Catamaran Ride

Everything is true
and nothing is real,
so I’m free to be both
skeptic AND believer.

Free to credit fate for
unforeseen twists AND
heed pragmatism’s
wise precautions.

Free to chart my course
with careful precision
AND bask in sunshine
beyond my command.

Free to close my eyes
in peaceful trust AND
open them to dangers
or wonders ahead.

Free to let wind fill my sails
AND power forward unaided;
free to create my life AND
surrender to greater forces.

Free to see magic
in coincidence AND
consequence in choice;
free to smile at both.

Everything is true;
nothing is real.
Life is a paradox;
perception is a game.

Sunrise

My eyes nitpick imperfections—
the pillow plopped on the floor,
the device left loitering.

I see what’s wrong with my world—
the out-of-place objects,
the offenses that need fixing.

But sunrise alters the scene—
the fiery redness intruding,
the colors fresh and intriguing.

I reconsider my perspective—
the filter I opt to see through,
the feels defined by that choice.

My heart shifts to perfection—
the sunbathed beauty of light,
the gratitude for all that is.

Open

When the sun’s path traverses
the long skinny lake beside us
so that wildflower meadows
capping its ends glisten with
dew drops in the sunrise—

When the forest whomps
a wave of energy through me
so that I stop and fill my lungs
with the warm greeting of
a thousand lodgepole pines—

When the cold lake offsets
the sweat of a midday hike
so that naked bodies squeal
then prickle then tingle then
laugh at an all-natural swim—

When the butterfly flits from
cloudform to chat to actuality
so that its representation of life
and soul transforms my focus
into meaning-filled presence—

When the moonless sky offers
galactic pinprick brightness
so that stars burn into my retinas
and reappear inside my eyelids
when I close them to sleep—

When the experience provides
every want/need my heart held
so that I’m reminded to open it …
open it wide … open it wider …
and open it wider still.

Camping in the Time of Covid

Quarantine burn-out has us sick
of the comforts of home;
social distancing has us
thinking remotely—
not of Zoom meetings
or online-ordered grocery delivery
but how to escape civilization altogether,
ditching our technological ties
and pitching tents in the open air
cooking and eating outdoors
where contagions are lessened by UV rays
and immunity is boosted
by the woodsy phytogenic scent of trees.

The only trouble is that all of us
have concluded the same thing.
Escaping crowds by escaping to crowded
campgrounds and busy hiking trails?
One more irony to add to a crazy year.

Still.
Nature therapy is needed now
more than ever.

Radical Smiles

Pink feels as radical right now
as the nursery cashier’s pink hair.
I thanked her for it and she laughed
behind the plexiglass between us
as she scanned my plant babies.

We need all the happy pink, I told her.
She smiled and agreed, her mouth
as pink as her hair but more rare—
now that ordinary smiles are scarce,
scowled at, shamed, even disallowed.

We are hurting. So many have died,
struggling to breathe in and out,
trachea intubated, speech gagged,
seeing only eyes of brave strangers,
loved ones banned, mouths barred.

I understand that it’s all we knew
how to do: separate, isolate, disinfect,
lock down, stay inside, cover your face
—despite the gasping contradiction
that this makes it harder to breathe.

Outside, pink trees are leafing out
as the planet inhales with glee;
in another hemisphere it exhales
with another parade of warm color.
Its invisible woodsy scent attacks
germs, viruses, even cancer.

Yet we fell forests three times faster
than new saplings can be bedded,
douse the world in chemicals
that turn our pink lungs black,
eradicate shared microbes
that would boost immunity.

What have we done? We’ve
pushed each other six feet away,
robbing our microbiomes more;
pushed children out of schools
that would build herd protection;
pushed the fretful out of churches
that dispel fear; pushed creators out
of businesses that craft courage;
pushed workers into poverty
and the poor into starvation;
pushed the quarantined into
depression and the depressed
toward suicide. We’ve punished
seekers of outdoor sanctuaries,
gatherers grieving their dead,
and dreamers who dare to live.

I understand that it’s all we knew
how to do, trapped in the tunnel
vision of either/or. I understand
how life and liberty seem at odds.

I want to cry, but the best protest
I can advocate is a pink smile.

Stay back, if you prefer.
I won’t invade your space
nor endanger the weak
nor threaten with a gun.
I’m a peace-loving flower child,
a new-age, hippy rebel who’s
admittedly flawed, neither
carbon neutral nor perfectly fit.

What can I do? Only fight for
a fairer world to blossom pink
as I tuck oxygen producers
into the soil, foster nutrients,
boycott sprays, swallow herbs,
promote nature’s medicines,
deter disease, smile big,
and breathe deeply.

I will not mask that hope.
Pink feels radical right now.

Let Nature Demonstrate

Every year, spring riots against winter
not only in the silent eruptions
of millions of blossoms on trees
but also in the birdsong that chants
WE ARE ALIVE! like slogan tweets
gone viral. Green blades knife out
of the ground, buds swell on branches
until they can’t be contained.
Day by day their protest gains
momentum, transforming a dead
world into life.

Every year, I am mesmerized
by the power in every microscopic
cell to know the time has come
to shed the old forms and grow.

