The Act of Seeing

Delicate beauty
Delicate beauty

The more I step out onto the trail, the more I learn what it means to “See.”  This excites me, and makes me want to spend more and more time out “there”…which in truth, allows me to spend more and more time, in “here”…meaning, myself: exploring my struggles, my quests, my stories, my characters, my progression, my lapses, my tug-of-wars, my journey…whatever it is that I need to understand more clearly, or see more sharply.  Being “out there” allows me to get lost in the cerebral sense…and even at times, the literal sense:)  I love when this happens (mostly…the literal getting lost I mean…tho sometimes it can bring on a certain state of panic!) because it is when we “get lost” that we begin to look deeper, out of necessity – in order to “un-lose” ourselves.  And this act of looking deeper, in truth, becomes the exquisite act of Seeing.

For a writer, the act of Seeing is crucial, for it is the “Aha!” moment – of when we tap into our characters’ narrative and understand why they are doing what they do, what it is they need, how we get them to where they are going, etc… it is a critical tool for the art of writing.  And, I fully believe that time spent wandering in the outdoors, helps to sharpen our ability to see more fully, richly, and with greater insight.

 

crossing my path the other day
crossing my path the other day

Last week, on one of my favorite trails behind my home, I happened to look down at just the right moment…and there was this sleek beauty.  Never even knew that Horned Lizards existed in the hills behind us – it was a fortunate moment when I happened upon him, as though a gift from the gods.  It made me wonder about all the things I don’t see…all the things I don’t hear, observe, notice, understand.  This one small, fleeting moment, allowed me to undergo an expansion inside of me – an expansion that allows, and even looks for, the unknown, the unexpected, the impossible (though I have work to do yet on that one, for its allowance…like me becoming a writer who makes her living by her writing!).  I ran into this lizard a couple days ago as well, and when I step out this afternoon, I will look for him again.

I think that time spent under the sky, on a quiet trail, alone – allows for internal expansion as a direct response to the expansion that our blue dome quietly delivers.  I breathe more fully out on the trail, I hear my thoughts more clearly, and like my dog who runs ahead of me, happy to be free, with no leash binding him to me – so do my thoughts flee freely!  I don’t always catch them, my thoughts that is…and this is perhaps a slight bummer, but I do believe that I catch the ones I was meant to catch.

As I write now, I’m serenaded by our very profuse mockingbird that sits on a telephone wire just above our garden.  (She suddenly stopped as I wrote that sentence, as if she knows she has been made subject to this post:). haha).  Funny, one of my first writing teachers spoke with little enthusiasm about the “damn” mockingbird that riddled her thoughts with noise noise noise all the day long!  I guess that goes to show that perspective is everything, understanding is a wonderful companion, and music to some is noise to another…

Let it all come.  And I will sift it through, out there on there trail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring…………

It feels a whole lot more like the dead of summer here in Southern California…96 degrees today, and yes, it is still March!  This is not the first day we’ve been blasted by 90-plus-degree-weather this fine spring, nor will it be the last…heaven help us this summer here in Los Angeles.  Or better yet – heaven help our Gardens!

mighty granite...makes me so happy:)
mighty granite…makes me so happy:)

The past few weeks I have spent a considerable amount of time transforming our front yard: ripped out the lawn, added a couple beautiful boulders:), and planted the new open space with CA native, drought tolerant plants that smell good, don’t get thirsty, and provide (at least I am hoping they will – once they grow up a bit) a beautiful palette to gaze upon, and that invite critters of all sorts to come and eat, flitter about, and be happy. :)      IMG_0376

I have also been planting my garden. Another planter box was added this year, bringing us to a total of 5 planters in the backyard – each one hosting a variety of yummy things to eat: lots of tomatoes (9 different heirloom types this summer), lettuces, onions  (new for me this year), zuchinni, herbs, strawberries, bell pepper, yellow crook neck squash, corn, and other stuff I am currently forgetting:)  Plus our fruit trees: Guava, Avocado, Plum, Peach, and Nectarine, and a brand new Fig Tree!…mmmmmmmmm, I’m getting hungry as I write this:)…

Guardian of the Garden!
Guardian of the Garden!

