dog-open-mouthA friend sent me an email yesterday saying that he had to put his dog down. He added that the dog was gentle to the last and ended with “No more dogs for me.” I could tell that his heart was broken.
Our pets touch us like no one else does; perhaps it is because their love is so unconditional – which is a rare experience for most of us. A dog’s loyalty and devotion are hard to find in our everyday world. Our pets do not judge us or try to ‘improve’ us. They accept us the way we are, warts and all.

When a pet dies and that source of love is gone, we can feel bereft and like my friend, say we will not let our hearts be open to that kind of loss again. That is the big drawback to pets – we almost always outlive them. But it is also their greatest gift to us for they can teach us how to face death with acceptance if we are strong enough to stay till the end.

Over the years I had many dogs and cats but it has only been in the last ten years or so that I was strong enough (brave enough?) to sit beside them as they died. Before that I was too afraid. It is a privilege to be there at the end for what can be more intimate than the moments of birth and death – and these our pets are willing to share with us.

It seems as if death can be a long time coming but when it does arrive it is very swift and sure. Towards the end, the eyes are already traveling homeward while the body waits in stillness. Then as suddenly as a stolen kiss the light blinks out and the soul flies. Ah! … and we are left to continue without them.

And yet they ask: does a dog have a Buddha nature.

My little dog, a heartbeat at my feet. Edith Wharton



Top_10We’re quickly approaching that time of the year when we look back to see what was done, or not. What were the highlights and what should be best forgotten? What did we learn and what did we accomplish? What surprised us and what left us dazed.

I wrote 98 posts this year, about two per week. Like all parents I love my creative children but some are just a wee bit cuter or smarter or funnier. I’ve gone back and read the posts of 2012 and came up with my personal Top Ten. If I’ve miss one you particularly enjoyed, let me know.

Lock, Stock & Barrel: funniest


Sleepless in Sacramento: dreamiest


The Beetle: life


Them That Gots: unemployment analysis


The Great Silence: amen


The Border: a profile


Fractal Journey: the keenest


Left Behind: a heart tugger


Insha’ Allah: a sad one


The Fourth Day: appreciation



christmas starThe rains have passed and a cold front has moved in. The morning is filled with banks of fog and only the tops of the trees are visible in the gray-white light. Will Santa be able to find my chimney tonight?

It is Christmas Eve day, a time when holiday music will play continuously and the tree will be lit early in the day. It is a time when final preparations are underway, when travelers are arriving, and the anticipation of children is at fever pitch.

The holiday season is filled with symbols and ideals – from the babe who will one day save the world to the Christmas tree around which happy families gather. If we are fortunate we can remember joyful holidays in the past that were filled with family and friends. If we are even more fortunate this year will number among those happy memories.

But if we live long enough, good cheer can be overtaken by a sense of loss or loneliness. Yesterday I found myself thinking of Christmas times ten, fifteen, twenty years in the past.

I remembered the parents, family and friends who are no longer here; the beloved pets who have long departed. I remembered all that was and would be no more, and my tears carried my heart into the universe where they are waiting for me.

It is easy to feel lonely at Christmas – even among the crowds. I notice how many friends and acquaintances of my age do not have family members near and will be spending the holidays by themselves. They often talk of getting the holiday ‘over with’ and getting back to normal.

We say that Christmas is made for children perhaps because they have specific wishes for specific things and their desires can be fulfilled. But for adults the real wishes of our hearts cannot be so easily expressed or satisfied – the desire for love, for companionship, for peace of mind and a joyful heart.

These things won’t be found in the aisles of Wal-Mart or on special at the local mall. Sometimes they are not found within the family home or at church. These are not gifts that can be given to us by others but gifts which we can find only within ourselves.

If you are lonely this holiday, you are not alone. Look around and you will see others who have no one to love, who may not have shelter, whose hearts are in pain, whose thoughts are lost in memories of the past. Reach out to them – and in comforting them, you will be comforted.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.


rainbowWhen I awoke a full arching rainbow glimmered in the early morning sky. The world did not end yesterday as anticipated although some claim to have heard the faint click of tumblers falling into place as the Mayan calendar turned over and a new cosmic cycle began.

What is the attraction of Armageddon, the world cataclysm? Is it an impulse of Thanatos that lurks within the mind, an urging to be over and down with the challenges of this life but at the same time demanding an exit accompanied by trumpets blaring and parapets tumbling – for we do not wish to go gently into that good night but leave it as we entered, kicking and screaming and howling as we recognized where we were.

The slide into the holidays has been greased here by two days of heavy rain and when I visit the park this morning I see that the small creek is four times its width and slowly climbing up the banks of the narrow channel.

