The Color of Redemption

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If you’re white and you’re wrong, then you’re wrong;
if you’re black and you’re wrong, you’re wrong.
People are people.
Black, blue, pink, green –
God make no rules about color;
only society make rules where my people suffer,
and that why we must have redemption and redemption now.
~Bob Marley

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My skin is kind of sort of brownish
Pinkish yellowish white.
My eyes are greyish blueish green,
But I’m told they look orange in the night.
My hair is reddish blondish brown,
But it’s silver when it’s wet.
And all the colors I am inside
Have not been invented yet.
~Shel Silverstein from “Colors” in Where the Sidewalk Ends

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It demands great spiritual resilience not to hate the hater whose foot is on your neck,
and an even greater miracle of perception and charity not to teach your child to hate.
~James Arthur Baldwin

A Message to the Future

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And this is where we went, I thought,
Now here, now there, upon the grass
Some forty years ago.

The days being short now, simply I had come
To gaze and look and stare upon
The thought of that once endless maze of afternoons.
But most of all I wished to find the places where I ran

What’s happened to our boys that they no longer race
And stand them still to contemplate Christ’s handiwork:
His clear blood bled in syrups from the lovely wounded trees?
Why only bees and blackbird winds and bending grass?
No matter. Walk. Walk, look, and sweet recall.

I came upon an oak where once when I was twelve
I had climbed up and screamed for Skip to get me down.
It was a thousand miles to earth. I shut my eyes and yelled.
My brother, richly compelled to mirth, gave shouts of laughter
And scaled up to rescue me.
“What were you doing there?” he said.
I did not tell. Rather drop me dead.
But I was there to place a note within a squirrel nest
On which I’d written some old secret thing now long forgot.

{Now} I lay upon the limb a long while, thinking.
I drank in all the leaves and clouds and weathers
Going by as mindless
As the days.
What, what, what if? I thought. But no. Some forty years beyond!

I brought forth:
The note.

I opened it. For now I had to know.
I opened it, and wept. I clung then to the tree
And let the tears flow out and down my chin.
Dear boy, strange child, who must have known the years
And reckoned time and smelled sweet death from flowers
In the far churchyard.
It was a message to the future, to myself.
Knowing one day I must arrive, come, seek, return.
From the young one to the old. From the me that was small
And fresh to the me that was large and no longer new.
What did it say that made me weep?

I remember you.
I remember you.
~Ray Bradbury from “Remembrance”

 

I too left notes to my future self, in old barns, and lofts,
and yes, in trees,
but have never gone back to retrieve them.
My ten year old heart tried to imagine itself fifty years hence,
what fears and joys would pass through like pumping blood,
what love and tears would trace my face?

I have not forgotten.
I am remembered.

noaanya

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Caught Downstream

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First fluid flows in trickling stream
then gushes in sudden drench
soaking, saturating,
precipitating inevitability.

No longer pillowed inside,
pushed and sliding,
following the rich river
downstream.

An unforgettable fragrance of birth,
the soak of pungent brine
clings to shoes, clothes, hands
as I reach, again and again, to embrace new life.

Remembering, I too was caught once;
three times emptied into other hands,
my babies placed wet on my breast,
their slippery skin salty to my lips.

Now only attending barn births,
in a moment’s whiff of amnion
the rush of new life
once more smells sweet and rich.

The scent of damp foal fur
reminds me of other beginnings:
I still float downstream
longing to be caught once more.

Tonyasleep1

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Heaven in a Wild Flower

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To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the Palm of your Hand,
and Eternity in an Hour.

When the Soul Slept in Beams of Light 
God Appears & God is Light
To those poor Souls who dwell in Night 
But does a Human Form Display
To those who Dwell in Realms of day

~William Blake from “Auguries of Innocence”

To fall head long into the depths
of a dandelion puff ball,
captured in its intricacy,
a seeded symmetry
lined with delicate dewdrop drizzle.

To know the cosmos is contained
within the commonplace,
the God of Light and Living Water
no further away
than my back yard.
~EPG

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Hear Pink Sing

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Not a color I’ve wanted to wear—too
innocently girlish, and I’m not innocent,
not a girl. But today the gnarled cherry trees
along Alabama Street are decked out
like bridesmaids—garlands in their hair,
nosegays in their hands—extravagant…
~Luci Shaw from “Pink”

If you stand in an orchard
In the middle of Spring
and you don’t make a sound
you can hear pink sing,
a darling, whispery song of a thing.
~Mary O’Neill from Hailstones and Halibut Bones “Pink”

Nothing about me is pink
except my windblown cheeks
on a brisk April day,
yet I love listening to pink
as it blooms all around me,
bubbling with ebullience,
whispering me awake in the morning
and bidding me gently goodnight.

