Words for a Friend

 

Moonrise, Ft. Davis State Park

Moonrise, Ft. Davis State Park

Usually, I have plenty of words. Occasionally, some people have suggested that I might use more than enough words.

That’s is not the case today. I don’t have the words I want to say to a friend who has recently suffered a loss.  So, I am using some other writers’ words and am hoping they help.

From “Ash Wednesday” by T.S. Eliot (1930)

Although I do not hope to turn again
Although I do not hope
Although I do not hope to turn

Wavering between the profit and the loss
In this brief transit where the dreams cross
The dreamcrossed twilight between birth and dying
(Bless me father) though I do not wish to wish these things
From the wide window towards the granite shore
The white sails still fly seaward, seaward flying
Unbroken wings

And the lost heart stiffens and rejoices
In the lost lilac and the lost sea voices
And the weak spirit quickens to rebel
For the bent golden-rod and the lost sea smell
Quickens to recover
The cry of quail and the whirling plover
And the blind eye creates
The empty forms between the ivory gates
And smell renews the salt savour of the sandy earth

This is the time of tension between dying and birth
The place of solitude where three dreams cross
Between blue rocks
But when the voices shaken from the yew-tree drift away
Let the other yew be shaken and reply.

Blessed sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit of the garden,
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks
Sister, mother
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated

And let my cry come unto Thee.


Golden Slumbers, lyrics by John Lennon and Paul McCartney (1969)

Once there was a way to get back homeward
Once there was a way to get back home
Sleep pretty darling do not cry
And I will sing a lullaby

Golden Slumbers fill your eyes
Smiles awake you when you rise
Sleep pretty darling do not cry
And I will sing a lullaby

Once there was a way to get back homeward
Once there was a way to get back home
Sleep pretty darling do not cry
And I will sing a lullaby

Boy, you’re gonna carry that weight
Carry that weight a long time
Boy, you’re gonna carry that weight
Carry that weight a long time

I never give you my pillow
I only send you my invitations
And in the middle of the celebrations
I break down

Boy, you’re gonna carry that weight
Carry that weight a long time
Boy, you’re gonna carry that weight
Carry that weight a long time

Oh yeah, all right
Are you gonna be in my dreams
Tonight

And in the end
The love you take
Is equal to the love you make

Tom and I love you and wish you well.

Phoenix feathers for you

Phoenix feathers for you

I Need to Stay Close to the Ground

Some days, weeks, years,  and decades seem difficult.

I think, at heart, I am a simple person.  I believe what Scout told Jem in To Kill a Mockingbird, ” I think there is just one kind of folks. Folks.” I am having a hard time holding to that ideal, or, more precisely, getting the world to accept it.  So what I do is cling to the ground to help preserve my sanity (or at least a bit of equilibrium). My ground includes the bugs, the bindweed, and the first tomatoes in my garden. More fundamentally, though,  I am thinking about the wild (more or less) places I have been lucky enough to hike in.

I had been planning to write a post about the hundredth anniversary of the National Park Service. For a  few minutes earlier today,  I thought the topic was too light for this day, week, month, and year of violence, ethnocentrism, demagoguery, and hatred.  I dropped that thought almost immediately. I believe also what Thoreau said, “In wildness is the preservation of the world.”

Enough words. Below are a few photos of some of my favorite places within the National Parks system. May we have peace (I still believe in that ideal, too).

Kolob Canyons, Zion National Park

Kolob Canyons, Zion National Park

Congaree National Park, South Carolina

Congaree National Park, South Carolina

Mesa Verde

Mesa Verde

Widforss Trail, North Rim, Grand Canyon

Widforss Trail, North Rim, Grand Canyon

Canyon de Chelly

Canyon de Chelly

fritillary, Yosemite

fritillary, Yosemite

Grand Tetons

Grand Tetons

Lava Beds National Monument

Lava Beds National Monument

Needles Overlook, Canyons

Needles Overlook, Canyonlands

Chisos Basin, Big Bend

Chisos Basin, Big Bend

Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park

Lava Beds

Lava Beds

Report from June 20, 2016

awakening,Tom's rose

awakening, Tom’s rose

This morning I have been whistling snippets of Mendelssohn’s Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  This pleased me because I love that music and because I was happy to note that I was whistling again.  I haven’t whistled much these last years. I think maybe one has to be more lighthearted than I am or have a younger mouth than I do. In any case, this morning’s whistling sounded pretty good to me.

I started whistling when I was very young.  I remember wandering around the backyard in Detroit just whistling. I don’t know how I learned to whistle, but I was proud of my skill. I did love to whistle Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah long before I understood the baggage that went with the song. My dad was a whistler, too.  Sometimes, when we were stuck waiting in the car, Dad would whistle to amuse us children.  He would whistle Khachaturian’s Sabre Dance and other war horses.

