Friday, October 31, 2014


Pass me the stir-spoon, Sister, quick!
This stew's getting a little thick.
Push down the devil's claw. Mix in some thyme.
The brew must be ready by dinner-time.

A pinch of this and a pinch of that,
and dont forget to spell the Cat.
Owl sits in the corner with beady eye.
Toss him a mouse as you go by.

While it is brewing we'll sip on some gin,
and call the witches-in-training in.
Thrice round the cauldron, add some eye of newt,
and mind how you circle, or you'll tread on my boot.

Toss in two warty toads and the leg of a frog.
Let's fly round the meadow, skinny-dip in the bog,
count all our warts, multiply by two,
and I will teach a new spell to you.

To draw love, catnip, valerian for sleep.
Drop a marigold bloom in your tea; let it steep.
Calamus root and the knuckle of a frog.
We'll sing in the kitchen and dance with the dog.

Come out, my pretties, to the meadow in the hollow.
Skinny witches first, and the fat ones follow.
We will chant incantations, swoop around on our brooms,
and watch that black cloud cover the moon.

Snakes go hiss and flames they crackle.
Potions bubble and pop to the witches' cackle.
Toads gather at the pond in our friendly way,
Cause it's always fun on Fireblossom Friday!

For Fireblossom Friday at Real Toads. I hope you will forgive this re-post from a couple of years ago, also written for Fireblossom Friday. I am sick today, but still want to take part. This meets the topic: something spooky (also something kind of sweet, I think.)

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

One Spooky Night, When the Moon was Full

Dad and Brother hooked up horse and wagon,
went into town for a night of drinking.
Sister stayed home, as the hours passed,
finally heard the hooves in the lane at last.

Thundering down the poplar-lined lane,
horse and wagon were coming fast.
She opened the door; no one was there.
The thundering hooves were made of air.

Next day they came to tell the news.
Her dad and brother got into the booze,
over-turned their wagon on the way home,
horse and men all dead; she left alone.

For the rest of her years, when the moon was full
at the stroke of midnight she'd hear the hooves
galloping down the poplar lined lane,
all three heading homeward once again.

A hundred years passed, the tale oft' told.
Two teens set out, scoffing and bold,
parked their car towards midnight 
at the end of the lane,
heard the hooves and never were the same again.

True story. In Kelowna, off Guisachan Road, I would bike past this long lane lined with poplars - it always looked spooky and forbidding. My grandma told me the story of the horse hooves, and one summer the local paper reported  two teens, who decided the story was a lot of hooey,  parked their car, one full moon night,  at the end of the lane and waited. Sure enough, towards midnight, they heard the hooves galloping. It totally freaked them out. I dont think anyone ever lived in that house after the woman died. No wonder.

posted for Susan's prompt at Mid Week Motif: Hallowe'en, or Celebrating the Dead. Write a poem that tells a story.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Face of War

Marcus Cirillo, age 5

This is the face of one touched by war,
by those who refuse to find a way
to live peaceably with others,
a face touched
by extremism, by hatred,
by misguided anger 
towards perceived "differences".
This is the face of
a five year old boy
who just lost his dad.

These are the faces not yet touched by war,
by division, by ideology:
a dad and a boy and their dog,
just starting out,
with all of the future before them,
and happy.

This is a soldier who was proud to serve,
his honor to guard the monument
of the Unknown Soldier,
gun standing down,
no defenses,
when an unstable soul
full of misguided ideology
raised his rifle
and blew away
all of his dreams.

These are the faces
of those who wait
day after day
for their person to come home.

And that does it.

Old Woman can no longer contain
all her tears
for all of the sorrow
and all of the loss
that living on this earth 
requires of us.

Weep with her, friends,
an ocean of tears,
enough to wash away
the pustulence of war,
hatred, divided ideologies,
fundamentalism, radicalization,
perceived differences,
lust for power and land and resources;
till the earth is washed clean
of all toxicity:
leaving behind only our dream,
a planet at peace,
with no more need
of soldiers.

