"We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike." ~Maya Angelou

Friday, January 19, 2018

Poem: A Voice In The Night

Snuggled into warm flannel sheets,
easy breaths, releasing tiredness,
falling quickly into hazy dreams,
shadowed pathways, faces
overexposed, the cry of a hawk.

Muffled voices at a distance, lights,
a place not quite remembered,
the face of an old friend, turning,
and then, clear as any bell,
my NAME.

I am instantly awake....
supremely present, listening,
still as stone, vulnerable;
something brushes the wall
outside, and moves on. Okay.

Throwing back the covers,
I grab a robe, pad about, checking,
nothing is amiss. I glance outside,
checking for...what? Something.
Sweet Mother Of God!

Clear sky, black as a bear's coat,
with stars scattered widely
in constellation; bright air
and the shimmering, spangled
universe, calling me out of sleep.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Poem: The Forest Is

Saturday, in the place that once was forest,
stepping out of warmth into early, fierce cold,
I stand surrounded by starkly empty space
where, once, dark oaks rose overhead.

I stumble across this rough-shorn space,
full of scars and tatters of trees; something
small and furtive startles and scuttles away.
One brave bird opens its throat and sings.

The exposed chalet huddles close to earth,
 I wander the labyrinth of the missing,
hands open, stirring the air, awakening to
the great presence which inhabits this space.

I pause, before stepping up to stand on
a circle of trunk, nearly three feet across.
Unexpectedly, a flood of life pours through me,
the roar of Everlasting, from deep within the earth.

Let go the burden of your grief –it seems to say-
We are many and we are one. We are
here, growing and infinitely connected.
Open that fist and close your eyes, breathe...

look beyond sight and know us to be alive.
Sit here in our arms and open to newness;
let us bind up your broken heart with love.

The forest lives, and is forever reborn.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Corners are Tricky

Barbarism vs civilization?

       What would the first sign of moving away from barbarism look like?  One sign is beginning to care for those who are injured and old, those who, in prior times, had been left behind. The signs of long healed bone-breaks, in skeletons found in archeological digs, were the noticed new element. An increase in knowledge, beyond what is necessary for sustenance and shelter, is another.  In order to have the time for curiosity to seek and tweak its finds, for invention, for knowledge to grow, there needs to be time left after the hunt, the butchery, the constant moving, the birthing, the warring with those who are 'other'. I love this quote by John Quincy Adams, that speaks to the path of evolution from barbarism toward civilization. 

"I am a warrior, so that my son may be a merchant, so that his son may be a poet.”

