Friday, December 12, 2014

Cold Blue Steel

The days are short in mid December.

You have to chase light, what little of it is left to catch. 

But without sun there is drama,

a pull to water and sky,

the frosted tips of dead-still trees and bent, frozen grasses.  

At first glance, you think, there’s so much emptiness here. 

As if colorless is akin to depression, a voided wasteland. 

There is noise, daily noise not far away on a highway of commuters. 

There are voles, scurrying under snow mounds, trying to punch out a living here. 

Moose tracks. Your dog in a perpetual zig-zag of ground sniffing

Hoar frost. Old wooden beams. Steel.

You wait for the thunder of a train to rummage steel tracks over the frozen river. 

But your fingers and toes won’t wait long; the hairs in your nose freeze. 

Despite first impressions, there is life in cold places.

Power. Noise. 

And silence.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Winter Moth

Winter Moth

A deranged sky, late November

Raindrops glisten the limbs of trees

Snow, the impossible dream

Archives of winter under my skin.

Let's stay in tonight

Lay back the quilt, olives

A glass of cold beer

Let old leaves tell the story

They know the truth

What ripens late, what

A hurdle the change

From brown to white

What a hurdle the change 

From brown to white, wingless

Warm winter, a newly-splendored thing.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Sun. Stone. Sky

    Annie Leibovitz

These pastels, handmade by the late painter, Georgia O'Keefe, were colored with ingredients found in the local landscape at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico.

Everyday on my walk from the casa to the ranch's dining hall for supper, I see these colors in hills and stones and sky. Everyday I am left breathless with the majesty of the natural world.

    Casa del Sol

Indulging in true creativity requires empty time and empty space. In those spaces of time, where the land creates a quickening in your heart, writing and drawing and painting leap forth like kenneled dogs, yearning to be set free. 

The pinks and oranges and purples stun the senses, appearing quickly, then disappearing; an ethereal show in the sky perfect to paint in pastels and acrylics. 

I'm always the first one in line at the dining hall, to have supper at 5:30, because the walk back to the Casa is 2 miles. Light changes quickly, creating shadows and colors that flutter like hummingbirds, present for a few moments, then gone. I have to hurry to get home before dark, before the whole show packs up and readies itself for the next day's performance. Nature really is performance art...wouldn't you agree?

Sometimes I just can't believe my own eyes. As Mary Oliver said: I am a bride married to amazement. My greatest indulgences are innocent:  color, shadow, light, stones, sky, sun, dirt, texture, and all sorts of creatures, both great and small.

I have lost myself, dwelling in Them.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

You know how I like barbed wire

You know how I like barbed wire, how it twists
    Around old wood

How fenceposts lean; how I like to find a good place
To sit down on the sandstone

A mouse ran up the stone, sat right next to me
Whiskers flicking

"Do you know the tall and the dark under?" it said.
"No, I don't think so," I said.

"Just wait. You'll see."

I wonder: are we having a dialogue on the dead, here?

I  hear a hawk screech, or is it
An owl?

Under my feet are millions of voices, but 
All I hear is this brown mouse

Glancing sidelong and running like hell to
Slip into the shade.

*Photo location: Abiquiu, New Mexico

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

It's Time to Say Au Revoir (to summer)

Watery memories of summer, sun streaked and showy
the texture of perfect loveliness

the sea's desire a kind of praise
a creature of summer, herself, rounded

and full, the roll of her hips
the twirl of her hand

water, kelp, mountain, leaf
like a jazz dancer

adorned in improvisations
of quickened light and color and movement,

she glides away casually without looking back
ventures behind a moon of blue and

sways to the decaying tune of September.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Side roads: Marquette, Michigan

    house on Front Street, North

Side Roads

we could rent a sailboat, coast

smooth stone beaches

gorge on walleye cakes, 

whitefish in the soft shell.

we could stop at a supper club in the trees

drift like clouds,

feel boardwalk heat on our feet.

                   Suzi at the lighthouse

we could doze in screened-in porches

watch the sky topple

lightning flash on the lake,

sleep late.

