Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Waiting for baby...

My youngest daughter is about to have a daughter of her own. My bag is packed. My ears are straining toward the phone. All my attention is focused on the arrival of Adalina. I'll be back as soon as the new arrival has arrived!

Friday, September 24, 2010


geese landing on the pond
 Dawn comes later these days and dusk settles over the pond far sooner than I’d like, but in between the days are filled with golden light. The trees at the far edge of the water are donning their fall colors. Suddenly the greenery of spruce and pine trees stands out, tucked as they are among the flaming maples and yellowing locusts. The air has a soft, waiting quality about it.

Acorns are dropping. They fall down through the canopy with sharp little cracks. Wild apples, too, are ripening and letting go, landing with soft thuds on the grass beneath abandoned trees. I leave the acorns to the squirrels but I polish the least wormy of the apples against the arm of my sweater and nibble slowly as I walk, always careful to make a close inspection before each bite. Wild apples always taste of sunlight and summer rain, as though both were stored just beneath the skin. Sometimes I can find enough unbruised fruit to make a pie or a batch of applesauce.

Geese are gathering on the pond every evening. They fly low over the road, their wings whispering, breaking the water’s glassy surface into brilliant shards as they land. They lift again in the morning when the mist is still thick, winging between it and the sun, only their voices revealing the secret of their flight. I hear them and feel my heart respond with an ancient yearning. I know the somber days will follow in their wake and I am reluctant to be left here to face the cold while the remains of summer are escaping on beating wings.

I am no longer wakened by bird song, though the crickets and summer bugs still sing me to sleep. When the late afternoon sun slants through the trees in transparent bands I can see innumerable insects dancing there, wings aglitter in the light as though each one were jeweled. I want to dance in the sunlight too, with jeweled wings that would lift me far and away.

Everywhere, the green and growing things are reluctantly letting go of their vibrancy. Grasses are turning buff and brown and sepia, corn stalks wave golden leaves, every tree save the evergreens boasts a different shade of crimson or yellow or orange. Milkweed pods grow thick as the leaves lose their green and with every breeze the colored remnants of summer swirl to the ground in surrender.

When I am tired of walking, I throw myself down in the crackling meadow grass, half drowsing in the warmth and silence, and watch the clouds tell shape-shifter stories. The rest of the world simply melts away and nothing is left but the moment – the sun and the grass and the wings and me.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Imagine That

I had a friend once who carried on imaginary conversations with God. She said he looked a lot like  Morgan Freeman, brought her coffee in bed, and spoke with her about whatever was on her mind. I'm not of any religious persuasion and don't believe in any single deity (though the notion of lesser gods doesn't worry me), but I often talk to myself when I'm alone. I found this post of a few years ago when those inner thoughts took the form of a conversation. I  thought it might be fun to show it the light of day once more before deleting it.

g: I know you don't like spiders but they make useful metaphors.
Me: Which metaphor is that? The one where life is compared to a trap? Or the one about tangled webs of deceit?
g: Neither. I was thinking more along the lines of a circle full of different threads...
Me: That's a metaphor?
g: Paths, choices, all connected, going around. A web is not a metaphor for life?
Me: No wonder I'm tired all the time. I'm going around in circles.
g: You think squares would be more productive?
Me: Those right angles would keep you on your toes.
g: Cut them off and what do you have?
Me: Is it as annoying being G as it is not being able to believe in you?
g: Said the spider to the fly...
Me: EVERYTHING is circular?
g: I count, let's see, more than 100 books on science and philosophy on your shelves and you're asking ME if everything is circular?
Me: Yes.
g: Yes.
Me: Not everything...
g: Oh?
Me: Not even all cells are round.
g: Oh please. Move a line around here and there (sorry) and what do you end up with?
Me: Can we talk about it more specifically?
g: When we get around to it...
Me: Not funny.
g: I screwed up somewhere. Most humans have such an underdeveloped sense of humor it's almost funny.
Me: Is everything supposed to be funny?
g: Humor is the great leveler. It also makes the world go round.
Me: We're going in circles here.
g: Exactly. It's a dance, you see. You all clasp hands and move in circles. Big ones, small ones, outer circles, inner circles. You change partners and go in concentric circles. You even invent circles (after you go round and round with problems and possible solutions). You travel in circles...
Me: Then why am I feeling so strung out?
g: A straight line is really just a stretched out bit of circle. You'll snap back. Think of the world you live in, the one you perceive, as the innards of a clock. You step on and off the various gears. When you're not paying attention, sometimes you step between the teeth and you think the world has changed. It's no longer going in circles. It's just you off-gear, though. And when you think about it, you're still going around, albeit in a more uncomfortable position.
Me: And to get back "on-gear," I...?
g: Let go of the edge. Life will fling you back up somewhere.

It was sort of like being in the middle of a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon.

