Friday, December 1, 2023

small poems, late autumn 2023

 In late October I felt inspired by Ross Gay’s essay collection, “The Book of (More) Delights,” to keep a record of moments in the day that brought me a sense of happiness, or even just a sense of ease, no matter how small, no matter how fleeting. I did this for 6 weeks, using a 6-line format.

the moment i remember something
i was struggling to remember
since yesterday —
this is the first
delight of


5:15 in the morning
waking from a dream
with two words in my head:
“catching waves”
i don’t know what that means
but i have a good feeling about it


they are only 23 years old
dad with a cigar in his mouth
my beautiful mother with her light-up-the-world smile
i was just a few months
but somehow i’m already 72 and
seeing this photograph for the very first time


this morning
when my brain began to spin
i told it to just STOP —
and i went off
to play
with paper, scissors, glue


yesterday at the library book sale
seeing so many books i once read
and enjoyed
i pat the spines, tenderly
with my fingertips —
“hello old friends”


walking through the park
birds birds
birds birds birds
i hear them
but i can’t see them —
i hope that they see me


three real letters
in the mailbox today
from three real friends
and there are still
a few red leaves left
on the tree outside the window


this rainy sunday
i can’t decide
which book to read
i don’t let myself
even look at
the chocolate-covered almonds


late in the afternoon
wrapped in
purple pashmina
thinking about everything
until i’m thinking about


early this morning
getting the water temperature
exactly right
a long shower —
the scent of grapefruit
and also just a hint of mint


wondering where i put it
that big bag stuffed
with balls of yarn
i look here, i look there —
eureka, found it!
now searching for my crochet hooks


decades ago
such a clever
halloween costume —
dressed all in black
i declared myself to be
a raisin


i thought
the CD player
was broken
but it turns out
all i had to do
was turn up the volume


in a vast
empty space
the air so still
my ears
feel full


november calendar
30 small boxes
to fill in
there are already
20 things (20 things!!!)
i’m looking forward to


this old corduroy shirt
with all its buttons intact)
still fits me perfectly —
so okay you bits and spits of snow
go right ahead and do your thing


i almost forgot
how good it feels
to pull
soft thick socks
autumn-chilled feet


gray pants
gray sweater, gray socks
gray sneakers
today i’m just
floating around
like a cloud


this morning
i woke up worried
about nothing (& everything)
but thirteen hours later
i can say the day turned out
to be just fine


in the dream
someone invites me to go see
a new play: “The Day of the Jackal” —
my friend assures me
that everyone says it’s the best thing ever
but i say No Thank You


this day
of kindness and compassion
and the gentle flow of conversation
and laughter
and a few tears too —
the way it goes between friends


sitting quietly
just that
nothing more
a pulsing sensation in my palms
reminding me that
i am alive

it’s an odd thing
but today i experienced
so many delights
i don’t know where to begin —
let me just dwell on the hugs
yes the hugs oh the hugs such beautiful hugs


this seems to be my time
to get to know old friends
in deeper ways
and to meet new people
who may one day
become old friends


the day started
with me reading
a poem about tomatoes
and then for lunch
i cut up cherry tomatoes
and they were much nicer than the bean sprouts


i said to myself:
“love more,
fear less”
then i said to myself:
“listen to


my bill comes to $15.96
i reach into my wallet
and pull out a twenty dollar bill &
3 quarters, 3 nickels, and 6 pennies
and i get $5 back —
a totally satisfying exchange


it happens quite often
when i’m wearing
that people comment
(even strangers)
and they always seem to be delighted


in small print
on each one
of the new batteries
this message:
march, 2035 —
what optimism


a telephone visit with my sister
remembering people
from the old neighborhood
so many kooks
and also a few


in the mailbox just now
tucked in among
7 requests for donations
a handwritten card
from a woman i greatly admire
with a quote from a favorite book


this extra hour of sleep
brought me a dream
where i was walking down the street
and then all the people around me
started humming too


these shoes are ugly
very very very
but …
they are so comfortable to walk in so …
i’m keeping them


this morning’s crossword puzzle
contains the answer
to a question I asked myself yesterday
and even better:
one answer turns out to be
my name


i’m disappointed
in myself
for not being
different than who i am…
and then i just have to laugh!


the way i laugh
when i talk
with my sister
is different from
the way i laugh
with anyone else


reading an article about memory
that i forgot to read
but this morning
i remembered
so that’s alright


there’s a pin
i wanted to
fasten to my sweater
but i couldn’t position it just right —
i tried and tried and tried
and then i got it into place, perfectly


i could have missed it entirely
the early morning sky
so pink and luscious
what made me look out the window at that moment?
what other magic
have i been missing?


i wasn’t looking for anything
but the second i saw these gloves
i went WOWZA
they are warm and colorful and soft
and exactly right for this
late November day


a cardinal
joined me
on my morning walk
“i am here
i am here”
he sang


on the phone with my mother —
she mentions her new neighbor
Alexa —
as soon as she says that word
the little device in her apartment
starts talking to her


i woke up with butterflies in my stomach
so i went for a walk
and counted my steps
1 to 20 over and over and over
by the time i got back home
i was breathing more easily


looking out the window
a bit of snow on the rooftops
and not a crow in sight
but here comes a young man
bopping along
wearing a bright red hat


sometimes people tell me
they recognize me (from a distance)
by my walk
but i don’t always
recognize myself
when i look in the mirror


Sunday, November 19, 2023

Things That Delight Us (re-visiting a list from 2012)

Things We Find Delightful: a collective (anonymous) list that was first written and published in 2012

I recently re-discovered this list from years ago.

It seems like a good time to share it again.

Suggestion: If you feel inclined, think about things that please you, that make you happy, that DELIGHT you. Create your own list, or write a poem, or draw a picture, or anything else ….

It is a good thing to remind ourselves of the simple pleasures of life.


uni-ball Signo Micro 207, my new favorite pen

hearing my sister's laugh over the phone, from the other side of the country

giving away half the clothes in my closet

re-reading books, fresh the second time around, due to my not-so-sharp memory

morning yoga on Mondays and Fridays, with dear friends and an inspired teacher

crocheting many big beautiful colorful afghan blankets

veggie/fruit smoothies for breakfast each day; no two exactly alike

a new hairstyle

discovering my library card is valid until 2050

fishing off the Farmers' Market dock

the Yule Log on channel 501

snow ho ho

getting married

sitting down to meditate in a field and seeing a dear old auntie as soon as I closed my eyes

handing in my resignation to an astonished boss

scaling a rope wall with 100 other muddy women during an obstacle race to benefit breast cancer research

stopping during a run to splash water on my face in a stream and being greeted by 2 frogs under a rock

my 6-year-old son snuggled on my lap, reading me a book for the first time

listening to one amazing/powerful/funny/sad/magical story after another on the night that the angels visited Zee’s Writing Studio

watching the blue moon rise over the Atlantic Ocean and noticing it was kind of pink

going up a hill to look for a lost hammer, and instead encountering a woodpecker who was . . . hammering

stopping by the hillside yard of my grandmother, completely on a whim, just as a rainbow appeared ahead of a summer shower and reached out in front of my car

making good and unexpected connections with people through cyberspace

successfully defending my doctoral course work

finally getting a breast reduction when absolutely no one in my life supported my decision

any moments without pain

seeing a cross-dressing version of Midsummer Night’s Dream
70-year-old Judy Collins, knocking it out of the park

walking hand in hand with my 3-year-old granddaughter, to see the chickens at the end of the road, where she did her little chicken dance before we turned back to go home

hanging my art show, then standing back and seeing all that I've actually accomplished

writing a truly good sentence

digging in the dirt and finding perfectly round spider eggs, rusted metal bottle caps, and buried nuts the squirrels forgot

a big dish of black cherry ice cream

onions frying: a smell that delights me year after year

the arrival of boxes and bags of new plants and shrubs, waiting to be planted

rose-breasted grosbeaks and the indigo bunting pair, arriving five days earlier than usual

a friend from high school, who I hadn't need in years, knocking at my front door

gaining wisdom; gaining humility

a full year of health for my cats

almost winning the lottery (and planning how to spend the money we almost won)

buying all types of stationary supplies: pens, pencils, paper, 3-ring binders, etc.

finding a beautiful home to rent with great light and plenty of space

getting a great job after not having worked in a dozen years

the birth of a puppy, who will soon come to live with us

my son dressing himself in an all-velour outfit

kale, right from the garden

knee replacement a resounding success and my quality of life is vastly improved

my cat's incredible dexterity


a crab molting before my eyes, somehow squeezing out through a thin slit in the back of her shell

a heavenly/tearful experience in the butterfly exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History

seeing the movie Harold and Maude for the first time

an island of puffins and a flock of elegant flamingos taking a bath in volcanic waters

witnessing the blooming of the stinky corpse plant, “titan arum,” (a once-every-fifteen-years event)

midnight sun in Iceland

laughing with friends, while riding an elephant

writing my dreams

stumbling upon a mountainside monastery in Seoul and getting invited to lunch with the monks

baby herons hatching

qigong on the beach at sunrise

standing up for what I truly believed was right

heating our house with wood for the first time ever and finding warmth never before experienced

dragonflies everywhere: on the side of my house, on the porch railings, on my arm, during one sunny day in autumn

learning how to make brioche

watching the walls go up on our new house

baby goats; spring peepers; white tail rabbits eating clover at the edge of the garden


In 2012, 30 people contributed to this list — children, teenagers, adults. Right now (November, 2023) I say THANK YOU, once again, to them all.

Monday, December 12, 2022

Sometimes: a collective list


Sometimes I find flowers under my pillow.

Sometimes I am surprised by an animal in my dream, a polar bear or a duck.

Sometimes I wake up laughing.

Sometimes I like to walk with no destination in mind, just to see what might happen and to discover where I might go.

Sometimes I photograph every rock I see on my walk.

Sometimes I wake in the night knowing the solution to a problem and I wonder why I didn't think of it sooner.

Sometimes I feel like I should call my mother even though she is no longer alive.

Sometimes I get bored and behave badly, blowing raspberries at people who think they know everything (and who never stop talking).

Sometimes I write out lengthy, detailed to-do lists, then doggedly ignore them.

Sometimes I am jealous of the shorebirds.

Sometimes I just want to bury my hands in cool soil.

Sometimes I miss people who never existed.

Sometimes my heart beats quickly all night long and I worry about that.

Sometimes I take slow deep calming breaths and sometimes I just hold my breath for no reason at all.

Sometimes I fear I won’t ever do anything creative again.

Sometimes I look at myself in the mirror and give myself a really really really big smile.

Sometimes I wonder where all the time has gone.

Sometimes I need to go for a long walk in order to calm my mind.

Sometimes I am lost in familiar places.

Sometimes the past is more vivid than the here and now.

Sometimes I wonder: what is the point of everything?

Sometimes, just before I wake, I think that I’m falling.

