Thursday, August 31, 2017

#BlogElul Day 9: See

                        Choosing to See

    the first time i looked up at a new mexico sky i marveled at the immensity of blue, at night i stood in awe beneath so many stars and in daytime i walked amid canyons that dwarfed me and watched the sun bathe the orange and red hoodoos until they turned into fire-bright colors
    we walked down bright angel trail deep into the grand canyon and stopped and watched a hummingbird flutter mid-air as if hanging from an invisible gossamer thread
    i spread my fingers, placed my hand against the rocks—up against the layers of sandstone, mudstone, and limestone--my handspan covers millions of years
    if I stop and look at a pebble, a leaf, the way the bark on a tree creates a pattern, water moving in a river, the ocean foam, dewdrops on a blade of grass…i see creation spread out


Wednesday, August 30, 2017

#BlogElul Day 8: Hear

Listening hard
means hearing
the sense
behind the words 
To hear someone
you need to put away
the reply before
you hear their words
To truly hear what is said
quiet down, breath
and don’t cut in

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

#BlogElul Day 7 :Understand

Unwritten Letter

I don’t understand quantum physics
and I squeaked by in calculus 
I can’t figure out directions
that come in boxes assuring me
that with only a screwdriver
I can put together an item with
too many pieces that look alike
I do understand how to solve 
a crossword puzzle, how to cook ratatouille,
how to write a poem, how to read a poem
how to photograph the dew on a leaf,
how to teach a class, yet
I do not understand your silence
If we could meet over a pizza
or share a glass of white wine
and a plate of gourmet cheese
and talk about words— those 
said and those unsaid
Perhaps we could find
new words to understand
the torn places, to repair
with new words

Read more »


Monday, August 28, 2017

#BlogElul Day 6: Want


      I’ve been taking a number of online art courses and whenever the artist demonstrates  the art materials they use, I  find that I am drawn to some item I’ve never used. This is something that affects a number of people. You hear people say, “ I love art supplies.” There is something alluring about new paints, different pencils, a sketchbook you’ve never used, and an ink pen that you think you need—despite owning handfuls of disposable pens and seven different fountain pens with differing nibs. Perhaps I think that the new item will result in a better sketch, a painting that is exponentially superior to anything I’ve done before. 
      This same “want” kicks in with books, especially when I find that I can get the book used. However, if the book is available at the library I’m willing to go that route. 
      This penchant for new art supplies or another  book doesn’t spill over into desiring new clothes, or baubles. It is quite specific. Maybe I can reach a point where I cease buying any new art supplies until I become fully acquainted with what I have on my shelves. 

Sunday, August 27, 2017


Peace Be With You
And with you
And with you

#BlogElul Day 5: Accept

The Past

Can you accept yesterday
and the day before, last year
and the year before

Can you accept the words said,
the words unsaid, the hand that
didn't reach out, the time you
didn't speak up

Can you accept asking
for forgiveness

Saturday, August 26, 2017



      Observant Jews read Psalm Twenty-Seven every day of the month leading up to the Jewish High Holy Days. 
      Some Christians use assigned Psalms when praying the Daily Office.
      Some Psalms are set to music.
      “ The Taize Community of France has developed a series of simple Psalm settings for daily worship.”
Psalms for worship, for meditation,  for reflection —  ancient and contemporary.
So why not write a Psalm
Poets Discuss Psalms

#BlogElul. Day 4: Choose

To Decide

If I choose only those times
when the path contained
few stumbling blocks,
stones, pebbles, gritty sand
then I fool myself

Choosing to uncover what
stays below the surface
means staring at cracks
and fissures
and then beginning the repair

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Art of Brickwork

They tamp down the dirt
smooth it with a trowel 
and place each brick
shoulder to shoulder
The Egyptians
laid grid work
to keep their lines straight
Today three men
spread rock dust
to fill the spaces
Then they water
the bricks under the 
gaze of the sun

#BlogElul Day 3: Prepare

   Too Long a Wait

Do you prepare for those days 
or are these days the preparation
for the days ahead 
Who have I offended 
Who have I snubbed
Who have I carried from year to year
still waiting to hear my words 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Trash Revolution

     Our town has received new extra large deep blue recycling trash cans — ninety- five gallon capacity. These behemoth objects line the streets every day waiting for a mechanical hand to tip them into a waiting truck. No doubt this is progress. The size of the containers  presents certain camouflage problems. Where do you hide these bins? How do you discreetly put them out of sight? 
     If the trash folks ever decide to alter this new venture I can suggest one option for used containers. This has the potential for becoming a blockbuster idea. Turn them into large pots for trees. Just Wheel the tree to whatever location needs shade. Imagine a neighborhood of tree pulling people dragging their tree to a meet and greet get together. At least it would get them off the street.