Funeral cortege: Reuters/ Mark Blinch

Today, as I write this,  Cpl. Nathan Cirillo is being laid to rest in a state funeral, after being gunned down six days ago as he stood guard at the Monument of the Unknown Soldier. The longer I live, the sadder such things become, so his son's face, his dogs' faces, just do me in. It is hard to remain hopeful and yet, when I look at the smiling face of this young soldier, with whom our whole country has fallen in love, I have to believe life, love and goodness will ultimately triumph over all that threatens it. After every assault, the human spirit rises up to overcome.

posted for Gabriella's prompt at dVerse: War which, for me, must always mean anti-war.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Raven's Gift

Raven travels the Blue Road
to bring Wild Woman a gift.

You carry a message of trust,
says Raven,
light for the darkness of our times.
There is magic in the void,
creative forces swirling in the cosmos.
Reach up, and grab yourself a fistful of hope.
Scatter the news that all is far from lost,
that for every troubled soul, 
there are one thousand more
dreaming only of peace,
of justice.

Continue affirming
that being more, not having more, 
is where peace lies.

Raven hopped onto the hood 
of Wild Woman's car just yesterday morning.
She gifted him with crumbled biscuit,
and he flew, swift, away,
bread in his beak, and happy.

A gift for a gift.

This morning, Ella of Ella's Edge pulled a medicine card for me, and it was Raven. The message was timely, given the darkness of this week. Another friend sent an affirming email about the content of my poetic message. So I feel on track. Thanks, friends.

Thursday, October 23, 2014


Inukshuks at Rogers Creek, Port Alberni

October, 1996

Spirit in the stone,
you sing to me
of bygone centuries
and ancient mystery.
Once you sat with other Grandfathers in the fire
in times that were so close to life and death.
Water splashed on stone and in the vapors
Spirit-prayers rose upon the Old Ones' breath.
The sacred smoke carried the prayers higher -
words of trust in sustenance and seasons -
up to the Spirit-world on wings of fire,
full of a gratitude that did not ask for reasons.
You once ringed communal fires upon the common,
where families came to take hot coals away,
carried them home to light their own hearth-fires
for needed warmth to keep the dark at bay.
You have known the ocean's roar, ice floe, volcano.
You have been a temple in another land.
Water and fire and earth and ice have honed you
til now you come and fit into my hand.
You connect my heart with all that has a spirit:
all that lies upon the ground and all that flies,
the Standing People and the winged ones,
those breathing peace and those soaring the skies.
Your ancient presence speaks an untold story,
has witnessed centuries of joy and pain.
I place you back on earth in testimony
to all that passes, all that will remain.

One from the archives, kids. I have carried on a love affair with rocks and stones for a very long time. This was written when I worked at Kakawis, on Meares Island, where I took a boat to work and back every weekday. In those days, I  found heart-shaped rocks by the dozens on the walk uphill from boat to office. Those were good days.

The Lost Art of Listening to the Land

In Yellowstone Park, by Frans de Waal

White Buffalo Woman holds a sacred white calf
in her arms.
See their tears flowing, mingling,
with red blood and rain from Mother Earth,
cascading down the mountain slopes,
bouncing off cliff faces, that wear
the eyes of the ancestors,
stoic, resigned to our unceasing folly,
our refusal to wake up, to see
what is plainly before us.
Mighty river roaring through the gorge
storms the mountain pass,
trees waving their arms in distress,
Mother Wind battering the earth
with pounding rain,
a furious housecleaning,
trying to rid herself of parasites and vermin
clinging to her skin.

There is a thin keening in the wildwoods,
cries of the young and their dams,
all hungry and ever in search of a home
away from the Two-Leggeds
who stalk them to the end of their lives, 
walking ghosts with no eyes
and small, unawakened hearts.

Every inch of this earth is alive, and beautiful.
Every inch of this earth is alive, and suffering.

The pale ones wander the earth
in search of their vanished spirits.
Who will call their souls back into their bodies?

