Death and Temperance, and the Wall

 

I have hit the poetry wall tonight. I’ve been feeling it coming for a couple days now, the slowing, the resistance in my brain as I approach it. And here, tonight, with Death as the prompt, I don’t know where to go. I want to make it light and fluffy, toss it off without thinking. I don’t have the brain cells for much work tonight, and my will to work is shallow and listless. Then I remind myself that some of the shiniest poems happen at the moment of the wall. Of course, that’s when some of the worst ones happen, too. Sigh.

 

 

No, I think she’s a woman in a red cloak
with gentle brown eyes and midnight skin.
Unlike the ferryman, she asks no token,
no proof of passage or confession of sin.

She carries a sickle instead of a scythe,
appearing in fevered delusions and dreams,
and though you may dread to see her arrive,
you will cherish her presence on the journey.

###
There now. I’ve written something. I honestly can’t tell whether I like it or not. That’s part of the wall, too, the loss of a sense of what works and what doesn’t. Best to just get it down there, and come back to it with a clear head when April is over.

TOMORROW’S PROMPT:
So much of it is about Balance, isn’t it? Justice, a few days ago. Even Death–there’s always a balance between death and life, between the fear of it and the hope for it. The Lovers–they’re all about balance between the opposite parts of our inner nature. Tomorrow, again, is another sort of balance: Temperance. We’re not talking about periods of US history here, but about the concept. Passion and zeal are important drivers, and they can be great when you need to get the chariot moving, but fokeeping it going straight and steady, you’ve got to find the temperate balance. Can the Fool, in her naive and wandering heart, find the deep meaning of Temperance?

Gratitude List:
1. Pink trees
2. Cool breeze
3. Bees
4. (Ack! Now I need to keep going with this.) Poetries (Don’t judge me.)
5. Cheese (Hey now, I do love it, and we had some mighty fine Pepper Jack for supper.)

May we walk in Beauty!

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Long Gratitude


Last year at a wedding shower, I received a sweet little aloe in a little round pot. Today, I re-planted it and its four babies. “Where there is love, there is life. –Mahatma Gandhi,” said that little tag attached to it. My how love has grown! May it always be so. May love find a way. Blessings to Hugo and Philip. May their love be a blessing to others.

Gratitude List:
(I didn’t do one yesterday, so I am taking liberties today.)
1. A whole flock of turkeys in the field across from Flinchbaugh’s this morning.
2. Bees in the windflowers and crocus.
3. The blue eye of speedwells all across the lawn.
4. Bluebirds murmuring around the hollow.
5. Phoebe looking for a place to nest.
6. Hot tea with milk and honey.
7. Warm sunshine
8. The scent of spring rain: petrichor is the word I’ve heard for it.
9. Green ink
10. The magic of writing: fonts, typeface, the alphabet, calligraphy
11. The Book Fairy has struck again! The children have half a new bookshelf of new things to read.

May we walk in Beauty!

Vanguard of Spring

oakleaf

Gratitude List:
1. Kuub: My new favorite game. We played for a couple hours today. You set up blocks in your yard and then throw stuff at them to knock them down.
2. I don’t have to go to work tomorrow.
3. Beeeeeeeeees
4. Aconite, snowdrops, speedwell: the vanguard of spring
5. It really is all about love.

May we walk in Beauty!

Finding a Common Language

littlesister
Little Sister harvesting sunshine from the aconite.

This is a lightly edited version of something I wrote the other day (though it’s still a little raw and choppy), modified with the thoughtful ideas of friends who offered me wise feedback:

I want to keep open the doors to healthy communication with people who have vastly different opinions about things than I do. But how can we keep the doors open when we can’t even agree on what a door is, exactly? It’s like we speak the same language, but we use utterly opposite vocabularies. Truth and fact have become shifty, like sand, like smoke. When someone says “wall” and someone else says “door,” where do we find the space in which to begin our conversation?
Sometimes it’s easier just to say we don’t belong together, the ones who say “door” and the ones who say “wall.” But we do seem to have some of the same words for love, for hope, for puppies, for belonging. Can we at least begin to open some of those windows?

