Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Alive in the Land of Miracles

see the  fog
draping the mountains,
Grandfather Cedar 
black against
the morning sky?
See Sun and Moon
putting on their daily Sky-show?
We live in miracles, 
you and I.

[Sproat Lake in February]

Do you see the waterfall
tumbling down the mountain,
the thousand rivers
rushing towards
the sea?
How is it we go about
our  days
the glorious gift
it is 
simply to Be.

 [swimmies in February!]

We're alive in 
a land of miracles,
when we wake each morning
and open up our eyes
upon the thousand
ordinary beauties
life unfolds
against the backdrop
of the skies.

On this
extraordinary day,
may our gazes fill 
with unsuspecting wonder
that we're traveling
through such beauty
all the way.

Monday, January 30, 2012

A Hint of Spring

[Englishman River]

Today it was mild, and one could smell the earth, the freshness of the air, even a hint of spring on the wayward breeze. There is a good 45 minutes of added daylight at the end of the day, which excites me. Every scrap of extra daylight is welcome, given the constant grays of this winter valley. 

Soon the earth will be warm and it will be Open Door Weather for months and months. I so love leaving my doors open wide to the outside. Once it is warm enough, I love sitting on my porch swing, having my tea and contemplating absolutely nothing but the gentle rocking back and forth.

Before too long, one more winter will be over. Spring is heading this way.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Of Albatrosses and Other Weighty Matters

Photo by Daryl Edelstein of Through My Eyes and On the m104: Out & About In New York City

Well this is cool. I had already posted this snippet, and then clicked my way along to Fireblossom's prompt at Real Toads, which is to select one of this talented photographer's photos and write about it. The tombstone photo is timely, two birds with one stone. This is not, in any way, a serious "poem" - just a funny thought or two I have around the weighty matter of my Name Which is Not My Name.

There is a slight dilemma about my last name.
It isnt mine.
It didnt fit me, even at the time.

I carry my ancient old hoary married name from 1966
like an albatross around my neck
that I am constantly flicking off.
I flicked off the marriage in 1972.
It appears I move slowly in dealing with the details.

First I kept it so my kids and I would have
the same last name  while they went through school.
I had hoped to spare them embarrassment.

Turns out they were far more embarrassed by ME,
and my generally eccentric behavior.

In recent years, the name has not worked for me AT ALL.
When forced to give it, I always add a disclaimer.
It may even be the source of my difficulties,
being incongruent with my spiritual and personal evolution,
but I have remained too impecunious
and terminally exhausted, to deal with changing it legally.

I have the name picked out that I want.
It is my grandma's name.

I have warned my family not to put my married name
on my tombstone, or I'll come back and haunt them.

I may come back and haunt them anyway,
just on general principles.

This has to be the year to tackle this important dichotomy
and claim the name that fits me.

The tombstone is creeping closer.
Every now and then,out of the corner of my eye,
I see it lurking.

An aside: Last night I dreamed that Pup and I had lost each other. We  couldnt find each other, though we were looking everywhere. But before I woke up, I found him, with great relief. I am taking that as an underlying message, and it comforts me.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Don Quixote and Blueberry Muffins

[image from google: QUIXOTE.tv.zazzle.com]
This poem was inspired by Fireblossom's poem Sunday Bookstore Cafe, about a blueberry muffin and the loss of love. A universal theme, it appears :)

I am re-posting it here in response to Mary's Mixed Bag challenge today at Real Toads : to write a poem that includes a conversation. This one sprang to mind. If you click on the link to the prompt challenge, you will find some cool examples of poems containing conversation at the site.

He was addicted to
to conquest,
to the thrill of the chase.
He had perfected
the bedding of women,
the cute little schticks,
the crafted phrase,
the poetic verbiage.

She was a romantic
whose life had held
precious little romance.
She had been alone,
it seems,
She felt like
the Dickensian  character
sitting in her parlor
draped in cobwebs
waiting for the phone to ring.

Alas! they found each other.

He believed he was
Don Quixote,
always off on a quest.
He wooed her wary heart
with words of forever,
cajoled her past her fear
with honeyed phrases.
Her heart, starved for love,
for romance,
for this to be true,
while her Inner Wise Woman
was thrown into fearful panic
and did not feel safe.

