Friday, April 30, 2010

In the Forest Primeval

In the green light of the forest
you heave the ax over your head
and swing it down to bite the log
with a solid whack!
I ready the stove, the cast-iron pans,
doing the womanly thing
watching you crack the logs,
and in this forest primeval
it all feels so perfectly right
right now.


This is a Friday Flash 55, a tale told in exactly 55 words. It’s hosted by the G-Man, Mr. Knowitall, and you’ll find dozens of storytellers on his blog today.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


No matter what dramas play out in the human arena, in the spring I can find rejuvenation in the natural world around me.

We left the city of concrete and asphalt 12 years ago and moved to our modest town in the country, where nature hasn't disappointed us. We have seasons here.

This past month the oaks have fully leafed out with fresh green leaves. The hills are undulating fields of green. The vineyards are busy churning out new shoots. Wildflowers are brushstrokes of purple and orange and yellow.

A pair of blue jays have set up housekeeping somewhere nearby. I saw a robin yesterday. The woodpeckers are busy in the oaks outside my glass writing room. The air is alive with the movement of doves, hawks, crows, mockingbirds, and finches.

I love this cycle of nature. It's bursting with fresh life, life running rampant all around, life you can hear, and see, and touch. When the world is too much with me, I can focus on the resurrection of life all around me, and it builds my faith that all is as it should be in God's world.

Dead Wood Resurrected

Blue jay restless
as a cat in heat
hopping from foot to foot
in the dead pyracantha
with its black trunk
and fire-scorched leaves
sheared off shoulder high

That blue jay bird
breaks off brittle twigs
and spits them out
one twig, two twig, three twigs down
the fourth twig suits

And off jay flies
to build a nest
one damn twig
at a time.

Aha! It’s back.
And so’s its spouse
who alights in a nearby cherry tree
to observe this twig connoisseur
at work
Blue jay hops from twig to twig
in the dead pyracantha
picking only one

And off they fly
to build a nest
one dumb twig
at a time.

At day’s end
I check the bush
still black and scorched
killed this winter
by fireblight
(damn it all to hell)

I find it stripped
of all its twigs
by blue jay birds
who’ve built a nest
one dumb twig
at a time.

P.S. The photo is not mine; it's from an educational site.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Garden of Earthly Delights

I want to take a breather from the human side of life. My garden is a place of serenity and a source of joy to me. Many of the flowers I don't even have to care much for; the Master Gardener sees to them. The rains He sent have been good for us. I can feel the life throbbing in the garden.

The Cecil Brunner rose wants no attention from me, and in return it blooms profusely and fragrantly.

I enjoy this color in my collection of bearded iris.

Like the bearded iris, the willowy Dutch iris thrives on winter rain and my neglect.

This is a less-stately form of foxglove, and it gladly reblooms in spring. All it wants is a fair share of rain.

The lilac gets a trim once in a while, but that's all it asks for.

The California poppies are volunteers. I don't have to do anything for them except let them spread their seeds each year.

The first roses

The stately foxglove gets ready to bloom.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Stripped Down to the Basics

With Magpie Tales, we’re given a photo and we must tell some story connected to the photo. Above is this week’s prompt. Visit more interpretations of the photo here.

My mother speaks this tale. She is losing her grip on what we call reality but she holds on to what she is: daughter, sister, walker with quilts.

My full life is stripped down to a cane, a sewing table, and an old cedar chest.

I have been an imperfect woman, and many other people along the way: a daughter, sister, wife, mother, lifeguard, meat cutter, cooker of bread and beans in the lean years, business owner, unhappy widow, grandmother, gardener, worker bee.

I have raged, sung hymns, slapped my daughter, loved my husband. I have put my shoulder to the plow all my life long.

I have witnessed the birth of my great-grandsons and I have walked mountains. I have bowed before the giant sequoia. I have bowed before the altar of my Maker, and I have repented.

I have watched my sons grow up to be men. I have sweat and swept and wept. I have lived my life in blue jeans.

Now my life is pared down to this: I seek my way among confusing halls and lost rooms with my cane. I have sent the sewing machine away but kept the slim table my father made. My mother’s cedar chest still rests, as always, at the foot of my bed.

I no longer know the man in the photo on the nightstand. It was all so long ago, and he is so young. I claim nothing anymore.

My mother’s quilt, colorful cotton patches, hand-stitched by arthritic hands, is what I carry now. I take it with me on my journeys through the hallways that spin and wander through my life, and I hold it like a child holds a favorite blanket. I know my mother made this quilt. I know little else.

