
unless on some subliminal level
I cannot perceive.
They sing regardless,
not immune to the frozen sleet 
that blankets the grass,
not indifferent to the murky clouds
hanging on the horizon,
not unaware of the taciturn cold,
and not in spite or because of—
they sing because it’s what they do;
the chickadee in flit mode 
among the lilac branches,
the blue jay screeching from a treetop,
the nuthatch marching headfirst
down a crenulated trunk,
the cardinal dropping liquid notes 
into the air.

The pulse of life that throbs in them
throbs in me,
the songs they toss into the daylight
reverberate in me,
the joy of sunlight, of blue sky, of scattered seed
are mine, too,
a reminder that life in the midst of life
is mine for the noticing
a feast, a concert,
a hand held out to me by the world.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Lessons


My morning walk took me to the Mill Pond dam, where water from the pond poured in torrents over the stone edge, crashing onto the rocks below - a death drop for anything other than water and slippery fish. As I stood and watched, the water leapt up and hurried downstream. Always the same rocks, never the same water, I thought, watching as the current hustled masses of bubbles past the banks.

There was one spot where the current split, where some water turned right while the rest maneuvered to the left and back into the main stream. The water that took a right turn spread slowly into a side pool where it fanned out to the very edges of the bowl and stilled almost to a full stop, waiting to add itself to the ice that formed in the cold. My thoughts, which had tangled themselves into ugly knots overnight smoothed out and I began to see what the brook could teach me.

What seems like a precipice is also a jumping off point. What seems like certain death is merely a transformation. Water doesn't die when it hits the rocks, but it does change form momentarily, becoming great masses of bubbly foam. It might seem dangerous to be in the strong central current but that's where the movement and the action are, right in the thick of things. Where the water slows and stills, ice forms, trapping movement.

Some of the water, I  noticed, did not succumb to the pull of the edge but re-entered the current. Bubble after bubble refused to cease moving and returned to the fray, jostling for a new position in the rushing stream. Anthropomorphized, those bubbles gave me insight into my own possible paths - be part of the turbulent current, slow down and seek an alternate route, ignore the pull and find a place to freeze.

The laws of nature and nature's god always make me feel better.


Monday, January 02, 2017

Still Lives


Me and my camera
the giant blue sky
the endless circle of horizon
the great mound of the mountain
stolid behind tapering trees
the far shore of the pond
the water, ice crusted and still,
the jumble of roadside brush
full of chittering finches
the one oak leaf that would not let go
the soft cap of snow in an abandoned nest
the fragile ice on Queen Anne’s lace
the drop of frozen water at the tip of a branch
the shadow of a single vine on a fence board


our eyes, one alive, one mechanical
recorded it all

They are pictures of silence
of quietude
of moments and shadows
still shots of life

that despite being captured
spill into the day, singing,
as though me and my camera
did not exist

except as still shots


Monday, November 21, 2016

What I Know



All that is uncertain beneath our feet,
all that we assume is bedrock—
an unshakeable foundation—
is really hope,
nebulous, alluring, beguiling hope.

Hope that somewhere in all the wrong
there is right,
in all that is terrifying
there is a moment of peace,
that the possibility of beauty
lies in every eye that beholds.

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Saturday, November 12, 2016

My Aching Heart

A Dark Time

This is not the first time the fabric of my family has been ruptured by politics. The American revolution pitted a 7th great uncle against his own great nephew. The uncle fought on the side of the Patriots, his great nephew joined a British regiment in Canada. Mid-way through the strife, the nephew's family was driven from their New York home, their property was seized, and they fled, wife and several small children, to Canada to join the Loyalists.

During the Civil War some of my ancestors fought for the North. General James Longstreet, a third cousin 5x removed, fought for the South. I remember reading of families torn apart in that war by allegiances and wondered how that could be. Wasn't the love between family members strong enough to overcome different political viewpoints? I was sure my own would be.

