Sunday, May 20, 2018

Shadows Seven

My figs during their prosperous years--2011, August.

Shadows Seven April 29, 2018

Beginnings are hardest. In the morning
I sit up slowly, inch my way closer
to a place to hold on, rise carefully,
balance before I walk. I make sure I don’t 
go too long without eating and sleep early.
As the day waxes, my confidence returns.
I remember what I need to, see to the hens,
make notes in my diary, in which I tell
the whole story. Sometimes I start to fall,
but I catch myself. At the dam I walk
steadily, don’t fear falling. Back at
home I’m warmer, shed layers, resume
morning tasks and rituals, with enough
energy for the day. By myself I see the 
years of faithful work to leave my legacy 
of stories and insights alive behind me.
Among others I see their discomfort.
They don’t look at me. They forget 
my place in the line-up of poets. I make 
them nervous. Why? Maybe because
I look into Death’s face and am not
afraid. How does one find that
particular courage? It arrives in time
to be useful in the last years, but I
realize I’ve practiced going my own way 
most of my life, since age twenty-one,
to nearly eighty-one. Not dismissing
urgencies that would keep me whole
and safe, not denying love when it
defied logic. Those who hated me? I 
stayed away, and generally, they did, too.
I sometimes lose things or forget them, 
but I’ve never forgotten to safeguard
my soul and keep it whole, no matter 
what my circumstances are.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Shadows Four

Early Spring bees and onions several years ago.

Shadows Four April 8, 2018

Some see the world as a dangerous place.
I don’t. One says, “You see it as a safe place.”
I say, “No, but I see it differently. I know
there are dangers, but I’m focused on trying
to be in tune with the grain of the universe,
with the way it’s made. I follow my deep
intuition, even when it doesn’t make sense.
It makes me accident-unlikely. I may have 
accidents, but usually they’re not as bad as
they could have been. So, yes, I had that flat
tire on Thursday, but it happened in my
front yard. I drove it across the road and
turned. When it was still bad, I pulled over
and stopped to look. I had a very flat right
front tire. Or I have car trouble as I pull into
a service station. I work toward peace
with my neighbors and fight for all of us
for cleaner air and water. They respect me
and protect me. I’ve never been harmed
by my neighbors, and I’ve often been
helped. You don’t need to worry about them
harming me.” I have a very different
orientation to the world. There are dangers
and evil people. If people are determined
to be my enemy, I stay away from them.
In the meantime, I try to have friendly
relations with everyone, if it’s possible. I’m
outspoken, and some people hate what I say
and can’t forgive me. One day I might be
harmed, but this way to live suits me.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Shadows Six

My first and only iris this spring. 

Shadows Six April 22, 2018

My shadow at the dam is shorter now.
It walks close behind me or right in front.
I watch for new wild flowers and try
to guess which birds are circling high
above me. Wag and I go at a steady
pace, meet another, younger dog-walker,
who smiles as they pass us. We walk
more slowly, but we are there, keeping
our limbs limber, our bodies warmed
by the exercise. I count the cars of the
fishers below us, standing back now
from the turmoil of water as it explodes
high when released from the dam. Some
mornings I wonder if my old body can 
get me through another day with ease,
even with grace. It does, and my doubts
fall back until another day. I sleep hard,
at night and sometimes by day–
unexpectedly. In the doctor’s office
my blood pressure was good; heart
and lungs still doing their work.
I keep walking if more slowly, nod 
off when I’m tired, and words keep
flowing. It’s all I ask.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Art of Gene Dillard

Winter Scene of Gene Dillard's home.

Gene Dillard has been my friend for twenty-seven years. He became a good poet in spite of himself. In Honduras, he wrote this one:


I saw his bent frame
walking toward the Mercado,
across his shoulders
a large pole with
huge bunches of bananas
hanging from each side.
Images rippled 
through my mind 
like corrugated sheet metal
used for roofing
in the third world
I thought he was a troubadour
carrying many fascinating
odes encased with
a protective outer skin,
waiting for a chance
to recite.