Sometimes I say hello to someone on the street, thinking they are a stranger, but it turns out that I actually know them (or I once knew them).

Sometimes, while walking through the woods, I stoop down to stroke the moss.

Sometimes, if I listen closely, I hear trees whispering poetry.

Sometimes I think I will give up drinking wine. . . and then I laugh.

Sometimes I go to great lengths to avoid running into a person whose energy doesn’t click well with mine.

Sometimes I prefer a meal made up entirely of appetizers.

Sometimes I am so proud of myself.

Sometimes I wish I could be a child again.

Sometimes I try too hard and other times, hardly at all.

Sometimes I forget to proofread.

Sometimes I want to hit people who say mean and awful things, especially about people I love, but then I realize hitting them will not help, so instead I cut them out of my life.

Sometimes I wish I could be as brave and adventurous now (in my 70s) as I was when I was in my 20s.

Sometimes I notice there is no vacuum inside me, no empty time when inspiration could rush in.

Sometimes there is a silent explosion of small green laser lights that recreate the big bang on the porch across the street.

Sometimes I want to give away almost every material possession I own.

Sometimes I want to walk all day around a city I have never been to before.

Sometimes I change the shape of flower beds into curves and half moons.

Sometimes I bring home a basket of jams, ginger cookies, and blueberry muffins from the country store.

Sometimes on Saturdays I change the linens, vacuum the rugs, sweep the floors, and clean out a couple of drawers.

Sometimes I think of my mother and am overcome with tears.

Sometimes I sit in a corner of the couch for the afternoon and write haiku poetry in my spiral notebook.

Sometimes I need to take no medicine at all.

Sometimes at night the moon is too bright to look at directly.

Sometimes I sit in a room full of people and do a crossword puzzle while enjoying all the talk-talk going on around me.

Sometimes the chemo works like magic.
Sometimes the bananas have given up the ghost.
Sometimes rosehip tea gets you a whole winter with no colds.
Sometimes I send love both to the driver and to the cop who pulled the car over.

Sometimes I am Hologram Girl, slipping through key holes, discovering lost poems; sometimes my name is Wind Rider.

Sometimes I am Abuela Luna, Grandmother Spider, or “Wee Sister Strange.”

Sometimes I am “cloud hidden, whereabouts unknown,” living in a mountain hut.

Sometimes I wonder if I will ever be happy again.

Sometimes I can support someone in the best way by not saying a word — just offering love and deep listening.

Sometimes I just want to scream!

Sometimes all I want to do is bundle up in a cozy quilt by the fireplace and be still, as the snow begins to fly.

Sometimes I think I'm right and sometimes I know I'm right.

Sometimes I get lost in thought and turn off my ears.

Sometimes I wake up with a poem in my head that is demanding to be written down.

Sometimes I wonder if loved ones who have died can see and hear us but keep it secret from us most of the time.

Sometimes I wonder if he ever thinks about me and is sorry for what he did.

Sometimes, with the camera in my hand, I have no ideas and I simply point.
Sometimes I want one thing but with a clenched jaw I accept another.
Sometimes my own light is so dim that I am glad for the cloudy day.
Sometimes I am surrounded by the fog in my mind.

Sometimes I wonder if those times were better than these times.

Sometimes I choose to trash all the rules, and do everything my own way.

Sometimes I see a palm tree at sunset and sometimes I see the results of a PET scan.

Sometimes people offer me condolences for having been born.

Sometimes I burn the toast — well, actually, always.

Sometimes I pack up to arrive and sometimes to depart.

Sometimes I miss myself.

Sometimes I watch “Jeopardy!” and know most of the answers but I’m reminded not to get too cocky because I may not know anything on the next episode.

Sometimes I wish my brain could work like a salad spinner so I could pour out excess thoughts.

Sometimes I can sit and eat breakfast for 2-3 hours while listening to NPR.

Sometimes I run out of excuses and need to invent some, which means I can’t be trusted.

Sometimes I turn my hearing aid off to silence the cat's meows.

Sometimes I miss the small greenness of England.

Sometimes American English still surprises me.

Sometimes I wonder what would have been different if my father had come home from the war.

Sometimes I search all morning for my spectacles.

Sometimes I despair of ever having a tidy house.

Sometimes my left shoulder makes a popping sound.

Sometimes I open my box of Susan B. Anthony dollars and just look at them.

Sometimes I want to hide behind a pen name.

Sometimes I feel so confused I don’t know left from right or, for that matter, right from left.

Sometimes I have to remind myself (quite firmly) that it would be better not to have expectations of people and then I would not be disappointed.

Sometimes, like Alice’s queen, I believe six impossible things before breakfast.
Sometimes I wake up with a song I didn’t even remember that I knew running through my head –—with all the lyrics — and I wonder where that was stored in my brain and what I was dreaming to evoke it.
Sometimes I know exactly the words I want to write and then someone speaks to me before I can jot them down — and they are gone forever.

Sometimes I dream I will be healthier again and when that happens I have a list of the truly important things to do. 
Sometimes I meet someone and it feels as though I have known them for a very long time.
Sometimes I remember how I used to think I fell in love a lot (it was fun!) — and then I really fell in love and I knew it was very different.
Sometimes I wonder if there will ever be a day I don’t miss you and I wonder why I still can’t cry.
Sometimes I know I need another lifetime because one isn’t enough to do all I want to do.
Sometimes I have a big “come-apart” (and for those who don't know, it is a giant step up from a “hissy fit”) but at least it passes quickly.

Sometimes I sit in the 3 a.m. silence with a cup of hot tea and I don’t think of anything, or maybe I do, but my thoughts are so fleeting that they almost aren’t there at all, and I wonder if this is a kind of daydreaming.

Sometimes I get myself into a situation that I quickly want to get out of.

Sometimes I wish I lived closer to train tracks.

Sometimes living with another person is nearly impossible.

Sometimes the life of a hermit feels appealing to me.

Sometimes I think things will get better.

Sometimes the mountain of stuff I have collected and saved is the treasure I always thought it would be.

Sometimes I'd like to go back in time and revisit my childhood era again.

Sometimes the world tilts ever-so-slightly under my feet.
Sometimes it is nice to be alone.

Sometimes I worry about being alone.
Sometimes I dance to the music inside my head.
Sometimes I regret not setting the oven timer.

Sometimes I can get a little dark.

Sometimes my dog runs and barks in her sleep and I wonder if I ever do that too.

Sometimes my goat looks deeply into my eyes while I am petting him and he lets out a long, satisfying buuuuurrrrrppppp.

Sometimes I play the piano, always when it is a composition by Ludovico Einaudi, and I make myself cry.

Sometimes I want to run away from home.

Sometimes I want to run towards home.

Sometimes my friendships with women make me feel like I have sisters again.

Sometimes I say yes when I want to say no and sometimes I say no when I want to say yes.

Sometimes I’m all about calamity and convince myself of the reality of dire happenings that never have, and never will, actually occur.

Sometimes I get ahead of myself.

Sometimes just getting out of bed in the morning feels like a tremendous hurdle.

Sometimes three amazing species of woodpeckers visit the feeder in the same hour!

Sometimes I have no idea what to do next.

Sometimes I feel small and insignificant.

Sometimes a rainy day can set things right.

Sometimes between the pages of a book is the best place to be.

Sometimes just the vastness of the sky can make my heart swell with gratitude.

Sometimes I hear your voice inside my head.

Sometimes I wish I didn’t leave things up to chance.

Sometimes I can hear my breath above the din.

Sometimes I read a poem that changes the way I see the world.

Sometimes I am so boring I even bore myself.

Sometimes at the New Year I am full of resolutions.

Sometimes I field test a bad habit.

Sometimes I fold myself into a gray day.

Sometimes I wish I would grow up already; 76 years is too long to be a child.

Sometimes I remember the time I woke up early and ran through the cool dewy grass, arms flying, feeling free, just for the sheer joy of it.

Sometimes I’m smarter than I think.

Sometimes I am so dense I cannot believe I have all those degrees.

Sometimes it is simply too late to do anything about what happened back then.

Sometimes I am shocked to realize I am reading the paper and eating ice cream late at night . . . just like my mother did.

Sometimes I forget that I lost my wedding ring 2 years ago and am surprised when I realize that it's still gone.

Sometimes the clouds look like melted marshmallows.

Sometimes even when I resolve very sincerely to be patient, I become cranky over the littlest things.

Sometimes when it snows I step outside in my bare feet just to feel the reality of its coldness.

Sometimes if I write a small poem that feels true to my heart, I am happy for the whole day, sometimes longer.

Sometimes when I close my eyes, I see my mother’s face and she is talking but I can’t hear what she’s saying.

Sometimes I feel a giant sneeze coming on and I hold my breath to get ready for it but then the sneeze disappears and I’m left with only an “ahhhhh” and no “choooo.”

Sometimes I gently stroke the leaves of my house plants and understand they can "feel" my energy because later they look a little perkier in the afternoon sun.

Sometimes I add a little blackberry jam to my scrambled eggs, not just for the taste of sweet with salty, but also for the purple and yellow contrast on my plate.

Sometimes I surprise myself when I hear a French song on the radio or TV and understand every word.

Sometimes when I'm walking on the beach at night I imagine I'm a mermaid and what that would be like, always able to move freely through the ocean depths.

Sometimes I take out my old pink pumps from the back of the closet and put them on, but I always end up putting them back because they pinch my toes too much.

Sometimes the purple martins return to their condos in spring, sometimes they don't, and then I wonder if they decided to stay down in the verdant rainforests of Brazil.
                                                                                                           Sometimes I don’t know what to write.


Thank you to all these wonderful contributors:

Alan Peat
Antonia Matthew
Barbara Sayre
Barrie Levine
Betty Spero
Blue Waters
C. Robin Janning
Carole Johnston
Deborah Burke Henderson
Dede Hatch
Ellen Orleans
Ellen Shapiro Wiernicki
Glenn Ingersoll
Jack Goldman
Jim Mazza
Joan Leotta
Joel Savishinsky
Judy Cogan
Kath Abela Wilson
Kathleen Kramer
Laurinda Lind
Margaret Walker
Miriam Sagan
Nancy Spero
Paula Sears
Pris Campbell
Rob Sullivan
Roberta Beach Jacobson
Sharon K. Yntema
Terri L. French
Theresa A. Cancro
Tom Clausen
Zee Zahava

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Yesterday — a collective list about Tuesday, November 8, 2022, written on Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Yesterday morning I went outdoors to see the moon’s eclipse at 5:15, dim and red, in and out of the clouds, and then cars started driving into our apartment parking lot and it took me a puzzled minute to remember that this is a polling place and those blessed volunteers were showing up to help us vote.

Yesterday I tuned a nylon-string guitar.

Yesterday I cleaned acorns out of the gutters but I left a few acorns to sprout in the gravel; later I read an article about bread made from acorn flour.

Yesterday I discovered that a shellac record I’d found in a charity shop was 107 years old.

