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Dandelions, like all things in nature are beautiful when you take the time to pay attention to them. (June Stoyer)

Good afternoon, human. I’ve been awake since early morning, grateful last week’s pesticide spray missed me.

Sure, I’ll pose. There are tulips on the other side of the sidewalk. Red. Yellow. I noticed you didn’t stop to admire them. You knew people in the eighteenth century preferred my ancestors to mowed grass. Nice research. I am hardy, rise early, and sleep late. I appreciate the compliment.

Wait… Don’t leave so quickly. I’d like to play mirror with a homo sapiens for a minute. Because…because you are thinking about people who are important to you. One woman was beaten when she was a child. She needed to be rescued. Yet, her spirit shines brighter than my yellow surface.  Her giving is honest.

I talked a bit fast there. But I wanted to get a lot of stuff in. Strange, isn’t it, how some creations flourish where others dissolve with the next temperature rise? Not a judgment, just what it is. An orchid is in trouble when its leaves get too dark. Can’t change that in a human either. However, the human has more sources for support. Physical. Mental.

You didn’t expect that much from a plant, a flower, this ordinary, did you? Even you have your stereotypes. I hope to see you again after the next mowing. Keep your eyes open. Thanks for the chat.

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.  (Albert Einstein) 

A technician from our security alarm company will be arriving this morning. Soon. Grandchildren have been through the house. The living room looks as if it hasn’t been cleaned since the turn of the century. I have a good imagination; I vacuumed two days ago. 

Paul H. arrives with his toolbox. He doesn’t look at anything except our misbehaving security box. I don’t notice much about him until he has almost finished with repairs. One of his eyes doesn’t align with the other. Nevertheless, he knows what he is doing and answers questions with ease. 

“Would you like a cup of coffee?” my husband asks. “Sure,” he answers. I add a little milk per his request and the three of us talk. About travels. About life. 

“I fell off a ladder,” he says. “Thirty-three feet.”

 I gasp. 

“Multiple injuries. Broken bones. Surgeries. More surgeries. Funny how kids stare and say exactly what they think. No holding back. They say I have a crazy eye. I just tell them it is artificial. I can’t see out of it. At all.” He turns toward me. “I’m a miracle.” 

I think about my earlier petty concerns and smile. This man chose to see us with the vision he has left. Not a marble under the TV or a crayon on the couch. A little shared coffee sounds great. I add warmth to my cooled mug and warmth to my spirit. 

Time to sign on the dotted line. Job completed. Thanks, Paul. May the story of your miracle help others see through their own times of darkness. 

flying geese

It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to. W.C. Fields


GOOSELY TRANSLATED

Two Canada geese
settle into an angled parking space
in a Wal-Mart lot.

They take turns 
sharing shreds of bun
left in a torn red McDonald’s box.

One goose eats.
The other stands and watches.
They protect one another.

A car honks.
The blast interrupts their feast.
Harsh and threatening 
human voices call to the birds
as they flee.

The geese answer
from their aerial perspective.
I interpret their comeback
into English.

Excellent volume.
Lacks style.


Illustration created from a clipart drawing, pastels, and colored paper


Myopic, a Poem

drops

Tis but a part we see and not a whole. (Alexander Pope)

Slices of green leaf hold drops of water,
while my camera crops the rest 
of the plant from my yard.

My window seat opens a square 
of flight into midday sky. Into
finespun white and gray clouds.
 
Blue twists through nature’s 
continuous artwork, 
intangible yet visible.

While the land below blends
into solid colors. Squares. 
An illusion of sameness.

When I hear angry people, I assume 
motives. Yet, what has been cropped 
from this old man’s life? 
Or young child’s future?

How long has this girl been searching 
through fragile clouds of the past 
for what can’t be found in the present?

I belong to the whole. 
The path opens wider,
yet never gives all.

Slices of green leaf hold drops of water
while my camera crops the rest
of the plant from the scene. 

I study what I see
while the whole holds all.





blue bike illustration

(simple, childlike bicycle drawing)

Friendships in childhood are usually a matter of chance, whereas in adolescence they are most often a matter of choice. (David Elkind)

One 1950’s variety blue, 
second-hand bicycle, no features
peddle-power only.
Balance, I’d mastered it.

A classmate begged to ride.
She sped down the hill,
made a squealing brake, 
and met the concrete with her nose.

“It’s the bike’s fault,” she claimed.
Tears fell into the blood on her face
while she stared me down. 
My parents said nothing.

Alone, I stepped into new shades of balance. 
My peer seemed to choose a 
shift-the-blame ploy. As a reticent child, 
inaction was my norm. I hadn’t yet learned

when to be silent, when to speak.
I was mute out of fear. Balance
and courage took me years to develop.
To move from fragile ego into integrity.

A new goal reaches into my horizon, to focus
less on blame than on pain. How can I help you?
To be aware of both ploy and hurt. Neither
accepting nor giving censure. Not easy.

Balance includes more than gravity. To
maintain real-life love without being a jerk,
without giving more than I have.
One old lady moving forward, into peace.



Bass Harbor signed

If we have not quiet in our minds, outward comfort will do no more for us than a golden slipper on a gouty foot. (John Bunyan)

“What do you want to do for you birthday?” my husband asks.

I have a few days to think about it. Not many. Age 75 is approaching with hurricane swiftness. No good options for avoiding the fact.

My unspoken answer is, appreciate. A goldfinch and cardinal appear at our bird-feeder. Their bright colors move against a cobalt blue sky. I am learning to paint. Acrylic layers take time. Each stroke crosses the canvas and dries. My work is imperfect. At this advanced age I am a student of both art and of life. The above painting of Bass Harbor in Maine was a recent gift for my husband.

