Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Fun Year for Toads

At Real Toads, The talented Ella, of Ella's Edge, set us a challenge, on this special day for frogs: to look around us at the shapes and colors of our morning and write a poem from them. The description of the challenge can be found here. As nature kindly deposited a thin layer of snow overnight (which is really going to piss off the crocuses that have been coming up), this was an easy write.

A thin crispy crackle
of icy snow
crunches underfoot
as I walk to the barn.

The old horse
pushes her big long nose at me,
whiffling for carrots or apples.
There is a busy twittering
of winter sparrows
at the feeder,
and steam is rising
from the pasture
as the morning slowly warms.
Beyond, the tops 
of the blue hills are 
draped in snow.
A wintery breeze  
blows off the slopes
and catches 
my uncovered neck.

It is February 29, 2012.
What will morning
look like
on this day
in 2016?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Wild Woman Does a Double-Take

Wild Woman says
she knew she was old when,
watching a movie the other night
where the toned, buff, naked leading man
tossed aside a soft knubbly blanket
to parade his bare buns
proudly across the screen,
she took sudden interest,
then turned to her sister
and muttered:
"Nice blanket!"

Hidden Inlet

I heard of a new trail in town that winds along the inlet with great water views. It will eventually be connected to the trail running all the way up the west side of Vancouver Island. Right now it connects China Creek Park with, presumably, the trail along Harbour Quay.
It's a twelve kilometer trail.

Excitedly, I headed out, camera slung around my neck.
I only wanted to go to where I could see the inlet.

This is Mount Arrowsmith, the Big Kahuna around these parts.
It was on my left as I climbed.

The Big Kahuna close up (zoom lens).

The trail started off nicely enough. But  I  was very soon to discover,
it leads straight up the side of a steep hill.
On the town side, rather than the inlet side.
There was a mountain between me and where the water 
should be, on my right. 
I kept climbing.

It's a pretty trail, if you can risk taking your eyes off it 
to look around. 
Much zig-zagging,
much trying not to slip and fall down 
the slope of what soon
felt  more like mountain than hill.
Much heavy breathing.

It was worth it for this shot, though - my fave of the day.

I made it nearly to the top and was likely CLOSE to
where one might have seen water. 
But I couldn't risk having to walk too much farther, 
if it wasn't.
There was still my way back to make.
I turned back.

Kind of chuckled to myself that,
if it was the inlet I wanted to see,
I could more easily have done so
by driving to the Quay.
AND could have had a coffee and donut there, too.

Such was Wild Woman's
adventure today.
I had hoped for some lovely inlet shots
for right about here.

Maybe next time!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Got Me Some Old Teakettle Blues

Beautiful photo by Ellen Wilson of Ella's Edge, who provided Real Toads with a selection of photo prompts this weekend. If you click on the link, you will find many very entertaining and wonderful responses to the prompt.

The old teakettle sat on the stovetop
for nearly a century.
Cast iron, built to last,
it boiled the water
for many cups of tea,
during low conversations among
the fully-gowned 
and aproned women,
who were prone to commiserating,
and sudden bursts
of maniacal laughter,
especially when talk turned  to
The Menfolk.

Teapot watched the endless
kneading of the bread dough,
provided coffee and sustenance
to the crotchety old farmer 
in his long johns
at first light.

The old kettle brewed tea
for the conversation
that told Ma and Pa
that Sissy was expecting

and, later,  boiled water
for childbirth
while the last long scream
then died away.

Teapot was there when
word came from the War
that the oldest son
had died.
It boiled and sang, 
boiled and sang,
all that livelong day,
while the aging parents 
sat at the table, 
heads bowed low,
hands folded, empty, 
in their laps,
wondering  what this life
was all about.

When the baby grew bigger,
a dear little girl
with golden curls,
it boiled again--
tea for the doctor.
Ivy had reached across 
the stovetop
to put the kettle on
for Ma, and 
her nightgown
caught on fire.
There was nothing
he could do.

The teapot witnessed
a century of hard living
as the aging farm folk withered.
It barely skirted the edge of
the New Millenium:
excess and waste beyond 
anything it had ever seen.
It was supplanted by 
flimsy electrical replacements
without its staying power,
with no history, 
that were
unable to provide 
the same degree
of comfort.
The new kettles
don't sing.