I know you when you come to me in dreams. I am a girl, walking with my sister through the leaves on our way to school. I see my brother, teaching me to dance. I see your happy eyes.

I know that My Redeemer Liveth. And though I cannot sing, I know the words, and I will know His face, when he comes for me.


Monday, April 26, 2010

What It's Like To Be Lost

With this poem, I’ve joined TFE’s Poetry Bus world tour. Argent is running the ticket office this week, and posting the blog addresses of some talented tour members. Our assigned task is to write about either 1) a daffy relative, or 2) what it feels like to be lost. My poem is a little of both.


Sometimes, when you’re under great stress, you black out all incoming information except that which is imperative to your survival.
Then later, when you try to recall the stressful event, you find large gaps in your memory, where your brain simply deleted stuff that it believed was unnecessary.
I was lost in that blackout zone for a few weeks early this month. My mother went super daffy and I somehow went with her.
Here, in a series of haiku (stanzas with a particular rhythm), is a description of how that state feels.


Fear dims memory
You have been here before this
Don’t you remember?

Put up the “closed” sign
Shut the windows. Pull the blinds
Step out. Lock the door.

Assume a blank face
Take the elevator down
Walk into the street

Sleepwalker shuffling
Bare feet wade through broken glass
Crouch Howl like a dog

Train tracks hum a tune
Freight train rockets through the night
Rattle clatter bang!

Duck your head and run
For the dark house down the road
Slam and lock the door

Darkness is total
The silence reverberates
Outside, a cat screams.

Curl up in the bed.
A blanket over your head.
Shiver. Block all thoughts.

You’ve done this before.
Your fear is a panting dog.
Don’t you remember?

Shut out the memory.
Grit your teeth. Clutch the blanket
Don’t answer the phone.

Lie still in the dark
You don’t know who is screaming
It could be yourself.

Wounded animal
A dog howling Cats yowling
You’re safe here in bed.

Glass slices the flesh.
Needle stitches the wound closed.
Mama wildcat screams

She’s out of her mind
Lights on but no one is home
Don’t you remember?

You’re out of your mind
Is it your fault she’s bleeding?
Don’t answer that door

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Big Ol’ Lovable

I’m not much, but I’m pretty much all I think about.

When I first heard that in an AA meeting, I was stunned by how true it is. Me, myself, and I make up the goofy trio that basically runs my interior monologue.
It takes an effort to think about other people. Pretty pathetic, isn’t it?
Is everybody essentially self-conscious? Or is it just me?
I’m so self-centered, I even wrote a love poem about being on the receiving end of my family’s love.

Big Ol’ Lovable Me

They love me, that crazy batch of people
who apparently cherish the me they see on the
outside, this marionette who does my bidding,
although I can’t imagine what they perceive.

I am quaint, I guess, a nice middle-aged woman
with a smile and a kind word for everyone and
a sad one now and then when my puppet master
decides to throw some angst into the act. I say

Thank you for loving me; but I marvel why
when inside seems such a concatenation of
off-key syllables and scenery and very little
of what one might call goodness. I am delirious

with confusion, held in check by strands in the
hands of the me who walks the outer world
while the inner world mourns my secrets
and those fat thighs and flabby belly which

attend me everywhere. A constant piratical arg
tunelessly hums in my head as I go about
the business of being lovable, as if I were hopeless,
really, and altogether unlike the dear sweet
woman aging tenderly in the minds of others.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Alzheimer Poet

My poor old Mama
with her disintegrating brain
shows distinct signs of humor
as she arises from the dust of herself:

How are you?
Better than eating dirt!

Would you like to do something?
I’d rather do that than play in the mud!

Are you happy?
I’m happy!
Life seems to have just opened up!


When she said that last bit about life opening up, Mom spread out her hands, making like a flower opening to the sun. Hooray for my mother! Thank you for your prayers. I have a lightness of spirit since visiting her yesterday and finding her so perky, speaking Alzheimer’s poetry again.

This is a Friday Flash 55, a tale told in exactly 55 words. It’s hosted by the G-Man, Mr. Knowitall, and you’ll find dozens of creative storytellers on his blog today. Like my mom says, It’s better than eating dirt.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Mental Health Tip #99

Fire your therapist and hire a housecleaner.

This is a serious mental-health tip. After putting all my quarters, dimes, and nickels together, I had visits with two personages Wednesday. One was my therapist, who I see once a month or in an emergency. The other was a professional housecleaner.