Her head, however,
refused to listen
as the ground shifted
beneath her feet,
and she clung on.

He spoon-fed her promises
and butterscotch pudding.
To others,
he said he was
"keeping his options open".

Too soon
he grew bored.
She had toppled too easily.
She wasnt "playing the game",
her sister said.
Confused, she replied,
from her honest heart
"I dont play games."

"More's the pity,"
said her sister.

On the side, he was already
lining up
the next glorious
There were two women
in his sights.
He "kept his options open"
in case one of them
didn't work out.
To her,
he said,
he was "confused."
He "needed time."
Then, he must "follow his truth."

He dumped her on Valentine's Day.

And she?
About to go into
the full-blown shock
of betrayal,
and, quite soon,
some healthy
invigorating anger,
before she left
she made him a batch
of her wicked blueberry muffins,
to remember her by,
because he'd
"miss her muffins".

Good God.

She'd never see another
blueberry muffin
without an ironic
the thought of him
bumbling about
the scattered
landscape of love,
tilting his sword
at all the pretty ladies.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Traveling Through Beautiful

Middle of the Rocky Mountains
photo by Jon Merk

Poets United's Thursday Think Tank prompt is The Road. If you go to their link, you will find some amazing responses to it. 

the road
goes up and down,
along some winding trails.
But there's one thing 
that amazes me,
one thing that
never fails.

One step begins our journey,
a thousand miles
will take us home,
but we're traveling
through Beautiful
we roam.

Clayoquot Writers Group

 Christine Lowther, noted Vancouver Island poet

If we cant get to Tofino,
we'll bring Tofino to us.

And that's what happened last night, when the Clayoquot Writers group (of whom I was a founding member in the early 90's) arrived in Port to do a reading and some way cool performance poetry . The venue was great, an old converted  church called Char's Landing. It had a nice coffeehouse feeling to it, and the locals turned out in goodly numbers, which was quite wonderful.

My friend Chris and I were in that writers group together when I lived in Tofino, and her first published book of poems, New Power, was the writing she was working on the first winter of the group. I have so admired her talent through the years, and  her perseverance in doing the work it takes to get widely published.

I have fond memories of our fantastic group back then, writing among the most amazing, dynamic and talented women. The group has changed membership over the years, and is still full of very talented and well-published writers. Last night's performance was highly enjoyable.  I was asked to read, and offered my Traveler Holds the Moon, which was well received. 

It was nice to see Tofino friends, writer friends from our local college and members of a local writers group I belonged to before it disbanded, all in attendance. I am such a hermit, my appearance was like I was back from the dead. It was fun. I think I'll go once a month to their open mic from now on.

Chris and I came back here and, as anticipated,  there was cackling! Jasmine was so happy to see her. Chris was Pup's favorite person after me. She shared so many of our wild gamboles along the beach, and he was always so excited to see her. This was her first visit without him here.

Chris has several books out now, some anthologies and three books of published poetry. Her work can be seen at The Natures of Christine Lowther

I wrote an article some time ago about Chris and her amazing life on a floathouse in Clayoquot Sound, which can be read here: 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


 [image from google]

The prompt at Real Toads today is to write a futuristic poem. The style and a few of the poems of Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet were given as an example. I also looked up the explanation on Wikipedia, but am really none the wiser as to what is wanted. Will give it a shot anyway. 

What will tomorrow
make of the monks, burning?
Flames rise, monks stay motionless,
awaiting immolation.
They do not scream.

A nun, watching, moans,
"My Tibet, my Tibet."
The charred remains
are given to the vultures
for a sky burial.

The Dalai Lama weeps.
He can find no words
where there is
only heartbreak.

Will the occupiers ever 
Tibetan people
only want
to live, unoppressed,
in peace
in their own country? 

History in the Making

image from google

Yesterday, Shawn Atleo, First Nations activist and current national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, whose brother is a dear friend of mine from Tofino days, met with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, with all due ceremony, at the Crown-First Nations Gathering in Ottawa.

