Monday, May 28, 2012

Adrift in the Day

I hear children
this morning
playing in the sunshine,
their voices tumble down the
hill and across the gravel road.

two robins amuse
in a game of chase,
loop de looping the sky
satisfied that nearby
three blue eggs have cracked open, hatching scrawny, featherless
incomplete things.

I showed the children how to whistle through blades of grass held between my thumbs
like my mother showed me half a century ago. Days of memories lost to nothing more than washing dishes with my loud aunts who spoke in Polish tongues and danced on the linoleum floor my mother scrubbed rightly the night before. My grandmother showed us how to make noodles from scratch. At night we watched The Beatles on TV, but what I remember most is seeing pictures of babies in Africa with flies swarming their lips and eyelids, bellies distended and ribs showing through the skin.

Incomplete, like tiny baby birds.

Today fat hamburgers are cooking on the grill. Our neighbor is pushing his mower over unusually high weeds. The boys, hiding behind trees, jump out and pump their squirt guns screaming. The girls sit in a circle under an elderberry, and smudge their faces and arms with dandelion flowers. All of them collecting memories.

In fifty years, they will know. They will remember all that has disturbed and delighted them. They will remember studying for that English final, and laying in the grass wondering about what is beyond and higher than the sky.

They will remember the pain their harsh words created, and wonder about what is below and deeper than the sea.

They will be shocked, and cherished, and bloodied and restored. They will cry over their imperfect children, and pound their fists at God. They will learn to fall down seven times, and stand up eight. They will know that cheap romance is no substitute for true love.

But for now they are adrift in this day.

And for now they need know nothing more, or less
than that.

Monday, May 21, 2012

What If Everything Were Alive?

What if everything possessed life? Not just trees and flowers and plants and animals; mammals and humans and fish.  I'm talking about everything.    

Dirt.  Stones. Mountains.  Snow. The shoes on your feet. Your guitar (mine is pretty alive sometimes). 
A bouncing ball.  
A paperclip. Fire. 

Indigenous people in the not too distant past listened to the natural world and viewed everything in it as alive. And they listened. They listened to rocks and mountains; to sticks and clouds; to inanimate things like books and beads and glass. 

The difference between the Western view and indigenous people is we Westerners view this listening as metaphor as opposed to something real.

The American Indian writer, Vine Deloria said this: "I think Indians experience and relate to a living universe, whereas Western people, especially science, reduce things to objects, whether they're living or not. If you see the world around you as made up of objects for you to manipulate and exploit, not only is it inevitable that you will destroy the world by attempting to control it, but perceiving the world as lifeless robs you of the richness, beauty, and wisdom of participating in the larger pattern of life.” I bolded that last part because I would like you to re-read it, again, slowly.
Like a Canadian lumberman once said: "When I look at trees I see dollar bills." If you look at trees in this way, you will not see the tree for what it is, its inherent aliveness, its contribution to the beauty in your yard; how planting and caring for that old tree fed your soul. You'll remember the tart apple pie your mom made from apples you picked at the local orchard. You'll remember tree sounds: the flapping and rustling of leaves in the wind, the creaking of worn out willow branches, and the sound of jumping in a mammoth pile of crisp autumn leaves. 

Have you ever seen an islander climb a coconut tree? Have you ever sat triumphantly at the top of a sprawling oak, feeling comfortable and happy in the soft curve of its branches?

I'm not saying never cut down a tree. I'm saying maybe the tree deserves your reverence. Maybe asking permission to cut the tree, and thanking it for its beauty and shade will set your mind in a different groove; a compassionate, gentler groove than if you were to charge in absentmindedly with your chainsaw, acting like a conqueror. Talk to the tree as if it can hear you.

Maybe it can.

Like that old beater van you drove for 13 years. Ready for the pile heap. It's not even good anymore for parts. What a piece of junk. I deserve a new car. I've put up with that tin can for long enough.

And that junker put up with you long enough!  Your negative words and drag-me-down language. Your heavy dissatisfaction and lingering, repetitive disappointment (see how you're making yourself  feel?). Maybe the car that gave you so many years of service can hear you. So...

Thank you, dear junker. Look how far we've come together. Traveled back roads and super highways. You took me to the beach. We rode together to work everyday. Remember when I tied my canoe to the top & we had a lovely day at the lake? Remember the road trip across the Continental Divide? Or that time we veered off-road to take pictures of desert cactus?

I'm convinced if we gave reverence to everything, animate and inanimate, our all-encompassing perceptions of the world would change. If we looked at everything as being alive we'd care for things differently. Our attitudes and relationships would change for the better. 

How do we listen to the world? Communication occurs without words. Think of your pets. They don't understand English, but we talk to them anyway. We just need to take a little time to read things. To listen to the unspoken language of imagination and intuition.  Maybe it will take more effort and patience.  Maybe there's value in the silent things, living or not. Just because we can't hear them speak doesn't mean they have nothing to say. 

