Paying Homage to a New Year

calendar-3042204_1920This is a reblog of a poem I wrote for New Year’s Eve last year when my blog was brand new and had few readers.  I read it at a gathering of friends. We were all still reeling from the presidential election fallout.  As the poem as it was read caused a hush in the room.   Later, several friends told me how much it meant to them.  Feel free to share this at your gathering on this New Year’s Eve as we hope for change in 2018.  What better way to start the New Year than with poetry?

On This Last Eve

There are no more squares to fill

Nor pages to turn

Nothing can be changed

But how we act tomorrow

And how we think about the past.

It is done

A tapestry of memories woven in our minds

Events left to history.

In the morning

A new calendar will grace the wall

Waiting to be filled with commitments & adventures.

Let the glasses clink with their bright sound

Among this circle of friends & family.

Let us toast to the warmth of love & friendship,

A better tomorrow

& the chance to begin again.

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How I Survived 2017

…..as a citizen of the USA

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(Not necessarily in any type of order)

  • Limited my news consumption to the bare minimum
  • Listened to lots of upbeat Celtic music
  • Sang in a choir this holiday season
  • Fed the wild birds around my house
  • Spent a lot of time watching the wild birds around my house
  • Started feeding 2 feral cats that showed up on our porch looking for food
  • Watched lots of comedies and movies with happy endings
  • Binge watched “Call the Midwife”
  • Started blogging on WordPress
  • Read lots of blogs on WordPress
  • Started writing poetry seriously
  • Read lots of poetry
  • Made lots of art
  • Snuggled with my dogs
  • Took many walks with said dogs
  • Increased my swimming workout
  • Spent time with friends
  • Went whitewater kayaking
  • Hugged my partner a lot
  • Meditated
  • Prayed

I’m looking forward to the New Year with hope

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A Poem for the Eve of Christmas

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I have been looking for a reading for the table tonight.  The ones I have come across have been either too sappy & religious, irreverent, or irrelevant. Then I came across this one by Maya Angelou.  She wrote this poem in 2005 specifically for the White House tree lighting ceremony.  I find it more applicable now than ever.  How can we look “beyond complexion and see community”?  To see her talk about and perform this poem go here.

AMAZING PEACE:  A Christmas Poem
by Maya Angelou

Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes
And lightning rattles the eaves of our houses.
Flood waters await us in our avenues.

Snow falls upon snow, falls upon snow to avalanche
Over unprotected villages.
The sky slips low and grey and threatening.

We question ourselves.
What have we done to so affront nature?
We worry God.
Are you there? Are you there really?
Does the covenant you made with us still hold?

Into this climate of fear and apprehension, Christmas enters,
Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope
And singing carols of forgiveness high up in the bright air.
The world is encouraged to come away from rancor,
Come the way of friendship.

It is the Glad Season.
Thunder ebbs to silence and lightning sleeps quietly in the corner.
Flood waters recede into memory.
Snow becomes a yielding cushion to aid us
As we make our way to higher ground.

Hope is born again in the faces of children
It rides on the shoulders of our aged as they walk into their sunsets.
Hope spreads around the earth. Brightening all things,
Even hate which crouches breeding in dark corridors.

In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft. Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.
It is loud now. It is louder.
Louder than the explosion of bombs.

We tremble at the sound. We are thrilled by its presence.
It is what we have hungered for.
Not just the absence of war. But, true Peace.
A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies.
Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.

We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas.
We beckon this good season to wait a while with us.
We, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslim, say come.
Peace.
Come and fill us and our world with your majesty.
We, the Jew and the Jainist, the Catholic and the Confucian,
Implore you, to stay a while with us.
So we may learn by your shimmering light
How to look beyond complexion and see community.

It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time.

On this platform of peace, we can create a language
To translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other.

At this Holy Instant, we celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ
Into the great religions of the world.
We jubilate the precious advent of trust.
We shout with glorious tongues at the coming of hope.
All the earth’s tribes loosen their voices
To celebrate the promise of Peace.

We, Angels and Mortals, Believers and Non-Believers,
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at our world and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at each other, then into ourselves
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation.

Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul.