The skies are gray and white with thin narrow streaks of blue that effortlessly appear and disappear in the shifting currents. A gull, more than fifty miles from the sea and perhaps carried inland on the wind, cuts and darts through the clouds.

The oak trees are all but stripped of leaves now and stand dark and brooding while limbs drip raindrops like a spring shower. The ground is sodden, leaves sticking wetly to the grass. The squirrels are nowhere to be seen.

A lone jogger streaks by, his bald head glistening, his face red. The racing stripe on the outside of his flapping shorts keeps time as his legs pump up and down. The dog park is deserted; the playground empty, not even the echo of children remains.

As more blue tentatively edges into the morning a woman enters the park with her dog. A young boy on a bicycle rides past another who is standing on the bridge and watching a lone duck floating by – no need to paddle in these lively waters. Meanwhile, the jogger has circled three, no four more times, around the park, like a second hand sweeping the day’s clock.

As the year staggers towards the finish line, I prepare to reset my own chronometer. 12 months, 52 weeks, 365 days, 8,760 hours, 210,240 minutes, 12,614,400 seconds. A treasure of time! And we do not know how much of it will be ours to spend.



Moore's statue could fetch up to 20 m pounds
Moore’s statue could fetch up to 20 m pounds

The other day I read a newspaper article that told how some cities in England were selling their public art pieces to pay the bills.Experts are warning of a wave of public art sales by local authorities after Tower Hamlets agreed to sell a Henry Moore statue donated by the artist on the understanding it would be left permanently on open-air display for the enjoyment of people in a socially deprived area of London…. The money raised would ease the 100 m pound budget cut that Tower Hamlets – home to some of the worst deprivation in Britain – will face over the next three years.

… The Moore is the latest in a growing list of sales of public artworks by councils. Last year, Bolton Council sold seven works of art, including two etchings by Picasso and a painting by John Everett Millais, and a Gloucester city council approved plans to sell 14 works of art valued at 381,000 pounds. In the same year, Newcastle city council put 270,000 pounds of publicly-funded artwork for sale on eBay and Leicestershire County Council made more than 160,000 pounds after selling off some of its art collection.

(Read complete article at http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2012/nov/07/henry-moore-sculpture-tower-hamlets-sale.)

When I read that I felt pretty steamed. Public art does not belong to the mayor or the city council, it belongs to the people and is held in trust for them. It is a legacy for all to enjoy over time. When public art is sold it’s a breaking of the faith between the arts and the people.

I am not saying that all public art are masterpieces or that at some time a community may not sell a piece that has outlived interest but if you sell public art to pay bills that might have been generated by bad management or economic cycles, you’re selling your heritage for chump change. It’s selling a bit of the community soul for a bowl of porridge. It’s like a person cashing in their engagement ring or their grandfather’s watch to pay off their credit cards.

For all of the talk about art and culture and creativity I don’t believe that we as a culture have much respect for the arts – unless we want something from them for free. Creative people are often generous people.  When some charity or non-profit wants to raise money for its poster child, who do they first go to – the musicians and the artists. They ask for free art to auction and free music to dance to.

The recent concert for Sandy Relief showcased some of the top names in music and raised some $30 million. This money (in theory) will go to help the victims of the storm – help that should have been given by the government to whom we pay our taxes and by the disaster relief agencies we support – both of whom did a miserable job – as usual.

Then take any city with an art population and you will find the artists living in some run-down industrial area where the rent is cheap. Once the artists move in and get creative, all of the sudden the ambience changes and property values go up – along with the rents. Before you can say Kandinsky all of the artists who made the neighborhood unique and vibrant can no longer afford to live there. They are gentrified out of town and while the land developers and realtors grow rich.

While study after study has shown that the arts nurture creative thinking, and that creative thinking eventually translates into a better quality of life and a stronger bottom line, what are the first cuts that are always made in the schools when budget are trimmed? Arts programs, music programs and the humanities.

And nobody says a word – until the athletic programs are scaled back. (The difference between the arts and sports is that people pay money to buy tickets to attend events and cheer on the home team – which is a discussion for another day.) And in the schools, who are the kids who are considered the freaks?

The artists are often the iconoclasts, the troublemakers, the dissidents. As a consequence of their provocation and irritation, they shake a society out of its self-satisfied complacency and cause them to view with new eyes and hear with new ears. When not being proclaimed blasphemers, they are condemned as anarchists. As a last resort they are labeled insane. In fact, the visionary artists often foreshadow breakthroughs in science and technology fifty to a hundred years in advance.

