Monday, April 24, 2017


I’ve been mentally, wordlessly adrift the past few days, enjoying the crazy spring weather, as well as everything else. We had a violent cloudburst about an hour ago, and it turned the backyard into a lake. There is still water standing everywhere, front and back, down the street, across the street, in the air, and even up in the trees. Not adrift, therefore, in any despairing sense, but indeed most agreeably so — profoundly, spiritually so — adrift like a child who has just learned to tie his shoes, as I did one Thursday afternoon when I was five. I was out in the yard. I had been trying to learn at school, on the shoe-tying boot in our kindergarten class at Lincoln School. But to tie that shoe, you had to face it, which was the opposite of tying one’s own. It didn’t make sense to me. To this day I have trouble with that concept. I need to be behind the shoe, not in front of it. Anyway, I was outside playing, when I happened to notice my shoe was untied. Without thinking, I bent down and tied it, and didn’t realize what I had done until after I had done it. When I did, I shouted for joy and ran into the house to tell everyone I’d finally succeeded. And I’ve been tying my own shoes ever since. Adrift in that sense — in the sense that I feel quite certain I have told this story before, to someone, to you, to others, in this and in other times, every few seconds needing to glance down at my shoe, just to be sure — of what? If I knew that, I wouldn’t be adrift. I would be almost sixty-one, sitting at my mother’s old desk, writing this note. And we both know that can’t be, especially because it is. And if that makes sense, let it go, as I do every time those twin pests, logic and sanity, come to call.

Canvas 883

Canvas 883

April 24, 2017

Canvas 882

Canvas 882

April 24, 2017

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

It’s all clear to me now

What I need on one of my bookshelves is a slender, rejoicing figure no more than three inches tall, bronze in color, perhaps, although another cast or shading might do as well, with feet planted in such a way as to suggest a high mountain scene, ecstasy, an approaching thunderstorm, magic, motion, male at a glance, female in dance, a butterfly’s pose, a winter wind’s pause, a cool face in the mirror of a pond. And all of this because I moved some books around.

April postcard

One way to explain the liquid sunshine drenching the street in a crystalline shower of near cloudless rain, is that life is so helplessly and joyfully abundant, she weeps. And of course there are other ways, but all send their love, just the same.

So light so early

So light so early . . .

earth thoughts, cloud shadows, treetops . . .

and in the east, beyond the mountains,

deep in the high desert,

the sun not quite done with her bath . . .

Yes, it is like that this morning,

said the window

to the man.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Just enough to wash away

Last night’s rain was a brief round of applause — a tenth of an inch, just enough to wash away the rainbow chalk mark games the neighbor kids made. And so when they come home from school today, they’ll have a fresh blank canvas to write on. Much like the sky this morning, already filled with the script of joyous birds.

Canvas 875

Canvas 875

April 17, 2017

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Between rains

Things dried out nicely yesterday, enough that I could sweep the fir needles from the walk, and for the neighbor kids to chalk their driveway with colorful games and designs. When I was coming back from across the street with the mail, I could see their dog sitting happily and looking on, his nose testing each scent in the air, smiling, content, completely satisfied to be a part of it all. The whole world was his bone.

Early on, it froze — well, not quite. It was thirty-four degrees. But the rooftops were white, and just as the sun was coming up a light fog formed. Out for a walk, I was able to look directly into the old star’s face. We exchanged gazes for a time, the way friends do who haven’t seen each other for a while, and who know and love the long way around.

The atmosphere in the afternoon was an explosion of pollen, light, and color — doors open, windows open, heart open, mind open.

And then came evening, and soon all was silent, even though all was silent before — silent in the traffic’s roar, the dog’s bark, the child’s shout, the slammed door, the church bell, and the good-bye horn. Such joy there is between rains, knowing there will be more, and even more joy, when it returns.

Friday, April 14, 2017

all ye who enter

when the last light goes out to meet the velvet dark

and you bleed on humid wood

yield to hands whose work is love

and praise though blind the everlasting good

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Baker’s dozen

In the afternoon, a couple of days ago,

Just as it was starting to rain,

I planted some flower seeds. As a finishing touch,

I made some thumbprints in the dough.

When the bread is finished baking,

The sprouts will emerge through scented seams,

And quickly hide this poem.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

this year the tulips

this year the tulips are cut and colored in such a way

they seem to have fallen out of stained glass windows

along with the artist that placed them there

whose tired eyes are closed

and whose breath

is rain-wet


Monday, April 10, 2017

We meet again

Yesterday we were at the grocery store when a woman about our age came up to me and said she loved my beard, and then started patting and stroking it lightly, with a gleam in her eye that indicated certain social barriers didn’t exist in her mind. I waited patiently and spoke kindly while her embarrassed young granddaughter tugged at her gently and tried to guide her away. It was a lovely, beautiful moment. I would have stood there forever if needed, but the girl made sure that wasn’t necessary. Later, elsewhere in the store, we were ignored by all sorts of “normal” people. That, too, was beautiful, in the way that the hard shells of walnuts are beautiful, etched like thumbprints in their infinitely peculiar, familiar design. “Children in the garden,” I thought, “flowers plucked one by one, each in its time.”

