Total Commitment

 

Photo by Felice R. Bond

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like a tiny dive bomber,

the hummingbird 

plunges her whole self

into the heart of a trumpet vine flower,

drinking deeply the sweet.

 

Can I, like she,

immerse myself,

regardless of hazards

and the shortness of the season,

in the prospects of the day?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Embroidery of Hope

peacockWhat was it I hoped for–
a sixteen year old
who was usually more interested
in volleyball than sewing–

when I French-knotted
salmon flowers and
stitched royal blue and lime
into a flowing peacock’s tail?

Was I thinking of a handsome husband
and happily ever after,
of a houseful of giggling girls
and Gerber baby boys?

I’m sure I didn’t imagine
sleepless nights with a critically ill baby
or what we would do
when my husband lost his job.

I also never envisioned
the thrill of twin grandchildren
jumping up and down by the window,
shouting, “Grandma’s here!”

I had a vague idea of my
hoped-for love and life,
but not an inkling of the
down-and-dirty daily press.

Now, the regal peacock reminds me
that my forever is still in the making,
and thanks to sacred covenants,
I should continue embroidering hope.

De-clawed

vanilla-the-cat

From her cover

behind the euonymus,

deadly talons

lashed out.

Dogs cowered

and even people

paid homage.

Behind a screen

of grape vines,

she crept, inching,

black ninja silent,

tail beating a slow,

metronomic trance,

eyes, burning coals,

then, bam!

a small bird lay dead.

 

Now,

the deadly

killer skulks

inside the garage;

snowy tufts of hair

fall out in clumps;

mice no longer

skirt the yard;

the graveyard

of feathers

is gone.

Today,

she mews

in her refuge,

a shadow

of her former

assassin-self.

 

 

My mother-in-law,

no less vital

than the cat,

used to wield

a wooden spoon

like a wand,

conjuring up gravy

and mashed potatoes

that caused people

to moan and swoon,

bringing down the

brawny defenses

of hulking

farm workers

with rhubarb pies

and whipping cream.

 

 

Now, ancient,

like the cat,

her world is

a room

peopled with

recurring memories,

memories

of days gone by

where truth

and fiction

intermingle,

of a time

when her spatula

was a spear,

her frying pan

fortress.

No Access

 

 

Twenty-two thousand days,

and only a few of them

as clearly outlined

as morning clouds silhouetted

in shimmering scarlet

and apricot

with the sun sneaking

up behind them.

 

Faded, half-forgotten images

flicker across my mind:

trotting along the ditch bank

beside my dad,

standing tippy toe on the fence

to peep at newborn piglets,

watching out the window

as four little blondies bounced

on the trampoline–

 

but whole days and weeks,

even months, have vanished.

Where are they?

I’m sure my parents

cuddled me and

cooed me,

but my memory

of those first three years

is marked “no access.”

 

What about the days

I read books to my children,

kissed their owwies,

threw fly balls to them,

read scriptures at breakfast,

drove them to games,

coaxed and caressed them,

admonished and scolded them?

 

Again, I have glimpses,

glimmers of then.

But what purpose those days

if they pale and grow dim?

I can number the hours

as they each disappear

along with my old self

silently slipping away.

Place of Deep Healing

 

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Mist-drenched,

she peers through falls—

aboriginal woman

saluting creation.

 

Cell phones and Facebook

recede, insignificant,

as riotous, rushing water

explodes over the rim.

 

Flaming arrows pierce façade–

bullets from the sun,

ricocheting diamonds

on the dripping canyon wall.

 

Cynicism evaporates,

floats out with the spray,

leaving vulnerability in this

small spot of greenness,

 

the place of “deep healing

[from which] we venture forth.”1

 

1 Ling-yun, Hsieh. “Climbing Green-Cliff Mountain in Yung-chia,” trans. David Hinton. Mountain Home: The Wilderness Poetry of Ancient China (New York: New Directions, 2002) 23.

Provident Living

squirrel with seed

On the first frigid day of fall

two squirrels scavenge

for nuts and seeds in the

lightly falling snow.

 

Why don’t they cozy up

in their squirrel hole

as soon as the weather

turns frosty?

 

How do they know

they should glean

before they dip

into their winter supply?

 

Do squirrel mothers

teach their children

the difference between

convenience and necessity?

