Tag Archives: poetry

Ciúin

Yesterday evening I took a break from breaking news.  (not news at all really, more like a collective zoom-based anxiety rave bent on driving us all insane as we wait, feigning a patience we do not feel.)  In the darkness, (’tis the season, what with the time change)  Charlie and I ambled quietly up the drive after her evening meal.

“Ciúin”  (Irish for ‘quiet’)

It was quiet, but for a couple of owls hooting to one another in the trees.

Quiet.

Any bit of true quiet feels like a miracle these days, noise of current events occupying mind and even heart of late. I find my little doses of quiet in these small moments – an evening meander with the dog, a morning wander around the village to put the moon to bed.  I’ve come to treasure these times.

Why I Wake Early

Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who make the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and crotchety–

best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light–
good morning, good morning, good morning.

Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.

~Mary Oliver

Charlie snoozes in early morning moonlight. I get up to walk my miles. She doesn’t move an inch.
Friends, it’s okay to say Hello.
It will likely help us, and we do not do so alone. I also believe God greets us as we greet our days.
Neither I nor the poets I love have found the keys to the kingdom of prayer,
And we cannot force God to stumble over us where we sit,
But.
I know that it’s a good idea to sit anyway.
So every morning, I sit, I kneel, waiting,
making friends with the habit of listening,
hoping that I am being listened to. . .
There, I greet God and my own disorder.
I say Hello
to my chaos,
my unmade decisions,
my unmade bed,
my desire and my trouble.
I say Hello
to distraction and privilege.
I recognize and greet
my burdens,
my luck,
my controlled and uncontrollable story.
I greet
my untold stories,
my unfolding story,
my unloved body,
my own love,
my own body.
I greet
the things I think will happen,
and I say Hello to everything I do not know about the day.
I greet
my own small world,
and I hope that I can meet the bigger world that day.
I greet
my story,
and hope that I can forget my story during the day,
and hope that I can hear some stories,
and greet some surprising stories during the long day ahead.
I greet God,
and I greet the God Who is More God than the God I greet,
Hello to you all, I say,
as the sun rises above the chimneys of North Belfast.
Hello.
~Pádraig Ó Tuama
As I write this little missive, the democratic process continues to play out and unfold here in this country.  The other day I awoke especially early to play my small part in that unfolding, volunteering at the polls to hand out democratic slate cards on some shifts, and refreshments to all voters on other shifts.  The goodness of donuts and hot cocoa are something both sides of the political equation can agree on. 
Perhaps. 

It was a hopeful day.  A day of feeling like, no matter the outcome, I was doing my part (and had been for much of this election cycle, I should tell you).

It was cold that morning!!!
Mae Mae is a lovely dog who stopped by to check on things.  Her handler was there to help at the Caring Place.

One of my shifts happened to coincide with pick-up day at a local food pantry held at the same location as this particular voting precinct.  It was very interesting to me that the very outcome of this election would hold sway on whether people would or would not have to rely on community support merely to have food to eat.  One woman, both voting AND picking up food, said she relies on the food pantry because between food and her prescription medicines, she has to choose the medicines.  My heart broke.  Another lovely fella stopped in, also to vote as well as to pick up supplies.  He had a large roller  bag suitcase with him to carry what he needed.  He had recently become homeless.

I offered him a donut.

When my sister and I were kids and my mom was a newly divorced single mom struggling to make ends meet, we were, for a time, on food stamps.  I was young and don’t remember too much about the specifics but I tell you this as a snapshot of explanation for my left-leaning, take care of folks when they can’t take care of themselves, kindness-driven view on government.  People struggle.  This is a great truth of humanity.

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.
~Maggie Smith
Photo by Maine photographer Peter Ralston. Originally posted in the amazing newsletter offering of Heather Cox Richardson. Her writing is an informed balm to the soul each day.

I’d be lying if I said I was thrilled about the outcome of this election over all.  I had hoped that more people would see through the chaos of the last four years and would see that the Grand Old Party is simply not there for the regular citizen of the good ol’ U. S. of A.  Instead, I am disappointed that nearly half the country is willing to witness an experience another Trump term.  This is where we stand.  In all likelihood, we will see a Biden presidency presiding over a minority rule.  It’s not a total loss, of course it’s not.  There is much to celebrate!

