Thursday, November 26, 2009

Away from the white tablecloth . . .

By Mary Oliver

It grew in the black mud.
It grew under the tiger's orange paws.
Its stems thinner than candles, and as straight.
Its leaves like the feathers of egrets, but green.
The grains cresting, wanting to burst.
Oh, blood of the tiger.

I don't want you just to sit down at the table.
I don't want you just to eat, and be content.
I want you walk out into the fields
where the water is shining, and the rice has risen.
I want you to stand there, far from the white tablecloth.
I want you to fill your hands with the mud, like a blessing

Wild rice Image by The Natural Capital

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

' . . . it knows the insides of clouds

"There is something
alive in a feather.
The power of it perhaps
in its dream of sky,
currents of air,
and the silence
of its creation.
It knows the
insides of clouds.
It carries our needs
and desires,
the stories of our

~ Linda Hogan

Image by Kenneth Smith
2008 Seattle Pi

Monday, November 23, 2009

'We all fall down . . .'

"In the Warm Sunlight of the Fall " by Weiming Zhao 

We moved from Texas to Minnesota in the fall of 1987, just in time to see a Midwest show of autumnal colors. I remember leaves falling in Texas and raking to do. But I'd never seen such a colorful decamping of leaves in my life until we moved to Minneapolis.

The fact that I did not have a car accident that first year is a miracle. I could barely keep my eyes on the road as I drove down the towering elm tree-lined streets of the little village we chose called Linden Hills, aptly named after yet another lovely tree. All I wanted was to stare upwards, to see the brilliant colors against the rich blue sky.

We still have a remarkable number of elm trees, though each year, sadly, many fall prey to Dutch elm disease. Still, the stunning canopy of color they create in fall and again in spring can truly drive you to distraction.

Reading Pamela and Edward's delightful post on Nov 21 about tree trickery in her neighborhood reminded me of a similar experience we had last month along the stretch of West 44th Street that is lined with prehistoric-looking Ginkos.

Such odd trees, those Ginkos. Even when they're fully leafed out, they look as if they forgot to fill in the space between branches with a few extra offshoots. And for as old as their species is, they are remarkably delicate when it comes to reacting to Minnesota's change of seasons.

Some years they mellow to a warm citrine if the temperature cools slowly. And as the wind picks up, they fall just like all the other trees. Other years, they attain yellow only to fall in unison with the first cold snap.

But this year was a first for me.

Before the month of October had reached its midpoint, I woke up to see a sweet little dusting of snow. I left for a volunteer engagement around 9:30, and when I returned by 11, the snow had mostly melted in the sunlight. Of course, I wondered right away how the Ginko trees would react.

And that's when I saw this:

And this:

And this:

Ginko leaves everywhere! A carpet of them.

I don't have the greatest sense of smell, but I know it was intense. And the best way I can describe it is "green." The scent of green was even strong enough to overpower the less-than-pleasant smell of the fruit that certain of the trees produce.

Most of the Ginko leaves have been raked away now, though there's always a few leaves that cling for dear life through the winter.

Good luck little Ginko leaves! Until we meet again in spring . . .

Sunday, November 22, 2009

'Please, please, please . . .'

"Take us to the dog park again!'

~ Charlotte and Cora

"Would you two please sit down 
and put your seatbelts back on?
How many times do I have to tell you?"
~ Kathleen

Friday, November 20, 2009

The daring life

"A sheltered life
can be a
daring life
as well.
For all
daring starts
 from within."

~ Eudora Welty

Image: Lady in Black on a Park Bench by Bernhard Gutmann

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Good peeps and beauty everywhere I turn

Thank you, Hilary, for the shout out for the post about my wonderful friend Renie . We have been blessed with more time with her. 

And if you came for a visit by way of Smitten Image , welcome! Always great to make new acquaintances. I was blown away by the quality of posts she found this week.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who nominated Hilary's absolutely charming post Recipe for Autumn Cheer . Just try to watch the videos without having a good ole belly laugh. But since she didn't give herself a Post of the Week nod, I'd like to do one here.

A Totally Unauthorized POTW
goes to you, dear Hilary!

And as long as we're on the topic of posts, look what I found at the bus stop yesterday, a yellow pate of hoarfrost. It was mere minutes before the sun would have added sparkle, but I had jump aboard the bus. 

The sun is traveling low in the southern sky right now in Minnesota,
and we've been treated to some beautiful blue above us. 

Soon, if we're very, very lucky, the snow will fly!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Homework assignment

"Sit at midnight and close your eyes;
feel the grass, the air, the space.

Listen to to the birds for ten minutes at dawn.

Memorize a flower."

~ Linda Hasselstrom

Midnight symphony by 
Starlings at dawn by F.d.W.