Resurrection

orange butterfly
How will flesh and spirit reunite?
Will it be like marshaling the troops?
Will the spirit give a signal and
all the body cells come rushing back?
Or will it be like assembling a jigsaw puzzle,
a slower, more deliberate putting together?
Perhaps it is a purely scientific process:
take sixteen strands of autosomal DNA
and link to 32 strands of mitochondrial . . .
Maybe it is like those toys that grow when you add water:
put the bones in a basin with a quart of grow solution,
leave for 24 hours until body is full-sized, then re-inhabit.
Perchance God will give us brand new bodies
that look like the old ones, minus irritating imperfections.
Or it might be a sacramental ritual of faith and prayer
or a spontaneous springing forth,
like so many crocuses responding to the sun.
Or maybe we will majestically arise in our fully perfect form
as one by one we are called forth from the grave.

 

Craters of the Moon

IMG_5908

As we exclaim over a perfect breadcrust bomb

and walk past lava balloons and rock popcorn,

skirt cinder cones and blocks rafted

into place by boiling lava,

as we marvel at blue dragon lava

glinting in the autumn sun

and carefully pick our way

across thin-crusted shelly pahoehoe (1),

we wonder why God created a wasteland

where fire and brimstone belched from the earth,

where verdant landscapes became vast tracks

of ropy, twisted, brittle rock,

where people come to gawk but not to live,

where kipukas (2) bespeak God’s promise of

“beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning”(3).


  1. pahoehoe: smooth, ropy, or billowy lava
  2. kipuka: islands of vegetation
  3. Isaiah 61:3

Seeking His Face

Snake River 014

How Eve must have yearned

once again to hear the voice of the Lord,

to converse with him on cool evenings

and speak with him face to face.

Why had she turned her back on Eden

to groan and thrash at childbirth,

to labor for each bite of bread,

to wade through sorrow and sickness,

to walk in a world where instead of

God’s pleasing voice of comfort,

she heard squawks and shrieks

and predators grappling outside her door?

To whom could she call for comfort

when her belly started to swell

and stretch and grow heavy

and she had no mother nearby?

How she must have treasured

the whispers of the still small voice

speaking peace and reassurance

that she was still God’s child.

How precious those fleeting

flashes of insight, illuminating radiances,

reassurances that someday

she would see God’s face again.

Can You See Me Now?

IMG_3814When I got up this morning I put on my cloak of invisibility: barely-60 face, short haircut, conservative skirt, t-shirt, no child at side. To complete my disguise, I jumped into my white Chevy Malibu and cruised down the street. Amazingly, I can go just about anywhere and not be remembered. I can walk around my town fully wholly incognito. At church, at the grocery store, on an airplane–I am the invisible woman.

Whereas I used to turn heads as I walked down the street or be the go-to person at church, now people stare right through me. At church, I might as well be a ghost. The 30 and 40-somethings look past me like I don’t exist. And the teenagers are worse: they actively avoid any eye contact or conversation. In the neighborhood, it’s pretty much the same story. No kids: no status.

It is a curiosity I never knew existed.  Why do people become invisible when their children move out? Do we purposely become invisible or is it some kind of cultural prank to pass over people older than 55? Is the rest of the culture trying to forget we exist—that pretty soon we’ll be sucking away all the reserves in the Social Security system and bleeding them dry to support Medicare? Or are we seen as irrelevant? Do not-yet-seniors sincerely believe that anyone born before 1962 cannot have a current thought or an interesting comment?

Do we middle agers need to throw tantrums to get noticed? No, we would just get committed to assisted living homes or sent to the psychiatrist.

Do we need to wear outrageous clothes? We are already accused of that.

Do we need to throw lavish parties? Dance in the street?

I discovered the secret to re-visibility in Sun Valley, Idaho:  get a dog and suddenly people notice you exist, or at least they notice your dog. Sun Valley is a place where there just might be a city ordinance requiring everyone to own a dog. I used to wonder if there was a connection between dogs and skiing, but now I think it is a connection between dogs and visibility. At the outdoor concerts in the summer, people spread out their picnics of canapés, caviar, and wine and the pampered poodle gets a Bow Wow Biscotti Dipidy Dawg treat. The next person over also has a dog so the two couples recount how they rescued their dogs from imminent death at the pound, spent all spring building a dog house complete with running water and a doggy monitor, and commiserate over the price of doggy daycare.

Since this discovery, I have been thinking about getting a sweet-natured golden retriever or a cute clever Papillon, but now I wonder if I really want to give up my inconspicuousness, which is starting to grow on me. After all, no one asks me to do the hard jobs at church, I can walk anonymously through my own neighborhood in the middle of the day, I can even go to a political rally and no one hits me up for a contribution.