They cost about the same, but the housecleaner worked far longer for her share of the pot. Therapist: 55 minutes. Cleaner: 8 hours

I got more bliss out of knowing my poor house was going to sparkle than I got out of discussing my issues with my dear T. And the bliss has lasted into the night and the next day. Every time I use the loo or pour a cup of coffee, I smile.

Yes. A good housecleaner is better for one's state of mind than a good therapist. My mind is a mess, but my house was messier. My head only contains some dangerous thoughts, but the house was full of dust and dog hair. Guess which one was harder on my mental health.
(Update: all right, I confess. As one of the commentators commented, I did clean up for the housecleaner. I took care of three, no, four things I could not bear ANYONE to know about, and I will not tell you what they were, just that one involved two new files, one marked MOM and one marked US. All the paperwork spread out everywhere was quickly whisked into the appropriate file. Thank you to my AA sponsor for this practical method of organizing paper crap that was multiplying like rabbits all over the table and counter. I didn't have to pay her for the advice. Like Scarlet in Gone with the Window, I shall deal with it tomorrow.)

Can I get an amen, someone?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I Can Fly

(Columbine in the back yard.
Here's a series of haiku for spring)

To the Bird on the Fence

Dove, perched on a post
in the glow of dying sun
has no song to sing

Sing for me, please sing
My silence is deafening
Darkness approaches

Who who calls the dove
Piercing the dusk with its cry
Then takes wing and flies

Wind bends the long grass
Dove calls from a far canyon
I lift arms and fly

One day at a time, I get better and better. I’m still plagued by daily panic attacks. All that adrenaline going to waste! But I walk through them by breathing, prayer, talking to myself, and calling my AA sponsor. Nothing unique.
And no quick fixes, either. Damn. Why do you think they call it slow-briety?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Time to Let Go

(For my mother, dementia victim)

The time has come
without my permission
to remove my arms
from around your neck

I held you up so long
my arms are frozen
in the clutch position

It is like tearing flesh
to rip away
first one arm
and then the other
to release you

and allow whatever happens
next to happen
in your partial, maddened life

My teeth are clenched with pain.

You don’t even notice
I have gone


For other creative efforts, please visit Magpie Tales.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Poetry Bus Travels Light This Week

You Made a Difference

On this quiet spring morning,
alone in my conservatory,
I feel as if I am in church,
in a precious, holy space.
What a word, what a holy word,
is precious. It speaks
of the unspeakable
value of each human spirit
in the tapestry of life.
I have felt like a pane of glass
quivering on a rock.
I have stood on a busy street corner
with my broken heart in my hand
to show the world.
Kind strangers have reached out
to touch it reverently,
as they paused in the stream of life
to notice me. That brief moment
of empathy has given me strength
to go on when I felt empty.
That brief moment of compassion
has given me the joy
of being alive again.
Thank you to all who have paused
to send me a prayer. You have made
a difference in this one life.

Now it is evening.
Frogs croak in the dark park next to me.
The fresh night air drifts in the window.
A skunk makes its presence known.
I feel lighter in spirit than I have for weeks.
Something like peace of mind
has settled in today.
May all be well with you.


The Poetry Bus goes on world tour this week with Pure Fiction. Go here to find some fine minds at work.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Day Late, A Dollar Short

A tale in which my father meets my mother

My dad, during the Korean War
My father died at the age of 53 of cancer. He was born in Oklahoma in the Depression, and his mother left him there in 1935 to travel west with her best friend Opal and join the migrant workers. She made a life in California and had him brought out to her when he was old enough for school.

He was a sad boy that year, said my mother. They met each other in the first grade. Her father had lost the Montana farm in the Dust Bowl, and her family had settled in the same little California town.

Because of that circumstantial meeting, of a girl from Montana and a boy from Oklahoma in small California town, I was born 16 years later.

This is my mother at the age of 35.

(Here's a Friday Flash 55, a day late and a dollar short, as my father would say):

If I were sinking
you would rescue
If I were calling
you would come
If I were weeping
you would hold me
If I were dying
you would mourn.
I am living now
and laughing
you have saved me
from my death
You are living not
yet laughing
no one saved you
from your death.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Some days, there’s nothing in your head but a song.
An old hymn called “Farther Along” is on my mind today. You’ll hear Johnny Cash singing part of it if you click this link.
Its refrain goes like this:

Farther along we’ll know more about it,
Farther along we’ll understand why;
Cheer up, my brother, live in the sunshine,
We’ll understand it all by and by.

And the rest of it goes like this:

Tempted and tried, we’re oft made to wonder
Why it should be thus all the day long;
While there are others living about us,
Never molested, though in the wrong.