His real love came later: building sculptures

Tree to left of house

Then bottle walls

Then mosaic trees, flowers, stars and mirrors, on his garage and house walls.

back of house and porch

Then he went inside; made tables and chairs, walls and skylights.

Everywhere he looked, he saw where the beautiful could transform the ordinary. People came to stare, to wonder at his patience. Mosaic work takes months, sometimes a whole year to remake one wall. He dreams new visions for his house museum, then starts work.

Gene at top of tower.

He's a great artist, isn't he?

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Shadows Five

My phalaenopsis now beginning its blooms.


Shadows Five   April 15, 2018

As our days warm, the sun higher
earlier, my shadow follows or leads 
me up close. Greens dominate the
dam’s verges and the wooded hills.
I see the flowering grasses–so small 
I pick one to see it up close: four
pale violet petals, one up, three down,
a white dot in the center, like an orchid. 
A distant cousin maybe. My small 
window orchids are blooming, and 
the big phalaenopsis begins buds.
My son and I plant peas and beets,
and the new rain waters them. The
hens can’t wait to get out when I open
their chicken door. The house stays
warm at night. The trees are leafing
out. Winter was unwilling to get
out of bed, and Spring rushed in
and yanked off the cloud cover.
My heart beats normally; I sleep
hard, wake rested. The dog and I
do our ritual walk, and I count
fishermen and watch for new wild
flowers, say hello to other walkers.
When we arrive home, Wag nuzzles
me to let her out. The radio gives
me holy music, and I rest in the

sacred silence.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Shadows Three

Three Cliffs Bay on Gower Peninsula, Wales. By John Ewing


Shadows Three April 1, 2018

It takes sun to make shadows. From
age twenty-one I’ve been entranced
by sun coming through leaves, bright
green, then darker, when the wind moves
them out of light into shade. Or wine
with sun in its depths, transforming
its reds, or its warmth on my back
as I plant seeds or weed untidy rows.
At the dam I watch for sun in order
to see my shadow. Winter has many
dark and cloudy days. Sometimes the
sun is trying to break through its
cloud cover but still no shadows, 
which, at my new age, reassure me. 
They are sun’s other children after all.
I feel more whole when my shadow
stretches out behind me or leads me
forward. These days uneven ground
makes me stumble, slow down to place
my feet carefully, hold onto my fence,
watch the way ahead. I keep walking
so that I can keep walking. On a 
straight, flat road, I can look around,
trust my feet, but in the backyard
or in the house, I watch every step.
The hens like to excavate, make
hills and valleys in their straw, dig
down to see what’s there, find
food grains they missed or buried.
They can kick away until there’s a big 
hole. On a warm day, they dig into the
earth, work it into their feathers, take
dirt baths. It must feel cool on their
skin. So I walk, hoping for shadows,
behind or before. Everything I do, 
everywhere I walk, matters. Sun
confirms that every time it outwits
the cloudy sky.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Shadows One

My White Rock hens a few years ago. This could be today.


Shadows One

Based on “Rapids” by Julia Kennedy in her calendar painting for May 2018

For me it’s shadows. Every day I walk across
the dam, I watch for my shadow marching
below me, down the hill, and some days,
when the wind is still, even across the water
and up the hill at the other end of the earthen
dam that creates Jordan Lake. In the painting
there is one small human figure surrounded
by rushing water, darkly threatening clouds,
with only a small window of blue that could
be sky but is probably water. That little
shadow is very persistent as she trudges
along. Even in a wind, she doesn’t hesitate,
pulls her hood up to protect her neck and
ears. A step at a time a great distance can
prove possible. But, oh for the courage 
to believe in that shadow. I like to think
that when I’m gone, and even if storm clouds
dominate, and water boils and foams, and 
wind is cruel and relentless, that my shadow--
all that is left of me and whatever words 
on paper survive my death--will keep on 
walking with firm steps, seeing more than
I can see now, accepting storms, even
lightning, but refusing to be dismissed,
ignored, or turned aside. Something eternal
or stubborn, or so part of the nature of
things that it simply won’t let go.