Teakettle's last trip was to the landfill
when the last living kin had died,
and the old farmhouse
got cleared out
and knocked down,
to make way for 
a bare treeless expanse
that would soon sprout
nothing but subdivisions
of every-one-the-same 
monster houses
with formidable monster mortgages,
everything within new and shiny,
breakable, disposable, 
forgettable and
lacking soul.

The days of old, weathered,  
battered, cast iron teapots
is now long gone.
But, when they were here,
what music they provided
as the background
of our lives.

Say the Names

[image from]

At Real Toads, Mary's Mixed Bag challenge really spoke to my heart this week. Mary challenged us to use the first two lines of a poem we like, and create our own poem from it. Immediately, I thought of Say the Names, by the well-loved Canadian poet, the irascible Al Purdy, who passed away in  2000 and whose voice is missed. He is known as Canada's "unofficial Poet Laureate", with a career spanning over fifty years. He wrote thirty books of poetry, plus other writing.

 I will post Al's beautiful poem, written shortly before his death, here, and follow it with the poem that came alive, singing, in my heart in response.

by Al Purdy

--say the names say the names
and listen to yourself
an echo in the mountains
Tulameen Tulameen
say them like your soul 
was listening and overhearing
and you dreamed you dreamed
you were a river
Tulameen Tulameen
--not the flat borrowed imitations
of foreign names
not Briton Windsor Trenton
but names that ride the wind
Spillimacheen and Nahanni
Kleena Kleene and Horsefly
Illecillewaet and Whachamacallit
Lillooet and Kluane
Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump
and the whole sky falling
when the buffalo went down
say them say them remember
if you ever wander elsewhere
"the North as a deed and forever"
Kleena Kleene Nahanni
Osoyoos and Similkameen
say the names
as if they were your soul
lost among the mountains
a soul you mislaid
and found again rejoicing
Tulameen Tulameen

till the heart stops beating
                 say the names

*****     *****     *****     *****
and my version:

Say the names say the names
and listen .........
these names that forever
sing through my soul,
that came alive for me
in the forests
and along the wild shores
of Clayoquot Sound.

Bedwell Sound and Lemmens Inlet
Fortune Channel and Sulphur Passage
those names ring through my heart
in kinship with those who put 
their bodies on the line
- and still do -
-No Pasaran!-
to protect this endangered ecosystem.

Drumbeats in the early morning
along the Kennedy River bridge
still tap tap tap in my heart
along with my passion
for the trees, for the wild shores,
for the curving slopes
of my wild spirit's home.

Hesquiaht, Ashousat,
Kakawis, Bay of Berries,
sound and resound
in my heart,
like the marine radio
my heart was once attuned to,
fishermen repeating the beloved names
above the static,
laughter and messages
and "Choo!" 
the Tla-o-qui-aht goodbye.

Wickanninish and Rosie Bay
and Combers,
Ahous Bay
where the gray whales
stop to feed....
riding out in a zodiac,
the seaspray in my face,
the eagle's cry in my heart,
blue herons on the rocks,
little puffins bobbing on the waves -
every inch of land and sea nd sky

Rain slickers and rubber boots,
the endless winter rain, and gusts of wind
that bent us over as we struggled
across the streets in winter gales
and the wild wild roar of the waves
crashing on the shore,
while the foghorn mooed
at Lennards Light
and all the seabirds hid themselves
to ride out the storm.

Lone Cone standing tall, 
and Catface Mountain,
peeping across at the 
womanly slopes 
of Meares,
the sentinels and  guardians
of our village,
orcas breeching in the channel
to our joyous shouted  "thank you!"
and, across the bay, 
the twinkling lights of Opitsat,
little boats chugging back and forth
across the harbor,
heading for home at twilight.

Say the names of the wild Megin River,
carving itself through root-packed shores 
of cedar and salal,
and watch the wild wolves
pacing  down to drink,
a black bear ambling along the shore
looking for wild salmon.