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The maker and the made

Remember, dear one, what you create creates you.

Yes, you are the maker and the made,

In all you think, in all you say, in all you do.


fir moon, cloud moon,
birds singing in the dark,
day here, so soon,
and you,

breathless in your part

Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Memoirs of Harriette Wilson

These are in remarkably good condition,
with ribbon markers that appear to be unused and unmoved
since publication of the set in London
by The Navarre Society
in 1924.


(click to enlarge)

(click to enlarge)

Canvas 873

Canvas 873

April 8, 2017

Friday, April 7, 2017

A mighty wind is

A mighty wind is thrashing the firs.

Yesterday, the crows were busy gathering wood for their nests.

When the wind dies down, they will resume.

Ignorance, hatred, and violence aren’t new in the world.

Fir cones are hitting the house.

Shall I be angry with the wind? Are the crows?

Tuesday, April 4, 2017


When I was a kid, chamomile grew wild on our San Joaquin Valley farm, but I didn’t know it was chamomile, I only knew I liked the way it carpeted the ground, and how it smelled when I crushed the unopened blooms between my fingers and held them up to my nose. We were also the accidental holders of a vast wealth in purslane, a great edible ground cover that Armenians in the area called “parpar,” and that we kids called “easy weeds.” This natural crop was most abundant in the vineyard rows where the soil was heaviest. At a more mature stage, it bloomed and attracted clouds of narrow little flies. We could plow it up with the tractor, and, owing to its succulent nature, it would stay alive in the moist earth for days, weeks, even. Picture these growing in furrows with a new summer crop of tiny toads hopping among them and you have my childhood in miniature. Weeds, toads, buzzards drifting overhead, sparrows, mockingbirds, angry yellow jacket nests, dirt, dust, extreme heat, sweat, a high mountain range to the east with snow-capped peaks — complete enchantment. There was an old retired well in one spot, about an eighth of a mile behind our house. It had a heavy iron cover, and there was a little hole in the cover, just big enough for me to drop a clod in and wait for the sound of a splash somewhere below. I can hear it even now — just as I can feel myself falling through black space between daylight and the bottom of the well. And here beside me, growing cold in my cup? You guessed it. Chamomile.

Canvas 870

Canvas 870

April 4, 2017

They might be bamboo. I’m not sure.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Thank you

When my wife and I first tied the knot, or got hitched, as the saying goes, I was nineteen. That was more than forty-one years and four children ago. Now, at the end of every day, before sleep, I always tell her the same thing: I say thank you, for everything. You see, I do not believe in tomorrow, and I do not assume the next morning will find me alive. And so, if I go during the night, the last words I will have consciously, purposely spoken are words of thanks to someone whose boundless strength and faith have seen us through. Simple enough, and certainly true. But I wanted you to know. And to the writers, artists, poets, old friends, new friends, wanderers, lovers, dreamers, builders, workers, and doubters who pass this way today — thank you, too — thank you, thank you, all.

Out like a light

A clear, quiet, frosty morning, with white rooftops and hearty tulips. Out early for a walk — trees flowering all around, a porch light here and there still on — I inhaled and thought, Remember, when you take anything or anyone for granted, you take yourself for granted. At any moment, you can, and will, go out like a light. And even that is a miracle. Gratitude.

Canvas 869

Canvas 869

April 3, 2017

Sunday, April 2, 2017

The garden that is this world

The garden that is this world — the people, the creatures, the trees, the rocks, the stars — once we see that these are all ourselves in another form, and understand that there is no distance between us, we see God — here, in the lamplight, here, in the dust. Once we see that all are sacred or none, and that dream is as solid as bone, we see God — here, in uncharted space, here, in the whale’s spout. Once we see that all is intimacy, and that all is love, the painful questions fall off one by one — should we eat meat, or should we not — which way must we face when we pray — which book shall we believe — what is the meaning of war — and why, oh, why, are we here? Everything is dear. And joy outpaces the explanation, that God is a child, God is the sun, God is the rainbow, that we are God, and that all is God, and the kingdom is here. Or will we choose fear? If we do, that too is well, for it will be shaken from us when our last leaf is down — and what is more beautiful than all of us standing here, naked through winter, and spring invincibly near?