The blood of the fallen trees is on the land,
which is grieving bitterly.
The stones that receive their blood
hold strong healing for ones who know they are ill.
Hold one in your hand.
Feel, and listen, for the spirit in the stone,
the ancient memory it holds.
It will speak to you
in the language of mountains and rivers,
tell you of long-gone times upon the land,
when buffalo coloured the landscape brown
and then, so bitterly, red,
and then were gone.

The stones, the land, remembers.
Listen, for all this earth has to teach us
about being alive.

This poem was inspired by my wild ride through the mountain passes in storm, this past weekend, the faces I saw in the cliffs, the roaring rivers and waterfalls, and by reading  Tim Lilburn's wonderful Ghost Song while I was at Chris's. The way he writes about the land, and nature, just blows my mind. My poem is in response to all that reading his poem drew forth in me.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Today's News

Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, age 24
Rest in Peace
Globe and Mail photo

Before morning coffee,
my sister comes in to say
"Turn on the tv."

A young man serving his country,
beloved, a son, striving for honor
in his life, and purpose,
and dreaming of a future,
standing guard at the War Memorial
on Capitol Hill,
like any other morning of his working life,
is shot dead by a gunman,
who then runs into the Centre Block of Parliament,
pursued by security.
30 to 50 shots are exchanged,
till he is shot dead, in turn,
by the Sergeant-at-Arms.

Canadians are shocked,
watching emergency responders
and SWAT teams 
on our tv screens.

The madness is at our doorstep, too.
No escape, anywhere.

Two young men, at opposite ends of the spectrum,
with likely diametrically opposite pasts,
will not return home tonight.
A nation loses some
of its innocence.

for Mary's prompt at dVerse: the news. Sadly, there is only too much of it to report, on any given day. This is today's.

One Day In Autumn

“Choose the least important day in your life. It will be important enough.” 
― Thornton WilderOur Town

One day in Autumn.......
Nekiah hand-stitched every single leaf
to make Tree Spirit costumes
for you and your friend, 
Isaac Blue Sky.

How could we know, back then,
just how precious
were those fleeting
days of grace?
Just how fast it all was
flying by?

First, you grew.
Before I knew it,
before I was ready,
you were out of the nest
and away,
living all of your heartbreaks
and hard times,
so young and heedless and rash,
my hair slowly turning
the color of silvery ash.

Nekiah is gone.
It was cancer,
Isaac Blue Sky's life,
forever fractured.

Those innocent faces up there,
those round trusting eyes
that enraptured,
those smiles that had not yet
known pain........
remind me that once,
once in autumn,
we all lived precious days
that will not,
will not ever

for Susan's prompt at Mid-Weel Motif: One day in the life..........I admit, I slightly altered a poem written in 2010 for this prompt, given I have spent the day online working on other things. It just seemed to fit.

Tofino Time II

[Here are Chris and I after the reading, basking in the glow of all the love in that room for this talented and wonderful woman. Her journey has been one that has inspired me, ever since I first met her.]

Well, of course it all was glorious, my friends. The bus trekked through the mountain pass in storm on Sunday, and everything was in motion: the vibrantly colored leaves, the clouds on the slopes, the roaring rivers, the waterfalls cascading down mountainsides and rocky cliffs, the rain battering the bus which rolled stoically through it all. My eyes feasted on the wildness of nature's fury.

But when we arrived in Tofino, the weather magically let up. The surf was reportedly wild, but we couldnt get to the beach, for lack of wheels. So on Sunday afternoon Chris and I walked down to the harbour and watched half a dozen river otters diving off the dock, climbing back up with fish in their mouths, dining heartily, as an envious heron looked on.

A fine, well-fed, happy fellow. Once he swam right under us as we stood at the window above him, and I so wanted that photo, but he was under the building before I could catch him.

This is Strawberry Island, with its cluster of floathouses and stunning backdrop.

Lone Cone in cloud

The round windows in the pub framed the outer scene so beautifully I could not resist taking these, which could grace art cards quite nicely, if one ever had time for such things.