Hear the eagle's call,
hear the waterfall singing
at Tofino Creek,
or point the bow of your canoe 
up the Cypre River.
Paddle hard for Browning Passage,
beat the tide,
or turn off along Tofino inlet,
when the tide returns
to cover the mudflats.
Pull into the cove at Windy Bay.

Say the names say the names
and my heart weeps with love
for the otherworldly beauty
and the kinship with the wild
that lived inside my soul
when I lived there

My heart will say
these names
for as long as I live
and, when I die,
say these names over me
and bury me on a windswept dune
beside the sea,
so it can forever sing
me to sleep
in my heart's home.

Say the names say the names
cherish these wild and pristine places
Stand against the mining companies,
and those who would clearcut and strip 
these beloved and necessary slopes.

Say the names, my friends,
before they all
are gone.

Friday, February 24, 2012

A Dialogue of Poems

I am way behind online, but am slowly working my way along my To Do list. Earlier this week at Imaginary Gardens with Real Toads,  Kenia's Wednesday Challenge was very intriguing: Write a poem that keeps a dialogue with another poem, or poet.

Right away, I knew I wanted to respond to Amy Barlow Liberatore's The Ward and Me at Amy's blog Sharp Little Pencil.  Amy's poem struck me with its description of a landscape I, too, have visited, with all of a mother's pain, trying with the sheer will of my spirit to tether a fragile child to this earth. I saw - and see -  that journey, not  as a story of brokenness, but rather of striving towards whatever wholeness is possible in the face of overwhelming adversity, and of the limits to our endurance of human pain.

My son is now 41, and has progressed through several lifetimes worth of evolution. He has suffered a great deal on his journey, but has lately won his way to greater stability and, often, he tells me, joy. He is a delight to me, still brilliant, hilarious, gifted at seeing the "little miracles", still writing, still creating music - classical music now, which he taught himself to do from library books. We agree that the journey we have made together  has brought us many gifts we might never have experienced by any other pathway. Gifts of compassion, communication, authenticity, respect and unconditional love. We might have wished for less suffering. But neither of us would have missed this journey for the world.

Here is Amy's poem, followed by my response.

The Ward and Me

by Amy Barlow Liberatore
Shadowy business, this
Nestled in the crook of a couch
for another shrink rap
My balance, shaky at best
This ward filled with walking open sores
Memories ooze from their psychic wounds
The runoff seeps up the floorboards
leaving smudgy, evil footprints
Traces of ghosts linger, follow us inmates:
Xeroxed Marleys, hovering phantoms whispering
what happened back when
back then
Grandma Blanche was a frequent flier,
restless for answers to
bizarre questions that made Grandpa cringe
and then commit her
They’d strap her down
They’d scorched her tortured brain
A sick science fair
I know that old game, how they
sucked the fun out of her
so I play along
I’m afraid but don’t let it show
I whistle a happy tune
This will all be over soon
I think
     *****     *****     *****     ****

Oh, I know this speckled landscape.
Aged shabby building, dismal ward 
old and dreary,gray, needing paint. 
No color anywhere.
Up the scuffed and shabby stairs,
I climb, 
my heart sinking.
It feels like
the abandoned ones
live here.

My laughing,hilarious boy

is now a fragile, lean six-footer,

seventeen and in the psych ward.

I peek into his room, 

I call his name.

His head emerges from the blanket.
He comes to me. 
He is shaking when we hug.
But he smiles, the same big smile.
His eyes - the same blue eyes,
though now haunted by the visions
of his waking dream.
I feel relief. This is still my son,
and I will tether him to this planet
by the sheer force
of a mother's will.
I will become a tree trunk
that he can fasten the kite
of his  tremulous heart to,
that heart trying to decide
if it is halfway in
or halfway out
of this old world.
"Make it stop," he says.
"It's like a bad trip that never stops,
like being in hell.
Voices, clamoring and shouting.
It's scary."
He is  brilliant, talented,
a mystic, a dreamer,
a musician, a lover of life,
with all of the sensitivity
of the creative artist.
He has walked the fine line
between daybreak and hellfire,
and has fallen.
"Please. Make it stop."
I will. Somehow,
if it takes a hundred years,
I will Make. It. Stop.
While he sleeps, I watch
the other depressed souls,
locked within their lonely worlds of pain,
they, too, making their solitary treks
through the labyrinth
of their own minds.
I think about the fragility and, also,
the resilience of the human spirit,
that in a nanosecond, any one of us
might topple over into that land
of rain-speckled windows, tears,
and no more hope.
My gentle son now inhabits
this barren landscape.
He, too, paces these drab corridors,
hours marked out
in pill cups, naps and hospital trays.
Where will his beauty find a place to land
in halls so bleak and bare?