#BlogElul Day 2: Search

A Search for Understanding

If you dig a hole 
and plant a flower
weeds will grow 
alongside blooms.
It's the way
of living things. 
If you pluck the weeds
know that the empty  
spots will need seeds.
Prepare the ground
scratch beneath 
the top layer
add loam
sprinkle fertilizer
water generously
Without water 
seeds wither
Even if you hold
them up to the sun,
it may be too late

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

To Forgive

We all harbor words said,
phrases uttered,
comments made,
looks that told a story,
a litany waiting to be heard
But forgiveness requires
the other to sit a moment,
and listen

#BlogElul Day 1: Act

The month of Elul is a month for introspection, for mending relationships, for writing unsent letters to those who are no longer alive. This list of prompts was created by a Rabbi Phyllis Sommer. While I no longer celebrate the High Holy Days, I find that taking the month to write about and think about those people with whom I may need to mend fences is a spititual exercise.


Did I act without thinking?
Did I not listen
or listen without
hearing what was said?
Did I gossip?
Did I spread a story,
tell a tale?
Did I tell the truth?
Did I aggrandize?
Do I owe you an apology?
Do I need to write an unsent letter?
God forgives,
but I need to also ask forgiveness
when I step on someone's toes,
or bend the truth, or forget
to hear what is said.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

It's a Fungus Not Fall

Brown leaves with black spots
drop from my neighbor’s tree
They ignore the wood fence
separating our property 
and pile up on the grass
until it looks like autumn
in August

Monday, August 21, 2017

Friends Went to See the Eclipse

     We didn't go to Oregon to see the total eclipse. We never tried to get tickets for a Red Sox post season game. We haven’t seen Hamilton on Broadway. We don’t go to restaurants that have small portions and high prices. We haven’t roamed in Montmartre nor visited Budapest or Vienna. In fact we never left the states, never took a cruise.
      We’ve roamed in red and orange canyons, hiked in Maine, climbed  mountains, ate gorp on trails, sat on rocks overlooking the ocean, ate lobsters in the rough, collected polished stones while walking at Point Reyes, observed sneaker waves, walked where Butch Cassidy hung out, attended a dance at an American Indian reservation’s festival, and roamed around outdoor art fairs.
     Differences are great. 

Sunday, August 20, 2017


Peace be with you
And with you
And with you

Saturday, August 19, 2017

A Response to the Neo-Nazis

Forty thousand marched
shoulder to shoulder
 to speak out
to counter hate
to say not here

Friday, August 18, 2017

The View of Creation

Think of how the sun 
shines down on everyone
How the wind sings
and the sea murmurs
to all who listen
How the night
sends a shawl to darken
the earth for each person

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Maybe I'll Write a Novel

Once upon a time is a beginning. It’s neutral, simply says that at a point in time this particular story began. And this story is connected to other stories, other plots and digressions. This story dances off the page pursuing its own beginning. Once you think you've found the first incident then memory kicks in and points to an earlier beginning. No, you say, that belongs to another plot. But memory says you're wrong.
Then you may be on a fence about telling the story, afraid of embellishing it, staring it down,or even acknowledging the events. 
How about embedding the tale in a fictional vehicle? 
      When did it begin and why is it important to tell?
      Ah. A conundrum.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017


In his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, Elie Wiesel said, “We must always take sides.”

Remember when kids took someone's hat and tossed it back and forth playing keep away
      Remember how you liked to have your friends sit at your lunch table and there was always some kid roaming around with a lunch tray and nowhere to sit
      Remember how everyone received an invitation to your birthday party because your mother insisted that you couldn't leave anyone out
      Remember how someone picked the kid who couldn't catch a ball to be on their team
      Remember how some people take sides and some sit on the sidelines

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

If they Lived Here

They Don’t Live Here

To my black grandson—how safe would you be with your hoodie and beautiful braided hair?
To my Asian granddaughter— how comfortable would you be in our country?
To my Native American/ Mexican granddaughter—would our government question your right to live here?

