Thursday, January 30, 2014

A January of Small Stones 30

Deep in the night, down the street
dogs bark frantically, a great crescendo
at the affront of two cats calmly strolling
beneath the street lamp.

January 30, 2014

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A January of Small Stones 29

Steep driveway arching away from the road,
frosted with a inch of smooth, sparkling snow,
touched only by tiny cat prints,
a perfect single line up the center. 

January 29, 2014

A January of Small Stones 27 & 28

Two meditations on the cold

#1 physical

Hat, hood, scarf,
‘til nothing shows but eyes,
and still the cold is a knife
in the lungs,
I retreat indoors,
Wheezing and coughing,
Struggling to breathe.

#2 Mental

The cold is amber, crystal clear,
allowing the tiniest details to be seen,
while immobilizing my spirit.
My eyes records a hundred small stones,
but my hands stuck in amber cannot write.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

A January of Small Stones 25

Flash of movement
in stark, still landscape
dry leaf scampers
over the snow
like a brown mouse
seeking shelter.

January 25, 2014

Thursday, January 23, 2014

A January of Small Stones 23

In the snowy woods
unexpected robins flock
flashing rufous breasts,
rise, wheel and settle again.

January 23, 2014

A January of Small Stones 22

Ode to an Office Chair Now Deceased

Four sturdy ball-bearing wheels
to scoot quickly out of the way
or cozy up to the desk,
a smoothly twirling seat
from keyboard to desk to bookcase
and back over and over,
soft padding for the rump,
firm lumbar support,
and a back just right
for perching cats.
A few short years together

ended in an awkward crash.

January 22, 2014

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A January of Small Stones 21

chill eiderdown blanket
covers imperfections,
creates unity in white and black.

January 21, 2014

Monday, January 20, 2014

Old Cats Learn New Habits

Locutus in her younger days
 When we moved on to this property seventeen and a half years ago we were greeted by a little orange cat who was about four months old. That's what we called her "Little Orange Cat" which was to distinguish her from her much larger father Oscar. Little Orange Cat had a putative home next door, but she liked our yard and porch much better. 

She liked our dog Missy and liked to come up and rub on Missy when the dog was in the yard. She also liked to talk to us - all the orange cats I've known have been pretty vocal - and she liked to be petted. But she did not like being picked up. 

By the time the cold winds of autumn had started up, we'd gotten to know enough about our neighbor to realize that she didn't spay or neuter her cats and that she was lackadaisical about anything other than food.  So we formally decided to formally adopt little orange cat and make her cat #11 of our household. 

She needed a real name, so John took the three letters LOC and looked for a name to fit it. Being a big Star Trek Next Generation fan, the name John chose was Locutus, which of course was a male character. But it stuck and she's been Locutus for seventeen years. 

Locutus was never a lap cat or a snuggler. She tolerated petting, but did not like being picked up or held, and never voluntarily got into anyone's lap. But she liked snuggling with our dogs and with other cats. 

Now she is the oldest cat of a household of 10, senior kitty who rules the roost with her grumpy vocalizations. No one dares nose her away from her bowl! 

Always very talkative, in recent months Locutus has begun extensive vocalizing at night. She's never actually waken me up, but every time I am awake for a while, I will hear her warbling in a discontented voice about something. In just the last few weeks I've started getting up in the dark, picking her up and snuggling into my recliner with her. The first time I did it, I really expected her to wiggle away immediately - she'd always done so in her younger days. But as an old lady she really enjoys an hour or more of snuggling. 

This morning after dogs and cats were fed, but it was still dark, Locutus and I had a very nice warm cozy nap together for an hour. Old cats can learn new habits!

Locutus, Sheldon and two other cats like the dark warmth 
of an old dog crate in a corner of the living room. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

A January of Small Stones 19

dark crisp air
carries lilting melody
from a penny whistle
calling the "king of the faeries"
but only the dogs 
set dance in reply.

