And the Earth Breathes…

Photo: Road RainRain. It’s been quite plentiful in North Texas this last year or so, which isn’t historically common. Certainly feels like a different place, whether the weather is on a truly new cycle or it’s merely a blip in the cosmic scheme of things, and my traveling-companion and I marvel every time we’re out and about at how strangely, beautifully green the region is for this time of year. It helps to take the edge off of the heat, as well, and I can’t help but smell that magical eau-de-vie perfume exhaled by the world when it’s rainy and feel renewed, myself. What a calming effect it has.Photo: The Grey that Leads to Green

I know that many parts of the world are being treated less kindly by the rains and getting swamped in floods, and hope that mother earth will find a balance that harms none, helps all to flourish, but can’t help being grateful for our gentler and more nourishing version of the weather thus far. Our road trip to Santa Fe and back in late July/early August not only provided further evidence in its proliferation of green and growing things along our route but treated us to the beauties of stormy summer skies and perfumed earthy air quite a few times, as well. While storms do bring their troubles with them, those that do kindly leave us unharmed are a magnificent show of power and spectacle and beauty beyond human invention and remind me to show my respect and appreciation for nature more often.Photo: Well-Fed Landscape

Petrichor
The scent is all; this haunting
fragrance takes, in perfect synchrony,
my breath away and gives it back again,
back in electric rush as though
I’d leapt from ocean’s-depths
straight into air again—
This moment, this aching, longing,
gorgeous spark
of miniature infinity, this marks the time
when I find myself renewed, reborn—
The atomized eternity
that I breathe in, that I
pull in through every singing, sharp
electron of my frame, makes me go racing
back into the origins of time—still
fleeting, pass through iron gates
to death, and just as suddenly,
burst forth and know the spangled joys
of present life again

***************************************************

Santa Fe Afternoon
(A Breaking Storm’s Baptism)
Ochre and indigo, shadows and fire,
and in the far-off pines, a chanting bird
insinuating secret things is heard,
then joined by other birds, whose hearts’ desire
Is that the fulsome, clouded, darkling sky
should soon release a feathered shaft its own:
the lightning, thunder echoing with groan
and shout, to rout the perching birds to fly,
For they all wait, as we, gravity-bound,
wait under porches’ purple-gloaming eaves
for when the rain shakes us out of the leaves
to chase again the richness of this ground,
For water always wakens us once more,
Resuscitating all with petrichor.

Photo: The Veiled Desert

Even in the desert, the earth rejoices when the sky lets down its veils of rain.

With this little photo-essay and pair of poems, I’m reflecting on those joys, but also giving you a little preview: my books #2 and 3 should be published in good time for winter gift shopping, whether you’re interested in giving something to someone else or treating yourself! One of the books is a second volume sharing additional adventures in Miss Kitty’s Fabulous Emporium of Magical Thinking (or, MiKiFEMT-1), and the other will be a more grownup book of my poetry and visual images. Both in full color, this time. Not to worry, you can still get copies of that first book of nonsensical delights shipped directly to you any time you like, just by visiting good old Amazon online. You should have plenty of reading material handy in case the rain comes to visit again…

Photo: A Good Day for Reading

It’s always a good day for reading.

I Post: Therefore, I Am

Photo: One November in PortlandI took a month off from blogging. Many of you will not have noticed at all, but it was a big deal to me. I hadn’t taken a full day off of blogging in the four and a half years since I’d started. I wasn’t even really planning this hiatus, but I think it was destined. And necessary.

Since I last posted here, much has happened. The vast majority of it was at least semi-planned, and generally was wonderfully welcome, too. But it would take more time than it did to live it if I were to try to fully document it here, and that might take a little of the luster from the memory, something I would surely begrudge rather than delighting in the telling. So I shall give you a relatively brief recap and call it good.

You know from my last posts—if you were picking up on the heavy hints—that after our return from Portland (Oregon) where he was conducting one of his choirs at a wonderful conference and we were happily reunited with a number of dear friends and colleagues, my husbandly partner and I had a brief breath-catching, laundry-attacking, household-packing few days at home before jetting off again, the next time for Sweden. That trip, too, was for both work and play purposes. The original excuse for the trip to our beloved home-from-home turf in Stockholm was my husband’s invitation to be interviewed for a radio broadcast celebrating the history and future of Swedish choral music in general and the Swedish Radio Choir (Radiokören, or RK) in specific, as part of RK’s gala celebrations of its 90th birthday. After a literal false start to the trip, when bad weather in Chicago made our flight connection there impossible on the scheduled day and forced us to take a next-day pair of flights bringing us to Stockholm hours instead of a whole day ahead of the onstage interview, we tumbled happily into place at “our” fabulous accustomed apartment in the heart of the city and made a running start at the planned activities.