Elijah, would the haters hear you sing and listen to the beauty of your voice?
Phuntsho, would they read your poetry and marvel that English is your second language.
Zara, would the haters see your paintings and recognize your talent?

Our country is not a safe place for diversity. 

Monday, August 14, 2017


You know it’s not the best for you
but it’s summer and fries and a burger
balanced on your lap with half squeezed
Ketchup packets resting on the dashboard
and the fries balanced between the two seats
while you sit in your car  listening to a Red Sox game
reminds me of the time we stopped in a small town 
in Wyoming because they had a restaurant that advertised
the best strawberry and raspberry frozen treat
and it was so good that we backtracked the day
we left to see the bisons at Yellowstone
 to get one more cup and eat in the car and feel
divinely blessed the way I felt on the way driving
 out to Hope College and stopping to eat at roadside
diners where slices of apple pie were a hand span wide 
and all the dishes were called specials and onion rings
shaped like doughnuts came stacked like the leaning tower
but nothing compared to the footling hotdogs 
in the mountains of North Carolina 
or the watermelon seed spitting contest
after eating a meal of chicken, corn on the cob,
a buttered roll and an ice cream sized scoop 
of mashed potato served outside as a fundraiser 
for a church in a  town in New York
where I went to learn how to write 
the emotional truth of a poem
and instead found a breakfast place 
where the farmers drank mud black coffee 
and spoke about a new John Deere tractor 
to replace one that had been held together 
with baling wire and prayer
I learned to listen to stories,and look for that emotional 
truth which differs from the plain truth, 
or the facts that just follow
one another in a straight line 
until they arrive at an ending point
Once you understand what that 
means you pursue that truth
as best you can and I know I’ve got stories to tell
 and poems to write
Poems that sit in my hand 
and wait just the way you wait for bread to rise 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

An ABC of Quotes for these Times

Maya Angelo: Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible.

Gwendolyn Brooks: We are each other's magnitude and bond.

G.K.Chesterton: Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.

John Donne: Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Ralph Waldo Emerson:  Be an opener of doors.

Tu Fu :                                                       One day soon,
          At the summit, the other mountains will be
          Small enough to hold, all  in a single glance

Nikki Giovanni:    Ain’t they got no shame?

Langston Hughes:          That Justice is a blind goddess
                                        Is a thing to which we black are wise:
                                        Her bandage hides two festering sores
                                        That once perhaps were eyes.

Henrik Ibsen:  The spirit of truth and the spirit of freedom - these are the pillars of society.
James Joyce:  I am tomorrow, or some future day, what I establish today. I am today what I established yesterday or some previous day.

Jane Kenyon:          Let it come, as it will, and don’t          
                              be afraid. God does not leave us
                             comfortless, so let evening come.

C.S.Lewis : The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts.

Marianne Moore: There never was a war that was not inward; I must fight till I have conquered in myself what causes war.

Pablo Neruda:  You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep spring from coming.

Mary Oliver :To   live in this world, you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go.

Marge Piercy :Let the silence still us so you may show us your shining
                  And we can out of that stillness rise and praise.

Salvador Quasimodo: Poetry is the revelation of a feeling that the poet believes to be interior and personal which the reader recognizes as his own.

Muriel Rekeyser : The world is made of stories, not atoms.

William Stafford: I have woven a parachute out of everything broken.

J.R.R. Tolkien: It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.

Miguel de Unamuno: You are waiting for my words. You know me well, and know I cannot remain silent for long. Sometimes, to remain silent is to lie, since silence can be interpreted as assent.

Andrei Voznesensky:In my land and yours they do hit the hay
                                             and sleep the whole night in a similar way.

                                              There's the golden Moon with a double shine.
                                                It lightens your land and it lightens mine.

Emanuel Xavier :It was a gay priest who read last rites
                               to firefighters as towers collapsed

William Butler Yeats: Take, if you must, this little bag of dreams, Unloose the cord, and they will wrap you round.

Roger Zelazny: Even a mirror will not show you yourself, if you do not wish to see.

