Monday, December 31, 2012

You Have to Sweep the Temple Steps

                                                                      Clear a new path

                                                                     brush away the dirt                       

                                                                 gently prepare for change.

                                                         Wash away the compulsion to rush, 

                                                               wander the grounds one slow

                                                                               step at 

                                                                               a time.

                                                                      Feel the peace of 

                                                        No resolutions    pledges     promises

                                                                        Instead     savor    
                                                                explorations     revelations

                                                                   Notice pure stillness

                                                                             in action.

Regard   Distill   Reveal

There is time enough between 

spaces of doing 


just be.

With broom in hand, begin again

clear a path 

brush lightly 

sweep the temple steps. 

Harmony, California 2012

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Warm Christmas

Christmas on the Coast from monica devine on Vimeo.

Persimmons, birds-of-paradise green and blue, lovely Pacific breezes.

Christmas in a warm place, where flowers are in bloom, and

the air is sweet and mild.

Long conversations, walks on the beach.

It is a "summery" winter for us who hail from a cold northern latitude.

We drink fine wine, cook a big turkey. Take off our heavy coats and

turn our faces to the sun, content, grateful, full-hearted.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Winter in Alaska

Winter in Alaska from monica devine on Vimeo.

In a few days, we'll be on our way to California for Christmas with our grown children; away from the snow and cold, to swaying palm trees, farmer's markets, and the glorious heat of a shining sun. And then on to Hawaii, for long hikes to waterfalls and swimming with the turtles and fishes.

We are snowbirds, my flock-mate and I, fleeing midwinter out of the darkest days in Alaska, and into the silky light and orange sunsets of warmer climes.

That first curl of the toes in hot beach sand is a remarkable "ahhhh..." moment, such a vivid contrast to where we've been, how we've experienced this beautiful earth the past few months of a dark and snowy winter.

From snow boots to flip-flops. From long underwear to soft cotton sundresses.

And to think it was only yesterday we trudged through knee-deep snow on the Palmer hay flats, cameras in our hands, eager to shoot the pink-rimmed Reflection Lake covered in a white, austere beauty; our hearts flushed with excitement at the curling bark of birch trees, and the giant, snow covered logs, now cold and still, lying in a heap at the confluence of two frozen rivers.

Hot and cold.
Ebb and flow.
Sorrow and joy.

Always, we have each other.

From my tribe to yours...warmly,
Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 10, 2012


At twenty below the moon comes up                        
       in blue daylight; our mattress, dense with sleeping bags 
and white feather pillows
belies any sense of warmth-slash- comfort.

(pretense): how we used to walk on
  white sand beaches, sandals dangling
from my fingers.

                                                         we lie chilled, flung beyond hope as
trees lean over the frozen lake.

this house, my paper-strewn desk, the thin-shelled walls, 
                  cold-soaked we resort to energetic huddling, drawing knees to chest,
closing hands into fists (unlike prayer), while 
the deepening fog rises by its own law.

thoughts arise and go unspoken
   there is the daily torpor, hibernations where 
   talking is like the sun (scarce) and
    no blazing words can warm us, now.

we can't plow out, so
 sucking stale air, we dig in
burrowing like wild animals, underground,
shivered, and wheeling our barrows of third-rate regrets
nosing its garbage, stumbling through snowdrifts

waiting, waiting for a chinook
to melt puddled ice and bring back
the light, and (all of) its gulping brightness.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Purpose of Fun is to Have It

Someone once said the opposite of play is not work:                  

it's depression.

Play: a creative way to become un-balled up (my definition).

To become un-self-conscious. Un-clutched. Un-moored &

"in" the shining moment (no matter how grim).

Children break the ice: bring them into the boardroom &  

all the execs relax.

Play is Non-Result-Seeking and un-important? &

children abandon themselves fully to it.

I can count on abandoning myself fully when I babysit my friend's children (healthy prescription for a retired older woman: once/week).

They teach me lightness, how to have fun fun fun...til' your Daddy took the T-bird away?

Girls just wanna have fun? I know this from experience.

you're only alive until you're not, right?

On the limousine ride to my father's grave, my brothers cracked jokes.

Lots of them (about our dad's frequent/silly/stupid puns). we laughed &

the load was lightened.

I tell myself: before the wind is sucked out of me, Have Fun.    

While the wind is being sucked out of me, I tell myself:

play with the children to feel happy and alive!

Someone else once said: to advance humanity, we need to be playful and immature, NOT

sober and cautious, so I figure

you're not really wasting time, if you're having fun wasting it, right?

I tell myself: Let us be grateful to people (especially children) in our lives, who make us happy &

encourage our hardened souls to bloom. They don't really do this with, or, on purpose.

they're freely leaving their "selves" behind on the doorstep &

simply having fun.                                        

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Middle West

A flyover state, Ioway                                       
Bahkho-je tribe
distant fields of stubbled corn, bull
thistle, white tailed deer.

