Photo from Flickr via Weebly, may not be reproduced without permission
The osprey knew it was time to fly North. She didn’t ponder it, One day she just spread her wings And flew.
The teen-aged boy knew it was time When the gangs came to his door And said, Join us or be shot. He filled a small backpack Received his mother’s blessing, And set off walking.
The bird flew along the coastline, Untiring, stopping Only at night to catch a fish And to rest.
The boy reached town Where he jumped on a bus For a bumpy ride to the border. There he waited with other men To cross into Mexico Under cover of darkness.
Each day was the same for the osprey: Fly, stop, catch fish, rest, At first morning light, Fly again.
For the boy, each day was different. One day he walked, then he rode a bus, Once he jumped on a train, and found Other migrants riding on top: The women hugged and fed him, The men gave advice.
The osprey flew quickly, Riding the wind currents, Stopping only when the rain Pelted her feathers.
The boy sought shelter from the rain. Under a small tree. shivering in the cold. Hungrily, he ate a stale tortilla And captured rain water to drink. In the early morning light, he stood up, Shouldered his pack and trudged on.
The bird flew quickly. She soon overtook the boy. Unknowingly, they Travelled in tandem.
The bird stopped that night On a beach on the Baja coast. She roosted in a tree, Oblivious of the boy below.
But the boy saw the osprey. He watched her catch a fish in the water And carry it to her tree to eat. Hola, querida águila. I wish I could fly like you To my new home.
The osprey saw the fence Dividing the two countries. But she flew over it. Birds know no borders.
The boy came to the border And walked along the fence. Far away from the Migra, He found a hole in the fence, Small, but he was small himself. And he wriggled through.
The bird flew on, The wind currents were favorable And she would soon Be back at her nest.
The boy, hot and thirsty, found A water bottle left by a well-wisher. He rested a while under the hot sun. When he woke up, two men in uniforms Were standing there. They took him In their truck back to the border.
The osprey flew on, She soon reached her nest, Found her mate and began The yearly mating ritual.
While the boy waited at the border, Eager to start his new life, Looking to earn a few pesos for food, Every few days trying again to cross, Becoming ever more desperate, Thwarted at every turn.
And sometimes, he thought Of that magnificent águila He had seen that starry night And wished he, too, Could be a bird.
Photo by John Ehrenfeld, adapted by Craigor
Bachelor, stand watch o'er the Bay, Catch a big fish to eat all alone, Eating and watching in lonely silence, For your mate and your children have flown.
written in 1862 by Narciso Serradell Sevilla, who was exiled to France due to French intervention in Mexico. First recorded in 1906 by Señor Francisco.
A dónde irá, veloz y fatigada, La golondrina que de aqui se va. Por si en el viento hallara extraviada, Buscando abrigo y no lo encontrará. Junto a mi lecho, le pondré su nido Endonde pueda la estacion pasar. Tambien yo estoy en la region perdida Oh, cielo santo y sin poder volar.
Dejé tambien mi patria idolatrada, Y sa mansion que me miró nacer. Mi vida es hoy errante y angustiada Y ya no puedo a mi mansion volver. Ave querida, amada peregrina, Mi corazon al tuyo estrecharé. Oiré tu canto tierna golondrina Recordaré mi patria y lloraré.
Where is she going, fast and tired, The swallow who is leaving here. For if in the wind she becomes lost, Looking for shelter and not finding it, I'll put her nest right by my bed Where she can spend the summer. I am also in the lost region, Oh, Dear Heavens, and unable to fly.
I also left my beloved country, And the home that watched my birth. My life is now errant and anguished, And I can no longer return home. Dear bird, beloved pilgrim, My heart reaches out to yours. I will hear your song, tender swallow, I'll remember my homeland and I'll cry.
A Life in NuceBy Joseph Mileck One Immigrant's Story
Early Years I was born long ago and far away. It was in 1922, in a little German peasant village that chanced to germinate in Rumania in the year 1724. Sanktmartin, my birthplace, was but one of several hundred German farm communities that sprang up in Rumania, Hungary and Serbia after the Turks, who had occupied the eastern portion of Europe for some two hundred years, were finally driven back to their homeland. The retreating Turkish armies left that part of Europe once under their control, totally devastated and only thinly populated. What is now Rumania, Hungary and Serbia, had to be resettled and restored. Austria, the political powerhouse in Europe at the time, undertook this task. With the promise of free land and all the tools and supplies and professional help needed to found new villages and to prepare the land for farming, the Austrian government was able to persuade thousands of German peasants to pack their belongings, and with their wagons and farm animals float down the Danube River on large barges to their new homeland.
