ID-10021052We wave palm branches,

reenacting the bit of guerilla theater

Jesus invented, his parody of the Roman general

astride an armored horse, riding into town

from Caesaria Maritima to keep the locals in line

at Passover. Jesus on His ass makes me think He

was more like Monty Python than the Pope.

Lean, tan, enjoying His joke,

while the Romans seethed

and the crowds went wild for their native son.

ID-1008159

We walk with care down a well sanded steep slope

to the old clapboard sugarhouse below. Mud sucks at our boots.

Above, the pale March sun flares off new stainless steel stacks on a shingled roof.

Steam crowds out, subtly perfumed.

Inside, the shiny evaporator is full of amber sap. A worker

holds a glass up to the light. Color looks right.

To one side a boy offers a tiny cup of syrup.

Its sweetness shocks: we want to lick every drop.

 

A Merrow daughter stands behind a rough-hewn counter,

taking orders. The taps are slow to start this year.

She’ll call when our jug is ready.

She’s giving away sugar on snow, and selling maple candies, three for a dollar.

We buy one of the little bags of maple leaf shapes.

They are gone before we’re out the door.

The syrup we’ve ordered will season our breakfasts for months to come.

We bless the charity of maple trees. Their gift of pure liquor

outshines the apple from the first garden.

Bless this sap and these

Merrows who invite us to sugaring.

Praise for the steam, the staggering sweetness

of these first rites of spring.

Inspiration: “Rose Colored Sofa,” monotype by Linda Price Thompson

ID-10033268 rose petalsNo one sits on the red sofa now.

The painter has brushed someone out,

to receive a call

about a birthday,

or a death.

Her aqua cup

makes a tiny shadow

in a corner of the coffee table.

I do not know

if it is full or empty,

herbal tea or Earl Grey,

decaf or bold Columbian beans.

The green carpet darkens to black.

I can hear the painter breathe.

 

If this room were mine I would paint it cream

and hang a lilac mirror on the dusky edge.

I would gather my most faithful friends

to scatter their lights, like fireflies,

across the winter roads until the room

was June, draperies billowing,

lilies spilling their perfumes through

open windows. We would drink our fill

of red wine, and sing. We would lay our feasts

on the rose-colored cushions,

and I would smell the loams

of all the springs and summers

when I was young and a beauty.

“Our dead are almost beyond counting and we want to herd them along…(yet) the accruing weight of these departures doesn’t bury us…. Even the pain of an almost unbearable loss gives way…to something more distant but still stubbornly gleaming.”—Roger Angell

 ID-10088546 dancerA dance band plays jazzed up Rodrigo, while someone announces guests.

Here are my departed loves, crowding into this one room.

My mother, Ocie, tilting her head quizzically

as she learned in West Virginia, ready still to give us what we need.

Uncle Forrest, the artful preacher, holding forth

at his Seventh Street dinner table. Aunt Ada, who married twice again,

chiding, “Oh, go on now, Forrest.”

Ida Susan McAvoy, whose hair I combed when I was eight.

And my father, his dark eyes snapping sharply

above his dark Helldorado beard with those two white streaks.

John Lyder from third grade, and Joe Seifers on the alto sax.

Sam Dixon and Clint Raab, back from Haiti. Walter, and Rob,

looking young and fit. Colin, Carl, Rod, Heather, Janet.

 

At sixty-nine, I feel lucky to recall them all again,

and to have lost so few. More

will leave in time, unbearably so, yet stubbornly gleam

from a great beyond. Those who make this music

will draw me in one day, and we will glitter

on a stellar dance floor, to a Tango, or the Twist.

ID-1005736 Tour Eifel by Simon HowdenEven from here, there is the aroma of the church.

One senses it long steps away,

while the bells ring wildly. The wideness

of the holy call, multi-toned, multilingual,

draws us inside. It is not alone the dried

boxwood or the paint on the icons

or the hundreds of candles.

It is not the building materials.

(Oh, yes, I sniffed these!)

It may be the heat of cramped toes

and feet released from boots

three times a day since the church went up,

or, before that, the soots of campfires

warming pilgrims who have searched for peace

in the tiny village church—

they say thousands since the forties.