In all, there were three concerts, the radio interview, another radio interview for him with a second broadcaster on a different program, walks all over town, a day-trip out to Uppsala, and meetings and meals with dear, wonderful, longtime friends at pretty much every lunch and dinnertime throughout our stay. We even enjoyed a full-on, all-American Thanksgiving dinner on the official day, made by a beloved Swedish friend who lives much of the time in the US, served in her Swedish love’s warm and beautiful apartment, and shared with another pair of dear friends—an American expat conductor who is my spouse’s brother-from-another-mother, and his brainy and beautiful wife. And of course we still failed to see everyone (you’re not off the hook forever, Anna!) and do everything we wanted to do before we had to head back to Texas. Real life, and all that jazz.

Plenty of excitement in real life, too, for that matter. We got to bed just after 2 a.m. on the 28th of November after our journey back from Stockholm, and at 8 the same morning, the movers arrived to pack us up for our home relocation across town. Thank goodness it was just across town. Tight timing and a few hiccups in schedule-coordination along the way meant that although we had sold our house for one of the three solid offers within 48 hours of putting it on the market—and less than three weeks after seeing an apartment ad that convinced us we could be comfortable in a place half the size of the house—moving so immediately on our return from the second trip in a row was dicey at best.

Photo: Meanwhile, back in Texas

Meanwhile, back in Texas, there was a walk around the lake on Christmas day in shirtsleeves, supervised by our friendly local pair of vultures, Heckle and Jeckle.

But it all went smoothly enough, in the end. We’d hired a previously-used great company for the move itself, the friend who had been our realtor when we bought the house to re-sell it for us, and a terrific lady who managed a complete living-estate sale to reduce our belongings enough to fit us into the apartment. A scant couple of weeks after all of that, I am sitting in a very comfortable living space in a well-managed rental with nice, quiet neighbors, and I know that we did the right thing. Lighter housekeeping has its appeal, and it’s simply fun to reinvent the nest once in a while as well. Something so refreshing lies in the revised view of myself that comes from sorting through the tangible stuff of my life and deciding what to change, what to keep, what to eliminate, and what to add. We are still in the same town, barely a few miles from where we lived, but with a change of view in many ways after 6 and 1/2 years here.

Including, as it happens, that since the location of the apartment doesn’t offer any views other than of rather grungy local roads, parking areas, and a cement plant, the artificial views I’m making at the windows by having my scenic photos printed on curtains that let light through without making us look at the dullness outside. Never let it be said that I lack a rich fantasy world, no matter how excellent my real world happens to be. I’ve loved the rather fantastical life that our travel and change-of-venue adventures afford me, but I can find much to delight me in the everyday, too.Photo: Skillet Cornbread, Again

To make myself feel right at home when we returned to our current place of actual residence, I whipped up some good old skillet cornbread for tonight’s chili dinner at a friend’s house. This batch of cornbread was seasoned with salt and white pepper, smoked paprika, roasted coriander, mace, and powdered dried orange peel, and to confirm my devotion to Texan treats, I brought a ridiculously tasty spread to slather on it: about half butter and half sorghum-molasses, whipped together with a hefty splash of Texas bourbon and a sprinkling of coarse salt. I may not be a native Texan myself, but I can walk the walk.

Photo: Boozy Butter

Boozy butter, anyone?

Now that I’m back to the blog, I cannot say that I feel the need to post every single day again, as I go forward. I expect I’ll post often, most likely several times a week, but it’ll be when I have the time and the gumption and the wherewithal to create posts. Blogging is, after all, only my avocation. I don’t make a penny from it, and it takes a remarkably large quantity of my time and efforts and brain-power just to develop sufficient content for the images and words I post, never mind to keep up with the expansive correspondence shared with my readers and fellow bloggers and friends. I enjoy this blog greatly and am enriched by being the sort of diarist I am in this place, but it’s not the center of my life.