The many new and widely scattered farm communities were all more or less alike, patterned after the most attractive of Austria’s villages. Each settlement featured a central square flanked by a church, a rectory, an administrative office, and the village elementary school. All streets were broad and straight and bordered by run-off gutters and walkways, and all could be extended to accommodate a growth in population. Each of the settler families was granted close to an acre of land along one of the streets. The houses that lined the streets were all more or less of a kind: one-story elongated adobe structures that housed family, provided a covered space for farm equipment, and stabling for horses and cows. Each house was plastered and whitewashed, and every house had its red tile roof. The large yards, too, varied little: each had its outhouse, manure pile, straw stack, storehouse for fodder corn, chicken roost, pigeon loft, pigpen, vegetable garden, and a draw-well with a large wooden trough for the farm animals. Each village had its own nearby mill and cemetery, and grain fields, vineyards and pasture land surrounded each village. Many villages also had poverty-stricken gypsy encampments at their edge. The gypsies of Sanktmartin managed to survive by making mud bricks and by begging.
Sanktmartin was one of these many German agrarian villages in Rumania, and like all others, it enjoyed none of our modern amenities: no running water, no electricity, no motorized vehicles and no newspapers. An artesian well in the village square supplied the drinking water, petroleum lamps provided lighting, horse-drawn wagons did all the transporting, and a town crier went daily from street corner to street corner shouting out the latest news and coming events. The broad streets and church square were lined with shady trees, but nothing was paved and all was dusty in the sunlight and muddy in the rain. These villages rarely had more than one shop, and it only sold textiles and spices.
Each village family was more or less self-sufficient; the fowl and the pigs provided meat, the garden its vegetables, the cows their milk, and the fields their grain. The women cooked, baked, made the family’s clothing and tended to the children, and the men took care of the animals and farmed the fields. The days began at sunrise and ended soon after sunset. The stables had to be cleaned, animals fed and cows milked before breakfast. The menfolk then left on their wagons for the grain fields or vineyards and the children scurried off to school, while the women stayed at home tending to their domestic chores and to the yard. At 8 o’clock, soon after the evening meal, the church bells rang curfew and children had to be off to bed. Adults retired soon thereafter.
Spring, summer and autumn were seasons of toil and the winters were periods of rest and recuperation. Villagers also became alive socially in the winter months. Late autumn was the time to refill the larder. Each family butchered a fat pig or two to provide smoked sausages and ham for the year ahead. These were always festive occasions that went on for a few days and involved both family and friends. Grape picking and wine making always offered another few days of pleasant work and socializing. Christmas week was both festive and solemn: Saint Nicholas went from house to house threatening to punish children who were misbehaving, and Christmas Eve a joyous Christchild left gifts for every child. The New Year and Epiphany were almost as joyous occasions for both children and adults: children went from door to door with their rhymed wishes in expectation of some money or sweets, and the adults wined, dined and danced in the village banquet hall. Festivities peaked with a few days of raucous carnival in February followed by a solemn Lent and Easter. And then the work year would start all over again, leaving only Sunday evenings for dance and socializing in the banquet hall.
In all of these activities, the church was an ever present guiding hand. Religion was in fact that which lent the villages their cohesion. Everyone was Catholic, everyone went to church—all the grandmothers to early mass every day in their voluminous black dresses and kerchiefs—everyone was married in and buried by the church, and the priest was a revered figure. Many village girls became nuns and the occasional young man would choose to become a priest. Each village had its elementary school but no more. For any higher education, the children of Sanktmartin had to move to a Rumanian city some fifteen miles away. That was too troublesome and too expensive for most families. Such, by and large, was Sanktmartin for some two hundred years, such it was when I was born. Time had passed the village by! The first four years of my life are very hazy. Of specifics, I only remember that I, like all other little boys in Sanktmartin, wore dresses, just like all the little girls. My mother and grandmother, both of whom were seamstresses, obviously found it easier to make dresses than trousers.
