Thursday, December 31, 2015

so dull and grim
and then a robin red-breast
hops hops above the grass
and a lady walks past
her red scarf
with glitter gold bees
floating on the breeze
so bright
against the grayness
of the sky
the old year
giving way
to the new

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

flowers meet the sea

a pilot
in a tiny plane
floating in the air
tosses her bridal flowers
to the sea
the engine
purring quietly

the bouquet
rides a wave
the foam white
as the ribbon
that binds the stems.
the flowers scatter
the wedding dissolved
the pilot breathes in
the salty air
and sighs out
as she turns back
toward the shore

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

happy birthday

your dad held the camera
your brother held a popsicle the nurse gave him
and i held you
seven pounds of life
a few hours old
welcome to your family

Monday, December 28, 2015

There are few folktales, myths, songs, or stories from history that celebrate the experience of giving birth. The most notable exception is the Christmas eve celebration of the Nativity, the Biblical story of the birth of a Jewish baby two thousand years ago who was named Jesus and who became the holy man who is at the core of Christian religions. Whether or not one is Christian, many appreciate the story, and all that it carries, of a baby born far from home in the starry night in the only housing available to the journeying parents: a barn with a feed trough that was a perfect size to hold a newborn. It's the only story I know of a birth surrounded by other species on our planet: the donkey, the cow, possibly some sheep and chickens, some angels, and eventually a camel or two. It's the story of the birth of a specific child, but it's also the story of every birth, the story that every newborn is a wondrous gift.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

nothing better

shrill and happy
the voices of children
as they run
down the hall

up the hall
down and up
down and up
like there is nothing at all
they would like better to do
at this very moment

like this is it 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

record player

Walking past a shop window today, I saw a record player. It looked both new, and old-fashioned, say 1962. There was a round black vinyl record, perched on the turntable, and the long arm with the little needle at the end. The case was pearly white and sunny ocean blue. It looked sturdy, as though it could survive many years of use. School classrooms had access to similar models back in the 1960s, used in language classes, or for dance music, or singing songs, or listening to stories. People bought them because they were portable. You could bring the record player and a stack of popular 45s to a friend's house. Then equipment grew more refined and complicated, and people wanted multiple, bigger, clearer and more powerful speakers to get stereo sound, and there arrived the 8-track tapes, cassette tapes, and compact discs (CDs). But frankly, if all the various stereos and equipment from past decades were available today, I might pick that little record player in its brand new case.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

four dryers

two on top
and two on the floor
4 stacked dryers
have round
glass windows
colorful clothes
and linens within
turn clockwise toss
and tumble
in cheerful unison
at the neighborly

Monday, December 21, 2015


the kites were there:
and diamonds
blues, greens
reds, yellows
kites big and small
on the south wall
the east wall
the north wall
of a baby's room
and blessings

of gentle winds
to carry him high
and carry him far
through all the trials
and storms of life
to the welcoming goodness
of those he would love
and loved him in return

kites for now
and kites for then
and for forever

Saturday, December 19, 2015

the blue heron

in yesterday's dream
of nomadic fishes
and calling frogs

poised in the mist
and greatness
of silent archetype

Thursday, December 17, 2015

hedgehog & roses

under the rose vines
fur limned
with fine lines
of fine light
all the sun
warmth rays

the roses
from above
bright with
yellow pale
and peachy color
nodding shyly
toward the
neighbor under

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Family First Aid

There was blood all over her sock.

Ana was so shocked by the sight, her mouth was open but no sound would come out. Tears ran down her face.

Dad pointed to Jeff. Jeff ran to the back hall and returned clutching a cloth horse by its mane of string.

'Here, Ana,' he said. 'Here's your horsie!'

And she hugged it to her chest.

Dad held her foot. His back was to Ana, and she could no longer see the sock, all red and white. She could not see her foot.

Jeff watched Dad at work, then looked at Ana. 'It's going to be ok,' he predicted.

Dad stood up. Ana turned away then looked back at her foot. It was wrapped up in a bandage, clean and neat. No more blood. Her toes stuck out the end and she wiggled them.

'There,' said Dad. 'All better.' He kissed Ana on her forehead.

'Bo-bo,' Ana said to horsie. 'All betta.'

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Sunset, Corpus Christi, 1983

from the third floor balcony
we watch
twenty seagulls
close by in flight
lithe and strong
graceful rising
sudden diving
weaving up and down
never crashing
never battling
flying for joy, perhaps,
or sensing the awe
of us wingless humans
at their mystic flight

Monday, December 14, 2015


the poplar's
flowing robe
of browning leaves
shimmer and shake
with ecstatic applause
toward the autumn sun

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Sugar cane grows in segmented stalks, much like bamboo.

'...Sugar cane is grown chiefly from stem cuttings placed in furrows (narrow grooves) in the field and covered with soil. The buds on the nodes germinate into leafy shoots that emerge from the soil...'

(from The World Book Encyclopedia 2015 Edition
Volume 18 So-Sz)

The process of manufacturing sugar granules from sugar cane juice may have originated in India over two thousand years ago.

(From Wikipedia, 'The History of Sugar')

Friday, December 11, 2015

The pigeons fly above the busy road - the flock moves in waves over my head, around and around and back again. They are much like the minnows who swim in the creek. The pigeons are creatures who, like us, live in the air, the planet's atmosphere; the minnows those who live only in water.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Pat the Cat

Pat the Cat
stretches out on the floor
in the rays of sunshine
that slip through the door
his soft fur glimmering.
He rolls on his back,
his paws in the air
lightly furled,
his spine arched
and flexed,
at ease as he naps
in the daylight.

Pat explores the shadows
within a brown paper bag
left on the kitchen floor.
He sleeps
in the darkest corner
of the closet curled 

in the rumpled people smells
of the laundry basket
or in the safe shadows
beneath the bed
where we can't see him
the cat who seeks
the dark and the light.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

paired colors

Have you ever thought about uncommon pairs of color? Something about two unlikely shades side-by-side draws your attention? I never thought much about that until these last few years when I started to draw and paint a lot and when I learned to knit. Certain colors stand out more together than they do alone, I've noted.

I also think about combinations from the past. When I was a teenager, my mother bought me a long-sleeved blouse, a print with dark, goldish-brown patterns on purple fabric. Many times, sitting in a class with my arm resting on the desk, or at a dining table, I stared at that fabric, and that paired combination of colors is imbedded in me. Another memorable fabric decades back had a background shade of cream, with purple and green vines and flowers - a dress I wanted but didn't buy and have never forgotten. Orange and gray originally caught my attention on a bakery counter, and this showed up in my drawings for some time. Pink and gray - when I was a kid, we played The Game of Life and I'm still fascinated by the gray plastic car carrying pink pegs (representing babies born in the game of life). Pale yellow and gray have a pleasing gentleness. Sometimes when I am knitting, two skeins that I think have no compatibility look bright and inseparable sitting side by side near the chair. Knitting those colors together is a happy adventure.

It's not just about the colors though; it's about how those colors are intercepted by the observer, like the third corner of a triangle.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Jessie's Apple Salad
(A sweet, cool tradition for holiday meals.)

apples (2 large or 3 small)
raisins (1-2 tablespoons)
celery (1 stalk, sliced thin)
toasted pecans or walnuts (1/4 cup chopped coarsely)
maraschino cherries (8, sliced in half)
liquid from the maraschino cherries (1-2 tablespoons)
mayonnaise or plain yogurt (about 1/2 cup)
orange juice (1/4 cup) or lemon juice (a few squirts)
miniature marshmallows (about 1/3 cup)
one small banana

Chop the apples into half inch chunks. (You can leave the peel on for color if you like.)Coat with lemon or orange juice to prevent browning. Add raisins, celery, nuts, and cherries. Combine mayo and/or yogurt with maraschino cherry juice and stir until smooth. (If you have no cherries, orange juice can be substituted.) Add the sauce to the apple mixture and combine until coated. Chill in the refrigerator. Before serving, add marshmallows and sliced banana and stir.

Monday, December 7, 2015

your crazy beat

i'd love
to hear
you play piano
let me stand
just once
and watch your hands
run across the keys
and pound
out sound
fill the room
with you
your crazy beat
your slowing

Saturday, December 5, 2015

goat trap

the goat is crying
across the field
i roll and tumble
from my bed
and throw on day clothes.
across the damp summer grasses
i stamp and stumble.
the juvenile billy
is caught in the fence
in the graph-paper path
of the wire.
the squares
four inches by four
were just right
to accommodate
his head
as he stretched from the pasture
to the grass that is greener
on the other side
he poked his head through
ate his fill
and cannot return -
his curving horns
have trapped him to the fence
i cannot free
his strong neck.
his eyes bulge
he smells of panic
his calls vibrate
again and again
mehhhh! mehhhh!
i fetch the wire-cutters
cut him free
he bounces and leaps away
back to the herd.