      Barbarism continues as long as the strongest, and most violent, are in control of power over the many. It is no mystery why women, through the ages, have been kept subservient and obedient in most cultures.  The innate physical strength which allowed men to provide for and to protect could be turned on those who were physically weaker and vulnerable, to subdue questions to their authority.  When you are beaten and bullied, you learn ways of coping, of keeping quiet, in order to protect and provide for yourself and your offspring. 
     I'm sure we don't even want to contemplate how many women and children were slain or left by the wayside to die alone, because of a momentary lapse in behavior or accidental injury. There are primitive tribal societies in which a couple is allowed only two children, so that, in case of attack, each parent can carry one child to safety.  Children born after the second child are immediately killed.  Children born with any defect, including birthmarks, are immediately killed, children who develop a defect are killed. Think about your own family in this regard. Whom would have failed to survive? How would the world have been less because of it?  Multiply that by trillions of people. 
    We do not do that now (or do we?)  because we have become more civilized, we have learned to care for each other, to value the individual for their unique gifts, which take a while to come to maturity.  To step away from barbarism requires nurturing the ability to control our impulses of action and speech, to wait, and listen to reason, to hear and discuss different points of view, to not insist on having things our own way.  Civilization respects the scholar, the mystic, the teacher, as well as the warrior, the craftspersons, and those trapped in imperfect bodies. 
      There is a movement afoot in this country toward our lesser, more barbarous lights: intolerance, unequal justice, hateful language and action, violence against the stranger and the misunderstood, suspicion of those who are different from our own small groups of comfort.  We are being wedged apart from each other, and it has been orchestrated with a purpose.  Do you have family, or people who were once friends, with whom you no longer socialize or speak?  When did the distancing begin? What happened to pull you apart?  Take a minute.
Power Over Others 
      For me, it happened over political language, lies upon lies upon lies, pounding into our ears; the pointing of fingers, calling of names, besmirching of character; Talk Radio, the week-end report, the nightly news. Sadly, much of it was married to the language of the church, another institution which doesn't much like questioning and doubt.  Most organized religions are quick to subdue or expel those who question and wander beyond the accepted and enforced rules of belief and conduct.  Those in authority do not like to be questioned; they expect obedience. They do not like to let go of their power. 
         Wielding power over people, in churches, in business, in politics, in the home, is a mind-altering drug. It is intoxicating as well as addicting, and like other mind altering drugs, ultimately leads to disaster.  One needs wise, self-controlled, broad-minded counselors and advisers, who have the freedom and duty to speak truth, in safety, to that power, in order to keep the ship upright in the waters. When power surrounds itself with fools and sycophants, there is no means of restraint, and disaster follows, first for those who dare to dissent, and eventually for all. Courage is required, to stand up to misuse of power and position. Hopefully there are some safeguards in place, some firewalls, some means of redirection. Hopefully we have the courage to put those safeguards into use.  
Corners Are Tricky
        Evolution, away from barbarism and toward a more enlightened world, requires the turning of many corners. It happens slowly and takes far too long to accomplish, because there are so many of us now and we have so many outward and cultural differences.  Changing directions, always throws people off balance a bit, or a lot; we become uncomfortable, irritable, we try to defend the known position. Tempers flare, harsh words are spoken, blows are thrown, people begin to pull apart and dualism raises its ugly head.  We begin to de-civilize. The We that held us together becomes Us and Them.
      We must not allow ourselves, as a species, a country, a people, to devolve. My God, we have been through so much horror and bloodshed already. History stands before us as a record of what can happen. We have a map for what actions and courses to avoid, in order to avoid disaster.  But we have to be willing to listen, to stand in the tension of disagreement, without vitriol or anger, and be open to hearing what the 'other one' has to say. We do not have to agree with them, but we have to hear the what and why of their stance, without bullying or shaming, without cutting them off in their speech or loudly talking over them. And finally, we need to go deeper into ourselves, well past our petty doctrines, and do what is best, not for ourselves, but for the greater good. 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Poem: Genealogy

Names and dates: birth, marriage, death;
siblings, parents, children, places, and,
if we are lucky, a pencil portrait or an
unfocused, dimming daguerreotype:
tight mouths, wary eyes, dark clothes.
One particular moment caught on paper,
that dress, that suit, hat, boots;
all of them clues to tease, and tug,
pulling us along the thread which connects
us with our ancestors, pieces of a puzzle.

He appears to be angry...or did he, perhaps,
wake that morning from nightmares, or
with a toothache, or a tightness in his chest?
Had they had words on the way to town,
a disagreement about spending this money?
Was he soon to go to war, or deeper
into debt? Had she recently lost a child
to fever, or snakebite, or infection?
Was she with child again, too soon,
(or unable to conceive again, ever)?

She stands behind him, one hand, clenched,
on his shoulder, looking unsmilingly forward.
He leans on the table, one leg over the other,
with shined boots and a swag pocket watch.
His hair needs trimming, hers is parted
in the middle and pulled severely back.
She wears no ring, no necklace, no ribbons.
The child slumps on a stool in front of her,
looking as though he has been scolded
and told to hold still and look at the box.

We have only this one shot, this one day,
keeping its secrets behind the still image,
daring us to discover more, from letters
and leases, wills, diaries, public records.
We read between the lines: reading stories
that stance, fit of clothes, set of shoulders
and set of mouth, shoes and scars tell.
We gather information and add what we
ourselves know of life, plus stories told
while stirring jam, or dressing hens.

Sometimes a face will reappear two
generations later, surprising us: -Oh!
Look at those eyes, that dimpled chin!
We see the square jaw and dark hair
of our grandmother, reborn in a
grandchild, our father's smile etched
on the face of a cousin once-removed.
Who are we? Does it matter at all where
we came from, who we came from?
It is easy to over think these things.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Christmas At Last....On Epiphany


 Christmas came to the farm at last. It's a week into the new year and Saturday we all met at the farm for work on some projects, good food, the playing of games, and the opening of presents. Most of us have been sick, one way or another, through the entire month of December but were finally well enough to meet at the farm. Able, Thatcher, and I were just getting off our antibiotics, and were still involved in some serious coughing, into elbow, shirt necks, napkins, handkerchiefs. Good Lord! Will it never end?