Anyway, to ease up the time that I spend watering every day, I decided to try out an ancient watering system this year that irrigates with Ollas.  Ollas (pronounced Oy yahs)  are simply unglazed terra cotta pots, and they have been used for centuries.  The Olla is buried in the soil beside your plants, and the water slowly seeps out of the pot, into the soil (the pots are porous, since they are not glazed) and the roots of the plants draw toward the buried pots.  This is a simple drip irrigation system that happens underground – and because it is underground, the evaporation is drastically reduced so that nearly all the water that leeches into the soil is absorbed by the plants.  The Ollas I found online were a bit costly, (they were certainly very pretty, much prettier than mine – but mine will do the trick just as well)…so I decided to make my own.  It was easy, and from start to finish (meaning: purchase of materials, building the Ollas, and burying in-the-ground in my garden) was only 3 days.  (Mind you, the second day was almost entirely drying time – no work:).

Ollas seem to be a bit of the rage these days, so you will be able to find plenty of tutorials on-line, no problem.  They are easy to make, and very inexpensive…my 6 inch Ollas cost me just slightly more than 3$ each, and the 3 inch pots just over 2$.  A great way to save time, and by making them yourself – a great money saver as well.

Here’s my step-by-step process:

I bought everything needed from Home Depot: unglazed terra cotta pots, a tube of gorilla glue, and 2 tubes of aquarium silicon gel (which is food safe…can use regular silicone though).

First thing: seal up the drain hole.

birds eye view - I covered the drain hole of the 6 inch pots with river rock from my yard...
birds eye view – I covered the drain hole of the 6 inch pots with river rock from my yard…

You want the water to seep out slowly from the porousness of the pot – no holes allowed!  I used gorilla glue to affix the river rock over the drain hole…let it dry overnight.  I then flipped the pot upside down and filled the underside of the drain hole with silicone gel and let that dry for a few hours.

putting them together to make a home-made Olla!
putting them together to make a home-made Olla!

The next step was to stack a pot on top of the other, creating the Olla.  I created a bead of silicone gel on the rim of the standing pot, and then pressed the other pot on top of the beaded rim.  I pressed down for a minute or two and then let it stand overnight to ensure a deep seal. Do make sure to also run another bead of silicone along the outside seam of the two pots…smooth the silicone along the seam with your fingers and then clean hands with paint thinner, and wash with soap and water.

Ollas in their happy new home!
Ollas in their happy new home!

After drying over-night, ensuring the silicone seal was dry and could hold water, I buried the Ollas in my garden!  Each bed has 4 Ollas, with approx. 4 plants surrounding each Olla.  Once the Ollas are placed in the soil with about an inch or two showing, fill the pots with water!  After filling, I cover up the open hole with another river rock to keep mosquitoes out, and to help alleviate evaporation.  And that’s it!  Super easy, incredibly inexpensive (many of the Ollas I found online were $60+ each!) and will hopefully, save me lots of time without having to water by hand this summer!

Happy Gardening All :)

The Art of Listening

Spring in the foothills after last years fires
Spring in the foothills after last years fires

The art of listening is one of the great skills needed to become a fine and nuanced writer…or an Artist of any kind, for that matter.  I strongly believe this to be true.  The active act of listening, of paying close attention to what is happening around you, allows for personal, as well as universal insights into the human condition and experience.  As the bombardment of sound disappears, shutters open inside our eternal interiors and we come to exchange and experience new insights, understandings, “ah-hah” moments, answers –  and the subtle reckoning of stillness and peace.

The world is loud…louder perhaps than it has ever been before, and certainly much busier and congested. And inside this noise, the perpetual chatter, the constant “feed” streams, the bombardment of FB, emails, Pinterest blasts, phone calls and texts, lies your soul in-wait, cocooning, hibernating, listening for a moment, a span of time that issues forth a quietness so it might reach into the waiting mystery and explore.