I will continue to be alarmed at the actions of the current president. You will continue to wonder if the previous president was a communist. I cannot understand how you could support him and still be a good person. I want to ask you: Can’t you see the hatred and greed at the core of everything this administration is putting out? If you care about Life, if you care about children, if you care about people, if you care about the Earth–how can you support this man and his cronies? My hardest questions are for Christians: How can a follower of Jesus support the separation of families, the turning away of people fleeing for their lives? How can a follower of Jesus accept an administration that is gutting all protections for the Earth, opening pathways to destroy God’s creation? How can you support the brutality against the First Nations people in Standing Rock who are simply trying to keep their land and water safe and clean? How can a follower of Jesus support the bigotry and racism and misogyny that are unapologetically spoken from this man and his representatives?  I need to hear how you reconcile this.

Still, you love your children, and I love mine. We both love fudge and knitting and really strong coffee. You tell great jokes that make me laugh. We can probably both recite the first three lines of “Hiawatha” together, if we think really hard (okay, maybe only two, but I bet you’re going to look it up now, eh?). Neither of us can resist a cute kitten video or the awe-inspiring sight of starlings flying as one creature. Neither one of us is a monster.

(The “you” in that paragraph is an aggregate person, my imagination of someone who is unlike me and yet like me, someone with whom I might probably share a specialized vocabulary for our particular interests although our political vocabularies do not intersect.)

Can we find language that we both can understand? I hope so.

Gratitude List:
1. The Little Sisters are out and about today, buzzing among the aconite, gathering pollen in their golden saddle bags. Welcome, Bright Ones! May you thrive and flourish! (You can see one on the attached image, if you search.)
2. Warm sun
3. I received my first issue of Rattle poetry journal in the mail today! This is the best submissions fee ever! I submitted a chapbook to a contest a few months ago, and the submission fee includes a subscription to the journal!
4. Nuthatches. How can you not just love people who seem to prefer to live their lives upside-down?
5. Playing Tabu with the kids this morning. I would give the clues and they would guess them, with Jon chiming in every once in a while when the answer words got too obscure for the kids.

May we walk in Beauty!

Limber

imag1908
Becoming. . .

Several years ago in mid-September, I was sitting in the parking lot at Temple Beth Israel with boxes of vegetables for our CSA pick-up. During the hour and a half that I was there, at least thirty monarchs floated southward above my head. Like the birds and the dragonflies, monarchs are migrating now, too.

We used to go to the beach at this time of year, when most people have gone home for the summer. No crowds to get in the way–only warm water, cool breezes, and all the wingfolk flying south: flocks of a thousand swallows, and dragonflies and monarchs. The Wetlands Institute at Stone Harbor, NJ has a Monarch Migration Festival every September.

It’s the hummingbirds and the monarchs that really get me, such tiny and vulnerable little bodies sailing out over the Gulf to Mexico, to South America.  Dragonflies look like little machines, like helicopters built for the distance, but even they are vulnerable to weather, far out over the Gulf.

Now is the season for refueling, preparing for the leap into the blue, water and air. What will I risk in this space of my life? What void will you leap into?  Like those orange butterflies, we can trust that the long journeys of the past and the knowledge of the ancestors that lives in our own wings will inform our own flight.

Orange wings dip in farewell–
monarch catches a breeze
and wings toward the Gulf.

(I don’t really have a seasonal word as such in this haiku, but the second part of it is about the migration, so that gives the clue.)

Gratitude List:
1. Limber. Jon used this word yesterday to express something to do with fluid thinking. I like that word, especially as I am more and more aware of how the aging process demands more focused work on keeping the body limber. I like to think that my mind can also be limber if I keep it exercised.
2. Clouds: In yesterday’s sunrise, the clouds were first tangerine and indigo. Magenta. Then ivory and indigo and gold against a Maryblue sky. Clouds of mist hung low over the fields, pooling around the ankles of the cows. Clouds hung low over the River. Layers of clouds filled the sky.
3. Monarchs. Yesterday I took a walk and found four large caterpillars munching on milkweed behind the greenhouse. Eat well, little ones.
4. Janelle’s bees. The Middle School Science room has a hive right in the room. The Queen was quietly holding court, the larvae were squirming to get out of their little chambers, and the workers were dancing directions to each other.
5. This year’s Silhouette staff. That’s the school literary magazine. We had our first meeting yesterday, and they are so eager and willing to get right down to work. I think it’s going to be a really great year.