Friday, December 4, 2015

the book is on a library shelf
The Story of the First Atomic Bomb

there's the picture on the front cover
the picture on the back cover
set the book back on the shelf
it remains on the mind
some things are so big
there is nothing to say

Thursday, December 3, 2015

I haven't done a whole lot of travel outside of my country (the United States of America), but have visited Canada, Mexico, France, Switzerland, Germany, and Italy.  When traveling, I learned something requiring very little effort had a powerful lot of positive effect, something that worked like a key. You don't have to know the local language to have a pleasant trip. If you just learn a few words, how to greet, say please, and thank you, in the local language, and use those words with some frequency, everything runs much more smoothly, and you become more like a friend than a stranger. Por favor, s'il vous plais. Grazie, donkeschein, merci, y muchas gracias. Bonjour, guten nagen, hola! grietse. This little bit of manners that works wonders far away works here at home, too. Good morning! Please. Thank you so much. Ciao.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015


One of the wonderful aspects and contributions of the history of humankind - or, at least, one of my favorites - is fabric. This is an odd facet to explore but it is a behavior that distinguishes us from most species (exceptions including for example some spiders and their webs; some species of birds who weave their nests). We humans think of fabric as that which we use to cover and ornament our bodies.  There are tapestries that are embroidered (some, such as Les Tapisseries de Bayeux, recording historical events), and samplers embroidered with numbers and letters and quotations (the fundamental learnings of a schoolchild). There are curtains and altarcloths, blankets, nets, and tents. There are fabrics of plant fibers such as cotton and hemp, and there are fabrics of petroleum such as polyester and rayon. There are fabrics of the fur of various mammals such as goats and sheep, and fabrics of the silk of caterpillars. There is cloth imprinted with fascinating art, fanciful designs, and images of people, buildings, animals, trees, plants, and popular landmarks.

The traits of the weavings - fine and dense or open and rugged - the fascinating weaves and patterns - capture my attention and awe. The colors of the threads and yarns, the soft weight and especially the flow (or drape) of the fabrics make me happy. The delicacy and finesse of the work of tailors and seamstresses can be so remarkable. A simple shirt can be a work of great craft and artistry.

There is something graph paper basic in the physics of weaving that brings up the workings of the universe, the fabric of the dimensions, of time and space. The fabric of the mind and its connections to data entered via our senses, and whatever possible reality that data represents, is a big horizon. Our familiarity with tangible interweavings such as fabric provides a physical analogy that opens our mind.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Book Cover

It's a flimsy structure
standing in the shallows of the sea
green against greens and gold
A polar bear
sits on the edge
legs dangling

It's just the cover of a book,
but the simple art
has a kind of force

I'm on the edge of my chair
glancing back
now and again
at the bear
the structure of green
its reflection of green
on the motionless sea.

(regarding the hardcover book
The Island
by Marije Tolman & Ronald Tolman

Monday, November 30, 2015

There are many things I use that I could not tell you how they work. I've read a lot about electricity, and still do not truly understand it. Cell phones - how do our voices travel across hundreds of miles? I don't know. But I really feel ignorant when I look closely at my winter glove and have to think for awhile to figure out how it was so perfectly woven.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

discus thrower

the thrower
curls around the disc
coils like a spring
(mechanical perfection
visual pleasing)
and releases

Friday, November 27, 2015

little things

the bigger joys
in hiding this year,
I'm thankful for the little things.
Even a tear in the fundamental fabric
of a universe
repairs itself with
the curious wanderings 
of a homeless white-haired gent,
the colorful spheres 
dangling from a porch 
in the fanciful breeze,
the chatter of squirrels,
the meditative stillness
of a chair...

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

two chess games

Once upon a time, there were two chess games.

One was the traditional game. One human played the black pieces. Another human played the white. They played on a checkered board.

The other game had no humans. The pieces did what they wanted to do.

The first game began. The human player moved a white pawn, and the opponent moved a black pawn. The two players continued to take turns.

The second game had begun long ago. One pawn was sweeping the space in front of his food store. Three pawns were working together on a farm. A bishop was up in a tower, copying old transcripts. The queen was giving trinkets to little pawns.

The first game was starting to battle. A white bishop and a black rook were taken out early. A pawn was sacrificed in the process.

The second game was rather still. Night had fallen. The king took a long walk through the town and around a small pond.

The humans in the first game were becoming rather tense. One player ran his fingers through his hair so often, it stood straight up on his head. It looked as though his queen was in danger.

The farming pawns were rising with the dawn, talking to the pigs and currying the horse. They were laughing about their trip the day before into town to get seed and bags of manure. They'd taken a brief side trip to the pub.

There were only two black pawns left in the other game, two white pawns, a rook, a bishop and two kings. The humans, though, were excited. By the time checkmate occurred - the player with the frazzled hair won - three pieces remained on the board.

Outside of the chessboard of the first game, all of the pieces of the second game still existed. From the local hilltop, a bishop and a rook from the second game looked down and saw the first game come to an end. They took the news to their fellow pieces in their game, and all mourned the losses on the other side of the hill.

Monday, November 23, 2015

closed windows

When I started school around 1960, there was no air conditioning at school. Ceiling fans, sometimes portable electric fans, and open windows were available, and water  (drinking) fountains to help keep cool. By 1970, a large part of the school I attended had been modified with air conditioning units.

This was most very welcome. The classrooms were more comfortable and quiet, and our uniforms didn't stay damp with sweat. We lost something, too. I recall hearing the twitter of birds, and smelling fresh mown grass during the end of each school year as summer approached in previous years. This was less evident as we kept our windows shut. We had once been more in tune with the climate, the weather and life outside our man-made buildings. We now in a physical way shut ourselves off from the world around us, and became more and more focused on our world indoors.

Saturday, November 21, 2015


there are advantages
to being
the second to last
state in the union
slow to catch up
to the latest vaccines
the latest televisions
and cable TV

computerized inventories 
and billing
the latest innovations
in communication
the latest washing machines
the latest computer integrated
the latest wi-fi connected cameras
and such

there are advantages
to still owning your first car
and your radio and phonograph
and the speakers with tubes

to still remember multiplication tables
and poems by heart

others may be first on the block
first in the union
first in the world
and most popular with the new gadgets

but some of the best inventions
not all, but some
and the best kinds of healing -
the aspirin tea
the hot water bottle -
came before the latest

Friday, November 20, 2015

Lively Creek

tumble down the
lively creek.
Some journey far -
the water like
a high speed chute.
Some follow a twig
floating ahead.
The twig spins
and meets a big stick
and a grumpy rock.
They hold in pause
locked in place
as running water leaps over
their curves and limbs.
The followers smash
into the melee.
They form a crazy nest
a shining poem
with twigs and stones
and rotten debris,
clearwater shimmering
against the
gray limestone bed.
A curly leaf 
makes circles
in a current near the bridge -
it floats upstream
away from the other leaves
and sticks.
The water keeps flowing.
There's healthy commotion
in a creek in motion.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

eat a peach
at the friendly party
circles of guests
drink their wine and tea
they listen
they converse
the doctor greets
the Arctic handyman
the writer-traveller
the guitarist
and the wilderness
within Pachelbel's Canon
a bee visits a flower
on the patio vine
Hamlet brushes past
Schrodinger's cat
the hostess
rinses the glasses
and sets them on
a plain white cloth

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

apple symphony

wild apples
crab apples
four apple stamps -
on a brown envelope

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

I enjoy learning trivia - factoids about Shakespeare, planet (or not-a-planet) Pluto, wild rice, Kenya, finials, and such. There are some questions whose answers elude me. One bit of trivia I've been wondering about is how much land in our country (United States of America) is covered by highways, streets, exits, and entrances. We measure the parking lots as acreage, but is there info on the roads themselves? (Wideness times length?) They are usually depicted as tiny little lines on maps when the width of the actual street may be wider than the residential lots alongside them. How much land does one block on an average suburban street cover? The cloverleaf of intersecting interstate highways? And have you seen some of the flat, simple, but very big street intersections we build these days? One could play a pro baseball game in some of them, and still have room for bleachers for the fans. I sometimes think about from where do we get all of that road construction material - the gravel and concrete and tar and such?