As a writer of Literary Fiction – where the human condition remains at the heart of the stories and characters that we write about – a reprieve from the hectic daily barrage of “noise” is positively necessary in order to hear what our characters have to say.  I live in Los Angeles, a city of enormous energy, powerful congestion, and a pulse that pulls at you to join in, become a part of the distraction that ever looms.  This is not necessarily a “bad” thing – it’s an exciting place to reside, especially as an Artist.  There is a stream of creativity here that is incredibly enriching and inspiring…but one must take care to protect the “buds” coming to life inside of you, maintaining enough space for them to prosper, and cultivating and protecting the time needed to help our buds bloom into full form.

I combat the “pace” of my life and schedule with a daily escape into the foothills. The silence of the trail – the endless sky – the psithirism of the wind through leaves – the sun warming my skin – the crunch of dirt underfoot – my dog, joyful beside, ahead, behind me  – and my kids, whenever possible, laughing and running about…there is nothing that brings forward this much needed respite from sound and schedules and lists and demands, than this open territory of solitude.  The photograph above is taken in the foothills behind our house, where remnants of a fire two years back, remain.  My children love these excursions nearly as much as I do – and our dog, Rodeo – definitely looks forward to them each day, at least as much as I do:)

My mornings on the trail allow me time to walk patiently, under the tall sky and wide open fields, and to listen to what my characters are trying to tell me, what it is they need for me to understand so that I may tell their story with honesty, insight, and a touch of grace.  When we “create” – be it a song, a play, a novel, a sculpture, a painting, what-have-you, we are stepping inside a sacred space; a communion with something “other” and we must open ourselves to it, fully and wholly, so that we can usher it forth as it deserves.  Patience is often required, starting over is not unusual, and if you are me – putting in miles and miles under foot is a tool of enormous import, as it allows you to literally, move through the edges and folds and haze, until the clouds clear and the sun shines and Ah-Hah! Insight!

A mysterious “whole” resides inside of us – a “whole” of deep knowledge about what it means to exist, and to be a small part of a terrifically large “whole.”  The need for Artists is of such dynamic importance because they…We, are the very ones who step inside this vast ocean of existence and attempt to understand it a little bit more, a little bit deeper, with greater insight, clarity, allowance, forgiveness… and acceptance.  We are the guides.  We are the eyes of the collective soul.  We are the door, opening…ever opening, and shining light into the spaces where darkness or haze resides.

So to all you Artists out there – protect your moments of stillness and quiet, honor your internal space, and tend to those beautiful buds that are pushing through the soil inside of you.  Our world needs the life force of Art like never before…create, create, and create ever more.

Opening pages…

How do we, as writers, capture the imagination of our readers the moment they open our book?  There are countless classes/workshops/books/articles that cover this territory – how to utilize language, setting, “hook”, character, description, action, the unexpected…in order to ensnare the reader and keep them turning the page.  It is a worthy question, and even worthier exploration – if you, like me – are a writer.

This morning, I turn to one book, and one writer in particular: John Berger, and his very very fine novel To The Wedding.

Have you read this?  If your reply is only two letters long, then I must say to you – Read it, for you will not be disappointed…if you, like me, happen to savor language, imagery, the lilting beauty of poetic expression, and love and all the flapping ends that flitter through the cranial pathways and aching footsteps and lusty heartbeats of its possessor.

There is an economy of words in this novel that betrays the expectation of how an emotionally rich narrative, such as this, would spill forth.  The simplicity of the narrator’s observations magnify the mastery of Berger’s writing by eliminating the “precious,” the “veil”  and instead, deliver a direct engagement with the circumstances that the narrator, and subsequent characters, must face.

Here are the opening pages:

Wonderful a fistful of snow in the mouths                                                                                                           Of men suffering summer heat                                                                                                             Wonderful the spring winds                                                                                                                               For mariners who long to set sail                                                                                                                 And more wonderful still the single sheet                                                                                                       Over two lovers on a bed.