May we walk in Beauty!

How He Sees Himself

How he sees himself
How he sees himself. (The children have been experimenting with the Dreamscope app.)

Today is going to be a departure.  I’m going to post a recipe.  The idea was that I was going to use whatever I could find from our farm share extras table to make a pasta dish, and I wanted to use up the leftover bechamel sauce from an experiment.  I think you could easily mix and match whatever veggies you have on the counter or in the freezer.  This is a good way to work with the veggies in a CSA share. Had I know that someone would leave their broccoli share, I would have added some of that, too.  The only vegetable that did not come from Goldfinch Farm was the onion, which was an aromatic and juicy vidalia.  I have been chopping my vegetables quite finely lately, because the children find it more of a bother to push them to the sides when we are eating.

Jon has been buying hearty pastas: orecchiette and casareese have been our favorites.  I chose the casareese for last night’s supper, but any favorite pasta would do, I think.  I did like the sturdiness of this pasta in last night’s dinner.

It takes three different pans, which is the biggest drawback to this, but they all cleaned up quickly. The process sounds a little complicated, but it did not take long.

Here is what I used:
2 Tbsp. butter, for sauteeing vegetables (you could use your oil of choice instead)
1 onion, chopped
1/4 tsp. cumin (or whatever amount you want)
2 red peppers, finely chopped (green would do)
1 generous handful green beans, chopped
2 summer squash, chopped (I used one green and one yellow)
salt, pepper

2 garlic scapes, minced (garlic cloves would work, too)
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. flour (I used white bread flour for this)
2 c. milk (I tend to use less milk than it calls for)
3/4 c. cheddar cheese, grated
salt, pepper
dash of chili powder
dash of paprika
leaves of three sprigs of fresh basil, minced

1 box casareese pasta (or another favorite)

Large handful of cherry tomatoes, halved (we use sungolds, or chopped fresh large tomatoes would work, too)

Chop and prepare veggies.
Cook the pasta according to directions. While the water is heating, begin cooking the veggies.

In a large, sturdy frying pan, heat butter. When bubbly, add onion.  Sprinkle on a bit of salt, and cook until fragrant and almost translucent.  Add peppers and cumin.  Stir and cook a minute longer.  Add green beans and continue cooking on fairly low temp.  When green beans are softening, add squash, and cook until squash is just beginning to wilt.

For sauce, heat 2 Tbsp. butter in a small pan until bubbly.  Add garlic scapes, and stir until aromatic but not scorched. Add a little salt and pepper. Add flour to absorb the butter, and cook on low temp until it turns a gentle beige.  Slowly add milk, stirring after each quarter cup or so, smoothing and thickening at each step.  When all the milk has been smoothed in and sauce is thickening, stir in the chili powder and paprika, then the basil.  Turn off the burner, and fold in the cheese until it is melted throughout.

Toss pasta and vegetables with sauce.  Top each serving with several halved cherry tomatoes.

Gratitude List:
1. Bats! Flitting around in the gloaming, eating up those mosquitos.  Bats. They have changed their roosting spot this year, and I haven’t been able to see them almost daily like I have for the past couple summers.  But they’re still here.
2. Mimosa trees.  The colors keep coming.  I always think of Dr. Seuss when I see a mimosa tree in bloom.  I think the faeries are particularly fond of mimosa trees.  I know the pollinators are, and perhaps that’s the same thing.
3. Pollinators.  I have been sighing at the loss of the honeybee hives this year.  Both hives died out over the winter, and because we had initially planned not to farm this year, we did not rent another set.  I have noticed the scarcity of the Little Sisters this season.  Still, there are many others pollinators, busy in the flowers and the fields, happily abuzz.
4. Wings, feathers, flying things.  Which is to say, healing, on its way to so many whom I love.
5. The Dreammaker.  I think I will make a new doll to personify the dream-vision process.

May we walk in Beauty!

Bee City Tanka

Today’s prompt is to write a city poem.  And all I can think, all day, when I turn my mind to this task is “We Built this City on Rock and Roll.”

Enter their city
without fear, with a pure heart.
You must become light,
become a drop of sunlight
and whisper in on the breeze.

