June 10, 2021. Today brought closure to stress related to our 500-year-old live oak – steadily declining the past ten years in spite of treatment for oak wilt disease. The crew came Tuesday, again Wednesday, again this morning to bring down the last of the five trunks growing from a common base. Agile men scrambled up, up into the branches with chain saws and ropes. Sections of limbs were lassoed, then cut free to swing downward at calculated angles that precluded damage to yaupons growing up and through live oak, as well as fence and crew members. An amazing display of skills and teamwork!
They arrived this morning just as I began a zoom session focused on becoming a peace agent, letting the St. Francis Prayer guide current life – my current thoughts dominated by chain saws. Just as the zoom concluded, the crew pulled away, leaving only the stump and my swirl of memories of the former tree: first glimpse in 1986 while shopping for a house in this area; my teenage son casually perched on one of the overhanging limbs calling down “Hey, Mom!”; prolific bird visitations (even one raven); cat chasing squirrel among the branches (squirrel retreating on underside of branch beneath confused cat); and many private conversations between me and tree.
Relieved that the inevitable is now behind us – tomorrow we begin restoring yard art and flowerpots moved out of the crew’s way – including statues of Buddha and St. Francis. A few flower pots will be placed on trunk pedestals – still huggable.
May 14, 2021. I have no photograph of my beloved manual rotary lawnmower. My bond with that machine went way beyond yard aesthetics. I brought it with me to Texas when I left Florida in 1986, before I was into photography, before I was into writing about my obsessions. This mower was an obsession, a very therapeutic one.
Today I read a fantastic post from Bill Pearse Promenade in green that set my mind whirling, regretting having ever relinquished that old mower. It deserves a memorial poem. Even if I have to use a contrived image (though backdrop is an actual old photograph of the Florida backyard).
This poem materialized in response to W. B. Yeats describing an aging man – startled me coming forth – had fun creating the collage (grinning from the label of my preferred wine). Perhaps the combination of aging perspectives will trigger your own self-portrait?
April 19, 2021. Has it really been over two years since I visited my college campus for the first time in several decades – came home and wrote this poem intending to post it along with a thank you to Robert Okaji for inviting me to his poetry reading on that campus. Day before yesterday I had the opportunity to chat with three current students from Texas State University (Southwest Texas State Technical College when I attended in the 60’s). Fun comparing student population growth now vs then; alarming to compare tuition growth now vs then.
In 2019 after wonderful poetry in what once was the Education Building, I walked up to Old Main, then down to Beretta Dorm, then back up “the hill”- not as difficult as I’d remembered it through intervening years. The many steps between walkway up through Quad to Old Main are still a challenge, and steps from Old Main down to the gym still formidable. I did not know in the ’60s that I have a bit of a heart irregularity – I attributed my difficulty climbing those SWT steps to having grown up in very flat West Texas. Returning with an older, weaker body but a better understanding shifted perspectives.
April 6, 2021. This poem keeps teasing me to “do something” – perhaps posting it will stimulate clarity. It’s a product of a rich writing session with Ali Grimshaw (flashlight batteries – Ali Grimshaw) back in March – triggered by the Kim Stafford poem Ali shared and by group energies – then reinforced a couple of days later reading this quote from Pablo Casals: “It takes courage to listen to your own goodness and act on it. Do we dare to be ourselves?”
I’ll dare to share my angst with growing tensions in my state, in my country. I see no clear path toward meeting in the middle, given so many choose “loyalty to cause” over any tiny concession. But I can smile at those standing in line for vaccinations, neighbors in their front yards, people in the grocery store – not knowing which side they are on but recognizing we are all in the same mess. A wild card is an unknown or unpredictable factor influencing outcome. I can hope some good ones come into play. I can hope I recognize chances to be a wild card in personal encounters. And I can embrace inner wild card appearances that nurture my own understanding.
Image is my 2021 focus mandala (addendum to 2020 Uncertainty mandala).