Vehicle traffic gets very dense at times, and our answer to the problem always seems to be we need to widen the road, or, we need a new road. We humans really enjoy our vehicles, and are willing to sacrifice a lot - land, quiet, natural beauty - in order to have the pleasure of driving and the pleasure and convenience of our cars and trucks. I do miss the days, though, when most people were able to live near where they worked. During the mid 1970s, I walked to work, and it felt great. Fresh air, friendly people... the walk often eased work-related worries. The drive to work during inclement weather was no longer than ten minutes.

Monday, November 16, 2015

sun, sun

old old sun
still young
among the stars
who warms sea breezes
that cool 
sheds light
all lands and seas
and nourishes
so many
shapes of life
you never fail
to rise each day
may we be
so true to you

Saturday, November 14, 2015

First grade for me started in 1959. One of the pieces of news that teachers shared with us during the first three years of school were the recent addition of Hawaii and Alaska to the United States of America. These are the only states that are not connected to the continental mainland. By the third year of school or earlier, new flags had arrived. The flags with 48 stars were retired, and the flags with fifty stars were raised.  These have been our official national flag for over fifty years now. Long past are our first Betsy Ross flags with thirteen stars for the original thirteen colonies that shaped our newborn country in 1776.

Friday, November 13, 2015

playful architecture

Architecture, it seems to me, is far more playful than it was half a century ago. The shapes and shadows of windows and roofs, the arrangement and types of light fixtures sometimes bring to mind good-humored robots and kids' funny faces, and cheerful goblins. I'm not sure that all of it is an intentional trend. Perhaps there is an undercurrent in the minds of contractors and architects that comes through after years of playing Mario games on Nintendo and such. We translate what we see or plan into digital images now.  Perhaps these images, and the digital nature of computers used to design buildings, automatically self-adjust into something different than in the past, leading to a kind of complex perfection with a living, playful spirit.

Thursday, November 12, 2015


bends and furls
in the currents
deep below
never on the attack
never loses footing
never on the run
never leaves
but senses the barracuda
and senses the squid
seaweed senses
when to bend and furl

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Plastics became a common product in packaging and container design during the 1950s and 1960s. Materials such as wax paper, cellophane, wood, ceramics and foils stepped aside a bit to make room for the extraordinary popularity of plastic products, which are made from petroleum. One object that gradually disappeared was the wooden spool that held sewing thread.

Many kids during that era had relatives who sewed, and saved the wooden spools for various uses. You could tie a string to a spool and tease the household cat into chasing and pouncing. People painted wooden spools with bright primary colors and created toys. The bright spools could be stacked like blocks. Very young children were given thick shoestrings that were easy for small hands to manipulate, and they threaded the spools onto the shoestrings to create play necklaces.

Speaking of young children and early hand coordination, another popular plaything was the sewing card. Cards (around 5 by 8 inches) made of heavy colorfully illustrated cardboard had holes about a quarter inch in diameter punched in them. The child would be given a long shoestring with a knot in one end, and then 'sew' the string to the card by threading it in and out through the holes.

Monday, November 9, 2015


'Squirrel feeding habits often benefit the forest. Buried nuts, if not recovered, may grow into trees and help restore the forest. Squirrels also aid tree growth by digging up, eating, and dispersing certain underground fungi, which form beneficial associations, called "mycorrhizae", with roots. The fungi absorb water and minerals from the soil and pass them on to the plant, receiving energy from the plant in return. Squirrels spread the indigestible spores of these fungi by releasing droppings in areas with young trees.'

quoted from the article 'Squirrel'
by Peter D. Weigl
within The World Book Encyclopedia
2015 edition
Volume 18 So-Sz

Saturday, November 7, 2015


whisper into
the handheld pinwheel
lightweight and shiny.
the turbine spins slowly and whirs.
hold it outside the window
as the car now travels swiftly
down the road.
faster it turns
light flickering
from its curved colorful blades.
the dog has her head
outside the window too
tongue dangling
fur plastered back
her face poised in delight
facing the wind.

Friday, November 6, 2015


Bread and butter was once the backbone of the American diet. Not quite so popular now, fifty years ago, a stack of sliced white bread or a basket of rolls appeared at almost every supper. Even the traditional food of convicts in prison - as the saying went - was bread and water. Bread sustained the body and soul.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

There was a TV show
in the 1960s
about a fellow named Gomer Pyle.
It was a comedy.
The first season began with boot camp
in a fenced-in concrete compound
with rows of identical cots
for the men - all men - to sleep.
Gomer was just out of Mayberry
a little southern town
on the Andy Griffith Show.
One sheriff, one deputy,
one barber, one teacher,
one son, one aunt
and a car mechanic with a son named Gomer.

Somehow, Gomer ends up in boot camp with his own show, and he keeps flunking this and that because all he knows about life is fishing and church and home cooking and repairing tractors in an old tree shaded barn and such. His sargent now at boot camp yells at him a whole lot. 'Golly,' says Gomer and 'Shazam, shazam, shazam!' he says.

Boot camp normally doesn't last forever, but Gomer Pyle is so popular on TV that boot camp lasts year after year. The same fenced-in camp. The same sit-ups and push-ups. The same cots without a wrinkle permitted. It was just a television show, but I think as the seasons flowed by, the viewers hoped for something more for their favorite sarge and private.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

brown snake

slender and brown
swims the clear creek
her head above
the shallow flickering water.
she sways forward
slow and steady pulse
to a narrow tunnel
in the earthy bank.
cars rush behind me -
and trembles
we people make.
the snake is silent
breathing sunlight

within an eddy of calm

Monday, November 2, 2015

Today is November 2, 2015, and it is also All Saints Day. I don't know much about the man who was Saint Nicholas, the man we have come to know as Santa Claus. However, whatever were the saintly qualities that earned his title long ago have multiplied across many years. We often intersect in some way with his legendary kindness during the season of Christmas. He has gained reindeer and a sleigh, a wife and many elves to help him share the love of Christmas in a tangible way. Anyone who has been touched by a little (or very big) package via Saint Nicholas knows the wonder of his spirit.  We know the love of those who provide gifts in his name.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

greetings, young skunk!

greetings, young skunk!
and how do you do?
what a handsome coat you have

with the white stripe
running through.
everyone says
(and the doggies say)
you can make a Big Stink
if you're scared 

or harassed -
is that true?
we hear little else 

of what you do -
please tell us more,
cheerful young skunk -
who are you?

Thursday, October 29, 2015

a single hornet
sits on the window glass
in my room.
his 2/3 inch body is black
intricately designed
thin transparent wings
two antennae from the center of his head.
his eyes are dark globes;
they must see everything.
does he ponder as he sits?
where is my tribe?
why am i here?
what beautiful daylight
through the crepe myrtle outside.
he is meditating.
the days pass.
the shallow china dish
glimmers with water,
remains untouched.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Regarding yesterday's post: another tasty, nutritious baby food to consider would be canned, pureed pumpkin. A bit of sugar added might make it even more appealing to a baby.

I hear there is some difficulty, given the dryness of the fields, keeping horses well-fed. They like apples and carrots - I wonder if pumpkins, which are big and abundant in the fall, might work as a supplemental food for horses. To me, pumpkins, zucchini, and blackberries are a kind of manna from heaven, the way they grow so bountifully during the poorest of conditions.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

baby food

Babies usually are slowly transitioned from mother's milk and/or baby formula to solid foods. Many parents introduce their infants to solid food (using a tiny, soft spoon, and itty-bitty bites) between 6 weeks and 3 months old depending on the infant's readiness. In addition to the many foods prepared exclusively for babies, and stored in small jars, there are inexpensive, nutritious options when there is little access to foods labeled for babies, or when there is a need to be frugal. Here are some examples:

Rice cereal for infants
mashed potatoes
pureed beans (such as canned refried beans)
ice cream
cream of wheat cereal
pudding (for example rice pudding, tapioca pudding, vanilla pudding)
mashed bananas
cooked cornmeal mash

Monday, October 26, 2015

a Viking ship

we thought we'd build
a Viking ship
in summers now long past
big enough for mice to row
across the clear deep water
it would move so slow
with dignity
atop the shining lake
its reflection flaring
with brilliant light
and love not fade away

Saturday, October 24, 2015

a sudden wind

the wind gusts.
everything and everybody is scattered.
a rat, a crab,
a man in a top hat
a couple of ghosts
and a shrub of sage in bloom
land in the same parking lot.
why them -
why have their paths crossed?
what's their story - ?

Friday, October 23, 2015

the rehearsed
and clever talk
is not the same
as the soaring candor of their song
the frankness of their furious sketch
the truth in their weeping eyes

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Zed was the greatest kid in all the school!

Only nobody knew it.

