Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Beginning and the End

Thus ends the year. Though much has been taken, much abides, to quote Tennyson’s “Ulysses,” and something big begins: My daughter Milo became engaged as autumn turned to winter, to a man we love too. The rainbow photo, taken in the mountains of northern California, is for her, my child who has always loved this symbol of hope.

This final post of 2011 is for love. Love is not blind. With eyes wide open, love sees, bears, believes, forgives, and celebrates. Love does fail, but it can dust its mucky knees and stand again. Its strength is tensile, a bond capable of stretching beyond the reach of human arms.

My daughter said I have never written a poem for her. So I wrote one last night for her and the man she loves, whom we met for the first time at a storage facility where our daughter lived with her best friend in the manager's apartment. With their permission, I share it with you on the last day of a hard year that ends with rejoicing, in love.

My Child’s Freshly Minted FiancĂ©

We did not have to wade
through an ocean of assholes to reach you;
you, unbidden, appeared,
our Knight,
to claim our daughter’s hand, heart, hazel eyes
laughing as we had never seen her eyes laugh
you came.

You, unbidden, appeared,
completely unexpected,
a Knight in a storage yard where junk is gold,
where junk unwanted yet unloosed is locked
behind blank doors
in an undead limbo between lost
and claimed, paid for but
You came

unbidden, unexpected,
from that storage yard into our daughter’s heart,
our Knight
in chain-link fencing, your clear eyes kind
and your mind keen, seeing in our daughter
that great beauty
like a flower in a crack in the asphalt
you freed her.

Milo and Kaleb

Thursday, December 29, 2011

An End To It

Music ended a decades-long writer’s block for me. What I wrote that night five years ago is not a great poem, but it was an ice breaker. I’ve learned that making a beginning is the key to everything. And with the Poetry Jam’s prompt this week being music, and with the year ending, this subject has special meaning for me. I’ll share the song that ended the long silence of poetry for me, “Tu Quieres Volver” by Sarah Brightman.

To get the gist of what happened to me, you might listen to the song first, then read the poem that arose from it. I’ve posted the poem before, so if it sounds familiar, please just enjoy Sarah singing.

Look at It This Way

this is you
this is her
twin threads twining in space
up and up andupandup
sinuous as snakes
the dance of the double helix
making life grow high

this is you
this is her
round notes soaring
high and round as the moon
in a purple sky
full of light a bird in flight
a waltz of wind and feather
mounting waves of air

this is you
this is her
a swelling-rising-rearing-
crashing wave
shatters on the sand
and the sand soothes
calms and suckles
a soft sighing washing smooth
the rough edges and the fury

this is you
this is her
strong arms gripping
across the precipice of loneliness
strong limbs bowing with the wind
strong lines moored in heavy seas
above all holding fast
in the face of all storms

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


I watched a war take place this morning. While reading the newspaper with a cup of coffee (that grammar makes for an interesting idea: could an electronic eye be embedded in a coffee cup & used to scan the paper to a speech program for people with sight disability?), I glanced out the sunroom windows to see a war in progress.

This bird, the acorn woodpecker, lives year round with his flock in the oaks outside:
Acorn Woodpecker, from Wikipedia
He and a flockmate or two were harrying a couple of cedar waxwings, who migrate through here in the winter on their way south to Mexico:

Photo source:

The cedar waxwings love my neighborhood because of the luscious red berries of the cottoneaster shrubs in my blog header:

US Fish and Wildlife
So the small flock of cedar waxwings was under attack by the small flock of angry acorn woodpeckers. As the waxwings tried to swallow a berry or two, a woodpecker would dive-bomb them. This made the waxwings nervous, and they either would duck and hunker down or would fly off. Having won the skirmish, the woodpecker would then retire to the big oak, where it would raucously screech its triumph with a wing display. Whilst it was doing the victory dance, the cedar waxwing or two would return to gobbling berries, hungry as hell from its long flight from the northern reaches.

I'm a fan of both birds, but I was a bit ticked off at the woodpeckers. The cedar waxwings were not stealing their food supply. Acorn woodpeckers eat insects and acorns, for Pete's sake, which they store for year-round cuisine in the oak, in lovely holes they drill and reuse just for that purpose.

On the other hand, maybe woodpeckers don't know cedar waxwings from a hole in the ground. What they DO know is the terrible starlings who periodically attempt to take over the oaks, and then a real battle ensues between the woodpeckers fighting for their home of decades, maybe centuries, and the starling squatters. The woodpeckers, fighting for homeland, always have won, so far. Their vigilance has paid off. So, dear waxwings, flutter onward, where other berries are in abundance nearby.

My lesson today, then, is to choose my battles carefully, lest I drive away a harmless body merely hungry for kindness and a rest from life's travails.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Christmas Lesson in Fractals

What a fine Christmas Day: Hubby and me, daughter and fiance, my sponsor & spouse for dinner; expenditures minimal but pleasure in giving maximal, small thoughtful gifts and lovely times. Wishing such peace for everyone....

A Midnight Course in Fractal Geometry

Sleepless again    a repetition of many nights
Windows in the pentagonal glass room reflect
Endless patterns of white Christmas lights
Cheerful chaos erupts
From ordinary roofs and shrubs
Curves and angles and loop de loops
Swing in a wind rocking a storm in its arms
A rope of blue light transforms the invisible
Fence     Waves on a blue sea undulate
Again and again and again
In the looking glass
Infinite points of light
Form infinite replicas of stars
Repeating themselves until they vanish
In the midnight place      Men know how
To wrest order from chaos
They can turn these patterns into formulas
Explaining why the shapes make sense
But they can’t say why
The stars make peace
On a December night

Peace on earth, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Poetry Jam: "solitary"

Monday, December 19, 2011

Furrst Love

Heavy Petting

Oh Kate, Kate,
hefty weight of softest fur,
the pat on lap brings her leaping
up to crouch contented there
prickle paws, claws dig in
sumptuously glad
for stroking hand on silky back,
she lifts her head, squinty eyed,
for cheeky rubs, damp-nosed
happiness, vibrating purr
leaning all of her against my breast,
my Kate, my joyous cat.

