Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Mommies and Pops, it's not a bad idea to keep a small pack of gum in your pocket or purse. Sometimes your little kids - 3 and up - will start to squabble while you are in church or a library or someplace where the noise is not permitted, and you can't at that moment figure out what the problem is, if there is a problem. Half a stick of gum can temporarily provide quick relief. You can address the squabble details later if necessary.

(P.S. Save the wrapper for later. Proper disposal of the chewed-up miracle intervention is advised.)

Monday, June 27, 2016


i feast on apple pie
peanut butter
and peaches preserved;
walnut strudels
corn tortillas
cranberry muffins
with hot cafe
count my blessings
birds fetch the crumbs
and sometimes share
perhaps their fears
and sorrows fade
come apple pie
and walnut strudel

Saturday, June 25, 2016


Wouldn't it be neat to go to an art exhibit whose theme is ducks? There are art exhibits around the world, but I've never seen a duck art exhibit. There could be Audubon or Sibley paintings and sketches, there could be fine polished decoys, carved of hard woods. A Korean totem pole, with ducks calmly perched at the little platform on top would be quite moving.

Mallards and wood ducks swimming in a pond are such a peaceful sight. They float in a kind of unison, as though they are separate but in some way, contentedly connected. Ducks seem to be quite cheerful neighbors to us all. They don't attack and they don't squabble very much, just quack quack quack and dive for a little pond weed. Mother ducks are a remarkable sight, with their fluffy ducklings waddling single file behind them. 

I saw a mallard all alone on this morning's walk. A duck all alone appears a bit confused. What am I doing here? the solitary duck seems to ponder, standing motionless at the water's edge; something is missing.

Friday, June 24, 2016

God's violin

 God's violin

sparrows' chirping chirping
rising and falling within
the dry rustle of summer leaves.
buggy wheels rattle and growl;
baby's high pitches
pierce and slide;
shoes whisper
against the sidewalk pavement.
cars roar past -
then grumble and snore
in pause at the stop light.
pigeon's wings flutter
as he rises to a bough -
i listen for the sound
the chords of love
the bow against the strings
of God's violin

Thursday, June 23, 2016

In Passing by Albert Huffstickler

In Passing
by Albert Huffstickler

There's a way people come to know each other
without ever speaking -
like on a bus at night
or in an apartment house over the years,
passing each other in the hall,
meeting at the mail box;
eating in the same diner at opposite ends of the room,
passing in the street year after year
on the way to work or on the way home.
In the silence of the night sometimes,
faces come to us in the darkness -
the faces of people we have known
but never spoken to.
And in the night, these faces glow
with a gentle light
and they're like the faces of angels
descended from some high place
to tell us it's all right,
that the loneliness will end,
that somewhere in a place not known to us yet,
we're together and always have been.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016


There was a siren, a type of salamander, that lived in our ditch when we were kids in the 1960s in south Louisiana. There was always an inch or two of water, and on a summer afternoon, we'd go out with a piece of thread and a bit of bacon or cheese to see if we could catch a crawfish. But sometimes, something much heavier tugged on the string. Slowly I'd pull so as the catch wouldn't let go. When I saw the great wide mouth and slippery body of the siren emerging from the mud, I'd drop the string and run away, hollering. I was the one that let go, and the siren got to eat the bacon or cheese appetizer.

I think about that salamander sometimes. It seemed to be living in the smooth thickness of mud, not on land nor in the water. How does a siren breathe in the mud? How do they reproduce? Are there families of sirens that live in the mud?

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Maybe it was at age seven, for First Holy Communion, I received a gift. The gift was a book, a Holy Missal, bound in white and protected with a clear vinyl cover. The pages were very thin, and lined with gold. There were five slender ribbons of different colors, that let you mark your place without folding the corners of any of the pages. The section with the Holy Mass was written in Latin on the left page, and English on the right. The book was illustrated with pictures of  saints and the Holy Family in beautiful colors, and halos and suns that sparkled with light and very thin lines of gold. There was a section for Mass, for Rosaries, and for the yearly calendar that matched the saints to Masses on specific dates. The book also included a description of different items at the altar, and the vestments that the priest wore at Mass, and their significance.

Monday, June 20, 2016

The forge-fire sets a glow in the heavens,
the hammer thunders, showering the smoke with sparks.

A ruddy smithy, the white face of the moon,
and the hammer, ringing down cold dark canyons.

Li T'ai-po
translator: Hamil

I like a poem that takes the reader to another place and time.
Li Po composed this from China in the 700s.