"We're friendly", insular with
tranquil town squares, and
backroad diners that say,
eat cheap, "Eat Maid-Rite (since 1926)"

Soybeans and corncribs
The Grain Belt buckle
flatland?  not as flat as
you think, darn
nice place to 
raise kids and 
horses and corn.

here. John Deer
sweet smelling alfalfa
cool farm ponds and 
ruby ripe tomatoes
Cornsilk, goldfinch, sweeping
dark tornadoes.

Raccoon River, baled
corn stalks.
A slow sort of country, "our
liberties we prize, and
our rights will maintain"
Farm land, bottom land...

Family pride.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Book Spine Poetry

Reporter:  Why don't you write the way you talk?

Gertrude Stein:  Why don't you read the way I write?

What follows are poems I did not write. They are poems I found. 

Like art made of  found objects.

I lined up the spines of various books in my library, across all genres. Some of them are page turners; a few "how to's", long novels, short prose, story collections. 

Just to see what happens when you change your vantage point, I mixed, arranged and shuffled books about, letting the titles tell their own story in the shape of a poem. 

                                  There is no right way.    There is no single narrative. 

                                         Just an arbitrary collection, a literary remix.

Forbidden flowers
middlesex stirring 
the mud,
welcome to the 
monkey house, disturbances
 in the field.

Our bodies, ourselves
animal-speak dancing
with Life
Wisdom of the body moving, coming

To our senses

speak, children of the wolf
all the powerful, invisible things
How it is, out
stealing horses

Broken for you,
housekeeping. The moon
 is a harsh mistress, the rest 
of her life, until 
do us part

The joy of being, the untethered
how we believe genocide
of the mind,
the compass inside ourselves,

revolutionary road, a map
of the world
everything is illuminated, the spirit
catches you, and
you fall down.

*This literary remix experiment 
was inspired by artist  Nina Katchadourian 

Monday, November 12, 2012


You wait
the great waiter
for the kids to get
home from school so you can                        
ask about their day, satisfied
they're happy as they were when
they left you this morning.

You wait for water to boil and cuts
to heal, words you can't take back
(though you wish) they would
disappear forever, no
use waiting.

You wait for normalcy and
equilibrium;  homostasis, is it called?

you wait for test results, pretending
you're not waiting by doing,
every gesture a distraction
like stuffing down food or hastily cleaning shelves and closets, the garage.

Your stomach tightens when you wait.
It's hard to breathe, and your palms
get sweaty or you feel a boiling
irritation about to erupt
You are so damn bored, waiting

for babies to be born, for
snow and ice to melt and darkness to lift
you float in suspended animation, where
it feels like nothing's happening.

You know in your heart true cultivation takes time            
that you have to wait for seed to break soil and
wounds to mend, love to grow
you have to wait for these things
in the absence of urgency, noting
there is nothing you must do
nothing you can do to
push the river, but wait.

But you are impatient by nature, you are a "doer"

You meditate everyday
for years and years and still

You loathe waiting
in anticipation
for the world to roll in at your feet.

You hope everyday to
gain wisdom.
to let things happen, let them be.

You banish from your vocabulary "I can't wait"
because you know there is danger there
in the greatest of sins, grasping

The day won't come too soon (see?)
maybe with enough faith and hard earned patience
one day you'll know, maybe
one day you'll know
You can wait.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Cabin Notes: Election Year, Nov. 2012

A Dispatch from Alaska  

1. Drive three hours on steep, snowy, narrow
    mountain roads.

2. Arrive. Assess the river: old                  
    ice, young ice, shorefast ice?

3. Turn propane gas tank On.

4. Start the wood stove.

5. Wait for cabin to heat up (six hrs. at 11 
6. While waiting, drive to well pump site. Insert

7. Fill multiple jugs with water.

8. Return. Feed and water the dog.

9.  Turn on shortwave; listen to weather, and live music from the Mountain Stage.     

10. Go outside. Do some chores to keep warm.

11. Nightfall. (though it's only 5 pm). Put keys in pocket.

12. Grab flashlight.

13. Finger keys in pocket, making doubly SURE they are there.

14. Walk out to generator shed and Start (if you're lucky, it will take on the third try).

15. Turn on the lights, start stovetop and make soup.

16. Wash dishes in tub. Throw dishwater outside in snowbank.

17. Read Gertrude Stein (scratching your head).

18. Revise Chapter 2, again.

19. Watch To Catch A Thief  on your computer. Imagine you are speeding along the French Riviera with Cary Grant.

20. Grab flashlight.                                         

21. Put keys in pocket.

22. Finger keys in pocket making
      doubly SURE they are there.

23. Walk to generator shed, turn
       generator Off.

24. Make way back to cabin door  
      in pitch black (unless the
      moon is out).

25. Put cell phone, keys and 
      flashlight next to bed (in case of

26. Turn flashlight off.

27. Meditate.

Quarreling trees?
28. Relish complete and total silence.     

29. Sleep

Next day: Will your day change in any way,
regardless of who becomes president?

Don't let any blow torch pundit or yackety-yack friend ruin your simple, bare-and-naked

Know in your heart your vote was a true,
and honest choice

Stay warm out there.


