It’s been almost two months since I last wrote a post and even then I had become rather slack in my once-a-week intention. My recent knee replacement surgery helped me to rationalize a summer hiatus and this morning after I checked email and FB, my curiosity took me to the MT Ink site.
I considered whether to just leave the site as it was – after all how much of what I have written is really that important – or should I dip my toe back into the inkwell, so to speak. It was less my desire to inform or contact others and more my need to write in itself that propelled me to this post. Writing fires up areas of my mind that art does not.
Part of my abstinence from writing has been due to my absence from the inspiration of the neighborhood park. Since last January my knees have been so bad that I have been physically unable to drive to the park, pull out the lawn chair and just sit. But this week I will not only sally forth to the park but to the local grocery store.
In any event, September is inviting thoughts of new beginnings. In December I will have the second knee replaced and I have several mandala art classes scheduled at a local senior center. Hopefully, by next fall I will be able to take a last trip back to Pennsylvania to see the beautiful Autumn-colored hills. The ‘older’ generation of my family is now gone and I am now one of the crones. It will be a time of leave-taking on many levels.
One of the beauties of aging – and perhaps the most poignant – is you must always be ready to leave. Thus each day, each activity can be filled with unexpected beauty and meaning. I am caring for my little cat as she enters her last year. She is very slow and walks with great deliberation. She is content now to watch birds from the window and does not object when a neighborhood cat comes on the patio. She purrs frequently and easily. She is at peace with herself and brings that contentment to all who are near her. What more can any of us wish for ourselves?
Rise up, my love, my fair one,
And come away.
For lo, the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth;
The time of singing has come,
And the voice of the turtledove
Is heard in our land.
The fig tree puts forth her green figs,
And the vines with the tender grapes
Give a good smell,
Rise up, my love, my fair one,
And come away!
O my dove, in the clefs of the rock
In the secret places of the cliff,
Let me see your countenance,
Let me hear your voice;
For your voice is sweet,
And your countenance is lovely.
Song of Solomon 2: 10 – 14
New King James Version
Today spring officially arrived in Northern California. The point of balance is tilted towards the light. The temperatures have been mild and the trees have been blooming for several weeks. What little rain we had this year is past.
The sun is slowly making its way northward and the mornings are filled with the sounds of chirping birds. Last week I heard the honk of geese heading north and today, outside my bedroom window, I heard the cooing of two doves – that low, slightly plaintive call they have that is so beautiful and so comforting.
Spring is the time of promise and new beginnings; a time to leave the past with its mistakes behind; to forgive ourselves and others for not being perfect and moving forward; a time of trust that the worst is over and better times lie ahead; a time of hope.
“Hope is a thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
and never stops – at all –
What song is your soul singing?
The Song of Solomon is part of the Holy Scripture for both Jews and Christians. Its structure has parallels with the pastoral idylls of Theocritus (3rd C BC) and shows the influence of Mesopotamian and Egyptian love poetry. Speculation places its composition form the 10th to 2nd centuries BC. The Song makes no reference to “Law”, “Covenant” or Yahweh, nor does it explore wisdom or history. Instead it celebrates human love, although over the years this interpretation has been replaced by the analogy of love between God and his people or his church. (Summarized from Wikipedia)
This morning shortly after rising I hear Canadian geese over head on a northward course back home. I go outside and feel a strong breeze from the southwest. It rattles the new baby leaves on the trees, shakes the pink and white blossom until they are dizzy, and buffets the birds up and down so that they first skim over the treetops, then spin earthward on the current.
Near the entrance to the park two men in orange vests carry slow/stop signs to control the flow of impatient cars. The giant arm of a steam shovel breaks the asphalt to reveal the broken sewer pipe beneath. A dark, squat, smoking barrel sits on the side of the road; the thick licorice smell of tar oozes down the sidewalk and across creek and over the pond.
An old blond cocker spaniel, partly blind and hard of hearing, lifts her head to sniff the wind. Her tail is too tired to wag although a spark of light flashes in her shadowed eyes. Does she perhaps remember other springs when the distant bird was clearly seen, the field an invitation to run, the sound of her master voice a call to action. Her limitations do not interfere with her enjoyment of this day and she rambles off behind her master.
Already the little creek lies low within its banks and fishermen are far and few between. The white crane seen last spring standing in the reeds along its banks will not be here again.The short rainy season has expired and another year of water rationing is certain.
Meanwhile, high plumes shoot upward from the pond, the wind blowing the water into a mist that carries across the wide expanse of lawn where a scattering of dandelions seem to be dancing. Except for the pines whose shade is thick and still and black, the trees that line the edges of the field cast a mosaic of dappled shadows that shift in an ever-moving mass of dark and light.
Three Chihuahuas, each on a leash, meet along a path. With sharp high cries they greet each other. Three tails wag furiously as smells are offered and exchanged. Owners walk away, dogs are pulled apart; they look back and give little yips of goodbye.