Canvas 868

Canvas 868

April 2, 2017

Saturday, April 1, 2017

All work and all play

Yesterday afternoon, with the enthusiastic help of our six-year-old grandson, I mowed the pasture in front of the house with the old push-mower my father bought way back in 1964. The thing weighs a ton. The grass was a foot deep from the rain. The buffalo scattered. The mountain goats came down from the trees. Raking madly, going after stray blades with a pair of scissors, the boy was in heaven, as I was, and as are we all. We swept the sidewalk at least half a dozen times and gazed out across the plain. Then I brought out a chair and drank tea while he trimmed the young cedar next to the lilac, ran the brush through his shredder, and spread the mulch on our garden space. Well imagined. Well done, as every tool in the garage assumed a magical new purpose. Paradise, of course. It needn’t be hard.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Beginnings and endings

We love thinking in terms of beginnings and endings, but as natural as that seems, it is possible such thinking is simply a habit — which is to say, it is something we no longer examine, or think worthy of examination. And so when we read or hear that God or the universe has no beginning, and may very well have no end, we scratch our heads and move on, or are stopped dead in our tracks, or we ascribe it to mystery, saying, Well, this is something we will never know or understand. And yet, whatever it is, we are a part of it, we are contained by it and fashioned by it, and we serve as cells in its great gray elegant workings. At the same time, we create it anew each moment with our outlooks, our beliefs, our thoughts, our daily habits, our desires, our backgrounds — our stories, if you will — our stories which come together to create a bigger story, most of which we agree upon, accepting that up is up and down is down, feeling quite comfortable with the notion that there is or isn’t a god, that there is but one universe or countless universes that run parallel. This is quite a lot for us cells to do, also preoccupied with moon shots and wars, the fight against cancer and other diseases, even as we rush about carrying the disease of ourselves, and our tremendously robust health, too. Still, how could it be, we wonder, that all of this has no beginning? — as if a god or gods bent on creation and an ever-expanding universe are bound by our tiny rules of logic. Yes, New York is where New York is, Oregon is where Oregon is, Australia, Australia, and so on, so be sure to catch your train or plane on time. And we are where, exactly? We are where God is, and if he isn’t, we are there too. And this is just the beginning. I love you.

Canvas 867

Canvas 867

March 31, 2017

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Everything we withhold

Ultimately, everything we withhold, we withhold also from ourselves. The more fully we give of our love, joy, tenderness, encouragement, kindness, abilities, and gifts, the more we are able to recognize and experience life’s abundance. In effect — and this is the very heart and soul of vulnerability — we must die each moment to be born, and in this simultaneous death and birth, we receive anew what we give, each conscious moment. It may sound crazy or strange or pie-in-the-sky, but this is my experience. And I don’t limit these thoughts to interactions with humans, or to other animals, as we commonly refer to our fellow creatures seen and unseen, or to rocks and waterfalls, all of which speak and act in languages readily understood once our guard is down. The simple truth is, I don’t know where it leads, and I am not in the least bit worried about it. Security is a mirage. Safety from all manner of imagined fears can never be achieved. Understanding that we are an integral part of it all, recognizing how intimately we are involved with one another and the stars, and how dependent we are on the world and each other for our health and well-being, is to see that what we most fear to lose — our lives, our strengths, our advantages, our identities — we lose in exact proportion to which they are withheld. We close up, we live in shells of our own making, we unwittingly teach our children to build the same, only to become the walking dead. We build walls and become weak, scared, threatened, angry human beings. We insist on the superiority and importance of ourselves to a degree that amounts to insanity. We are important, yes — but not in this way. We are important in our ability to blossom and bear fruit — like all things — like God, if you will, the most fruitful, vulnerable, comprehensive expression of all — in mystery, truth, imagination, childhood, beauty, and wealth. Let it be so.

Starlight and mush

According to a neighbor who lives down the slope behind the house across from us, there used to be a small lake a couple of blocks further on, which apparently was fed by an underground spring that still saturates his yard, making it necessary to pump out gallons and gallons a day from his residential bog. The entire surrounding area was a filbert grove; here and there, a filbert tree still stands, twisted, distorted, and generally misunderstood, half-dead, hung with petunia baskets, surrounded by bricks and lawn, shot through, gnarled, gnawed, somber, and proud. And I have known many a man who could be similarly described, old Armenians, mostly, with knuckles like walnuts and ears like weathered grape leaves mottled by insect activity, dew, and dust. All the more surprising and pleasing, then, their great voices and even older songs. Well, the lake is gone, but the memory of it lives on. And who knows but that someday this whole town might be gone, and the cities and freeways nearby returned to the elements, all that the lake might again reflect the sky and beckon to the strange-joyous children of our dreams? Who knows, indeed. What a nut. A filbert, to be exact. Is this why I got up this morning? Of course not. I got up because I’m on an important mission. And that mission is, breakfast — of starlight, and mush.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Cherry blossom time

As luck and truth would have it, the rain let up at just the right time yesterday morning for our annual walk through the cherry blossoms across from the State Capitol. The trees were at their peak bloom, with just a bit of pink snow falling, some of which we wore home. Above them, the sky was constantly changing, windswept as it was, with gray clouds and white, and a frantic, low-altitude duck making its way upstream, quacking in time with its wings. And of course we all know that the sky begins where the ground ends. The delightful thing is that each time we remember this, we notice just the slightest bit of space between our feet and the ground. And then, and from there, up, up we go.