“The biologist Stephen Jay Gould famously proposed that if we could "rewind the tape" of evolution and play it again, chance would give rise to a world that was completely different from the one we live in now. But the concept that chance reigns supreme may ring less true when it comes to complex behaviours. A study of the similarities between the webs of different spider species in Hawaii provides fresh evidence that behavioural tendencies can actually evolve rather predictably, even in widely separated places.” From The Worlds of David Darling. 

Photo credit: www.daviddarling.info/ images/spider_web.jpg

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Little Moments

One of my everyday little momentous moments

We all experience big moments that thrill us to the very marrow—births, weddings, reunions, reconciliations. It's the little moments however, the ordinary, ho-hum, didn’t-see-them-because-we-weren’t-looking miracles that make up our days. Here are a few of my favorites:

*Silence, broken by bird song or a child's laughter.

*Being kissed by a kitten. Or a child, a sweetheart, an old friend, a puppy (or a sunbeam).

*Finding money in my pocket unexpectedly.

*The first glimpse of a harvest moon hanging above the horizon like a glowing Japanese lantern, or walking along a silver moonpath on a snowbound night.

*Getting all green lights.

*Hearing a voice warm with love on the other end of the telephone line.

*Climbing between sheets that have been hung on a line to dry. It’s like falling asleep out of doors in the sun and wind. In fact, crawling into bed when I’m exhausted is such a marvelous moment that I try to stay awake long enough to relish its comfort.

*Opening a new book. Reading an old favorite. Making my own books. There’s an immense satisfaction that comes from making things from scratch.

*Feeling the weight of my grandchildren as they fall asleep against me. There is nothing more endearing than the faith of a child and nothing more rewarding than knowing you are trusted completely.

*Wearing my favorite sweater. The sleeves are stretched, the shoulders have been stitched and re-stitched and the color is faded from countless washings, but it is still the first thing I reach for when I’m chilly or in need of comfort.

*Facing a blank piece of paper. What better way to illustrate unlimited potential?

*Being the recipient AND the perpetrator of small kindnesses.


*Dawn…not such a little moment, perhaps, seeing as it banishes night and gives us a new day every single time, but so often we miss it in our hurry to be doing instead of being. I want to be in that first blush of light when the morning is fresh and the world holds its breath. I want to be kissed awake by that first sunbeam. 

What are yours?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

C at age one

My youngest child, C, and I often exchange poems. She is about to have her first child. My hope is that someday her own daughter will write a poem for her such as this one that C wrote years ago for me.


There are parts of my childhood
I don’t remember—
Losing my first tooth,
Learning to walk,
Tie my shoe.
But my heart remembers one constant—

Throughout the years I’ve learned
The world is full of—
Magic and miracles,
Light and laughter,
Struggles and solutions,
Obstacles and opportunities,
And through it all, my teacher’s been constant –

Love and joy are wonders to give
And receive, too.
So from the heart
I give these gifts
To my one constant—

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Me at age 6

 Running down the back side of a hill was a small stream that filled the gully left by the work crew when they widened the road last summer. On either side where the water had receded there were mud flats and beyond them, on the far side, the earth was cracked and craggy, looming up like miniature mountains, their tops rock-studded and grass-anchored.

Something inside me shifted. I was suddenly six again and imagining I was three inches tall, a trick of the imagination I often employed when I was young. I squatted my small self down at the river’s edge and stared up at the immense mountains on the other side. Grass grew past my shoulders and the river, fleeing downhill, was swift and deep and sparkling in the late afternoon sunlight.

I walked out into the soft mud and glanced behind me. There were my footprints, small and perfect, dissolving slowly in the wet earth. I looked about and found a twig. I scratched my name in the mud and watched the letters fill with water and fade like invisible writing. I looked about for a sturdy leaf to make a boat, wondering how long it would take me to navigate the river to the bottom of the hill.

Though the sound of a car brought me back to my proper size, I kept the sense of being a kid. I picked up a stick and dragged it along the pavement, liking the buzzy sound it made as it bumped along behind me. I walked the length of the gully to the bottom of the hill and there I knelt at the roadside. I put the flat of my hand in the gooey mud and pressed down, pulling it back with a squelching sound. I heard birds calling. Jays screeched in the distance and two ducks, flying low, quacked to each other. I flopped down in the meadow grass and swatted at bugs and watched the clouds change shapes. Blown by an invisible wind, they drifted above the trees and I watched until it seemed the clouds were standing still and the trees were moving.

I watched the faces in the cars that passed, solemn and serious, and wondered how they came to be that way, going home at the end of the day. Where was the happiness that came from listening to the birds, from seeing the fluttering green leaves of late summer? Where was the contentment of work well done, of supper waiting, and a vibrant sunset painting the sky?

I smiled at them and waved, a six year old disguised as a grown up, mud-splattered and dragging a stick. Some of them smiled back.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Caught Between Sunrise and Moonset

Brian made a comment on my last sun/moon related post, saying one hardly gets to see the two in the sky together. What follows is an account of a time that happened.