 “I like quoting ancient verses when the occasion is apt. I remember most of what I hear, and I listen all day but sometimes I do not know how to fit everything together. When this happens I cling to words or phrases which seem to ring true.

In the quartier around Plaka, which a century or so ago was a swamp and is now where the market is held, I’m called Tsobanakos. This means a man who herds sheep. A man from the mountains. I was given this name on account of a song.

Each morning before I go to the market I polish my black shoes and brush the dust off my hat which is a Stetson. There is a lot of dust and pollution in the city and the sun makes them worse. I wear a tie too. My favorite is a flashy blue and white one. A blind man should never neglect his appearance. If he does, there are those who jump to false conclusions. I dress like a jeweler and what I sell in the market are tamata.

 Tamata are appropriate objects for a blind man to sell for you can recognize one from another by touch. Some are made of tin, others silver and some of gold. All of them are as thin as linen and each one is the size of a credit card. The word tama comes from the verb tazo, to make an oath. In exchange for a promise made, people hope for a blessing or a deliverance. Young men buy a tama of a sword before they do their military service, and this is a way of asking: May I come out of it unhurt.

Or something bad happens to somebody. It may be an illness or an accident. Those who love the person who is in danger make an oath before God that they will perform a good act if the loved one recovers. When you are alone in the world, you can even do it for yourself.

Before my customers go to pray, they buy a tama from me and put a ribbon through its hole, then they tie it to the rail by the ikons in the church. Like this they hope God will not forget their prayer.

Into the soft metal of each tama is pressed an emblem of the part of the body in danger. An arm or a leg, a stomach or a heart, hands, or, as in my case, a pair of eyes. Once I had a tama on which a dog was embossed, but the priest protested and maintained that this was a sacrilege. He understands nothing, this priest. He has lived all his life in Athens, so he doesn’t know how in the mountains a dog can be more important, more useful than a hand. He can’t imagine that the loss of a mule may be worse than a leg which does not heal. I quoted the Evangelist to him: Consider the ravens: they do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn. Yet God feeds them…When I told him this, he pulled at his beard and turned his back as if on the Devil.

Bouzouki players have more to say than priests about what men and women need.

What I did before I went blind, I’m not going to tell you. And if you had three guesses they’d all be wrong.

The story begins last Easter. On the Sunday. It was mid-morning and there was a smell of coffee in the air. The smell of coffee drifts farther when the sun is out. A man asked me whether I had anything for a daughter. He spoke in broken English.

A baby? I enquired.

She’s a woman now.

Where is she suffering? I asked.

Everywhere, he said.

Perhaps a heart would be suitable? I eventually suggested, feeling with my fingers to find a tama in the tray and holding it out to him.

Is it made of tin? His accent made me think he was French or Italian. I guess he was my age, perhaps a little older.

I have one in gold if you wish, I said in French.                                                                                         She can’t recover, he replied.

Most important is the oath you make, sometimes there’s nothing else to do.

I’m a railwayman, he said, not a voodoo man. Give me the cheapest, the tin one.

I heard his clothes squeaking as he pulled out a wallet from his pocket. He was wearing leather trousers and a leather jacket.

There’s no difference between the tin and the gold for God, is there?

You came here on a motorbike?

With my daughter for four days. Yesterday we drove to see the temple of Poseidon.

At Sounion?

You’ve seen it? You have been there? Excuse me.

I touched my black glasses with a finger and said: I saw the temple before this.

How much does the tin heart cost?

Unlike a Greek, he paid without questioning the price.

What is her name?

Ninon?

NINON. He spelt out each letter.

I will think of her, I said, arranging the money. And as I said this, I suddenly heard a voice. His daughter must have been elsewhere in the market. Now she was beside him.

My new sandals – look! Handmade. Nobody would guess I’ve just bought them. I might have been wearing them for years. Maybe I bought them for my wedding, the one that didn’t happen.

The strap between the toes doesn’t hurt? the railwayman asked.

Gino would have liked them, she said. He has good taste in sandals.