Canvas 866

Canvas 866

March 29, 2017

Monday, March 27, 2017

Memories and monuments

We still have the dented measuring cups and spoons my mother used all her long married life, and we use them too. We open the drawer to the right of the stove, and there they are, along with her rolling pin and biscuit cutter — a drawer full of memories and monuments. Her old flour sifter is on the top shelf in the spice cabinet. And there are dozens of other items, from implements to pans, trays to pots, knives — good god, and there are the cutting boards my father made shortly after the war, which there is no need to name, because there is ever and always only just one. Come home, my love, come home, and let us have children.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

A wild place

Cracks in the gutter sprouting dandelions,

laced with worms taken there by rain,

sky of clouds and geese hurried on by wind,

air scented, mad, and fresh —

remember, love, this is a wild place we’re in.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

the rest is change

cherry blossoms

part of me goes

part of me stays

the rest is change

whiter this year

whiter this year

cherry blossoms

in my beard

cherry blossoms

on this strange walk home

even where the trees are none

cherry blossoms love


I do not choose my words. I am chosen by them.

Listen. Do trees choose the wind?

I seek no other way to live.

A hollow reed, I yield to the master’s hands,

Each breath a breath to praise the way it is.

Tea time

The cherry blossom part of me flowers and falls.

The part that is a cloud stays awhile and goes.

That which is the earth is mud upon your shoes.

And now I am your cup, waiting to be filled.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A house in order

If an individual doesn’t see the necessity, or isn’t willing, to put his own house in order, he shouldn’t expect officials, elected or otherwise, to put it in order for him, or to put society’s house in order. And if he is willing, and if he does put his house in order, it naturally follows that as more individuals understand the necessity and feel so compelled, public service will eventually be transformed and seen as a sacred calling, rather than a way to accumulate wealth, power, and fame. The simple fact of the matter is, we are all public servants; an even simpler fact is, until the first fact is understood, it will be “politics as usual.” In the meantime, it is unrealistic to expect selfish criminals to examine other selfish criminals as a way of getting at the truth. Not all politicians are criminals, of course. But their effectiveness is directly related to a recognition of the need to first understand themselves and to have their own houses in order. Without this, politics will always remain a dirty business, people will be duped on a large scale, and they will remain angry, oppressed subjects of the power they have unwittingly given to those most ambitious, privileged, and connected to wealth among them. There is a sad helplessness about the whole operation. But why choose to be helpless when you have all of this personal potential at your disposal, waiting to be awakened and called into action?

The great, unsung, extraordinary-ordinary

To continue briefly with yesterday’s thought, it seems to me that there is a direct relationship between the habit of seeing ourselves as being a special case apart from nature, and seeing the problems of society at large as if they exist not inside us, but in some distant realm. But once you look into it, it is clear that each and every action we take in our daily lives ripples far and wide. In our acts of personal greed, for instance, we will find world poverty and hunger. Yes, there are such things as droughts and disease; but there is also an epidemic of wasted food piled up in alley garbage cans, each can filled by a private individual who is unaware of, or doesn’t care about, the crime he is committing. And so we must look into our daily life if we are to even begin to understand the problems of society at large. If we are rude to our wives, rude to our husbands, rude to our children; if we yell at our pets and threaten them, it’s obvious we’re not ready or willing to see the love and cooperation required for easing the pain and strife in the world. We are not apart from nature, or from each other. But there are so many of us, and the understanding of our power and potential is so limited and poor, that we wreak havoc on the entire grand system. And I don’t say this in any way to be bleak. Because it is also clear that we would have destroyed ourselves and the world long ago if there weren’t countless souls doing their best to be helpful to all and not just themselves. They are the explorers, the great, unsung, extraordinary-ordinary people we come into contact with every day. And if they aren’t, who’s to say they won’t be so soon, especially if you — yes, you — make the first move?

Canvas 862

Canvas 862

March 21, 2017

Monday, March 20, 2017

What happens if

I hope I’ll be forgiven for this recent spate of thinking aloud.... I do mean well.... But this morning I have to wonder if the assumption that we are imperfect is simply a well-established rut in our thinking, which in turn serves as an excuse for not accepting ourselves as we are and our world as it is, and as we have made it, and go on making it. We accept nature in all its perfection and wonder, and yet the general view is that we are somehow apart from nature, a special case, as it were, a race of beings who must strive for perfection, which is perhaps impossible to achieve, all to be either rewarded at a later date, in another life, or to arrive at an enlightened state. Or something else, or something in between. But what happens if we see ourselves as part of nature, and, as part of nature, as perfect as all else — as perfect as the birds and mists and waterfalls, the deserts and oceans, the sun and moon and stars? It seems to me that this division is something we have created, and which our religions, doctrines, and systems preserve, even as their outward forms gradually change to accommodate new information and knowledge of the very nature we exhibit and are a part of. Or if we are a special case, maybe we are not necessarily special for the reasons we like to think we are. Maybe we are special in that we insist on complicating what is simple, and what is easily accepted by our natural counterparts, and even by ourselves as children. Now, I confess that I am writing this in a bit of physical pain this morning, the details of which are unimportant. But even if it is my pain that is speaking, to me it is perfect pain, and I accept it just as it is. There is no right or wrong time to hurt. No good or bad pain. I will simply sit in an awkward position until it passes, that’s all, or until it does not pass, either way delighted and grateful to be here.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