Kate and her sister Mystery were abandoned feral foundlings, eyes barely opened. Nursed by hand, raised by beagles and women, what they know of life is human kindness and doggie tolerance, the world is their oyster, and our laps belong to them.

Sometimes, when the world seems dismal, my cat helps me to remember simple things are still priceless.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Tiny Victory

I hope I'm not the only writer who sometimes can't think of a single thing to say.

All my energy has been devoted to working through a paralyzing anxiety attack this week. I'm grateful that in spite of it I've conducted the basic stuff of living. Small things like paying bills and trimming the Christmas tree have been accomplished with gritted teeth and prayer, and the fear recedes a little more each day.

And today, a migrating flock of cedar waxwings paid a visit to the shrubs outside my office window. Their annual visitation always gives me joy. This morning I was especially thankful, because I have battled a beast and not been defeated. There are many kinds of victories, some so ordinary that they can be easily overlooked. I'm glad my eyes were open today.

(Don't know who to credit for this lovely shot of a cedar waxwing)

Sunday Morning Addendum:
Cedar waxwings everywhere! This morning's flock is huge, gorging on the red-berry bushes! Underneath the bushes, the kitties crouch, yakking at the beautiful birdies!

"Come to me, lovely little birdies!" says Mystery the Cat. The waxwings respectfully decline.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Occupy THIS

An amazing thing happened today. My husband said he thinks a water pipe is leaking in an interior wall, and he pointed out his evidence. (This man has been ordered by our plumber to refrain from “fixing” things himself.) I studied hubby’s evidence, and it didn’t look like evidence to me.

But my head leaped straight into fear. Another expense! More bad news! Another explosion in our tight budget! My head freaked out so thoroughly, it hurled me right into an anxiety attack.

I was mauled by the sense of impending doom, pummeled by the “What Ifs” and the “Oh Nos”! Right off the top of my head, I conceived of 1,000 other things that could go wrong, from the personal to the global level. Then I went straight to the place where I can kneel in prayer, did that, jumped up and went to an AA meeting. Came home, breathed, called my sponsor. Was instructed to breathe some more.

I haven’t had an attack of fear like that in a long time. In recovery I’ve learned how to redirect the kind of catastrophic thinking that used to plague me. I have tools that work. Hours later, I’m still shaky, but my feet are planted firmly in the present, where all my needs are taken care of. After dinner, I’ll go set up a church hall for an AA meeting, where I know I’ll hear the music of faith from people who have been transformed.

I’m grateful that I can occupy my mind with what’s good, here and now.

Too Preoccupied with Birds to Notice

Sometimes when my mind is full of dire news
swollen by streams of the world’s sorrows,
I hunt for robins.

A pair of them live like lords on my land,
where they feast on a cornucopia of insects
leading busy lives in centuries of mulch.
The world’s calamitous chatter fades,
irrelevant, as the robins strut and pluck
the strands of their living harp.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Oh, Boy! Deep Freeze

The killing frosts have hit us here on the central coast of California. Our nights are down in the 25-degree zone that kills all the tender growing things in the garden. Tomatoes that remained on the vine are popsicles in the mornings, turning to paste after sun-up. My beautiful dahlias are now brown stalks of mush. Normally, this would depress me: Winter is coming, alack! alas! But something’s different this year. I don’t feel like Eeyore.

In fact, I feel pretty interested in life. I’m checking out this garden scenery….

…and I’m thinking, I betcha that puppy has viable seeds in it! I’m looking at this dahlia….

…and I’m thinking, there’s a gift for me in there! I suspect a praying mantis laid an egg case on one of those branches, and I’m going to find it and save it when I cut that dahlia back.

Several things are different in my life this year. I’ve been working with a new AA sponsor, and she’s had a big impact on my outlook. We’ve been studying faith and gratitude, and I’m reading Leo Tolstoy’s The Kingdom of God Is Within You. She also was diagnosed last month with stage-four lung cancer. Now we have our weekly talks while she’s getting her chemo treatment. I’m not scared about her future; I’m blessed by her life.

Maybe it’s the added vitamin D in my diet. I’ve taken substantial D-3 since a deficiency was diagnosed back in March. My immune system is vastly stronger than it was last year, with its serial pneumonia and relentless infections. There’s a correlation, too, between major depression and D deficiency. Maybe the converse is true as well, and I’m nutritionally better equipped. Who knows? Is it God or vitamin D? Who cares? Life is good.

The deep freeze around here has sent the sap earthward, but my spirit lifts upward. Tolstoy has affected me greatly, a gift from out of the blue. I caught the tail end of The Last Station a while back, and it sent me on a research run to learn more about his "spiritual anarchy." His study The Gospel in Brief held me spellbound. When the word “deep” was offered this week as a prompt on the Poetry Jam blog, I thought of this poem, written a month ago at a cafĂ© while waiting for a lunch date who never showed.

The Water Walker

Faith made Peter climb out of the boat
and walk on water for a while until
he remembered people can’t do that
and then he sank. I understand
his sinking; I too have sunk
into the impossible and had to stroke
for shore, arising on reality
drenched and choking.

It’s the faith I want to summon in the boat
that mesmerizes me: to see the liquid
which I know cannot support me, yet
to trust in God’s incredible command
that I be more than bone and flesh
tethered to physics and the imagined
certainty of all my limitations.

Albert Einstein Quotes