Yesterday I checked the weather repeatedly for news of this oncoming hurricane and I pulled out two storm lanterns in preparation.

Yesterday I worked on a poem to read to medical students about the head-on collision I was in at 15.

Yesterday I thought about my friend recovering from cancer, whom I dreamed about the night before.

Yesterday, without a sideways glance, a female deer bounded across my path and later I saw two bucks grazing silently in the graveyard.

Yesterday my garden Buddha smiled through a dusting of new snow.

Yesterday I forgave myself for eating all of the York Peppermint Patties.
Yesterday I was scorned by a heron who took off with a squawk.
Yesterday I counted my blessings and stalled at number three.
Yesterday I thought I saw a black snake wriggling down the street but when I got closer I could tell it was a beautiful scarf, probably silk, that must have blown off someone’s head.

Yesterday I said the Sh’ma Yisrael.

Yesterday I walked in the neighborhood amid sunflower heads of seed, a drooping Jack-o-lantern, and an abandoned and dirty rabbit costume.

Yesterday I passed a funeral, resplendent with a dozen tow trucks, presumably the profession of the deceased.

Yesterday I called my daughter, whose household has covid.

Yesterday I paid to have a poem translated into Cherokee.

Yesterday I talked to myself sternly about making this a good day, no matter what else was going on.

Yesterday I saw a short video clip of an old friend and at first I didn’t realize it was her, she looked so different to me, but as soon as she started to speak I recognized her voice.

Yesterday I remembered my father again and regretted not being with him in his last moments of life.
Yesterday I had a terrible headache which I treated first with three different half pills and later with a cocktail.

Yesterday I played tennis but not very well and my partner got really angry with me because he's a guy who doesn't know how to lose.

Yesterday autumn made me understand once again how transient we are.

Yesterday I decided my life was far too busy and out of control and the house was too messy and too dirty and everything, even my computer, needed reorganizing and I wondered what I was going to not do so I would have more time to just be.
Yesterday I ordered the boxes of pecan halves — roasted and salted ones, dark chocolate-covered ones, and praline ones — from Young’s Pecan Plantation, just as I have every year and my parents did before me.
Yesterday I searched online for a new audiobook but none seemed as interesting as the ones I have already listened to so many times; they now lull me to sleep each night.  
Yesterday I made a quick trip to a local bookstore and could have happily stayed all day.
Yesterday I decided I needed  the gift of a daily “something just for fun” — sometimes planned, sometimes not — despite my “to-do” list.

Yesterday I scored higher in my Italian Wordle game than in the English one and I wondered if I should move abroad.

Yesterday I wanted to email my daughter to remind her to schedule important medical tests and I did not — because I thought she might stubbornly put it off more if I nagged.

Yesterday I fell asleep at nine o’clock and realized my battle with the time change is not over.

Yesterday I went into a new bakery in town and tasted a small bite of a pastry that looked good but it didn’t taste good, which is a relief because now I won’t be tempted to go into that bakery ever again.

Yesterday I was awakened by wind chimes at 4 a.m. and was startled by the sight of Orion, leaping over the oak tree.

Yesterday I heard Cat Stevens crooning “Moon Shadow” while watching the total eclipse.

Yesterday I suffered angst and joy while watching election results.

Yesterday at Dunkin’ Donut the manager told a young man to use only 3 pieces of bacon per order, “You are putting 5 pieces on the muffin and it’s killing my inventory, my profits.”

Yesterday I wondered for the zillionth time, why do we vote when the sun is in Scorpio?

Yesterday I made kimchi for the first time — napa cabbage, carrots, and purple watermelon radish — but I don’t know if I got it right.

Yesterday I took even shorter breaks while bicycling since it gets cold now sometimes when I rest.

Yesterday I worried about a friend who I cannot take care of.

Yesterday I went out walking in the dark for the first time in a very very long while.

Yesterday I didn't see the blood red moon again.

Yesterday my cat, Cody, ate nothing.

Yesterday I returned five pairs of pants that didn't fit.

Yesterday I was the Tuesday Cribbage Champion!

Yesterday I did not listen to the news.

Yesterday I wasted time looking for my glasses.

Yesterday I cut open an avocado and — oh no! — too late.

Yesterday I removed an attached tick from my lower abdomen.

Yesterday I went to get a few groceries that ended up costing $117.32.

Yesterday my wife confronted me about whether I have been feeding a rabbit in our yard.

Yesterday I gave extra special attention to my dear cat who has inoperable cancer.

Yesterday I went out to buy the cheapest leaf rake I could find, and along the way brought home a Ficus benghalensis (Audrey).
Yesterday I started painting the moon.
Yesterday I spent time looking at art created by both friends and strangers.

Yesterday I was waylaid by the blue shadow on the wall . . . again.

Yesterday, reluctantly, I talked to the phone company about getting a new cellphone.

Yesterday was bitter cold and we had to cover the plants on our porch with a blanket.

Yesterday I helped my sister-in-law perfect her apple pie recipe by eating a giant slice.

Yesterday I ordered more paper for the printer because I can't see typos unless I hold them in my hand.

Yesterday I lit a candle in the dark.

Yesterday I finished hand-tying my latest comfort quilt for “The Power of the Quilt Project.”

Yesterday my favorite fifteen minutes were spent watching three dark-eyed Juncos, harbingers of winter, join in with the regular crowd at our patio feeder.

Yesterday I crafted a “happy distraction” poem.

Yesterday a friend came to visit and she brought home-baked treats (delicious and also healthy) as well as a jar of pickled carrots; we sat and drank hibiscus tea and talked about everything.

Yesterday I didn't read or send even one email.

Yesterday I shredded fresh ginger into my cup of vanilla yogurt.

Yesterday I arranged kindling and split wood in the fireplace for a cozy evening.

Yesterday I received an invitation from my enthusiastic cousins to attend a family reunion.

Yesterday I enjoyed my second cup of coffee with a piece of Drunken Blonde Fruitcake recently carried home from the Black Cat Bakery in Sharon Springs.
Yesterday my friend and I planned to meet for a late-afternoon beer at The Greenhouse Café and Cocktail Lounge but I ended up canceling because I felt as if I were coming down with something.
Yesterday I took a home-antigen test, discovered it was negative, and realized that anytime I don’t feel well the automatic assumption is a case of COVID-19.
Yesterday I read twenty-two chapters of Orhan Pamuk’s captivating book, “Nights of Plague,” yet still have 550 pages to go.
Yesterday my phone informed me that I walked 6,741 fewer steps than the day before (groan!).

Yesterday I couldn’t afford books in the store so I wrote down titles.

Yesterday gets an asterisk because we slept in the same bed.

Yesterday the back of my neck was itchy again.

Yesterday I held my mother’s wrist so her signature would hit the line.

Yesterday the apple crisp staggered under an inch of sugar topping.

Yesterday I shoved the ugly metal filing cabinet into the bedroom closet.

Yesterday I rearranged all the bookends.

Yesterday I shredded two months of junk mail to recycle.

Yesterday I was woken up by my son laughing in his sleep.

Yesterday I struggled to find a place in my kitchen to fit the leftover birthday candles.

Yesterday I collected pinecones of all sizes and walked carefully home with them in my pockets.

Yesterday I dyed papers with tea bags to “antique” them.

Yesterday I sat in the chilly fall sunshine and basked like a cat with no responsibilities.

Yesterday I stepped in a puddle and regretted wearing flip-flops.

Yesterday I stopped at the grocery store to buy Gatorade, popsicles, and crackers for my daughter who was sick.

Yesterday I watched “Enola Holmes 2” with my daughter and halfway through, she fell asleep.

Yesterday I cancelled my book club meeting for the first time in seven years.

Yesterday it was dark and rainy when I drove my son off for band practice and I was relieved to make it back home safely.

Yesterday I did not do any work and it felt good because I had been feeling burnt out.

Yesterday I tap danced with a happy posse of dried leaves as we clicked our way down the sidewalk, twirling together with each gust of wind.

Yesterday I  listened to my heart, not my head, and received and received and received.

Yesterday I awoke without the weight of somewhere to go, after day upon day of going, and by mid-morning going didn’t seem like a weight at all, so I went.

Yesterday my dates for dinner ordered pesto pasta and pasta with butter and then these old souls, of five and seven years, talked of geography, astronomy, relationships, and emotions; I think we’ll date again.

Yesterday I sat with two sweet grandchildren on either side of me, cozy in their pjs, and read to them before bedtime.

Yesterday I gladly touched the smooth wooden bannister walking down the stairs.

Yesterday I imagined winning a prize for . . . any number of possible achievements, and who doesn’t love a prize, yay!

Yesterday I couldn’t imagine that I’d grown so old.

Yesterday I cancelled an obligation just so I could stay home and watch the Tournament of Champions on “Jeopardy!”

Yesterday I ate a small bowl of cereal for breakfast which took just long enough for me to read two poems by Billy Collins.

Yesterday I swept a bushel of rustling leaves off the back porch; some blew back on.

Yesterday I looked around my bedroom and realized that, from the watercolor above the dresser, to the music box that plays “Edelweiss,” to the framed Gary Lawson cartoon on the nightstand, nearly everything I loved was a gift from someone who loved me.

Yesterday as I walked to my car I heard a little whistling sound and laughed to realize it was the wind blowing through my hoop earrings.

Yesterday I listened to the trees full of starlings, all talking excitedly about their upcoming journey.

Yesterday I watched a movie about old people trying to escape from a nursing home; it made me laugh and it also scared me.

Yesterday I cut back the peony which was blocking my view of the red house.

Yesterday I wondered if the geese could see me walking my dog in the field.

Yesterday I bought fresh strawberries at the food co-op, taking a chance at deliciousness.

Yesterday I took a picture of the pink cloud at dawn.

Yesterday I had laser surgery to have a kidney stone removed.

Yesterday at the grocery store, while in the pickle section, I decided to buy a jar of sweet gherkins, which reminded me of how Mom used to tuck them into her tuna salad sandwiches.

Yesterday I carefully pried off eight pups from my mini barrel cactus and planted each in its own tiny planter beside the window.

Yesterday, after googling the history of a tune from the late sixties, I went down a rabbit hole of dozens of songs from my childhood and adolescence, bringing up so many memories.

Yesterday I talked of tree trunks and tree limbs and knotty hefty stumps, and it was not metaphor, it was not poetry, but a fire hazard pile of real trunks, limbs, and stumps that need to go.

Yesterday I looked at the moon, bone white and bright, a different moon and the same, high in the nearly midnight sky.

Yesterday I took a long walk along streets I’ve never walked before, and wrote 20 haiku.

Yesterday I read poetry while listening to the news.

Yesterday I tried to write down everything I did  in real time but sometimes I forgot what I was doing.

Yesterday I faced all the cracks in the walls and tried to imagine how to fill them.

Yesterday I decided not to find out.

Yesterday was a day of sunshine, sandpaper, and spinach linguine.

Yesterday I wondered about the future.

