Monday, December 30, 2013


Mother's Hand-Antonas Sutkus

This is the yard where babies cry, where kites fly

where a warmly tended vegetable garden grows year after every perfect year

where my three children dug their holes to China (how deep is the world, Mom?)

where they crawled on their bellies in fresh dewy grass, and

glided down the driveway on steel runner sleds, where

they held book sales and set up lemonade stands and saved their money

in pink ceramic piggy banks, where they

fought each other with water balloons and squirt guns and found a way

to climb up to the roof and

then fall down (the first broken bone) and

as my magical powers of triage (both physical and imagined) faded in time

and as I was busy growing deaf (today is my 64th birthday)

they borne their own stars, children of the waterfalls, children of the glitter

children of the elms and the bumblebees.

After the chicken casserole and watermelon and cake, I

lie back in the hammock under a sparkling sun that will never stop shining

so says Amanda, the third of my cherished and adored.

Today is your birthday, Grandma

she kisses my cheek. I curve my arm and pull her closer.

how old are you, again?


that's old, she says, drawing out the "o". Then quiet.

her little brain is thinking, the sound of a spinning hamster wheel

her parents are 32. she is four. I am 64.


I think I just want to be 30. Instead of four.

why's that? I ask.

because I don't want to be little when you die.

*I built this poem around the last line (from an unknown author), with thanks.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Ring In the Bells With Menu

Apple Gorgonzola Salad
Caribou Tenderloin
Chili-Spiced Roasted Acorn Squash
Almond-Chocolate Blondies with Spirited Irish Coffee

It's almost Christmas; heavy blankets of snow are lounging on the trees outside my window (another six inches during the night), and I'm thinking of what to serve for dinner. The plan is to dine early, around one-ish, strap on snowshoes for the  traditional river walk where we break open "light sticks" and hang them on spruce trees. When our cheeks are notably reddened, we hike back home and break open a bottle of wine to redden the cheeks a tad bit more. As daylight fades, from above on our little mountain, we can see the faint yellow and orange glow on the trees in the distance.  

If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.

Ah, yes. J.R.R. Tolkien surely had it right. While thinking of my dinner menu, I came across vintage menu covers, works of art from decades ago when the only people who "ate out" at restaurants were the eccentric and wealthy, well before hot food served on silver platters became, in a sense, democratized, or inexpensive enough for everyone to enjoy. It was in the 1940's and 50's when the American economy, right after the war, was chugging along super well. With the building of interstate highways and a new mobility, plus increased income to spend, independent restaurants began popping up all over the country. To gain a sense of identity, a good deal of money was invested in the design of restaurant menus by artists of the day.

I'm not so sure hamburgers and french fries are all that good for your health (as they claim), but I'm told by a friend in California how her parents found it a treat to take the family to McDonnell's in Los Angeles. Sort of a pre-cursor to the McDonald's empire of today. They reportedly served some of the state's best and freshest fried chicken in the land; their poultry raised right down the road on a 200-acre ranch.

I wish I would have been around to dine at A-Sabella's Fish Grotto in San Francisco. I am a great lover of fresh seafood: stuffed sole with scallops, coconut shrimp with apricot mango sauce. Yum! A-Sabella's also advertised "Italian Style Spaghetti", meaning perhaps, before the average American household used garlic and olive oil in their kitchens, A-Sabella's did, and at their tables, you were getting the authenticity of a real Italian red sauce to cover your choice of pasta.

My, oh my. How about the Ritz? This one was located in Moscow, Pennsylvania which today boasts a population of a lick above 2,000. How did it serve up such a lively "night out on the town" with so few people, well before census takers knocked on our doors?

Was the Ritz a well-kept secret in its day?

I love the 1940's cover.

It reads: "Stop and spend a social hour in harmless mirth and fun.

Let friendship reign. Be just and kind and evil speak of none.

And in the interest of providing clients the best in entertainment, food and drinks, this super-classy club is requesting that each person spend at least $1 for the evening."

Wow! A buck for the whole night? Wonder what that got you besides dancing, naked ladies?

Merriment is indeed, harmless.

Could you imagine dining at the Waldorf-Astoria in 1939?

Here's what they served the Steinways (the famous piano people):

Petite Marmite Henri IV (huh?)

Hearts of Celery (do they beat somewhere in the stalk?)