In the summer of 1926, mother left with me and my slightly older sister, to join her husband in Hamilton, Ontario. Father had left for Canada in 1924, spent two years on a wheat farm in Saskatchewan, then got a better-paying job in a steel plant in Hamilton, and promptly had his family join him. Industrialized Hamilton attracted poor immigrants from almost every country in Europe. The newcomers characteristically moved into the shabby houses clustered around the smoky and noisy spread of factories. Ours was one of those rented homes on a short and muddy dead-end street with railroad tracks and rumbling factory but three short blocks away. Our three bedroom house was shabby, but it did have gas, electricity, running water and a bathroom—luxuries we did not enjoy in Sanktmartin—and it quickly became a comfortable new home for the family. The house also quickly became a home for a steady flow of boarders, singles and couples, and primarily fellow Sanktmartiners. It was a noisy setting with little privacy, but it was also lively and this as a youngster I enjoyed very much. All was well for the family. Father had a steady job in the Dominion Foundry and Steel Company, mother tended to family and boarders and my sister Mary and I began our education at Lloyd George, a relatively new elementary school but a short block away. I was but four years old, but stubbornly insisted on joining my older sister in Kindergarten. The school obliged and all went well. I enjoyed school, learned English fairly quickly and soon found a lot of new friends, most of whom were fellow immigrant children. I also found myself caught between two very different worlds: the school and streets where English was spoken and the home where only German was heard. The new and the old worlds were juxtaposed and fortunately to advantage. This was to continue to be the case until I graduated from McMaster University in Hamilton in 1945 and promptly left for Harvard.
But I have gotten ahead of myself. Much water was to run under the bridge before my Harvard days. All went well in home, school and factory until the beginning of the Great Depression in 1929. When the ranks of unemployed began to grow, my apprehensive parents decided in 1930 to send my sister and me back to Sanktmartin, to live with my mother’s parents. They expected to join us when the factory closed down. But the Dominion Foundry was never forced to lock its gates, and when father became reasonably certain that his job was not in jeopardy, he decided to have his children cross the Atlantic yet again and return to Hamilton. My sister and I were back in Hamilton in time to resume our schooling at Lloyd George in the autumn of 1931. The fifteen months spent in Sanktmartin with my kind and caring grandparents, have remained the most memorable years of my life. I owe all of my wealth of memories of that medieval-like village to that brief venture home. The different always impresses most deeply, and the old removed village of Sanktmartin and its peasant way of life were certainly startlingly different from the life of the proletariat in the factory ghetto of a Canadian steel city. The humorous and the shocking, too, tend to implant themselves in memory, and for a youngster back from Canada, there was much in Sanktmartin that amused or startled. When I first saw my dear grandmother twist off a pigeon’s head, I was shocked, and I was no less distressed when I first saw her slit a chicken’s throat and first saw her force-feed geese. I was also absolutely stunned when I first saw my otherwise gentle grandfather plunge a huge knife into the neck of a pig fattened for the kill. And when I witnessed the birth of a calf for the first time, I was left weeping, fearing that the loudly mooing cow was dying. These and many other deeply disturbing incidents were fortunately balanced by many equally joyful first time experiences. Pig-butchering was always a festive time. The unexpected was always expected and was amusing more often than not. On one occasion, after my grandfather had plunged his knife into the throat of a pig pinned to the ground by my two uncles and three or four neighbors, the huge pig, squealing loudly, suddenly broke free and began to run about the yard in circles with all the shouting men in hot pursuit. I joined the fray shouting loudly and laughing hilariously. The pig eventually collapsed and all else followed smoothly. And upon yet another occasion, a prankster uncle almost persuaded me to believe that if I were to pull the tail of a pig about to be slaughtered, something good would happen. My curiosity got the better of me. I gently pulled a curled-up fuzzy tail, and to my brief surprise and longer delight ended up with a little bag of candy in my hand, obviously thanks to my uncle’s sleight of hand. Homemade cake was common in Sanktmartin, but store-bought candy was a rare treat. I appreciated the trick and enjoyed the candy! Sankmartin became a never-ending holiday for me. For one full year school played no role in my life. Since Rumanian and not German was the prevailing language in the village’s elementary school, and since my sister and I spoke only German and English, we both refused to go to school and our indulgent grandparents—convinced that it was only a matter of time before our parents would send for us—were only too happy to oblige. Every day became either adventure in the fields and vineyards or play in the farmyard and streets. I often accompanied my grandfather to his vineyard, some two kilometers from the village, was even allowed to hold the reins of the fast-trotting horses, helped or hampered grandfather at work, and enjoyed our shish-kebab campfire lunches. Harvest was the season of field labor, of both men and women