And then there were more

Dear House Finches With The Nest Atop The Magnolia Wreath On My Front Door:

I wondered why you’ve been lingering so long.

The four babies you hatched at Easter surely took to the wild blue yonder weeks ago.

I haven’t checked the nest because I feared your fledglings might be reluctant to go; after all, there’s no place like home… not to mention that in a previous season I think I may have accidentally force-fledged babies who could fly but were still cramming themselves into the nest. They gave me quite a turn, flying out that day when I came to investigate. So little. I worried if they were really ready to make it on their own. It would be my fault if they were not…

So, Finches, I have left you to come and go as you please, without interference, and I confess that the whole reason is purely selfish: your music. I savor your beautiful song. So bright and pure…sunlight is woven through it even on the dreariest day. Your song gets under a corner of my sometimes-heavy spirit and lifts it, floods it with peace and a longing I cannot quite explain. I know the day is coming when you won’t be gracing my porch any more and then I will be bereft of these joyful little interludes… so I haven’t questioned your lingering. I’ve only treasured my extended finch fantasia with a grateful heart.

Yesterday my husband asked: “Can’t we use the front door now? Those babies are gone, right?”

Bless him for his great patience with my bird sanctuary. He is a minister, after all…

I said, “Probably. Let me go check the nest to be sure.”

And then.

Then then then.

Oh, it’s going be a while yet before we can open the door.

Now I know what you’ve been up to, my beloved Finches.

Encore.

Birdspiration

a story in haiku

As I drive to work
psyching myself for the day
I look up, and there

on the power lines
they sit, like kings or angels
the day’s guardians

watching as I pass
—oh, bestow on my spirit
creatures of the air

robins, your good cheer
occasional snow-plumed hawks,
fierce acuity…

it dawns on me, now,
that most of the birds I see
are doves, offering

the one thing needed
for the living of this day:
Look up. Claim the peace.

Photo: Mourning Dove. FotoGrazio. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

*******

with thanks to Chiara Hemsley, Monday host of Ethical ELA’s Open Write, for the inspiration to compose a poem around the phrase “look up”

with thanks also to Two Writing Teachers for the Slice of Life Story Challenge every day in the month of March

For love of all creatures

Many years ago I read a series of books about a young 1940s veterinary surgeon beginning his career in Yorkshire, England. The stories are captivating, hilarious, heartwarming, and heartbreaking; the characters—some of them animals—are larger than life, unforgettable. I fell in love with these stories right away.

And so I have again, with the Masterpiece Theater version of James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small. When the series premiered in 2020, it was deemed “the surprise runaway hit of the year.” The second season recently ended and I do not know how I am going to endure until Season Three. I have begun watching episodes over and over…and over…

I have to ask myself why.

Maybe it’s that I loved these stories so much when I was young. I recall encountering the name “Tristan” for the first time and being so enchanted by it (and by the comical character, another young vet) that I thought about naming one of my eventual children Tristan (a thought which earned a resounding Are you serious? NO from my eventual husband). Maybe it’s that I find details of long-ago rural veterinary practice fascinating. James delivers calves and tangled-up twin lambs; in the show he must figure out how to untwist a mare’s uterus to deliver a foal, or both will die. Or maybe it’s James’s ongoing struggle for acceptance by the local farmers who are often mistrustful, preferring their familiar “old ways” (I so relate to this as an instructional coach, sometimes).

I suspect it’s all of these. And more.

Beyond James’s love for the animals and his gentle spirit is a compelling, refreshing sense of purity. Times aren’t simple, life is hard, loss is always imminent, yet there’s a richness in it all, a sacred honesty born of living close to the land, a sense of true interdependence and valuing all living things…

Not to mention the scenery. The Yorkshire Dales are breathtaking. I have to go there someday. I feel like I have seen this place before, in some of my most beautiful dreams. Place is a character in itself, alive, vibrant, calling in its own voice, and the Dales will not be outdone by human nor beast…speaking of which: the animal performances are astounding (how DO the directors manage this magic?).