March 30, 2021. I turn to a labyrinth to focus inward – the image here is my frequent walking meditation choice as getting there involves minimal traffic and usually I have it to myself (my preference, although there are gifts in walking a labyrinth with a group.) Since discovering labyrinths back in 1999, they have become my visual metaphor for “life’s path”. In both, the goal is “centered” where pestering perplexities sort of make sense and a calm settles in, acceptance of conditions and recognition that conditions almost surely equal opportunity, even if details are elusive. An alternative to walking a labyrinth, I also turn to finger labyrinths – small enough to fit in a lap, circuits traced with finger tip while eyes remain closed.
Bothered ongoing through the past year about divisiveness in attitudes toward politics, COVID precautions, and what my role might be in the midst of what our country is going through, I recently took my befuddlement to the labyrinth. Stepping into the path, I thought of finger labyrinths I’m creating for a group experience in August, puzzling how to add a tactile confirmation of having reached center (to ease the urge to open eyes to check!) This poem emerged as I walked toward labyrinth center curious: How will I know on my life path when I’ve reached center?
If you count life center as mid-range in years lived, I am surely way past center. But if life center is the point of centered awareness of why I exist at all … well, I need to keep going.
March 20, 2021. For Spring Equinox, I received the prompt “I remember” and immediately connected to the honeysuckle out back, remembering how to re-leaf after our rare (and disastrous) Arctic blast three weeks ago. The storm arrived after the honeysuckle had put out abundant blooms. We feared more than those blooms were wasted – that we might have to prune the honeysuckle down to the ground, that branches too could well be dead. The sight of honeysuckle covered in lifeless blah-brown leaves was very disheartening. But within a week, tiny green leaves began to push the brown ones off branches. Hoorah! Now only a few brown leaves remain, with green ones out to the tips of each branch. Plus new blossoms!
The image is a collage of a single 2nd-round blossom over backdrop of ice-over leaves and 1st-round blossoms. (I took no photos of the blah-brown mass.)
March 09, 2021. For several years, our yard has been graced by a delightful pink flamingo patiently staying wherever last placed, yet seldom immobile – true to her design, she swirled left, right with even minute breeze and somehow that triggered the bobbing of head which always seemed to me a nod of acceptance. I took that as a model. And thus in February this poem wrote itself in my head while I stood transfixed by the rhythmic-yet-unpredictable sways.
I’m posting today to honor the flamingo, who sadly had a different sort of appeal to our new dog Ramble, still puppy-enough to want to chew just about anything. Ramble is forgiven. Flamingo is missed. I’ve collaged seasonal views of the flamingo – last spring amid the pond irises and a couple of weeks ago in the snow.
Sunday, February 28, 2021. Coming up on one year since we all went into panic and pandemic shutdown. I happened onto this poem I wrote early into the shutdown – set aside to post after all the craziness subsided. Well, it didn’t. Maybe won’t ever. I’m still looking for things … we have concluded RVing makes sense (we isolate just as well in the Airstream as the house) … we now have the first of our 2 vaccines … yet for the foreseeable future we’ll keep masking and distancing.
One big change triggered by 2020 social demands was my husband’s retirement at end of the schoolyear. He did NOT enjoy teaching from home and anticipated (correctly as it turns out) that fall 2020 would not look much different. So he bailed a year earlier than planned. Being continually together, we’ve been discovering all sorts of things about one another we wouldn’t have thought to seek, let alone known what to ask, where to look … resulting in many amusing moments akin to this gloves episode.
February 14, 2021. Central Texas is experiencing a much-colder-than-usual February. Hasn’t been icy cold like this since 1989! It’s impossible to console the cats and the Labrador: They want to be outdoors frisking around … well, until they’ve been out there for a very few minutes. Restless myself, I tried to take our dog for a walk around noon, knowing sleet and snow were coming but not realizing sidewalks were already slick in places. It was a short walk. Came back and settled into writing this poem and then collaging icy images to capture the out-there essence: frozen (Look close and you’ll see St. Francis sporting a chin icicle.)