     As you can see, there was quite a bit of wondrous snuggling going on, as well of lots of willing hands to help with lunch. Marsha and Maggie drew KP duty and did a great job. Abbey and Brendan were our bakers; yum!
     There were presents containing well-thought-out surprises, fun things, needful things, etc...  I seemed to receive more than my share of goodies, but then, everyone else had all had Christmas mornings at their own, and in-laws homes closer to the actual day of proper celebration. (Is there a proper day of celebration??? I personally believe that any day is a good day for celebration. To Life!

      After lunch, the men and B headed to the garage to build a pillory such as were used for public punishment (read: torture) during the time of the pilgrims at Plymouth. B's class was doing a project and his assignment was to build the stocks, with family help. B received some experience with a skill-saw, jig-saw, and possibly the router, plus safety tips, rules of the use of power equipment in carpentry, staying in the saddle until the job is done, that kind of thing.  He seemed to enjoy it, especially since none of the other kids were allowed to use the saw. I think the men enjoyed it as well.

     Maggie and Zane broke up and tossed out all the ice on the fountain pond and in the barrel, and fed the fish.  They rescued two fish from the barrel, and moved them over to the big pond with the others. They also helped me fill my many bird feeders, a routine job for them whenever they are out to visit in the winter months. I received a new bird feeder from  little Rowan, who knows that you can always use another feeder; things happen...things break.
          M and Z opened up their Snakeheads restaurant in the tree house for a while, but business was slow so they closed early and we took a long walk down past the hay bales and into the woods with Uncle Able, making sure everything was in order. It was: ice-rimmed, but flowing creek, fire circle, no deer in sight, wondrously quiet and woodsy.

    Baby Alice was in fine form and loved being outside in the chilly weather. She is particularly fond of playing in the noisy leaves, which abound, since I never rake them (making them perfect for jumping/tumbling into. The wind seems to take care of most of them by the time Spring comes traipsing in. Alice had the chance to try out the baby swing. Loved it. Baby T didn't fare as well, never making it out of the house, because he has double ear infections and wouldn't eat or drink anything, which meant he wasn't peeing, and it was making his mother nervous. She pulled all her tricks out of the bag and coerced him into drinking something at least.

         Ro and Ev had both gotten small robots as gifts and spend much of the day making them dance and then dancing with them.  Those two boys are always perfectly happy in each other's company.
      While everyone was outside, either playing or working, Uncle David came by in his new pickup to say hi and see everyone.  Dave had a bad truck wreck a while back and has finally healed up enough to be able to get out and about. He's lucky to be alive, truth be told. The kids and grandkids were happy to see him and he seemed happy to see them as well.

      After supper the Richards and the Korenaks had to head back to OKC, but the Blakleys stayed the night and half the next day, cooking us a wonderful pot of white beans and ham that was ready when M and I got home from church. (Yes, the bells played again and did a good job. )
    In newsy news, I will be taking over the position of Head Ding-a-ling (as they fondly call it) because the director of the bells asked me if I would be willing to direct, since he was wanting to step down. Willing? I would say I am more than willing and excited as all get-out.

               Sadly, right before time to go home on Saturday, we discovered that Ro had thrown up, unbeknownst to anyone. (cue the ominous music) By this morning the count in sick bay, (including T's ear infections) was Ro, Zane, Thatch, Abbey, Brendan, Everett, Marsha, and yours truly. I did not have it very badly (knock on wood) but have lain in bed with a searing belly-ache all day, willing it away. (I have been channeling my mom.) Able's family didn't get it, somehow (thank you Jesus!). I'm hoping their luck holds. I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy. (Do I have a worst enemy??? Uhhhh...no. Okay then.)

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Poem: Misconception

I was concerned for the children,
so I sought out Grandfather,
who has lived many winters,
whose beard is long and white.

I found him in the orchard,
working to espalier young
apples; exacting, tedious work.
He waved away my concerns.

The punishment makes them
stronger, better people;--so said
Grandfather, snipping, tying back--
it does no lasting harm.

I said nothing, only bent and
picked up the pruned branches,
carried them behind the shed,
and dropped them into the fire.