He was shy. During class he stood behind the desks as though they were his fortress, safe away from the other students. At recess, the kids ran around yelling, playing chase, throwing disks and balls, or playing hopscotch or jump rope, or discussing important issues like last night's TV episode or how to build a tree house. Zed stood behind a bench near the playground fence. He watched the other kids with interest, but did not wish to join in.

Instead, he counted how many kids were wearing brown, and how many red. He made maps in his mind about who played where. 'Here is the hopscotch section. Here is the kickball square. Three girls here. Two guys there. Five or six at the basketball hoop.' He was not bored at all.

Frank and Paul were always discussing. Zed liked to watch that. There was a girl, Marcie, who kept glancing toward Zed. He did not like that.

Today was the first cool day of fall, and the playground was happy. Faces were bright and cheerful. Zed found his spot behind the bench, and noted among the kids there were three green sweaters and four pairs of shoes with a Zebra emblem. Leaves were racing in the breeze in circles. Marcie looked at Zed. Zed turned away. His face grew hot. When he looked up, her back was to him, and he sighed with relief. She went up, and stood near Frank and Paul while they chatted. Frank was showing Paul how to soften his new baseball mitt. Marcie watched too.  She backed up a little when some of the younger kids ran past them.  They were all closer to the bench. Zed now could hear their discussion.

The next day, the same thing happened, only there was just one green sweater. There were two black sweatshirts and one girl was still in sandals, though the weather was even cooler.

Marcie had her back to him. Zed didn't mind that. She was a little closer today, and Frank and Paul came over to chat, ignoring her, but keeping her in their circle. Frank examined Paul's mitt with approval. 'It's getting there,' he said. 'Let me see,' said Marcie, and she examined the mitt with interest. She turned toward Zed, and he turned away.

The next day was similar and then there was a weekend. Zed was nervous and he was a little happy. He was looking forward to Monday, looking forward to recess. But Marcie was not there on Monday nor on Tuesday. Frank and Paul shot hoops for a change. Zed counted the feet that had boots on them, ten, but he wasn't very happy.

Wednesday, Marcie was back. Her eyes were a little puffy. She sneezed. She said to Frank and Paul, 'I'm feeling better.' Her back was facing Zed again. She was wearing boots. She said, 'I'm going to sit down.' She backed all the way to the bench. Plop!

Zed, behind the bench, turned this way, then that. There was no easy escape. Frank and Paul followed Marcie, manfully discussing the lunch menu for the week.

'There's Jello today.' Zed's voice piped up. He studied the menu every week, and knew it by heart.

Frank, Paul, and Marcie looked at him. Zed couldn't believe it was himself that had said something.

'I like Jello. Red's my favorite,' said Paul. There was quiet.

'I like any kind,' said Marcie. 'It'll be good for my throat.'

'Grape is good,' said Frank. They looked at Zed. He smiled a little, and looked down.

'Recess is almost over,' said Frank. Frank, Paul and Marcie turned toward the building. 'You coming with us, Zed?'

'Um. Ahh,'  he said. 'Maybe later!'



They walked on. Zed turned away and looked down at his shoes, hiding a big smile.

The end.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

blackberies, birds, and bears

Blackberries have so many seeds! Sometimes a seed gets caught between two teeth and the person eating the biscuit and blackberry jam will complain, but mostly we eat our sweet berries and don't worry about the slight inconvenience.

Blackberry bushes when I was a kid grew in our rural spot in south Louisiana like wildfire. We picked berries in the field next door, and we picked berries along the country roads near our house. After the road expansions and more intensive maintenance of the roadside, the blackberries in our area pretty much disappeared.

Years after leaving Louisiana, we had opportunities to pick berries while visiting Bellingham, Washington. There were lengths of undisturbed land along the fences bordering the railroad tracks, area open to the public. Berries glowed in the sunshine, plump, juicy and sweet. We filled our buckets in the morning, and dined on blackberry pie in the evening.

The seeds - they are tiny and plentiful. A bird or bear dines on a ripe berry, and the juicy flesh nourishes the body. The seeds pass through, carried in the creatures' wastes that serve as fertilizer.  In uncultivated areas with low human interference, these gardening geniuses' crops grow fast and plentiful.

Given rain and sunshine and fertile (living) soil, berries propagate plentifully, there to nourish and pleasure us humans and the many creatures who share the planet on which we live.

I know a little about raspberries in the wild, something about blueberries and strawberries, but nothing about gooseberries and huckleberries except their names. Salmon berries grew wild along the Washington/Canadian border north of Bellingham. They looked like raspberries, but had a fainter flavor and paler color. We were told bears along the Pacific coast up there enjoyed these. Bears eat a range of foods -berries, fruit, fish, insects, and grubs, to name a few. The last bears I've seen were at Crater Lake National Park in Oregon around 1999. A mother and two cubs gazed at us as we drove along a forest road west of the park.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

words and shiny things

In yesterday's post, I referred to Orpheus with a flute. However, it is the lyre that he is usually associated with - enchanting sounds with a stringed, harp-like instrument.

Is it magpies or ravens who are known for their attraction to shiny things? Some subset of the corvid birds ... they find a foil gum wrapper here, a bit of glass there, a rock pocked with flecks of mica. Some keep hidden caches of their treasured bright things in tree limbs or in niches of a rooftop.

Some people feel that way about words - we experience them like colorful trinkets and gems. We find a page of an Oxford dictionary to be quite entertaining and peruse it with relish. We tuck shiny words in hidden corners of our minds, and display them here and there with great panache.

We humans and corvids, both plucky and vulnerable, have humorous, sometimes touching, habits.

Monday, October 19, 2015

There are two similar tales from the past that I think of now and then. Lot is a figure in the Old Testament of the Bible. He and his wife are escaping a city that is burning. They are not supposed to look back, but his wife can't resist turning for one last glance as they depart. Woof! She freezes and turns into a pillar of salt. Her family must go on without her.

The other is an ancient Greek story about Orpheus, a fellow known for the music he plays on his flute. The melodies entrance the creatures of the forests; friends and strangers; gods and mortals. His beloved wife ends up in the land of Hades (the Greek version of hell). He misses her so much he tries again and again to retrieve her. Finally, he strikes a deal with Hades, who rules the domain below. She may follow her husband out of her prison, but he must not help her along the way or look back at her as ahe follows. Much relieved, the two exit the infernal gates and start along the rugged trail back home. Orpheus leads the way. His wife becomes winded, and it takes more and more effort for her to follow him. When she stumbles on rocks and cries out, he reflexively whirls around to help. Their eyes meet, and at that instant, she shrinks away into a breath of air and disappears.

Neither story is happy with such cruel outcomes, but both cling to mind.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

shadows of the pigeons in flight
of the toddler with her cup in hand
the hose makes a puddle at the edge of the street
the black birds splash and fan their wings
oh happy day

Friday, October 16, 2015

TV was still young in the early 1960s - there were only three major broadcasting companies in the country: CBS, NBC, and ABC. Looking back, an interesting characteristic of television programs at that time was a lot of focus on guns. There were shows with names like 'Gunsmoke', and 'The Rifleman'. Roy Roger's horse was called 'Trigger' and his dog, 'Bullet'. Some shows' introductions had gunfire in action or gunslingers whirling their pistols. For better or worse, we kids knew how to count out ten steps for a duel, draw our play pistols, and aim. Our training in diplomacy was minimal.

Below is a list of programs I remember from that time:

Wild Wild West
Wagon Train
Davy Crockett
Daniel Boone
The Virginian
Roy Rogers Show - with Dale Evans
The Lone Ranger - and Tonto
Wanted: Dead or Alive
Colt 45?
'F' Troop

a few that were contemporary at that time:
Magnum, P.I.
Get Smart
The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

and one set in the future:
Star Trek

Thursday, October 15, 2015

I Don't Know

Who decided to divide the day into 24 sections?

Whose foot was the length of today's standard ruler?

How long is a lunar month (one full moon to the next)?

Was Orion ever a summer constellation?

Does anyone still play marbles? Jacks? Ping-pong? Does anyone spin tops, or walk-the-dog with a yo-yo?

Does anyone still play Atari's Frogger? Did the frog ever win?

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

all the way to China

There has long been a popular, colorful bit of North American humor where a character takes a shovel and digs and digs all the way to China. There have been cartoons and comics and literary references to this unlikely way of travel. When I was about five years old, a neighbor kid and I found a shovel one afternoon and decided to go to China. Even though we didn't make it all the way there, there was something satisfying about the trip - and there was an impressive indentation in the yard to mark our efforts.