Sometimes I wonder why I must suffer,
Go in the rain, the cold, and the snow,
When there are many living in comfort,
Giving no heed to all I can do.

“Faithful till death,” said our loving Master;
Short is our time to labor and wait;
Then will our toiling seem to be nothing,
When we shall pass the heavenly gate.

I’m not going to think on the sadness in my life today. Yesterday was a day of mourning. Today is a day of thanksgiving for the moments of goodness.

I give thanks for yellow iris. I give thanks for those in Haiti working for the good of the suffering. I give thanks for laughter, which feels like healing. I give thanks for blue skies and puffy white clouds, for green hills and purple wildflowers.

What do you give thanks for today?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Peace in Difficult Hours

These are days that try my soul. Why would God afflict a woman who loved Him with a terrible case of dementia? Why would He give her a healthy body and disinegrating brain?

As she struggles in the new care home, wetting herself, endlessly pacing without sleep, thinking whatever fragments of thoughts are allowed through that mind, I struggle with deepening depression. It is Spring, life is good, there is much that is fine. But my mom is so ill. It's an oppression that follows me wherever I go.

My cat Mystery is interested in life. She wonders nothing about the inequities or spiritual conundrums that plague me. This morning I am doing a 2nd step with a sponsee. I praise my creator for lifting me out of the depths of insanity in which I dwelt for 37 years. I show Him my fist in memory of Mom.

Monday, April 12, 2010

A Leap onto the Poetry Bus


She was a bovine whiner found comatose in a messed-up apartment.
He was a morose engineer who knocked on her door.
In duty, he did it, at the behest of a mutual friend.
When he found her unresponsive, he did not apply
his bearlike shoulders to the door, but calmly called the paramedics
and tried to leave. They made him stay. So he went to the manager’s
and asked for the key. Together they waited for the ambulance.
The manager surveyed the disaster with greedy eyes
The pill bottles and pills scattered across the filthy counter
The faint shape with hillocks for breasts in a dirty white T-shirt
Lolling on the blue recliner chair, all of which surely
Would eat up the cleaning deposit. The engineer
Contemplated his waiting work in the middle distance.
It was all that he knew.
She complained about everything, the manager informed him.
Who would have thought she’d have any friends to miss her?
The engineer intercepted the emergency team when they arrived.
He gave them the number of the friend to call.
He said he had nothing whatsoever to offer, and they agreed.
Then he mounted his pickup and drove quickly away.


Good Luck Lantern by Sarah Winkler
TFE's Poetry Bus is on world tour today. Catch a ride here. Some of my readers have expressed dismay about this story. Our assignment was to use numerology to choose two people on a phone list and then choose a word in today's email box. I can't explain why I put these two people together in such a situation. They're likable souls, very much alive. The word "unresponsive" came out of an email about my own mother, who is also very much alive. The situation happened to me.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

My Art Tour

(The metalsmith in the gallery)

(Painting by Peg Grady)

I've used up my week's supply words.
I have suffered and stood up again.
On my day of rest, I will take you
on a tour of my local art gallery.
Enjoy the scenes.

(This is a Sunday 160, hosted by the Monkey Man. You get only 160 words and spaces to spit out something meaningful. Good luck. Photos don’t count.

(Window at Bistro Laurant across the street)

(Transcendental Pug by Sarah Winkler)

(Some of our metalsmith's work)

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

the courage to change the things I can,

and the wisdom to know the difference.

May you all have a blessed day.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

One Sweet Day at a Time

One thing I know about life is it’s just one day at a time. Sometimes just a moment at a time.
It came to pass, it didn’t come to stay.

I used to be paid good money to think original philosophical thoughts. But then I went through the school of hard knocks, and I washed my brain one lousy thought at a time.
Life is a whole lot better now.

Yesterday had a few problems in it. I’ve learned how to live with problems: If you can’t change them, then find something else interesting to do.

In our town, a wonder art studio opened across from the downtown park. I went in there and met a nice lady named Nancy Becker, who just finished a work she was proud of. Here are a few shots of her painting and a poem I wrote about her work.

The Woman Who Painted Light

She stood with her knife and her palette
in the spotlight of the darkened gallery
mostly in shadow next to the spotlight
where her painting was clipped to the tall
wooden easel. In the spotlight the painting
glowed but she said come see it tomorrow
in the natural light of the sun. She said
she used nearly a full tube of white
and you would see such inner light
within the thick layers of paint
representing light on water, and her smile
was incandescent. This impression of reed
in river was a new style for her and it
pleased her; you could see the sparks
of pleasure in her eyes. In the two hours
it took to paint it, she reached a zenith
as an artist, and she knew it.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Friday Flash 55

Cruising Princess

She followed her bosom across the room.
It was the prow of a ship, splitting the sea.
Behind her, the coconuts in the palm trees
looked like a lesson in cell division.
The sighing of waves on the sand
could have been human. In her wake,
laughter is the same in any language.

