Monday, February 28, 2011


Nothing says spring louder
than the sound of ice melt,
unless it's the hopeful little two-note song
of the chickadee, that drops like liquid song
into the silence.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Morning Has Broken...

5:56 A.M. Now that we’re sliding into March, the sun is coming up earlier and setting later. Those extra hours of daylight are encouraging the buds on the lilac near my door to swell despite the fact that the eves still drip with an occasional icicle. This morning when I woke, the moon hung in the sky like a diamond pendant. It glittered in the cold, casting long purple shadows across the snow and making yesterday’s icicles shimmer. Along the horizon, the sky was pale, bleached yellow. A low gray cloud lay motionless above the line of trees like a huge, stratocumulus whale basking in the sky.

6:05 A.M. The darkness thins as the part of the earth I stand on turns toward the sun. Dawn always reminds me that nothing is as it seems. It would appear that the sun rises over a flat horizon when, in reality, I am held fast to the surface of a rotating ball that rolls around toward the light. That thought has given me the willies since second grade, when my teacher tried to explain the planets to me. Before I knew about outer space and gravity, I was safe in the center of two bowls, one right side up and filled with earth, the other fitted upside down over me, it’s vaulted insides painted blue. A light switch turned day into night, the blue replaced by a black velvet cloth scattered with stars and a clear, round moon.

6:25 A.M. Sunrise is minutes away and the sky above the horizon has lightened considerably. The cloud has lengthened and its undersides are bathed in crimson. Only minutes ago the moon gleamed behind the trees, but it lies closer to the horizon now and its influence is dimmed by the rising light. I walk from window to window with my mug of tea, sipping and watching the day being born. There is a hush that descends just before the sun actually appears. It is more noticeable in the summer when the birds pause in their early morning serenade long enough for the sun to peek over the edge of the earth. At this time of year, the stillness is more a thing felt than heard. The cloud is bathed in scarlet. Its top turns a deep purple and then suddenly it is pure white, an everyday, ordinary cloud. Through the blaze of color a jet streak turns silver.

6:30 A.M. The great ball of orangey fire looks huge as it rises over the horizon. Moments later it is riding above the trees, yellow as the center of a daisy and no bigger than it ought to be. It is impossible to look at straight on. My eyes see little yellow dots everywhere I look. Sunlight streams through the windows and spills onto the floor. It pierces the sun catcher above the sink and scatters rainbows across my slippered feet.

It’s as though I’ve just watched a theater being readied. The curtains are tied back, the lights are up, and the music has begun. All that I need do is walk onto center stage and begin the day.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

One Fine day

Up came the sun and out the door I went, snowshoes and poles in hand to join my brother on an expedition through fields and woods, taking advantage of the clear, bright day before the weather turns nasty again on Friday.

Expedition leader/brother
We began at the entrance to a meadow near his house, a place where we both played as children. A small stream, a frozen slip of water where we used to have ice skating races, still makes its way through the field. In summer it provides a drinking spot for birds, deer, coyotes, and assorted other wildlife. Today it was snow covered and silent and the cattails rattled in the wind.

We left the open field for the relative warmth of the woods where the leafless trees broke the wind but still let in plenty of sunlight. We tromped side by side until the path narrowed. I stopped to watch a bird flit through the trees and inadvertently turned my right foot. When I started off again I fell face first into the snow - I'd stepped on the edge of my left snowshoe and could not lift it! My brother turned to see me rising ignominiously and grinned.

Snow is still deep in these woods
The wind did not reach us here and I was soon too warm in my fur trimmed hood and down parka. I removed my gloves, unzipped my coat, and tromped happily along. There are little pools of snowmelt at the edges of trails, and I spied the purple-green sworl of a skunk cabbage rising from the sunniest of them.

my $5 summer tag sale find

There won't be too many more snowshoeing weekends before the warming sun melts the deep snow. Then I will don my rubber boots and set off through the fields and woods, looking in earnest for signs of spring. By then, the skunk cabbage will be in full bloom and the birds will be singing hurrah!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

In Short

17 syllable American Sentence in response to the above Magpie #54 photo.

The world cannot go back to what it once was after the heart breaks.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Figuring It Out

I am standing at the sink washing the breakfast dishes, idly wondering how many times I've run a soapy sponge across a plate or scrubbed the residue of cooked food from the bottom of a pot. It’s like wondering how many meals I’ve cooked over the last fifty-odd years. The numbers are shocking, but pointless.