                                 Jonathan, Lake Superior beach

we could push back the lace curtains

watch rain pound church steps

eat ice cream at the ore docks,

go west, turn left.

    crumbling ore docks

we could eat at an old-fashioned lunch counter,

cherry phosphates and baked

macaroni and cheese

we could hike moss covered rocks in a creek bed

climb 100 steps to a lighthouse

run the sand beaches, free.

    In front of Donckers luncheonette

we could walk the curved shoreline, obscured

fragrant of pine, 

recollecting our youth, we could leave our adulthood far

far away, and behind.

    Lake Superior, the ocean without salt, at Big Bay

Sunday, July 13, 2014

graveyard dredge: a poem

It's hard to think now, how men with their

shovelfuls and boatloads and sideroads mixed

the best color, the good rock, the pay streak, the bedrock.

Get a good look at shafts and rigs and steel hammers slamming

below the camp, beavers damming.

Get a good look at 8 square meters of tailing piles

men febrile and fevered, for miles

filling boxes with tools to reshape iron and wood

boxes of household and

grub, and wide metal tubs 

and the women lugging

ladles and bowls, stokeing wood-burning stoves.

They hauled anything they did not fear to lose, except

fingers and toes, 

 a man's body sliced in half

under pressure and hose.

Dead men, like dozers 

driving steam into frozen muck.

Get a good look at men, black-faced with grease

skin drawn tight against bone

scarred by an iron bucket's icy stones.

The dredge monster is asleep now

all rust and bones.

 So much required to pursue their desire

this great force, gold, like a god.

riches flowed

Women drank mint tea from thin rimmed cups

and men, with their restless hands and drunk injury

pierced the ground and staked fortunes,


with their blood.

*Poem and photos originated at Coal Creek Mine on the Yukon River during a writing workshop with poet, fiction writer and essayist, Gretel Ehrlich.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Go Where The Trail Takes You

    Point A: Matt & Susan's cabin near Gunsight Mountain

The author-illustrator, Tomi Ungerer said, name your destiny's destination. We didn't have a specific Point B on our ride across the tundra on the backs of sturdy 4-wheelers; we just knew we were headed into the wild to imbibe the sky and tundra, and explore ancient fossil beds on unnamed creeks along the way. 

So we loaded up tools of the trade: rock picks and hammers, chisels, shovels, and a tool bag to carry our newfound samples. Sack lunches, water, a sense of humor (or two), wiley imaginations, and the willingness to embrace whatever stumbled across our path.

We were searching for prehistoric marine life that lay directly beneath our feet. Here, in the green-covered mountains, we were looking for ancient sea life, as it were.

We followed the trail up and down mountain passes, across rushing creek beds and into the wild, getting all muddied up in the process. Fortunately, we are creatures who take well to the mixing of earth and water and actually enjoy getting exceptionally dirty (as long as there is a shower or claw-foot tub at the end of the day).

    Forget the hair and nails; just take me to the mountains

From the top of Belanger Pass, we hopped off our wheelers, and spinning slowly in place we took in the view of  4 different mountain ranges: the Alaska Range, the Talkeetna Range, the Wrangell-St. Elias Range and the familiar, in our backyard Chugach Mountain Range. 

You can lock your sight on one for a spell and get lost in a daydream of sorts. 

OK. Back to ground level now.

After some bumpy riding over boulders and fumbling with very small turn ratios, we hit the Mother Lode. In an unnamed tributary to Alfred Creek in the Talkeetna Mountains, we found, you might say, decorated stones, or embroidered rocks. Attractive and textured. 

Chip, chip, chop, chop (can you hear our hammers at work?)

Cross-sections of variegated shells, like scallops, mussels and clams unfolded before our eyes. In the base rock of sandstone, we were, quite literally, standing on the beach in our mud boots, in the rain, way the heck out in the green mountains in a place that used to be saltland. Oh, Saltlandia!

Here's what the geologists and other rock fools really die for. Ammonites...the spiral impressions of a prehistoric octopus-like animal in a shell. The only surviving and nearest relative of the ammonite today is the pearly nautilus. Everyone loves the nautilus shell, no?

