To My Mother on Her Birthday

Photo: Under the Willow Tree 1Under the Willow Tree

Under the willow tree, her shade my calm,

I see so bent by storms her trunk, how far

The winds have twisted every limb, each scar

Where lightning struck; yet there’s a quiet psalm

Of gratitude that whispers in her leaves

Each time another rainfall comes to spend

Its quenching kindness on her and to send

New hope down deep—for anyone who grieves

Or wonders how to pass through life’s travail

Finds shelter in her shadow—knows the limbs

That seem to weep are only singing hymns,

Embracing in their gentle sway the frail.

                    So one fine sapling, tended with such care,

                    Becomes the home for all who shelter there.

And now her roots are deep, her branches wide

Enough to draw more birds to them to nest,

Assured, secure and loved, and full at rest,

No matter what the world is like outside—

Just as I am, beneath the willow’s arm

Of graceful comfort, grateful for her wise,

Kind lesson to look upward to the skies

For blessed rain, and sun to keep us warm,

For sweet reminders of the Gardener

Who made the willow grow, and gave her strength

To nurture others in her shade, at length,

Upon the graces planted there in her:

                    So one fine sapling, tended with such care,

                    Becomes the home for all who shelter there.

Photo: Under the Willow Tree 2Thank you, Mom, for the nurturing, the love, and the will to live as an example of bending but not breaking in the storms. Happy 80th Birthday!

Fools & Their Followers

I will never pretend that I am neither gullible nor misinformed. I am one or both of those on a very consistent basis, if not constantly. All I can say in defense of myself, with all of these lacks and lapses, is that I continue to ask questions, try to learn, and hope for the patience and kindness of my teachers. And for the ability to accept new knowledge and make the changes it requires, accordingly.

Photo + text: Fools & Their FollowersPower to the Precedent

Contradicting every rule

Is, sure, the hallmark of a fool

—Except in times and places where

The rules are stupid and unfair—

The problem, clearly: to define

Whose rules are foolish,

—yours

—or mine

Sing Comfort to Me

Digital illustration: Wild Daisies 1Sweet is the Song

However cold and sharp the wind may be,

As wild and deep as darkness ever falls,

From utmost edges of the storm still calls

A song that stills, that draws and comforts me—

Though battles rage, the world in sorrow drowns,

And trials threaten life and hope and light,

That gracious call still guides me through the night

As long as I will listen to its sounds—

No danger is so great, no ill so dire,

Nor pestilence and terror so extreme,

That it cannot be mended by the stream

Of melody from that angelic choir—

Now when amid the depths of dark and pain,

I’ll listen for that heavenly refrain.Digital illustration: Wild Daisies 2

Hand Me That Pencil!

Time to take a few moments here and there to commune with my inner art-monster again. The busyness that takes over at the end of every semester always makes it a challenge to get much done beyond the basic chores and projects that simply get us through the day, and I don’t like to get too far away from regular art-making, so I feel a teensy bit itchy just now. I need to get my hands on some paper and pencils or pens and make something in addition to the photos and digital collages that have been my mainstay lately.

And it will happen. Always does. Patience and urgency, laziness and obsession are all in a little wrestling match inside me most of the time, and each wins occasionally. What really matters in the end is, I suppose that eventually I win. So yes, I’ll be drawing again soon.

Whatever it takes to keep me entertained and happy, don’t you know.graphite drawing

So Much Better than the Alternative

photoPatina

I know I’m rough around the edges, what with age and wear and rust,

But I like the character antiquity imparts; it must

Seem strange to you who have such beauty, youth and grace, you smooth of skin,

Bright of eyes and freshly laundered whippersnappers–my sole sin,

If sin I have, is being ancient and well-lived and storied; still,

I think your sympathies will shift as you get older. And you will.

If you don’t, rough luck, poor suckers, and I pity you the trust

You had in your youth and beauty, come the day you too will rust.

Better to have aged and crumbled, to have faltered, dim and grey,

Than to croak and to have tumbled. ‘Old’ beats ‘finished’, I would say.photo

Vita Brevis! Carpe Diem!

 

digital collage

Let us mind our history lessons, each of us . . .

