I accompany my daughter to the surgical center in predawn darkness. My three year old grandson is scheduled for a procedure. He wants a drink of water, which is not allowed before anesthesia. He is very focused on his need for liquid. When we leave the house his mother points to the moon, still high in the sky. He asks, ” Mama, can we drive right under the moon?” “Sure, Bud,” says his mom. He stops asking for a drink, the unpleasantness of his thirst forgotten for the moment.
It’s the early 50’s. My mother walks me to school those first few months. There’s a sharp recollection of leaving her side to walk across the schoolyard to enter the building with other children. A feeling of being overwhelmed by ‘bigness.’ No looking back or crying for me, though. I want to learn about the world.
air raid drill
a tiny caterpillar curls up
under a leaf
I am four or five. It is warm and the fragrance of the blooming privet hedge tickles my nose. Visiting Grandma, which happens often, she lives only blocks from our house, my mother’s Uncle Willie is at home when we arrive. He is old with a surprisingly full head of gray hair and a round, fat belly. He always makes us laugh and today he is taking my sister and me for an ice cream cone.
the soft feel of chalk
on my hands
As we set out on our stroll, Uncle Willie holds each of us by the hand. He is walking slowly and there is no reason for my short legs to hurry. As we amble, his grip tightens on our hands until we squeal with delight. We know the game. He will not stop squeezing until we say, ‘uncle.’ We play this game until we arrive at the soda fountain.
just the right amount
of music at noon
I try to eat my ice cream quickly, before it drips down my arm. It is a losing battle and Uncle Willie helps keep it from getting messy. I taste the cold sweetness of Butter Pecan and the crunch of the sugar cone. I laugh and lick and lick and laugh. He teaches us how to push the ice cream down into the cone. I finish my cone and begin our walk back. In spite of sticky fingers, he holds my hand tightly and I giggle once more.
I open the Times and force myself to read a few headlines. The news is all bad. Guns and death. War and disaster. Protesting pro this and con that. Yet another, unqualified candidate announces a run for the presidency months before the race. No doubt we’ll have another election that resembles the Kentucky derby with twenty odd dark horses trampling on the issues . . . blah blah blah. I slam the paper shut and rant out loud a bit before the slant of the sun on the fence distracts me.
In winter, when the garden flowers sleep deeply under glistening snow, she does not pine.
Instead she marvels at other, subtler miracles. Her eyes linger a bit longer on the faces of those she loves when smiles bloom there. The silent woodland offers bouquets laced with gray and brown, and morning sky strikes her like the cool slap of winter on her uncovered face. The empty trees grow shadows , forming patterns that mark the movement of her days. The Sun God paints dawn and dusk in colors that make her ache with joy.
Yes, in winter, it is easy to utter a prayer, to taste a poem, to smell the snow, to see gardens everywhere.
a billion stars night blooming canopy and the moon too!
Kigo, or Japanese season words, are an integral part of classic haiku. However, a season word, in my opinion, can only have meaning, if it relates to a natural phenomenon in the area in which the poet lives. For instance, I know about nowaki, a typhoon-like windstorm that can flatten a field, from reading about it. But I’ve never lived it.
The autumn storm that I do know in my bones is called a hurricane. These fierce weather systems, born in the Atlantic Ocean, can cause much damage from high winds and tides lashing the shores along the Atlantic coast and the Caribbean and , of course, they bring heavy rain too. They always leave a swath of mortally wounded trees, damage to the fragile coastline and lost lives and property.
In years past, before satellite weather and radar, these storms roared in from the mid Atlantic, often with little warning. The trees always stood their ground for better or worse. All the fishermen and sailors could do when they sensed a change in the atmosphere, was run.
The woman rises early and makes her way out to the porch to wait for the light and to invite the silence in. Eyes closed, she descends the staircase to her internal spring, near her heart. Drinking just enough to sate the fierce longing, she lets go of bitterness and observes as a gusting breeze sweeps it away. She cries out when she opens her eyes. The sun, tilting toward the south, filters its light through the trees , dappling an anemone with kisses. A bee passes by, stopping long enough to graze at the pink flower’s pollen feast. The shy little flower, in a shudder of love, suddenly showers the bee with pollen. The woman, training her eyes on the vision before her, tucks a few pieces of pink, a bit of bee and the sunlight into her heart to carry with her during the day. A moment later, she hears a sound in the kitchen. She moves inside and finds her mate making a pot of strong morning tea. Without making a sound she becomes, for just a moment, the sunlight, the bee and the anemone.
Planting seeds in the spring requires an enormous leap of faith. For the farmer who plants many acres or the gardener with a tiny vegetable patch, the distance from that early spring day to harvest is often measured in the number of bug battles, the hours of prayer for good weather, the pounds of weeds ripped from the soil and of course, months of back-breaking labor. The seed embraces the soil, the sun and the water in a magical dance of life. The wise farmer knows that he participated in this miracle too!
It is mid-summer and the old woman has not seen a single raindrop in several weeks. She tries to conjure the look, the sound, the feel of rain, but only the sun beats its rhythm all around her. With not even a thunderstorm in the forecast, she searches the sky in vain. As she glances west, the evening sky splashes her with its own gift!