As the series progresses, so do relationships. I will not say anything more than this: Conflict, humor, and great love are all bound together by cords of civility. Reputation matters. Honor matters. Honoring life matters…

And just as one is getting cozy at the end of 1938, and snow begins to fall, and farmers lead draft horses through the town streets at the close of day, and young people are gathered together, beginning new chapters of their lives…the first war plane flies overhead in the darkening sky…

And I’ve an overwhelming desire to stop time, to hit rewind, to savor peace… which we almost never realize we have, until we don’t…

Yorkshire Dalestricky (rick harrison). CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

*******
with thanks to Two Writing Teachers for the Slice of Life Story Challenge every day in the month of March.

First time keeping

an epistolary pantoum, to mark the occasion

Dearest Micah:
I write these lines
while you’re sleeping,
first time in my keeping.

I write these lines
having rocked you to sleep,
first time in my keeping,
listening to you breathing.

Having rocked you to sleep,
these moments, ever sweet,
listening to you breathing
—I am complete.

These moments, ever sweet
while you’re sleeping.
I am complete,
dearest Micah.

My precious Micah, 4 mos. 3/7/2022. #FrannaMagic

*******
with thanks to Two Writing Teachers for the Slice of Life Story Challenge every day in the month of March.


To write a pantoum, use this line sequence:
1234 2546 5768 7381

Spiritual self-care

It is not what I expected in a meeting at the end of another long workday.

A series of self-care surveys.

Not so much the physical, psychological, and emotional ones.

The spiritual one…

There’s my word – awe!

‘Other’, for me: Write about all these things.

Which I do.

And my spirit sings.

Winter meditation

with thanks to Stacey Joy, who shared the monotetra form this morning on Ethical ELA’s Open Write: quatrains ending in monorhyme, lines of eight syllables.

Winter Meditation

On this dark morning, falling snow
fills the spirit with candleglow
the bliss-blessed silence, calling so:
Hush. Take it slow. Hush. Take it slow.
 
Claim the quiet for your healing
be free as the hawk, a-wheeling
your crystal-scoured heart revealing
wounds are sealing, wounds are sealing.

For now, nature’s red tooth and claw
newly blanketed, without flaw
is still, peace-covered, filled with awe.
Time to withdraw, time to withdraw. 

Time for a hygge

with thanks to Kim Johnson, who recently reminded me of the word

It really is a hug
that you give yourself
perhaps on darkest days
in the dead of winter

when forecasts of snow and ice
fill the news
or maybe you already hear
tiny frozen pellets
striking the windows

but inside
you have a little crackling fire
jars of dancing candlelight
wafting balsam and spice
a bunch of fleecy blankets
a few brand-new books
and bookmarks
and maybe soft new slippers
(mine say “Sleeps with Dogs”
with fancy scrollwork. They are
blissfully snug)

maybe your Christmas tree
is still up (like mine)
or at least your strings of lights
outside, sparkling
in the bitter cold
where the faint sound
of windchimes drifts in
from a distance

with your favorite brew brewing
knowing you don’t have to be going
anywhere
or doing anything
except savoring the now
with a slothful-as-you-please
slowness

go ahead now,
give yourself
a hygge.

Dennis the dachshund is a master at hygge (pronounced hue-gah).

Originating (or at least perfected) in Denmark, hygge is the act of intentionally creating an atmosphere of warmth, coziness, and well-being, however it works for you, regardless of whatever is raging beyond your own walls.

We are getting reports here that the ice may cometh soon. Dennis clearly has his hygge on. I am preparing for it…got my new books and and my slippers ready.

Christmas calf

I happen to glimpse it
before the parade

plodding along
behind glitter-bright floats
and antique cars
and draft horses
hitched to a buggy, stomping
their silky feathered feet

a lone calf
wearing a Santa hat
and a red gingham wrap
decorated with tinsel.

Something in its demeanor
makes me pause.

I think it’s humility.

Head bowed
in its bright-red halter

being led
to take its place
on the hay-strewn float
sponsored by its stable.

I watch the calf
standing, waiting
(for what, it must have wondered
or maybe it didn’t question at all,
but only trusted)

and I remember phrases
in a book I loved
when I was a child:
the sweet breath of patient cows

a sort of peaceful smell as though
nothing bad could happen
ever again in the world

and that’s exactly the feeling I get
for one fleeting moment
looking at this Christmas calf

standing completely at peace
in what surely must seem
chaos, cacophony,
and absurd carnival color.

And so I step over
just before the parade

to absorb its calm
to look into its big, gentle eyes
to read its docile expression.

He lets me pet him
and scratch behind
his big black ear

his hair is thick
like a rug

he is warm
so warm

—You are beautiful,
I say.