Monday, October 12, 2015

pre-fab city

his feet search the heated backways
of the flimsy pre-fab city
wandering wondering
at the truth
in a dog's eyes
the live-for-today
of the squirrels,
the cheerful reliability
of the varied corvids,
the art of the canvas
rain-free sky

Saturday, October 10, 2015

TV voices

I hear Bullwinkle's voice, 'Nothing up my sleeve!'

I see Homer Simpson slap his own brow. 'Doh!'

Lucy goes, 'Waaah!' and Ricky goes, 'Ai yi yi!'

Bugs Bunny arrives with a leafy carrot, 'Eh, what's up, doc?'

Jerry says, 'Hello, Newman!'

Newman says, 'Hello, Jerry!'

Elaine says, 'Get outta here!'

Link says, 'Solid!'

and John Denver, 'Far out!'

Captain Jean-Luc Picard says, 'Make it so.'

Porky Pig stutters, 'th, th, th, th, th, th, th, That's All, Folks!'

Red Skelton, 'God bless!'

Friday, October 9, 2015

intentions blocked
by folly focused figments of the mind
and by those outer forces so great so rich so powerful so present everywhere
they cannot be seen
i wander

detached from seeking
who and what i would seek
morsels of success come my way
i stumble upon my watch
at the start of the day
by searching for the broom

Thursday, October 8, 2015

monarch butterflies
dabs of color
points of light
high in the sky
so small
so full of life in flight
glide down at sunset
rest through the night
clinging to twigs and boughs
quiet, dark.
damp with dew
they perch in the morning sun
while wings of black
and orange-gold
unfurl and flutter
till dry and weightless.
once more the monarchs rise
in the autumn sky
up and up
on norther currents
they ride the wind
beauty in flight
to winter south
where warm hills
are flowered
and blooms bear
sweet nectar.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015


Some of my favorite snake encounters I've already shared in my blogs. The five snakes that showed up in the creek bed here in central Texas in 2011 were quite wondrous, as was the huge black snake sunning in the garage in south Louisiana in 2007 or 8. That snake was a sublime presence.

There are lots of scare stories about snakes.  The movie about snakes in the hold of a jet plane escaping into the passenger cabin was quite melodramatic, I understand. Most people are startled and somewhat anxious near snakes, myself included. As a kid, we found some snake eggs in a friend's yard - small, white, and rubbery. We were fascinated and yet a little unnerved, even though the eggs presented no risks to our well being.

Once I learned that according to Asian tradition, my birth year's mascot is the snake, I tried to let go of my fear. Snakes are normally reclusive. Perhaps it isn't danger, but the natural power that emanates from them that keeps us at a respectful distance.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

fish & grubs

What fish are to the waters
grubs are to the lands.

Would this be accurate?

Monday, October 5, 2015

my fingers drum
my face grows damp
the white rectangle
stares right back
the empty page

Saturday, October 3, 2015

I've been thinking lately, not so much about ballet, but about the imagery of ballerinas twirling in the traditional uniform of ballerinas: the tutu. This is not only an image from ballet, but in skating, particularly ice skating - the twirling dancer on ice. I think about ballet and tops and martial arts - how the sharp spinning edge of the tutu cuts through the tension of the air.

I don't have much to say, really. This morning, I was drawing. Yesterday, I drew a toad stool. Today, using the back of that page, I traced some of the lines that bled through the paper.  This was something different from the recent flowers and windsocks and rabbits and jellyfish and squares and triangles and suns and moons. A pink tutu filled the page. I've never worn a tutu - and really don't know a whole lot about ballet - but there it was - a lot of pink on white.

I'm at the library right now, and when I got here, I pulled three children's books off a shelf, kind of randomly as I usually do, without looking at the fronts of the covers. The illustrations and the stories help clear my mind before my own work. I used to write children's stories many years back, and I'm curious about what is currently popular.

One of the books today is about a robot kid who moves to a new town and meets up with an alien kid at the new school. Another is in Spanish - it's about feelings - los sentimientos. The third is called 'Todos Los Tutus: deberian ser rosas'. I don't know much Spanish, but I think this means something like 'All the (something something) pink tutus'. The cover art is of two funny kids in pink tutus.

Friday, October 2, 2015

sauerkraut and pickles

Sauerkraut and pickles are canned foods that have a long history. Sauerkraut is a cabbage dish pickled in vinegar, salt, and other seasonings. Pickles in the United States are most commonly cucumbers, but there are also pickled green beans, carrots, okra, onions, beets,and other vegetables. In Korea, kimchee, like sauerkraut, is made of cabbage and other vegetables, but kimchee is pickled and fermented in large casks, and tends to be quite spicy.

Fresh cucumbers, cabbages, and carrots are part of a summer diet. In summers past, humans ate foods from the fields and gardens, and also prepared some of the excess for storage. Such stored foods saved lives during harsh winters or during droughts.  

In the winters, cold weather dominated many parts of the world. The land might be icy and white with snow. People went to their sheds and cellars, and retrieved the pickles, sauerkraut and other foods canned, salted, or sugared during the summers.  These foods kept folks happy and well-nourished until winter faded and spring sunshine and rains crept back in, when edible dandelion leaves, mushrooms, wild berries, and other delicacies started to return, when farmers tilled their fields, and families planted their own favorites in back-yard gardens.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Dance can be a kind of geometric art in motion. Square dancing is a good example. Traditionally, each square includes eight dancers. The four sides of the square are sometimes called North, South, East, and West. Each side has two people, traditionally, a guy and a gal. They are called partners. Outside of the square is a caller, who sings out the moves. 'Swing your partner' is a basic move where the guy and the gal link arms at the elbows and skip a circle in place on their side of the square. All four sets of partners do this at once. Other moves direct each dancer to their 'corner'. The corner is the person closest to the dancer along the adjacent side of the square. Another simple call is 'Dosie-Do your corner; now Dosie-Do your own.' Each dancer folds his or her arms almost at shoulder level. First they meet up with their corners and circle each other, then return to their partners and circle each other. More sophisticated moves involve weaving back and forth in a ring.

We spent a few weeks in PE at school ('physical education') learning square dancing. This was during the era of the twist, the watusi, the frug, and the mashed potato, so we acted like the old-fashioned square dancing was kind of - well - square. But it was a lot of fun - and a bit of a challenge. Sometimes we crashed into a funny pile-up when we confused left and right, or didn't have the move down yet. Some friends and I some time back spent a part of an evening watching square dancers via The dancers in country-style costumes moved in synchrony, creating kaleidoscope-like images when watched from above. At the corners, and along the lines of the square, there arose twirling colorful circles. Each dancer was separate, yet they moved as a whole, as though invisibly connected.  We hadn't meant to watch video after video of square dancers, but it was visually fascinating.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Children in many schools in the United States of America learn fundamental skills of reading, and writing, and arithmetic, and demonstrate those skills in tests administered by the teachers, and tests required by government accrediting organizations that have agreed upon standards of expectations in different areas of study.

Children also learn applications for these skills that are useful in day to day life. They learn to read a clock, and how to use a calendar. They learn how to figure out how much an 8 percent tax will add to the cost of what they buy at the corner store. They learn if the grocery store sign says 'bananas - 89 cents/lb', how to figure out how much might one banana cost. They learn how big is an acre; they learn how much could one million dollars buy, and how much a dollar buys. They learn which coins add up to a dollar, and how much change should they get back if they buy 69 cents worth of gum with that dollar. They learn how to read and use a recipe. They learn Roman numerals, which are still in use here and there. They are introduced to numerous games and sports, to singing and musical instruments, to many of the arts. They learn the history of our government, and some of the basics of what is acceptable behavior in our culture, and what is not. They also learn lots of our culture's trivia that we assume everybody already knows. They learn about people around the world. They learn about animals around the world. They learn some of the histories - geologic, natural, and political - of the continents on our planet. They learn what has been discovered about the stars in the sky, the planets, moon and sun. They learn about explorers past, and those present - explorers of the lands and oceans, explorers in space. They are exposed to poetry and literature of varied cultures and eras. They learn how to use a library for entertainment, and to locate information. There are many practical skills that are gained in school, including, how to get along.

Some school experiences are great; some can be troubling. Usually, as in all of life, it's a bit of a mix. Some say we spend too much of our childhoods in school, a kind of jail-like experience. Some say we could be well-educated in less than the traditional required 12 years (summers off; 13 years including kindergarten) for a high school degree. There are many very different approaches to learning with different pros and cons. My own experience, overall, was a happy one. I looked forward to the start of another school year each fall. It was a healthy way to socialize with lots of other kids, and to experience the joy of learning.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


In previous posts, I've compared feline sleep experience with that of humans, but have not shared any advice of late. During training to become a psychologist, we were taught about the nature of sleep. We did gain some practical information, some of which is listed below.