Marking the Days

Throwback to Thursdays—
any pre-pandemic Thursday—
back when my days were marked
by classrooms and faculty lounges;

by carpool drop-offs and pick-ups,
dance groups and guitar lessons,
choir practice and date nights,
gym time and social gatherings;

by soccer games, buried under
blankets and inside coats, sipping
thermos coffee, the biggest worry
hoping our son kicks a great play;

by what to wear for bleachers
or work or workouts or worship,
cinemas or concerts or clubs,
shops or restaurants or bars.

The Thursday it began to end,
I sat in business clothes grading
as my colleagues broke the news;
I watched the sunlit breakroom
slowly empty, everything surreal.

Now I’m uncertain of the date,
sweatpants feeling ubiquitous,
school and meetings and lessons
blurring together on the screens,
thermoses wasting in a drawer.

Anxiety and endless news feeds
have become our go-to places,
sick counts and death counts
mark the calendar’s advance,
symptoms our biggest worry—
followed by financial futures.

We huddle in our homes,
scared of what-may-comes.

But there’s a bird who warbles
the unique trill of springtime
on the other side of my walls,
announcing the season’s advent
as do yellow forsythia blossoms,
despite snow recurring on lawns
like late winter’s morning dew.

Our kids fight but also laugh,
strummed chords float up from
our teenager’s basement room,
jokes abound on text threads,
friends wave across streets,
walks are extra welcome,
sunshine is cause for cheer.

Lightness to balance out
the heavy facts and fears.

Maybe the days don’t need
marking or throwing back
so much as breathing—in
gratitude for what we have.

Won’t You Shine?

Four of us arrived at sunset equipped
with artificial lights that blinded us
when we turned toward one another.

The moon wore a sheer robe of gauzy
clouds, her luminous self semi-hidden
when we’d hoped to see her full radiance.

We trekked single file in personal
bubbles of weak battery-powered glow,
straining to identify mud versus ice
as our spikes clicked & clinked
up & down sloping riverbank paths.

We smelled the destination
long before we saw it, when finally
our headlamps caught clouds
of steam billowing up off the stream.

Our beams bobbed as we stripped
down to sports bras & underwear,
struggling to remove jackets & boots,
leggings & wool socks, shirts & snug hats
without dropping them in sulphuric water.

And then, stepping in, sitting,
extinguishing lights, sighing,
sinking down until only our faces
aren’t submerged, eyes adjusting
to the dim veiled moonlight.

Separated from the confines of clothes & time keepers & mile trackers, we bask in hot & cool currents, crisp air, sprinkles of rain on our heads like a ritual cleansing; we share secret struggles & dreams, our listening deepened by close proximity & low light & shed schedules—knowing children are tucked in & we ourselves have many quiet hours left to slip between sheets before dawn.

But Pragmatism had to invade
our rock-walled sanctuary eventually,
inducing middle-aged bodies to beg
for sleep & recall the waiting distance.

We wrapped ourselves in thin towels
& peeled slurping fabrics off soaked skin,
redressing clumsily on the bank,
pressing our torches back into service.

Rain with its soft chatter followed us
halfway to our car; we didn’t mind,
though we’d hoped for a brighter friend
who had vanished behind thick curtains.

I understood her hesitation—
the anxiety of stepping outside
safe familiarity into dark unknowns,
choosing to shed your defenses,
sharing your whole self as you are
& hoping your worth is seen.

“There she is!” we exclaim,
our fingers pointing above exposed
branches of winter-bare trees.

Click, click, click, click—our lamps go out,
awed by how much is visible this last mile,
snow-laced mountains wrapped in the
vulnerable beauty of midnight moonlight.

Conjuring Serendipity

Is it a humble form of divination—
the elusive force that pulls me
like a current toward auspicious
needed or hoped-for destinations?

I’ve learned the silent spellcasting
that transmits like radio waves:
intending, releasing/trusting,
heeding, flowing, broadcasting

gratitude for whatever comes.
The five steps, interwoven like a
pentagram, unify spirit and
matter with mystic outcomes.

Is it a mild form of blasphemy
to believe incantations of certain
thoughts can transmute future
experience into gold, like alchemy?

Kismet is a sorcery that guides,
demanding as payment only
surrendered fear, like blood toll,
to synchronize with magic vibes.

The End of Ten Years of Aces

*The snowflakes composed of icy lace.

Another decade rolls to a close
at Earth’s constant spiraling pace—
spinning 1,000 miles every 60 minutes
as she dances 66,600 mph around the sun,
who whirls on the arm of the galaxy
at a dizzying 560,000 miles an hour.

*The hedge-leaps of a steeplechase.

To slow or rush the approaching change,
we’d have to launch ourselves into
the unforgiving vacuum of outer space—
& jump to where the gravitational oomph
of black holes bends the universe’s fabric
into giant time-warping dimples.

*The evanescent tendrils of a fireplace.

To stop it altogether, we’d have to find
a shimmering wormhole & crawl through
to an alternate dimension, hoping
the rules of time might be circular,
malleable, or nonexistent in their case—
though death may be the only such portal.

*The falling petals of a rose in a vase.

Another decade rolls to a close
in the vast 200,000-year history
of our modern human race—
10 years = 2 seconds at that clock scale,
our total allotment less than 20 ticks:
one deep inhale, one extended exhale.

*The intricacies of a person’s face.

To enhance these rationed days, we’d
have to open our eyes to the wonders
we speed past in the locked velocity
of earthbound time, the tiny miracles
of here & now we often fail to embrace—
this breath, & the next, & the next …

*The sunlit glimmer of startling grace.

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