Shawn Atleo is proposing the immediate need to smash the status quo  between First Nations and the government, which still operates according to the ancient paternalistic Indian Act , when it comes to governing First Nations.

Shawn pointed to some bands who are managing their own affairs and doing well, stating there are 65 bands ready to govern their own affairs. The wish to self-govern comes on the heels of last month's declaration of a state of emergency by the Attawapiskat reserve, whose members are living in unheated shacks in 40 below weather, without water or toilet facilities - Third World conditions for the northern people of Canada.

At the time this news broke, the predictable response was finger-pointing by government, at perceived "mismanagement of funds" by the Band. 

Yesterday, Harper responded to the Chief's plea for a transformation in the relationship between government and First Nations, with the usual words of "respect" and "working together". But he said he would not disband the antique Indian Act, which has kept First Nations people disempowered, "because it would leave a hole". It all sounded like a lot of the usual - words, instead of change, and nothing happens. 

Argh. However, Shawn Atleo is a courageous and committed leader of his people. His message - and the reality - is that it is long past time for change for his people. Under the present system, far too large a percentage of First Nations are impoverished and feeling hopeless. They want the same access to resources, employment and self-determination the rest of Canada enjoys.

What I heard yesterday from Harper was same old/same old. But I place my hope in Shawn Atleo. He'll get the job done.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Winter Gray

I am identifying here with the slug, as that is the pace my body would like to be moving at today. Lowering gray January skies, rain that has the river lipping the top of its banks,  and I'd love to curl up like a winter bear and snooze the day away.

However, I have a job to do today, so off I go. Those turtles will just have to keep out of my way :)

Have a good one, kids. See you later. When I get home I'll come see what you have been up to.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Song of the River

[Stamp Falls, the narrows]

For Open Link Monday at Real Toads, I decided to re-post this oldie, one of the first I posted on my blog. Stamp Falls is my favorite spot in Port, because it is the wildest. I have walked there so many times through the years. Beyond the narrows, the river opens in full flood with a steep incline that salmon have to leap, against the power of the down-river-traveling water, during the autumnal spawning migration. The huge fish collect in this peaceful channel to rest and wait their turn to attempt the rocky passage. Eagles and bears also gather, to intercept some of the fish. You can look down and imagine one could almost walk across the backs of the fish, they are so plentiful. Our dogs love to swim in this river in warm weather, back a ways, where the river opens in the other direction.

 Song of the river wild,
Song of the rapids leaping
Through the chiseled rock-walled chasm
Green with weeping,
A plunging torrent
To the ocean seeping

Song of the sea-green foam
Song of the white froth dancing
Sun-dappled baby wave-tops prancing
In the sunshine, all my dreams

Song of the green rock wall,
A vessel for the river's journey,
Guiding the flow along the channel churning
To the ocean and as it's

Song of the tall green trees
Rootbound and stoic in the deep crevasses
Rooted in bedrock holding up the mountain,
Sentinels for every year
that passes

Song of the laughing brook
Below the rapids green, swirling and babbling
Huge salmon leap,
Fall back in shallows dabbling,
Plunge forth to lunge again,
Leaping and scrabbling

Song of the river wild,
You sing my tattered soul a new song,
Bless the silver beauty of this new day,
Make me know the path I'm on
Is not wrong.

Song of the seasoned soul
That knows the underlying message
Of the river:
Flow with me,
Not against me as we journey;
Travel lightly,
Not a taker,
But a giver.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Shambhala Warriors in the Nuclear Age

[image from google]

Are you looking for warriors
who can change the world?
Don't look where there are weapons.
Look at good folk
who are kind,
changing the world
from the inside out,
one heart, one family,
one community
at a time.

If you want peace in the world,
dont look where there are wars.
Men shooting each other
in the mud,
or lobbing bombs back and forth,
can never bring about peace.

And those "modern" weapons
they show us on tv,
that look like computer games,
little arrows tracking across the screen,
and no footage of the effect on the ground:
the bombed buildings, the rubble,
the bleeding humans and screaming children;
one might forget it isnt a computer game at all.
They're just trying to make us think it is
a bloodless massacre,
so we'll keep on supporting their war games,
agreeing to the pouring
of money into Defense
instead of health care, education
and feeding the hungry peoples
of the world.