When I was in college, I used to whistle as I walked home alone at night from class or the library, but it wasn’t because I was scared.  It was because it was dark, maybe a little damp, and because the music I made sounded beautiful to me. I whistled the love theme from Zeffirelli’s movie Romeo and Juliet, various bits from Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suites, “I am a Maid of Constant Sorrow,” and, of course, the Sabre Dance.

For many years, I whistled a bit of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, ditties from medieval Christmas music, and whatever else my ear and mouth could pick up.

Late this morning, it finally dawned on me why I was whistling the Mendelssohn. It was Midsummer yet again, 42 years after Tom and I were married in Salt Lake City. That was long before life became so–I don’t know, less a romantic ideal and more visceral and earnest. We were lucky then with our dear family and friends with us to celebrate and we are lucky now to have each other still, even if the whistling is halting and off-key.

I don’t know if I ever whistled this song, but I surely sang it through all these years:

What I’ll give you since you asked
Is all my time together;
Take the rugged sunny days,
The warm and rocky weather,
Take the roads that I have walked along,
Looking for tomorrow’s time,
Peace of mind.

As my life spills into yours,
Changing with the hours
Filling up the world with time,
Turning time to flowers,
I can show you all the songs
That I never sang to one man before.

We have seen a million stones lying by the water,
You have climbed the hills with me
To the mountain shelter.
Taken off the days, one by one,
Setting them to breathe in the sun.

Take the lilies and the lace
From the days of childhood,
All the willow winding paths
Leading up and outward.
This is what I give
This is what I ask you for;
Nothing more

Judy Collins, “Since You’ve Asked,”  Wildflowers, 1967

In the High Sierras

In the High Sierras

Bee’s Knees and Bears Ears

So far this morning I have: skimmed the front section of the New York Times, worked on yesterday’s crossword puzzle, swept the floor (picking up stray oat shards that fell off the bran muffins), emptied the dishwasher, washed and dried clothes, plumped up the bath rugs in the dryer, tried to clean the cushions for the porch chairs, and corresponded with friends and relatives. All of this was not in an effort to be neat and efficient, but to pile up more tasks in order to avoid finishing this blog post. I began this post over three weeks ago, but I have not wanted to finish it. Part of this reluctance may be because, especially in this over-heated political climate, I want to avoid writing about political topics. As my friend Sharon said once, I do like to please people. I think, though, the bigger stumbling block is that I don’t know how to synthesize my ideas and feelings to express them succinctly in these few paragraphs. Synthesized or not, succinct or not, I am done waffling. Hold back the edges of your gowns, Ladies*, I’m going back in.

By the time I was 20 years old, I had pretty much given up the idea that politics could or would save the world. Earlier on, I had thought that non-violent political and social engagement could do that. That’s why I majored in political science. That’s why I had canvassed for Martin Luther King Jr. and had rallied against the war in Vietnam, had tried to organize to save Biafran babies, and had written about preventing the Alaskan pipeline. Well, the war in Vietnam did end eventually, but, in significant ways, the other causes haven’t worked out well.

I was 20 when the news of the Kent State massacre wafted into Zion Canyon where I was living. I felt pain and outrage for a bit and then the canyon and the sky took me back.

Zion Canyon

Zion Canyon

I spent three summers on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Back then we were mostly isolated from the news. Instead of the news, we listened to the wind in the ponderosas and the calls of the ravens.

ravens over the Grand Canyon

ravens over the Grand Canyon

When I was 22, I taught public school for one year in Page, Arizona, just outside the Navajo Nation. This was challenging for me because of loneliness, school bureaucracy, and fairly rampant ethnocentrism. This experience was also an honor for me because of the land outside my classroom, some caring colleagues, and the students themselves.

Those early years in wild country passed quickly and I settled in close to the ground with my husband, my children, and whatever little bit of land I had to garden. This is where I have mostly remained. However, sometimes I force myself to bring my head up.

our garden

our garden

Bee’s knees: Already this spring, I have seen a few wasps, several bumblebees, several types of native bees, one cabbage butterfly, a couple of yellow swallowtails (or one twice) and another unidentified butterfly flying across the street. A few blocks away, I saw what looked to be a couple of honeybees among the flowers. I am hopeful that we legions of organic gardeners and farmers, and other assorted tree huggers will stem the tides of poison, disequilibrium, and destruction of our earth and its inhabitants. I plant my garden and I look (and find) signs of hope. Recently, I moved a clay pot that had over-wintered on my front porch and I startled a red-backed salamander. About a week ago, Tom discovered a garter (most likely) snake in one of my rock piles. Two evenings ago, I attended a presentation about non-honeybee pollinators at Ivy Creek Natural Area here in Charlottesville. It appears that many varieties of native bees and other arthropods are continuing to pollinate the flora for us, but we need to plant more native plants, and, of course, refrain from using poison.

bee and flower, Idaho Botanical Garden

bee and flower, Idaho Botanical Garden

Bear Ears: Ever since it came in the mail last Saturday (now almost a month ago), I’ve been wearing my “Protect Bears Ears” tee shirt to the gym and around the neighborhood.The few people that have commented on it seem to think this is an initiative to make sure that bears have adequate hearing protection.