Contributors to this text mosaic:

Alan Bern
Alan Peat
Ann Carter
Anne Killian
Antonia Matthew
Barrie Levine
Blue Waters
C. Robin Janning
Carole Johnston
Carole MacRury
Deborah Burke Henderson
Dede Hatch
Ellen Orleans
Florin C. Ciobica
Jim Mazza
Joan Leotta
Joel Savishinsky
Kath Abela Wilson
Kathleen Kramer
kris moon kondo
Laurinda Lind
Lorraine A Padden
M. Wilson
Marcie Wessels
Margaret Walker
Miriam Sagan
Pris Campbell
Roberta Beach Jacobson
Sharon Yntema
Theresa A. Cancro
Tina Wright
Tom Clausen
Zee Zahava

Thursday, October 13, 2022

clothing (and accessories): short pieces on a theme

Not quite sure why I held on to your ripped red-and-white striped short pjs since you almost died in them over 40 years ago. I kept them in a desiccated brown paper bag. You died not long after that terrible illness, and most of your family is gone now, dead, too, or distant; only our son might want to take a look at them, and it might be one way he could know you differently. Recently I vetoed that. He is just too fragile. Over the years I’ve told him stories, yours and ours, but he’s never quite heard them. And that’s okay: he’s a father now with his own lovely lively son. I dreamed about him, our beautiful son, when he was young, his wisdom, wordless though loud, the night before I burned your candy-striped pjs, godless prayers said over the uneven flames with my wife, our son’s generous stepmother, right alongside me, a truly long goodbye.
    - Alan Bern

My granddad has his own drawer. The things that we couldn’t give to the shop for abandoned cats live in it. There’s a monogrammed handkerchief; a pair of aspirational cuff links I never once saw him wear; a paisley cravat. And a tie with a miners’ lamp crest. It’s what they handed him for forty years working in the dark and wet, hand-picking black gold till his lungs filled with the dust that eventually drowned him. A tie. Not a silk tie, a cheap polyester tie that faded fast in the weak northern light.
    Alan Peat

In 1958 I was in kindergarten at First Presbyterian Church. One of my best friends, Candy Kegareese, was a cute little girl with a bob haircut and sweet smile, who had a LOT of shoes. It seemed like she wore a different pair every day, and the first time I went to her house she opened her closet and on the floor were all the shoes, lined up in neat rows, each pair awaiting their turn to be put on her five-year-old feet. My favorites were the little white ones, soft leather with worn toes, narrow straps, and a little button that fastened on the top of her foot. I’m not so sure that it was Candy’s shoes that ignited my longing, but it was most surely part of it. Ricky Marshall had a lot of shoes too. He was my same age and lived next door to our house, 1301 Don Avenue. With my pleading, he would bring his black snap-tongue shoes and his white bucks over to the side yard between our two houses for me to try on. The snap-tongue shoes slipped easily on my feet, the snap closing with its tinny clicking sound, and I was delighted. Who knows what Ricky thought of my innocent tomboy self coveting his shoes, but he cheerfully went along with it, quietly watching me as I stood up, in stillness, staring down at my small feet, inhabiting a self of dreams.
    - Ann Carter

Clothes – wearing apparel. Clothes they were. Apparel, a more dignified word, they were not. England, 1949, girls’ boarding school uniform for ages 11-18. Everyday — green V-neck, knee-length, sleeveless tunic; green and white striped blouse; green and red striped tie; knee-length woolen socks; clunky lace-up walking shoes. A green cloak for walking on the school grounds. Sundays in winter — scratchy, sackcloth-like jacket and skirt, just below the knee; white blouse; green tie; same socks and shoes; add one flat cowpat-like beret. Sundays in summer — one green dress falling just below the knee, with smocking along the top part, a sash, a cream-colored Peter Pan collar; the same socks and shoes (and unplanned-for dark sweat stains under the armpits). A bad imitation of a boys’ school uniform. An attempt to make us “uniform” since it was worn by all: rich/poor, pretty/ugly, etc. But of course, it didn’t make us “uniform.” Some girls could wear anything with a flair, and some of us looked like unmade beds no matter what.
    - Antonia Matthew

I became fashion-conscious as a new attorney in the 1970s. This required an investment in a quality wardrobe, on top of payments for school loans. Women attorneys adopted a uniform, usually a tailored suit in a boring neutral color with a pin on the jacket and a silk blouse with a bow tied at the neck. In the 1980s, fashion became more dramatic — shoulder pads and very high heels — and pantsuits found their way into the law office and courtroom. A decade later, sheath dresses with matching jackets appeared, a more glamorous look with the right jewelry. In big city law firms, dress codes remained conservative, except maybe for that silly casual Friday exception. In my smaller local office, fashion loosened up to the point where I wore leggings, ankle boots, and a stylish jacket over a turtle neck sweater. After retiring in 2016, I donated or consigned my entire business wardrobe. I admit that my legal career was inextricably connected to my appearance. I felt it inspired confidence in my clients that their lawyer knew how to make a strong impression not only on them but on adversaries and judges. Now, I am free to suit myself, pun happily intended!
    - Barrie Levine

Jeans are my favorite part of my collection of clothes. Wardrobe is too fancy a word for me. All I need is a pair of Levi 501 jeans, a pull-over shirt, plus an overshirt of some nature, with a large pocket or two. Buffalo plaid is mighty fine. I’ve always hated shopping for clothes in the women’s department of a store. Sizes vary with every line. A large here is a medium there. A small over there becomes a petite large here. I get dizzy and bored out of my mind. Thank God I wandered over to the men’s side one day when I was maybe 18. I saw the giant stacks of Levi jeans and I was immediately drawn to them. I almost cried with relief when I realized that all I needed to know, to find the perfect pair, was my waist measurement in simple inches and my inseam length (though rolling up the cuffs was okay too). Way back then I chose a button fly instead of a zipper. This formula has not changed for almost six decades now. It is one of the most consistent aspects of my life.
    - Blue Waters

My mother’s ghost pads around the house when I’m trying to write. The soft sound of her white moccasins on hardwood reminds me that I’m more like Mother than I care to admit. I’m wearing blue cotton socks and indigo clogs, lined with cotton fluff that sound like her moccasin shuffle. I change into them one second after coming home. These slippers and their scuffing sound comfort me, and my feet like to squirm and squiggle inside them while I’m playing Wordle. The slippers keep me warm at night while I write the day’s haiku. That’s when I hear her sneaking up behind me, watching me write, and I can feel her thinking, “I always said you should write a book, so what’s that you’re scribbling?” She may or may not not know how many poems I’ve written about her. She wouldn’t understand haiku, but she’s glad she always told me to write a book. I can imagine the cigarette in her mouth and smell the smoke. That’s how I know who she is.
    - Carole Johnston

“Wear the clothes, don’t let the clothes wear you,” was the advice given to me upon attending what was referred to as “charm school” for awkward teens like me back in the early ‘60s. I developed a sense of style that suited me, preferring neutrals, with color used only as accents.  One night I went against this advice and wore an ice-blue brocade dress to a Christmas party with my first real boyfriend. It had a shimmer. When we arrived my heart sank when I saw all the girls wearing sweater sets and flat shoes. I was overdressed! Worse, I would find out I was brought to the party to be dumped and introduced to his new girlfriend as they cuddled together on a couch. She wore a soft cashmere sweater set. Humiliated, a kind friend drove me home. To this day, I can’t wear patterns or sparkling clothes. I feel they draw attention away from who I am. I would share this deep humiliation with my daughter when she suffered her first heartbreak. It helped. I will never own a sweater set. But, like the Inuit myth of Crow bringing a ball of light to dispel the darkness, a small part of me is still drawn to sparkly things.
    - Carole MacRury

Sitting at her trusty Singer Featherweight, Mum carefully chose colorful fabrics to create matching dresses for my sister, Robin, and me. Mum was an identical twin and that powered her passion to dress her daughters alike, even though we were two years apart in age. My favorite were those neon-orange bug dresses we wore to church when I was eight and Rob was ten. The sleeveless bodices were a fiery hue, as lively and cheerful as the floral compositions Mum painted in oils. The full swing skirts and shawl collars, however, were cut from a bolt with larger-than-life insects dangling on a white background. Her love of nature became our own. Even now, a teeny red-and-black ladybug, or a grasshopper, reminds me of those dresses and makes me smile.
    - Deborah Burke Henderson

When I was a child, shoe-buying was both an exciting and humiliating experience. I remember heading to Vose’s Shoe Store with my mother to buy a new pair of saddle shoes, all the rage in the mid-forties when I was ten years old. Mr. Vose himself measured my foot and slipped on the shiny brown-and-white shoes with his fancy shoehorn. Then he led me to the fluoroscope machine to check the fit. This machine was made of wood and looked rather like a pulpit. I slid my feet into the opening at the bottom, then looked through a porthole in the top to view the x-ray of my foot bones inside the new shoes. Mr. Vose and my mother looked through their own portholes on either side. When I pointed out that the shoes were at least an inch too long, my mother said, “That’s good because your feet are still growing and these shoes will last you a long time.” “I can’t walk in these clodhoppers! They look like clown shoes!” I protested loudly. “My friends will laugh at me!” We left the store with the shoes in a box under my mother’s arm and feelings of mortification in my heart.
    - Emily Johnson

You know how you can’t let yourself get rid of those favorite shirts with all the holes in them? Today I was hanging out with Alan, he was wearing a black T-shirt with big rents in it, one under each arm. And I thought, I wouldn’t wear a shirt like that. For one thing, I would think I was putting my arm through the sleeve and the sleeve would end up perched on my shoulder. Remember that T-shirt I got in the museum in Mexico, the museum where they had the bullet-riddled car Pancho Villa was ambushed in? The T-shirt was posing as a recruiting poster for Pancho Villa’s army. I liked the idea, but the design wasn’t even authentic-looking. I wore it as a pajama shirt for years. When I threw it out yesterday there were several small holes in the back and some picture elements had faded completely away. I could have washed it again, worn it again. I have so many T-shirts, I told myself as I hesitated. It’s time.
    - Glenn Ingersoll

I'm a jeans and sweatshirt kinda guy. T-shirt, jeans, and sweatshirt. But I always put on a shirt with a collar on days I see Mom. Something tells me it's one more little piece of order in her days that have a little less order than they used to. Or maybe it's for me. Hard to tell. Hard to tell much of anything these days. Hard to tell.
    - Ian M. Shapiro

When I was nine my family moved from the Bronx to a small house in California. It was the first house we had ever lived in. There was a chicken farm across the road and, further down, a small ranch where I got to know a boy named Norm Sargent. The day we moved in, I opened the door of the closet in the bedroom I shared with my younger brother. We couldn’t believe our eyes. The closet was full of cowboy gear left by the former owner — Stetson hats, boots, leather chaps, fringed vests, even a few (empty) holsters. Though the outfits were too large for me, I did my best and swaggered down the road to Norm’s house. He was out back feeding the horses. “Who or what do you think you are?” he asked. “I’m a cowboy,” I said. “Ain’t no such thing as a Jew cowboy,” he snorted. Years later, I thought of Norm when I came across a book at the UCLA library. Bound in fringed calfskin, it was called “The Jewish Gauchos of the Pampas.”
    - Jack Goldman

