Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Courage is Quiet

Courage  #AprilMoon14

 This day's sun slips through the thornapple branches in jagged cuts of light and night. I rise with its pain, and listen, but Courage does not call out commands, or curse from atop the porch step to the chattel below; he will not wait for reinforcements. Courage whispers, and walks toward the plank road where the work will be done. He does not ask to be Courage, as I do; he takes the task at hand and handles it now, so I walk behind him awhile, in the early morning, as the fog lifts beyond the tree line.

I wear my father’s butternut overcoat, and deep inside the left pocket is the Colt pistol that he turned on himself, in the war before this war. I carry the weight of that Colt, the weight of that coat, the wet wool heavy of my scars and shoulders, and every morning, I reach into its worn pocket, moving my fingers across the blood and oil polished pistol grip, knowing that I am on his path; knowing that his way is thick with thorns and tangled honeysuckle vines, with deep mud, and deeper madness, and I ask to be Courage for this one day.

Courage is quiet, and walks with a steady step through the tall grass, even as the grade steepens near the slip rail, a full furlong before the plank road, where the work will be done. I fall behind in the high noon sun, my heavy boots caked with the drying mud of years lost, trudging the circling path of thorn and vine. By late afternoon, Courage is a shrinking silhouette on the west ridge, and I am remembering the cool shade of the hawthorn and the thick sweet scent of honeysuckle, its taste on my lips, so I sit for awhile to consider my direction for tomorrow, and move the pistol to my right pocket.

Monday, December 30, 2013

My Name

#reverb13: The way forward

Forgotten railroad tracks
Frederick, Maryland. December 31, 2013

The long nights of winter offer no rest; awake, I ache, my face wet with worry from false thoughts and hurtful memories. Oh Pensée, wrap me in wonder and wool; pull me out into the day. This cot is cold, and old pinewood stained dark with tears and scarred deep with penknife scratchings of the names of the wounded in this room, from the war before this war.

My name is of no importance; the same as tens of thousands, says the enumerator. Neither steam engines nor search engines will find my bones tomorrow, so I take my own penknife and shave a point to this pencil, and put to paper one last pursuit. Names carved in wood and stone do not matter much; we are each and all, forgotten in time. The least and the most grand among us will be forgotten. Only the wonder of life remains.

So, walk with me through the cities unseen, out beyond the empty stone towers. Carry no coins; sow seeds that are not for sale, along the side roads and forgotten railroad tracks and timber trestles on the west side, the wrong side of town, in the fallow fields where your fathers once grew cash crops of cotton and cover crops of red clover. Plant fruit trees and berry bushes close to the path, and know that someday, off from the distance, a hungry soul will walk that way seeking sustenance. Plant ideas of days where there is only one of us, and that is all of us, and all of everything there is, and know that someday, off from the distance, a hungry mind will walk that way seeking solace. Your name shall be Seeder, and I shall be the annalist, to write your name forever.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Full Measure

#reverb13 Day 16: Habits and addictions

Step and Stumble

Kat McNally writes, "Today's post and image come from master wordsmith and craft beer connoisseur, Michael Douglas Jones. How Michael manages to make 140 characters come alive with all the glory and agony that it is to be human remains a mystery to me... you'll just have to follow him on twitter to see what I mean."

Michael writes:

Habits and addictions, some are silly, some serious; when we have issues without answers, they can hold us so tight that we stop moving forward with the life we intended.

Were you able to loosen those fetters this year, and if you were successful, how did you manage it? Did you accept outside help, or work alone?

If you still feel that grasp of addiction or hurtful habits, what will you do differently in the year to come?

I am working on this life; a step and a stumble. The steps are small; the stumbles seem to fall forever. I find that I have followed the footsteps of my father, with his fears and failures, his escapes into excess, until his way has become my own. I have written his words into my book, and recite them often, forgetting my own poetry. My weakness is well known; I walk between two worlds, one of anger and frustration, the other of limitless love. It matters not whether he wrote me this way or I cut my own quill; I can set my full measure in only one world, where I am the writer, the annalist of wonder; one world where I scrape my father’s ink from the parchment, where, even though the trace remains, my word is the last line on the palimpsest.

Oh Pensée, you are the saint in my story, protecting me from the other man I am. If you believe in me, write your words in my book, and it will hold me through to the final page.  

Saturday, December 14, 2013

I Ride the Side Roads

#reverb13 Day 14: Decisions

What was the best decision you made in 2013?
This is why I ride the side roads.
 Sunrise on Friday, December 13 on Price's distillery road, near the burnt hill road.

 This year, one of my best decisions was to change my Jeep's GPS navigation setting to "avoid highways". This may seem trivial, yet it has made such a difference in my day; I have slowed down, and found such treasures off the interstate that have immensely inspired my creative life. Try it for a week; life is not about how fast we can get to the end of the road.

 In summer, I ride the side roads, beyond the babble and chatter of the cobblestone cities, not within earshot of their rain parade. My fanfare is a forecast of crows, and the salutation of crickets. I am poor of pocket, and still I sit front row for the full thunder moon, eastern toad, grey tree frog, firefly, and cicada.