Flower image by

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Patience is a virtue . . .

. . . that I'm still working to acquire.

So until I get it down, I suspect I'll continue to be banned from doing laundry.

I've broken 2 dryers during nearly 30 years of marriage. As I recall, I made one washing machine go all cattiwampus, too. I promise I didn't do this on purpose.

The problem, you see, is that I tend to overstuff the machines to get the job done as quickly as possible. I can't seem to stop myself, like eating potato chips. So the last time Mr. B had to repair the dryer, he outright banned me from using it.

When I called Ben last night to check on Renie, he asked if I could do some laundry. I swallowed hard, said "Yes, of course," and then had to admit that God has a delightful sense of humor.

My plan was to dive for quarters between the couch cushions and take the linens to a laundromat with the big machines that I couldn't possibly overstuff. But Mr. B was in the car with me when I made the call and he wanted to know about the conversation.

He just about ran off the road when I told him. And, being the frugal guy that he is, he declared that he'd do the laundry, that I was still banned, and that, frankly, it would be his honor.

And so he did, bless his soul.

Image 1 by kukkurovaca
Image 2 by woman banned from doing laundry

Friday, November 13, 2009

To know her is to love her


No, this isn't a story about Charlotte, though she really wanted to tell it. She's still trying to work up a good argument. But the truth is that I was there and so I really need to tell it. The characters are all friends who once worked together. And as you'll see, this is a story about love . . . 

Chapter 1 - Renie Rae is dying

It hurts like crazy, and I'm having a hard time with it. I can't imagine that anyone who knows Renie isn't. To know her is to love her. To know her is to be loved by her. She's quite remarkable that way. She quite remarkable in many ways.

Among her gifts is this: She writes the way an angel sings. Lyrical, effortless, buoyant. She once lived in a cabin by a lake. I got over my fear of still water there, sitting in an big black inner tube, my feet and bottom skimming the surface of the cool water, my head resting on the inflated ring, just soaking in the summer sky and whispering trees. Reading Renie's prose feels like that. It carries you, mesmerizes you.

Renie has written a novel, a picaresque novel. Others who have written in this tradition are Cervantes with Don Quixote and Twain with Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I don't say this lightly: Renie's work is a classic. One day you'll have the opportunity to read it. I hope you seize it.

Chapter 2 - Jacqueline gets an idea

Jacqueline came to see me as soon as she learned about Renie's diagnosis, a rare cancer that invaded her liver and grew lumps there, an inoperable cancer with limited treatment options. Cure was not one of them.

We sat in my yard, speechless.

Then Jacqueline asked me what I'd do if I found out I had terminal cancer. I can't remember what I said, but I do recall that she looked at me like I was nuts and said: "Wouldn't you want to publish your book?"

I have a speculative fiction novel in the works and Jacqueline is completing an amazing memoir. I'm stalled out. Jacqueline is on fire. I could see an idea germinating, and when Jacqueline gets an idea, something big is about to happen. 

It did.

Chapter 3 - Hospice

The past few weeks have not been good ones for Renie. She hasn't been able eat or drink much, and her body has grown weaker and weaker. The time came for her to make a decision about whether to go for intense medical intervention, which would essentially make her radioactive and untouchable. Or not. Renie chose not.

Hospice care began last week. I had the good sense to answer the phone last Thursday, when Renie's beau, Ben, called. He asked if I could sit with her that afternoon, which I did. I hadn't seen her since she told her story at Common Ground Meditation Center one chilly evening earlier this year. You'd never have known how sick she was then. As always, she glowed.

She was still glowing last week -- in spite of the weight loss, the exhaustion, the pain, the waiting. She drifted in and out of sleep. And when she spoke, her voice was tired and fading. There was no mistaking it: Our beloved friend was dying.

I called Jacqueline.

Chapter 4 - Jacqueline, Nancy, and Eileen pull an allnighter

Jacqueline had seen our friend a month earlier, when the two brainstormed about how to get Renie's novel published. My name came up as someone who might be part of a team whose combined energies could take up where Renie's was slipping away.

Now, slippage was happening faster than we expected. And Jacqueline's idea was born.

Jacqueline started making calls. I tracked down contact information for Nancy and Eileen, two graphic artists who had also been part of the crew that once worked together years and years ago. Jacqueline called and Nancy instantly agreed to design the cover. Eileen, hundreds of miles away, took the inside pages, some 300 of them. Kinko's did the printing and binding. Nancy and Jacqueline checked a "press" proof at 4:30 am at Kinko's. And by 10 am, 16 "limited editions" of Renie's book were printed. 

Renie didn't know yet.