When my father, Joe, died nearly two decades ago, my mailbox overflowed with condolence notes. The volume of cards and warm sentiments should not have surprised me: my father was well liked. What came as a complete shock was a lengthy, handwritten letter from a colleague of mine, long retired, with whom I had worked closely for several years. It began: “Dear Jim, I’m sorry for your loss. Your dad was a great man but, of course, you know this. What you probably don’t know is that Joe was a friend of mine for nearly sixty years. I met your father at Morris’ Menswear in 1948, when he sold me my first blue blazer.” (The blue blazers my father sold to hundreds of young Cornell undergraduates were, in his strongly-held opinion, essential to their future success.) The letter went on to trace a friendship that continued through their simultaneous deployment to Fort Dix during the Korean War and many other, happier events in the years that followed. I knew absolutely none of this. Yet, my father’s love of a good blue blazer resonated. “That blazer looked awfully sharp,” our mutual friend recalled, “I’ve always had Joe to thank for that!”
    - Jim Mazza

When I was in fourth grade my school added an over-the-heart pocket to our navy-blue uniform jumpers. In the first week of school, I noticed several friends had started putting linen, lace, or cotton “hankies” in those pockets. The splash of color or design made their uniforms “different.” Individual. I liked that idea. As soon as I got home I asked my fashion-loving mother if I could buy some hankies. Delighted that I was showing even a small interest in fashion, my mother agreed, and also offered “something for right now.” She pulled out a box from her dresser and showed me her handkerchief collection. Many were colored, edged in lace. Mom handed me the box. “They’re yours now.” I was enchanted by these elegant, lovely squares, the first items of clothing I ever really cared about. The next day, Mom helped me fold a green cotton lace-trimmed hankie so it neatly peeked out from my uniform pocket. Although I never became obsessed with fashion, I began to appreciate how clothing can make a person feel wonderful and individual. I no longer wear a uniform, but I still cherish that box of handkerchiefs.
    - Joan Leotta

I never wore one, but it was all those days out in the sun selling my jewelry at the art show that did it. My friend lost her patience with me and came to my red-orange-yellow-green-blue-indigo-violet velour-pillowed display with a gift. Handmade by her. Covered with flowers. For goodness sake, she said, you need a display on your head. And that was the start of it all.
    - Kath Abela Wilson

It was perfect. Purchased on a whim with no idea where or when I would wear it in those early teaching days. Far more than I should be spending. It called my name. Serendipity. A month later I had to attend a formal dinner with dancing. The perfect dress. Fabric like the softest old tee shirt. A slender crimson column falling from spaghetti straps to my feet. Slit to the knee on one side. Perfect for dancing. A tiny matching jacket for cool nights. High above the streets of Atlanta we danced for hours. (What was his name?) I must have worn it many times between the first and last time. Perhaps to formal weddings. On a hot sultry late summer night I wore it on another dance floor. Stars bright above the sea we headed for the beach, wading into the surf. Last dance to the music of the incoming waves. The damp sandy dress still perfect. Then one fall day, that spill of bright red crimson, the perfect dress, missing — as magically as it had appeared. Never seen again. Still perfect in my mind.
    - Margaret Walker

We’re at a wedding reception in an abandoned beachfront mansion in Newport, Rhode Island, the reception ballroom blazing with candles. Torn drapes hang like ghosts from the massive windows. An orchestra has been hired to play waltzes for the duration. My husband’s last two years of land duty after Vietnam are at the base here and a Navy friend of his lives rent free in the caretaker’s apartment in this mansion, the only space with electricity — hence the candles. His job: to keep out intruders and arrange for the football-sized yard to be mowed. He and his now-wife both come from wealth. The room reeks of money. I’m wearing my floppy, wide-brimmed tan hat, my favorite ever, picked up for ten dollars at a discount store. It’s perfect, the way it frames my face, curves down toward my eyes, long hair beneath, brushing my shoulders. It goes with jeans or with a long dress like I’m wearing tonight. I look good and I know it. Partway through, a wealthy friend of the parents walks over and offers to buy the hat for fifty dollars. His wife wants it. I know she thinks it will make her look like me. More hats were there and maybe I could buy another one but if they sold out I’m screwed. I love this hat. I know I can hold out and he’ll give me a hundred. I can tell by his determined look. I think of MY hat dancing away on another woman’s head. I think of my own head with no hat like it to cover it. I say “not for sale.”
    - Pris Campbell

After our father's funeral, the family returned to my parents' house. A little later, my sister climbed the stairs to the main bathroom and discovered that the clock there had stopped. She wanted a sign that our Dad was okay by asking him to reactivate the clock, since he had always been our in-house handyman. Sometime later, my sister returned to the bathroom and, mysteriously, the clock had started running again. I wasn't content with the message my sister received. I wanted a sign of my own. A few days later, as I was waiting in the front yard for my partner to get ready to go out to dinner, I spotted a coin caked heavily with dirt. I picked it up and quickly took it to the kitchen and ran it under hot water to clean off the dirt. I discovered that it was not just a quarter but a quarter with the year of my birth: 1954. I burst into tears, knowing that since my dear father was okay, I would be, too. The following day I went to a jewelry store and bought a chain and a bezel to put the precious coin in. That quarter I found is now always around my neck. It goes wherever I go. Sometimes a quarter can become a precious piece of jewelry.
    - Robert Epstein

Every August, Mom would take me to a department store to find a new school outfit or two, maybe a pair of shoes, definitely some socks. Every August I rebelled. I didn’t want new clothes. All my girlfriends wore hand-me-downs, and were not forced to wear new clothes. I didn’t want to be an only child anymore. I longed to be like them. I wanted a big sister, or better said, my big sister’s gently-worn clothes. Sometimes I cried in shame because all my outfits came fresh from the store. In my opinion, the only worthwhile lure of department stores was the escalators, the thrill of indoor carnival rides. In sixth grade, a friend and I exchanged mohair sweaters. She got my pink for her blue. I felt empowered after our exchange, but still I longed for an older sister who would provide me with used school attire. In my teen years I discovered the joy of secondhand charity shops, where I could buy jeans and jackets for a few bucks. The racks featured sweatshirts in every color on the planet. To me, it was fashion heaven. To this day, I remain adamant about avoiding new clothes.
    - Roberta Beach Jacobson

Dad called it my Sunday-go-to-Meetin' bonnet. I had just turned four. Mom sewed the bonnet of the softest pink corduroy, the pink of a Bonica rose, and lined it with matching pink satin. I stood on the chair behind her, watching as she sewed in the tiny light-filled room off the upstairs hall. The bonnet was a classic Quaker bonnet in shape if not color, with a stiffened brim framing my face and corduroy strings that tied under my chin. Wearing it felt wonderful. The corduroy fabric was deliciously soft. The satin lining slipped easily over my stringy mouse-brown hair. My two pigtails hung down below the bonnet's back. Not very far down — those pigtails were never very long and rarely neat. The past few months hadn’t been easy. We had moved recently and I felt scared of many things. That bonnet, though, with that lovely deep brim, gave me the feeling that I could look out at the world, but the world couldn't see me. I could hide in plain sight. For a shy four year old, it was magical. I hope Mom knew how much I loved it.
    - Sue Norvell

Somewhere in the attic there is a bin labeled “baby clothes I want to keep.” Notice the words stop there and don't include an “until” date. Just plain old keep. Maybe forever. The babies in question have grown into agile, lively 5 and 6 year olds now, all limbs and questions. How can I part with the tiny white cardigan she came home from the hospital wearing? Who else could wear the smallest footed pajamas that he wore, all fleece and patterned with baby raccoons?  Why do I save them? They’re souvenirs from a place I won’t live again, tokens from a time we’ve moved beyond. Perhaps knowing they’re up there, neatly folded and stowed away, is enough. And when I need proof that these big, beautiful children were once small enough to be carried, I’ll lift off the cover of that bin and see for myself.
    - Summer Killian

My mom bought her long fur coat before she and my dad married. By the time I was born, she'd worn it many times over. When I was growing up, she'd toss it on to meet me at the school bus stop or when she took the dog for a walk. She told me it was a “poor person's mink” because it was made of muskrat fur. Still, it was soft and silky, lined in satin, with her initials embroidered inside. I enjoyed drawing it close around me when she left it on the couch. It was certainly a lot less scary than the fox fur stole worn by the woman we usually sat behind in church. I hated the beady eyes of the fox head that bit into its own tail wrapped around the old lady's shoulders. Mom's coat was familiar to me. So familiar that when a piece of it fell off, we decided to make it into something. In her button collection, Mom had a few with owl faces and rhinestone eyes. I sewed a button to the fur, added a safety pin on the back, and called it my “squiggle.” I wore it to the playground where all the kids noticed my new accessory.
    - Theresa A. Cancro

Wearing Tingley boots is a real hillbilly look but they’re just the thing to keep your work shoes or hiking shoes dry. Just plain black rubber that stretches as you pull them over your shoes, sometimes you need silicon spray to lubricate the inside or Tingleys are hard to get on. Or you put plastic bags on your shoes to make them slip on. People who grew up on dairy farms sometimes laugh and say “Tingleys!” when they see me wearing those black boots that are commonly found in milking parlors and pastures on the feet of folks caring for cows and calves in mud, manure, and water. The bad thing is the boots can be punctured or torn easily, not boots you can trust around barbed wire. But they last until I wear out the heels now, not farming makes them last longer.  
    - Tina Wright

In the early 1970s I realized that my childhood love of well-worn clothing that was soft, tattered and not necessarily “clean” was actually becoming fashionable. I took this as a sign that I could, and should, dress down, and wear my same few articles of clothing day after day until they became so worn, dirty, and sporting holes that they were literally falling apart. It became me so happily, and thoroughly the me I wanted to be, but my mother and father were rather distressed at the mess of my appearance and encouraged me to clean up “my act.” Friends at the time were quite accepting and I actually gravitated towards those who were inclined to dress similarly to my own disheveled style. When I graduated from college and got my first job in the library I amazingly found tolerance for my cultivated shabbiness and was very grateful that I had found a job that allowed for an almost “anything goes” attire. Although my first on-the-job performance appraisal noted, in the “room for improvement” section: “Tom dresses, perhaps, too casually for his position in which he interacts with the public.” Soon after this I was given
some specific guidelines about what was okay and what wasn’t, and the slow metamorphosis toward cleaning up a bit began. But throughout the years — 37 years! — I stayed with the library job in large part because I still could dress fairly casually.
    - Tom Clausen