No, it’s not about that. I have brought my head up from my comfortable dirt, rocks, and plants and I am becoming political again. Bears Ears is the name for an area of Southeastern Utah, east and south of Canyonlands National Park. Many Native Americans and environmental groups are calling on President Obama to name this area a national monument through the Antiquities Act. Some people  advocate leaving the control (and designation of use now and in the future) of this approximately 1.9 million acres of land to the state of Utah. Since I am adverse to, well, adversity, it’s a relief that people around here don’t seem to know what my shirt is referring to.  Confession: A couple of weeks ago realizing that many other gym goers’ tee shirts sport names of races, vacation spots, or bars, I chickened out and started wearing my wordless tee shirts again. This week, I toughened up and tried to put my body where my heart was.

My heart is with the native people of the Colorado Plateau—Diné, Hopi, Ute, Zuni and others. In many instances back in Page, my students, their families, and their cultures were not respected. It looks like there are still some people now who disrespect and disregard the cultures and histories of the groups who have lived in the Colorado Plateau hundreds (and thousands) of years before the pioneers settled there in the latter half of the 1800s.

bullet holes in pictographs, Southern Utah

bullet holes in pictographs, Southern Utah

My heart is with the rock, sand, and sky of Southern Utah. I believe that this land should be preserved for all the inhabitants of this earth. I hope that President Obama will designate the Bears Ears a national monument.

Southeastern Utah

Southeastern Utah

There. I have said my piece and I am hunkering down close to the ground again.

protect Bears Ears

protect Bears Ears

For more information about Bears Ears, please see: The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, The Grand Canyon Trust, and many articles in the Salt Lake Tribune and other periodicals available online.

* Thank you, William Carlos Williams and Allen Ginsberg (see the introduction to Howl and Other Poems).

 

Today

This morning I washed the sheets and put them back on the bed.

I washed, rinsed, and air-dried my hair brushes. What can I say? Is this some proto-spring cleaning of personal gear? Maybe so: Last night, I also darned my husband’s sock. I really don’t know how to darn, but I used my mother’s darning egg, so it gave me another opportunity to think of her.

I made granola. For this batch, I put in oatmeal, oat bran, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, sliced almonds, unsweetened coconut, raisins, dried apricots*, cinnamon, freshly grated nutmeg, three tablespoons of coconut oil, and three (plus) tablespoons of maple syrup. When everything that should be baked was baked and when all the ingredients were mixed together, I added some vanilla.

granola

granola

I cleaned out the shelf where some of the baking ingredients reside. Sometimes, I like to straighten shelves. I believe that doing so makes me think I have some control over the universe. In this case, I was also trying to round up stray flax seeds.

I watered the plants. This takes about one half hour of wandering around the house. (I mention the amount of time because I don’t think I will make it to the gym today but I want to get 10,000 steps on my pedometer). I don’t have an indoor watering can, which is okay, because I don’t like them much. I feel like I have more control when I use my big green plastic cup and the bit of old pink towel I use to mop up mistakes. Note: I am good with plants indoor and out. That started a long time ago when my mother and I planted a tiny garden of corn and radishes against the house in Detroit. In college, I rooted some pussy willows and my dad planted them down by the lake, where they prospered. Later, during Tom and my salad days, several of my indoor plants were given to me by my sister-in-law, Betsy. My friend Pat just gave me back a little bay tree that I had given her plus the scion of a clivia that I had given her years back. I like watering the plants.

house plants

house plants

After lunch, Tom and I drove to Ivy Nursery to pick up some spring flowers to take up north tomorrow to some people we love. Daffodils, because sometimes we all wander lonely as a cloud.

daffodils

daffodils

One thing I didn’t do today: I didn’t write Refugees, Part 2 (See, Refugees, Part1) as I should have done. I will soon, though. Spring is coming and my frozen heart will melt.


 

*I chopped the apricots with my trusty nine-inch Henckels French knife. I call it trusty because it has been my constant kitchen companion since my first summer at the North Rim in 1971. Our chef, Floyd Winder, required all the cooks and “pantry girls” (my designation in those unenlightened days) to buy their own knives. With my own knife at hand, I felt professional. The knife still works fine. However, when I searched this morning for the peace symbol I had etched in the handle, I couldn’t find it. I hope that is not a portent of the future. Update 4:15 P.M.: Tom and I both think we see the marks of the peace sign, but they are too faint for me to photograph.