Chapter 5 - The author gives her blessing

Via e-mail, text, and phone calls, Jacqueline "convened" the team of 13 people who were committed to seeing Renie's book published. It occurred to me that we should seek Renie's blessing on this endeavor. So I made a little scroll with words to that effect and listed the names of "Team Renie, The Book Edition."

Ben, a mighty protector who has faithfully guarded Renie's need for rest and quiet, arranged for Jacqueline and me to bring the books and our request to her. Jacqueline carried into Renie's room a tower of soft-bound books, while I followed with the scroll, a book of poetry, and a candle. 

The look on Renie's face when she saw her manuscript in true book form simply defies description. I can say the room seemed to expand with light. At first, I don't think Renie realized her novel was actually inside the covers.

And then she opened it.

Ben was trying his best to hook up her hydration IV when Renie's tears came. She, with her wry sense of humor, pointed out the irony. And we laughed. Jacqueline noted that the novel had the most beautiful love-making scene she'd ever read. And we laughed so more.

When the guffawing slowed, I brought out the scroll, we lit the candle, and I choked my way through the reading of the official request for Renie's blessing to allow us get pursue publishing her book. She looked stunned. I suggested she might like to respond.

"Abso (expletive deleted) lutely," she said.

She didn't have the strength to sign the copies, so we asked if she'd touch each team member's book and bless it. I read a name, Jacqueline handed her a book, and Renie lovingly pressed each limited edition to her heart and spoke her blessing. Margie, her friend from college, wrote down the words and placed them in each book she was handed.

We all needed hydration by the time Renie blessed the last book -- for her son, Noah.

Chapter 6 - What will come

Team Renie, The Book Edition, will meet as a book group in January. We will discuss the novel of our beloved author and divvy up assignments.

In the meantime, we will continue our love vigil for a beautiful woman whose luminous spirit has filled and broken our hearts for good.

Blessed be.

Chapter 1 & 2 image by Kathleen Kimball-Baker
Chapter 3 Image by notsogoodphotography
Chapter 4 Image by elyunque
Chapter 5 Image by nancysmets
Chapter 6 image by Oliver Beattie

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

My bad . . .

blogging manners are showing up again. Please forgive me? 

My cup runneth over with gratitude . . . thank you blog pals for your lovely gestures of kindness:

From Alix of Casa Hice

I've seen this sweet patch on many a blog I adore. So I was truly honored when Alix presented it to me! Well, frankly, she made my day. Now the tough part: pass it on to 15 bloggers. (I just can't do favorites, because I just adore everyone on my 2 blog rolls.) So my selection is random: I closed eyes and pointed -- mostly. I know that not all these bloggers accept awards, and that's OK. I also know that some already have this award. And that's OK, too. I just want them to know how much I enjoy my visits and hope to steer some traffic their way. Hope you'll consider a visit!

  1. From the House of Edward -- luminous writing and images
  2. The Golden Fish  -- gorgeous, simply gorgeous visuals, thoughts, and ambience
  3. WayStationOne  -- the Jedi master of prose . . . he has the power
  4. Freckled Writer  -- a poet whose work will leave you breathless
  5. Faces in Places  -- you've just got to see this to believe it -- a riot
  6. Napple Notes  -- brilliant, simply brilliant
  7. Yukon Yahoos  -- empty your bladder before reading -- you have been warned
  8. Northernmost  -- life in Finnish Lapland with sweethearts on 4 legs
  9. The Daily Dog -- breathtaking writing + most impressive photography
  10. Jennifer on the Verge -- stunning originality, boundless heart, and intelligent humor
  11. Abstract Landscape Painting  -- watch as her style and color sense unfold with each work
  12. Forgotten Bookmarks  -- artifacts that marked pages of old and used books
  13. Shared Waters  -- One up-and-coming fine poet, artist, and keen observer
  14. Occasionally J  -- perfect mix of photographer, world observer, and excellent writer
  15. Granny Mountain  -- honestly, I don't know how she keeps coming up with this stuff

From Hilary of The Smitten Image  :

Hilary gave me a Post of the Week award for a little piece I wrote about coming to terms with an empty nest, "Leaving Las Vegas" back in October. Thank you, Hilary, both for the nod and for the great service you provide by connecting us!