wielding their scythes and binding the sheaves; for me, one of the many water boys for the toilers, all this exhausting commotion was but a novel extended picnic. The busy spring ploughing and seeding was yet another novel experience for me; riding one of two horses pulling a single-share plough up and down the field, was a delight I will never forget. The grape harvest and wine making was the most convivial of Sanktmartin’s many communal events. For two to three days, each family harvested its grapes, dumped them into huge vats where barefooted children (I among them) stomped until the grape juice ran freely into waiting barrels. A train of wagons loaded with barrels of future wine then slowly wended its way back to the village where it was greeted by a loud bras band. Another memorable impression! Of the many church-related events, I chanced to witness in Sanktmartin, two in particular remained indelible memories: funerals and marriages. Both were as much communal as they were familial. Loud church bells announced every death. The dead were immediately washed, dressed, placed in a simple wooden coffin hastily sawed and nailed by the village carpenter, a one-day wake followed, and on the third day the body was carried to the church for a farewell mass. A funeral carriage drawn by black horses then slowly made its way to the cemetery, followed on foot by the village priest and altar boys, by family, by a softly-playing funeral band, and then by customarily hundreds of black-garbed Sanktmartiners. Following graveside prayers for the deceased, last farewells and burial, church bells rang out again, and the mourners slowly dispersed. Marriages in Sanktmartin were as boisterous and festive as its funerals were quiet and solemn. the one celebration that my sister and I attended—along with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins—was no exception. Bride and bridegroom, each surrounded by family and close friends, and all dressed in their colorful peasant best, walked their separate ways to the church and waiting crowd. Following mass and marriage ceremony, and while the church choir sang loudly, the newly-wedded, followed by their families and closest friends, slowly left the church and made their way to the bride’s home. A hundred guests or so soon converged on a house and yard well-prepared for a wedding party that lasted for two days. Chickens and a pig had been butchered and large round loaves of bread and a variety of pastries baked in advance. The wedding feast began with endless toasts, accompanied by as many shots of whiskey. A trail of food followed: chicken soup, a traditional first, then boiled chicken and a variety of piquant sauces, and the roasted pork with its different sauces. Wine flowed freely and chatter and laughter were loud. Music and dance followed and continued until nightfall. Guests then went home to tend to their animals and to recuperate, only to return to continue the revelry the entire following day. One of my life’s many exciting interludes! Weddings and funerals were of the adult world’s making, and certainly more for grown-ups than for children. Beyond school, Sanktmartin’s many youngsters had their own exciting world. Yard, street and village green were their playgrounds. It was fun searching for eggs hidden away by wary hens, watching a hungry calf suckling, helping a hen herd her swarm of wildly peeping chicks, grooming a restless foal, and annoying the pigs while they were grunting and gobbling their swill. Even minor stable chores became games. There were also hide-and-seek and run-and-catch games, but toys—and these were homemade, not store-bought—were scarce, so scarce indeed, that when out parents send me a couple of large rubber balls and a scooter and my sister a large doll, we two became the most sought after children in the village. Herding was probably the most popular of the games Sanktmartiner children played. Willful chickens and ducklings could be herded in the yards, stubborn geese and goslings our on the village green, and rambunctious piglets in yard, street or on the village green. I had a piglet experience that left me in tears and my grandfather splitting his sides in laughter. I was gifted a beautiful braided-leather miniature herdsman whip and was put in charge of some twelve squealing piglets. I cracked my whip and practice-herded my charges in the yard, then, cocksure, proceeded to the street where the piglets, after a block or two, suddenly took flight and scattered in all directions. Efforts to catch any were futile and I was left bewildered and in tears. But grandfather consoled me, and then he and a few neighbors who had witnessed the episode were able, after considerable dashing to and fro, to catch and to return my piglets to their pen. My subsequent herdings were never uneventful, but never the disaster of my first. Such was Sanktmartin of my childhood and this was the village both my sister and I left in late 1931 to resume our Canadian lives in the factory ghetto of Hamilton. Both my sister and I would have preferred to remain in the children’s paradise that Sanktmartin was, but such was not meant to be.
The poets are both moralists at heart. So the next few posts will be moralistic. This month features focus and persistence in the face of challenges, two qualities often necessary for success. JM particularly has shown these qualities as he rose up from the steel company town to go to the University, then Harvard, then become a professor. In retirement, his persistence continued as he wrote five books and he is still at it. Animals know persistence. The journey upriver of the salmon is nothing short of amazing. And the tugboat, while not alive, embodies the work ethic, a life of toil and service.