Many years ago a woman named Flash Rosenberg wrote a piece called “All the Black Clothes in New York.” She explained that her grandfather, Papa Rosy, a London tailor, bought a lot of black fabric in anticipation of the death of King George, which, he assumed, would be accompanied by a long period of mourning. But then, sooner than expected, the mourning was over, Elizabeth was on the throne, Flash’s grandfather went bankrupt, moved to New York, and sold his black fabric in the Garment District and the Lower East Side. Well, this is my piece, not nearly as poetically written as Flash’s. I am calling it “all the black clothes in my closet.” Here goes: two black winter coats, nearly identical; a black hooded almost-sweatshirt thing except it doesn’t pull over the head, there’s a zipper; a lightweight shiny-material jacket with an extraordinary lining that looks like an abstract painting with lots of yellow, orange, turquoise (the most colorful thing in my closet); a very nice blazer that I have worn on formal occasions because it looks “professional” but now I don’t wear it because it’s missing a button; 5 over-the-head tops made by the women’s clothing company, Habitat — if you look quickly they all seem the same but there are subtle differences; a long-sleeved button-down top made out of some material I can’t identify, a little bit slinky, I’ve had it for about a dozen years, my mother bought it for me, I love it, I hope I have it forever; two short-sleeve and two long-sleeve “bamboo” tops that are called “sleep wear” online but I wear them in the outside world, I’ve never slept in them; five pairs of black pants, some linen and some not, none have zippers, all are pull-on, some have ties at the waist; a very nice sleeveless, long-to-my-knees vest-like thing that looks good over everything else. At the bottom of the closet: shoes, sneakers, and sandals, all black (a total of ten pairs) and a pair of black leather ankle-high boots I’ve never worn but who knows, maybe tomorrow.
    - Zee Zahava

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

kitchen stories: short-shorts on a theme

I don’t believe you just said that! You must be drunk. Or on your way there. How about a nice cuppa tea? No? I thought you liked tea . . . before we got married I remember your drinking strong black tea, but only with milk, no sugar. I must be mixing you up with someone else. Maybe your sister? Your mother? I distinctly remember sitting in this kitchen at this grey formica table and talking about things, you know, in a casual conversation and whomever I so remember told me how comforting a hot cuppa tea with milk could be. And I remember agreeing. Now wait a second there! Don’t you start making fun of me, my tea drinking. I’ve shared my memories of Dad giving me a nice cuppa tea in the morning when he took me out on the fishing boat collecting specimens for his research. I remember that like his warm palm on my shoulder. Well, okay, I’ll join you for a shot of Irish, but watch out, I don’t want either of us losing our balance and falling onto the floor. Oh no, there you go. You hold your liquor like I do; that is, not at all. Look, we’re both here on the floor. And there you go again, making more fun of me. Oh well, I’ll think of that as your loving me. Like I know you do. Here on the soft linoleum kitchen floor where we lie laughing together.
    - Alan Bern

It’s raining heavily. I’ve just poured a glass of white and I’m sorting the veg for a stir-fry when the announcement comes through that the Queen is dead. We turn the TV up and listen to the past tense. There’s a helicopter shot of people gathering in front of Buckingham palace. We discuss how she’s always been there; how we know more about her than many of our neighbours. We watch as the notice is posted on the palace gates. We leave the TV on and cook dinner.
    - Alan Peat

It wasn’t a kitchen but Madame cooked there. One day she led me down a flight of stairs into an open-air space beneath the house. The four walls were limestone with rounded openings making the space feel like a light-filled cathedral cloister. In the center was a large stone table; on one corner stood a metal trivet with circular bars at the top and beside it a pile of twigs. “These,” Madame said, “are vine twigs.” And she put a few under the trivet, lit them, and as they began to smoke — a sweet/bitter scent — she added more, then took out of her bag a sharp knife, a plate, and a long piece of spicy sausage.  She sliced the sausage into thin rings and put them, a few at a time, on top of the trivet. As they sizzled, she turned them over then slid them onto the plate. “There is nothing, nothing, like sausage cooked over vine twigs. Monsieur loves them.” When the sausage was all cooked, Madame swept the still-glowing embers into a hole in the table. “When we have enough ashes we spread them around the vines,” she said. “Now, come, we get these to the lunch table while they are still hot.”
    - Antonia Matthew

During a visit to the big box store, my husband and I spotted a display of kitchen mixers, professional grade, in bright red enamel. Paul had a knack for cooking intuitively; when he shook a pan with his firm hand, the contents flew up a foot into the air and landed exactly as intended. We unpacked the red object of desire and set it up on the kitchen counter. Over the next months, he didn’t get around to reading the instructions or switching it on. I attributed his seeming lack of interest to the distractions of our busy life and was not especially concerned. Then, he showed increasing signs of difficulty in handling routine tasks, like using the coffeemaker, a sign of his fast-moving dementia. I watched him like a hawk and assisted him in basic “activities of daily living.” Learning something new — how to operate the mixer with its various parts and settings — was no longer possible. We left it in place, too overwhelmed to move it. When Paul died, I decided to return it, unused and re-boxed. After this sad errand, I sat motionless in the car, empty-handed and brokenhearted. Sometimes, when I go into the kitchen for a late night snack, I remember the red mixer that occupied the corner shadows, then disappeared, along with the life and love I cherished.
    - Barrie Levine

Anne, my older sister by 18 months, acted as though the difference in our ages was more like 18 years. She felt she was so much more mature than I was and she hated it when Mom insisted we do anything together. One night Mom wanted us both to clean up the dishes and right away Anne declared she would wash but she would not dry. That was okay with me. I was just happy to be part of the project, which seemed more like a game than a chore. I was too short to reach the sink so I pulled a chair over and climbed up, with a drying towel in my hand. Anne was determined to get the whole job done in a hurry so she could go off and do something more fun. She plunged the dirty dishes into a tub of soapy water, rinsed them quickly under a thin stream of hot water, and roughly passed each dish into my tiny hands, one after another. The plates were still greasy and they slipped away from me, crashing to the floor. Of course we should have stopped immediately, but we just kept on going like that. Mom heard the commotion and came rushing back into the kitchen, ordering us to quit our shenanigans. Anne happily ran off while I looked at the broken plates in horror. Mom knew that our “system” had been devised by my sister so she was not angry with me. She just lifted me off the chair, gave me a hug, and told me to go get the broom out of the pantry.
    - Blue Waters

In the early morning hours, my nana’s kitchen at the Cape house smelled of perking coffee and bacon bubbling on the griddle, while cornbread turned golden brown in the oven. My nostrils can recall the smells even now as I write this. A small, eastern-facing window offered glimpses of the Atlantic in all its glory. Rust-colored knotty pine paneling covered the walls, and the linoleum flooring featured rust and ochre bricks laid at angles. A working water pump sat on the counter to the left of the great farmhouse sink. High above, red-and-white gingham valences softened the light streaming in from the two twelve-paned windows overlooking the shell drive. There was a working fireplace. In the middle of the room, a round pine tilt-top table easily seated six of us at mealtimes. Nana was a stickler about eating well. She had us put our milk glasses out of reach on the lazy Susan in the table’s center. Her theory? If we drank the milk first, we would not clean our plates. As youngsters we earned shimmery stars when we did eat well. My sister hated green beans and would hide the long stringy vegetables under the braided seat mat. How did no one ever notice? Her actions emboldened me. Once, I threw my zucchini down the garbage disposal but got caught in the act. Guess who had cold zucchini for breakfast the next morning?!
    - Deborah Burke Henderson

Recently something terrible happened to me, related to the kitchen. On Tuesdays I regularly go to tennis, but that day my partner had a problem, so I went with my son. Before that, I set out to cook something for the family, something that wouldn't take me too much time — namely chicken livers with mixed vegetables that I had on hand: carrots, zucchini, corn, garlic. It would have been okay to prepare some rice as well, but I had no time and no one to help me, so I gave up. After the livers were ready, I started with the vegetables. Finally, I put everything in the pan to combine the flavors and added the garlic, cooking at low heat. After that, I went to play tennis for about two hours. At one point, my wife asked me if I turned off the stove. I was perplexed and said I don't know. Arriving home, we found the house shrouded in smoke and the food turned to ashes. The good thing was I had left the window wide open, otherwise who knows what would have happened. Maybe the chickens cursed me for my cruelty? Anyway, this madness has left a bad taste in my mouth, and of course I remember that “haste is the devil's work.”
    - Florin C. Ciobica

Gram’s kitchen: she, gray haired, an apron tied tightly around her waist; me, age 7, standing atop a step-stool to reach the counter. My earliest culinary lessons: the importance of soaking beans overnight, ways to keep molasses cookies soft, and the key ingredient for a flavorful raisin sauce (a splash of brandy). Cooking with Gram always included a bit of family history and a full helping of her kitchen wisdom. “I’ve had plenty of time to think about life while waiting for the water to boil,” she’d chuckle. Standing at her side, she told me stories of love and resilience: the tragic loss of her mother to the 1918 pandemic; the excitement of her first job at a seaside inn hundreds of miles from home; the hotel guest she met that summer who, unknown to either of them until that moment, lived in the same faraway hometown; her delight in marrying this summer visitor three months later. She ended these tales with advice for living optimistically: “No matter what goes wrong in life, never give up,” she’d say. “Sometimes the pie dough simply won’t come together. Don’t be afraid to toss it out and start again. Besides, who will know?”
    - Jim Mazza

I am not allowed in the kitchen when he is cooking. If I so much as place a toe over the threshold, he will wave me off in agitation. Cooking is a reverent experience for him, a meditation of chopping onions and carrots, a blessing of oils poured over linguine or fettuccine. I wait impatiently in the living room, catching the occasional whiff of garlic or hearing the sizzle of butter in a saucepan. I think of his signature dishes — pasta primavera, pepper-lime chicken, homemade fettuccine alfredo, caprese salad with basil picked fresh from a little plant on the counter — and marvel at how far he has come in fifteen years. When my son was two, we stopped on a whim at a garage sale and bought him a play kitchen. It has paid dividends ever since.
    - Julie Bloss Kelsey

we renovated the kitchen along with the rest of the condo took out all the cupboards and doors added skylights opened things up some might think we were not practical but we had other ideas the shelves built to the ceiling held books and big empty nut jars we are still filling these 22 years as our museum of broken things adding pieces every day and since then three small beautiful silver blue urns of my mother's ashes not all the family can bear them and the thin flat cardboard box for a favorite artwork by a friend labeled residue of a star exploded oh yes and one small pantry but most is open shelved and the walls covered with the artwork of a beloved departed friend our kitchen is full of life and painted three shades of yellow with pink champagne granite counters we took out walls and put in skylights and on the top shelf a big special cookie tin keeps hope where we can always find it
    - Kath Abela Wilson