From Alex of Please Try Again 

Who doesn't love comments? Awesome Alex the Girl has left some fantastic ones here. And apparently she likes the ones I leave, because she gave me a Super Comments nod back in August (hangs head in shame). So allow me to pay tribute to theses bloggers who make be think, laugh, smile, and sigh. Post your panda with pride (that is, only if you wish):

  1. Janie&Steve's Utah Trails  -- blue skies, vista after vista, horses, and a dog named Daisy
  2. A Knitting Nurse  -- someone you want on your team
  3. Casa Hice (boomerang!) -- Alix positively sparkles!
  4. Melrose Musings  -- a gentleman who picked Miss Piggy to be his date to Willow Manor Ball
  5. Lost & Found in India  -- who warps the space/time continuum with how quickly she responds
  6. Stuff From Ellen's Head  -- glass artist extraordinaire with much wisdom to share
  7. Smitten Image  -- just makes you happy to be alive
  8. Oh My Goddess  -- Southern charm + wisdom+ generosity galore
  9. Circling My Head -- every word feels like a gift
  10. SixtyFiveWhatNow  -- Provocative and honest look at post-retirement life
  11. Mimi  -- Thoughtful and inspiring
  12. Boomer Baby Bliss  -- Eclectic mix of storytelling, vintage images, and sassy fiction

Happy reading!



Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ms.Mary illuminates the darkness as only Ms. Mary can

In Blackwater Woods
by Mary Oliver

Look, the trees
are turning
their bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
to live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal,
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends upon it;
an when the times come to let it go,
to let it go

Image by bobtravis

Monday, November 9, 2009

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The ancient sky

"Teach me your mood, O patient stars!
Who climb each night the ancient sky,
Leaving on space no shade, no scars,
No trace of age, no fear to die."

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Image by Lucas Janin

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A change of course

"Give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way."
~ Native American saying

Thank you for all the good wishes about surgery you sent for me today.

Something much more urgent has come up, and I will be sitting this afternoon with a dear dear friend who is in hospice. It was from her that I learned the prayer, "Rocks, water, trees. Amen," was introduced to Clare's Well retreat farm, and was blessed with laughter, compassion, understanding, and unconditional friendship and love.

I dare say she is transforming into some form of pure love as her body changes its course. What an honor be able to be her companion today.

Blessings . . .

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A sacred pause . . .

"I need to recover a rhythm in my heart
that moves my body first and my mind second,
that allows my soul to catch up with me.
I need to take a
sacred pause,
as if I were a sun-warmed rock
 in the center of a rushing river."

~ Dawn Markova

Here's hoping surgery on my right knee tomorrow at noon (central) helps me move back into the beautiful rhythms of being an adventure grrl again soon.
All healing thoughts most welcome!

Image by by Dave

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Look what happens when you dare to ask

Wild Horse Island, Montana
I receive e-mails from a catalogue company whose merchandise is pure eye candy. On rare occasion, when something is in the "outlet" section and I simply can't live without it (which usually means it's a piece of intriguing jewelry), I splurge, meaning shell out less than $30.

Recently, an e-mail featured the most amazing fingerless gloves (mitts) and I was really tempted because it can get a little frosty in my cube in the middle of winter.

And then I stopped.

Wait! I know someone who knits like nobody's business. I could show them to her and see if she might be willing to whip up a pair.

And so I got up the courage and asked. And guess what? She accepted!

So now, I have in my possession a most enviable treasure.
(Cue drum roll)

CanCan mitts
Created by our very own wondrous knitting nurse blogger, Rudee!

Here's what the accompanying card said about them:

"Here are your CanCan mitts in Mountain Colors, a Montana yarn company that makes all its yarn and names the very vivid colors after natural places found in Montana. Your mitts are in Wild Horse--named after Wild Horse Island."

See, Rudee gave me two choices for the yarn and I had to pick one based on name alone. That's right, sight one unseen. Of course, there was no way I couldn't pick a name with "Wild" in it. And I couldn't be happier. They're deliciously soft, seductively fascinating, cozy beyond reason, and, dare I say, sexy -- or at least pretty darn sassy!

No, the lovely hand model is not me. That's PreciousGrrrlChild, who managed to inherit the finest bone structure and skin that both sides of the family had to offer. Not exactly the perfect ensemble to show off the mitts, but, well, you get the picture

Anyway, as I opened the package just as I was about to dash off to Clare's Well last weekend, Mr. B nabbed one from me and put it on. You've really got to watch that man like a hawk! His head is way bigger than mine, and he's managed to stretch out sunglasses, hats, and headbands that he's swiped for me!

My CanCan mitts will be joining me at safely at work, serving as a reminder of the amazing talent and kindness of people I only know through silent words and photos, but who from time to time reach right through this strange veil of our cyberworld and touch our hearts.

So here's to Rudee, knitter extraordinaire, state fair blue winner ribbon, hospice nurse, and all-around kind soul!

Thank you, my dear. The check's almost in the mail along with some piece of unnamed beadwork.

(PS: Check out Rudee's staycation list in her sidebar, item #2: :^D)

Image of Wild Horse Island by montantanavrcampground


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