If My Song could Last Forever

Photo: Well Seasoned 1Hours into Seasons

There’s a sweetness in the morning when the sun has yet to rise

And the blooms lie, still unopened, under sleeping butterflies;

When the stars still wink and glimmer, while the frogs yet softly sing—

There’s a sweetness in the morning that is like the breath of Spring.Photo: Well Seasoned 2

There’s a graciousness at midday when, amid the racing streams,

All arise and put in motion yesterday’s profoundest dreams;

When the past its chains has loosened on the race of all alive,

That in joyful forward motion we, like Summer, grow and thrive.Photo: Well Seasoned 3

There’s a calm amid the evening when the birds come to the trees’

Respite from the day of flying, echoed by our evening ease;

When the cares of noon have lessened as the dusk swept into place—

There’s a calm amid the evening, peaceful as the Autumn’s grace.Photo: Well Seasoned 4

There’s a beauty to the nighttime, glorious and peaceful bliss,

Treasured for the kind renewal of the souls that rest in this

Cradling darkness and this languor, in this place of mending rest

That, like Winter’s dormant healing, lets us wake refreshed and blessed.Photo: Well Seasoned 5

I would take these hours’ presents as my guide through seasons long,

Through a lifelong path that’s pleasant as a choir’s finest song;

I would be a seasoned traveler, happy above everything,

If my song could last forever,

Summer, Autumn, Winter, Spring.Photo: Well Seasoned 6

Country Comforts

It’s easy to indulge my love of the bucolic and pastoral when I live where I do in north Texas. This county is full, as it has been for generations, of farms and ranches of all sorts that intermingle freely with the towns, cities and suburbs of the area. Whenever we take a drive or go running errands, we’re just as likely to see fields full of sorghum or corn, red or black Angus cattle, or sleek tobiano horses as we are shops and schools and natural gas pumping derricks.photo montagePlenty of relics and remnants still stand that tell me it’s been this way for a very, very long time. The little bronze school bell and windmill that remain standing right next to the old Ponder schoolhouse’s clapboard walls seem perfectly ready to go back to work (with just a tiny bit of functional renovation first, of course)–or to transport me instantly backward into the nineteenth century. A small private herd of longhorns spends its days in a cozy paddock that sits directly next door to a modern brick housing development, and on the other side of it is a stretch of fields full of wildflowers and prickly pear, punctuated by the occasional gas well and electrical tower, the latter often populated by small flocks of turkey vultures.photoAll of this makes an atmosphere highly conducive to my happiness: the conveniences and riches of contemporary urban existence, conveniently interspersed with spirit-soothing farmland or ranch and historic pleasures. If I play it right, I can feel like I’m on vacation no matter which world I happen to be in at the moment.

No Phobia of Goddesses Bearing Blessings

[Note: You should, however, skip the third frame if you’re arachnophobic.]photographic presentation of textphoto

How Clouds were Invented

Clouds have long inspired a lot of fantasy, and though I’ve enjoyed many a day of lying around imagining what I saw in the clouds–creatures and inventions of all sorts–I’m quite certain I’m far from alone in entertaining myself with this pastime. A frequent identification of clouds by a great many of us aficionados, too, is the spotting of sheep among them. Whitish, puffy and fluffy, sometimes seen in herd-like groups and sometimes seeming to wander aimlessly, clouds and sheep both inspire a bit of dreamy invention in me.

Contemplating the possible relationships between them is just as delightful to me as noticing their simple visual resemblance. My current dream is that once-upon-a-time, there was a gentle old wizard meditating in a meadow, and he found that despite his lovely surroundings and his peaceable and contemplative nature he couldn’t quite get to the point of having the restful nap he so desired. Couldn’t, that is, until he conjured some of the nearby sheep to float around him like sweet woolly zeppelins, whereupon he closed his eyes in quiet ecstasy and drifted off himself into ethereal sleep.digital illustrationSilly, I know (and potentially having some logistical issues attached), but I find the image somewhat comfy myself. Since it’s nearing 3 a.m. as I write this, I do believe it’s a fine time to test whether simply savoring the image might not get me appropriately sleepy. I’ll get back to you on that. Eventually. Though I might be just a little woolly-headed on my return.

Animal Crossings

I know not what the relevance

Of tortoises and elephants

And tapirs, panthers, malamutes

And goats in my dreams constitutes—

I only know that when I sleep,

This is the zoo I tend to keep,

And if it lends to such pursuits,

It may include a thousand sheep.