Having made the long looping circuit of the park, the blond cocker spaniel returns and is carefully lifted into the back seat of the waiting car. As it drives away, she sticks her head out the back window, eyes unseeing, ears unhearing, wind blowing her curling fur. I think, there is not enough time left to have all of the dogs I want.
In how many springs will the wind blow through our hair? How many more bright days filled with the scent of fresh cut grass will intoxicate us? How many more sunsets will we see? Life is so short; love is so long,
I started a new approach with mandalas this year. The art is more representational rather than the geometric abstracts I have been doing. My cousin Vince, who is also an artist (great wildlife: see http://vincepagliaroli.vpweb.com) categorized them as Zen/Almish/New Wave/Retro. I guess that means it’s hard to say what they are! In designing them I begin with some familiar image and go from there. I love making them as it is a meditation for me that quiets my busy mind. I am not a draftsman or illustrator and they all have a primitive look to them. The medium is ink and markers on Bristol board. The colors are a little more vivid than shown. To see more examples, go to http://MarieTaylorArt.wordpress.com and click on “New Mandalas” on the top menu bar.
Readers have asked me why my poems are usually limited to what I see at the park – too much of a “sameness.”
I used to write poetry as a means of expressing my thoughts or opinions, purging deep emotions, telling my stories. Now I rarely get into philosophical discussions, describe the turbulence of life and relationships, make reference to current socio-political situations or injustices, or make comments of a personal nature. What poetry I write now is a by-product of sitting quietly and writing down my observations – very visual, very factual without much recourse to any ‘story’ behind what I see.
I am trying to disappear as a poet, as a presence in the poem – maybe exist as sort of an eye relating what is seen. Why? Because I am tired listening to and recording my thoughts – which often/always revolve around what I think, what I feel, what I want, my past, my future, me, me, me, etc., etc., ad infinitum. If I restrict myself to the visual, the constant chatter of the mind subsides and I feel peaceful. I now leave it to the reader to supply any story line or to give any meaning to the experience.
Here is what was seen the other day. Thanks for visiting.
fog and dew burned away,
reveals a scattering of tiny suns
in the grass – dandelions.
filled with the scent of clay and chlorophyll
and the endless twittering of unseen birds,
curls around oak’s gnarly limbs
that twist and turn like arthritic arms,
soaking up the sun that drives the sap
coursing through cellulose veins.
White dots are scattered
along black branches of graceful trees –
soon to awake from winter dreams of summer.
race up and down the trunk,
of the slender willow,
swing from branch to branch,
like drunken acrobats,
tails twitching, eyes sparkling.
Four city workers
wearing eye-blinding orange vests and baseball caps
set out lawn chairs beside the big tall pine,
open brown bags as they discuss the challenge
of keeping the waters flowing
through sewers that lie beneath
the black paved streets of a winter-soaked city.
Young brown girl
sports a sleek 1940’s pompadour,
curled and rolled above her delicate shoulders,
ear buds in, iPhone on,
in seeming conversation with the air,
sack purse swinging, smooth hips swaying,
young legs striding across the lawn
she moves to other destinations.
pants at half-mast, bandana round his head,
stands beside the hip hop van
with low rider wheels and dice on the dash,
greets a member of the ‘hood’
who arrives slouching and bopping
and snapping his fingers to the booming bass
that smites the air with impact and effect,
and shares the secret tribal handshake.
An old man
in a tattered gray coat
pushing a grocery cart with wobbling wheels
and piled high with fat plastic bags,
rumbles down the street and is followed
by a middle-aged woman
who jauntily holds aloft a gaily striped umbrella
and sings softly to herself.
totters, leading the way to the duck pond,
as the small shoes of the curly-haired girl
blink off and on at each hop and skip,
while Grandma smiles and follows,
step, roll, pause – step, roll, pause
Little white dog
leashed to a large white woman
is tugged and pulled from enticing smells,
waves its feathery tail
and tosses its head and sets to shaking
ears that are caught up with pink pony-tail ribbons.
Two golden retrievers,
walking along in unison,
jump into a small white car
bearing “Go Kings” stickers –
and as it drives away
big orange heads
hang out of windows,
ears back, tongues lolling,
tails waving goodbye.
Bright, sparkling, clear day of winter,
the first day of the year at play
in this garden of Eden.
The rowdy wind flexes its muscles,
somersaults across the trees
and plays kick-the-can with leaves
as they clatter up and down the street.
Bright sparkling, clear day of winter,
beloved by pine trees and firs,
who shake their skirts and toss their heads
and straighten their aprons
in celebration of the new year’s arrival.
The winter sun wraps its chilling arms
around the dark oaks where mistletoe
hangs like giant Christmas balls
and reduces the ladylike white birch to a sleepy stupor.
The naked long-limbed branches of the willow
dance and sway side to side
across the small creek that carries sere leaves
and broken branches and autumn-colored ducks
that paddle around small rocks and yellow reeds.
The sharp sun beams through its blue sky portal
and sets in relief the street man
who rummages through trash barrels
for empty cans and bottles,
setting aside half-eaten sandwiches
and luncheon treats for later consumption
then throws the bulging black plastic bag
over his shoulder, making the bottles clink
as they settle down among the cans
while he walks to the empty playground
that waits in patient silence for the arrival
of the laughing children of spring.
