I went for a walk in the neighborhood on Saturday to capture photos of the flowers that were finally blooming. It was warm and wonderful. It’s good I did because today is chilly and cloudy.
A few summers ago I spent six weeks in North Dakota and Saskatchewan studying the literature of the Great Plains, including the work of Wallace Stegner and Willa Cather. It was a wonderful experience to have so much time to devote to these writers who put their love of the land into their writing. Here is just one poem that came out of that summer.
“That is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great.”
Willa Cather, gravestone inscription, Jaffrey Center,NH
Her chiseled words gouge readers who edge too close.
But she didn’t linger long among white mountain pines.
Her ink still rents rooms in a scrabbling prairie town.
But she doesn’t haunt lanes humming dance tunes
Her desire scatters in grass, sky, wind, earth, tongues.
But she doesn’t watch pious suns kneel down in canyons.
Today a back door wandered open in a barren farmhouse.
Inside, she fingered cobwebs like strings on a foreign fiddle.
Common Ground Review, Spring/Summer 2008
I wrote this poem several years ago, but it had been sitting in my head for years. Actually, it started (as they always do) with how this event affected me. I had come home from college to find no one at home — and the electricity was off. As the day sank into night, I became more and more frustrated. When my mother came home from town, her first reaction was to run out to the brooder house where she found the horror that she knew awaited her.
My last image is of my mom and little brother sitting at the table — as I went to bed.
The Warmest Places in the Dark
Dozens of half-dead chicks
huddle in dark blue roaster pans
on warm oven racks.
Their peeps loud and insistent
as death comes to a kitchen
lit by candles and flashlights.
The tired farmer’s wife
roughly towels yellow balls scooped
earlier from cold water troughs.
A spring storm had snapped
power lines and cut off life-giving
heat and light to the chicken coop.
Stupid birds, she clucks
with disgust, as she imagines
how they instinctively sought out
the warmest places in the dark,
covering themselves with
a liquid blanket of water,
and how the tiny bodies
cooled as the sun sank below
the horizon while she shopped in town.
She piles the lifeless lumps
in cardboard boxes from the feed store
that held their noisy force only days ago.
Beside her at the dark oak table
her young son towels a chick dry
carefully in his cupped palms
and blows a steady stream of air
between his fingers until his mother
gently touches his shoulder.
She recalls how he sat cross-legged
in the hen house that morning
surrounded by these newborn chicks.
How his giggles rang out
when the birds nipped his fingers
and she lingered despite other chores.
They will work silently together
all night in this darkened kitchen
as some live and more die.
Years later when someone mentions
that night she will only shake her head
and he will look down at his hands.
South Dakota Review, 2005
It’s May and the world has suddenly — and lusciously — turned green!
Also, I have been spinning and writing at least one blog post a week now for four straight months. I began 2011 with the WordPress Post-a-week Challenge and my goal to lose weight for my daughter’s wedding in July.
Somehow, my spinning and blogging have become intertwined. I can’t believe I am still doing both — especially since all other writing and exercise goals (poem a week, exercise DVDs) have bit the dust after just a few short weeks.
So, what do spin and blogs have in common? Any ideas out there? Here are a few.
1. You write and spin in the dark. I like that. I can sweat and space out and lately I find that I can take my mind elsewhere as long as my legs keep moving. Writing’s the same. I write TO this black void that I never see and rarely hear from. Nonetheless, I’ll check my daily stats and find out that 40, 50, 60, even 89 pair of eyes have visited my site in the past day. That, for me at least, is truly amazing! Welcome, silent visitors!
2. You write and spin for yourself. Someone asked me where I find the time to write on FB and blogs. I didn’t know how to respond. I do have a full time job, but I enjoy writing so it’s something I do because I WANT to. My kids are grown, rather not watch TV tonight, so I worked on other projects. Same with spin. For years, I said I couldn’t find time to exercise. Now I’m up and out of the house by 5:45 for 6 a.m. spin. Always tired, but I always feel great afterwards.
3. Writing and spinning get you “out of your lane.” That’s something I heard this morning at spin. The teacher said that one of the spinners said he liked coming to spin because it got him out of his music lane — 70s, 80s, 90s, country, rock, heavy metal. You can spin to anything — and we do. Writing does the same thing for me. It helps me think a problem through or play with an image or see the world through new eyes. We all need to get out of our lanes more often.
4. To spin and write you’ve got to sit your butt down and pump it out. No lie. Both are hard work — and no one’s going to do it for you. And if you crap out one day, just get back in the saddle again. Who cares? No one but you.
That’s it for now. Night!
I just like this image of Emily sitting in the swing on my parents’ porch swing: her rosy cheeks, the blue checked romper, the little sneakers. Not much to say today. We are in Delaware to visit Bill’s family for Easter. It is a lot warmer here and the spring flowers are all out.
Happy Easter to all!
To set the record straight, the photo I posted yesterday was from last year. It was late and I wanted to get another post on my site before the end of the week. So I used a “spring” photo from last year. This morning I thought I’d just check to see how far along the crocuses were this year, thinking it had been so much cooler. Maybe those delicate little flowers were still pushing their way out of the ground. Much to my surprise, there they were shamelessly flaunting their purple and yellow. So, I got to play with the macro on my new mini-camera, a Canon PowerShot S95, for the first time. Awesome! Now I’m off to play some more with my camera! Happy first day of spring 2011!