Slightly sweet, with a sour note, like an herb,

not unpleasant, but strange,

a fusion over years of many mysteries,

yet as simple as our daily bread.

 

Listen: Out there a mallard called,

and half a dozen young followed

quietly in her wake,

near where the willow spilled

its new green skirts into the shallows.

Then the bells called and I answered.

Inside, an unseen hand pushed at my head,

until I bowed low.

The narrow taper someone gave me to hold

did not drip wax.

An old man in an old white shawl

spoke an older French,

and Jean-Marie translated thoughtfully:

The promises of holy text

belong to anyone who listens expectantly.

I wonder now if the odor is the trace

of an ancient manger,

not to be filed into a book and shelved,

but sheltered here to be breathed,

as frankincense, or worn,

as gold, as myrrh.

 

Image courtesy of Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sky from Porch 005On winter mornings by the wood stove

we watch the curling fire fold over itself.

In here we are warm, and share our slow talk

between sips of dark coffee.

Outside snow swirls, and fogs blur details

of the miles of ridge. Nothing moves except the snow.

The crows and jays are sheltering somewhere

in their rooms among trees, and the deer hide in their yards

under the northern canopy.

 

I knew your name

before we were born. You carried the moon

with you to shine along my path. I followed you

the way deer follow the call of the sheltering range.

We may go blind, looking at the snow this way,

through the early morning moon, Mars, Spica, Saturn.

On snowshoes, we stay at trailside,

away from perfect parallelsID-100122858 snow  footprints

made for the skiers who

streak by in icy splendor,

gliding on their toes.

Their skis sound like knives being

sharpened on stone. They have woven

each hill into herringbone.

 

We are slower but steady.

Along the side path our crampons bite into thinning snow.

On oblong boats clamped to our boots,

we are large animals

crashing through narrow openings;

the points on our poles

ring against ice.

In this world of snow and fir,

snowshoes are boats,

our bodies are the tillers;

skis like Nordic knives,

on  whetstones of ice.

ID-1005621Winter iceBy the stove

as usual, trying to see

what cannot be seen

through such whiteness.

 

Snow fields,

broken at the perimeter

by coyote and deer spoor,

lie below, and below them

the earthen wells of

corms and bulbs.

We are lucky to have their

April, their May, ahead of us.

 

The more we listen

at the drifts,

the quieter the world grows.

 

The gloves and shawls

we will put on in layers

when it is time

to gather more wood

will keep us warm

until the hoop is full,

until reentry to this radiant ordinariness

of home.

ID-10041120 moon.starsThe night sky from our bed

is a black velvet blanket

studded with crystal,

sewn with silver threads.

We can almost touch Orion,

whose Dog Star guards

the acres of stars,

and east to west,

the bright planets,

named to honor gods,

glide in perfect arcs.

 

We are two earthly

presences in this broad bed,

larger in love

and more real

in older age, swift

and clear as meteors

at play.

The river splashes below

in subterranean washes;

we hold our breaths, await

those messengers

from interstellar space,

whose beams love the dark

and miraculously fade to day.

ID-100775 RainbowMy spiritual formation took a big leap forward when a beloved mentor taught me the importance of an “attitude of gratitude.” To keep Thanksgiving all year long, to say thank you every day for the simple to the sublime, promises a life sweeter and happier. Saying thanks enriches the soul and the heart. So as a reminder of this principle, I celebrated something or someone each day in November. Here’s the collection.

Today I’m thankful for…

1.      The love of my life, Vito.

2.      The community of dear friends near and far who walk with me on this journey. “I get by with a little help from my friends…” (Thank you John Lennon).

3.      All the artists I know—you painters and printmakers, actors and musicians, poets and memoirists, potters and designers, photographers and sculptors. Thank you for deepening my experiences of mystery, beauty, joy, sorrow and pity. Without the gifts of your art, life would be far less sweet.

4.      Today, as I finish putting the garden to bed, I’m thankful for the poetry of nature. Hope is—the array of tiny buds that lie just beneath the stems I cut down.