Monday, October 29, 2012

Turn Toward What You Deeply Love

Sometimes you hear 
a voice                                                                                    
through the door calling you,                                                
as fish out of water hear
the waves, 

or a hunting
falcon hears the drum's-
"Come back. Come back." 
This turning toward what you deeply love
saves you.

Children fill their shirts with rocks and 
carry them around.

We are not children anymore.

Read the book of your life, which has been given you.  
A voice comes to your soul saying,

Lift your foot. Cross over. 

Move into the emptiness of question and answer 

and question.    


What is it you deeply love?  Do you listen for that still small voice telling you to jump in, cross open your hands and receive? 

May we wake up! 
May we stay alert and be alive 
to the questions and answers and moreover, 

to the questions with NO answers. 

May we wake up to the not-knowing, 
the scary and empty white page, 

the remarkable invisible things 
we can't smooth out and pin down 
so tidily 

with our thinking minds. 

Just follow the tracks laid out in front of you,

         until your dreams



Monday, October 22, 2012

The Last Leaf

Today, as I observed the last leaf struggling to hold onto a twig
in my yard,

a story came to mind;
one I read in childhood
and never forgot...

a short story by O. Henry, called
The Last Leaf.

Two young girls, striving to create a life of art in New York City,
lived together in a cold, upstairs apartment.

It is late fall and Johnsy gets very sick with pneumonia.

She lay in bed looking out her window, everyday,
watching leaves on a vine, against the brick of a neighboring building,
falling and falling,

one at a time.

She soon becomes saddened
and discouraged, thinking

that when the last leaf falls,                

she will surely die.

Susan tries to encourage her, but Johnsy's cough worsens and
she refuses to eat.

Meanwhile an aging, frustrated artist named Behrman, who lives downstairs and has always
been protective of the young girls,

gets word of Johnsy's illness.

A decrepit old man, he has claimed for years he will someday

paint a masterpiece (though he had never even attempted a start).

One night a horrific storm with   howling winds and pounding
rain beats on the young girl's window.

Susan closes the curtain, and gently asks
Johnsy to get some sleep.

There were only four leaves left on the vine.

Morning comes, and Johnsy asks the curtains be pulled, fully expecting to see all the leaves

blown away, and fully expecting to breathe her last breath.

But there is still one leaf left.

One leaf refusing to be blown away.

In the days that follow, a doctor tells Susan that old Mr. Behrman had too developed pneumonia,
and nothing could be done for him.

A janitor found him helpless with pain,
and his shoes and clothes were wet and icy cold.

Found with him were a lit lantern, a ladder that had been moved, and
a palette of green and yellow paint.

"Look out the window at the last leaf on the wall," he tells Susan.

"Didn't you wonder why it never fluttered in the storm?"

"Behrman painted it on the wall during the night, after the last leaf fell."

Johnsy kept her gaze on the leaf, and soon thereafter began to eat.
Her cough died down, and a light of hope began to fill her eyes.

In time, Johnsy fully recovers, never knowing of her kind neighbor's first,

and final, masterpiece.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Roadside Culture

As a child of the sixties, I was among the cult followers of Tom Robbins’ first novel, published in 1971, called Another Roadside Attraction. In the novel, we follow the adventures of an oddball couple that opens a combination zoo/hot dog stand along a highway in Skagit County, Washington.

Stranger than fiction...much stranger than fiction, and a curious, lap-slappin’ funny, bizarre-kind-of-read.

Admittedly, I am attracted to strange.

And old.                                                 

Rusty. I especially like rusty.


Run down.


And we mustn't omit....

flat out kitschy.

I like gear wheels and cotter pins,
hammers, rakes and saws.                       

Bevel gears are fascinating; 
racks and pinions, dare I say...are down right groovy.

Consider the tools of the trade, or...

any implement used in your hands to form, shape, fasten, add to, take away from, or otherwise change by…

cutting, hitting, pounding, screwing, drilling…you know…all  those obsolete machinations our fathers and grandfathers and great grandfathers were adept at to keep our mechanically-devised world in motion.

Ha. My mother once told me to marry a man good with his hands.
And I did.     

He knows all about washing machines and oscillating sprinklers, electric screwdrivers, marine hoists, and multi-spindle drives.

He knows how spur gears are used; where to buy band saw blades, how to fix a windup alarm clock. (Okay, windup alarm clocks are obsolete, but he’s also been known to build computers from scratch). 

In short, he knows how to git ‘er done.

So we were both taken aback by a roadside attraction of decades-old and junky, obsolete, rusted out...brass, steel, aluminum and wood-rotted “STUFF”

whilst whizzing along the backroads of Hwy. 84 in sunny, enchanting New Mexico.

Here was a place where men once fixed things. 
Here was a place where workers once operated machines. 

Where boys learned how to put together a wheel and axle 

and fix their mother’s sewing machine.     

But, in time and somewhere along the line,
our lives became more complicated 

(while claiming to be simplified),

and those things that were old were left to rot and die,

and those things that got broken    

no one wanted, 

or maybe we've lost the language of our forefathers, 

and just don't know 

how to fix them, anymore.