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Weekly Photo Challenge “The Faces of Joy 2017”

I had to give pause when I read this challenge “The most meaningful photo I’ve taken this year.”  Looking back through all my photos, the ones that have the most meaning are the ones of the people & pups in my life.  It was a rough year in many ways.  These photos remind me of the joy in this world.

The elfin twins Anna & Elliot come for a visit.

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Son, Gareth & Daughter-in-law, Felicia on her 30th birthday , May 5th
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My “spousal equivilent” doing what he loves!

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOLSTICE Celebration with friends.  What an amazing experience!

My dogs Bandit & Dougan, bringing tail waggin’ joy every day!

2017 Favorites

 

Celebrating Winter Solstice 2017

sunrise-1756274_1920Here we are, December 21, 2017, the shortest day of the year or the longest night depending on how you look at it.  For centuries ancient peoples have celebrated this event.  It is a time of reflection and hope.  The light will be returning again.  It is no accident that Roman Emperor Constantine in 336 AD chose Christ’s birth to be celebrated around this event.  Before this date, there was no history of Christmas being celebrated, but there were festivals around the Winter Solstice. (For an interesting history of Christmas click here).

My long-time women friends and I had our annual gathering yesterday.  We shared a meal, poetry, and stories together.  As usual, it was lovely.  Here is a poem I wrote for the event…

THE LONGEST NIGHT

The pages turned

one by one

and we’ve arrived at the end again

to the longest night, the chill of December

finding its way through our thick clothing

 

It is in these darkest days

we find each other

gathered in the warmth of our homes

sitting around cheery tables and sparkling trees

enjoying the warmth of the hearth

leaving what we cannot control to its fate.

 

Revel in the music

Enjoy the fruits of the kitchen

Marvel in the twinkle of the colored lights

Rest

For the flowers lay sleeping

beneath their earthen quilts

waiting to be tended

when the light finally returns

again.

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by Alanna Pass

 

 

There is No Magic

fairy-2573105_1280During a little informal open studio I had last weekend at my home I found myself growing increasingly uncomfortable with the accolades some wonderful friends were heaping upon me.   “You’re so creative!”  “I could never do that”.  or “I’m not creative at all.”    There was no large boulder I could crawl under so I found myself getting increasingly self-deprecating to deflect the praise.  Granted, it’s lovely to be recognized, but this is just what I do.  Everyone is creative.  You just need to pay attention to your muse.  Here is my advice to the self-described “non-artist”…

THERE IS NO MAGIC

I just said

YES

Wild hairs sprouted

I chose to tend them

Now I have flowers.

Be still

Listen

Say

YES

and you will have flowers

too.

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When Great Trees Fall…..

tree-1689092_1920When researching quotes for “Memories of Trees,” my last post, I came upon this poem by Maya Angelou, one of my favorite poets. Her words contain such strength, power, & truth.  When reading this, I thought about this same tree in my poem and my father who past away this last May.

WHEN GREAT TREES FALL

When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.

When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
examines,
gnaws on kind words
unsaid,
promised walks
never taken.

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
nurture,
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
radiance,
fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of
dark, cold
caves.

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.
― Maya Angelou

The Memories of Trees

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“Chop your own wood and it will warm you twice.”  Henry Ford

We burn wood for heat during the chilly months in Oregon.  There is a shiny red wood stove in the middle of our kitchen that, as I write, has a fire that is burning bright, warming our home.  Stacks of cordwood are out by the barn,  Some wood we cut and split ourselves, other we have delivered.

During my years in Alaska, I developed an appreciation of firewood.  I loved the fall ritual of taking the truck out on frosty days with chainsaw and axe.  Having stacks of wood in the yard is a bank account of sorts.  I feel secure when there is at least 2 cords for the winter in the yard

A couple of years ago we noticed that the old walnut trees on our property were showing signs of rot and becoming a hazard.  I mourned when they were taken down.  Onewood-1246276_1920 especially held many memories. The tree was a shady oasis that was we enjoyed in the hot summer months.  It was, split, stacked and became cordwood that kept us warm for two winters- its second gift to us.