I tiptoe into his room,
where he sleeps, mercifully delivered
from his new waking reality.
Beside his bed I see a scrap of paper
with a few lines written
in his quirky spikey script.
"I am Cloud.
 Someone blow me
My mother's heart grows cold with fear.
I walk out of the room,
down the gray hall,
the gray, drab stairs,
out into the noisy city street,
alive around me,
while my son lies
in the psych ward,
his life hanging in the balance.
I am Cloud.
Someone blow me


The Amazing Ninot Aziz

The other week, when I walked to my mailbox down the road (we live rurally), there was an exotic package waiting for me. Excitement! It was from one of my wonderful online friends, Ninot Aziz of Poems by Ninotaziz, and had traveled all the way from Malaysia to end up in my little mailbox. I love surprises like that! 

I met Ninot  through Poets United. She is an amazing person, who juggles a romantic marriage, (sigh), and raising five active and happy children with working professionally. AND she has had several books published. (You will find their covers and information on Ninot's site.) Ninot's passion is for Malaysian legends and culture, and she transcribes the ancient tales so beautifully. I am impressed at her effort to preserve these stories and the history of her people within the pages of her books. What a gift, to her daughters and to her country.

This latest book is titled Srikandi, and is a fantastic blend of writing and beautiful art work.

Thank you, Ninot! It continues to blow me away, the warm connections we make through the blogosphere.  I feel very richly blessed.

Rollin' on The River......

Hey, kids, some months back, a friend and fellow member of Poets United, River Urke, along with some of her talented friends and fellow staff members, started a way cool online art and literary journal called The River Journal.

It comes out every Friday, featuring the talent of many poets, artists, photographers. Each Friday it focusses on timely and thought-provoking  topics.  It took off right away,  and has been growing fast ever since. 

Now they have added an offshoot: The Literary Lounge, which offers slam poetry, as well as audio, video, and multimedia poetry performances and contests.

Any of you interested in slam poetry, contests and multimedia presentations might like to check it out. They are a young, active and very Now group, with great energy and new ideas.

Pretty cool.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Blogger Problems

Quick! am going to type this fast in case I lose my posting ability again. After 24 hours of intense frustration, I discovered at Blogger Help (which isnt much help) that many other bloggers are having the same problem I am. When one clicks on New Post there is a circle spinning in the middle of the white page as if it is trying to load something but nothing happens. You cant post or accomplish anything.

Some bloggers are stuck in compose mode and cant access HTML. In my case, I somehow got stuck in HTML mode and couldnt access Compose mode. After a bit, I was unable to post anything, OR edit anything, AND couldnt even access my drafts. Little spinning circle, no way to get back into Compose mode, which was grayed out on the screen.

I did everything blogger suggested - emptied my cache, changed browsers, asked them for help....nothing changed.

On a whim, I just went into settings and changed it from updated editor back to old editor. Some of the people on the forum said they did this and it wasnt satisfactory. But at least for now I have my posting ability back while blogger works out the problem. They say they are "aware of it". I just wanted to let you know, if you are having anything similar going on, that it is a blogger problem. If I disappear once again you'll know my blogging ability stopped once again. Hopefully not.

OMG - the whole screen just filled up with black lines. Yoiks, I had better post this fast.

Is it paranoid to think we are being punished for venting about the word verification changes? hee hee.

Nine Swans Flying

[image from google]

I saw nine swans flying in the early morning dawn.
Nine. They mate for life, so one of them is gone.
One flies on alone, across the chilly winter sky.
One  left behind a song to be remembered by.

I saw nine swans in formation,
flying low through morning mist.
The hills so brown and bare await the sun's first kiss.
The leader, when he tires,
falls back and yields his place.
I stand and watch, holding my breath,
the cool wind on my face.