Ashore

Islands can bring out the hermit in people, as it seems–and conversely, the social butterfly. Some who go to islands voluntarily either do so out of the desire to cut themselves off, at least partly, from social pressures and demands or come to embrace the opportunity that appears when they’ve become islanders. But involuntary islanders, the marooned (whether by shipwreck or by job transfer), can often feel contact-deprived. Suddenly people who had no particular desire for company on a regular basis feel socially abandoned and hungry; who knew?

Me, I have never lived on an island. Certainly never been set adrift and stuck on one against my will. And I happen to have pretty serious hermitage skills when I want to haven them: I’m a master at finding the quietest, remotest, emptiest corner of any place when I sincerely desire it. So I don’t generally have to wrestle through either of those dire, trying situations mentioned above. And also, I don’t really expect to run into such a situation any time soon.

That means I rather like my visits to islands, which visits are thus far entirely intentional (unless you count wrong turns onto bridges leading to them), and I like aloneness enough to seek it. Even on an island, if need be. Truthfully, though, I’m quite happy to visit islands any time I can, for holidaying purposes. Whidbey Island, Molokai, Ireland, Vancouver Island, Puerto Rico . . . I will be glad to return to these and visit many another any time I might have the chance. Let me wander inland and explore the beauties beyond the islands’ perimeters. Perch me on a rock by the shore and I will be happy, no, delighted to spend my time in good company or solitude, either one.photo

Rain Dances

It dances across my imagination, rain. It is flowing and musical and magical and, most of all, it catalyzes cleanliness and growth that reawakens the graces of the living world in ways that very few other things can possibly do.photoIt is what I think of as the soundtrack to my dreams, rain. The softly bubbling, rippling, tuneful and prayerful sound of rain in the background, after even the slightest dry spell, is as lovely in its way as a kindly lullaby, as the warbling of some exotic winged thing in a  woodland on a magical evening, perhaps even as a gentle reminder that the creative spirit of the universe weeps both with sorrow and with joy in harmony with all her creatures.photoOn every greensward, in every park in Spring, the land smiles with contentment even while the rain still falls, when rain is in its right place. This is a gift happily awaited by all who thirst–every creature and all the sweet, sweet growing things that fill our garden world. Whether it is thought of as saving for a rainy day or being saved by a rainy day, as much as I bask in the sun at every opportunity, there will always be a part of me that relishes and desires the generous presence of a kindly rainfall.

(I’m pleased to say that it has been raining here for the last number of hours. Life is good.)

A Park, a Pond, at Peace

photoNow that the temperatures are gradually sliding into what I consider survivable territory, it’s a lovely opportunity to go outdoors and simply take a leisurely stroll again. I was reminded of this on our little jaunt out to the west coast over Thanksgiving, when even though it was clammy and overcast and somewhat rainy it was a welcome thing to be able to step out the door and not be pushed back in by the blast furnace of the perpetual sun. I love sunshine, really I do, and I’m not sorry to live where I do just now, but it’s a delight to be able to get out and stretch my legs in the neighborhood without any necessity to dash for cover lest I turn instantly into cracklins.

This week, a walk through the surrounding neighborhood, exploring a few streets and walkways and pockets of this town that we’ve not seen before, was the perfect soother on a Saturday afternoon, and a rare treat at that. And it makes me plot further to spend some quality time over the brief winter cooling period just getting out to soak up the happy and calming atmosphere of our more tree-dense areas, our parks and lakes and ponds and the wonderful wild grasses and prairie native plants that make this such a good place to be. To simply step out on the patio from time to time and absorb the rustling leaf sounds of the backyard greenbelt and the obbligato of the birds whistling therein. To hike over to the university campus instead of having to take the shuttle just to survive the three and a half or so miles, and then once there not to need to tear indoors instantly.

I’m only too glad to have the opportunity to recall what is actually so great about the great outdoors and to relish the enchantments of a lightly ruffled pond or the distant competitive singing of a yard full of hounds or even, should I be outdoors and doing the right thing in the right spot at the perfectly right moment, to feel that exceedingly sharp joy found only when one is not enclosed by walls and roof. What a fine joy that can be indeed.photo

The Power of Being Well Behaved

When I was teaching, I thought it useful to devote a bit of the informational materials I handed out at the beginning of every term to basic issues of classroom decorum. The idea that so-called common courtesy has to be taught, not just to children but to all ages, is no less ridiculous than understanding constant the need for training and refreshing what is called common knowledge or common sense. Generations have passed since people saw a need to comment on or complain about the uncommonness of all of these virtues.