French knife

French knife

 

The Year in Review: 2015

Hello, here are twelve photos from 2015 and my wishes for a Happy New Year.

January: Goodbye to the dogwood

January: Goodbye to the dogwood

February: Pho 75

February: Pho 75

March: crocus

March: crocus

April: creeping phlox

April: creeping phlox

May: The Awakening

May: The Awakening

June: black-eyed Susan vine

June: black-eyed Susan vine

July: the garden and the camper

July: the garden and the camper

Grand Teton National Park

August: Grand Teton National Park

September: Glacier National Park

September: Glacier National Park

October: Insect on locust

October: Insect on locust

November: Frick Park, Pittsburgh

November: Frick Park, Pittsburgh

December: Flowers from my student

December: Flowers from my student

 

 

Refugees, Part I

It probably goes without saying that I am distressed and angry about the divisive words of the extreme political right wing. I could name names, but you know those already, so I won’t sully this page. I do wonder, though, if a visit to Minidoka National Historical Site on a cold and windy day (such as when Tom and I visited) might make some ugly talkers rethink their support for a particularly ethnocentric and stupid idea. Minidoka, one of 10 relocation centers created in 1942 by FDR, had a population of approximately 10,000 Japanese Americans and Japanese. Throughout the relocation system, 120,000 people were interned.

Minidoka #3

Minidoka #3

Although some of my friends, relatives, and coworkers have long known that I stand somewhat left of center on many issues, others of you reading this may not know that. Now, I mostly want to write about music, trees, hikes, and my memories of my family. I wanted to write this post about traveling on the Going-to-the-Sun road. Not now. For weeks, I have been putting off writing about refugees, but I can’t in good conscience wait any longer. So, instead of writing about walking on mountain trails and beside blue lakes, I have to sit here and cry while I try to figure out what to say.

I am not, nor have I ever been, a refugee. The closest I ever got to being an outcast was when my students and, I guess, the school administration thought I was a communist back in Page, Arizona forty years ago.

However, I have had the great honor to work with refugees from around the world. Although  I have discarded at least a ton of books and papers these last years, I have kept much (probably most) of the writing from the adult students. When I read the students’ words now, even after many years, I still feel the beating of their hearts.

The United States did not designate the Salvadorans as refugees, That’s a long story, but the thousands my school worked with were refugees according to  definition on the website of the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR): “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.” Here’s what one young Salvadoran man wrote:

I want to talk about my country, it’s El Salvador. I miss my family and my friends. I want to see my mama. Also, I am missing my farm. I am missing my horse, and cows, dog, but I want to live in this country because in my country, we have war.

Mostly, the Salvadorans didn’t talk to me about war. They just moved ahead with their lives. One woman—I’ve  forgotten her name, but not her—I taught in a family literacy class at an elementary school in Arlington, Virginia. In those classes, we were all moms and dads together and so things were shared that might not have been talked about in other venues. She talked about how they all slept on the floor because of the flying bullets. This woman let me see the residual pain behind her cheerful, can-do demeanor.  She and her family prospered in Arlington, as did the young man who had missed his horse and cows.

The woman who made me the golden and ever-blooming flowers (below) told me about her flight through the Cambodian jungle. I think she was the person who told me about burying her child on that journey. Forgive me, there are so many stories, they sometimes run together. I need to share the stories to help dispel the baseless fears that demagogues spread.

flowers

flowers

At my school, the Arlington Education and Employment Program (REEP), we were always working on projects of one sort or another to help figure out the best and most appropriate ways to teach adult immigrants and refugees. For one project, I interviewed a young Somali woman. She talked about how one day she went to the market and by the time she got back home, her home and her husband had been blown up.

When our school was preparing to receive a large group of Somali refugees, we were advised by human resources experts that it would be culturally inappropriate for a woman to shake hands with a Somali man. The first time a Somali man walked into our computer learning center, I walked up and enthusiastically shook his hand, as he did mine. He was in a new land and—enthusiastically—beginning to make a new life.

These refugees have lost so much and then they come here and share so much pain, yes, but  they also share their love and their hope with us.

One day I was sad in class because I was thinking of my mother and her cancer.  One young woman told me that she would “pray for your mother in the holy month of Ramadan.” Thank you.

So many stories: They are pictures I keep in my heart. I think I will stop for now.

However: I want to say, these adult students were so brave and strong. Unlike the fear-mongering stories promulgated by the extreme right wing, these people didn’t want to kill me. They made food for my family and me. I loved them and they loved me.

Bits of scripture still rattle around in my agnostic brain. Refugees are not the fiends those wicked people say. Refugees—at least until they get on their feet—are  the least of our brethren:

…for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’ And the King will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ (Matthew, Chapter 25, Bible, Revised Standard Version)

Merry Christmas