How to move forward?  A big issue for me is climate change and I am figuring out how to be of service to bring this concept  into the collective light more fully.  After all, these changes will affect EVERYTHING in the very near future, in fact have already begun to do so.  We have a lot of work to do.

But first, for now, should things play out as they seem to be headed…..

We take a deep breath.  We drink medicinal teas complete with tinctures  (and possibly some bourbon this evening) to ease our anxieties.  We shed some long over due stress tears.  We listen with hope to someone who might be able to provide unity in our divided land.  Democrats should waste no time in appointing Stacey Abrams as their new leader to forge a new path – a path that speaks for everyone.  We as a country must learn to slow down and really see each other, person to person.  We must do some difficult soul searching and come to a reckoning with ourselves and with one another.  It is my hope we get this opportunity.

But, like so many – around the world even – I wait.

Just be quiet and patient.
Let evil and unpleasantness pass quietly over you.
Do not try to avoid them.
On the contrary, observe them carefully.
Let active understanding take the place of reflex irritation, and you will grow out of your trouble. People can achieve greatness only by surmounting their own littleness.
The main thing is not to hurry.
Nothing good gets away.
Patience is the master key to every situation.
One must have sympathy for everything, surrender to everything, but at the same time remain patient and forbearing…
There is no such thing as bending or breaking.
It’s a question only of overcoming, which begins with overcoming oneself.
That cannot be avoided.
To abandon that path is always to break in pieces.
One must patiently accept everything and let it grow within oneself.
The barriers of the fear-ridden can only be broken by love.
One must, in the dead leaves that rustle around one, already see the young fresh green of spring, compose oneself in patience, and wait.
Patience is the only true foundation on which to make one’s dreams come true.
— Franz Kafka
Meanwhile, like so many things during this strange era in which we find ourselves, there is a juxtaposing personal angle to this concept of waiting and patience.  We are officially looking for a new dog to welcome home to us.  I’ve put some heeler-feelers out and have filled out some forms to local rescues.  We have a bit of house work and building beginning next week here and the pup will hopefully arrive as that process ends sometime in December.  We shall see.  We don’t have an actual, specific dog in mind.  But we have narrowed to a blue heeler girl dog if we can find one.  I can just about picture her in my mind….
As we navigate these uncertain times, may we find moments of stillness, moments of joy amidst the seemingly overwhelming largesse of the world just now.  Yes, things are hard.  But there are dogs in the world.
And maybe, just maybe………..eventually…………..a new path forward.
Yours in patience and quietude,
Amy

 

Genius Home

It seems an age ago that were in Maine.  Coastal time, cool, crystalline lakes, like a dream.

We are now back in our own home, land locked here in our river valley, tending to house and garden, both needing upkeep, updates.

We always know when we have returned firmly to Ohio…..

As Billy Collins’ poem above alludes, there is a certain kind of genius which accompanies basic household chores of care.  This damned pandemic affords us the opportunity of time, if not inclination, to attend to matters here at home.  And so we do.

A bit of harvesting.

And a few things still growing along nicely.

I’ll give the autumnal plants a head start this week I think.  And put other plants to sleep for a time so they might come back to us in the dead of winter.  Beauty in dark times.

This begonia has been through the wars. Originally a cutting gift from my friend Vanessa, it was eaten by deer one year, but eventually bounced back and needed a new pot this year.

I am a haphazard gardener at best, but I am pleased with the results of our efforts this year.  The back garden, fenced during the first fitful, anxiety filled weeks of the lockdown, seems to be holding up.  Keeping the deer at bay.

I am grateful.

The dahlias have put on a show this year.  Somehow they had survived my stashing them in the garage last autumn where they overwintered successfully.  Surprisingly.

They are a constant delight.

My great-Auntie Nancy passed away the day we were on the road home from Maine.  She lived a long life, and did not suffer in the end, which is all anyone can ask for really.  When we attended her funeral, masked and out of doors, I took a posey of my dahlias and some sunflowers too, to place on the grave of my beloved grandparents.  Life has a way of marching on.