The way they tie at the ankle is very pretty.

They protect you if you walk on broken glass, she said.

Come here a moment. Yes, the leather’s nice and soft.

Remember, Papa, when I was small and you dried me after my shower and I sat on the towel on your knee, and you used to tell me how each little toe was a magpie who stole this and that and this and flew away…

She spoke with a cool clipped rhythm. No syllable slurred or unnecessarily prolonged.

Voices, sounds, smells bring gifts to my eyes now. I listen or I inhale and then I watch as in a dream. Listening to her voice I saw slices of melon carefully arranged on a plate, and I knew I would immediately recognize Ninon’s voice should I hear it again.”

 

5 simple pages and yet, an entire world is presented, along with mystery and curiosity and questions a plenty to keep the reader wrapped around Berger’s finger.  …. or perhaps that’s just me :)

Happy Reading All! and Happy Writing Always!

words of wisdom

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…I think this says it all, quite well, and very succinctly.

What will you do today?  Me…I’m going to take a walk with my dog, enjoy the sunshine and the dappled light singing through the trees, listen to the birds tell their stories, and then pick up my kids and listen to them tell their stories about the day they have had thus far.  And then…

for the love of logophiles…

And here we are, in a brand new year.  The sun is shining, the house is quiet, birds are singing in the yard – and just this moment, one of our kitties entered the room…I can hear her (or him, depending which one it is) before I see her, due to the bell that dangles around her neck to keep the birds aware and warned of her presence.  It’s the small things that keep life humming along:)

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Yesterday, I received a belated Christmas gift – one that I purchased for myself and then promptly forgot about.  And what a lovely gift (and surprise!) at that.  A beautiful work of art: playful, magic, simple in its approach, enlightened in its deliverance, and thoroughly a joy to behold.

This gift is a delightful book called Lost In Translation a musing on words collected from ’round the world, with picturesque drawings/paintings/collage like renditions that pull you in with their bold colors and playful graphic images.  It is the work of a lovely young writer/illustrator by the name of Ella Frances Sanders, published by Ten Speed Press in Berkeley.     

Some of my favorites from this “illustrated compendium of untranslatable words from around the world” follow below:

SAMAR –  n. Staying up late long after the sun has gone down and having an enjoyable time with friends.  (Arabic)

Meraki – adj. Pouring yourself wholeheartedly into something, such as cooking, and doing so with soul, creativity, and love. (Greek)

Komorebi – n.  The sunlight that filters through the leaves of the trees.  (Japanese)

Struisvogelpolitiek – n. Literally, “ostrich politics.”  Acting like you don’t notice when something bad happens and continuing on regardless, as you normally would. (Dutch) knock knock America!

Goya – n.  A transporting suspension of disbelief – an “as if” that feels like reality, such as in good storytelling.  (Urdu)

Luftmensch – n.  Refers to someone who is a bit of a dreamer and literally means “air person”…thank the gods for our lofty and lovely “air people!”

Waldeinsamkeit – n.  The feeling of being alone in the woods, an easy solitude and a connectedness to nature.  

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How glorious these words, like a meal.  It never ceases to surprise me – my own delight in the sound and feel and emotional stir that a word, alone and in itself, can pull from me.  And while there is a lack of surprise in this, it does remain wildly a mystery to me.  Letters, words – our architectural building blocks that hold the power to create worlds more real than the brick-and-mortar world in which we inhabit.  How tremendously cool and phenomenal is that.

One more book that you should check out – that pulls on this love of The Word.  It is a German children’s book called Die Grosse Woerterfabrik (rough translation: The Enormous Fabric of Words) – about a world where only the rich can speak, as they are able to “purchase” words from the Word Fabric…and the poor can only hope to find old and used words thrown out in the trash, that they might speak at all.  It is a stunning book: in its expression, its visual depiction, and its tenderness.  

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…so for the love of words…and for the love of books.  Read.   And please do let me know what captures you!