Bright, sparkling, clear day of winter
shows the frosty breath
of the heavy-set, hip-jiggling girl in green
who jogs in the wake
made by long legs
of the young black boy
who slides and glides
along the slipstream of paths
while their stream of conversation
tacks back and forth
in the winter breeze
and startles the small dog with a wagging tail
who sits in a gray camper truck
that wears a kayak on its roof
and waits while the man with a plaid cap
unloads a silver and black tricycle,
long and low and elegant, then
slides down into the molded leather seat.
Man speeds off, dog racing alongside,
as a tall yellow pennant at the rear
whips in the cool breeze.
Bright, sparkling, clear day of winter
with swashes of chartreuse
streaking through the emerald grass
making eyes to squint to mute the vibrancy
while infinitesimal pin pricks of lights
dance behind closed eyes
blinking off and on, each a minute life
played out on a red stage
as the wind tosses and taunts and prods
to create the first poem
of the first day
of the new year.
The excitement is palpable; the air vibrating with energy. The evening news is full of Storm, born in the Pacific and growing now to full strength, as it journeys inland.
Hints of its arrival can be felt in the increasing winds that are ripping the last brown and yellow leaves from the autumn trees whose bare black branches seem to sag from holding them aloft.
TV’s are tuned to the weather channel where viewers watch white clouds swirl over the ocean and pulsating bands of green move into the Great Valley. Residents in low lying areas are warned of flooding while housewives fill bathtubs and stockpile bread. Christmas decorations are moved indoors and hatches battened.
Soon we will watch with awe as the heavens open and pools form and creeks rush and rivers swell and banks are overflown. For a few short hours the wind will blow without restraint and Mother Nature will loosen her girdle, let her hair down and allow her heavy breasts swing free. The earth will open its mouth to receive her gifts and slacken its drought-weary throat.
A part of our soul yearns for such abandonment, to throw ourselves upon the Mother and changed from the old and ancient into something new and unknown that will rise phoenix-like, not from fire but from water. We seek a baptism into a new life, washed clean of the past and ready to see with child eyes. We are reborn, arisen from Buddha’s mud to Christ’s shining star that leads wise men across unknown deserts as we breathe deep, drink long and fall with the rain.
Instead of visiting the local park several times a week as I did in years past, my visits now, due to arthritis, are limited to just a few times a month. But today the glory of the autumn sun and the cool breeze traveling up the delta prove an irresistible inducement.
Getting from the car to the grass carrying the lawn chair is challenging but I soon find a spot that is ideal. As I sit and watch, I reflect how man depends on clocks to know what time it is and sets them back and forth to match his mood – so unlike the trees that are guided by solar tempos and are now changing into their autumn colors.
A squirrel scans me from beneath a nearby tee, sitting on his haunches, tail twitching as his small black eyes probe to evaluate the threat I may represent. Slightly reassured, he makes a quick dash across the open grass, one eye on me, the other on the large oak to my left. Once arrived the squirrel seeks the safety of high branches and startles a large black crow.
The crow who raucously caws at a squat Japanese man wearing a large straw hat who trots by, his forward-looking eyes ignoring the young lady jogging with her two pit bulls stepping in military precision. They are followed by two chattering women and a snuffling Schnauzer who briskly make their way towards the pond, slipping in and out of the sun and shade cast by the trees.
A car pulls up and honks. A short broad man with a bald head emerges and hurries across the field, arms waving, to attract the attention of a backpack-wearing young Indian man. Apologies and explanations about missed directions are shouted until they meet and shake hands. They walk towards a picnic table and soon brochures and iPads are brought out as they discuss new business opportunities and over seas call centers.
A man wearing a Yankee’s jacket struggles with a Labrador pulling on his leash while he helps a small boy climb the monkey bars. A bent man with the raveled gray hat is slowly limping around the playground, stopping first at the sliding board, then pausing for a moment near the swings.
Is he perhaps remembering a father who pushed a swing as he tried to touch the sky? Is he perhaps remembering a mother who clapped her hands the first time he slid down the sliding board alone? He is perhaps remembering what it is to be five years old and have his whole life stretched out ahead like a golden road?
The sun slides into a new position and I feel the morning chill. I carry my folded lawn chair in one hand, the cane in my other. My knees creak and my feet shuffle. As I near the car, I reach out to steady myself so that I don’t stumble. I feel the car’s solid, immovable mass beneath my hand holding me up.
Then it suddenly occurs to me that I am being supported at all times by everything around me. I am never left to fend for myself. When I’m at home, I travel across the room, lightly balancing against a chair, steadied by a wall, upheld by a table. Friends and family appear and help me do the little tasks that now are so difficult.
Everywhere I go, I find support in all directions. When I reach out something solid and deep and dependable that keeps me steady. I drive home elated. Without realizing it, all these years, I have been held by angels in disguise.