This is a Friday Flash Fiction 55. If you want to tell a story in exactly 55 words, post it and go tell the G-man.
(P.S. this is not my own own photo)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

On a Cheerful Note

Crazy Thinking but True

I smoke but I won’t use NSAIDS.
What I discovered about Indocin scared me half to death.
The same warnings come with Advil.
Death by sudden heart attack. Perforated GI tract,
resulting in death. Stroke without symptoms.

I smoke my morning cigarette, sipping my coffee,
remembering the dire warnings on ibuprophen.
In, out goes the smoke through my lungs.
I am appalled that my favorite pain killer could be a killer.
How many times have I popped four in my mouth
and swallowed them with my coffee, looking for relief,
ignorant of the deadly forces at work as they wend
their way through my precious, imperfect body,

How many thousands of mini death machines have I downed
in search of sweet relief. Look up “ibuprophen” sometime.
It will scare you silly. They masquerade as medical friends when in fact
they are time bombs. I can take umbrage with NSAIDS
while smoking because my cigarette does not masquerade
as anything, and I like my poison straightforward.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Pregnant Now with Possibilities

At day’s end I came to the egg.
I had cried all the tears left in the sac.
The time had past to enter the competition.
Too late now to show it off.
Only me and it, and the shadows now.
Did it matter, really, what anyone thought?
I had the magic in my hand. In this egg
were the seeds of the future.
I gathered it up. I would decide later.
For other creative efforts, read Magpie Tales.

Happy Trails to You

The days march on. Mom is ensconced in the terribly expensive but very impressive care facility.I'm carrying around a low-level diaper bag. The world is different. Say a prayer for us,

Monday, April 5, 2010

Alice Goes to Wonderland

This is my mother posing in front of a favorite barn before she became so bad.
Since the FBI closed down Mom's home, I am stunned and desparately unhappy. Of the half-dozen facilities we visited, all turned Mom down but one, the most expensive 30 miles from home. She didn'' even have to bare her breast to be rejected. She simply had to have occasional outbursts of lucidity.They want TV watchers.

Wednesday night, we went to a local store for a few items for her. She would be staying with me until suitable accommodations could be found. There in the front of the large store, she had a meltdown. She wouldn't follow me, claim any affiliation with me, loudly claimed I had to leave her alone. Reason makes no difference in a meltdown.

I was thankful for the strangers who quietly distracted her while I ran and got my car and drove it onto the sidewalk. Strangers gently walked her to the car and several of us gently pushed her in. I locked the door and we were off, me sobbing and her angry shouting NO! repeatedly. I actually screamed at her. I screamed I hate you! I hate what you've become!

The night was not over. I aimed Mom at the door of the house and walked up the sidewalk with her. My hubby Joe answered and so did the three beagles. Mom began shouting that this was not her place and she had been kidnapped. In an effort to relieve her of her packages, she struck out at one of us, we ducked, and she went down. She landed on the edge of the low bookshelf and ripped a four inch deep gash in her arm. She fought like a banshee. We called 911. They calmed her down.

Now to the ER and its hours and hours of waiting. For some reason, I think to do with her dementia, they decided to keep her overnight at 2 a.m.. They have kept her for five nights. She can't walk, she can't talk coherently, but she can sure eat.

I meanwhile, feed her meals by hand, make calls to care homes, taking her for walks, and manage to burn up some hours doing I don't know what.
I am calling her "Mommy" now. God help us . Make her heart stop. Please.
For the whole story about the FBI raid, see Tuesday's or Wednesday's post. At this point, my brain is a sieve.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Really Bad Hair Day

(Injecting a little sanity into this insane post. My mother is in the hospital.)
o you ever get up in the morming and find everything is tupsy turvy?
This day has bgune like that. I feel I
am in a nightmare involving Lucille Ball

I want a "snok" for your money You wear the seatcoathes you woar wyesterdaj. and half my clothes smell like smoke. Where is the flier? Wheere have you ut myj father? On his grafvescore, I would have written . No thnaks.

This rediculous post stand a the swah of uselessness. I wonderfj what's golingon<

Noyivr thsthr lryyrtd fon'y vljmr ljt sd yhry can. I think I can speak beter than gefore bjt tstill this dismoderaton is . I have ben about mydeememtail mom. Bear with me.