 In winter, I walk the same roads, slower than in other seasons, as the verglas trees caution me to be steady in my step. Unaccustomed to travelers, the whitetail deer, the barred owl, and the redtail hawk do not fear me; they stand straight and sentient in my presence, as we are, each and all, equal.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Settle into Silence

#reverb13 Day 11. What challenges lie ahead in 2014? How might you meet them boldly? 


Be quiet now, and listen to the soil moving slowly into solstice. Come, with me, out before the new morning of the longest night to gather firewood from the deadfallen branches. The crows will keep the time; the red-tailed hawk atop the old oak will keep watch as we work. A new snow quilt covers the field of cut corn and the harvest is over; now is the time to rest and reset. All is still, predawn, along the buffalo road; the slight and silent movement, reflected in your lantern light, is the shooting stars of snow falling from the tall pines. Watch for the black ice of yesterday’s storms; it will make your night mind restless and weary. Do not track that restlessness back inside the winter cottage. Put the room at rest, and settle into silence. There will be struggles ahead in the longer days, so now is the moment, in the quiet crackle of hardwood fires, for a sleep deep inside, where we may wake anew. Be not born again to make the same choices; let this be a new season within you.

Set your taper by the bedside, and move in close beneath the quilt; I will watch over you, soft in sleep beside me. Be quiet now, and listen, moving slowly into solstice.

Saturday, December 7, 2013


#reverb13 Day 7: Reveal yourself. “Selfie” was selected as 2013 Oxford word of the year; post your favorite picture of yourself from 2013.

I haven't taken a selfie in 30 years, and I thought I was so "hep to the young crowd" trends. I've looked back over this year and only find a couple pictures of me, none of them a selfie. I’ll do my best to get with the trend next year, but for now, here are the two photographs taken of me this year, and some selfies from the 80s, when we were still using film. Those photographs are from a period when I was painting selfie portraits.

This year, on Grace Street at Easter,
 and on Federal Hill at Thanksgiving, with some of my favorite girls.

 Selfies before selfies were all that.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Small Moments

#reverb13 Day 6:  simple moments, memories
Which memories from this year do you wish to keep with you always?

Four bluebird chicks waiting. August 2013

Every day this year, small moments caught my attention, so I would write a note to remember. Here are some of those moments of ordinary magic.

Storms, May 11, 2013

After the blue flame and thunder of the eastward storms, in the valley branch, an unseen symphony of spring peepers, toads, and tree frogs rises, reaching me. This is our song; this is our dance, our romance.

Last Day of May, May 31

The old mare moves slowly up the corduroy road on the last day of May; a hot afternoon. Her pace is just enough to lift a breeze above the dust, and her hooves on the wood, a lullaby rhythm. High to the west, is the sugarloaf mountain, but, closer, I catch sight of a young groundhog standing in the new corn, both only two hands high; both searching the sky for a taste of rain. The old mare knows the high clouds have none, and she waits for a drink from Bennett's creek. Along the east side of the road, honeysuckle blooms on the remnants of a split rail, a brief kiss from a childhood sweetheart, and I dream in the afternoon of a brown-eyed Susan, while the old mare moves slowly up the corduroy road.

Summer Solstice, June 21

Summer's twilight fireflies ease into life’s bright fire, and fade away, like shooting stars, like you, and like me.

Perigee Moon, June 22

Milk glass sky, its curtain of clouds, wispy white, twilight, moving stage right for the star of the evening; perigee moon. Firefly ushers, with soft light, show us to our seats, while passerines pair up in birdsong, the opening act. Perigee, her dance of veils behind the locust tree; each veil drops; the black, the gold, the blue, the silver, as the artist pours an ale. Oh, Pensée; he is waiting for epiphany; perigee moon.

Gambol & Glow, August 11

 Behind the tall pines, just above the horizon, the summer sun sets low, and the glow begins on the wings of tiny insects and gamboling fairies that are invisible, but for that sunlit moment, they dance for us all.

Circle Dance, August 16

In all the six directions, the unseen symphony surrounds, and I am the still center; my circling partner, the dancing gibbous moon.

Quiet as a cloud, October 17

In the veiled light of predawn, we ride the side roads, south toward the Monocacy river bridge, past the cornfield and Queen Anne’s lace, into the fog façade, the grey above green, a watercolor wash atop the cover crops, as quiet as a cloud.

Taking to air, once more, October 18

Dry fallen leaves lift and spin, soaring in an autumn afternoon wind funnel on the old oaks road; a precise impersonation of the swirling murmuration of starlings; one last caprice before winter rest.

Rain Wet Morning, November 1

In late October, when the corn comes down, the farmer’s son, with the combine’s cut, kicks up corndust clouds that cover the old oaks and the naive sapling, dappling the autumn reds in camouflage and khaki, until November arrives, with her predawn storm to rinse and shake the rain wet morning. The farmer’s ancient mother hangs leaf laundry to dry; fresh color for this new day.