Chris took this photo, of the vista in her neighbourhood. (Chris stays in town during the winter, when passage to the float is too stormy and dangerous.)

On Monday, the sun shone and we had beautiful skies and vistas in every direction. I took some shots from around Chris's neighbourhood. 

I went into town in the morning and poked about and, in the afternoon, we went on a short walk or two, putting in time and trying to calm Chris's nerves before her big night.

The book launch was a rousing success. It was held at the Ice House, a seafood place built on pilings over the water. Here it is, empty while we were setting up. I kept wandering out onto the dock to smile at kayakers paddling past........

and watch the play of light on the water, just before sunset. I had hoped for more sky color, but the clouds swallowed the sunset up that particular night. I was well enough content, just to be that close to my beloved ocean. I sat by the window beaming as darkness softly covered up the view.

This book, Born Out of This, (on ancient-forest-friendly paper!) is Chris's memoir, one I have long been awaiting (and nagging her to write. You're welcome, Chris, LOL.) Chris has a remarkable history,  has made an inspiring journey from childhood trauma, and has built the most amazing life for herself. She is an activist, nature lover, poet, writer and friend extraordinaire. Born Out of This is available from Caitlin Press. A fantastic read and, if you love nature writing, you will find none finer. 

Chris has had encounters with wildlife that will take your breath away, and she records what she sees around her, at her beautiful floathouse called Gratitude, in a way that magically transports the reader into those meticulously described surroundings.

There was standing room only at the reading,  to a sellout crowd of appreciative and vocally enthusiastic locals. (Tuff City audiences are very interactive, to my delight.) I saw so many friends, sitting there looking out at the water, feeling completely happy, as I have not felt in some time.

I traveled back out in storm, Tuesday morning,  and when I got home was treated to a long noisy thunderstorm. So the earth is all washed clean now.  I am trying to catch up online, which will take some time, and I am working on a poem, stirred by my visit to the home of my spirit. I am distracted by the news, as we follow events at Parliament Hill, where  this morning an armed gunman shot and killed a soldier, then ran into Centre Block of Parliament, was chased, gunned down and killed, early this morning. This is the second soldier killed in the past three days, and is so unlike the Canada we know that we are quite stunned. But given recent world events, I suppose it is not surprising that the global insanity has arrived on our doorstep.

My time in Tofino was restorative. It replenished my heart, which was in need of nurture, and injected some much-needed energy. I may need to make more frequent trips, for further transfusions.

I am a long ways away from making the rounds, but will come by and see you all as soon as I am able to. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014


Christine Lowther - poet, writer and 
friend extraordinaire

You know how Tofino makes my heart go pitter-pat. I am ocean-bound today, kids, to attend my friend Christine Lowther's latest book launch for her memoir : Born Out of This. This is the book I have waited twenty years to read. Yay! Can't wait to hold it in my hands.

I will be staying in style in Chris's winter digs, with a view of Tofino Harbor and Lone Cone, and can hobble happily around the village at my leisure. I will be back home, energized but yearning, Tuesday afternoon, and will make my way around the 'sphere to catch up on all I missed on my return. 

Happy days to one and all!

Saturday, October 18, 2014


She slept so soundly, smiling sweet,
when suddenly, upon her feet,
a kookaburra lit, opened his beak,
and serenaded with his shriek.

"Oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why?
Just shoot me now and let me die.
This laughing fiend stole my sweet dream
and rends my brain with his shrill screams.

"Where did he come from, tell me, now.
How did he get in? Tell me how?
But even more, I beg you, plain,
how do I get him out again?"

The birdling cocked his head, and knew
she thought him an ungainly shrew.
A tear rolled softly from his eye;
he bleeped a mournful, muted sigh.

"Oh, poor burdle, how uncouth
you must think me but, forsooth,
you startled me within a dream.
I did not want to sound  so mean.

"Do, pray tell, sing me again
and I will  list'  to your refrain."
The birdling sang, the woman beamed,
as beauteous as any dream.