 Kitchen and linoleum. The words go together comfortably from many years of use. “New kitchen linoleum,” is a step further, off of the worn and curled linoleum in the little square kitchen of the little square house my family lived in. The little square house, itself, had been living elsewhere until Dad sawed it in half, put it on a flatbed trailer, and repositioned it on the wooded piece of land he’d bought from his dad for a dollar. Four rooms, neat and square. But our growing family was being squeezed in the little square house, so Dad built a new room — a big kitchen — along the side, making it the size of two of the square rooms! It had a window over the sink that looked out on Dean Heil’s cornfield. It had another window that looked down the long driveway at Grandpap and Gramma Caldwell's tall and narrow house. And it had new linoleum! Big squares of gray and red that made for a perfect game of indoor hopscotch. So on rainy days, my little brother Michael and I would hop from square to square. He was only three, though, and not great at hopping yet, so I would pull him along as I hopped. And he never complained about me yanking on his little arm. And our mother, peeling potatoes or washing dishes, never complained, either, as we jolted around the kitchen, laughing.
    - Kathleen Kramer

Oatmeal. Every morning in the blue pot. Because I only use the blue pot for oatmeal. So I don’t have to think. No decision to make. The only question is which spoon will I use to stir the oatmeal? Maybe the little turquoise silicone spoon. Or maybe the little purple silicone spoon. Those are my choices. But once I hear the oatmeal is overflowing then I no longer have a choice. I reach for whichever spoon is closest to me and that’s that. Done.
    - Laura Joy

Sometime in the years before kindergarten, I remember horsing a chair over to where my mother stood at the kitchen sink, which looked out on the road beyond. “How does it feel to be this tall all the time?” I asked. She couldn’t answer. She had had years to get used to it. She did try to teach me other things about how to stay alive once I was on my own, but she always had to drag me out of a book. So these are not skills I learned very well. I have probably never not scorched grilled-cheese sandwiches. Also, I get distracted, and pots boil over. Even now, I am writing this when I should be rescuing the kitchen from a son’s well-meaning definition of keeping up with dishes. My son is taller than I am, and even when I was done growing, my mother, too, was taller than me. But people shrink. Now she’s 93 and I have several inches on her. Sadly, she also developed dementia. Yet if she hadn’t, there is no question she could still put me to shame in the kitchen, these days while I keep one eye on a different road beyond.
    - Laurinda Lind

Kitchens. A single word that conjures a torrent of memories. Kitchens full of life — of sounds, tastes, scents and hours of work. Different kitchens, different cooks, different places all rush through my mind. There is cheese-biscuit dough wrapped in waxed paper. Seven-layer caramel cake in the freezer. A butler’s pantry. The screened porches. The tin of bacon grease on the back of the stove. The schlup-schlop of the butter churn, the wood stove still in the corner, canning jars and rolling pins. Grease popping as chicken fries in the ever-present cast-iron skillet. Real buttermilk and sweet milk straight from the cow. Mama’s radio playing “old-people’s” music. Serrated grapefruit spoons — and the list goes on. But in every real kitchen until my current one the push-pull, slip-slap, flip-flop of kneading dough. Sticky at first, sprinkle more flour, working by feel and sound. Thoughts wandering far from the automatic activity of your hands until suddenly you knew it was right. That your hands, without conscious thought, could form this ball that would, in a few hours, fill the kitchen with the smell of baking bread. I can taste it now.
    Margaret Walker

In South Carolina winters, our small den was the only heated room in the house except at meal time. My father had been raised on a farm and believed a big country breakfast was essential before we set out for our day. He rose well before dawn, cooked grits from scratch, fried eggs to runny perfection, baked toast in the oven, and topped it all off with a slice from the sugar-cured ham that hung in the barn part of our garage, protected by a layer of lard. A small pot-bellied stove fueled by coal and kindling was fired up while he cooked. Mother and I, dressed for school (she was a teacher), with blankets slung around our shoulders, rushed down the cold hall to eat our feast. Lunch was at school and only a tiny meal was laid out for supper so the pot-belly did most of the heating then. A haze of steam coated the windows during those special times. I felt like I was in a cocoon, safe and loved. It never occurred to me then that those days would end.
    - Pris Campbell

When spices exceed spice rack capacity, apparently they advance to a random space in a kitchen cupboard next to soup bowls. This is what I learned when it was time for me to clean out my parents’ house in northern Illinois. Sorting through their spices was a definite priority. How many unopened celery salts do two not-so-spicy seniors need? Ditto rosemary. One shelf up — vintage diced pimento. Some of the 14 cans were bulging with age, ready to pop. Four years expired and then some. All things considered, the spices were much newer. Most were only a couple of years out of date. Someone had taken considerable effort to assemble like spices together with rubber bands. My parents seemed to have thought of everything they might wish to shake on their food, but not a dash of pepper was to be found.
    - Roberta Beach Jacobson

I remember how my maternal grandmother got up early each morning when we'd visit her home in west Texas. She no longer lived on the farm, but after she moved to town she still kept the habit of rising before the sun came up. I recall being gently awakened around 6:30 a.m. by the aroma of brewing coffee. I heard her quietly and efficiently preparing a big country breakfast that would load down the table once everyone was up, washed, and gathered in the dining room: pitchers of fresh-squeezed orange juice, a stack of flapjacks, biscuits, piles of golden toast, pots of jam, preserves, and real butter — and, of course, an urn of steaming coffee. When we were comfortably seated, she took orders for whatever style of bacon and eggs we wanted. She was a tiny woman — under five-foot-two by then — but she could stand at the stove for what seemed like hours. Later, for dinner, she’d bring out her signature crispy southern fried chicken, creamed corn, and mashed potatoes, which we topped off with fruit pies made with peaches, blueberries, and rhubarb that my aunt had canned on her nearby farm. Certainly there was lots of love in every bite!
    - Theresa A. Cancro

The kitchen in the farm house where I grew up was my mother’s domain. Grandma Wright, her mother-in-law, had insisted on a new big picture window over the sink when there was finally enough money after World War II. She earned money as a school teacher in a one-room schoolhouse and may have leveraged that when Grandpa wanted to expand the chicken coop. It was surely a dark kitchen until that beautiful window brightened things up. To the west, my mom, Carol, looked out across the fields and woods while she washed dishes, bathed babies in the sink, and chopped vegetables on the counter there. Oh, the sunsets! When she and my stepfather sold the farm and moved nearby, Mom looked out that window wistfully — it was what she would miss most.
    - Tina Wright

Each day begins in the kitchen . . . . boiling water for my two cups of green tea and getting my bowl for shredded wheat with banana and blueberries ready for breakfast. The entire day involves repeat visits to the kitchen for grazing, snacks, lunch, and dinner. On our kitchen counter we have a line of jars that contain items for browsing opportunities for any time of day, and such items seem just right! There are jars with walnuts, almonds, pistachios, peanuts, Triscuits, Saltines, Berta's homemade chocolate chip cookies, graham crackers, ginger snaps,  sunflower and pumpkin seeds. There is a plastic container with a selection of dark chocolate where at least a small square a day is available and, on a shelf above, are Greenstar Organic Chocolate Paradise Chunks of Energy for those moments when a perk to jump-start a shift in mood is needed. On another section of the counter are a couple bowls with apples, oranges, peaches or whatever is in season to help balance the options. Lunch is often a sandwich, soup, and a few kalamata olives. Dinner varies from a major production by Berta to just eating leftovers or something simple. I am the in-house dishwasher and enjoy listening to music on my phone while doing clean-up. It is at our kitchen window that I keep watch on our bird feeders and all the wonderful wildlife that visits and migrates through our back yard & backlot, which is a part of their expansive kitchen. The sightings include deer, squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, woodchucks and, less often, skunks, raccoons, and coyotes. The nourishment from the kitchen is sustaining in so many ways and I feel the call to visit off and on, all day, every day!
    - Tom Clausen

Last year I had a kitchen ghost. First I thought it was my imagination but after a while I knew for sure that something funny was going on. At night, before going to bed, I’d lay out all my vitamins and meds for the next day, carefully sorting them into three small dishes for morning, afternoon, and evening consumption. But when I woke up and went into the kitchen those little dishes were moved around on the counter, not even near where I had placed them. And things were missing. Sometimes a tiny golden vitamin D capsule would be gone; other times it would be one of the large white vitamin C tablets. I thought I was losing my mind. Then I decided I was not losing my mind and I just accepted the fact that I was living with a kitchen ghost. But then I decided that if I believed I was living with a kitchen ghost then maybe I really was losing my mind. This whole thing, back and forth with the re-arranged dishes and the missing pills and the wondering/worrying about my mind lasted for quite a few days, maybe a week, maybe more. One morning I noticed little nibbles breaking through the skin of an apple and a chunk was missing from an avocado. “Okay Zee” (when I talk to myself, out loud, I often say my name, so I know that I’m being serious) “you’ve got to do something about this.” I live in a building that employs the most excellent super. He came right up to the apartment with a small cage. Bye-bye kitchen ghost.
    - Zee Zahava

Sunday, August 14, 2022

How We Lived: Friday, August 12, 2022, a Collective List About a Day

I woke up at 2:40 a.m., just me and the moon in my room, but even that felt crowded and I couldn’t return to sleep; felt wonky all day long.

I soap up in the shower, smelling the brackishness of the old farm's well water, water so soft it takes twice as long to remove the suds; watch seven robins hop and play in the backyard while a mockingbird on the clothesline feigns shy, cat-like meows at the small avian gathering below. I walk the inlet shoreline and breathe in the salty afternoon air as thousands of Atlantic Slipper shells crunch under foot.

I looked in on my sleeping daughter and laughed when I noticed she was sleeping upside down — her head was at the foot of the bed and her feet were on her pillow. I changed my outfit twice, ultimately settling on my favorite embroidered Mexican blouse, the black one with multicolored flowers; reposted a Facebook Memory photo of the great white egret that had strolled past our patio on this date last year. I used Google Maps on my way to my doctor’s appointment but I still got lost.

I wrote a poem for my friend in Cairo and wrote to an online contact about the importance of dreams in helping us grow; looked at a photo of my mother when she was younger and I could see myself; spent many housebound hours having conversations in my head with people I loved who are gone now. I watched an iguana make its way to the pond.

I watch a scary mystery in the morning with my wife and wonder what will the rest of the day bring? I listen to an audiobook of Louise Erdrich’s novel The Sentence. I handle a recently sharpened kitchen knife and recall times when I’ve cut myself as well as the several years I cut paper, in my twenties, for two print shops — the blade kept me up at night, I’ve never worked more carefully; I put my knife down gently.

I wake early and put the world in order; 7 a.m. and it’s time to use the new first-time-ever frother — life is lighter and more lovely — latte.

I wrote some haiku bedside before taking my morning shower; paid off a loan on a credit card and closed the account for good; spent three hours pulling all the crabgrass from the brick path to my front door. I collected all my old jewelry for my granddaughters to look through so they could choose what they want; ate a spoonful of peanut butter right out of the jar and drank a cold glass of lemonade mixed with green tea that was left over from breakfast. I filled the watering can to the top to feed the tomato, cucumber, and spearmint plants; took an early evening walk up the street to look through the offerings at the Little Free Library.