Note the dates. My grans, married for 64 years, died within just 3 days of one another. My grandmother, who married at age 16, used to quip about my grandfather, “Why Herbie? Well, he practically raised me.” I can still hear her say it in her quintessential Butler County drawl.

Last week I added another digit to my age line.  It was a quiet day really, a few hours at the concertina shop, take out from a local brewery and a zoom call with some artful and inspirational friends.  It was lovely. I even received some gorgeous flowers.

My mom gifted me the innards of a new Traveler’s Notebook for my birthday. (I made the cover myself from a scrap of leather from the shop.) I am interested to see how this journal system works for me as my own sketchbook practice has shifted in recent years.  When I “go sketch”, I am actually painting and use good paper in good sketchbooks.  But for the day to day, I like to have a workbook to capture ideas, quotes, poems, drawings, lists and etc.  Also a date keeper, not that there is much of a schedule these days.

Perhaps this little book will help me get organized as we do some serious household renovation and reorganization in the coming months.

I already have lists going, and some quotes.  Tunes I must work on……

This is my new half-set of uilleann pipes being crafted by Mickey Dunne in Limerick, Ireland. I think they are a thing of beauty indeed. Though honestly I am not sure quite what I have gotten myself into!  As Louise Mulcahy said in a presentation she did yesterday hosted by Southern California Pipers Club, perhaps it’s just the “medicinal sound of the drones.”  I’ll be sure to post here when I receive my beautiful new instrument!

“Don’t focus on the limitations, focus on the possibilities.”

~Liam O’Flynn (via Louise Mulcahy’s recent research)

Tomorrow morning we bid adieu to our friend Ari, the ‘little red dragon”, or “the wee man” as I sometimes call him.  He’s heading back to my sister’s where she is settled into a full time position as a nurse at a hospital near Louisville, Kentucky.

We will miss him indeed, but we also know there is much work to be done around here and it might best be done with only  the one aged dog along for the ride.  (Plus, he is missed dearly by his proper steward.)

Thankfully, our Little Miss Charlie doesn’t climb steps and mostly sleeps the days away, so she will be the perfect dog to weather the coming months with us as we turn the house upside down a bit.

It is a good time to nestle into a great feathering of the nest so to speak.  My travel journaling work – for now at least – is non-existent for obvious reasons.  I keep the art-wheels oiled here with a few side projects but a bit of a domestic re-design will be my creative project for the time being.   In recent years we found ourselves with an empty nest, the kids fledging to adult lives of their own.  My travel journal business  was where my energies flowed and I never really found the time to re-group here at home.  For now – this year at least – all of that is at a standstill.  Like many others, I am finding it difficult to concentrate on the usual things, and so I’m going to just take full part in this collective pause.

I’ve felt for a long while that the speed of things in this world is too much for me personally, it’s just tragic that it’s taken a pandemic to slow things down even just a bit.  With this slowing down has come an opportunity to take stock, decide finally what to do with the old “back room” which has been falling down around us for a few years now.  It’s time to rebuild. We have engaged a builder to begin in autumn sometime.  There will be much shifting and cleaning and decision-making and things will be topsy turvy.  Construction and reorganizing has a way of affecting every corner of the household and knowing this, we are taking the opportunity to reconfigure the whole place.

It’s time.  Getting our home organized and making a little oasis around here will help us bring more peace to the world outside of our home.  Of this I am sure.  To seek beauty in a dark world is important work.  Sometimes, that starts at home.

And that, as my mom says, is all the news that’s fit to print.  We, like everyone, continue to adjust to The State of Things.  We do the best we can.  Being gentle with ourselves and each other.  Following our noses as to how best to proceed.

How are you all doing? I’d love to know…..

When I have Fears

When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has glean’d my teeming brain,
Before high piled books, in charactry,
Hold like rich garners the full ripen’d grain;
When I behold, upon the night’s starr’d face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
And think that I may never live to trace
Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour,
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the fairy power
Of unreflecting love;—then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.

~John Keats

Aren’t humans beautiful at their best?