Some fun for Kerry's prompt at Real Toads: to substitute words in a title and write a poem on the result. I chose "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time", and while I would rather have written about the dog, this pesky bird started rapping on my head with his beak!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Singing Kites of Wat Opot

from the book In a Rocket Made of Ice
by Gail Gutradt

Khleng ek - the singing kite -
flies the heavens
in gratitude for harvest.
It sings its prayers to the God of the Wind,
for dispersing the clouds and bringing the sun,
so the rice grew well.

Below, the orphans of Wat Opot
know joy,
watching Brother Kite carry their dreams
and prayers
to the heavens, where all their parents live.

In long gone days, the old kite masters
could fashion kites that sang in seven tones,
a glorious symphony
heard below, especially in darkness,
when the heat and clamor of the day was done.
The orphans' kites sing in three tones,
sometimes five,
a miracle of small hearts
that try to hold big dreams
against the certain knowledge
of all that took their families

I am reading In a Rocket Made of Ice, by Gail Gutradt, about the AIDS-impacted (and many HIV-positive) orphans of Wat Opot, in Cambodia.  The orphanage, which now houses many orphans, and offers medical and supportive care to  nearby villagers, as well as programs for the children, was begun by Wayne Matthysse, a former Marine corp medic in Vietnam. When he saw the need and responded, he had only fifty dollars in his pocket.

Now, he says he still has only fifty dollars in his pocket, but the work they are doing there, the lives they are helping, sustaining and, often times, honoring at their closing, is phenomenal.Gail has spent much time there among the children, and relays the children's stories so beautifully, that at each's chapter's closing, my heart feels a regretful ping. I shall grieve at the end of this journey among the children, upon closing the last page.

It is not the sadness of their plight, but the joy with which they live, that is blowing me away.


Sirius - Hubble Photo

Sirius, wolf-dog-star,
set my compass true north
Steer my course, faithful one
Stay within my sight-line
Sing your song of the spheres
Serenade my journey
Sing me all the way home

for Vandana's prompt at dVerse: a pleaides form, seven lines of six syllables each, each line beginning with the first letter of the one word title. And we must mention a celestial body. And I actually attempted it, whew! LOL. Great prompt, Vandana. You made me exercise my neurons, always a good thing.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Roots dig deep into the earth,
as branches reach towards the sky.
In between is everything
that grounds, and strives,
and makes me I.

The wind soughs and sighs;
rain on my leaves alive and glistening.
All is music,
and all of my being
is attuned, 
and listening.

for Susan's Mid Week Motif: Trees 

Monday, October 13, 2014


First light over Great Central Lake

first light tiptoes on foggy cloud-feet
as the mist burns away
the  gifts of the day will be revealed

the trees tip back their heads
and drink deeply of October's rain -
relief at summer's end

Sunset over Sproat Lake
from Heart of Vancouver Island

though sunsets happen far from me,
beyond my sight,
I remain ever grateful
that they exist at all

Blood Moon
Sidney Observatory, Australia

in darkness, I look up
to admire your most perfect beauty,
and you light my way

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Undiscovered Heart - Distressing to Animal Lovers

Mama Jade and her rescuer

Mama Jade was found last October wandering, in terrible shape, wounded, obviously having been abused, mistreated, and used as a fight dog. Her rescuer  cared for her, got her medical treatment, (turns out Mama Jade, after a life of hell, had cancer, too), and loved her till her poor, terrified heart healed and warmed to love in return, (far faster than her human counterparts' would have). 

She was at first afraid to let the woman out of her sight - the first human who had ever shown her love. Her rescuer publicized her story to raise awareness; people  responded to help with the cost of recovery, and Mama Jade was given a chance to live happily for what time she has left. Plus, on facebook, and in every heart that hears her story, she will  live forever.  Including mine, which shed tears for her today.

The way is tentative;
so cautiously, I go,
feeling my way. Advance, retreat,
until I know

that you are comfortable
as I slowly enter in.
Gently, ever so carefully,
we begin.