January 19, 2014

Saturday, January 18, 2014

A January of Small Stones 18

daily three or four times
deep booms and tremors
of dynamite
are followed by the long
waterfall of rock against rock,
the assault of the mountain

January 18, 2014

Friday, January 17, 2014

The questions of HONY

One of my daily addictions these days, along with millions of other people around the world is "Humans of New York" (fondly known among fans as HONY) the photography and interview project of Brandon Stanton. Brandon is a genius at capturing people both visually and through their words. You can view his work on Facebook at or his blog at Brandon also has a top selling book of his photographs interviews available everywhere. 

Brandon has developed a series of stock questions that he has found help unlock the interesting stories of people's lives. Among them are:
"What was the happiest moment of your life?"
"What was the saddest moment of your life?"
"What was the most frightened you've ever been?"
"What's your greatest struggle right now?"
and finally "If you could give one piece of advice to a large group of people what would it be?"
Spending time reading the life stories that Brandon elicits, has gotten me to thinking about my own answers to those questions. I woke up this morning about 4:30 AM and spent the next ninety minutes thinking about those questions. Here's what I concluded:

"What was the happiest moment of your life?"
The summer of 2009 when I got to paint a mural for my college. Everything about my life was good, my parents were still alive, my husband and I were happy and healthy, and I got to spent an entire summer rediscovering the art that I loved so much (and getting paid!). It had been years since I'd done any painting, but it all came back to me, and I created something of beauty that will endure for years and be appreciated by many. 

"What was the saddest moment of your life?"
March 2012 when my mother and my dog Rosie died exactly one week apart. My mother was 89, had severe dementia and she frequently expressed the wish to die, so there was some sense of relief but still of course sadness, then when our beautiful, young dog suddenly became very ill two days later and died exactly a week after my mom the sadness simply overwhelmed me for weeks. 
"What was the most frightened you've ever been?" 
This is actually a toss up between two things. The first was in May 1982 on a Tuesday morning when I was told I had melanoma and that I had to report to the emergency room for surgery within two hours. The trauma of the diagnosis and immediate surgery was multiplied by the emergency room setting, where while I was being operated on with a local anesthesia an older woman in cardiac arrest was brought in to the cot next to mine, and I was totally aware of the doctors' unsuccessful efforts to revive her; she was declared dead and removed all while I was still being operated on. I was never more aware of my own mortality.

The second was probably a more sustained terror. In May 1980 in fear of my life, I had to move out of my apartment in the middle of the night (with the full cooperation of my landlords) to escape an alcoholic boyfriend who had suddenly turned violent. For several weeks I lived in fear that he would find my new apartment. He never did and life settled down.
"What's your greatest struggle right now?"
This is the easiest answer: making the changes in diet and activity to get a handle on my diabetes and improve my health so that I can look forward to enjoying the rest of my life and actually do all the things I've been planning for my retirement. 
and finally "If you could give one piece of advice to a large group of people what would it be?"
It's the same advice I give myself every single day: Each day is a gift, even the most difficult days. Do not pray for the day to end, do not wish your life away. Pray instead for the strength, patience and wisdom to live fully in each moment." 
 So now, even though its unlikely I'll be going to New York City any time soon, or even less likely encountering Brandon Stanton, I have my answers ready!

A January of Small Stone 17

That rare moment, just before dawn
between shifts, silence settles on the mountain,
and only the brook burbles softly
while the moon makes silver ships
of clouds scudding across an inky sky.

January 17, 2014

Thursday, January 16, 2014

In Praise of Winter

At work today, a young woman making casual conversation asked me if I was "ready for summer." I hesitated, because it was one of those things that people say on a cold, grey day expecting only a pro-forma agreement, but then I said the truth "no, I'm not ready to let winter go yet." My response startled her, but she was working and needed to move on, so she just nodded and said bye.  

I am no longer as fond of cold weather as I was when I was younger. Winter weather exacerbates both my arthritis and my asthma. I dislike having to take all the additional medicines necessary to allow me to function when it is cold. I am also less confident of my ability to drive in sleet and snow as I once was. 

But I still love winter. I love how the forest becomes naked and the bones of the world show through - the rocks and crevasses, the bare forest floor. Every drive to work or store is a treasure hunt for the stark white fingers of sycamore trees. I love the lace of brown branches edging the mountains against the pale sky. I love the way the wind rattles the dry leaves and rubs the bare branches together. 