Henri Rosseau understood the dream state and the unconscious before Freud; Cezanne introduced the idea of multiple perspectives; Dali played with time as did Einstein; Chagall played with the image of zero point gravity; Duchamp’s Descending Nude captures the idea of simultaneous time; Jackson Pollock showed us the field rather than the content. (For a fascinating and provocative book, read “Art & Physics” by Shlain.)

So my little rant for today is over. I am just so tired having life defined, measured and evaluated in dollars and cents. Success and happiness and security have nothing to do with money or the economy. The best things in life can never be purchased or sold, but must be shared.



pyreneesA Story of Love in Five Parts

Canto One

It was a knight from the Order of Santiago who found the small girl wandering along the Way of St. James in the year of the Bad Rains. Charged with delivering a message to the Templars at Ponferrada, the knight had no time for crying children and, so, without a backward glance, left her at inn called The Laughing Horse in the valley beyond Pedrafita Pass.

Throwing a few silver coins upon the table, the knight said to the protesting landlord, “No doubt some distraught mother will come looking for her soon. If not, she is yours to do with as you wish.” Then he rode away and was seen no more.

Unclaimed, the pilgrim’s child was put to work and village eyes watched as the child became a girl, then maid. As she aged, all agreed she only grew more lovely.

“A gypsy’s child,” some said, “left behind for others to take pity on and care for. See how bold her flashing eyes, how sly her looks and her lips so crimson red.”

“She was born of noble blood,” said others. “Perhaps a princess captured by a Moor who cannot now claim her as kin. See how high she holds her head, her profile, the softness of her skin.”

Many pilgrims took their rest at The Laughing Horse and were doubly refreshed – first by the young girl’s beauty and, in later years, by her dancing, for when the music took her to its heart, she was a flame burning bright in the dark mountain night.

“Let us to Lisbon go,” begged the soldier, “where the sun is always shining and the ocean breezes blow. Pray, let us go.”

“In silk and lace will I dress you in Granada,” the merchant pledged, “and fill your every wish if you but grant a kiss.”

“Seville calls, my sweet,” the bishop whispered. “Courtiers will your praises sing, princes sigh. Come, my dear, let’s fly.”

But the maiden turned them all away saying, “Gold and fame are not my desires. Love is all I claim. Let it consume me in its fire.”

The people in the village laughed at her foolishness. The women watched her behind black lace fans and tapped their feet. The men looked at her from the corners of their eyes as she walked by. They called her Solamente – She Stands Alone.

And so the years went by, gradually, one by one.


Canto Two

One summer night to the inn a young man came and for his dinner played the song upon his guitar some call Yearning for Love. And the young maiden, who was busy at her window counting the stars, heard his song and knew it for her own.

As he played, she danced and as she danced, he sang. His shining song opened her soul like a rose bud in June and her heart was satisfied.

At the morning’s light, the young man donned his cloak, turned to her and said, “Although, my love, your lips are sweet, in Toledo is my fortune’s gate. One day, gold-laden, I shall return and make you my own, if you but wait.”

To which the once-maiden, now woman, replied, “If in Toledo’s heat, you feel against your cheek the cool touch of the north wind, think of me, for I am blowing you a kiss, and it is here I wait.”

The young man pulled on his traveler’s pack and walked off to seek his fortune. The woman stood at the very top of the highest hill and heard the lilting sound of his guitar playing a song some call Love is Sweet.

Some people in the village looked on her with pity; others thought, if she has one lover taken, might she another not. And so they called her Cederer – She Yields.

And so the years went by, slowly, one by one.


Canto Three

As dawn’s rosy fingers lifted the skirts of night, a most delicious fragrance awakened the young woman who used to be a maid from the palace of her dreams. Looking out she saw birds winging northward, and trailing in their wake, the scent of orange blossoms, soft and strong and sweet.

Her heart rejoiced. “My beloved comes!” She opened all the windows, then swept outside the door. She laid fresh linens on the bed and washed her hair. She drew on a dress sewn during moonlit nights, then ran quickly to the highest hill to wait.

He came not that morning, nor at noon, but on the third hour, from afar, the young woman saw approaching a fine knight in silvered armor accompanied by his men.

When he drew nigh her, the knight who used to be a young man said, “On a Prince’s smile have I my fortune built, but in the midst of Toledo’s heart the cool touch of the north wind was upon my cheek, and I hungered for your kiss.”

Then he filled her lap with gifts – sweet oranges and scarlet pomegranates, golden almonds and the dark raisins of the south.

That night the young knight played upon his guitar the song some call Love Returns to Love. And while he played, the young woman danced and her bright eyes flashed and her red skirts swirled in the moonlight like ribbons of blood.

