Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Midsummer Dream - a poem

She labors up the trail
backpack filled with decades
of travel on two feet.

Her poles tick
in slow synchrony
with crunch of careful footfall.

She pauses often to drink
from water bottle
and from sky.

She reaches the crest,
unties her boots,
discards diminished
human form,
fastens her soul
to a passing butterfly
and floats away
untethered, free.

Father's Day, 2018

The sky is the shade of his eyes and his favorite sweater – a color that somehow made his cheeks glow with roses.

Ten years ago, he missed Father’s Day by three weeks. He died alone in his room, not discovered until morning.

It was the middle of Memorial Day weekend. Though he had celebrated his 95th birthday in March, his passing took both my sister and me by surprise. His mind had stayed sharp even as his body diminished.

That year, I kept a promise to be with him for Father’s Day and fulfilled one of his last wishes.

My sister and I had already arranged for cremation and placement of his ashes in the garden at Rose Hills when I found a letter he’d written months before. He wanted his ashes scattered in the ocean to join his parents and my mother. It made sense. My mother’s ashes had been dropped in the Pacific twenty-four years earlier. And, on his calendar, on date of their marriage, he had noted the years they would have celebrated. This, in spite of a second, less than happy marriage lasting more than twenty years!

But my sister wanted his ashes where she could visit. And I wanted to honor his request. We compromised. Before taking the box of ashes to Rose Hills, I scooped some out and carried them with me to Catalina Island the day before Father’s Day.

My friend Dave knew just the place. He took me to a pebbly beach on the east side of the Island.

I stepped ankle deep into the calm water, wished my father safe passage to his next adventure, then emptied the container into the sea.

I watched his ashes curve away, like a swimmer doing breaststroke, off in search of my mother.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Stop Counting

I listen to a woman my age who is drowning in grief over every passing, over every misery she observes. It’s exhausting for her – and for me.

But I relate better to another friend who was revived when his heart stopped. His lifetime partner had died two months before. He was angry that they’d not allowed him to join her.

I don’t think it’s grief that fuels such desires. I believe she was reaching out to him, or they were reaching for each other.

So, I have decided to stop tracking all the people I know who die.

Am I in denial? After all, I have reached the age my mother was when she succumbed to melanoma. And in the past few years, many friends have passed.

Perhaps I’m wrong about this, but when I die, I hope to be reunited with those who’ve been important in this life. And I hope to meet other souls who have influenced me by their words and actions.

If I’m to meet them with my head up, I need to live each day here as though it were my last, by being present today, not wishing for a different past nor hoping for a perfect future – those ‘if only’ and ‘what if’ distractions. The operative word there is IF, which stands for In Fantasy or, in cruder words I'm f**cked.

Letting go of counting those who are gone frees me up – like giving up the search for an old schoolmate. If I’m supposed to ‘find’ someone, it will happen. It will happen in spite of my efforts. It will happen at the ‘right’ time.

In the meantime, I can enjoy my current life, my living friends, family and acquaintances.

Friday, April 6, 2018

White Complaisance

Years ago a man asked – if reincarnation were possible – would I rather return as a man or a woman.

My immediate answer: as a man!

He feigned surprise, claimed no other woman had answered that way.

I was young then, still stung by the failure of the Equal Rights Amendment and fresh from multiple experiences of feeling (and being) unsafe when alone.

I attempted to explain. He pretended to understand, though he seemed offended that I saw male privilege in ways he had never considered.

I’m much older now. My answer today: as a woman! Specifically and emphatically as a woman of color – Black, Latina, Asian.

Why? What changed? The Equal Rights Amendment is still dead. The element of danger for a lone woman hasn’t changed. Much progress has been made but now the backlash of White (male) Supremacy is taking away gains – one at time – reverting back to a time before I first answered that question: Roe v Wade threatened, Title IX not fully implemented, women just beginning to rise against abusive men - #MeToo.

So why would I want to be a woman again? And why a woman of color?

I admire women like Dolores Huerta, Shirley Chisholm, Maya Angelou, Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama and many others. Yet I am not them. And I’ve come to understand that my whiteness gives me huge privilege: I’ve not experienced discrimination for how I look.

It wouldn’t be necessary to be a famous woman or lead a movement. Still, I ache to join their sisterhood, to understand their experience from within.

And if there is no reincarnation? I’ve got to get busy here and now, join the fight for equality, participate in calls for justice, get out of my comfortable white complaisance.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Comin' Round the Mountain

She’ll be comin’ round the mountain when she comes

This has been my theme song when driving long distances. It’s a bouncy tune, easy to sing, no musical ability required. It has kept me awake and alert many times in my treks from Eugene to California. After all, I have to get around a mountain or two on that journey.

She’ll be drivin’ six white horses when she comes

In 2006, I bought a small SUV - six-cylinder, white. So now I drive something white with six ‘horses.’

But one day, as I was singing away, I got choked up.

I saw my ten-year-old tomboy self, enchanted by Doris Day in Calamity Jane driving a stage coach as well as any man.

My eyes filled with tears when I remembered that photo of me – tight jeans, cowgirl hat and Frye boots, one hip thrown out in saucy pose.

I wondered – could I be the woman who, at twenty-six toured Bolivia and Peru alone? And who, at thirty-six, dared drive across the United States by herself?

I’m more than twice thirty-six now. Have I made my last run?

Oh, we’ll all go out to meet her when she comes

Oh, how I hope they’ll all be there to meet me – those folks who knew the tomboy, the girl, the woman I’ve been. What a thrill to roar out of this world behind six whites into the light surrounding those who’ve gone before.

Yes, come out to meet me. I’ll be comin’ round the mountain.

But not just yet.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Horrific History

February 20, 2018

I cringe as I watch the PBS Frontline special, Bitter Rivals: Iran & Saudi Arabia.

The subtitle: How a dangerous political rivalry between Iran & Saudi Arabia has plunged the Middle East into a sectarian war.

Horrific history revisited. I listen to analysis, wonder at the willingness of multitudes to annihilate themselves in battle against some vilified other.

Mystifying – those men, self-appointed perpetrators of destruction, who claim no wrongdoing, express no compassion for the millions of lives cut short by their swords. Indeed, they now adamantly claim those actions were necessary, vital to their cause.

But the subtitle left out the part played by the US, the Soviets and other Western powers – but mostly the US. Yes, US. Through ignorance and arrogance, we sparked already smoldering conflict in the Middle East.

Watching leaders of my own country tout such tyrants, spout their glories, twist the truth so we appear righteous, I blush in shame. Because I’m old enough to have watched many of those news stories as they happened. I’m old enough to have known September 11, 2001 would be used by US to wreak havoc on foreign shores. And on our own soldiers.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Wait, Isn't This February?

i thank You God for most this amazing day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything which is natural which is infinite which is yes
- e. e. cummings

I hiked a local trail yesterday, one that has inspired many of my poems and blog entries. A friend had planned to join me, but life interfered. I went alone and decided to just enjoy the trek, savor spring-like weather, avoid temptations to create a poem along the way.

Smiles on every face, cheerful greetings from strangers, dogs happily panting their way to the top – what a glorious day!

Sprinkled with breaks to capture nature's artwork, the climb seemed effortless. Of course, my photos of distant peaks do no justice to those bright diamonds-in-the-sky.

Long before I reached the bench near the bottom, the one with the e. e. cummings poem, I knew the truth: the trail is the poem, the trail is the prayer. I am always in the poem, not writing it.