There’s nothing like sorting through one’s personal archives to stir up the notion that life’s short and memory shorter. Go through the files of family photos, yes, and there are ghosts staring back at me that I never even knew, let alone can name or place without my mother (perhaps my grandmother or great-) on hand as reference. How many thousands of stories have I ignored or forgotten among only the few handfuls of fading images I keep boxed up in storage, I wonder?

Delve into nothing more exotic than the household files, meaning only to rearrange what’s there more neatly and perhaps cull a few records that are far out of date, and I find I am plunged into a well of information that, even in those records and bills and receipts not older than a year, escape me like ephemeral puffs of ether as I try to grasp what they meant or why they were recorded in the first place. An atomic cloud of ideas and ideals sprays out of the folders that I thought would only hold a few needful numbers, a name or connection I must think I needed at tax time or on my next appointment with the named practitioner. Stories trail out in smoky wisps.

Reach back into the recesses of the cupboard or closet, hoping to simply rearrange my goods for daily use, and I always discover that my tidying has turned archeological, that items long forgotten lurk in the shadows and recall to mind grand plans since erased: a superb meal here, a skirt to hem there, a pint of paint bought specifically for a project that has lain neglected so long that the other parts were used eons ago for something else entirely. My life is a tale of constantly shifting shores, tangents taken and those unnoticed ones that might have led me in a completely different path to who-knows-where.

What is my legacy? I cannot know, other than that it is short and small. My life’s story will disappear in a hiccup about as soon as I shed my human shell. But in the meantime, what adventures can I take? How shall I flesh it out to my own satisfaction? That is the time of relevance to me, not history past or future but my own small window of experience. Shall I forget the stuff of my life long-shelved, my ancestors, the wide unfolding scenes of history and space? Oh, no, never by choice. But what will shape my happiness the most is none of that, is rather my living in this moment, possibly with a tidier cabinet here and there or a better sorted box of memories to visit from time to time, yet always with an eye toward the light, toward the rising and setting of the sun. Day in, day out, forever.

Life is astoundingly brief and runs away apace. But grasping the essence and ecstasy of any day need not be gigantic in its way, only enough to fill an undemanding heart with some small measure of contentment that might overflow, only enough in turn, to run out toward another heart or two.

 

Walk a Mile in My Baby Shoes

photoI’ve been thinking about childhood. The freshness and innocence, the naiveté and helplessness, the curiosity and amazement at every new thing–and everything is new–and of the naturally self-centered universe one forms because self is all one knows. I’ve been thinking about how all of these qualities, so clear and natural in childhood, repeat throughout our lives in cycles. Varied by age and circumstance, and certainly by our own personalities as they develop, but there and recurrent all the same.

I’ve been thinking about how little we are all aware of these cycles and patterns in ourselves over time. We humans, though we congratulate ourselves as Homo sapiens, intelligent beings, are poignantly–sometimes poisonously–unwilling and even unable to truly see ourselves all that clearly. It’s not terribly hard to be self-aware, to know the good and bad of one’s personality and character and style, but it’s amazingly uncommon that we choose to acknowledge it, let alone are able and willing to do anything useful to control or change what we can or should. Most of us are rather childlike, if not infantile, in that respect. We want forever to be loved and be the center of the universe in that way we sensed we were as small children, before knocking up against whatever form of reality dented that illusion for the first time.

For the very fortunate (like me) it’s easy to look with a critical eye on those who are in the midst of childlike neediness because of their poverty, ill-health, lack of education or resources, old age or difference from the popular norms. Easy to forget that I don’t have the same obvious petulance or beggarly qualities only because I am so fortunate, so well off and well fed and loved and young and-and-and. I am the lucky center of my universe for now. It’s simple to be placid when I’m so rich.

I can only hope that this good life not only continues to keep me content, but that it affords me the leisure and good grace to look a little less harshly on the struggles of others. To be more patient and understanding when someone else is in that childlike state of need, whether for the starkest, plainest of dignities–sheer life not being at imminent risk–or for food and shelter, for health and wholeness, for peace and hope. If I can’t be an agent of change, bringing those gifts to those who need them, at least I must try to remember what it is to be in that fragile state and know how much I depend upon the rest of the world myself for being, by contrast, not in my childhood of utter need.photo