5.      Adored nieces and nephews of three generations. You live in my heart!

6.      My sister Elsa and bro Herb Edmonds—bless you both for who you are.

7.      The sweet, heady aroma of citrus in a sugar bath, the anticipation of lids popping shut on orange-lime-ginger marmalade, and weeks of happy breakfasts ahead

8.      The truth that emerges every time from the act of creating something. Delicious poem or delicious dinner—loving the profound surprise underlying the effort.

9.      Life with Vito. Today we enter our fifth year of partnership, discovery, friendship, intimacy, blessing. Deeply thankful.

10.  All the people, events and circumstances that have made me who I am. Embracing the joy and the struggles. Living blessed.

11.  All the women and men in service, past and present, who put their lives on the line every day. Honoring you is such a privilege.

12.  All those here for good, especially aid workers assisting typhoon survivors in the Philippines. Most of us can’t go, but they go for us.

13.  The sunlight that is shining right into the living room, so brightly that Vito said, “How about a baseball cap.” Loving this day!

14.  All the terrific hair people I’ve known, on a day when I’m going for a hair cut. They always helped me look my very best, and I was lucky to have long-term gigs with them—Dennis (Park Ridge, Illinois), Joe (Watertown, Connecticut), Jody (Philadelphia), Gail (West Hartford) and now Michael (Vermont). All very gifted, bright lights in my life.

15.  A 14-year friendship with sister of the heart Theresa Spear, renewed today at her beautiful renovated bungalow right here in Vermont.

16.  The simplicity of life here in Vermont, the things that count: sunshine, garden, good food, good love, friends to share and care with, beauty all around.

17.  The satisfying ritual of morning coffee beside the wood stove, and for the gorgeous blue jay hopping about just beyond, among the big rocks in the garden. Feeling blessed.

18.  The possibility of a new week, a new day, a new moment to live in.

19.  The people who come to the house to help with tasks—the ones who mulch the gardens, bring the wood, install the snowplow, grade and plow the lower road, fill the propane tank, level the shed. What would we do without these folks? So appreciative.

20.  A hero—Abraham Lincoln—for a profoundly stirring piece of writing and oratory, celebrated yesterday: the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. I hope this country can keep working toward the promise underlying the words “dedicated to the proposition that all…are created equal.” I’m thankful, and humble that we have so far to go.

21.  Dear Mom Nature, thank you for last night’s gorgeous fireball that streaked so quickly toward the mountain in our southwest sky. So happy I had my eyes open! You’re the best! Love, Linda

22.  Our town’s librarian, Connie. She goes beyond stocking an array of interesting reads. She introduces patrons to one another. Always has a smile and kind word. Our library is a place “where everyone knows your name.”

23.  The fun in housekeeping—polishing everything til it shines, the sweetness of fresh sheets, soup on the stove. Life is good, yea!

24.  The brilliant sunshine glazing our snowy world with light, and the crystalline air. Loving this early winter morning!

25.  The spectacular show of stars and planets last night and early this morning. “Oh earth, you are too wonderful for anybody to realize you” (Thank you, Thornton Wilder).

26.  All the memorable teachers who mentored me, shared their wisdom, helped me discern my path, cheered me on through years of schooling, and led me to be a lifelong learner.

27.  For the safety and warmth of home in the midst of a storm that has ranged from snow to freezing rain and back. Traveling mercies to all who must be on the road this day.

28.  Thanksgiving Day—Today I’m thankful for friends and family who share the path with me, for my partner Vito, and for those who have taught me the joy of mindful living. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

29.  The people in my online community whose postings this week have caused me to think outside the usual little boxes. And for scholars like Louis Henry Gates and journalists like Nicholas Kristof, whose work just makes the boxes go away entirely. Heart full of gratitude this day!

30.  On this last day of the month, I’m reflecting on all the thanksgivings I’ve read and written here. Pretty amazing! Today’s gratitude is about hope—hope in a future, hope for a continuing “attitude of gratitude,” hope for compassion, hope that the whole human family will eventually have enough of what we need to sustain a good life.

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