The deer are gentle in the fields,
the clouds are hanging low.
If I never see a swan again,
their beauty, now, I know.
                 ***                ***                   ***              

Hi kids. This was in draft, and needs work, but am posting it now to test whether I have resolved Major Technical Glitches that have consumed my evening. It appears, by Divine Intervention of the Mozilla Firefox Browser, I have resolved my difficulties. Still, in matters technical, I have a very low trust threshold. It is quite a stretch for someone who was alive before TV was even invented!

Monday, February 20, 2012


[Reuters photo on]

The manner of the journey
may be unusual,
but, nevertheless,
the journey
is being made.

-not Confuscius

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Old Houses Speak in Hollow Whispers

At Real Toads, we are offered a selection of beautifully haunting photos taken by the talented Mary Ann Potter, of From the Starcatcher, including the gorgeous one above. Like Mary Ann, I am fascinated by the history carried within the walls of old houses. There is an old crumbling house at the end of Beaver Creek with a story. I am imagining most of it, but the two sisters in it are for real. I will go take a photo of it, maybe tomorrow, and will post it here later. Wish I had thought to take my camera today when I drove past.

Old houses
in hollow whispers.
This one
has its own
story to tell.

The roof is moldering
and sagging into itself.
The front steps are rotted
and all askew.
The door creaks
slowly open.
Dust motes dance and whirl
in the afternoon sun.
The rooms smell
as if a window
hasnt been opened
in twenty years.
There is the scent of mothballs,
and cats.

The stairs
groan in protest
under our unfamiliar feet.
They remember
laughing little boys and girls
pounding up and down,
sliding down the bannister.
On the walls are smudges and handprints,
cracked peeling wallpaper,
pale green, with  big pink cabbage roses.
Tattered and dusty mesh curtains
hang limply at filmy windows.
In the hallway,
up one side of the doorjamb,
back by the kitchen,
are penciled names:
William, Henry, Emily, Rose.

Upstairs, the small rooms
are filled with old iron bedsteads,
and remembered echoes
of whispered nighttime conversations
from a century ago,
when the world
was young.

Two elderly sisters lived here
from the time they were small.
They were young women in this house,
dressed in sprigged cotton,
sitting on the porch
on cool summer evenings.
The brothers came in to dinner
sweating and silent and sunburnt
from the haying.
Suitors, in time,
arrived on horseback
to pay their calls,
the young people sitting,
stiff and uncomfortable,
in the front parlour,
averting their eyes
and trying to think of
something to say,
teacups and saucers clinking
in their nervous hands.
How the sisters
whispered and giggled
to each other,
later, upstairs
those soft summer evenings
before sleep,
dreaming their innocent dreams.

But life had other plans.
Their father died, and then their mother.
The brothers married off.
The two sisters stayed on,
in the house
where they were grown,
and somehow,
in the daily routines
and passing of the quiet hours,
the life they had dreamed of
passed them by.
They would live out their days
in this shabby, downturning house.

Every evening,
all these years,
the two sisters have walked,
slowly, with their canes,
along this country road.
But last time we passed,
only one aged sister was left,
standing, staring,
at the end of the footpath,
watching her days
slowly wind themselves down,
one by one.

Soon, now,
the house will be
as it has not been
since it was built
somewhere around 1915.

how those echoes
will whisper
like disappointed ghosts
through all
the dusty, empty rooms.

Morning Song, Evening Prayer

photo of sunrise at Chestermans by Stephanie Dawn

Hmmm.....I was looking through my drafts to see if I could find something to post this morning - and this popped up. I dont remember writing it. I offer it here as I wait for inspiration to strike for something new:) (I am So Tired, my brain is in neutral right now.)

Wild Woman
is singing her morning song,
a song of birds winging
across the dawn,
a song of blue skies
and the rolling hills,
a song of new hope
now the night has gone.

It's a song of the mist
rising off the earth,
the sun and the cycle
of death and rebirth,
the trail setting out
on the way to Tomorrow:
a heart that holds joy
far more than sorrow.

In the afternoon sun
golden poplars glow,
leaves rippling
like  lanterns
presaging snow.