Friday, June 17, 2016


schools of pogies 
sailed along 
the shallow waters
of the Mississippi coast
flashing silver
silent lightning
as they leapt into
the sunlit sky

Thursday, June 16, 2016

A to B

Straight line gets you to your destination, A to B; triangles do not.

(Line so direct, so fast. Triangles wandering all over the place.)

Triangles will get you to your destination, A to B; One straight line will not.

(Line so stuck in two dimensions, so easy to roadblock. Triangles take you off the page to other points and to your destination.)

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

the Moon's story

and the Moon showed up
in the blue room
and shared its story

the Moon big and round
mottled and glowing
filled the room

and no one peeped
or argued, or made a sound -
awed that the Moon had voice.

the Moon finished,
departed without conversing;
the room felt big and empty.

the others in the blue room left.
they found themselves outside,

by the Moon's voice
the Moon's story

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

when logic does not work
and instinct fails us
when we can't quite locate
those we have loved
and learned to trust -
not friends
nor family nor creatures -
when even God
is beyond a Wall-
we sometimes reach out in the dark -
resort to crazy little habits -
dog paddle to keep afloat -
till God flows in the wind again
large and glowing as the clouds
or shining
from the hearts
of kin,
man, toad, or beetle
or arching tree,
in the love from a stranger
or light from a foe.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Dirt is a good word. It's short and strong. The word stands for something rich and fundamental to life on our amazing planet. I don't know for sure, but I think it must be made out of a bit of everything. Rock and leaves and feathers and shedded snakeskin; potatoes and whiskers and paper cups and watermelon seeds; seashells and seaweed and mistletoe and lost socks. It would take me a few thousand pages to list everything.

Almost everything we eat relies upon dirt as much as it relies upon water and sun. Dirt loves up the trees and the corn and the shrubs covered with berries.

Dirt comes in many colors. Our dirt in south Louisiana was black in the 1950s and 60s. When we drove up through Alabama, the dirt we saw was a deep reddish orange color as we approached the Smoky Mountains. Some dirt ranges from beige to nearly white.

When we were kids, digging was fun. There were worms and beetles and mites to be found. Was it The Three Stooges who taught us on television that if we dug deep enough, we would come out in China?

The lady who helped care for us when our parents were out of town gave me a spoon and a pan. She came back and poured water on a bare bit of earth, and left me to it. It was fun making mud muffins.

Life is good, and dirt isn't bad. Dirt is essential to earth's goodness.

Saturday, June 11, 2016


Pictures of hippopotamuses (or is it hippopotami?)often show these great languid beasts keeping cool and groovy in the bed of mud in the shallows or along the edges of a pond or river. Almost like trees, its as though they are rooted, connected to the dirt of the earth. Do they worry about germs and worms? That, I do not know.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Orion's belt; his scabbard.
Casseiopeia's Chair.
Big Dipper.

I like living in the city, walking distance to groceries, parks, and libraries. For so many years of my life, I lived in rural areas. The words above just came to mind, and I realize, city citizen that I am, I do miss past nighttime neighbors in the dark night sky.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Nativity, encore

The Nativity story has survived 2000 years. It is rich with hardship and with joy, celebrating a birth that happens far from home. I like the part of the wise visitors who follow a very bright star or comet, to reach the birthplace. I like that it takes place outdoors, under a starry sky. Almost every artwork or other representation of the Nativity pictures other animals, present and calm, as well as humans. There may be a donkey, who carried the mother while she was in labor. An ox or a cow is usually included. Chickens sometimes are there, and a camel near the wise men. I can't think of any other popular stories where a human infant is born amidst other species. Their presence may have helped keep the birthplace warm. And I like that there are shepherds, informed in the dark of night by angels singing. The shepherds show up with their staffs and their sheep, curious about a baby born in an open barn, moved by the mom, dad, and baby with their halos glowing.

I see I wrote about the Nativity last December, not that long ago, and don't know why it came up again today. There are those who believe the birth actually occurred in spring, when the sheep were lambing.

Here is the the previous entry I posted:

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.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Little green yard lizards have necks that expand and turn rosy red when they are seeking a mate. 'Come hither!' the bright splash of swelling color seems to say. Fireflies (a.k.a. lightning bugs) have  bodies that blink brightly in the night. 'Here I am!' they seem to say. People have faces that turn rosy with interest and shyness. The pupils of their eyes dilate. 'Umm. Do you like me?' their faces seem to say. Frogs croak over and over: 'Come find me! I'm at the pond!'

Tuesday, June 7, 2016


In the mornings, sometimes I watch a bird who trots about, feeding morsels of food to other birds. Gift giving is an interesting tradition. Sometimes it's an exchange. Sometimes we give gifts for an event, such as birthdays, weddings, graduations, the arrival of an infant. Sometimes we are showered with gifts from someone who gives with love, who does not expect anything in return. We someday come to honor the giver's generous spirit by giving to others, without desiring anything in return.