I grew up with a Republican father and a mother active in the Democratic party. I registered as an Independent as soon as I was old enough to vote. In the 60s and 70s I was for desegregation and against the Vietnam War. (My father and I simply could not see eye to eye on my pacifist vs his militaristic viewpoint and had to agree to not talk politics with one another if we were going to continue to talk with one another at all.) Familial love won out; we refused to argue over presidents and policies and were able to love one another despite our differences.

Come Wednesday morning, November 9, 2016, however, I had to face the fact that maybe love alone isn't enough to maintain a relationship. It isn't that the love is extinguished, not if it's the kind that ties heart to heart despite differences. That love may be sorely tested, as was mine and my father's. But respect, an integral part of any relationship, and acceptance, essential for any lasting connection, can be overridden by disbelief and an inability to comprehend the justifications of another.

So I wake every morning now with a stomach ache and a feeling of dread that puzzles me until I am fully awake and remember, oh yeah, Trump has been elected and some of my friends and relatives voted for him. Some of them are Hilary haters, but no matter how they justify their vote, I can't help but wonder, does that mean they approve of Trump's behavior? Of his lying and cheating both in his private and working life (and his evident pride in that), his lack of morals, his verbal attacks on people of color, or those with disabilities, people of the LGBTQ communities, or those whose religion doesn't match his? Do they think his cavalier attitude toward women is acceptable? Or the fact that he brags about the loopholes he used to not pay his taxes? Does the violence that he subtly encourages not bother them? How about his ties to too-big-to-fail banks and moneyed insiders or the people he choses to surround himself with? If they don't necessarily approve, does that mean they are willing to overlook these things? 

I don't know how to reconcile my rejection of everything Trump stands for with their acceptance of it. "What about Hilary?" they ask. "What about her corruption?" I tell them I can repudiate Trump's behavior without approving Clinton's. "I could not, in all good conscience, vote for that woman," they tell me. Where was that good conscience when it came to Trump? 

I don't like the feeling of divide that I sense between us. I hate thinking that I didn't see the latent racism, the hidden bigotry and xenophobia, the intolerance, or that if I did, I excused it with an oh-everyone-is-entitled-to-their own-opinion insouciance. I'm sorry I didn't ask more questions or listen more intently. It breaks my heart to see friends and family pitted against each other. I hope, but I'm not positive, that love will triumph.



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Monday, October 17, 2016

Sunday Morning Write - Freefall



I cup the morning in my hands -
the sun rising on the back of the rooster’s blare,
the grass growing straight out to the barn
where a black cat explores the known world.

I hold the whispery sound of wings overhead
and the silly dither of earthbound hens.
Crow feathers slip through my fingers.
Red leaves, and orange,
green leaves and yellow crowd my fingertips.
Wisps of soft air float free.

My hands hold the smells of wood smoke
and damp earth, of dried grasses
and fallen leaves. I bury my nose
and inhale the universe as it turns,

loosening summer, setting autumn free,
welcoming winter. All this is here
in my cupped hands, holding one morning,
holding them all.


Sunday, October 09, 2016

Sunday Morning Write: A Memory From the Week Past.



The phone rang at seven on Thursday. A small voice at the other end of the line said, “Can you come back, Nini? I miss you. I want you to put me to bed.”

I felt my heart contract and expand simultaneously. Even if I could see to drive at night and even if I did drive the hour to that small voice, she’d be sound asleep by the time I arrived. I’d be unnecessary.

I talked to her instead. I sent her kisses over the phone line and virtual hugs, describing where I’d plant those kisses – on her cheek, in her neck (she giggled), and on the top of her head. And I told her how tightly I’d hug her, how I was throwing those hugs into the air in her direction. All she had to do was catch them. “Did you get your kisses and hugs?” I asked.

“She can’t see you nodding,” my daughter whispered.

“Yes,” said the little voice. “Here’s your kiss,” and she made a loud smacking noise. The hug she sent was accompanied by the grunt of effort it took to launch her stranglehold into the air.

“I will be there on Tuesday,” I reminded her.  “If you need extra hugs and kisses, Mama has lots stored up. Just ask her.”

“G’night, Nini,” the small voice called, probably from the stairs. “I love you.”


“Good night Lil,” I called back, and putting the phone down, wept happily into my hands.