As the sun goes down,
it's a time for prayer.
She sends it up
in the frosty air:
another day ending,
the night begun,
may God bless 
all creatures
under the sun.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Old Frog Makes Hash of Haiku

Hee hee. Grace, at Imaginary Gardens with Real Toads, set us a task today - to write a series of haiku in strict format - three lines of five syllables, seven syllables, five syllables, with a defining word in the second line to link first and last.

Well, sure. But I was awake from two a.m. to five a.m. last night, it's been a tough week and I am running on will power, with NO actual brain power.

So I decided to croak for mercy like an old toad, as opposed to simply croaking. Better to laugh than to despair, every time!

Old frog
falls in pond,
reviving briefly.

old frog
sits in stupor-
finally thinks of word.

old frog
ancient enough
for dimness to be

old frog
swimming with
the young fry-
glub glub.

Monday, February 13, 2012

When Death Comes

When Death comes
sliding silently into the room
and plucks the essence
of those we love,
leaving only the shell,
yes, when Death comes,
people are kind.
They speak soft words,
like mourning doves.
They coo and they huddle,
in flocks, for comfort.

We dress our loved one
in the finest of robes.
The room is aromatic
with flowers.
We keep a candle lit,
and music always

We tell stories.
We remember.
We laugh and we cry.

When Death comes,
it reminds us
that we are
It tells us
how precious
and finite
this life is.

We are burying
this one man,
but our lives, too,
are slowly

The sun has come out
to light
this pilgrim's path.
His dog looks at us
with sad eyes,
for her loved one
is gone.

We stand
respectfully silent,
as his widow weeps.
We dip our heads
as the bagpipes play
for the fallen soldier
beside his open grave.

But we must not forget
to lift our eyes
up and beyond,
to the hills,
to the wild blue heavens,
to track the flight
of an eagle
soaring Homeward,
remembering that,
while we still have breath,
all of this beauty
is ours,
each day
a new gift
to be opened.

Our lives
- our lives! -
are always
and only
on loan.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Finding Our Way Home

Image of South Africa from Our Beautiful Planet and Universe

Hi kids, I was thinking about the subject of Love today, having spoken with a couple of young women who are seeking to find love through finding a partner. I have been thinking about how abundantly love is all around us, all the time, both in the giving and the receiving, in the family, friends, connections we make day by day, the smiles we exchange with strangers when we're out and about, a shared laugh, a friendly comment that lightens someone's face - it is ALL Love. There is not only one way to share it.

I am tired right now, as my support is needed at a friend's home all this week, and I come home pretty drained. So I thought about attempting a new poem on this topic, but instead picked one off the shelf that I wrote some time back.

We're all made up of stardust

and of dreams
our souls roamed
light years through
the everness of time
from galaxy to distant galaxy
before we found
our planetary home

we think that we are bodies
until the day we understand
that we are air and spirit
the stuff of stars
with heaven close at hand
our mortal struggles mask
the inner light
that tries so hard to shine
through our dark night
until finally we discover
that all along
we have had
perfect sight

we vainly
search to win
love on the human plane
paying with tears
and solitary pain
for all our hopes and fears
while all the time
we are already One
the way we all breathe air
unseen, yet just as present,
is the spirit
we all share

one day we raise our eyes
beyond the worry
and the pain
and find the way
we can be whole again
grateful each day
for the miracle of life
sky above
and earth below
the beauty of it all
a never-ending show
free for the taking
joy ours for the making
gratitude with
each new dawn
no more lonely aching
one heart
in all hearts -
our sudden waking

planetary pilgrims
on our long journey
to the end of time
we only need
to understand
that we already shine
and humbly share our love
in all the corners
where we roam
in the soul's profound simplicity
with every soul we meet
we find our own way

We take most of our lifetime
to shed the human limitations
we impose
we feel the pain
when from our loves we part,
until we learn
no love is ever really lost,
living forever
in our heart

the secret's not
in finding love
but in the giving
it's not in having
the "perfect life"
it's in the living

our healing journey
lies far beyond
our solitary pain
when we enter the
All That Is
we are made new

should we forget
for a moment or two
the wonder we once knew
all we need to do
is look up at the sky
filled with a million stars
to remember
just how
we are