Looking and Not Talking

  I’m hanging in a wordless space, even as I write these words. Recently home from a family trip on the Oregon coast for the holidays, I’m savoring all I saw and heard there: my family, of course; and also blustery winds and rain; thundering waves; squawking seabirds; towers of sand; and fairy woodlands, waterfalls dashing amidst stones and trees adorned with moss, lichen and teeny mushrooms. People I love are still facing serious health crises and I’m silently holding them in my heart. Yesterday I gathered with friends as in creative silence we asked our personal dreams for 2019 to appear on vision boards. The visual storyteller Maira Kalman, when asked about her love of museums, spoke of the peace in “just wandering and looking…I think we have the opportunity to understand silence around us, and really looking all the time.  There’s always the opportunity. And there’s never a lack of things to look at, and there’s never a lack of time not to talk.” Looking and not talking. Yes, I’ve been in this space and do not want to leave it. So this month I offer a few pictures for you to look at and ponder if you choose, with some white space around them…                                                                   (The entire “On Being” interview with Kalman, sent to me by a dear friend, is fabulous and can be found HERE.)...

Tending

I just finished deadheading the petunias around my mailbox. Noticing how much I enjoy doing it. I like to check how the flowers are doing, see whether they have enough water, pause to enjoy their colors and scent. I like to touch them, talk to them, spread their stems so that they have air and space (a little like fluffing pillows). Especially after rain when they are a bit bedraggled it is satisfying to tidy them up a bit. I do this with my potted geraniums too, pinching off the dead flowers, pulling the yellowed leaves, checking moisture, while I murmur encouraging words and gratitude for their beauty. Come to think of it, I enjoy weeding too. I don’t show much compassion for the weeds, I guess, but I like how pulling weeds gives the garden plants room to spread and breathe. Ensures there is nothing to steal nutrients from them, or to blur their lovely shape and blooms by crowding them. I doubt that any of this is necessary–the plants do fine on their own when I am out of town–but they seem a bit forlorn if I ignore them. Or maybe it’s me that’s forlorn– I feel sweetly content each time I connect with my plants this way. (Actually, it reminds me of the pleasure of changing my kids’ diapers. Though I was glad when they could eventually go to the potty themselves, until then diaper changing was a precious time. A time when I would talk to them, touch them lovingly of course, sing to them—I made up songs, probably to keep us both interested—little operas,...

Liberating Limericks

A writer whose mind swam in fog, Was endlessly scribbling her blog. Ideas were few, And nothing felt new, So she quit, and went out for some grog.   She tried once again the next morn, But still nothing real could be born. Words wouldn’t come, Her brain stuck with gum? Her frustrated heart filled with scorn.   So she tinkered with limericks instead, Thinking playfulness might clear her head. It had been a long time Since she’d made silly rhyme, Was relieved that her mind wasn’t dead! (And she hopes they’ll amuse when they’re read.)       A tree green and lush in its crown, Stares out with a powerful frown. “This land is a wonder! Not something to plunder! All Earth is a verb, not a noun!”         A fairy with curls, looking stern, Speaks a lesson she wants us to learn: “Mother Earth needs our caring, Her magic’s still flaring, Match Her love with your own, let it burn!”         What is the limerick of your life...

Spinning My Wheels

I want to post a blog touching on one of my usual themes—wonder, creativity, humor—but today those feel a little scarce. Well, I do feel wonder as I sit today in this blizzard, the worst I’ve seen in many years.  And in mid-April yet. I know a few of you are living where spring has indeed arrived. I hope you are full of renewed energy. For us in the Midwest, not much has changed for the better in the outer world in the past two weeks, when I wrote about struggling to find my patience. Now that impatience–for spring, for positive change, inside and out–feels more discouraging than angry. I feel kind of muffled and mired, able to do all the necessary daily tasks but lacking the will and energy to do the many things that would probably lift my spirits and vitality. Or maybe just feeling tired of doing them all winter and wanting a change. Wanting the sensual contact with nature that spring brings. The grounding. The joy. I wrote this poem several years ago, but it feels appropriate today as I realize what’s missing right now (not all of which involves springtime): Groundless  For too many days now I have not danced, tickled spritish spirit with leaps and twirls, or dissolved, exhilarated, in sunshine splash, been pricked awake by gusty winds or cardinal call, clutched rainbow blossoms to my greedy nose, or burned to merge with musk and sweat.   Too many days since I have sought the dark, ventured in, with quiet breath, pen in hand, to listen and dictate whisperings wild.   begin—stop—veer—clunk! rattle!–turn back–...

Pele’s Cauldron

Today I’ve been thinking about Kilauea, the volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii that’s been reshaping the island’s terrain continuously since 1983. I’m not sure why. Perhaps because I was there around this time last year… Perhaps because thinking about something red hot feels good after a long cold white winter… Perhaps the approaching spring equinox brings the volcano to mind, since they are both about transformation and new beginnings, and not always pretty, at least at first… Perhaps  I need to be reminded that the blaze of Creation is a deeper, more powerful fire than the smoky flame of anger and conflict we contend with constantly these days… Perhaps I simply miss Pele. Here is a poem I wrote in 2010, after seeing the glowing caldera of Kilauea—the realm of the goddess Pele–at night for the first time.   Halema’uma’u   She is there, stirring fire in Her enormous cauldron, simmering stew, plume of sulfurous breath rising, glowing, blood red in the black night, a primordial witch’s kettle visible for miles.   “Stare—admire me—be afraid of me if you must. You think me wild and dangerous. I am and I have been so since the beginning of time. But—kinswoman—so are you. You, too, kindled by subterranean shifts fanned by passion and instinct fire up your cauldron simmer what is needed and when it is time, burn away the obsolete to forge the new. Fire to flesh to fire to flesh . . .   You know this. Live it.”   Have you seen Halema’uma’u caldera? At night? What are you forging in your cauldron of creation? (Photo...

Christmas Sparrow

This month I offer a poem written by Billy Collins. In honor of surprises and wonder, and how they invigorate us instantly. And in honor of the resiliency of the many creatures that quietly live among us. If you have had experiences similar to the one in the poem, I’d love to hear.   Christmas Sparrow The first thing I heard this morning was a rapid flapping sound, soft, insistent— wings against glass as it turned out downstairs when I saw the small bird rioting in the frame of a high window, trying to hurl itself through the enigma of glass into the spacious light. Then a noise in the throat of the cat who was hunkered on the rug told me how the bird had gotten inside, carried in the cold night through the flap of a basement door, and later released from the soft grip of teeth. On a chair, I trapped its pulsations in a shirt and got it to the door, so weightless it seemed to have vanished into the nest of cloth. But outside, when I uncupped my hands, it burst into its element, dipping over the dormant garden in a spasm of wingbeats then disappeared over a row of tall hemlocks. For the rest of the day, I could feel its wild thrumming against my palms as I wondered about the hours it must have spent pent in the shadows of that room, hidden in the spiky branches of our decorated tree, breathing there among the metallic angels, ceramic apples, stars of yarn, its eyes open, like mine as I lie in bed...