I wakened in a moonbeam slanting through the still-dark sky though I could tell by the quality of gray that it must be after six a.m. The light came through the western window and lay in a contoured path over the quilt. I stretched my hand and let the moonbeam lay in my palm; to have closed my fingers over it would have extinguished its magic.

I reached instead for my robe and slipped down the stairs to light the kettle for tea. With mug in hand I went out into the early morning to watch the moon descend. Over my shoulder the eastern sky was just beginning to pale. I stood entranced, looking first in one direction and then the other, never able to see both the rising sun and the setting moon at once though I knew the waxing and waning lights were simultaneous and single-sourced.

It put me in mind of beginnings and endings, how one is always the source of the other. As I turned full circle in the chill dawn, watching the growing daylight dininish the moon's brialliance, I could see between surise and moonset the workings of the world; always, always the slow turn from beginning to end to beginning, on and on, the circle spiraling up and up without pause, always different, always the same.

My feet were touching ground they had danced on in childhood, but the grass I stood on then had died and renewed itself a thousand times over. The last of the pink phlox that bloomed bravely in the waning season of the border garden were descendants of those my mother planted, no longer connected to her hands save through my memory. Caught between daylight and darkness, I was made to understand the that the two exist simultaneously. It is only my limited vision that forces me to perceive one at a time.

The soft rush of traffic in the distance gradually became a muted thunder. Two cars passed me standing there, one headed toward the moon, the other into the sun. A few small birds twittered in the roadside hedge, crows called across the meadow and a small chill breeze brushed my cheek. I kept turning in awe, watching the light change the landscape into everyday ordinariness, realizing suddenly that it had been extraordinary all along.

Try as I might, I could only face one direction. The maples that fringed the feet of the western mountains glowed scarlet in the fading moonlight. The trees that protected the brook to the east lifted their spires into a rose-colored sky. For a moment, my entire world was awash in gold-tinged pink. The moon and sun faced one another, one haloed in mist, the other surrounded by pale light. Caught in the middle, I turned slowly, face lit first by moon glow and then by sunlight until at last I stood still, closed my eyes, and saw them both at once.


Friday, September 03, 2010

Apple Time

Image from Magpie Tales #30

It’s apple time, and that makes me think of Mama and how the kitchen smelled of warm apples and cinnamon on late autumn afternoons. She was a wizard with pie crust and fruit, turning out luscious pies that never lasted past one dinnertime. My father would sing to her, "Can she bake a cherry pie, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?" only he'd substitute apple as that was his favorite.

If there was an abundance of apples, Mama sauced some of them. Then she would make a second batch of pastry, roll it thin, trace the shape of a saucer in the dough with a sharp knife, and fold it over a generous spoonful of applesauce. She would let me dip a fork in the flour and crimp the edges. I happily sprinkled cinnamon and sugar over each turnover and could hardly wait until they were baked. Cooled and in hand, they were my favorite snack.

It’s been years since my mother and I worked together in the kitchen but it’s apple time, and in memory of her I am baking a pie. I’ve fetched her old paring knife from the drawer, taken my bowl of apples outside and pared a dozen of them while sitting on the dreaming bench in the late afternoon sunshine.

I’ve taken her old china bowl from the cupboard, the largest yellow one, and tossed the apple slices with flour and sugar and cinnamon. I’ve rolled the crust with her old green-handled wooden rolling pin, remembering the shape of her hands as she worked, and the look of her face as she blew a stray hair from her eyes.

The pie sits on the counter, redolent and delicately browned, steam spiraling from the vents cut in the top crust. It looks just like the pie in the “Billy Boy” song illustration. It looks just like a pie my mother might have made… and I have just burned my tongue.

The dreaming bench

Thursday, September 02, 2010

A V-8 Moment

The temperature has been hovering in the 90s these first couple of days back to school. Overheated classrooms with not a breath of air stirring does not offer the most conducive atmosphere for learning. Still, there are some funny little moments like this one.

As our class of 7 year olds was making its way to the buses a small boy suddenly remembered that he had horse back riding lessons that afternoon and thought his mom might be picking him up.

Me: Did you mother send a note?

Child: What for?

Me: Telling us that she was going to pick you up so we wouldn't put you on the bus.

Child: Nope, I don't think so. She just told me.

Me: What did she tell you?

Child: I don't know. I never pay attention to her when she talks at me in the morning.

Me: You don't? Why not?

Child: She never says anything interesting.

Me: Well, it might be interesting to know where you're going after school.

Child: I KNOW where I'm going after school. I'm going horseback riding. I just told you.

Me: But we don't know if you're going on the bus or being picked up.

Child: You don't?

Me: No - we don't have a note from your mom.

Child: I KNOW that. I already told you she told me.

Me: But you don't know what she told you because you didn't listen.

Child: Well, you wouldn't listen either because she's boring in the morning.

So, we went to the office, called Mom and ascertained that said child should go home on the bus.

Me: Please listen to your mom in the mornings from now on.

Child: Nah. I'll just tell her to write it all down for YOU.

Me: What if you forget the note?

Child: That's why they invented telephones!