Aunt Julia

In the photo, the crone perches on a bench,
squinting behind wire rims.
Properly dressed in pumps, hose and beads,
her hands hide under the tea towel she embroiders.
My father said his Aunt Julia returned once a year
in summer to help butcher hogs.
He said she homesteaded in the Dakotas.

That is all I know about my namesake.
But I can imagine.

How she listened to the night wind sweep past her house,
and how she dreamed of anywhere else but here.
How she turned down the shy farmer one town over,
and married the cheeky peddler who sharpened knives.
How she agreed to move with her young husband
far from family and friends
to 160 acres in the middle of nowhere.

How she fought for what must fit in the shallow wagon box.
How she left behind her cedar chest, her books.
How people didn’t wave when they drove through town after town.
How, when they arrived, their claim didn’t look
anything like the posters.
How she lived in a dugout for five years
before first a barn and then a proper house were built.

How she lost two babies to scarlet fever.
How her husband walked off into a blizzard and never returned.
How she married a widower with five children who spoke only Russian.
How the meadowlarks sang on spring mornings.
How the pigs squealed when she sharpened
her dead husband’s knives.

How the wind never, ever stopped.

In the photo, my namesake looks directly at the camera,
her mouth set in a straight line like a Dakota horizon.
Between her brows, two deep furrows
like a plowed field,
like mine.


Weekly photo challenge: lines

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Weekly Photo Challenge – Lines!




Collecting rocks


I come to this empty beach
to collect rocks
worn smooth from tumbling against
each other and rolling
in and out with the tide for eons.

Today, I search for pure white marbles.
Another day, it will be heart stones
or large, flat pancakes
with flecks and sparkles.

As I wander down the beach,
my breath matches the waves
that break against the shore.
I wish to be nowhere else but here.

I know something more about rocks
polished by the sea.
For I , too, have been tumbled smooth and hard.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
I carry my rocks with me.


April is National Poetry Month and I set the goal to write a poem a day. I have six more days to go — and it’s been a great joy to be playing with words again. You can find my month of poems here:

Thank you for reading!



Weekly photo challenge: prolific

The word “prolific” describes the feelings and images of a recent trip to Thailand and Cambodia — loads of Buddhas, overloaded trucks, trinkets in the Bangkok markets and the incredible expanse of of Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world.

The URL for this challenge is:

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I used to lift high in the sky

And every night was an adventure.
I didn’t fly, I simply lifted at will,
looking down without fear
at the world below.

No one looked up
while I was suspended overhead,
and I had no concerns
about the people below.

I didn’t see a string,
but something guided me,
softly lifting and lightly touching down.

Tonight, I will more likely
be naked while no one notices
or running late to take a test
that I haven’t studied for.

No wonder I lie awake for hours.


Weekly photo challenge: (inner) smile


4 versions of the face of the Buddha Mahavairocana, Japanese

Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Providence, RI

According to museum resources, this is the largest wooden Japanese sculpture in the United States. It was constructed from 11 hollowed and carved pieces of wood. Its simple surfaces and serene expression are representative of the late Heian Period.

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Weekly photo challenge: Rise/set

To illustrate rise, the softest pinks and purples of an early morning sunrise from a quiet cove at Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire.


To illustrate set, an ominous sunset after an unforgettable tornado and high winds slammed through Fargo, North Dakota, on an otherwise quiet, mid-summer day.