It is

Each time you say, “It shouldn’t be,” a fine layer of residue settles on your life — your body, your expression, your outlook, your dreams. And when you say, “It is,” the layers are immediately washed away, leaving you brighter than light and lighter than air, a child among angels, an angel among men. When you encounter fire or a poisonous spider, you don’t say, “This fire shouldn’t be hot,” or, “This spider shouldn’t be poisonous.” Without thinking, you accept what they are and simply move away. Therefore, when you encounter someone whose behavior is selfish and destructive, to say he or she shouldn’t be selfish and destructive is of no use whatsoever. The natural, healthy response is to simply not condone, admire, or emulate that form of behavior. Yes, you can crush the spider. But you can’t crush all of them. And yes, you can murder or imprison the monster. But you can’t murder or imprison all of them. What you can do, is to see that you don’t allow the spider and monster to come between you and this beautiful opportunity of understanding yourself and the world. What you can do, is to not resort to poisonous, monstrous tactics yourself. Fighting fire with fire is not the answer-all profundity it sounds. At the height of the conflagration, the natural response is to be water. In the face of evil, love is the most logical way of meeting the moment — the moment that is never what it should be, and always what it is.

Time will tell

A few hours, a day, a week — they feel to me like ancient history. And yet you act as if I’m sitting here, as if my comings and goings are easily measured by the growing absence of footsteps or graying of hair, and that these are irrefutable declarations of time. I do hear the clock ticking, but the sound emanates not from its temporary place on the wall, it comes from my great-grandmother’s kitchen, where it hung ninety-years ago. These are my mother’s ears, not just my own. And if they are hers, they are also her grandmother’s, and if they are her grandmother’s, they are listening from a childhood in Sweden. No wonder we are moved. I say you act, but it’s a convincing performance that gives flesh to my bones and bones to my dreams, which are the frame and the dress of myriad intangible things. And it makes me think that perhaps I’m acting too. Because I can almost feel the pull of the strings. Up goes one eyebrow, down the grim jaw, back the shoulders, the neck turns, the head revolves — but the words? What gossamer holds them, what tentative illusion of light? You say you don’t know. You say time will tell. I say, sure it will.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Adversity and wealth

Prosperity, ease, wealth — these are all well and good if we’re willing to learn from them, and thereby better know ourselves. Otherwise, they are adversity in disguise — just as adversity can be our greatest wealth. It’s important, at the same time, to identify with neither, to pass no judgment on the relative degrees of these conditions, because when we do, they become yet another filter through which we try to see and understand the world, another kind of prison. There are extreme cases, of course, in which even these thoughts are not possible, or at best a distant luxury. Millions upon millions live just so. And that makes it all the more important that we understand ourselves — or else, what use will we be? Now, I am here, at least in part, because, long ago, members of my father’s family fled to this country to avoid starvation and massacre. Those who remained behind, perished. I point no fingers, recite no history lessons, mention no names. In this context, that information is completely useless. But in this context, it does provide an illustration. For if I did point fingers and mention names, I would be another catalyst for hate, and I would be building my own prison walls, which ultimately can and will manifest themselves as walls and borders between nations, crosses burned into lawns, fires set to mosques — you name the outer form and cry of ignorance, they are as many as they are tragic, and anyway, we know them all. And so I can only close by asking, what is it that you want, and do you understand why you think you want it? And do you understand the inevitable results? For we are already living with them, my friend.

Friday, March 17, 2017

The here of not here

Earlier I wrote a little poem, but it was terrible, so I scrubbed it from the record. The truth is, I started out feeling rather vague this morning, as if I’d just returned from a long, unremembered journey. And so the poem was vague. But how would I know I’d been anywhere, if I couldn’t remember it? Well, that’s the feeling. I wasn’t quite here, so I must have been somewhere else. Sleep? That’s part of it, I suppose. Last night, within a minute of resting my head on the pillow, I was out — not like a light, but simply gone, wiped away, erased, consumed, harvested, set aside, of no further use or interest. Of course I didn’t know it at the time. But that’s the way it seems now. And when I opened my eyes this morning, it wasn’t I who opened them. If a decision was made, I wasn’t the one who made it. But even that is vague. As it should be. Or, as I am more than willing for it to be. I am not on a mission. I am not here to prove anything, or to demonstrate my ability to be clever and wry. I just wonder, that’s all. I did take a walk after breakfast. There were crows and geese. The door of one house opened, and a high school-aged girl stepped out, ready for her walk to school. I smiled and wished her a good morning. She responded in kind, and I could see she was a little surprised and pleased with herself, as if she couldn’t help being gladdened by our greetings. Well, that’s all. If you want more, or think there should be, I’ll leave that more up to you.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Capsella bursa-pastoris

