Monday, July 16, 2018

Not a Political Animal

I’m seated at a table surrounded by a noisy political environment and wonder what it is about these gatherings that sets me off as an anti-social animal

I’ll read what candidates say, listen to them on newscasts, but seated in a large room with the noise level exploding in my ears feels like an assault

I know that there are folks who love this atmosphere, revel in the excitement, the chance to rub elbows with a candidate— not me

I spend my time checking my watch, wondering why it doesn’t begin when it is supposed to start

So why am I here? Because in a moment of abject weakness I agreed to come when a friend asked. “Let’s pack the hall” she said.

Perhaps the chocolate chip cookies are good.

We have a lawn sign— that’s enough.

Perhaps I should open my mouth and talk to someone.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok

In her anonymity, Hick was cremated. Her ashes sat on a shelf of a funeral home for 20 years before being interred in an unmarked grave at a cemetery in Rhinebeck.
  ———Brooke Hauser

3,300 letters discovered in eighteen boxes—Open and read

Eleanor wrote—I ache to hold you close and describes a place of their own—perhaps a cabin in the country. She even speaks of how it would be furnished.

In time Eleanor moves on— beyond their intimacy, but continues to write.

Hick lost herself in a love that stayed fixed in time waiting for historians to decipher the relationship.

Perhaps all that can be said with assurance was that Eleanor was Hick’s great love. I think of the ashes and the unmarked grave as a tragedy— and I find myself  walking away from Eleanor.

“That might have been the end of Hickok's story if not for Patsy Costello, who worked at the Hyde Park drugstore where Hickok used to buy her newspaper. In 1998 she was inspired to find Hickok's grave after seeing a play produced by Kavars called "Lorena Hickok and Eleanor Roosevelt: A Love Story."
"I thought it was a shame that she would be buried in an unmarked grave," said Costello, who contacted Kavars.
The marker, which will be dedicated May 1, 2000 will call her an "author, AP reporter, activist, change agent and friend of Eleanor Roosevelt."
   L.A. Times

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Back Then

I remember
when open tweed jackets
crisp white button down shirts
and khaki pants
were the formal wear of dykes
Every one in good standing
owned a pair of timberland boots
and a river driver’s shirt
Levi denim jacket, flannel shirt
button front jeans and 501s
I remember when tee-shirts
proclaimed womyn
We wore our politics
cut our hair short
and wore different clothes
Monday to Friday

Friday, July 13, 2018


I open my mailbox
hoping to find a letter
from someone I don’t know
They used to call them pen pals
It gives me a chance to use my ink pen
Jan from South Dakota sends me photos
of hawks, Sue from Montana tells me about
her eleven children, and Joy from a small village
in Western Australia speaks of quiet and barrenness
Once I owned a postal box in another town
where my letters waited until I gathered
them, read them over coffee in a local
bakery and wrote a return letter
Often crumbs from a cruller
dropped into the crease
of  folded  papers

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Open to Judgement

Watching my favorite teams, rooting for victory— not just a lackadaisical fan, but one who feels
tethered to their successes and thrown into a forlorn state when they flounder.

To be a fan is to endure highs and lows, disappointments and euphoria,
moments that straddle the globe and others that sink beneath the seas

I am not a fanatical fan, but I do talk to the television, suggest when to change pitchers,
and second guess coaches

But I’m also a realist and reluctantly accept that we can’t win every game, take home the trophy every year—

Sometimes I fear that I am a fair weather fan.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

A Quick Look

     What she wants to do if she can get the time to do it,
      is not so much to live in the past
      as to open it up and get one good look at it.
            —Alice Munro

She took the past out of a wood chest
examined it for clues, turned it inside out,
hung it over a clothesline to freshen up
It still carried a scent in a pocket
and a grass stain she no longer recalled
Then she remembered and folded up the past—

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

An Interpretation

We unroll a person’s scroll of life
and read markings, short hand
notes, parts erased, and others
highlighted, underlined
This is not a linear document
Some areas show a hesitant mark
while others buried beneath
a Chiaroscuro panorama
open up to a myriad of tellings

Monday, July 09, 2018

The Last Letter

Decades ago I moved from a cramped apartment to a bi-level house in Silver Spring, Maryland. We lived  on a street that ended in a dirt lot —so no through traffic. My son was almost three. His sister was born two months after we moved. My first next door neighbor loved cleaning her house and often spent hours defrosting the refrigerator and washing the kitchen floor.