So I'll keep talking to stones. Kites. Beach sand and spoons. They're saying feed me, see me, sail me; they're practically screaming. 


Monday, May 14, 2012

Summer: The Season of Inferior Sledding

Around my home town, you know it's summer when a man down the road is mauled by a brown bear.

This is the kind of news that shakes up the entire neighborhood. It's time to awaken from our own inner-focused winter slumber and become keenly aware of our surroundings while taking our leisurely stroll down to the mailbox, deep in thought, eyes to the ground. Look up. Look around. Skip. Make noise. Sing. In other words, don't be the source of a surprise encounter.

You know it's summer when you find a robin's nest in the four foot high spruce tree in the backyard. This is why we don't have cats. I treasure the birds, and many of them build their nests low to the ground.

You know it's summer when the hottest news of the day is: a new business is opening up in town...Avalanche Yogurt Shop. There's nothing better than watching kids frantically slurping on fast melting ice cream cones.

You know it's summer when you hear the sounds of chainsaws and power tools winding their way through the wavering cottonwood stands (cottonwoods are really big weeds that grow into trees). People are either cutting back trees to regain the mountain views, adding on a new deck, or shoring up their dwindling firewood reserves. Hail to increased productivity.

And hail to playing catch with Son #1 in the yard.

What I most love about summer is the chance to open up the greenhouse, pull out all the gardening tools and roll my hands around in the dirt. Seeing new green shoots peering up, just below the surface, hungry for the sun. Planting lettuce and kale and broccoli. Hovering over my perennials like an over-protective parent: poppies, columbine, forget-me-nots, fiddlehead. All of thine kingdom...Thou shalt thrive!

What I most love is re-greasing my bike chain, pumping up the tires (preparations are therapeutic), and riding six miles into town, with the wind at my back and the sun on my face. this is pure heaven. Motor-less motion.

Time to hang up the snowshoes. Shove the sleds under the deck. Put the skis back into their dark closet.

And say hello to summer.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Are You Enjoying Your Story?

Subtitle: Birthdays, Beers and Bonfires.

Because we all love stories, and because we are ad infinitum creating our own unique histories every blessed day we're gifted to kick up a few stones on this earth, the best we can do is share our stories; and by doing so, we share our precious lives.

SO...while the guys brewed beer on the deck at my house, the girls threw a birthday party for Coral up at her house (over the river and through the woods...kinda; that's how it is in our neighborhood). 

Coral is 7 years old today; a little green shoot growing up right before our eyes; before we could blink, there she was morphed from a baby into a kid, the oldest of four, soon to be five, youngins, who with all their mischievous wildness, are the smartest, most unspoiled (meaning, not over-indulged), delightful and well-behaved children on the planet (IMHO, of course); who will, I might add, grow up to be thoughtful, responsible adults...even amidst the neighborly craziness they have grown up with.

But back to brewing. Did you know that brewing your own beer in this country was an illegal activity until 1984?? 

Yes, really. In fact, another neighbor (one of the elders, who lives over the river and through the woods...kinda) testified before a legislative committee in the early eighties to the effect that home brewing was a noble, creative endeavor that should be enjoyed by law-abiding citizens everywhere. And so it goes...


Double, double, toil and trouble. Fire burn and cauldron bubble. Looks

Meanwhile, over the river and through the woods...kinda, the girls were painting pots, jazzing them up with jewels, playing with new baby chicks (the hit of the party), and collecting grass and moss and twigs to make beautiful, organic art.

Please, allow me... remind you what it felt like to be seven.  When you got your feet all wet and muddy in a creek, and didn't give a hoot about your scuffed-up-dirty new shoes. 

When you skinned your knees on gravel and it really really hurt, but you brushed yourself off and kept right on playing. 

When you twirled and twirled, looking up at the stars and fell down laughing coz you were too dizzy to get back up on your feet. 

When you painted any willing person's face (your own included) with charred pieces of bonfire wood, just for the fun of it. 

It was all good and beautiful. When you were seven.

But the day hadn't ended yet. After the beer brewing, and after the birthday party, adults and kids came from far and wide with dishes of food in their hands, and musical instruments slung over their shoulders to sit around the fire and drink home brews, and sing songs, and just do what friends do. 

Besides, the sun doesn't go down until almost midnight, so you might as well burn the candle from both ends. 

Life is too short not to, if you can manage your own unique way. My husband didn't start playing the harp until he was 50, and he's not that bad to listen to.

And it was meant to be lived with the greatest of passion. Life, that is.

This I learned from once being seven myself.  In a decade, I'll be 70.

And now, I hug the kids a lot, and watch them play so that I'll remember to remain seven years old in my heart. Pick myself up when I fall down. Brush all that grunge-y gravel off my knees, and pour me another beer. Just for the fun of it.

Lastly, I hope you'll watch "Have You Enjoyed Your Story?" 
Patiently. And all the way through. With the volume cranked up.
So you'll remember, too.