So I will see you, often I hope, and when I am not fully occupied with other things. I will, in a literal sense, keep you posted. And I salute you for your kind visitations and the warm and wonderful companionship you’ve shared with me along the way! May the year ahead be a grand one, kind and generous to us all and filled with the wonder that brings me here to visit with you in the first place. Happy 2016, everyone!

Homecoming

Recognition

How the calm of evening simmers,

As a mist engulfs the lake…

Stars flick on, the city glimmers…

Walking, I am wide-awake…

In my heart, there leaps the knowing

Recognition, as I roam,

That this scintillating, glowing

Place is welcoming me home.

I have wandered many places,

Lived and loved in many lands

Where a hundred thousand faces,

Hospitable, gracious hands,

Generous, inspiring people’s

Invitations, and the rest,

Filled the land, from vales to steeples,

With the joys that please me best…

Yet, for all the sweet emotions

I have known in every spot,

I’d traverse the widest oceans

To return to where I’ve got

Such connection, deep and healing,

Such belonging, in my soul,

Recognition so revealing

That it’s Home that makes me whole.Photomontage: Recognition/Brotherly Love

Stockholm, 21 November 2015

The Long and the Short of It

The short hours of winter daylight in northern climes have been known to drive some folk to madness. Such a visible reminder of brevity can be frightening. But it has its magical, lovely characteristics, too, not least of all in the extended reach of dusk backward into daylight hours, when the encroaching dark of a long night is preceded by a wash of sweet watercolor lengthening slowly, easefully across the sky. It begins barely past noon, the sun clinging to the horizon’s edge while rolling at this seasonally low angle to other parts of the globe. It often ends, it seems, with a snap of the sky’s lid into full darkness, but until then the whole afternoon has been suffused with yearning and attenuated gleam, the sky a pearl rather than the flat, undifferentiated blue of its cloudless expanse often seen on longer days.Photo: Sunset Begins

Sunset Begins

Sunset begins as dawn is barely ending,

The day a secret known to but a few

Who see such light without yet apprehending

That their mortality is old while new,

That death will follow birth in shorter seasons

Than anyone admits or likes to know,

Yet even such tight brevity has reasons

For relishing the afternoon’s brief glow.

 

Say this, if you would savor for its beauty

A life as short as sorrows make it seem:

That recognizing light remains a duty,

And relishing the colors of its gleam

A pleasure that entrances more compactly,

Succinctly, for the smallness of the day,

And teaches us to see such joys exactly

Within their span, before they fly away.

 

The moon, appearing ere the sun has faltered,

The sun chasing her tail toward the moon,

And all the stars that follow them, are altered

In sight because I know they vanish soon,

And I with them, but dream that time will lengthen

Enough to let me see another day,

Wiser for seeing afternoons that strengthen

And nourish me by coloring the way.

 

Sunset begins as I was barely crying,

Newborn, and night appears and quickly wins,

Yet even as I feel I’m fainting, dying,

I know life’s beauties when sunset begins.

Circumnavigations

13.30 hours: Driver arrives to take us to Dallas-Ft. Worth International airport.

16.15: Departure time. Flight to Chicago (along with hundreds of other flights) is delayed by high winds. Pilot opts for optimism and starts boarding.

16.35: It becomes clear that even an optimist can’t get us to O’Hare in time for our connection to the Stockholm flight. Spouse makes inquiries at boarding desk.

16.45: It becomes clear that no flights from Chicago to Stockholm will have room for us within the next 24 hours, if not longer. Spouse convinces airline employees to take his checked luggage back out of the airplane cargo hold.

16.55: Baggage in hand, we work our way back to the ticketing gate and confirm our new and different tickets, on a different day, with a different airline, through a different intermediate country.

17.05: Enjoying an expensive cab ride home for the night, we send messages to the friend who was planning to pick us up at the airport in Stockholm, and to the shuttle driver who had picked us up in the afternoon. Time to initiate Plan B.

13.30, Day 2: Driver arrives to take us to DFW airport.

[Insert Twilight Zone theme music here.]

Photo: Expect the Unexpected

Travel experts always say to Expect the Unexpected. And this helps me cope *How*??? Guess I’m just supposed to be glad bighorn sheep haven’t learned how to fly yet.