I like doing the dishes, though. I almost always have.When we were kids, my sisters and I would sing rounds as my mother washed and we dried. The poor farmer’s wife was chased unmercifully by three blind mice, or we’d row, row, row our boats until my father would be forced to rattle his newspaper and harrumph from his chair in the next room. Oftentimes my mother would teach us songs from her own childhood. We learned Aloutte in French, and a naughty ditty about angels ascending on high (all the little angels ascend up, ass-end up). I still hum those tunes when my hands are occupied with warm sudsy water and stacks of dirty dishes.

Holiday cleanups were more fun than everyday dish chores. There would always be an extra aunt or two in the kitchen, and the cousins to help. There was also great deal of laughter and interesting conversation and the sort of bonding that comes from work shared. I would volunteer to put away, rather than dry, the dishes. I liked being trusted with the best china. I would carefully stack the dinner plates, the saucers, the dessert plates, and carry them into the dining room. I liked the cedar-y smell of the hutch and the cunning way everything fit just so on the crowded shelves. One misplaced cup and one would have to empty the entire cupboard and start over.

Now, washing dishes gives me time to think without making me look indolent. I like to watch the day wake up outside the kitchen window while I scrub the bits of breakfast egg from a plate or rinse the suds from my teacup. If I’m home at noon, the completion of lunch dishes is like being offered carte blanche for the afternoon. Supper dishes signal the end of the day’s work. Who can say a word then if I fling myself in a chair with a book or sit idly flipping through a catalog?

Figuring it all out, if I’ve done dishes on the average of two times a day (bypassing lunch which is most often eaten on the job) for the last 59 years that’s a little over 43,000 times I’ve stood at the kitchen sink to wash up after a meal. Toss in a few extra hours for those days I do eat lunch at home, add in extra sink duty for every holiday, and the number is staggering. I’ve enjoyed that many sunrises and sunsets though, had countless interesting thoughts, and used some of that time to teach my own children about rowing boats and ascending angels.

Inspired by Judith's question, "Why Do You wash the Dishes?"

Thanks, Hilary !

Monday, February 21, 2011

After two delightful days of rising temperatures and the sparkling sounds of ice-melt, it is snowing again. I know spring is on the way - it can't help but be, now that the middle of February has passed. Still and all it seems...

Forever Winter

The brown birds hop from twig to reed,
They search the ground for fallen seed,
And all around the snowy ledge,
I see their tracks among the feed.

My window looks at wood and hedge,
At knee-deep drifts that hide the sedge,
And block the path that leads to town,
Away off at the wood’s far edge.

And still the flakes come drifting down,
To bury green and cover brown,
No matter that it’s April soon,
It’s February wears the crown.

Forever winter, harsh winds croon,
No cheerful robin pipes its tune,
Just snow on ledge and stormy moon,
Just snow on ledge and stormy moon.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Anticipating Spring

Even when winter trees are leafless and all the ground is covered with snow, nature makes small places for my eyes to feast. The evergreens stand out greeny-black against the white, 

every shade of brown and gray shows off its luster where the snow has melted and the leaf matter is exposed, 

dawns and sunsets paint the sky in shades of crimson and purple. Cardinals and jays look like winged jewels in flight. 

And when that snow disappears? Oh, glorious green!

We are weeks away from this last photo, but just knowing the middle of February has passed gives me hope!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

From Magpie Tales #53

Making Sea Salt

I watch you work
in the blistering sun,
steam from the salt pans
nudging tendrils of escaped hair
into curls. Your wet skirt clings to
the curve of your thigh;
I taste salt at the nape of your neck
where your hand has carelessly brushed.

 *Note: In ancient times, salt girls held the job of boiling seawater down for the salt. Some cursory research showed that sea salt was obtained by diluting the brine of the sea by evaporation, largely accomplished by the sun. The concentrated slurry of salt, sand, and mud was scraped up and washed clean with seawater to settle the impurities. The brine was poured into shallow pans lightly baked from local clay and set over a peat fire for the final evaporation. The dried salt was then scraped out and sold. 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Little February Romance

Photo of amaryllis by Judith at A View From the Woods


In that red dress
that spills down her body
like paint,
she is an amaryllis
in a winter room.
Heads turn;
the air is on fire.
When the music starts
she turns,
and when they dance,
she is all he needs to know of flowers.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Halfway Somewhere

I am beginning to look like someone I do not know. It’s an odd feeling to glance down at my own hands and suddenly recognize my mother’s. I look in the mirror and am surprised to see not the reflection of my inner vision, twenty and blonde, smooth-skinned and slim as a whippet, but a sixty-five year old woman with streaks of silver at her temples and fine lines around her eyes. My skin is freckled with what my grandmother called age spots and my dermatologist calls sun damage. My stride and my stamina are shortening. I go to bed earlier and wish I could wake up later. I used to think people my age were old. No one told me I’d get here and still think young.

