Thursday, November 30, 2006

Wet Mittens

Northwest side of Milwaukee, now subdivided with giant malls and lookalike condominium complexes, back then it was mostly farmland, woods always within walking distance, and long rushing creeks, gradeschool had big field for recess, in winter snow scarfed and galoshed children set free for eternal 20 minutes. I remember right before midwest spring, still so cold but snow beginning to melt, we spent ages taking sticks to dig channels, snowmelt turned to tiny temporary creeks of rushing water, endlessly interesting to direct the sparkling flow, no one ever planned this, there was no discussion or board meeting, no leaders, or followers, just melting snow and in waning days of winter the children's festival of the waters.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Oh ma, for months on end I'd do my bad Peter Lorre imitation, no matter what you'd say I'd reply "I want to smaaaash your face," in his sneery voice, my passions left you bewildered, your rages fed my own, a big fight you letting loose your great primal fire upon me, oh but I was brave, we were in the kitchen, I pulled a knife on you and said if you touched me I'd kill you! And you just looked at me in that way you had until I looked down at my hand, saw fierce grip on humble butter knife, oh well.

I was at work that Sunday, got the call, got the call, went home, packed, flew back to midwest, they buried you on my birthday, your last laugh, you knew I always forgot dates, oh they said you had no great life, what a failure, no money, burdened by ironclad pride, silent treatment grudge queen, victim of illnesses and grief, of misunderstandings and fears, they said oh what a hard life, yes a hard life but if so, oh ma, how could they be right when I saw them at your funeral, those women who knew you 50 years, the white brightness about their heads, their goodness, how could they be right when we all cried like little children, with no shame, at wooden box sight of you gone away, gone from us, no they were wrong, they didn't know, couldn't see the 10,000 things were only ephemeral accomplishments, the money and prestige.

Oh the week would go by, you would be so mean, so terrible with your angers and moods and I would plot your demise with guilt free glee so sure was I in your utter indestructability, then Sabbath came, you would light the candles, say the prayer, calm peace, faith shining from your veiled face, it was a mystery, you were too far away for me to catch and destroy, oh a mystery.

And if I were good I'd do the rituals for you but I'm not good and I'm glad and I know you are, too, I saw your pride when I would fight you, your hidden glee you had raised a worthy opponent who would perhaps break free, tell 'em all to go to hell, I saw it and I still see it, and you, and your light still shines, ma, it still shines, I miss your cabbage soup, your laugh, and your mean old ways.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

White Oak is Troublesome

They say one should not use white oak to build a good fire, it is troublesome, doesn't burn well. And really, one should buy next year's wood this year, seasoned wood is best for a good fire, a warm fire, a hot fire, depending on the need.

Softwoods like fir and pine are lovely, burn so sweet; they say fir is trouble-free and pine gives that heady green tangy aroma; oh there's rock elm, shagbark hickory, tamarack, and the hardwoods that burn so hot, live oak, eucalyptas, walnut, once seasoned are very fine indeed.

Ah, madrone, stately madrone that grips the rocky outcrops and dry bluffs along Puget Sound, the best hardwood for a blazing fire.

If the wood is too dry, it takes only a spark for it to flare up, hungry for the flame, burning hot and fast in absolute combustion of surrender, leaving bewilderment and more work to be done, gathering the seasoned wood again, usefully stacked in cords, covered by tarps, seasoned, but not too neglected, lest it flame up and burn out too soon.

Sunday, November 26, 2006


When I was a child we played a game, a group of us would all whirl around till one child shouted "freeze" and there we'd be, all frozen in strange positions like baby statues, the "it" kid would walk up to each one of us, and when touched we'd have to come up with some character suggested by our frozen position, we'd move about pretending to be something or other, the touch would spark our imagination, the touch, our position, we'd be a truck, queen, kangaroo, ballerina, tiger, choo choo train.

And now, oh the touch, sideways glance, smallest of attention says "freeze!" starts the game, provokes the whirl, mad dance to imaginary fulfillments and fantasies, born anew to perform the show and tell, bask in the mirror of another's admiration, dull sharp edges of quotidian cares into pretty veils of transparent golden silk behind which is just another player, ah the game, through all the generations we play.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


A quality of generosity
A quality of gratitude
A quality of devotion
A quality of kindness

Of love, of listening
Of pentration into the human heart
Of humor and laughter
Of equanimity

A quality of abundance
A quality of spaciousness
A quality of wonder
A quality of joy

Of happiness, of splendor
Of blue sky wide open heart
Of wisdom, vast and deep
Of tenderness

A quality of fearlessness
A quality of adoration
A quality of engagement
A quality of timelessness

Of grief given solace
Of loneliness surcease
Of spirit victorious
Of life.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Round Midnight

After the day, autumn golden, drifts of leaves, watching them tossing in the wind and laying in an alley out of enchanted tale, laying there unraked like magic magenta carpet, overhead a canopy of trees, a small colored flowerbush right next to the chain link fence, a couple summers ago I saw young lovers kissing there, secretly.

After the day, fresh smell of rain, silence broken by occasional automobiles, train rumbling over the Hellgate Bridge, after the day, in the velvet of night, in windblown dreams of expectation, like child not wanting to go to sleep, I cling to the minutes and seconds but they slip away, slip away like drifting autumn leaves.