(some) of my Best Books of 2014

There are SO many amazing books out there, by SO many amazing writers…I read voraciously, and yet, there aren’t hours enough in the day to read all the books and writers that I wish I could find time for.  Everyday I thank the graces that be for the gifts these people bring to me, to us – their stories, their words, the beauty of their language – as elegant and vibrant and smacking of punch and vile and wonder and all that we humans need: to see, to feel, to laugh, to remember, to not forget, to explore, to investigate, to dream…

…So I send out my heartfelt gratitude for all the writers out there who have given me reason to press on with my own writing…and to stay up WAY too late, countless nights, as I say…”just one more page!”  For allowing me windows into what it means to be human – to live, to flail, to feel joy and sorrow and hope and despair – to laugh and marvel and remember and feel blisteringly inspired.  To all of you – I offer my ever enduring thanks.

photomy list, from top to bottom (in no particular order):  1) When Women Were Birds – Terry Tempest Williams   2)  Ways of Seeing – John Berger   3) Cloudsplitter – Russell Banks   4) Farm City – Novella Carpenter   5) The Signature of All Things – Elizabeth Gilbert   6) Abundance  – Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler   6)  Wind From An Enemy Sky – D’Arcy McNikle                   7)  Insatiable Curiousity (Innovation in a Fragile Future)  – Helga Nowotny    8)  A Thousand Mornings  – Mary Oliver     9)  A Field Guide to Getting Lost  – Rebecca Solnit   10) Island of the Blue Dolphins  – Scott O’Dell   11)  Selected Poems  –  e.e. cummings   12) The Well and the Mine  –  Gin Phillips

 

 

look around…

To begin and To end… a little e.e. cummings

“being to timelessness as it’s to time                                                                                              love did no more begin than love will end;                                                                                  where nothing is to breathe to stroll to swim                                                                               love is the air the ocean and the land”

 (excerpt from Love and Its Mysteries – #13)  

How the words of e.e. cummings set the soul to sigh.  He ever reminds that Love is the All, is the Everything, is the It.  What else shall there ever be?

Some Signs of Love popping up around the globe:

*In the January, 2015 edition of Popular Science Magazine, check out the feature article  “Animals Like Us” – you will read about an organization called NhRP, which stands for Nonhuman Rights Project.  This is an organization that has begun to fight for the rights of animals, on a new level.  In December, 2013 – they sued (on behalf of 4 captive chimpanzees) their captors, asking a judge to grant their clients the basic right to not be imprisoned illegally. The NhRP could soon file similar lawsuits on behalf of other great apes (bonobos, orangutans, and gorillas) and elephants—beings that have all been shown to possess highly developed cognitive capabilities.  Read the article and come to terms with the beautiful truth that Humans are not so special or unique in terms of their emotional attachments, ability to reason, love, mourn, problem solve, create social structures, etc…

*The People’s Climate March in Manhattan on September 21st – over 400,000 strong, coming together to show solidarity for our environment.  We must be the change we want to see…so next march, let’s make it 4 million strong, with people from all around the globe.

*Celebrity Wolf OR7 – a wolf from Oregon, the 7th to be caught and fitted with a radio collar…hence the name.  At some point, in September of 2011, OR7 left his pack and wandered southwest, crossed four mountain ranges and five national forests, all the way down and into, California.  And OR7 has found himself a mate, and now has pups.  He is the first wolf in California in over 90 years.  Awesome.

*USA to restore full relations with Cuba.  Moving forward, after more than 50 years.

*Gottlob Schmidt, a farmer in Alberta Canada has just donated his homestead of nearly 1000 pristine acres to be used for hikers.  The park will be called Antelope Hill – it is home to rare native grasslands, aspen groves, wetlands as well as a variety of wildlife and it is stunningly beautiful. Once Antelope Hill opens to the public, the park will be used pretty much just for hiking – no hunting, camping, or vehicle use will be allowed – at Schmidt’s request.  I think I need to get my kiester to Canada!