Within several weeks I became friends with Bonnie — originally from Pueblo, Colorado, Miriam from New York City, Jean ( Mother Earth) from Chicago, and Nancy from Georgia. There were others— many from the Deep South.

Early on I learned that neighborhood Bible studies were available for mothers, for couples, for seekers, for dyed in the wool Christians, and even for our local Holy Rollers. The only Holy Roller I came to know was a woman who came from Ohio and spoke in tongues. She willingly gave out booklets on how to access speaking in tongues.

Shortly after my daughter was born the cleaning fanatic next door put her house up for sale and a couple with four boys purchased the house. Tom was in the navy— pretty high up in rank. Tom and Anna met growing up in the Mississippi delta. Being neighborly I brought over a pitcher of ice cold lemonade and chocolate chip cookies— or perhaps they were lemon cookies. Moving in the summer with the heat was a test.

It didn’t take too long for a friendship to begin. Anna had a maple table in her kitchen with two benches and two captain chairs. Every afternoon she would sit down with her guitar and play and sing folk songs and hymns. Because we both had small children, an interest in literature, and a love of folk music, it didn’t take long before we became friends.

On hot afternoons the two little ones often napped in the same house. Anna kept a pitcher of Tang out on a picnic table and I had a pitcher of water outside. The neighborhood was filled with youngsters and over the five years they lived next door her boys, my son, and six other boys became a tight knit group. The Tang and water remained outside during the summer— it cut down on in and out.

Only Jean never cared if the crew trooped into her house. She baked and fed everyone. Her h9me and kitchen remained open and inviting.

Several of the women formed a group to “baby sit” and give mothers a day off. I took a silk screen course at a museum, made my own screen, and turned out 16 “ x 20” posters or landscapes.

Often Anna and I took off the same day and went hiking in the woods or on some of the Appalachian Trail. Jean joined us the Saturday we all climbed Old Rag Mountain.

That first year I was invited to join a morning Bible Study. Everyone in that study came from the south— and still spoke with a distinct drawl. I had been part of book clubs ( formed one on Ainsley Road), but my New York City upbringing hadn’t prepared me for a serious Bible study. Everyone believed the same thing— everyone prayed aloud and someone gave what I later found out was Testimony. Nancy spoke about what Jesus had done in her life the past week.

I was the fish out of water—although I did own a RSV hard cover Bible. Anna came over that afternoon for tea and a challenge— read the Bible from the first word to the last. So I did— I studied the Word under her tutelage. I also went to several tent type meetings where calls were made to accept Jesus.

Three years after accepting the challenge I was baptized in a D.C. Presbyterian Church along with a young woman from Gallaudet College. Anna gave me a black leather King James Bible. I followed Anna’s penchant for outlining words in black India Ink and writing in the smallest script in the margins.

In five years Tom’s time was up and they moved— but we kept up a letter writing correspondence of two or three letters a week. We both read through all of Melville’s novels and exchanged commentary. Anna was taking an MFA. I had gone back to teach.

We met once or twice a year— often to take a course. Poetry at Hope College. Over the years Anna became more and more conservative and a strict fundamentalist. And I became a more liberal Christian.

Despite this difference— which we agreed was a topic, one of many, we could no longer discuss, we never truly lost contact.

When Tom retired from the Navy they bought a piece of a mountain in North Carolina. In time three of their boys built their homes on that mountain. They each had large families and home schooled their youngsters.

I called her faith fanatical and she prided herself on being a fanatic for Christ. Over time we whittled down the topics that were safe and the time between letters stretched in to months and then yearly.

Two years ago cancer took Tom’s life.

I wrote a long overdue letter at the beginning of June and wrote about Gay Marriage and Abortion — two topics that may at some point come up in the now conservative Supreme Court. Those were two of the topics we agreed to never discuss since we stood at the far end of each pole. In the letter I noted that she might not answer the letter.

Today a letter came, but not with her return address. Inside the envelope— Anna’s funeral bulletin and a five page single spaced letter. Michael, her youngest son, spoke about some of his memories— sparse since he was six when they moved. Anna never had a chance to read the letter. Michael responded to some of my letter— although acknowledging that he didn’t quite know exactly what she might say.