I started off writing about taking heart
because, with life at the
very lip of the precipice,
with arsenal enough to blow us all away,
either deliberately or through accident
and chain reaction,
it is prophesied that
the Shambhala warriors will come
to dismantle those weapons
of mass destruction.
It is said they will
infiltrate the corridors of power
and face down corporate might,
corruption and greed.
That the time of the Shambhalas
and boddhisattvas
is at hand, spiritual warriors,
to turn weapons into ploughshares
that will till the hearts of men
until peace is harvested,
no longer only a wish, a prayer
or a concept.

I just watched a movie about war.
It looked insane, soldiers ordered
to climb up
out of trenches on command,
to run straight into machine gun fire,
young men on both sides falling into the mud,
a horrifying hell
commandeered by men in boardrooms
far away.
How can fighting and dying
by the millions,
how can hating over perceived differences
(for we are all human beings)
ever accomplish peace?

So now I am writing a different poem,
a real poem,
not about what my soul wishes,
that those Shambhala warriors,
armed with compassion and insight,
would come in strength and glory
to tip over the long oaken tables
in all those corporate boardrooms,
scatter all the maps of all the hot spots
on this planet,
pour the cool air of their wisdom
on all the throbbing,
fiery, painful
pustulating pockets of war
on this over-stressed and falling apart
but heartbreakingly beautiful

Is that any more far fetched than thinking
everybody fighting,
everybody warring,
everybody outraged and suffering
and starving and killing
can ever "protect our freedom"
or give us the peaceful world
we all say we want?

Tonight I am thinking
we need a Kindness Revolution.
We need to heal this wounded earth
from the inside out,
one heart, one family,
one neighborhood,
one community,
one bleeding clearcut mountainside
or contaminated river,
one trapped whale
or starving polar bear
one province or state,
one country
at a time.

There is an ideological war
that must be won
before we can dismantle
the weapons of war,
dismantle the barricades,
dismantle the  death grip          
of the dictators, the  fundamentalists
and the corrupt leaders
on the necks of their people.

Then we need to dismantle
the weapons of mass destruction.
Does anyone in power realize
"mass destruction" means them, too?
Is it not insanity to think anything can be won
by annihilating the entire earth?

It is hard to hold onto hope
when you read, and understand,
that dark forces have
a death grip on this planet
and refuse to let go.
I tell myself, when it comes to
dark  and light,
that a fire burns brighter
when you try to extinguish it,
and so, light must ultimately triumph.

But I'm not a total birdbrain.
I read about the nuclear power plants
where the technicians know putting the rods
closer together to save money is dangerous,
but are told to do it anyway
because Cost is all that matters.
I read about Cousteau's disgust
at what we are doing to our oceans:
drifting garbage,oil spills, sludge,
plutonium, the dying of the very plankton
that provides us with oxygen.

Are we seriously stupid enough to continue
until we smother ourselves?
Deforestation and desertification,
famine, global warming.
Is this depressing you
as much as it does me?

Under the bodhi tree,
the Buddha woke up.
Can this whole world wake up, now, please?
Gandhi spoke of "the uplift of all".
In Sri Lanka, Buddhist activists speak of
everyone "waking up by working together".
It can be done. It is Possible.

All of the ills of this world
are man-made.
The solutions, the Buddhist teachers say,
are mind-made
and can be mind-solved.

Compassion and insight are the potent weapons
the Shambhala warriors will arm themselves
with to face and hopefully wake up
those in the corridors of power.
No one said it would be easy.
But, tonight, I am convinced
it needs to happen Now.

My friends, what world
shall we dream into being together?
Let us all become Shambhala warriors.
Let us pass the pipe of peace,
open our eyes and our dreams and our vision
to the web of life
to which we are all connected.
With all of the sorrow, and hope and
love in our hearts,
let us help our planet heal.

[Choegyal  Rinpoche, Tibetan sage, describes the competing nationalisms of our time as 

"a thousand thorns sprouting, each waving its own flag."]