Gratitude List:
1.  High Point
2.  The Emmentalische hills of eastern York County
3.  The bridges
4.  The trees are taking that last inbreath before they explode into bloom
5.  Sore muscles from hard work.

May we walk in Beauty.

Wood, Bees, and Dandelion Wine

Gratitude List:
1.  The Wood Song by the Indigo Girls.  In my late 20s, this song was like an anthem to me, a mantra of a song.  Here in mid-life, it hits me again with such incredible power.  “If the weather holds, then we’ll have missed the point.  That’s where I need to go.”  Yeah, I can think of maybe a dozen of their songs that have been transformative for me.
2.  Bees.  The Queen is dreaming.  Inside the hive is a hum, holding their Lady in the warmth of their wings.  May the bees thrive.
3.  Doing handwork with my boy.
4.  It’s been a few weeks since I saw it, but I can’t get the image out of my mind of a Great Blue Heron crouched low in the corner of the pond where the biggest spring trickles in with its warmer waters.  That corner of the pond only freezes in the very coldest of temperatures, and the Great Blue likes the little spa it provides.  There’s faerie magic there, I think.
5.  Dandelion wine.  Have I put that on the list several times in the last week?  This stuff is home crafted by a friend.  Tooth of the Lion in the middle of winter.  That’s a sacrament, I think.

May we walk in Beauty.

Tea Party and Prodigality

Gratitude List:
1.  Prodigality: lavish, profuse, wanton
2.  Bees humming in the crocus flowers
3.  The wild conversations that were happening all over the hollow this morning when I walked out to feed the chickens: wild geese calling, woodpecker thrumming, wren, bluebird, chickadee, somebody asking, “Sweet?”
4.  Pot luck lunches!
5.  Family Tea Party: We usually have a Family Movie Night every week or two.  Lately the boys declare many evenings “Family (Something) Night.”  Before we settled in to watch Family Circus Specials for Family Movie Night this evening, Ellis declared that it was also Family Tea Party Night.  What fun.  There were three rules (“I have another rooooo-lah!” Joss declared imperiously): 1.  You must lick the sugar out of the bottom of the tea cup.  2.  No one may throw your tea on the floor.  3.  No one may bring a cannon to the tea party.  (Rooooo-lah-making was suspended when the rules became too silly.)  And Auntie Valerie makes my gratitude list yet again–it was her old tea set.

2013 March 027

Monday Mornings in March

I have had my February off from writing poetry.  January’s poems were more challenging for me to write than the November batch, and they all came out more roughly cut, more in need of attention.  In the next few days, I hope to have the chapbook “Holding the Bowl of the Heart” off to Finishing Line Press for the Emerging Women’s Voices contest.  But meanwhile, I feel in need of a little discipline to keep me writing.

To that end, I am going to do a Monday poem each week in March.  I’ll try to post a prompt or discuss an idea a few days before, in case anyone wants to write with me.

For Monday, I am working on a poem about dreams.  I know I’ve done this before, but I have one in the kettle, cooking up, and I need a deadline to get it onto paper.  Where do dreams come from?  Or what connection do dreams have to our everyday landscapes?  I am working with images of trees and spiderwebs.

Join me?  Dreams, webs, trees, something like that. . .

Gratitude List:
1.  The bald eagle that flapped around the hollow this afternoon.  I had been looking out the dining room window when I saw a large buffy shape in the woods that put me in mind of a large bird, though I could tell it was just place where a branch had broken off a tree.  I sort of fell into a reverie, thinking about giant mythical birds, and what it would be like to see a really large bird like a roc out in the woods.  Suddenly, from the trees off to the left, by the pond, a bald eagle flapped outward and upward.  It sort of twisted around and looked like it was going to rest in the poplar tree before it took off.  I felt like I had recognized its energy signature before I even saw it, like I intuited its presence.
2.  Crocus and honeybees (I have seen both this spring, though not together.  The photo of the bumble below is from another spring.)
3.  The courage of the women of this article.
4.  The warm time is coming.
5.  Planting onions in the greenhouse today.  Getting my hands dirty.  Worm poop.

May we walk in beauty.

Coming soon to a yard near you. . .

2010 March 160