Dear Anna— your belief in every word of the Bible, your anti- abortion and anti- gay marriage stand put us at opposite ends of this debate. You believed fully and deeply— perhaps almost fanatically. But it was you who introduced me to the Bible and to the story that continues beyond the Hebrew Scriptures. Some of what I recall of our friendship — the long talks over tea, collecting pieces of wood, taking a carload of six youngsters to Montreat,North Carolina. And one memory that stands out was going to Harper’s Ferry on Easter Morning and listening to a group singing Amazing Grace.

Despite our differences— and despite that letters were trimmed to once a year, I shall miss you

 Michael wrote that the whole family of your four boys, their wives, and thirty-two grandchildren all sang hymns to you as you moved from this world to the other—

Peace be with you—I know that you are rejoicing.
As you often quoted —God restores the years of the locust.


Sunday, July 08, 2018

To Open Up a Dialogue

Take care with your words
They carry unseen ballast
tilting things awry

Saturday, July 07, 2018

To My Friend

is this the forty-second year
i wish you a happy birthday
still much remains the same
we call and sing happy birthday,
off tune and tinny
we find out what you want
and wrap it in colorful paper
you choose a restaurant
and on this night we indulge in dessert—
these are comfortable rituals
to open and close the day

Friday, July 06, 2018

A gift

After the rain drenched the ground with a furious assault it sputtered and gave way to a blue sky. Perfect for our last lobster at Thurston’s Lobster Pound where the art of cooking a lobster is indeed an art. I love cracking the hard shell and extracting the meat.

It doesn’t matter if juice runs through my fingers or an occasional open cut happens in the pursuit of claw meat. What matters is indulging in the gift of the sea.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

An Open Life

       God weaves your destiny
       from your choices.
               —Rhoda Lerman.  God’s Ear

Each fork in the road
or response to another
creates a story

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

4th of July Parade

Despite the heat we managed to find an open bench in the shade. The usual spit polished fire trucks led off the festivities.

Two floats were worth the wait and heat— a truck festooned in Pride rainbows and a  float with a sign that read President Pinocchio and a paper mache  puppet with an elongated nose.


Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Drawing Cairns on Cadillac Mountain

In the winter i dream of sitting on a mountain and sketching rocks and boulders 
In my mind’s eye i trace each crack and fissure —the way lines meander and darken
Without touch i feel the rough exterior, each indent, and every raised area
Without names i name the green shapes that grow on each rock 
Today i sit on a flat rock and draw cairns
Today i wrestle shapes to sit solidly, to rest their heft on another
Today i give out names, rub my hand across each rock
Today i open myself to the hardness of rock—the softness of shape
Today i listen to the wind that surrounds 

Monday, July 02, 2018

A New Vista

Walk a loop trail in the opposite direction and everything looks strange. Familiar landmarks seen from an altered perspective present a different view. That face in the tree stares across the path and ignores my passing.

We took the left fork instead of the right and everything changed—the incline steeper, the rocks leaning toward the water, and the place we usually stop and sit disappeared.

To walk a different path
and see a new landscape
is an open invitation
to see the world in a new light

Sunday, July 01, 2018

Directions on How to Draw a Wave

the highest point
to spot
the curvature—
a ballerina
her position
before a grand jeté
the open
of spindrift
when it spatters
at the underbelly
of a wave
to understand
its contour
its unique
in pen
and ink

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Citing the Bible

       The tent of our forefather Abraham
       had four doors, so anyone could enter;
       no matter where he came from.
                  —Rhoda Lerman

In Genesis 18, we find Abraham sitting in front of his tent, which  tradition tells us was open on all sides so  that he could welcome strangers coming from any direction.
      — Howard Schwartz

today we held signs, listened to speakers, marched, applauded those who urged us to implore our government to unite children separated from their parents at the border

in a small town a crowd gathered around a bandstand and listened
some sat on the grass, most stood, and a few brought lawn chairs
handmade signs
a few flags
some buttons
a psychologist spoke about separation anxiety facing those children

a little girl with a floppy pink hat sat on the grass playing with a toy —unaware that there were people all over this country gathered, unaware of why they held handmade signs or listened to speakers

then the little girl with the floppy pink hat stood up, turned around and for a fleeting moment didn’t spot her mother

the speaker continued speaking, but over her voice we heard a small child’s voice— mommy, mommy, mommy—