Crown of Bass Newburg (do they mean just the head?)

Breast of Chicken Montmorency (huh? again)

Black Cherries (I got this one)

New Green Peas (as opposed to old?)

I bet it was the superlative of delicious.

Allow me to ring in the bells with menu as we eat a healthy meal at home. No restaurants to drive to; no traffic, no noise, except the cheesy Christmas tunes we love to play, like Alvin and the Chipmunks:

"Want a plane that loops-de-loop. Me, I want a Hula-Hoop. We can hardly stand the wait. Please, Christmas, don't be late!"

As of this writing, I remember my immediate family of seven, my parents who have passed on, my brothers and sister who live a day's plane ride from my home in Alaska.

And I chuckle, thinking of them.

"The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years, she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found."    -calvin trillin

We never went hungry, though.
There was always good food to share.

Who needs a menu, really?

Sit down with your friends and family and break bread.
And have yourself a very, Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 16, 2013


Eighteen inches of new evidence, snow

Come, walk with me said the river

Walk into my world of monochrome black and white, slow

the day is short and deep

black water strikes below, remember

skating for hours, playing out in the cold?

rocks and sand far under where water used to flow?

Take small steps while the light bends close

smell the dream of distance where water

stops its flow

Sister Winter calls my name

I listen:  oh, exuberant earth 

how sweet the pines, the silent snow 

we walk far off,  far off and away before

darkness, again, strikes down the day.

Quinn doggy on the Eagle River

Monday, December 9, 2013

Knot Tying

Knot Tying

Do you know how to start an avocado plant from a pit?

Treat and prevent food poisoning?

Can you build a successful campfire?

Do you know how to graft fruit, plant an apple tree?

Have you ever canned your own vegetables?
Do you know how to cook and store eggs?

Could you, at this moment, mount and safely ride a horse?

Have you ever used a chain hoist?
How about testing and replacing an electric switch?

If you had to, could you rewire a lamp?

How about design a solar greenhouse?

Have you ever administered pet medication?

I never learned necktie tying or how to needlepoint.

But I can change an oil filter, grow orchids and treat a nosebleed.

Do you know the way things work? 
Do you know about levers and cams and springs and belts?

Are you capable of expertly bleeding a hot-water heater?

Have you ever collected rainwater, got rid of pesky rodents, built a retaining wall?

Are you master at weaving baskets?

Do you know how to eliminate leaks in a faucet? Test and replace a wall switch?

How about the universal calls for help?

If you had to, right now, could you clear a blocked airway, stop heavy bleeding, 
treat a dangerous spider bite?

Do you know how to use gasoline safely, eat with chopsticks, skilfully use a soldering gun?

How about maintaining a car battery? Or darning socks?

Could you survive if snowbound in a car at ten below?

Did you know that laziness can kill you and circumspection could mean your death?

Have you ever read of the way Eskimos used to treat their young 
so they wouldn’t become lazy?

Did you know that monks take a cold shower every morning to 
thoroughly wake themselves up?

Are you aware that things die out by attrition when they are, supposedly, no longer needed?

Could you exist in a different world if your one predictable world

were to disappear?

*art: collage, colored pencils

Monday, December 2, 2013


She served the supper guests, Falsetto's Italiano working 
long hours on her feet, ice flagging the windows

a full house of wine-warmed faces, by midnight

she smelled like warm aromatic bread Bolognese 
seeping from her slim black wait-dress 

with rugged eyes, the chef thrust a plate her way eyed
her legs, watched her fluid spin unravel:

hips shoulders head flowed like an eddy-driven leaf

and when she spoke
a resonant voice, cheap, the bittersweet...when would she leave?
where would she go?

far away from the thick purl of blue ice, snow
perhaps a curl of green ocean, a day job

a place where she could undress in front of a sheer white curtain
that rises up on the breeze of a summer screen door. 

she would miss only this: his handsome language, a language

that sounded uppity and thin, uttered in front of the palate when she spoke it
but his "la bella linqua" rolled slow and low in the back of his throat

and strong
from the cave of his heart

she would go home with him one more night.

her long brown hair would fall all around him and
everything she ever wanted to purge, ambiguous seeds untold

would blow 
away in the cold 

and somewhere else on warm beach sands 

another lover would hold her sore
feet in his trembling hands 

and cradle them softly, like new-sprung birds.

*art: mixed media