Saturday, August 12, 2017


When hate marched
with lit torches 
through the streets 
of Charlottesville, Virginia
and let out a cacophonous
uproar spewing odious words 
into the night air
the ghosts of the past

Friday, August 11, 2017

To Search for that Backcountry

     The spiritual life, in my experience, is a matter
     of moving ever deeper into backcountry,
     both literally and figuratively.
       Belsen C. Lane

I never really spent time in the backcountry,
but I hiked up mountains,sometimes
steep inclines left me breathless 
Perhaps I'll dream of Katahdan tonight
or Old Rag and recall the cadence
of one step after another
as I entered a holy space

Thursday, August 10, 2017

A Primer

     What happens when two individuals who know no bounds keep escalating a dangerous situation? I read the newspaper, listen to the words, and wonder if there’s any way to shut down the incendiary talk. Words do matter. Body language does matter. Walking on thin ice always means the possibility of a crack.
     A crack may be more than words. It may shatter the surface and cause cataclysmic results.  We have moved way beyond wars fought by the Calvary. We don’t need anyone using words as barbs, threatening, and indulging in dramatic bravado.
     There are others who know history and recognize that diplomacy is far more prudent. It appears that it is easier to wear the mantle of a bellicose leader than to shoulder the responsibilities of a diplomat.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

A Club and a Ball

     When I first started playing golf I anticipated that with practice I’d improve game by game, but golf is a humbling game. Humbling year after year. Now decades later I have noticed a considerable improvement over those first games, but my learning curve was/ is slow. Sometimes I want to shout—look at that, I did that. Other times I regress and the ball slithers along the grass.
     Perhaps because it is up and down, good shots, pars, balls lost in the woods, in the water, stuck in the bunker—and then a beautiful long drive with a aesthetic arc, a long putt that inches into the cup— you keep coming back. 

     Intermittent reinforcement keeps me playing yet another game.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

A Different Sabbath

This week I’m declaring Tuesday as a peculiar Sabbath. This means a blog day off. As for what faith group celebrates Tuesday — I don’t know, but in the history of the world I’m certain that some group selected Tuesday. 

Monday, August 07, 2017


piles of books unread
drawings not done
calls not made
creating must do lists
with check off boxes
waiting for tomorrow
to read a new book
sketch downtown 
make a call
check a box
for an undone task

Sunday, August 06, 2017

The Sabbath

Peace Be With You.
And you
And you

     Yesterday I watched a clip about a drive in church service held in a large open field that once was a drive in theatre --like a tent service without the tent or seats. On your way in you received what looked like a closed Dixie icecream cup and a piece of paper with, I learned later, the words to a hymn and the program.
      Once the cars settled down the minister, whose words were heard over a radio station, exhorted his flock to turn their lives over to the Lord. At some point everyone sang the hymn. Then it was communion time and for those who were new the minister explained how to free the small finger nail size cracker from the container. After that was consumed everyone opened the cup and drank the grape juice.
       Then a man in a golf cart drove around and collected the empty cups. About ten minutes after it began the cars turned around and left.
        I wonder how many of those parishioners find their way to a brick and mortar church or how many are saved.
       And if you want to get out of your car and say hello to other folks you can go to the concession stand and enjoy doughnuts.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

To Be An Artist

Fill a wide brush
with green paint—
not an ordinary shade
 but one that imitates
a handful of grapes
or the guacamole 
you ate in Mexico
Fill a sheet as wide as
your outstretched arms
with the greens 
of a forest 
Now add flowers
Paint them boldly
so their scent dances
Let each bloom find
it's own shape
Walk around the paper
until you find an animal,
a galaxy, a place
on a map and add a line
and then another until
you tease it out 
Your world waits to see
itself in lines and shapes,
with colors that talk hip-hop 
or slide like the notes
of a saxophone riff

Friday, August 04, 2017

A Möbius Strip

Caught on the inside
Thrown to the outside 
and then hanging 
onto the rim 
with no way 
to get off
I have traveled 
round and round
on a painted horse
until the music stopped
and the wood 
figures froze
I sang “Here we go round
the mulberry bush..."
before I knew
it as a prison song
Caught on the inside
with no way
to get out

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Remembering a Climb

Climbing on rungs 
straight up the rock face—
and my legs couldn’t 
stretch to the next rung
without a friendly tug 
to get me moving.
Half way up and I wondered 
why I started up.
When we arrived at the top 
I knew why