You have walked through the fire.
I'm breaching charcoal walls.
So tender is new skin,
so fearful as they fall.

I'll sit with you in silence,
loving acceptance to impart.
Let us explore the hidden corners 
of your undiscovered heart.

for Susan's prompt at Mid Week Motif: Exploring

Note: I just checked through facebook, and this beautiful girl is still alive, in a forever home, and doing well. Bless dog rescuers, who know the incomparable beauty of a dog's heart.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


[*title taken from W.B.Yeats]

Where has it all gone,
scattered like pebbles
from a toddler's pail,
as if there will always be More,
until, suddenly, there isn't?

Look back, look back,
down all of those sun-dappled years,
to the very beginning,
all fragrant with apple blossoms -
the dark and the light,
the bitter and the sweet,
such a terrible beauty*,
that catches at the throat,
mixed, as it is, in the
crust of parched earth,
slaked by a madman's draught
at the very last moment
before expiring.

The  dying's last request
is always for water,
my grandmother's long white finger
pointing at the glass
when no more was she
able to speak.
And water,
that single tear
rolling down her cheek,
as she said goodbye to it all
and began that slow slow walk
across the mountains of the moon.

The older one grows,
the heavier that backpack of grief,
an endless well
we can draw from at random:

a paean of gratitude with its counterpoint of pain,
(so beautiful! so beautiful!),

a lament that catches in the back of the throat,
joy that aches, stirred like a slurry,
prickling, like cactus,
a lump of regret
that can never be swallowed,
as the hot tears roll down one's cheeks
because it is too soon,
too soon,
to be faced with leaving.

Too fast it all goes.
Towards the end, one’s life
begins to gallop like a willow-whipped horse,
frothing and frantic  to escape the lash,
hooves relentlessly pounding, pounding,
carrying us off, all unwilling,
with still so much to do,
doomed riders
in a race to the unknown,
on which we wager
the biggest long-shot of our lives:
that somehow
we will still continue on
after death.

My worn old kit bag of memories
is filled to the brim with all I was given:
more laughter than tears,
more challenge than ease,
song and story and a high, hopeful  heart,
an optimism I hold like a mantra,
refusing to surrender in the face of all that is daunting,
and more gratitude than can be put into words
for this magical realm,
where a leaf is a miracle
and a red fox sheer brilliance,
where the owl calls from the forest
in her quavery voice,
beckoning us in with her feathery wing,
where the grey wolf howls through our very souls,
where loneliness and fullness
compete for the same square inch
of living space in the hearts of the solitary,
and where  daybreak and hellfire
alike streak the sky
with a Van Gogh's palette of vermilion and indigo,
whose silvery stars set us dreaming
into the soft sighing dark
of that welcoming Night.

* from W.B.Yeats

Ha. I submitted this poem for CBC's poetry contest (such hutzpah!) and the winner has just been announced. So now I can post it, as we had to submit unpublished work. The young man who won, David Martin,  is a poet to be watched. He wrote about the tar sands, and  I am amazed by the way he uses words, imagery, and a dream-like quality in his writing. Congratulations to David!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Hold On

Does the world on the tv screen convince you
we are careening over the cliff of no return
in the most calamitous way?
Dark and Light are warring;
some days it seems darkness will win.

Don't believe it.
Watch the autumn dewdrops 
winking along the spiderweb
on the trellis.
Note the leaves curling up and dropping
in the eternal cycle of death
which will create new growth.

In the middle of devastation, war,
displacement, genocide,
bombs, beheadings,
the cycle of life continues:
babies are born, wailing,
alongside their wailing mothers.
Green shoots poke out of the earth
where bombs dropped
just last year.

Renewal is programmed, 
built-in, instinctive, 

Transformation, like all birth,
is painful and messy.
But joy, relief and gratitude
for new beginnings
lie on the other side.

Everything in me
has to trust
in the power of life
to persevere,
trust how every being and organism 
on this planet
wants to live.