The Christmas calf
so still
and sweet

gives me an almost
imperceptible nod

his two tiny horns
poking through his Santa cap

not knowing
the simple
pure and deep
sense of reverence
he somehow imparts.

I cannot help thinking,
Lord, let me be
as good
and uncomplaining
and patient
a creature.

*******
Such a gentle calf. The owners invited me to pet him.
He is a year old.

with thanks to Two Writing Teachers for the weekly Slice of Life Writing Challenge

On fire and prayer

On the last Monday of October I drive to work in pre-dawn darkness as deep as midnight. Rounding bends on deserted backroads past unlit houses, gaping stubbled fields, hulking shapes of farm equipment, shadowed barns, patches of woods, when off in the distance, through silhouetted tree trunks—fire.

A bonfire. Tall flames, bright orange against the blackness, undulating skyward. Startling. So Halloween-esque. Hauntingly beautiful in its way except….I can’t tell what’s burning. Probably trash. The fire seems large for that, and before sunrise? I am too far away to see anything but the fire itself. I cannot see smoke or smell it. No screaming sirens. No alarms. Only silence, stillness…should I investigate to be sure? The road twists and turns, demanding my attention, and as I reach a tricky intersection where a few sets of headlights from opposite directions approach and pass, I realize: I’ve lost sight of the fire now. I am not sure of its location. Somewhere close by it’s burning, consuming, destroying, I hope nothing precious, nothing of value… and so I cross the intersection, praying it is controlled until extinguished.

On I drive in the darkness, shivering.

I think of anger.

*******

Fire, anger. The contrast of being controlled, purifying, and righteous, or uncontrolled to the point of destroying, intentionally or not, what is precious, valued, and loved. Thinking of that fire throughout the day yesterdaythere were no reports of damagereminded me of a poem I wrote last week:

Why I Pray

In the absence of peace,
I pray.

When my mind cannot fathom
or even form questions,
I pray.

When I am weary
of injustice, of sifting truth and lies,
when my inner well has run dry,
I pray.

I pray for power beyond my own.

To overcome the red-hot dagger of fury,
that I should not wield it,
thereby scarring others
and myself.
To knit words of healing instead,
one by one, 
like snowflakes falling
to form a blanket of blessing,
a holy hush.

Freeing myself by forgiving
myself
as well as others,
feeling the weight drop away.

That quickening sense of awe,
for even if I cannot call
fire from Heaven (thankfully),
I can move mountains of ice
in my own heart.

Because, as long as I live,
I will battle need, loss, and fear, 
trusting that love conquers all
—its beating wings in my heart,
forever my reason 
to pray
again.

*******

with thanks to Andy Schoenborn for the “Embrace your why” prompt and the mentor poem written by a student, shared on Ethical ELA’s Open Write last week.

and to Two Writing Teachers for the weekly Slice of Life Story Writing Challenge, always encouraging “a world of reflective writers”—so needed.

Photo: Burning fire at nightwuestenigel. CC BY 2.0

Facing fears poem

National Poetry Month has ended, and I miss it. While I may not be posting every day for a while, I continue to write.

The last prompt on Ethical ELA’s #VerseLove was on fear. Articulating it, facing it…perhaps conquering it.

This got me thinking how facing a thing for what it really is = the first step in conquering. There’s a lot of extreme anxiety in the world today. A lot of hatred. Sometimes we just don’t see things for what they are…including our own thoughts.

And so this poem was born.

Courage, peace, and wellness to you, Friends. Whatever it is…you can overcome.

My Fear Haiku

I once read a book
where people’s eyes turned inward.
They died from seeing

what’s inside their minds.
I trembled to take a look
at what lurks in mine.

Now I remember
what Granddaddy once told me
regarding black snakes:

don’t ever kill them.
See, black snakes eat rats and mice;
they’re good. We need them.

I think fear’s like that
snaking along, with purpose
something quite useful

so I never try
to kill it. Let it consume
the uglier parts

of my thoughts, and go its way
leaving me with a clean peace
and a better mind

so that all I fear,
in the end, is forgetting
memories of love.

Path of peace. The view after turning off the highway to visit my grandparents. The house is my grandmother’s homeplace, where she and her eight siblings were born in the early 1900s. Just ahead, around the bend on the left, stood my grandparents’ home where my dad and his sisters grew up in the 1940s-50s, and where I spent many childhood summers.

My safest haven on Earth. Snakes and all.

Love, life lessons, legacy, and memories live on.