Monday, June 6, 2016

beneath turtle's shell

beneath the arc
of turtle's shell
carries earth
on her shoulders

Saturday, June 4, 2016

I'm not very knowledgeable about types of dance nor the histories of ballet, waltz, and cha-chas. That said, I've been thinking about flamenco lately. Some weeks back, I noticed a skirt in a clothing store that was long and black with layers of taffeta ruffles along an angled hemline. The skirt looked like something performers on television might wear when dancing a flamenco. The word and dance flamenco perched in my mind a while. Flamenco might be the Spanish term for flamingo, the tall pink wading bird. Flamingos at one time were, for some reason unknown to me, popular here in Austin, Texas. There was a restaurant that sold black t-shirts with a row of pink flamingos. There was a bit of a tug-of-war, not a battle, about whether it was okay to have statues of pink flamingos in one's yard. Did pink flamingos make the neighborhood tacky or cool? That said, the only real flamingos I remember may have lived at the zoo in San Antonio.

Anyhow. I've been thinking about the flamenco, and how the dancers use their layered skirts in the same way that birds fan their feathered wings in mating rituals, using slow, seductive motion. I've been thinking about the clicking of castanets during the dance, and how perhaps they sound something like crickets chirping in the background. I've written in the past how some of the old pieces of classical music include sound patterns and repetitions similar to the songs of certain birds. The flamenco is a dance that seems to recreate the beauty and wild formality of life. We humans, via dance and music, remain, in our way, interwoven with the other species that share the planet earth.

Friday, June 3, 2016

cheese and dairy -

We went to a university that had an agricultural school. Part of that program included cattle. The students ran an ice cream parlor, Ferdinand's, which sold products from the cows in their dairy program: rich, sweet ice cream. The students also made a selection of cheeses, sold by the school. One cheese was named after the school mascot, another named for the mascot of a rival university just across the state line. The cheeses were sold in wheel shaped portions sealed in wide, flat, round cans, and could be stored for long periods of time. They were very, very good.

Cheese has an ancient history around the world. In some cultures, it is a staple in people's diets. Milk products from animals that grazed in sunlit fields keep us healthy in places where winters are cold and very clouded, and little fresh food is avaialble. They keep the rest of us nourished as well. Cheese is mostly made of milk, which is a complete food that meets all of the nutritional needs of calves, kids, and lambs. We humans accept some of that milk, a whole food, for our own well-being. We are so grateful to the animals that share the milk they produce. Milk, yogurt, ice cream and cheese all contribute to our health and happiness.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

When reviewing photos and sketches from varied cultures past and present, one characteristic that stands out about humans is hair. Customs regarding hair care and appearance vary widely and wildly from location to location, and era to era.

The men in parliament and congress past wore their own hair, or wigs, long and primly curled. American men during WWII wore buzz cuts; during the Civil War, many pictures show men with hair untended altogether. Some times and places, women are expected to cover their hair, usually with cloth or veils. Some women in Africa wear wraps of colorful fabric around their heads.  Scarves or babushkas were once popular in the Ukraine, Russia, eastern Europe. There are the starched Dutch ladies' caps with little wings. The long draped scarves for Islamic women at times are hotly debated.

Women have worn their hair piled neatly atop their heads, or flowing down, unkempt. There are braids in Germany and among the native peoples of the American continents. Afros and dreadlocks, as do oils and dry looks. Helmet shaped hairdos come and go among men and women. Some styles take hours to prepare; some are spit and go. Some cultures remove sections or all of their hair. For example medieval monks wore a round bald spot atop their heads. Much time and debate focuses on hair issues, what is acceptable, what is not. One year the women here are curling their hair using 'permanents'. The next, we are ironing it straight as a board. Short hair for men in some decades was preferred within Christian, conservative groups, yet Christ is always pictured with long hair. The Biblical story of Samson and Delilah is a curious one, as thought there were some power lost in the cutting of Samson's hair. Some people like spiky hair, multi-colored hair, humorous hair. Grey hair can be a sign of dignity and wisdom, or 'over the hill'.

The way hair is worn communicates messages about our genes, who we are, and when and where we have lived. It can communicate our occupations and something of our personalities. There is a surprising amount of fuss over who wears their hair this way or that. Some people will not come out of their homes if their hair is not just so.

Do we tend toward prim or alluring?
Rich or poor?
Regimented or wild?

This tribe or that?

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

All those years, we thought of outer space as empty, a vacuum.