More significantly, as a teacher I knew that if I didn’t encourage, if not demand, attention to such virtues in my classroom there was little hope of any other sort of learning happening in there. I’m old-fashioned that way. The silly thing is probably that it was only after leaving teaching that I thought very clearly about how much these attitudes mattered in any and every kind of cooperative venture, not only in the classroom but in the boardroom, the living room, and certainly in the places where politics, religion, health care, social activities and civic progress are in progress. At least, if we want actual progress to occur.

And that’s how my two cents came out as a personalized set of ten ‘commandments’. Ah, well. I’m kind of a megalomaniac, and I did feel the need to keep my eyes on what was happening.pen & ink

THE BIG OL’ HOW-TO LIST

for getting along with Kathryn

I   Come to class unless you are dead.

II   Show up on time. Lectures don’t always begin on the dot of the class-starting time, but if a deadline is stated as “beginning of class, 18 March” and you  arrive one minute late, technically I can tell you that you missed the deadline and so your project is rejected. Flunked. That’s harsh. But trust me, it’s fair. Besides, it’s a safe bet that if the lecture does start on time and you miss part of it, I’m not going to be terribly enthusiastic about repeating myself and your classmates who have just heard the stuff will definitely not be amused to have it reiterated. Be in place, cell phone and watch alarms and headsets off and fully participating in class, and we’ll all get along famously. Hurray for good manners!

III   Bring all assigned materials and have them in ready-to-use position when class starts. Written tests, especially pop quizzes, are uncommon in my classes (they do exist), but notes and written critiques can be required at any time. Be ready. Write down everything, and date it. Even if I don’t say you have to. Then you have documentation of what I told you (and when) if I should change plans inexplicably or you have a question. Also, it makes you look attentive and enthusiastic whether you are or not.

IV   Flattery will get you places. Forget that baloney about it getting you nowhere. You lose nothing by Making Nice with people and attempting to impress them with your admirable and outstanding qualities; they might even enjoy buying into the whole idea. It’s an excellent tool for impressing others, this making them think you find them worthwhile and fabulous. Conversely, the quickest way to turn a potential ally into a pain in the neck is to belittle, ignore, challenge the primacy of, argue with or antagonize her. Diplomacy and tact mean that you can frankly say, “I disagree,” or “what do you think of _____,” and get a respectful hearing. We are only human (if we’re lucky).

V   By the way, if your death prevents your attending class, call and let me know in advance.

VI   If you have big plans, talk to me. It’s possible that your previous experience with and knowledge of this topic mean you can quickly “test out” of the class requirements and go forward into a more challenging and personally fulfilling independent project. If so, let’s work together to get maximum use out of your time and energies.

VII   If you feel out of your depth, it’s okay to swim over to the shallow end and meet with me privately by appointment. Probably all you need is a bit of individual coaching beyond what’s available or comfortable in class time. Of course, if you’ll kindly risk asking the question in class, there are always others who benefit by having their identical question answered, and probably your learning it together will make it simpler.

VIII   Ignorance shouldn’t embarrass you. Holding on to ignorance should. You’re in class, presumably,because you don’t know Everything yet, same as the rest of us.  So ask your “stupid question,” please. Real stupidity is avoiding or refusing to try or doing something wrong because fear of lowering yourself prevented your asking the question that would’ve resolved the problem.

IX   Be patient. Spend the time. Attempt the highest levels of craftsmanship and professionalism. Pay attention to the tiniest detail.

X   Be bold and adventurous. Climb out of ruts. Seek a new perspective on the familiar and become familiar with the alien. Look for connections. Expect the infinite.

Under Water

Fantastic Ocean

The sea has calls upon my soul, upon my heart, upon my will,

And if I drowned, I think I’d still rejoice the sea swallowed me whole,digital collage

For in my sight and in my dreams, the sea’s awash with magic grace

Not known by any other place than in its bottomless extremes,digital collage

And fantasy entwines with things that make imagination soar

Like birds and butterflies and more wild creatures than are real, whose wingsdigital collage

Embrace the spirit of the sweep of wave and current, saline skies–

Loveliness dazzling my eyes with all the treasures of the deep.digital collage

Her Moment of Respite

graphite/digital illustration

Reading

A heavy braid of brown-black hair

Coiling over her shoulder frames

The mourning dove-brown collarbones

That rise and fall in subtle flight

As she breathes, sitting back there in such quiet repose

As if to lend some grace to that so humble vase of white

Field lilies at her side, and when she turns

The antique pages of that favored book,

She spares a moment’s look to watch the lilies catch

The kitchen windows’ waning light

Just as the late-day sun tips in

Behind those distant trees to

Chase the night