We humans fall asleep more easily and sleep more soundly when:
1) we are not cold.
2) we are not in pain.
3) we are not hungry, nor thirsty.
4) we are not interrupted by sudden noises or events, permitting the full cycle of sleep with all of its stages to be completed.
5) when it is dark.
6) when we feel safe.
7) when we maintain a routine time and pre-sleep habits.

A blanket, an aspirin, a small glass of milk can make a difference.
We sleep better with a familiar comfortable pillow, on a familiar comfortable bed.
Pre-sleep habits may include something like reading, lullabies, a routine check through the house to ascertain all is well. 

It's hard to maintain sleep time and habits when we experience jet lag or changes in local time that are at odds with our body's sense of time (circadian rhythm). It is not unwise then to nap when sleepy, if possible, whatever time it is, if it lets your mind and body feel better rested. If worries are keeping you awake, imagine putting them in a drawer, or in God's hands. You can take them out of the drawer and worry if you like when you awaken.

Sleep well!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Northern California
circa 2009

The beach was strewn
with long stems
leaves and bulbs
of sea weed.
Past a great boulder,
the pocked rock surface
was colorfully alive
with starfishes
and anemone
and barnacles
at home
in the hollows
in the stone.
Away from the starfish
the beach ran on for miles
mostly sand.
The sea was brown,
and green, and blue
depending on how the sunlight
struck each rolling wave.
I walked a long way
away from friends
who were resting in the sun
amidst driftwood
and castaway logs.
on my return,
the water welled forward and retreated
with each wave.
It welled forward,
and a large grey sea lion
ancient whiskered white
waddled ahead
across my path.
I stopped.
The sea lion knew my presence
but did not pause
and disappeared
among the dunes.

Friday, September 25, 2015

summer's end
the breeze is welcome
the last peas
dangle on the vine

Thursday, September 24, 2015


imagine a night
in a distant sky
a night still bright
after sun has set
a special night
four moons in sight
in rare togetherness -
one little orange
a big pale yellow
a mottled grey

and pallid white
four glowing 

gibbous moons
in rare togetherness

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

baseball game

sing to the flag
and clap
warm-up and
the game is on
start and pause
meet and greet
pitch and catch
and pitch and catch
and pitch and

Run and pause
and circle discuss.
waves of fans
and warm-up again

and drop the ball
steal away
back where you were

fetch me a hot dog
get me some peanuts
home run while you were gone
there's mustard on your shirt

breathe real slow
and watch the players
in white and gold
red and blue
run and pause
pitcher spit and wind-up
glance to the right
glance to the left

there's the game
and the runs
and the points
and errors

there's the slow motion
no motion
fast motion

of socks and cleats
interplay of
and players
on the bright green diamond

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

sage and rain

There was a kind of sage in our neighborhood in central Texas during the 1980s and 90s. The leaves of these medium-sized shrubs were very small, silvery, and fragrant, as with most sages. They were able to endure wide fluctuations in weather, from hot summers to light freezes, from dry weather to wet. I was told that these sages predicted the weather. When the little purple flowers appear, rain is close behind. I was surprised to discover this was true much of the time!

It is 2015 now, and sage shrubbery is still evident here and there. The blooms are much more abundant than in the past, and they last longer. These are very pretty silvery bushes, just a slight variation on the plants of a couple of decades past. However, it is disappointing to note: these sages do not predict the weather. Not once has rain appeared following the onset of a blooming cycle.

Monday, September 21, 2015

October, 1971

the school week was over
and several of us hastened
into the Rocky Mountains
the sun lowering
into Friday night
to go camping within
national forest.
the road hugged
walls of stone
gleaming ancient hues
maroons, golds
browns and blues
the mountains
so steep
so huge
the air was light
the cold revived us
giant trees
cupped us
within a mighty quiet
far from the city.
i never wished
to conquer a mountain
the peaceful mountains
conquered us

Friday, September 18, 2015

brightly -
water falls
and breaks
breathe in
newborn air

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Disc jockeys are a fascinating breed of people. Their jobs sound like fun, spending a few hours kicking back, playing music they like, chit-chatting on the microphone. Some have a fixed set, or lots of ads to play at specified times of day or night. Those with more relaxed jobs, and not much in the way of required airings, select this piece of music and that to please their listeners. Sometimes, when there is no sign that anyone is listening - I suppose the DJs play what they like to please themselves.

Some personable airwave stars work as teams, and entertain their listeners more with improvisational jokes and conversation than music. This is more like a show than the work of a disc jockey. The job of the DJ, locating interesting fare for an audience, can be an intuitive art, a combination of music knowledge and sensitivity to many elements within the recordings, and within the community. So DJs choose singers and bands and instrumentals and certain songwriters or themes - and listeners get to hear  and learn.

Another aspect of a DJ's work that's of interest is the way their selections and conversation interweave with the pulse of their community. The great disc jockeys seem to have an awareness of what's happening outside their little cubicle. One day, maybe it's a crisp day in fall after a long hot summer, and the music selections are fast-paced, and the DJ and listeners are running on the same track. One day, it's slow, and thoughtful, and maybe a little mournful, after the loss of a beloved public figure, or in tune with an as yet unknown event. There are four days in my own life that stand out, in part because of DJ choices of music on the radio, weaving so brilliantly with personal and public events. It's great to follow the path of a good DJ's music choices, to experience one song after another, a kind of journey.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Henriette et le lapin

an attempt at a poem in my limited French:

cours sous la lune
elle cours au forêt
et près du lac
la lumière comme
un nimbeau délicat
Le lapin reste
sous les bras
des arbres grands -
il la regarde.
il s'amuse
et il la regarde
par ce qu'elle cours
avec le parasol
à sa main droit
sous la lune
à la nuit
avec sa parapluie
si. un ombre
ronde et gris
ses pieds.
La jeune fille
la parapluie,
sa ombre
maintenant est près du lac
maintenant aux pieds.
Le lapin la suit très vite -
plus vite et plus vite -
et ses pieds savent l'ombre
et l'arrêtent.
Le lapin gagne l'ombre
mais pas Henriette si vite -
le parasol
et la jeune fille
n'est pas visible
n'est pas ici

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

construction site

Day to day, I pass by a construction site with a very large and colorful crane. There is a big and deep hole like for a basement floor. I noticed of late that work on the building itself has started. The workers and the crane are building what might be a stairwell. What is new to me and of interest is that it is being assembled of very large, rectangular slabs of stone or something heavy like stone with a few notches and rectangular holes and such. Each segment is perhaps the height of the stairwell; they seem to fit together like giant pre-fab pieces for a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Many traditions last for centuries, or even millenia, and then, at some point, they fade away. When I was a kid around 1960, our town in south central Louisiana had a downtown whose main street was paved in brick, the local red-orange brick. Cars were becoming more mainstream, pedestrians less so. What came to mind today, though, is the image of nuns. Back then, most convent sisters, young and old, wore habits, a kind of uniform. At that time, the habits were long, to or below the ankles. The fabric tended to be starched. The veils not only covered the head, but came all the way to the face, with extensions that covered part of the forehead and sometimes the sides of the face. A small bit of shining face and twinkling eyes was thus framed in folded fabric. A wooden or metal cross was worn around the neck, or attached to a tie around the waist. Shoes were plain and sturdy.

The habits of some convents were black. Some were black in the winter and white in the summer. I think I recall some sisters who worked in hospitals wearing blue habits.

What is no longer visible when I look at everyday folks in town when visiting Louisiana, or here in Texas, is the sight of an occasional nun in habit. Many nuns now dress conservatively in lay (civilian) clothing, and thus can mingle without notice, which is fine. The old vista of town, though, had an occasional cloud or two or three of black floating among the other residents. A kind of peaceful energy seemed to billow about the fabric of the robes. People near them often spoke a little quieter, more calmly when nuns were evident. The sisters didn't seem particularly conscious of this, that they were like little stones, weighting things down a bit. They didn't preach, and some spoke little at all, but social disturbance rarely arose with nuns nearby. 