Sunny, fifty-seven degrees, and I’ve been wiggling a fine crop of shepherd’s purse out of our garden space before it goes to seed. It might seem strange, just a few hours after receiving another inch and a half of rain, but the plot is so heavily mulched with manure and leaves, that the roots came free with little effort. And shepherd’s purse is that way anyway, exchanging a tenacious root system for the humorous ability to pop seeds in your eye at the slightest disturbance. This has happened to me simply walking along the sidewalk. When those seeds are mature, watch out. But these plants, lush and green as they were, had just broken into bloom — I didn’t notice any scent, by the way, although there was the occasional slug hiding out at the base. And on the concrete nearby, there are the prints left behind by leaves from our delicate, lacy green maple. Like a fossil record, they are, some of them so veined and real that when you bend down and try to pick them up, you realize they are only a print. And it’s obvious to me that we need teams of children working on these finds, dusting them, brushing them, picking at them, and arranging them whichever way in the DNA of their cloud-betrothed minds. Before it’s too late. Before they think they have to go out and buy insurance. This is important. Send them right over. I will supervise. Never fear — children like me. That is, they humor me. By which I mean, they understand, and they sympathize. Then again, so do you. I hope.

The spirit-hand

It’s hard for some people to understand that I work all day, every day, into the night, and around the clock, and even harder for them to grasp that no effort is involved, no, none at all, despite the truth that the work sometimes leaves me in a place far beyond exhaustion — a grave state, it might be called, a kind of sweet cemetery silence, where sound is amplified not by the ear, but that wise-rhythmic part of us some term the soul. And all of this for no money, the striving for which, I have long understood, is poverty in disguise. But the disguise is unconvincing, like a forty-nine-cent Halloween mask that smells like plastic inside, and makes your face sweat even on a crisp autumn night. And if it’s Friday, you can hear the announcer way across town at the high school football game, and there is one house you come to where the porch light is off, and you remember from last year that an old person lived there, and you wonder now if she’s dead, and a hush comes over you, something strange, oh, dear lord, didn’t your mother once say she used to be her teacher in first grade? And all of this comes pouring out of you, you a child, you an adult, you a counter of coins and assessor of people’s worth — that hand on your shoulder with only spirit attached — and now all the porch lights are off — and on, and off, and on, and the starlight becomes unbearably bright, just as someone you may never meet and never truly know scores a touchdown, thereby earning a late-night kiss from the girl of his dreams. Yes, it is like this for me, all day, every day, into the night, and so when someone foolishly and tragically tells his little toy soldier of a child that I don’t work, that I don’t earn money so it can be thoughtlessly repeated and not in the least understood, I pity him — I pity them all, and I love them too. For how could I have come to this realization if I had not also lived and moved about in that same kind of blind shadow? The spirit-hand came for me just a little sooner, that’s all. And when I shrugged it away, it came again, and again, and again, in the form of death, and love, death and love lost, love found, love not love and yet always love, in the juice of ripe grapes on the back of my tongue, in watching loved ones take their last breath, in being left in a strange land by the side of the road, not knowing the language — yes, there has been that too — and why do I tell you, who already know? I tell you because I am compelled to remind you that you never truly know a thing when it is still a secret you keep. Knowing is telling, and knowing also that it is alright to tell, that others need to hear that it is alright, that it goes to the heart of being free in this world, and that the extra point is not merely worth one or two, but an infinite number of untraveled worlds. The kiss — is that not what it is? — almost, not quite, endlessly more — the unfathomed depth of the meaning of yes?

A heaven of hands

I should also mention the piece of orange peel that has lately become part of my walks. It’s in the street in front of a house nearby, out of the gutter but not far from the curb, away from traffic, and in a spot where no one usually parks. Its curved orange side is facing up. The peel-piece has been there undisturbed for a good many days now, and because of the damp weather, it has stayed as fresh as if it has just been dropped. My impression is that it fell from a heaven of hands, where the juice and pulp of oranges is savored by angels sublimely unaware of their innocence. Or a crow might have dropped it, a sort of rind-stone cowboy — you know how crows are. Or a child. But it all amounts to the same thing, which is, an ordinary reason is absolutely out of the question. Because nothing is ordinary. And now I wonder if it might not also be a little hatch to an underground world, with a tiny stairway leading down, down, down, to Jean Valjean’s sewers of Paris. A marker, perhaps, fallen from an unwritten book?