Note: In no way is this meant to criticize those who join the military and fulfill their duties with courage and honor.  I am speaking of the military industrial complex, meeting in boardrooms far from the theatre ,  which needs war to continue to keep their coffers full, and who direct young men into the horrors of combat, but who never suffer war themselves. My prayer is that the money now spent on war could be directed into making lives livable all over the earth. If we could direct our energies towards free and clean sources of natural energy, we could create jobs all over the planet, as well as beginning to right the imbalances the industrial age has caused.

Sigh.Heavy stuff over morning coffee. Stay tuned.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Wild Woman Flies Her Freak Flag

There goes Wild Woman,
head way back, 
just grinning at the sky,
sploshing through the ice and slush
as if it were July.
Her boots expose her knobby knees;
she'd better look around.
While she is talking to the trees,
she just might fall right down.

She says good morning to the crows
who are making such a din.
She's all adrift in wonder
at this miracle we're in.
The beauty of this planet
and the gift of one more day
fills her heart with feelings
that are much too big to say.

She's looking at a world
that's just as pretty as you please.
There goes Wild Woman grinning,
freak flag waving in the breeze.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Saying Goodbye

The Thursday Think Tank prompt at Poets United is : Goodbye

Immediately, I thought of this photo, of my grandparents, my mother, (center, back row), and my aunts and uncles, whom I thought were as glamorous and sophisticated as movie stars back then, when they were in their heydey. All departed now, except for my Uncle Don, (on the far left, back row), still alive, still blonde, still handsome at eighty. At Christmas, Lori and I watched the family video, all of those heartbreakingly vital years, when death and partings were the farthest thing from all of our lives. There is one take where everyone had gathered at my grandparents' little cottage on Christleton Avenue. Two by two the couples come out the front door to smile into the camera, and the grandkids, and then my Grandma and Grandpa. Everybody beaming happily and innocently into the camera, all thankfully unaware of what the years ahead would bring.

Out the door they come,
two by two,
the glamorous aunts and uncles,
all smoking,
with drinks in their hands,
(it was the 60's),
all beautiful.
We kids thought they were
the height of cool.

Into the camera they smile,
happily innocent
of the futures that lay in wait.

The grandkids are smiling too.
Now we all have
turned into grandparents
and so many of those 
dearly loved faces
in the blurring film
are gone.

We couldn't know it then
but as the camera caught 
their brightly smiling faces,
they were already saying

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Two to Tanaga?

Real Toads is once again issuing a challenge, any challenge seeming difficult to me these days.
A tanaga adheres to a strict format, asks an emotionally charged question in four short lines of seven syllables. Yeah, like that's going to happen, hee hee. Here's my try:

Again, a form that intimidates.
How to fulfil all that-it-takes?
I need help. I am going to find a
scribe. It takes two to tanaga.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Eye of God

[This NASA photo of the so-named Eye of God,
is of the Helix Nebula, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope]

I remember years ago watching a documentary with a friend of mine that looked from a fixed point on earth, traveling outward in increasing increments. We went from the fixed point on the ground farther and farther into space.

Then we returned to the fixed point and traveled inward, again exponentially, to the very nucleus of a cell.

It is all pretty freaking amazing, when one considers the intricacy of the smallest cell, in its little orbit, to the interconnectedness of the many systems, designs and life forms on the planet, linked to the spaciousness of the million galaxies above. Each small part contributing to the whole. And the whole a mesmerizing wonder.


Big old orb up there
filled with a zillion stars
and shiny with stardust,
keep a benign eye
on us down here.

Beam that benevolent
celestial eye
all across this planet.
Sprinkle kindness
and stardust
everywhere you look.

When we gaze up at you,
may we each
become a Rumi,
filled with ecstasy and wonder,
so when you next look down
you'll see us all
like mad fools,
and wildly dancing.

Baby Wolf

OMG. Pup used to tilt his head back and forth just like this.
I want a baby wolf!

Monday, January 16, 2012

The River Wild

In the piney-woods,
the path is scattered with pine cones
and fallen branches,
ground soft and springy underfoot,
smell of canopy and trees,
song of the river
wild in winter flood.