The everyday splashes of black in paintings and memories past were peaceful icons of piety.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Sometimes, I take the little things for granted, and today, I'm expressing gratitude for one of those little things. Since kindergarten, Crayola and other brands of inexpensive colorful crayons have been a part of everyday life. Sometimes brand new with conical points and fresh paper wrappers, sometimes worn into rounded pieces with bits of dust and debris imbedded in the sides, they work from start to finish. There's something cheerful and promising about a brand-new box, the crayons in neat rows, a choir of colors. There's something reassuring when you can find somewhere in the junk drawer in the kitchen, or in your desk, a few weathered strays. They're present in restaurants to give restless kids something to do, they're in your box of supplies as school starts at the end of summer. Crayons are really wonderful, like paint that you can hold in your hand, no drying necessary. From ages two to one hundred and twenty-two, rich or poor, anyone can be an artist.

Friday, September 11, 2015

7 by 7

When I briefly lived in San Francisco a few years back, I used a city map to find my way around. The map showed the main part of the city, much of which is bordered by water, to be roughly seven miles by seven miles. I'd been nervous about finding my way alone, but now, this news changed my experience of city life. Having been an enthusiastic hiker for many years, seven miles was not impossible! San Francisco was not so much an unfamiliar city, now, as a kind of National Park in my mind. No matter where I got stranded there, I could always find a trail, hike back home enjoying the scenery along the way.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

sunshine grapes

Some delicious green grapes I bought say something like this on the label - 'filled with sunshine'. That phrase is very appealing. These grapes ripened in the sun. Each one contains those aspects of the sun that support life and growth, health, on our planet. (Sometimes we refer to these aspects as 'vitamins and nutrients'.) Most species (plants and animals) on earth evolved on earth, and may be dependent on sunshine in ways similar to how we are dependent on air and water.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

summer Texas creek

one June in the 1990s was mild
milder than it had been for some years
it wasn't too hot to play outdoors
the boys took paper, sticks,
string and picnic plates
they built boats and rafts
at the dining room table.
They signed out with the mom in the kitchen
and headed down to the creek.

There had been plentiful rain
in May and June
the creek was flowing clean
against the smooth and weathered
limestone creek bed
the air was refreshed
they could wade and explore

what was most entertaining
was setting the twigs and rafts
in the water on one side of the crossing
and watching how fast they floated
to the other side

which tunnel pipe would they come out of?
why is this one taking so long?
why do some stay upright
and the others flip and crash?
there goes a roadrunner!
there goes a snake!
there goes a jackrabbit
through the milkweed and buffalo gourd -

Saturday, September 5, 2015


q  qq





other than words

my mind is tumbling
with noise and reasoning
word thoughts that don't match
what i would think
what i would say

i send the words
flying like flocks of birds
and let myself nothink
like a bee
like a moth
like a mouse

i nothink
and let it be
like a Beatle or a tree
my soul floats
all as One and only me

Friday, September 4, 2015

where are the curtains
that flutter in the breeze
that sails in
off the surge of the sea?
the fabrics light
pale yellow and white?
where are the open windows?

Thursday, September 3, 2015

popcorn balls

Some families at Halloween in the 1960s in south-central Louisiana handed homemade popcorn balls to trick-or-treaters. What a treasured score this was! Popcorn balls were made of popcorn, butter, cane syrup, salt, and sometimes peanuts - the little red-skinned kind. The popcorn balls were wrapped in wax paper, and during later years, in plastic wrap. When prepared just right, they didn't fall apart, and neither were they hard and crunchy. The candied syrup stretched, and was delightfully chewy and sweet. Over the years, as I grew up, I thought of these as decadent and a treat that was not so good for a body. But now I see in my mind the fields of corn and cane that provide the main ingredients, that popcorn is a whole grain, and I think, what is wrong with that?  I think of the pleasures other creatures on earth get out of these plants, from the thin sweet juices of cane, and the nutritious satisfying substance of corn. Peanuts make squirrels and baseball fans very happy. The noisy costumed creatures at Halloween told the neighbor parents at the door, 'Gee, thanks!'

Wednesday, September 2, 2015


How do magnets work? How are they related to the earth? Do they behave differently on the moon? Why can a person with a magnet and a piece of metal turn the metal into a magnet using friction, by rubbing the two objects together? How does that happen? How do the magnet's poles, positive (+) and negative (-), get affixed to the pieces of metal? Do magnets and gravity have anything in common? Do magnets have other uses besides attaching pictures, comics, and reminders to the refrigerator?

How does magnetism work between living creatures? Is it the same thing, or the application of the same term ('magnetic') to a different, more biophysical phenomenon?

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Observatory Park

One doesn't often see the words romance and physics in the same sentence. However, if you think about astrophysics, and the stars, planets and moon in the night sky, you might discover a connection. As a student at University of Denver in the 1970s, I had both class assignments (courses related to astronomy, cosmology, and Einstein's theory of relativity) and other opportunities that permitted me to spend time at Observatory Park. The park included a small couple of acres with an old, handsome, dome-shaped observatory . Sometimes we had lab at the observatory. We took turns looking at various objects in the sky, huddled over the eyepiece of an old, fine telescope that was affixed to a clock mechanism that kept the object being viewed in focus, adjusting to the earth's steady turning. Despite the city lights of Denver, we often had a good view, the 'mile-high' air so cold and clear. The telescope was situated in a small dark space the size of a waiting room, with maybe three bleachers.

Though we must have gazed at planets, the moon, and stars, what made me weak at the knees were galaxies. Galaxies: spiral-, sphere-, and other-shaped collections of thousands of stars, each star different - perhaps binary, or with its own solar system, or blue and dim, or a nova flaring large and bright. We couldn't see individual stars at such a distance - it was more like looking at bee hives and swarms, millions of miles wide, their piercing white glow reaching the humbled eyes of a handful of momentary creatures on a small acre of earth.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Today is one of the scariest days of the month for me (a single lady on her own). I pay my bills. Even though they are not all due on exactly the same day, I try to take care of them all at once because anxiety so besets me.

Some might wonder about this, but perhaps their income is greater than their outflow each month, unlike my situation. Writing checks for apartment rent, car insurance, utilities, credit card, and cell phone services, I'm watching my meager savings float out the window, with no returns. Restricting the process to a day or two permits me to forget about expenses for the rest of the month until - bill paying day arrives again! I start getting anxious two or three days before I sit down and face the costs of my existence.

Bills no longer look like they did when I first started taking care of my own expenses in the 1970s. They were pretty simple. We are charging you 12 dollars and fifteen cents for August electricity usage. It is due by September 7. Thank you for your recent payment of $13.01 received on August 2.

Half a page of paper and a return envelope. Not so scary because it was easy to understand (and because I had a job with income, and, eventually, a spouse and family).

Bills now are subdivided into many categories, some with labels that might as well be ancient Greek. Many are unclear about the dates of the service period. The due dates sometimes are shifted. The addresses where the payments are received and processed can be different than the location of the company whose services you are receiving. It's just more complicated.

We have options now that permit us to avoid this monthly confrontation. Automated payments permit companies to have access to your bank account. The amount owed is paid on the date due without any fuss, as long as you have funds in your account. However, I have a computer that is squirrelly and family with some bad experiences with this kind of system. I try to plod more slowly the old-fashioned way, with a stamp and envelope.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Solar Ovens and Lower Branches

As the human population expanded in parts of Africa, and more of the lands were taken over by humans, and severe droughts increased in duration and frequency of occurrence, traditional ways of cooking and building were hampered. Such ancient ways also swiftly put a strain on the natural environment during harsh climactic change.

Traditionally, large leaves were used in many ways to weave structures, to create roofs, and meet other needs. This sustainable housing had been greatly successful across thousands of years. Wood from lower branches and trees was used for carving bowls, utensils, and art and for fuel for food preparation.

But the spread of industrial activity included the clearing of lands, and also disrupted ways of life and survival for many species. The loss of trees, prairie lands, and open ranges dramatically changed the world for other species who depended on leaves and fruit for food, and on migration to obtain food and prevent overgrazing. Human activities also led to severe droughts, the evaporation of watering holes.

One means of human adaptation to these conditions has been the invention of a small oven that uses nothing but solar energy for fuel, and is easily constructed using materials often found second-hand at construction and demolition sites. These are called solar ovens, and have eased the use of wood as fuel. Similar materials are used to create housing. People have come to acknowledge the importance of tree canopies to sustain the existance of life on the continent. Decreasing the harvest of lower branches for food and construction means there is more shade and moisture preserved close to the ground, providing pockets of shelter from the sun for the young giraffe, the zebra, the dassies, the gazelle, for small and large birds. During the heat of day during the dry season, stretched across the limb of an old tree, the lion may still find rest.

Friday, August 28, 2015

St. Francis

St. Francis of Assisi is familiar to many as the patron saint of animals. The images and statues you find are of a robed man with a bird on his shoulder, and rabbits and deer near his feet, and a basket of grain or seeds nearby. We learned in school to sing a prayer he composed. I only remember the beginning of it, but perhaps that is enough.