Friday, June 29, 2018

Standing at Schoodic Point

ocean waves gather
open up
and then retreat and begin again

I listen to the ocean’s
crescendo, sweep
of melody
a hymn in unison
to Creation

Thursday, June 28, 2018

A Rainy Day Has It’s Own Tempo

a rainy day requires planning, creativity,  rain gear, and a willingness to go with the proverbial flow which is what we did today— starting with gearing up with umbrellas, hiking boots, rain coats and a quasi plan which was open to alterations on the fly

we walked when the rain was merely a drizzle
stopped in a tea shop and bought some tea

to say that a good part of the day involved eating and purchasing is not an understatement, but how could we consider a trip to acadia without a pita filled with endamame , garbanzo beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, scallions, carrots, avocados, swiss cheese for lunch and an afternoon mint chocolate chip frozen yogurt

eat-a—pita  is located thirty minutes away and we drove there in a decent but not pelting rain

walking from the car to our pita meant drowning in a deluge that left puddles inches deep and ten year old raincoats unable to ward off the raindrops

my socks dried in the car
dorothy’s raincoat was declared a disaster

we discovered a store with a small cache of books that rivaled any selection seen in larger stores
 each book was intriguing, well written—and became an addition to a list of want to reads
according to the owner she alone selected each book which elicited a list of unasked questions:
 did she read all these books
did she refer to reviews for some selections
did she have a list of criteria for her selection
the owner did not appear as someone who would welcome intrusive questions about her book reading habits so i merely noted that her selections were wonderful and she politely said “thank you”

 it was a store that catered to quirky likes
whimsical art postcards
small ceramic vases with no particular purpose save aesthetic delight
notebooks for people who love good paper

we found a spot facing the ocean and read while surrounded by maine’s ethereal mist
when it stopped raining long enough to walk we walked

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

An Open Shell Remains

To eat a lobster
small feelers, claws, body, and tail—
is pure ecstasy

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

A Walk Around Jordan Pond

Birch trees hanging over the water
Trees felled by beavers
Beaver teeth markings
A band of green water
Darker water beyond the green
Pond water flowing around rocks
Clear water flowing over rocks
A place to sit and eat a bar
Shadows across the path
Sun spots flashing on the open water
Unidentified Bird sounds
Paths leading up mountains
Four miles

Monday, June 25, 2018

Open a Book

Years ago Cambridge sported a number of bookstores, but over the years the numbers dwindled. I remember used bookstores selling books and old postcards, foreign language bookstores, and one bookstore that sold beautiful art and photography books.

I recall an old house converted into a bookstore in Wellesley. In Sudbury a woman who grew up in China—the daughter of missionaries—converted the downstairs of her house into a bookstore. If you purchased a book she noted the date, book name, your name, and cost in a large ledger. Her cash register was a tin box and the license on her car said: BOOKS  I. I don’t recall her name, but I know she introduced me to  Peter Elbow’s writing theories.

Today we drove down to one of my favorite bookstores—Bluehills Bookstore. It , too, is located in a renovated house. The owner has one of the best non-fiction sections. Because the space is limited each book carries its own weight.

I always purchase a book and write down a list of must reads.

Here’s my list:

Feel Free  by Zadie Smith

Black ink  edited by Stephanie Stokes Oliver

What are You Doing Here by Marilynne Robinson

A History of  the World in 6 Glasses  by Tom Standage


Sunday, June 24, 2018

Open Waters

I sit on the rocks
and watch the ocean wander
toward the shoreline

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Steamed into Perfection

A lobster is a work of art, multifaceted, talented, and tasty. As soon as I crack open the shell and glimpse the meat —I know that I am about to partake in the most delectable culinary delight.

Friday, June 22, 2018

We All Stand Under the Same Umbrella

I hold words in my palm,
place them down—
Grass beneath my feet, wind
at my back, gusts and breezes
A rain water shower,   oceans, rivers,
 streams, puddles—
Naming cloud shapes, vines and weeds,
wild flowers, mountain tops,
mesas and rolling hills
Spirit filled, an open book
An invitation to stand in awe