I watch squirrels use telephone wires as a highway to reach a hazelnut tree’s highest branches, knocking the ripe fruit to the ground where they then feast as if it is their last meal; pushing through city sounds of a continuous cacophony of sirens, motorcycles, and cars to find the silence within me — only to find incessant internal chatter.

I dreamed that the public library started a Poetry Society but I wasn’t invited to join  — and instead of purchasing poetry books, the money they raised was used to buy fancy new lamps for a room that no one but its members are allowed to go into.

I spent an hour and a half on a narrow massage table while a big gentle man with massive hands pushed, pulled, and deeply tuned my every muscle and sinew. I shuffled through a shoebox of photographs labeled “Me” and had a good laugh at myself as I danced back and forth and in between all the phases of my life from 1947 until now.

I ate a granola bar before doing my boring PT exercises, stacked the dishwasher, fed the cat, and rode my stationary bike. I planted two dozen sunflower seeds even though I never get them to grow. I fed the birds and tried to shoo away the bully-bird blue jays. I read Hard Times and later I wanted to watch a Hamlet DVD but I was too tired.

I woke to early morning anxiety, stomach churning, both my ears aching; made a call to customer service to straighten out a problem with the phone bill, it was easily resolved, I felt tearful with gratitude and wished the customer service representative a blessed day, which is something I don’t ordinarily say; got off the phone and my stomach was no longer hurting but my ears were still ringing.

I went for a low-tide beach walk and was able to save a few of the starfish strewn over the sand. I prepared and froze a batch of pesto — the scent of basil filled my kitchen. I ended the day as usual, waiting for moonrise.

I woke long before day-break to sit quietly with a cup of tea, waiting for the birdsong; discovered my lost “to-do” list and found I could check off each of the 37 items but one. I remembered the childhood joy of sipping honeysuckle. I spoke to a stranger in the waiting room at my doctor’s office and three others joined the conversation — 30 minutes flew by. I ate just one bite of double chocolate 6-layer cake with salted caramel frosting and patted myself on the back for my restraint.

I went to an outdoor art fair and saw 12 people I know, most of them I like very much — none of them know one another — I didn’t get to talk to all of them, but just seeing people I recognize after all these months was very comforting. I met 5 new people at the fair, just brief conversations, but they were uplifting encounters, exactly what I’ve been craving.

I studied the moon before dawn, it isn’t supposed to be full until tonight, but it looked as full as a birthday balloon to me. I counted 2,160 minutes until I will be 80 years old, then worked on my poem titled, Forgive Time. I tried on the two new shirts I ordered online and the one I liked best fit best; read my MRI report, then read it again, but understood only a few words; reconciled my bank statement and didn’t find any mistakes by me or by the bank. 

I started reading the first book in a new-to-me mystery series, chosen solely because I like the name of the heroine: Frieda Klein.

I sliced up overripe peaches for the kids and ate the skins myself — they were delicious (the peaches, not the kids). I attended book club via Zoom, and by the end of the meeting the sun was setting right in my eyes, but my hair glowed like a halo so it was worth it. I went into the basement to turn out the lights, but the fish stared at me until I fed them. I dumped out the dehumidifier — again! I wish I could ship all the water to my family in Utah.

I removed spent blooms from the Marguerite Daisies and was sad to see only a few new buds; sprinkled some cayenne pepper on the top of the bird feeder to discourage the squirrels from prying the top off with their tiny paw-hands. I watched a squirrel as she twirled around the pole to the bird feeder and I smiled, thinking how she might get a job as a pole dancer. What would be her stage name, I wondered. I took an evening walk, heard an Eastern Wood Peewee and an Eastern Kingbird, and wondered if they know they are Eastern birds.

I chat with the motel clerk in Richmond, Indiana — her shift starts at 6 a.m., six days a week — I am 1178 miles from home. I sit beneath the Illinois Welcome Center’s wide-armed maple tree, marigold moss and slate blue lichen inhabit its trunk; I am 1019 miles from home. I wander Casey, Illinois, home to a giant chair, yardstick, mouse trap, and mailbox in which I now sit — where should I send myself? — I am 923 miles from home. I drive toward sunset, which lasts and lasts here in Missouri — pink, plum, and swimming-pool blue. I am 836 miles from home. I drive and drive. Kingdom City is 5 miles ahead. August’s Sturgeon moon rises in my mirror.

I am recovering from a recent car accident and remembering other head injuries I’ve had: older boys rolled me down the large hill every morning on the way to kindergarten — I didn’t tell anyone; I jumped off the roof trying to break something so I could avoid a Junior High party; an oncoming car ran a stop sign on top of the hill and rammed my side of the car when I was driving the candidate for my boss’s job to lunch; another oncoming car failed to stop and hit me in the driver’s side, totaling my favorite black Rav 4; I was bucked off my horse when he spooked at a piece of paper caught in the fence.

I watched a swallowtail butterfly flit through the yard while it flashed its bright yellow wings over green grass, then alit on a dangling sweetgum leaf and merged with the foliage. I opened a new box of Cheerios and the inner bag burst in my hands — a cascade of “Oh, Oh, Ohssss” for breakfast. I slipped a get-well card for an ailing friend into the mailbox, then listened to a snippet of a warbler’s song, his tee-tweet tee-tweet, twirl twirl floating on light breezes.

I like to get out of bed at 7:24 a.m. and will even lie in bed awake some mornings waiting for that exact time; I walk laps around our living room, dining room, and kitchen most mornings while waiting for the tea water to boil; I check the weather on my phone and read a daily poem that is sent each day.

I went on a walk with my wife and our son who is visiting and our little over-reactive dog, Toby. When we see other dogs I pick Toby up and put one hand over his eyes so we can get by the other dog without him seeing it and making a big and loud fuss. The people with the other dogs often notice what I'm doing and give me a knowing smile.

I fixed one stone step leading down to our side yard that had been slumping downwards at a bad angle for over a year — it took about 15 minutes to remove the step, clear out the setting and reset it in place so it is firmly flat and stable. Yes, I wondered why I had not attended to this earlier but today it got done.

I have been spending time each day, for three weeks now, in our garage sorting out and decluttering the “way too much” that has been saved and stored there; it is like doing an archeological dig of the many pieces of my life. It has been easy to just sit out there rereading letters, magazines, newspapers, or books and feeling grateful that I have found them again and can recognize a reason why I saved them to begin with.

I take a walk out into the woods shortly before it is dark, just to be out there in a grove of trees on a slope where I can see the far western horizon where sunset day light lingers. Tonight, I saw four deer in the dusk and said little nothings to them, calling them sweetie and telling them it was okay.

I found a wolf spider in my toilet, scooped it into an old paint dish, then whisked it through the front door and coaxed it onto an azalea branch. I discovered the “z” scrabble tile among many loose puzzle pieces of my latest jigsaw — so that’s where it ended up!

I hugged an old friend and was so happy that I picked her up and spun her around. I ate yellow, orange, and purple carrots glazed with delicious honey.

I laughed out loud at the pigeons who are becoming romantically involved, as they passed a piece of hay back and forth between them — an act of sharing that precedes the building of a nest. I cried when I looked into the face of my beautiful husband, thinking about how I nearly lost him to a massive subdural hematoma.

I reveled in the goosebumps on my arms in the chill of the evening after too many hazy, hot, and humid days — the dreaded triple H. I stressed waaaay too much about having to be an adult. I daydreamed about  my getaway — driving with no destination in mind and sleeping in the back of my car after a day of hiking with my dog, and sitting on the tailgate making art.

I woke feeling heavy with a big decision I have to make, about whether to carry on with plans for organizing a surprise party in September, complicated by some unforeseen circumstances that have recently popped up.

My husband offered a “get your mind off the problem” solution of checking off a few more libraries on my Mid-York Library Road Trip Summer Adventure that already includes 43 libraries visited, in three counties of New York. I dropped a coin on the map and we headed to the library where it landed, where we were greeted (or not) by a disinterested librarian who didn’t even offer any welcome, or care about how many libraries I’ve already visited. Later, in another town, a happy librarian invited us to come back anytime. We visited yet another library and after exiting through the Children’s Section we found ourselves in a small garden — I sat on a bench amid a labyrinth of hedges and black-eyed Susans and echinacea and came to a decision (or a semi-decision) about about what’s been troubling me.

I felt relieved that the day was so sharply sunny and perfect after all the recent heat but I was depressed and watched TV: The Closer, Major Crimes, Murder She Wrote. I did clean my bathroom and it cheered me up to get one thing done. After dark I went outside to see the moon but she had not yet risen so I went back home to watch more Major Crimes and I muted the commercials.

I was social: lunching with a former colleague and, later, celebrating the birthday of a bestie. I bought two new pairs of sunglasses that I absolutely did not need, but I’m glad I did it. I deadheaded the pink petunias and sat quietly awaiting the arrival of the hummingbird at the window box. I watched the kingfisher soar into the creek and emerge with a crayfish.

I read a chapter of Michael Lewis’s book, The Premonition: A Pandemic Story, and then switched gears to a Donna Leon mystery. I considered ironing my shirt, but does anyone still press a shirt anymore? I decided to wear it wrinkled.

I sat on my porch and tried not to worry that I wasn’t accomplishing anything, even though I worry about that all the time, and wish I could stop. I remembered, as I do almost every day, all the friends who have died in the last five years. I kissed my sweetheart’s forehead.

I woke up at 4:45, put the kayak in the lake, and paddled to see the moon set and sun rise. I sat around a campfire and listened to intimate stories from people that I barely know. I found the courage to say no and gave myself permission to say yes. I wondered what the answer would be to a question that I forgot to ask. I arrived home from a camping trip and breathed a long sigh of relief and gratitude for all that is familiar, for all that holds me, for all the tomatoes waiting to be picked.

I tried to write some lyrics about the heat, but because it was too hot I took a beer and shared it with a bee, two wasps, and three flies. I lay down on the almost dry grass and while listening to the crickets' song I started humming an old lullaby. I stopped to talk with a retired teacher who was listening to the music of the artesian fountain and urged him to start writing his memoirs, for he had seen a lot in his life. I watched the sunset drip from a cracked watermelon left on a stall and suddenly remembered that I needed to call my mother and tell her I miss her.

I fall asleep, confidently, with a red flower in my hair.


Alan Bern
Ann Carter
Anne Killian-Russo
Antonia Matthew
Barrie Levine  
Blue Waters
Carole MacRury
Deborah Burke Henderson  
Ellen Orleans
Florin C. Ciobica
Jennifer Marshall
Jim Mazza
Judy Cogan
Julie Bloss Kelsey
Kath Abela Wilson
Kathleen Kramer  
Lou Robinson
Marcie Wessels
Margaret Walker
Pris Campbell
Theresa A. Cancro
Tina Wright
Tom Clausen
Zee Zahava