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

elocution contest

The school I went to as a little kid had a yearly elocution contest. The pupils in each class memorized a poem given to them by the teacher. They took turns reciting it, if they wished to participate. The two or three who did the best job got to recite a poem of their choice at a night-time performance in the auditorium with an audience of family and friends. Awards were distributed after the show.

This tradition must go back quite a ways. In Montgomery's book Anne of Green Gables, dating back to the 1800s, there is a chapter devoted to such a contest.

Our mother helped us memorize a poem or two. I got to participate once in the contest - second grade - and still remember all of 'Little Orphan Annie'. The high schoolers liked to recite dramatic works of romance and tragedy - not very different from what happens in Anne of Green Gables. Their performances sometimes brought tears to the audience.

Some people are natural performers - these contests may have been an entry into a career of entertaining or teaching others. The experience was scary for me, as perhaps performing was scary for other children. It did help me later in life when I still had stage fright giving research presentations to remember I had some experience, and had survived. What I appreciate the most about the elocution contest, though, was learning how to memorize; that people before television arrived had memorized poems to entertain each other; that words spoken or written centuries earlier can be carried through time and be brought to life again and again, person to person.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

there's what we see around us
the reality of the chair
and the clothes on the chair
and the crumpled blanket on the bed

and there's what we see around us
the unreality
that fills in the lines
turns wrinkles and shadows and curves
into funny faces
and hollowed out faces
and peaceful animals with no names
and odd protrusions
and odd extrusions

a real and unreal
layered visual world

you could say the first is real
the other merely figment
filled in by your solitary mind

or you could say
the blanks and curves are filled in
by the soup and vibrations
of everything going on
that doesn't fit in your room
with the chair
the rumpled clothes
and the crumpled blanket

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

3 pigeons and 2 squirrels

A large pigeon stood on a picnic table this morning.
The pigeon did not startle as I approached;
he stood so still that I stopped.
A fellow nearby pointed out the pigeon,
still motionless,
and a pair of squirrels up a tree.
I took out a folded paper packet with the remains of my breakfast,
a sticky sweet roll with walnuts and cinnamon,
and crumbled some of it on the ground near the table.
The pigeon was there first
and snagged a sugary walnut.
He ate it very fast and floated up, as though in delight.
He landed and two others joined him.
They flapped their wings against each other
then moved in a small circle
brushed up together
each one rotating
with wing and tail feathers outspread
fanning them
exposing white feathers on their necks
that contrasted with the dark grays.
They danced
and the squirrels frolicked above my head
along the trunk and among the branches.
I'd be happy to share my breakfast with them all again.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Leonardo's pyramids

Within the book The Science of Leonardo by Fritjof Capra, there is a quote from Leonardo da Vinci that is visually interesting:

"All the things transmit to the eye their image by means of a pyramid of lines. By 'pyramid of lines' I mean those lines which, starting from the surface of each item, converge from a distance and meet in a single point...placed in the eye."

Here's a bit of conjecture on my mind. From Leonardo's intricate and complex drawings, we see he must have learned to visualize more than the images one sees ordinarily. He was able to keep aware of the invisible but real, physical paths between the objects and the eye. The 'pyramid' he describes is not visible to a second and third observer on either side of him. The travel or trails of the light are not usually visible to the eye in a lighted area, and they are not the same for each observer; their separate perspectives would create different pyramids.

Though the lines are not visible to the eye, Leonardo perceives them with intention. (Naturally, or did he train himself to do this, expand his mind?) Many of his artistic works and scientific sketches have a complex depth viewers have admired for centuries. His visualizing the invisible pyramid created from light flowing there to here adds dimension to his art. It seems he played with the multi-dimensional objects shaped by those trails of light, creating unusually vibrant representations of what he saw.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

I liked the years between when personal computers became available, and when the internet arrived to the public. You purchased a computer and you chose some software packages - an encyclopedia, maybe. Your favorite games. Accounting and geneaology and learn-to-speak-Italian. Word processing and art software. There was no connection to other computers. It was like having a private notebook that held a closet of books and pens and ink and writing paper and fun things to do, all in one cube on your desk.

With the arrival of internet, we started off with exchanging emails (this was before texting on cellphones showed up) and then, as websites mutiplied exponentially, we started surfing. Via the internet, we visited fun places we might never have known of, met people and their thoughts and the photos of where they lived and what they liked to do,  and had access to great sources of information. The internet has been a life-expanding experience, something big formerly unknown to mankind.

However, there has been a kind of rise and fall with the internet. The connections to other computers and databanks at other locations has led to intentional mischief that in some ways has undermined not only the internet, our security, and our computers, but the foundation of our culture.

Well, that's debatable and I'm meandering. What I wanted to write about was before computers. The assignments and papers we handed in when I was in high school were written by hand (or, rarely, typed on a typewriter). There was a certain format that was expected - where you placed your name, the date, and the class title, for example. By college, you were expected to have access to a typewriter, or a typist. We were familiar with white-out, correction tape, and erasable bond typing paper. There were all kinds of rules, many now lost, in the mechanics of typing. For example, the tradition at that time was to type a single space between words, and a double space to separate sentences. There were expectations about whether the text should be double- or single-spaced. A dash consisted of two hyphens, and we were expected to know the difference between the use of a dash and a hyphen. Finally, in typing manuscripts for publication (I don't know why I love writing about these things), you ended the text you submitted with three hash marks,
###, perfectly centered below the last sentence, marking the end.


Friday, August 21, 2015

they buy a clock

a story i read
goes on and on
about a family who lived
long ago
with a horse
and a cow
and candle lights
and a shaky bridge
across a creek.
one day
they ride to the village
they buy a clock
the first they have ever had.
they wind the clock
and through the night
the story flows on
through the day
and through the night
day and night
and night and day
now they know the time
nothing remains the same.

(the other animals
are still afloat
on sun and stars
on rain and wind
and the chip-chip stories
of the birds and mice.
the human animals go by the clock
time to rise!
it's six o'clock)

Thursday, August 20, 2015

goodnight, wild things

how many lullabies
will it take
before you're settled
for the night?
how many kisses? 1-2-3?
the flying bunny
floats back and forth
your eyes droop
as they try to follow
when bunny lands
you're in sweet slumber

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

white coat syndrome

There's something called 'the white coat syndrome'. Sometimes, it refers to blood pressure increases in people who have 'normal range' blood pressure readings most of the time. The thought of the doctor (who typically wears a white coat), or just being in a doctor's office, makes some people nervous, and their blood pressure rises with the anxiety.

In psychology, we come across other references to white coat syndrome related to obedience. There are numerous studies that show that people - usually research volunteers - will do whatever they are instructed to do, even if it makes them uncomfortable, or requires breaking their own personal ethics. Although we are volunteers, and are free to leave whenever we wish, there is something about the instructor or technician (sometimes in 'the white coat') being seen as an authority figure. We humans have a hard time saying no in such settings. A classic example is Philip Zimbardo's 1960's research that assigned students randomly to either a make-believe prisoner role or that of a prison guard. No participants chose to leave, even though the situation quickly became so cruel that the experiment was ended early. (The book by Dr. Zimbardo, 'The Lucifer Effect', thoroughly examines the study and relevant issues beyond the study.)
There is other research where the volunteer is expected to deliver shocks to someone in the next room, visible through a one-way window, (usually a planted coworker playing the role of a second volunteer). The volunteer is expected to deliver shock by pressing a button in response to errors the victim makes in a game (or other situation). Usually the person in the next room is a planted secret assistant. The supposed shock mechanisms adjusted to different levels, from low to a high 'danger' level. Almost all of the volunteers followed instructions, even if the person in the next room was making sounds of suffering and even though the volunteers sometimes were moved to tears as they continued to deliver shocks at 'high voltage', and could have walked out at any time without retribution. The ethics of such experiments is something that has been discussed. Given that they were conducted, however, they can be helpful in discussing and understanding issues such as torture and perhaps preventing such behavior.

The reason I started off with this topic though, goes back to the doctor's offices and hospitals. In my experience, and that shared to me by others, there are occasions when we comply with anything the staff in healthcare facilities recommend or order - for ourselves, our kids, our parents. It is of interest that many of us don't refuse when it is something we would like to refuse, even though we have reasons and the right to say no. A strategy that I have discovered to be helpful is practicing saying - 'Thank you for your recommendation. I will give it some thought.' This usually does not offend the worker, and gives one more time to make a more measured decision about whether the procedure is necessary and/or desired.