 *There are 300 women sitting in Congress…for the first time. Ever.  This is an improvement, in terms of representation in government for all women, but it’s still dismally low percentage wise.  The House still comes in at less than 20 percent female representation.  Come on Ladies!  We have to get out to vote! Participate.  Get involved.  Run for government positions.  We are the silent majority.  Let’s embrace our inner “Rosie the Riveter” and change the World.

Have other Love Signs from the horizon?  Share them with me and I will happily post

….in closure, e.e. cummings – from Whispers of Mortatlity #8

in time of daffodils(who know                                                                                                      the goal of living is to grow)                                                                                               forgetting why,remember how

in time of lilacs who proclaim                                                                                                      the aim of waking is to dream,                                                                                         remember so(forgetting seem)

in time of roses(who amaze                                                                                                         our now and here with paradise)                                                                                     forgetting if,remember yes

in time of all sweet things beyond                                                                                     whatever mind may comprehend,                                                                                   remember seek(forgetting find)

and in a mystery to be                                                                                                             (when time from time shall set us free)                                                                           forgetting me,remember me

 

For Alice…..

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Time is short, we must learn to do what is important Today.

So many gifts are imparted to us on the backs and breaths and hearts of those who came before us, who loved us, and allowed us to love them in return.  Now, Today, Yesterday, This Moment – all of these are the perfect time to commune, remember, honor, exhalt.

It is easy to believe the world has gone haywire.  It is easy to believe that the United States has forgotten its name, that the word “United” has meaning, but it has.  But its meaning is delivered only in action… Its meaning is delivered only when and if we make it so.

It is easy to forget what is necessary.  It is easy to hide one’s head and look the other way.  It is easy to believe we are helpless.

Perhaps we need to end our love affair with Easy.

Perhaps we need to reacquaint ourselves with something else.  Something stronger.  With greater grace.  With deeper fortitude and determination.  We need to excavate the long lost Hard Work, of Sacrifice.

Our grandparents, and/or great grandparents, understood the trans-formative power of Sacrifice. Through their sacrifice, they endured, changed the world, and turned our country into a story of great success.  Easy was not in their vernacular.  Easy should be eradicated from ours.  We can, we must, decide to strive hard, work hard, give hard, believe hard, embrace hard, sacrifice hard, encourage hard, commit hard. We stand at the edge of a tipping point and a decision is required, a commitment is required, from each and every and all of us.

We must learn to dig deep Hard, and never let go.

In the hearts and homes and peoples of today, Sacrifice as a word, Sacrifice as an action, is virtually obliterated.  It is a relic, a ghost of ancient lore.  Consumerism, the empty-booming- heartbeat of our once great nation, has rendered us obtuse.  It has blinded our vision and led us to believe that we can, should, must, have it all…whatever we want, when we want it, however we want it, no matter what..no matter the cost (and I do not mean monetary).

Sacrifice is the bloodline.  Sacrifice is the arrow.  Sacrifice is the end of the rainbow.  Sacrifice is the gold.

Sacrifice means you take others into consideration.  Sacrifice means you are committed to never giving up.  Sacrifice means you work hard today for the glory of tomorrow.  Sacrifice means you strive.  Sacrifice means you believe in the day to come. Sacrifice means you are unafraid of blood, sweat, and tears.  Sacrifice stands on faith, which stands on priority, which stands on determination, which stands on self-respect, which stands on the blood, sweat, and tears of those who came before you, who believed in you, who sacrificed for you, who gave to you, so that you may give in return.  Sacrifice considers the many rather than the few.  Sacrifice means there are times when you must put others before you. Sacrifice understands the essence of time, the span of time, and that anything and everything done today, will have affect on the tomorrow of every tomorrows.  Sacrifice understands the hand reaching back, to the hand that pulls forward.  Sacrifice understands that when one falls, we all fall. Sacrifice means you will do everything that you can to never let that happen.

In my family’s bloodline runs the hard and fast and indomitable blood and spirit of many amazing, gut-giving, and deeply sacrificing ordinary people…here, today, I will write of one.

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Alice.