 

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Fenced Off

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My grandmother’s house had been torn down after she sold her property on Similk Bay near Anacortes, Washington to a lumber company.  This was the house where her four babies were born, where she and my grandfather loved and fought and separated and loved again, and where our family spent chaotic and memorable Thanksgiving and Christmas meals.  After Grandpa died suddenly, she took on boarders, trying to afford to remain there on the wooded acreage fronted by stump farm meadows where her Scottish Highland cattle grazed.   She reached an age when it was no longer possible to make it work.   A deal was struck with the lumber company and she had moved to a small apartment, bruised by the move from her farm.

My father realized what her selling to a lumber company meant and it was a crushing thought.  The old growth woods would soon also be stumps on the rocky hill above the bay, opening a view to Mt. Baker to the east, to the San Juan Islands to the north, and presenting an opportunity for development into a subdivision.   He woke my brother and me early one Saturday in May and told us we were driving the 120 miles to Anacortes.  He was on a mission.

As a boy growing up on that land, he had wandered the woods, explored the hill, and helped his dad farm the rocky soil.  There was only one thing he felt he needed from that farm and he had decided to take us with him, to trespass where he had been born and raised to bring home a most prized treasure–his beloved lady slippers from the woods.

These dainty flowers enjoy a spring display known for its brevity–a week or two at the most–and they tend to bloom in small little clusters in the leafy duff mulch of the deep woods, preferring only a little indirect sunlight part of the day.  They are not easy to find unless you know where to look.  My father remembered exactly where to look.

We hauled buckets up the hill along with spades, looking as if we were about to dig for clams at the ocean.  Dad led us up a trail into the thickening foliage, until we had to bushwhack our way into the taller trees where the ground was less brush and more hospitable ground cover.  He would stop occasionally to get his bearings as things were overgrown.   We reached a small clearing and he knew we were near.  He went straight to a copse of fir trees standing guard over a garden of lady slippers.

There were almost thirty of them blooming, scattered in an area about the size of my tiny bedroom at home.  Each orchid-like pink and lavender blossom had a straight backed stem that held it with sturdy confidence.  To me, they looked like they could be little shoes for fairies who may have hung them up while they danced about barefoot.    To my father, they represented the last redeeming vestiges of his often traumatic rearing by an alcoholic father, and were about to be trammeled by bulldozers.  We set to work gently digging them out of their soft bedding, carefully keeping their bulb-like corms from losing a protective covering of soil and leafy mulch.  Carrying them in the buckets back to the car, we felt some vindication that even if the trees were to be lost to the saws, these precious flowers would survive.

When we got home, Dad set to work creating a spot where he felt they could thrive in our own woods.  He found a place with the ideal amount of shade and light, with the protection of towering trees and the right depth of undisturbed leaf mulch.  We carefully placed the lady slippers in their new home, scattered in a pattern similar to how we found them.  Then Dad built a four foot split rail fence in an octagon around them, as a protection from our cattle and a horse who wandered the woods, and as a way to demarcate that something special was contained inside.

The next spring only six lady slippers bloomed from the original thirty.  Dad was disappointed but hoped another year might bring a resurgence as the flowers established themselves in their new home.  The following year there were only three.  Two years later my father left us and them, not looking back.

Sometime after, when my mother had to sell our farm after the divorce, I visited our lady slipper sanctuary in the woods for the last time in the middle of May.  The split rail fence was still there, guarding nothing but old memories.  No lady slippers bloomed.  There was not a trace they had ever been there.  They had simply given up and disappeared.

The new owners of our farm surely puzzled over the significance of the small fenced-off area in the middle of our woods.  They probably thought it surrounded a graveyard of some sort.

And so it did.

This Shining Night

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Sure on this shining night of star-made shadows round,
kindness must watch for me this side the ground,
on this shining night, this shining night
Sure on this shining night of star-made shadows round,
kindness must watch for me this side the ground,
on this shining night, this shining night
The late year lies down the north
All is healed, all is health
High summer holds the earth, hearts all whole
The late year lies down the north
All is healed, all is health
High summer holds the earth, hearts all whole
Sure on this shining night,
sure on this shining, shining night
Sure on this shining night
I weep for wonder wand’ring far alone
Of shadows on the stars
Sure on this shining night, this shining night
On this shining night, this shining night
Sure on this shining night
~Morten Lauridsen

 

I am reminded in ways I don’t expect
and at times when I need it most:
the nature of the work I do
demands my tears,
I weep for wonder
at the privilege
to love people in my effort to heal them.
Sometimes it is their kindness
that heals me,
the wonder of that trust
shining through,
and not letting me go.

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