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Yellow bonnets in their grace

Now that the weather is a little warmer, the grass is growing right up through the standing water. Neither seems to mind. And there are tiny mirrors everywhere, which make it possible to look down at the cloudy sky. Daffodils gaze out across the lake. Yellow bonnets in their grace. Or are they shawls? And what about their muddy feet? Will they make it across the street? Will we?

Canvas 861

Canvas 861

March 15, 2017

Saith the rain, saith the drain

Quiet here today. So saith the rain. So saith the drain.
Thus the refrain of the brain like a train to explain not a thing,

My love.

Except. Accept. May the moss on our graves
Be the greenest of green, with nothing between us,

My love.

Canvas 860

Canvas 860

March 15, 2017

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Snowy-east, rainy-west

On this snowy-east, rainy-west Tuesday, I’ve taken two wet walks and dealt with some fairly typical online technical matters. The hosting fee being due for renewal, I had all but come to the decision of letting my website go, but at the last minute I thought why not keep it, what can it hurt, it might even prove useful somewhere down the road. And so this morning I paid my bill and made a small update to the main page, basically noting that all of my new writing and artwork (or whatever you want to call it) is shared publicly on my blog and Facebook. The books, of course, are still available, but it is rare indeed that anyone buys them. Also worth noting is that Cosmposis Books, the publisher of A Listening Thing, Winter Poems, and Another Song I Know, is currently experiencing website troubles of its own. So on the outside chance that a book is needed, simply drop me a line and I will communicate with them privately until they get that problem squared away. Another thing to mention is that the Archive page was updated recently to include the first piece in my book, The Painting of You. And that’s all I have for now. It’s very balmy out, about sixty degrees, with a light rain falling on the daffodils and crocuses. Buds are swelling all around. Any day now, I expect the first flowering-plum scent to meet me at the door. And when all is said and done, I suppose that is what the website is really for.

Monday, March 13, 2017

The birds of morning

Amid the man-made roar, the birds of morning fill their space with song. Freeways, alleyways, door by door, no higher calling than their love. No futile wish to say I wish that man and noise were gone, no needless judgment made. And here I am, O Lord, with solemn child’s face, in sacred grace, to sing along. Here I am, to help you home, to be the timely end of war, and ease you from the cross at dawn. It is never easy, being God in a man’s body looking on, such an old, strange job. But when I see you as a bird, the color of your word is light upon my palm. And when you find me kneeling in the street, with no one looking on, you will know I’m not alone. For the world is full, with not one thing out of place, and all bright space is full of song!

Monday is a lovely day to pray

Monday is a lovely day to pray,
and, you know, you will do it anyway:
feet on the floor, through the concrete garden
to the bus stop —

why be shy about it?

your wife says you snore,
and what is more a prayer

than sinuses clogged with stardust?

Sunday, March 12, 2017

It is not religion

O dear one, it is not religion that saves us,

or meditation, or philosophy, or work, or art,

but love operating through these things,

and our inevitable surrender to her benevolent force,

if not in this life, then in the next,

which is this very moment, of course.

Canvas 859

Canvas 859

March 12, 2017

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Like yours, like anyone’s

When you take advantage of someone in any kind of dealing, business or otherwise, you may think you have gotten away with something, but you have really only sold yourself. For a few pennies, millions, or a sense of power, you have sold your dignity. You have sold another chance of friendship and goodwill. Not only have you sold these things, you have perpetuated animosity and crime, however legal it may be, and called it an artful transaction. And you have, in the very same instant, told the world, “Now see if you can outsmart me.” But there is no art in this way of life. There is only a mirror at home that smiles at you, then laughs at you and despises you when you turn away. That’s the sick feeling you carry around inside you, which pops up and expresses itself at the most inopportune times, and gradually and steadily compromises your body and mind. So the next time you charge “all the market will bear,” or rake some poor timid soul over the coals, remember, the world is watching. Your children are watching. Everyone is. Every creature, every tree, every cloud. Life itself knows what you have done, and knowing this says, “Now we must balance things.” And then — maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon — comes your gut ache, your heart ache, your unfortunate illness, the desertion of your selfish offspring when you grow old. Whether you hate people in power or admire them, what good are you if you also, on whatever small scale, emulate their behavior? What good are you if you are the petty dictator of your office or family? How are you different from a dictator on the world stage? Does having less money and less power make you less of a dictator? No. It makes you a sad want-to-be. Beer or champagne, peanuts or caviar — if this is the extent of your existence and the limit of your thinking, then don’t be surprised when it turns out to be your reward. And if you ask me, “Who the hell do you think you are?” I will simply say, “No one. No one at all. Just a fellow traveler of yours who has learned the hard way and is not embarrassed or ashamed to say so, and who knows his life can end at any moment. Like yours. Like anyone’s whom you claim to love.”