But most of all I love how winter makes spring possible. Until you have lived in a place (like California) where the transition from winter to spring is scarcely noticeable, where roses bloom all year round, you cannot truly appreciate how winter gives birth to spring.  So, no I am not pining for summer, nor waiting for spring, but living with joy in winter.

A January of Small Stones 16

Moments before setting,
slipping beneath
the grey cloud blanket,
Rumplestiltskin sun
turns hillsides of straw
to gold.

January 16, 2014 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A January of Small Stones 14

January 14, 2014

on the winding route home
in palest blue sky
the man in the moon
full of himself flirts,
winks, then dodges
behind the wooded hills.


Monday, January 13, 2014

A January of Small Stones 13

January 13, 2014


open the faucet
tiny dribbles 
then sucking air,
the pipes are dry.


small, repetitive, insistent sound:
tick, tick?
tap, tap?
drip, drip?
search reveals
spreading puddles 
from the water cooler.

January 13, 2014

A January of Small Stones 12

Old Locutus

Body light with age
she concedes to lifting,
old claws catch
as she kneads my chest.
Her ears so silky
but tiny rough spots
mar her back.
I stroke the hollow under her chin
and a warm loofah tongue
washes my knuckles.
We drowse warmly
in the early morning dark.

January 13, 2014

Saturday, January 11, 2014

A January of Small Stones 11

Waiting for dog in a dark alive
with ceaseless shifting pines in the wind,
the small brook swollen with rain
beats against its banks,
and behind it all 
the mechanical clang and scrape of the dragline
on the mountain.

January 11, 2014

Friday, January 10, 2014

A January of Small Stones 10

Neither dark nor light,
neither warm nor cold,
lingering to breath
moisture laden air,
mild January twilight.

January 10, 2014

Thursday, January 9, 2014

A January of Small Stones 09

empty hallway,
two small boys,
rosy cheeks,
sparkling eyes,
huge grins,
kick their legs
against the bench,
heads together
playing games.

January 9, 2014

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Star Trek: TOS

I was in high school when Star Trek originally aired in prime time. But despite my deep love of science fiction I did not see a single episode during its original airing. We did not have a television in our home until the fall of 1968, and when we did get one, my parents strictly limited evening television viewing. My father was absolute dictator of what was watched when he was at home, and he did not like science fiction.

In the summer of 1970 between my freshman and sophomore years of college one of my brothers - I cannot remember whether it was Frank or Charlie - spent their own money on a tiny black and white TV. We would hole up in my brothers' room while my parents watched Walter Cronkite to view the Star Trek stripped five nights a week. We were enthralled.  We discussed each episode in depth. By the beginning of my college junior year I had seen every episode, many multiple times.

During my junior year, I was a "floor counselor" or what most colleges today call an RA or resident adviser. One of my tasks was to lock the dorm at mid-night two to three nights a week. Part of my routine was to come down to the dormitory small TV lounge and watch Star Trek with a small cadre of devoted fans. We would discuss and debate the merits of each episode. 

Wherever I was for the next decade and a half I watched Star Trek  whenever I could find it. But after that ST: The Next Generation, then Deep Space Nine, then Voyager, and Enterprise took over my attention, most of which I shared with my husband John. A couple of months ago, my husband and I discovered that Netflix streaming provided access to all the Star Trek series.  We began watching TOS together, a few episode a week (and during the holidays sometimes a couple a day).  Not surprisingly, Star Trek still has the ability to enchant and entertain and even to make one pause and think. We may have far surpassed the technical effects of those years, but good story telling is still good story telling. 

One interesting note: back then, in 1967-1969 a television season required 30 shows. Thirty hour long scripted, directed, acted hour long shows. Today a "season" may have as few as 10 to 15 shows. That is important to remember when you hear someone say that Star Trek TOS had "only" three seasons on the air. Those three seasons had nearly 90 shows! Compare that to a series like LOST (which my husband and I also loved) which stretched out  fewer episodes over five years. 

A January of Small Stones 08

January 8, 2014

On the porch
where feral cats
daily find their food
are unexpected
delicate traces
left by feathered guests.