Alice was, and remains, my maternal grandmother…despite the fact that she is dead.  Alice believed in only one word, Yes. Alice spoke sing-song, with a dear Norwegian accent until she no longer spoke at all.   Alice moved away from the farm and into the city at 16, to live with strangers, to work, to send her earnings home, to feed her siblings, to keep the farm.  Alice took care of whoever needed taking care of.  I don’t know who took care of Alice…God perhaps.  Or life itself.  Alice fed the Homeless who rode the rails into St. Paul, along the mighty Mississippi, just below the bluffs, just to see Alice. The bluffs belonged to Alice, Alice belonged to everyone.  The men would sit on her back stoop, eat hot bread straight from the oven and from the heart, of Alice.  Alice wrapped everyone tight against, and inside, her generous bountiful breast. Alice was not beautiful, she was handsome.  Alice was the most beautiful of all.

Alice is my grandmother.  I love her more today than ever before  – though not as much as tomorrow, or the day to come after that.  Alice was released to the soil more than 20 years ago – and yet her spirit sings, and rises, and comforts, and leads.  Here is a small gift, for her.

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Make room for the trees, Alice says, high past the sky.                                                                   It touches down as bird song,                                                                                                      the spill of rain.  Wind.

Wonder I, if you would recognize, Alice                                                                                       the sounds of evening here, so far from your once there.                                                   Space, where silence tumbled                                                                                             tumbles less and less, and more and more                                                                 boomerangs sound –                                                                                                                under stone, inside wood, against dull star skies.

As it is, remains crickets, and once                                                                                              the sound of owl, on a late evening stroll up the hill.                                                          Rivers, not of water, but rolling cars                                                                                       sound outside the door, and                                                                                               booming moons, round and bold                                                                                            silent, as witnessed long before.

Punctured heavens of diamond light                                                                                        your eyes must have absorbed  – out there,                                                                             then back, in the tall grass beside the barn                                                                              and naked land.

Naked.  I wish to find that now, here, Alice  –                                                                                in this blink that carries me,                                                                                                       the way it once carried you, blinks ago                                                                                         on prairie hill, in farmland weight, rich with loamy soil.

To mind’s eye, comes a field                                                                                                     rising gentle as feather down,                                                                                                     the gold sway hushing, hushing,                                                                                         catching endless, still.

…Or fire, licking clouds, deep in dome of sky,                                                                   cleansing, cleansing, re-igniting the call                                                                                       for seedlings, saplings, will.

…Or meadow, stretching, stretching,                                                                                       alight with bloom and water song,                                                                                               tall trees that kiss the graces                                                                                                         of what may come and yet to come.

Make room!, cries out the endless,                                                                                   unending, endurance of time.                                                                                                   Make room!                                                                                                                                        I am coming                                                                                                                                      I am coming                                                                                                                                        I am coming

 

 

 

 

 

a work of art…

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Congratulations to my friend, and poet, Kimberly Burwick,  on her beautiful new poetry collection titled Good Night Brother, published by, and available for purchase at, Burnside Review Press.  Here is one of my favorites:

What Began in Nineteen Sixty-Nine

Glory all the way to the trees, white lilacs                                                                                       on cut grass, then nothing but the setting                                                                                       flatness of short grains upon drifts of weeds.                                                                                 I waste what stillness turns the decaying                                                                                         robins bright, knowing you might live                                                                                               longer than I wish, beyond the deaf                                                                                                 green paradise of home, longer than                                                                                               the hanging lemons large enough                                                                                                   to tremble and sway.  I’ve come to                                                                                                   believe you can’t touch me, only the sun                                                                                         letting go of terribly red ditches.

Check out Kimberly’s previous collections:

Has No Kinsmen (Red Hen Press, 2006) and

Horses in the Cathedral (Anhinga Press, 2011) – winner of the Robert Dana Prize.

                            

Support our beloved poets!  The world is much richer because of their gifts. Click on above links to purchase Burwicks’ previously published works.  So glad Kimberly continues to send her beautiful spirit, and beautiful words, out into the world.

living, writing, seeing, listening