I swear sometimes I feel like I'm in a science fiction movie.

Whatever your destination, keep your eyes on the path. Go where the trail takes you...

...and take notice of the flowers, though sometimes found in very hard places...

take notice and smell the flowers along the way.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Red Flagged



She hugs her baby, pats his bottom
sets him on the floor, in the center, where
spectators form a ring and watch.

The "experts": social worker, physical therapist
speech pathologist ask his parents
10,000 questions they do not

understand how to answer or
they don’t see the point

of it all.

The experts make marks on reams of paper, scribble
their impressions in the margins, as if

he is a deficiency, weak in his limitations
a flaw of nature

they show him how to roll a ball, blow bubbles
clap his hands in imitation

but his blank eyes stare at a speck on the floor.

The experts gather their papers and toys and
instruments of instruction

the boy’s mother
gathers him in her arms

the stoic father speaks:

We love him like this, the way he is.
He is our bright star in the sky.

We only want he eat Eskimo food
so he can carry us and
bury us in our village when we grow old.

An expert hands the mother a baby food grinder.

This will grind the muktuk, so the whale
can make your baby strong.

Strong enough to carry you and
bury you in the village

when you grow old.

Monday, June 9, 2014

To Breathe and Bend

    M. Devine

(Be) Venerated

Breathe like a baby and soften

Bend in the wind and feather the ground

Become pliable as a young tree

                                          K. Devine

Breathe & recapture what was yours at


Breathe & buy back your one

Beloved life

Breathe: feel the rising & falling like a 

boat on gentle waves

Become a master, spacious & open. feel your

Breath as it is: a golden thread, your connection to life

Buddha would say distance yourself from thought & concentrate on your

Breath. the way you 

Breathe is the way you live.

Become the miracle of pranayama, taking in & giving back

Breathe with the belly like a sleeping baby

Bend in the wind without snapping &

(Be) reborn

                                                   J. Smith

Monday, June 2, 2014

My Army

You should see my favorite people,
You catch a glimpse of gold through their skins.

I walk on air whenever I'm with them,
They're where the happiness begins.

And I'm alright on my own, but with them I'm much better

They're like diamonds and diamonds are forever.

Meet my friend, Lucy, whom I have known for over 30 years. This weekend she threw a great party, Retiredstock, for friends who have retired from their jobs in 2014: teachers, engineers, and artists. At Retiredstock, each retiree crossed the stage when their name was called, and instead of a diploma, Lucy pinned a set of wings to their backs.

They stand taller than giants,        
They outshine all the stars

They are the love above the love
They're my army of fortune,

They win every war
They are the love above the love

After raising kids, and filling our days with meaningful work, here we are, still laughing and loving, open to new adventures and ideas, scheming on the next new hike or art project or interesting place to visit. 

I remember when we were in our twenties, rounding Schooner Bend on the Kenai River; Lucy and I in kayaks, furiously paddling and screaming like we were on an amusement park ride, exhilarated by the fast water. And the kayak trip to Kodiak, when we flew for the first time, in a Widgeon, a small amphibious aircraft that lands on water (without floats, mind you). On the take-down, the belly of the plane set down and bobbed like a cork while mini waves rolled and splashed the airplane's windows.  

Exploring the beautiful waters of the Kodiak archipelago was priceless.  

And no one eats a marshmallow cooked over an open fire quite like Lucy. She savors every morsel in the same way she savors life. With deep enthusiasm, reverence and gratitude for all that is.

Discussing books and politics, sharing stories, creating art, writing, hiking, singing, and playing music; through all the decades of our lives, good friends are the wind under our sails.  

They're a boat when I'm underwater
They tame the sharks and they calm the waves
When I choke they pat my back harder
My load is light, my secrets are safe
And I'm alright on my own but with them I'm much better
They're like diamonds and diamonds are forever

I wonder where I would be today without that handful of friends that have given me a heart full of joy.

They stand taller than giants,
They outshine all the stars
They are the love above the love
They're my army of fortune,
They win every war
They are the love above the love

Listen to "Army" by Boy. With our friends we're much better. They're like diamonds, and diamonds are forever.