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Comic Books

As a child I did not own comic books.  Money was very short, and reserved for more serious things like food and mortgage. There were many books in our lives selected each week at the public library, books my mother read out loud, books we read ourselves, but no comic books. 

Most of the other children in our working class neighborhood did have comic books and whenever I was in their homes (which was often) I would greedily examine their comics page by page over and over. 

There was a specific type of comic book that I loved. They were called "Classics Illustrated Junior" which rendered classic fairy tales from the brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Anderson and other sources into picture formats. 

I did not crave these comics for their stories.  We had beautifully bound volumes of the classic fairy tales on our shelves and my mother read from them frequently. By the second grade I was reading from them myself. It was the illustrations in the comics that enraptured me. The maidens with their lovely flowing hair and gowns.  I wanted to draw just like that. 

Much of my early art practice involved painstakingly copying the pictures of princesses from the pages of Classics Illustrated Junior.  Later I went on to invent my own princesses. 

A January of Small Stones 07

January 7, 2014

sunshine beckons.
toboggan snugged, shawl wrapped,
coat buttoned, bear-waddle
to the mailbox.

Monday, January 6, 2014

A January of Small Stones 06

January 6, 2014
Within this fragile shell
reassuring swish of warm air
and constant glow of lamp and screen,
while snow howls in the wind
and temperatures plunge.
see “This is Water” 


I'm participating in a month long a January Mindful Writing project from Writing Our Way Home ( The idea is to get people to slow down and pay more attention to the world (especially the natural world) around them by writing about it. 

The project is conceived to allow those people who rush to and fro from work to shopping to home without looking up and outward to pay more attention to the world passing by. I am not one of those people.  I'm the kind of person who need to be told to look at the traffic and my instrument panel instead constantly scanning the hillsides and skies for trees, flowers, birds, etc.  I've been known to stop my car on the side of the road five or six times during my commute to take a picture of some lovely moment. 

Slowing down and paying attention to the natural world has not never really been a problem for me, however, making the effort to put those observations in writing has been. So my month long project is less one of paying attention than it is of turning my normal level of observation and attentiveness into words. 

Today my attention was captured by something attention was captured by "the water" (see my earlier post this week "This is Water"). "The water" is our advanced industrial civilization, the medium through which we float taking so much for granted. 

I have spent the day noticing that the electricity has stayed on without fail all day, and that due to that electricity my house, this little box of wood and siding, has maintained a constant temperature of 64 degrees, all the time that the wind has blown, snow has fallen and swirled and outside temperatures slid from 18 degrees at seven this morning to 3 degrees twelve hours later. The heat pump has continue to cycle on and off, the compressor to work, the fan to blow. The lights have remained steady and cheerful. My computer and internet have continued to function normally.

We know from experience that this does not always happen, heavy snow, ice and cold have on multiple occasions over the years resulted in downed power lines and darkness. I know (because I do have TV and internet today) that else where in North America there are people who do not have electricity, and must struggle to find warmth and light to survive the cold. 

Such disruptions seem, anecdotally to have become more common, not just here but across the country.  I have an increasing sense of the fragility of industrial electricity based civilization. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Saturday, January 4, 2014

A January of Small Stones 04

January 4, 2013

Contrails streak the evening deep
no less wondrous and lovely
than shooting stars.


Friday, January 3, 2014

THIS IS WATER By David Foster Wallace

Sociologists often speak of the aspects of our world which are taken-for-granted, unquestioned assumptions that provide our bedrock of lifeworld. These are things that are entirely humanly constructed cultural concepts, but which we experience as pre-existing, unexamined "reality."

This idea in sociology of phenomenology or sociology of knowledge is hard to communicate to non-sociologists (and even some sociologists). It is hard to step outside of one's own lifeworld and examine the unexamined! But this video based on David Foster Wallace commencement address to the 2005 graduating class of Kenyon College does an extraordinary job of getting the idea across.

THIS IS WATER By David Foster Wallace - 4 Translation(s) | Dotsub

A January of Small Stones 03

January 3, 2014

deep cold
snow dry as dust
sweeps clean away.

To read more small stones by writers from around the world see:

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A January of Small Stones 01

January 1, 2014

tiny cat snores
from some hidden nook
enveloping my desk
in warm, somnolence.