Three days and three nights they spent together and on the morning of the fourth, the young knight said, “Destiny calls, my love, and while sweet, here I must not linger but follow this road of riches to its source and gain the fame for which I long.”

The woman answered, “The praise of princes is a heady brew, but one day, a deeper draught you shall crave. Remember then, this mountain pass and the love that I save.”

The knight put on his silver armor and climbed astride his tall black steed. He called his men around him and rode off to claim his fame. The woman, at the top of the highest hill, saw the sun glinting from his armor and heard him singing the song some called Love Renewed.

The people of the village talked amongst themselves and looked sideways at the woman who had danced in the moonlight for a knight in silver armor. They called her Esperanza – She Waits.

And so the years went by, swiftly, one by one.


Canto Four

The harvest sun was high in the sharp blue sky and the vines swollen with juice. The lush woman, who used to be young, walked through the garden, stopping here, pausing there, touching the fruit, breathing in the fragrance of a scarlet rose.

“He comes,” said the bee, buzzing by her ear. “He comes.”

Her heart leapt within her breast and gathering up her skirts, she rushed to the top of the highest hill. From afar, she could see approaching, many men and many horses and many wagons. And from a golden carriage flew the standard of a king.

A Great Man with medals across his chest and a long golden sword at his side descended. Bowing deeply before the woman, his plumed hat brushing the ground, the Great Man said, “Behold!”

At the snap of his fingers, two young boys shook out a bolt of sheer China silk spun as dark as midnight and shot through with golden stars; brought forth a chest of coins new minted and gleaming; lay before her a cask of the finest wine and tender fruits from distant ports in wicker baskets.

The woman clapped her hands and spun around in delight. She put yellow roses in her hair and smiled.

The Great Man laughed and sent his men away. He played for her the song some have named Answering Love’s Call. As he played, she danced for his pleasure and wore, as her only garment, his desire.

His touch was not as light as once it was, nor was her step as quick. But the spirit was strong within them and came forth as Flowing Generosity. Many nights and many days they spent together until, at last, a messenger from the distant waiting prince arrived, bearing news of a coming war.

The Great Man turned to the woman and said, “My duty calls and my prince awaits within his tower. But one day I shall return with fortune, fame and power.”

The woman replied, “While you plot intrigues and plan strategies behind your castle wall, I will a garden plant, count the stars and listen for the north wind’s call.”

The Great Man and his entourage marched in stately process down the mountain road. The woman stood at the top of the highest hill and the wheels of the carriage sang and the drums beat out a martial air some call Love is Triumphant.

The people of the village, knowing war was near, gathered up all they had and in the dark of night slipped away. When they thought of the woman left behind, they called her Constancia – She is Constant.

And so the years flew by, heedlessly, one by one.


Canto Five

It was the cool touch of the north wind upon her cheek that drew the old woman slowing up from her well of dreams. She looked out the window and the winter stars showed in silhouette the shadow of a man walking alone through the snow-filled valley.

She added wood to the fire, then laid the table with fine linen and lace. She sliced bread and put the soup on to heat. She sat and watched the door until at last it opened. An old man entered, his pockets empty, his name forgotten and his only crown the silver of his hair.

She took his cloak, then led him to the waiting chair where they in silence sat until at last the old woman said, “In spring, we shall plant a garden and keep bees. In summer, sit and count the stars as they wheel overhead. In autumn, we shall press juice from the vines and in winter, spin stories and sing songs of love.”

That night while the mountain winds blew, the old man played on his guitar the song some call Love Endures. The old woman swayed within the chords and first became the spark, and then the flame, and then the fire.

By that holy light, the young boy and the young maiden looked into each other’s eyes and at last their hearts beat as one. The people of the village who had returned to the mountain town saw the light in the old woman’s eyes and they called her Ardiente – She Burns.

And the years flew by silently one by one until the day the southern birds carried the scent of orange blossoms on their wings. The old man in garden drew a deep breath and the old woman by the well sighed. The cool touch of the north wind blew soft upon their cheeks.

That night they closed the door to their little house. They untied the dog. They climbed to the top of the highest hill and listened to the stars sing the song some call Timeless Love. Hand in hand, they followed its melody through the high mountain passes and were seen no more.

When the people of the village tell the story of the two lovers, they called it Canto Viento del Norte, The Song of the North Wind.


There are some things that can best, or only, be expressed in poetry. I recently put together a little book of poems most of which were written in 2012. One of my tasks for the coming year is to learn how to create e-books but for now I’ve embedded Poetry 2012 as a PDF. I hope you find something you enjoy.

Poetry 2012