What do I want? I want to be. Having is overrated. I’d like to turn off the news when I can no longer help. I’d like to recognize wrongfulness yet never allow hate to take over. I’d like to work without letting work be my master.

I will celebrate my entry into the world in a small way. And grab the beauty in the moment, even if it is hidden under a mountain of rocks.

Today I pick up a pencil and begin another drawing on canvas. A single graphite path. A short-sighted vision. Enough for now. Each stroke is only an imitation of the real anyway. What-I-do is what matters.

Peace. May it extend beyond an image or a moment.

Enlightenment is when a wave realizes it is the ocean. (Thich Nhat Hanh)

My mind travels in unplanned directions as I drive familiar routes. My car goes where it needs to go. And my imagination moves forward and backward. I am en route to the grocery.

On the right side of the road an elderly couple walk along the sidewalk. The gentleman uses a walker. Her arm reaches around his shoulder.

I feel the reality of universal emotion as if it were a new notion. When I was a child we didn’t talk about emotional experience in my family. I believed adults were innately different than children. Taller creatures knew the rules and never knelt backward on a pew in church to see behind them. Stoic was an unspoken virtue.

Grownups laughed at jokes and never explain unfamiliar phrases. At family events kids sat at a smaller table on chairs that tipped easier. We dropped more and were ready for dessert sooner.

Yet, these were the superficial differences. Constant separations told me we were disparate creatures. I was told what to think and how to be. Feelings came up only when they didn’t fit what Mommy wanted.

A strange form of enlightenment came later. A fluid one. Like water. It didn’t arrive at a place I can find again and describe. Understanding, truth, and empathy are not static. Surface waves. Tidal waves. Some moments almost unbearable, others healing. And all belonged to a whole larger than I am. A vast ocean of tested and untested experience.

I arrive in the same parking-lot I’ve seen uncountable times. The sky leaks a few raindrops.

“Good afternoon,” I call to a woman returning her cart. I am lucky. She returns the greeting.

This moment will move into the next. Will I give to the whole as I travel, or not? I will if I am aware that I am the ocean.

 ocean side

vanilla

Forever is composed of nows. (Emily Dickinson)

Back in the days when I thought childhood and eternity were synonyms, a neighbor kid and I poured vanilla into a teaspoon and tasted it. The flavor was nothing like the ice cream or cake that shared the label. The other girl and I giggled about it. And made faces exaggerating the bitterness.

Again? Yes. We did it again. My mother obviously wasn’t in the room. The taste didn’t improve. Neither did my judgment for years. In a lot of areas. Strange, Mom never did ask why she needed more vanilla so soon. Perhaps we didn’t take as much as my taste buds recall.

That old memory appears as I put a fresh bottle of vanilla in my cabinet. As my mind travels into other realities. Two funerals. One next week. Another not yet planned. The second death occurred today. A member of my church community. It doesn’t seem real. And yet, my head knows differently. I hear her voice in my head. I want to answer back.

Darkness. Light. Bitterness and sweet. This moment. Capture it now.

The holes in lace become the design. The bee, part stinger and part honey maker. A full moon against a black sky.

Childhood and forever. No longer the same.

Balance. May it find its place in more than flavors.

 

pool_LI

Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. (Martin Luther King Jr., A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches)

A few jumps in cool pool water and my moving body feels warmer. The water temperature hasn’t changed. I have.

Aerobics class begins. Participants exercise in rows, five to six persons in each section. Different ages and backgrounds. I chat with a woman my age about our years in similar classes. Septuagenarian status and exercise are the few bonds we share. Politically we could be on separate continents.

“She talks to us,” she says to her companion. The word us is understood without explanation. Her friend is more rigid in her position than my chatting counterpart. I don’t respond. Left and right. Why can’t we communicate? Why do labels need such sharp edges? Why can’t the pool water warm all realms of thought?

I banter with my companion. I don’t argue. I don’t throw pebbles at a brick wall and expect the wall to shatter, to transform into a mirror.

Answers. I am not sure they come in words. Love isn’t pure sweetness. It is more like dark chocolate. It needs a bitter side to be real. Unfortunately, life doesn’t come with a recipe. Show what is right rather than jabber about it. The child who never learns consequences begins life empty.

One more day. Open ears, but never an integrity compromise.

A few more jumps in the pool. I am comfortable here. The temperature of the water remains the same. It doesn’t need the same level of change as individuals who touch it. And then, perhaps, touch one another…

 

clean sheets

The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.  (L.P. HartleyThe Go-Between)

THE SEASONS OF ENVY

When my kids were little
another young mother
ironed sheets, handkerchiefs,

boxer shorts, and the white T-shirts
her husband wore
to repair other folks’ plumbing.

A super-heroine mom.
I don’t recall her name.
We belonged to the same circle,

but I rarely spoke to her.
I thought we were too different.
Her kids appeared photo-shoot ready,

even in the sandbox.
Before noon my kids’ shirts needed pre-soak.
My boys called dress-up clothes corpse attire,

and a shirt buttoned to the neck, a noose.
Hours bonding with an iron didn’t suit my lifestyle.
Yet, I wondered how super-mom managed.

I honored her the way some people venerate saints,
the ones who accept martyrdom over burning coals
as if it were sunburn.

I meditate as I iron. Her explanation. Life’s wrinkles transformed.
Mine remained. I recall those days 
as I change bed sheets on an ordinary Thursday afternoon.

I notice holes in fabric
that has lasted through bleach, hot water,
myriad spins, more than one washer and dryer.

I consider the decades,
the blood clot in my lung, my parents’ funerals,
and nights when I couldn’t sleep.

I rub my hand over creases
and feel the texture of old cotton,
as if I could gather the years,

hold and thank them
for loss and imperfections
that have added character to my imperfections.

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