Powerless

There are so many ways that we crave and try to wield power, we mortal beings. We think we’re in charge of our own lives, if nothing else. We are wrong.

Our short trip to Portland from Thursday through this morning provided me with a fine refresher course in this form of necessary humility. While our house is in utter disarray during our move to an apartment and our lives in mild chaos during a busy fall season of school, concerts, travel, and conferences, I am about as far from in control of my own little existence as I am from running the world. I did my very worst job of packing, for Portland, that I think I’ve done since somewhere around the age of four. If my parents were dumb enough to let me help pack my luggage then.

So I arrived in Oregon without several of my simplest toiletries, one pair of socks short of the full trip’s worth, and sans laptop power cord. Hence, my first series of several days without daily blog posts in nearly four and a half years. And I must tell you that I was plenty irritated with myself, and mightily disappointed to break the string of consecutive posts so unwittingly, if not witlessly. But you know, the earth did not cease to rotate on its axis. The rain and sun still did their little minuets, people still talked to me as if they genuinely liked doing so, and music still sounded magnificent and more than a little miraculous.

Because it’s not my power cord that connects me to the universe, and it’s most certainly not my power that connects the rest of the universe together. I can’t fix what’s wrong in the world, not by a million miles, but I am not the source of any of its strengths or its life force, let alone its myriad joys. I’m just the lucky participant and recipient, who (when the power is plugged in) gets to report on my view of it all. I’m happy to be back online, but I am reminded that the very best of what I enjoy in my remarkably blessed existence is not born of my own merit or power, and not even remotely connected to whether I’m plugged in or not, figuratively or literally. I’m just plain glad to be here.

Photo: Out of Gas

Yep, I ran out of gas. But I reminded myself, however inadvertently, that it takes letting go of my driven need for power, sometimes, to refuel my spirit.

Under-Wonders

One of my crew of amazing nephews, a highly skilled entertainer from birth both by design and in the usual way of natural surprises that occur in our family, was on a train with his parents and, seeing the fitted white head rest covers, blurted out Hey! Whose underwear are these?! They did look a lot like underpants. An understandable identification, to be sure. Pants, by the way, are not always as easily identified as one might assume.

There were the Pants of Mystery that lived in our house for several weeks until I discovered them lurking on a clothes hook behind a door and started asking around about them. They were definitely not mine or my husband’s. Several more weeks passed while I was learning that they didn’t belong to any of a half-dozen friends of ours who had stayed at our home in the past months or who had changed clothes there before or after a concert (yes, it happens). Didn’t belong to anybody…or did they? After a couple of months’ intermittent staring at the attractive yet enigmatic trousers, I had nearly given up on finding their long-lost owner when a different friend wrote a note from out of town and inquired regarding their whereabouts. I didn’t really need to require an identification from him as proof of ownership, of course, though I was tempted just because of the ridiculous weirdness of losing one’s pants and not noticing they were missing for months at a time. Though to be fair, he does own other pants. There are always enough pants to keep the world operating, evidently, at least my particular part of the world.Photo: I'm about to be Schooled

In fact, there might be more pants floating around than one might even expect, or need. When we were on our summer travels this year, we visited such beautiful places, so many that beckoned me to pull on some pants and get out to enjoy them. I loved hanging about the piers and bridges, beaches and marinas where I could get my fill of gazing into natural open water, such a scarce commodity in north Texas. I loved looking at the barnacles and mussels, the sand washed up against seaweed washed up against driftwood and rocks. Seeing the flicker of little tadpoles, sprats, fingerlings as they flitted and swam up from the depths and around the pilings. Watching as jellyfish seemed to bloom in the darkness.Photo: Blooming Jellyfish

And lo, seeing that one dramatic jellyfish wasn’t a jelly at all. Another pair of pants. How they got to drifting in the water right near the pier is beyond me. I don’t know if anyone will see this post and claim them, let alone ‘fess up as to how they arrived, empty, off the pier right there in the big city, but I like to think that they’re just part of the cosmic company of pants, having an adventure of their own en route to serving as headrest covers on a train in Norway, as a minor mystery-with-history appearing on the back of my door when I don’t expect it, or perhaps becoming the King of Pants in an alternate universe where trousers rule and find stray people as curiosities and mysteries to solve.Photomontage: Not Your Grandfather's Swim Trunks