I have lost a few things on my journey to middle age. I’ve lost some of my absolute trust that things will always work out the way I want them to. When I was a child I was the center of the universe. As an adult, I am only the center of my own. I’ve had to move over and share with the rest of the world. I’ve lost some of my blind trust in grown-ups, too. Some adults say children are often cruel. They should know – they teach the lesson so thoroughly. I’ve had to temper my trust with a healthy dose of, "Oh yeah? Says who?" and then hold up their truths against my own hard-won notions.

It seems just yesterday that I was in high school. I can still recall the excitement of commencement night, the feeling of standing in an open doorway looking out on an infinite future. I was invulnerable, impervious to harm, destined to fly. I’ve since lost the notion I can soar on my own. I’ve learned I need the wind. I have gone past the middle of my earth journey. I’ve grown from a clinging, needy infant dependent on other people for my basic needs to adulthood and the frightening, freeing responsibility of caring for myself. I’ve loved and been loved, hated and had it come back to bite me, borne children and buried parents. I’ve faced fears head-on, I’ve let places and things and hearts go that I would rather have hung onto. I’ve allowed myself to become vulnerable and open to hurt so that when bliss comes, and it does come, I can fill up and flow over. I’ve learned neither state lasts forever.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Oh Baby

Ada Bean and her Memere

There's something about a baby, something about the bottomless depth of their eyes that brings tears to yours, something about their silken, sweetly-scented skin that makes you want to bury your nose in their neck, something about their helplessness that makes you want to protect them. And when that baby is your own grandchild, as this one is, there's a bond that starts somewhere in the middle of your heart and reaches into every cell of your body until you are love itself, completely and irrevocably in tune with them for the rest of your life, no matter what.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Rough Draft

After reading at fellow blogger Dick's site and Voice Alpha, a blog dedicated to the discussion of reading poetry aloud for an audience…

At the Poetry Reading

The lights flicker a warning to the audience.
Shuffling feet and shifting bodies settle.
Anticipation rises like smoke.

First up is Ian whose empty hands
are jammed in his pockets
like the damned up words in his mouth.

They spill together; his fists pound
the air, his words beat like fists,
pummeling, pulsating, until the

air in the room is purpled like a bruise.
Up and up his rising voice carries us,
setting us down in a different place where

the sudden silence is deafening.

Duncan makes his way to the stage
through the remnants of applause,
papers trembling in his trembling hands.

We lean forward as one, waiting
Duncan reads words like they are made
of feathers and music. When he is finished

the silence is a balm, a healing,
his honeyed words a blessing. His eyes
lift from the papers in his stilled hands

and he smiles.

Moira has a voice like stones dropping.
One after another her words fall. It hurts
to hear them.

Jean’s verse is worse.
Her rhyming and timing
are ghastly and slightly askew.

You wonder who taught her
to verbally slaughter
her words and then foist them on you.

Kevin never lifts his eyes from the page.

The last performer, Pete, brings a book
of his own verse. He holds it open in his
workman’s hands.

He does not read; he speaks, barely glancing
at the page. His eyes gather us in, 
include us in the story.

He becomes his poem, 
becomes the man he writes about,
becomes the passion and the sorrow

and the redemption at the end. 

Monday, February 07, 2011

Missing Dad

From my collection of children's poems... written way back in 1971!

When I was Six

We'd run and gather 'bout his knees,
he'd tickle us and we would tease,
to make a bridge twixt stool and chair,
and he would hold us prisoner there,
all laughing till we gasped for air,
and begged him please, for more.
He's sometimes tell us stories then, 
all cuddled up right next to him.
If days were sometimes dull and flat
our nights with Dad made up for that
I'll always think of how we sat,
snuggled in his love.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

A Triolet

A triolet is a one stanza poem of eight lines with an ab.aa.ab.ab rhyme scheme. The first, fourth and seventh lines are the same as are the second and eighth lines. They are great fun to compose. Here's one I wrote on one of my Cobble walks.

What the Hemlock Said

From where I stand I see the river bend
before it wanders off across the field.
A hundred years I’ve watched the water wend,
For where I stand I see the river bend,
And you would think a hundred years to spend
along the water’s edge by rights should yield
a closer knowledge of the river bend
before it wanders off across the field.