It’s just another manic Friday, here in the time of the pandemic.  Downstairs, the Hub finishes a social zoom call happy hour (not to be confused with the constant work related video calls he’s on by day) with his (our) kayak friends.  I cobble a dinner together of spring vegetables  and pasta thanks to our favorite local market.

It is a dance of sorts.  This balancing of our inner and outer exertions.  And this dance is different for each person, at each moment.  All good dancing requires moment to moment shifts and decision making.

The garden has been covered with pots and jars and sheets and towels tonight.  The frost is all over, at least as far as we are hearing from the forecasters.  And so we prepare, best we can.

The news in recent days is harder and harsher. We as a country flounder under a most inept and under-equipped leadership.  Not long ago there was a man at the helm  who while perhaps imperfect, was at the very least, empathetic.

The night is beautiful,
So the faces of my people.

The stars are beautiful,
So the eyes of my people.

Beautiful, also, is the sun.
Beautiful, also, are the souls of my people.

~Langston Hughes

Listening lately to Michelle Obama’s book Becoming  and watching the netflix documentary about her accompanying book tour, I have been brought to tears at where we have come to.  From grace and hope for a new world, to a floundering shadow of a dream.  I don’t know who we are any more.

I sit with the space of it all.  Setting boundaries where necessary (zoom calls ad infinitum (nauseum?) if I opted for it.) and do the best I can.  Yesterday I heard from my Auntie (my father’s sister), now in Virginia with her grand-daughter, and we had a lovely chat.  I marveled at the balance of it all as we talked.  Somewhere I have four “half” sisters whom I do not know, and who do not seem to care to know me.  We discussed this, openly and honestly, and it was good.  I revel in the family I do have.  My own dear sister and brother and the “steps” along the way.  We mix and match as best we can, over time.  I love them all so much.  Now perhaps now more than ever.

I am recently running the roads a lot, which brings me great solace.  I realize this is a privilege as I read about not only communities on strict lockdown around the world, but of Aumaud Aubrey, who was murdered while running in a Georgia neighborhood on a sunny afternoon.  Finally a public outcry leads to the arrest of his murderers.  But I wonder, what took so long?  I run with and for Aumaud of late.  Praying step by step for his family.  It is all too much to take in.

In the long run, I must admit though, this space, with all its heartbreak and uncertainty is for me, personally, and just now, an ok thing.  I am breathing and resting, even amidst this crazy pandemic, which is an unexpected gift.  I recalibrate at home, supporting the businesses and organizations I hope will still be present when this all passes eventually, supporting my family and friends along the way too. (Did I mention the wee red dragon, my ER nurse sister’s dog, Ari is back with us??) This is all I can do.

This too shall pass,  and this I believe.  But we will never go back to what was Before.  Perhaps we shouldn’t.   I have the gift of a great re-thinking here at home, the results of which I do not yet know the outcome (do we ever?)  And so I read, and write letters, plant seeds and paint and play tunes.  I walk and run and pray along the way as well, such that it is.  It’s all very Jane Austen in some sense.

But I welcome this spaciousness such as it is, such how it comes….

“We put thirty spokes together and call it a wheel,
But it is on the space where there is nothing that the usefulness of the wheels depends.

We turn clay to make vessel,
But it is on the space where there is nothing that the usefulness of the vessel depends.

We pierce doors and windows to make a house,
And it is on these spaces where there is nothing that the usefulness of the house depends.

Therefore just as we take advantage of what is, we should recognize the usefulness of what is not.”

― Lao-Tse

In an act of hope for the future, I planted asparagus this week

Do we collectively even know what we have here just now?  In this time of crisis, can we even recognize the level of love possible?   I hope so.

Love After Love

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

                                 ~Derek Walcott

Keep well y’all.  I love you.

Ps. Did I mention that Michelle Obama actually sent a tweet my way with well wishes for my sister who is a front line worker as an ER nurse!!?  We were all thrilled, fan-girling big time all through the family via text and email.  I hope Michelle Obama knows the bright torch she carries and the hope she holds for all of us. It must surely be a great burden to bear.  I am in awe of her and her family and wish them all well.