This poem is for that tree…

 

A TREE MEMORY

The fire burned hot

the memories of the stately tree wafting skyward

up through the chimney

to eternity

A century of shade and thousands of nuts

gathered by humans, squirrels & birds

is no longer

 

Farmers planted the tree

an English walnut grafted onto black walnut rootstock

finally yielded to its dark cousin

It stood the comings and goings

of several families

including my own

 

On lazy summer afternoons

my little boy would swing on a tire

suspended on a rope from a thick limb,

or splash in a blue plastic wading pool

Under its drooping canopy

 

Its fate?

the rot of aging

turned asset to hazard

The tree tumbled earthward to the whine of a chainsaw

 

What remained?

A huge stump and stacks of firewood

waiting to feed the woodstove

 

After two years my sorrow has dissipated

Two young saplings replaced the tree

Light fills the spot where it once stood

I stand close to the fire on cold winter days

reveling in its warmth

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The Power of Song

“If I cannot fly, let me sing.” bird-1295782
― Stephen Sondheim

I’ve always loved to sing.  In elementary school in my babyboomer upbringing, we always started the day with songs.  They were usually patriotic in nature – “My Country Tis of Thee” or “Oh Beautiful for Spacious Skies” sung with heart with our bird-like voices.  Then there was nothing like those fun songs I learned at summer camp.

As an adult, I have had to hunt for places to sing (other than the shower).  Music has become more of a spectator sport in our culture, a solitary experience of earbuds, or just reserved for churches. How lucky I was when a women’s choir started up six years ago within a driveable distance of my rural home.  Every Tuesday night my friend Linda and I drive to 12 miles to McMinnville for practice.  It’s work and fun at the same time.  We are a community of women282317_511742425540716_64206684_n united in our voices.

There have been studies done on the mental and physical health benefits of singing in a choir.  There is something truly healing by breathing and weaving our voice in with a group of other people.  Singing unites us.  I can gift to others with my voice and it helps chase away the holiday blues.  536859_614248591956765_2135004792_n

The culmination of our efforts is our winter concerts.  All the worries of mistakes float away.  We walk into the hall, confident, our voices blending in beautiful harmonies facing our audience and sharing our songs.  I revel when I see eyes close, smiles on faces, and even a tears running Choir Ballyvaugndown cheeks.

 

 

 

 

CONCERT

Alto

Third row

Middle

Practice behind me

Audience before me

The piano preludes

The conductor cues

Now our voices pour from our hearts

Wrapping all in a harmonious cloud

Eyes closed

The splendor of song filling the room

Infusing our souls

And those before us
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“Words make you think. Music makes you feel. A song makes you feel a thought.” 
― E.Y. Harburg

For Those That Travel the Creative Path

I came across this lovely prose by Charlotte Eriksson as I perused the Goodreads website today. There is no title and is probably an excerpt from an essay. It is so appropriate for anyone who is traveling the creative path…..

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“… so this is for us.
This is for us who sing, write, dance, act, study, run and love
and this is for doing it even if no one will ever know
because the beauty is in the act of doing it.
Not what it can lead to.
This is for the times I lose myself while writing, singing, playing
and no one is around and they will never know
but I will forever remember
and that shines brighter than any praise or fame or glory I will ever have,
and this is for you who write or play or read or sing
by yourself with the light off and door closed
when the world is asleep and the stars are aligned
and maybe no one will ever hear it
or read your words
or know your thoughts
but it doesn’t make it less glorious.
It makes it ethereal. Mysterious.
Infinite.
For it belongs to you and whatever God or spirit you believe in
and only you can decide how much it meant
and means
and will forever mean
and other people will experience it too
through you.
Through your spirit. Through the way you talk.
Through the way you walk and love and laugh and care
and I never meant to write this long
but what I want to say is:
Don’t try to present your art by making other people read or hear or see or touch it; make them feel it. Wear your art like your heart on your sleeve and keep it alive by making people feel a little better. Feel a little lighter. Create art in order for yourself to become yourself
and let your very existence be your song, your poem, your story.
Let your very identity be your book.
Let the way people say your name sound like the sweetest melody.

So go create. Take photographs in the wood, run alone in the rain and sing your heart out high up on a mountain
where no one will ever hear
and your very existence will be the most hypnotising scar.
Make your life be your art
and you will never be forgotten.”

― Charlotte Eriksson