The rough bark of Grandfather Cedar
tells the story of a thousand years
of standing in one place.
When you look up,
when you lay your hand
against his trunk,
when you listen,
you can feel and hear his message:

Look into this little pocket of forest,
draped in moss and old man's beard,
salal springing up everywhere,
ferns and fiddleheads,
small white winter berries,
toadstools and wild morel,
every inch alive with myriad life forms,
an entire ecosystem can exist here,
in a patch
no bigger than 
your hand.

Listen to the silence,
alive with the forest's breathing,
and the secrets 
only the forest knows.
If you take the time,
this old tree
will share with you
his wisdom.

The river is wild in winter.
It expends its force
tumbling and crashing over rocks,
rushing the banks
and frothing white and foamy
through the canyon.

Sit a spell.
Just Be.
Breathe the river in,
breathe your worries out.

The word I'm looking for, here,
is reverence.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

One Year Today

It was one year ago today, old pal of mine, that you barked to go out and, stepping over the sill, your hind end gave way, collapsing to one side, then the other.

I had known these were our last weeks, and now the moment had come. It was time.

As was your habit, you barked all the way to the vet's, excited, thinking we were going walkies. But when we backed up to the door of the vet's, you lay flat and I had to drag you out, with treats as an incentive to walk through those doors one last time. Believe me, I never wanted to.

You didnt want to go either. You resisted the sedatives with all of your considerable will, as I sat on the floor with you, my hand stroking your head, just being there with you, for the very last time. I knew you had been the creature I was closest to on this earth, and the one who loved me most, and that now I would be alone. But even though I had tried those last two years to brace myself for this parting, I had no idea how big your absence would be. You had been such a large, noisy, hilarious, imperious Presence.

I couldnt stand walking away and leaving you there. I couldnt stand the thought of your beloved body going into the fire. I hated to think of your spirit seeing me walk away, thinking I had abandoned you there.

When I got back home, the neighborhood had fallen eerily silent. All of the neighbors said they actually missed your barking.

Some mornings later, as I was waking, I felt your nose on the edge of my bed, and you whuffed at me, as you always did to wake me. As I rose through the layers of sleep, I felt and heard you and dissolved in tears. I was so grateful for that visit, but it also showed me the size of what I had lost.

When I came back to the vet's, and she handed you to me in a small little cardboard box, I lost it. Your big, noisy, vibrant indomitable presence transformed into a small bag of ashes in a small container. Horrible.

I got you a special urn, I made you a special spot, with the blanket you slept on your whole life, your favorite toys, your collar and leash, your treats. But I dont feel you there. I dont feel you anywhere, and that has been the hardest thing to bear.

And, just so you know, I havent been to the beach or the river or the forest since you could no longer accompany me. I will miss you most in those places, where for fourteen years I never walked alone.

But I am beginning to wonder if, now that one year has passed, I might just find you there, where your spirit and mine were happiest and most free. I'm going to go and walk the river, old pal of mine, and remember the hundreds of times I watched you swimming there, and how you'd grin at me and bark for treats, in your demanding way. I'll toss a few along its banks. Give me a sign if you're there, okay?

I miss you, buddy. Today, that's the only truth I know. And I always will.

Dogs of an Eternal Winter

[photo by Maxim Marmur]

Kids, this poem is from last winter, when I came across this news story. I woke up this cold snowy morning thinking of these dogs, and all creatures who are trying to survive the winter outdoors (including many humans.) I thought I would post it again for our contemplation.

26,000 homeless dogs
roam the streets
of Moscow.

26,000 fur bundles
of love-
live hungry,
without shelter
in the freezing air.

Some are so smart
they know how
to ride the subway,
where the seats
are softer
than the frozen
of the inner city,
and where for an hour
they share
some warmth
with the
human passengers.

they roam
food and fellowship.

is their
most constant

The city
to send them
all to a gulag camp
outside the city.
Citizens protested,
they all would die,
and the news reports

But keep an eye out
for sudden evacuations
by night.

No government bureau
is funded
to help
these most helpless

A handful
of private citizens
do what they can.

The hungry dogs
an eternal winter
the streets
of Moscow
in their eyes,

when they dream,
they dream
of spring.