Pleased to meet you

It’s easy to be clever, and to disparage corrupt, power-mad politicians with whom you’ll never share a drink or an elevator. But if you truly want to see a powerful, positive change in the world, look directly into the eyes of your neighbor, and say hello as if you have all the time in the world. Because, at that moment, as in every moment, you do. Be common. Be ordinary. Be patient, unsophisticated, and dull. If it is rain you are both tired of, say, “But I love the fresh air, don’t you?” Be positive. Be kind. And yes, be a bit of a fool. Whatever the subject, admit you don’t know. Be willingly along for the ride, and gracious to your fellow-passenger. And then, when you part, let it all go. Let it all grow.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

You are a night flower

When I was a kid, it was unthinkable to avoid someone on the sidewalk, and downright rude to look away upon meeting, and not at least give a friendly, courteous nod. In the street, assuming we were moving slowly enough, we nodded and often waved at oncoming drivers. Usually, when someone drove by our house, they waved. If we drove by theirs, we waved. It was nothing dramatic, just a friendly acknowledgment that we each knew the other was there, and therefore deserved respect. To this day, I hold the door open for people, whatever their sex, age, language, country of origin, or apparent political or religious persuasion. I exchange pleasantries, I say thank you, and I offer a sympathetic ear. I expect nothing in return for this behavior. I do it because it is the natural, decent thing to do. Some time back I mentioned that this is my revolution. Day to day, I see firsthand that it has a positive effect in the world. I also see that I am not alone in this revelation — revolution, revelation, it’s amazing how similar those words are — and it is quite plain to me that we would have destroyed ourselves long ago if not for the untold number who carry on as I do, this relentless campaign of courtesy. You are one of that number, and if not, very soon, you will be. Perhaps you are a night flower, blooming cautiously, opening yourself to the nonjudgmental stars, loving your dog, shining your shoes, thinking, thinking, what if, what if I, what if we all . . .

this morning the sky is my beloved

this morning the sky is my beloved

and she beseeches me to take the earth from her hands

for just a little while

the earth heavy but so small

and the rain is how

her wept love


Canvas 857

Canvas 857

March 9, 2017

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

It’s all local

It’s all local — every concern, every accomplishment, every assault upon the earth and its inhabitants. The earth itself is a living, breathing inhabitant of something, if perhaps larger, every bit as local. The accident, the maker, the grace, the love, the flight, the substance, the imagination — all are here, and are easily and effortlessly within heart’s reach. Foul a river, poison a stream, pour filth into the air, and your very lungs and spirit bear the consequence. Love a tree — such examples are endless — and you are given everlasting life. I say everlasting, because love is beyond space and time. Where does love not reach? Travel the stars — they too are local and here in your midst — and love is there before you. Count universes on your fingertips. Which is without love? You can doubt everything, you can laugh at my simplicity, you can steal from me to the limit of your desire — but in doing so you become the fouled river. And then a child comes along and lifts you up, sees your corruption, understands it in an instant, and lifts you, lifts you, because the child is a messenger of love, as are the trees, the birds, the sky, and this very dream. And the child is not yours. The child belongs to no one. The child, too, like the wind, is what local means.

There is a mist

There is a mist now, softly falling, saying, Distance, dear one, is something you’ve imagined. People, things, mountains — peace, justice, joy — love, enlightenment — all are as immediate as these kisses I weave upon your face. What are miles, but a place to leave your burden beside the road? What is time, but an awkward counting towards the end of fear? And what is enlightenment, but needless proof that we are here? Come now, return my embrace! For grace alone I will not bear.


My friend, if you can’t find the good news, be the good news.


honey in morning light

and if you are still looking for miracles

consider day and night

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Ambassadors of silence

I don’t find words. Words find me. And what do they say?

We come as ambassadors of silence.

And then they drift away.

Hence this white space, and this light space, today.

And the wish that you see it that way.

Canvas 854

Canvas 854

March 4, 2017

Friday, March 3, 2017

Canvas 853

Canvas 853

March 3, 2017

We will come through

Fear not, for we will come through. Yes, the haters will hate.
But the singers will sing, the teachers will teach, the learners will learn,
The children will play, and the lovers will love. And so, which are you?
And which world will you choose?

A deep breath

Are we walking through this garden, or resting our wings?

Both, it seems. Or maybe it’s spring.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Yesterday a flicker

Yesterday a flicker landed on the fig branch next to our little dangling bird feeder and promptly set about pecking the living daylights out of it as its tiny feathered brothers and sisters looked on in admiration and dismay. The feeder was swinging, and with it in a strange way our kitchen window world, as if the house were a ship at sea, or an ark, which of course it is, especially this year. Since the beginning of record-keeping in 1846, this has been our wettest February here in Salem, Oregon, dripping in at 13.41 inches. Where I grew up in Central California, our annual rainfall averaged eleven inches. I suppose it still does. I remember raindrops there as big as quarters, landing two or three feet apart, allowing me to stay dry through an entire storm. Of course I exaggerate. The drops were the size of nickels — but they were ten times as heavy. O Lord, have I come this far just to be a blowhard? Apparently so. Apparently so.

Canvas 852

Canvas 852

March 2, 2017