The Trout, by Franz Schubert
Fish spawn at river source tiny egg hatches tiny fish swims around grows and eats eats and grows swims around and around until one day it knows it’s time to go heads downstream
The fish finally reaches the bay where it stays and changes adapts to salty ocean water, grows silver scales and in late Spring enters the ocean joins other smolt in a school to swim and eat become strong mature after four years finds the bay again enters and begins the hard journey upstream evading predators: bears, otters, people battling currents, leaping falls finally home
Spawns and the cycle begins again
When you’re feelin’ blue, When you’re feelin’ down, And the usual just won’t do, Just erase your frown.
Get up out of bed, Make yourself just rise, Jump up, touch your toes, Go outside, open up your eyes.
See the sun and the blue sky, Stop your constant asking why, It’s clear now after the rain, Why should you complain?
Get to work then right away, Go out to face a new day. Don’t just stew inside and sit, Go out and just grab it.
Chase those blues away, Yeah, chase those blues away. Clear your head, open your eyes, Today is a brand new day. Baby, chase those blues away.
Tugboat on SF Bay, near Richmond Harbor
Song of the Tugboat
Tugger was a little tugboat With a pretty light blue coat. Tugged and towed the livelong day Up and down the Richmond Bay
One day she grew tired and said, “Oh, my poor aching head. Why must I work every day, While the sailboats lazily play?
People cheer when the cruise ship Glides into its narrow slip, They ignore that I was the one Led it there during their fun.
They don’t even know my name, The cruise ship has all the fame. And the tanker, even barge Are respected ‘cuz they’re large.”
Later, Tugger had finished her day When she saw a sailboat on the Bay. As she slowly chugged past She saw it on a sandbar, stuck fast.
“I must go help them”, she said, “Even though it’s time for bed, For that is what tugboats do Help whenever help is due.”
Tugger went to offer a line But the people said, “You are so kind Can’t we ride with you instead? That sailboat now fills us with dread.”
“Of course,” Tugger then replied, As her heart near burst with pride. So the people boarded the tug As each one gave the boat a hug.
And they partied all the way back, As Tugger gamely took up the slack, There was food, drink, music too, Provided by the tug’s great crew.
When they reached land, they all shouted “Yay, Hooray for Tugger who saved the day.” “They knew my name,” Tugger said with pride, She was so glad she had given them a ride.
And no longer angry, no longer sad, The next day she worked quite glad, Now the people knew her name, And she was a boat of some fame.
The Choice is Yours and Mine
The Physical We are weak and frail, Life is struggle and pain, Such are our givens, out lost.
The Mental We have a mind and will, And where there's thought and resolve Our givens need not prevail.
The choice is yours and mine, Not act and do not whine!
Je Suis d'Accord
Immer höher muss ich steigen, Immer weiter muss ich sehen. Das leicht Errungene widert mir, Nur das Erzwungene ergötzt mich schier." So did Goethe write in rhyme, Far away and once upon a time. My renditions's feeble, limp and tame, But the gist is really quite the same: "Ever higher must I clamber, Ever farther must I peer. The easily wrestled leaves me undone, Only the challenging accords me fun."
To Do or Not To Do
Worm and squirm or Sit and spit Toil and roil or Mutter and sputter Nurse and curse or Grumble and bumble Give and live or Name and blame Prevail and sail or Blink and sink The choice is yours!
Achievers are a restless lot, strivers who are never content and doers who never achieve enough and never stop trying to achieve. They are our makers and shakers and they never stop worming and squirming and/or flailing and thrashing. Achievement is the achiever's way of life! This can be a blessing or a curse or both.
See, feel, think and do, As focussed and as tense as possible. Accept and celebrate, reject and castigate, Don't just sit and vacantly stare, Don't just sigh an awful day. Don' just wince and find a chair, Don't just yearn for sleep and oblivion, Don't turn your back upon life and self. Savor being and spend yourself! Better to burn your candles at both ends Than to have no flame at all!
What did you make of yourself? What did you do for society? What will you bequest posterity? Haunting questions!
Word of Wisdom from JM
Everybody can do better, even the best.
Some plants grow best in rocky soils, as do some humans in bitter toil.
To stoke or to damp? The choice is yours.
Persistence is a lever for every endeavor.
Hard won, thoroughly appreciated.
Píccola practices persistence, keeping at it until she finally reaches the treat. Persistence brings rewards.
The poets have been observing the elements this past Winter. First was water, overflowing; then fire, friend and foe; and finally air, above it all. Now we come back to Earth. The water's deeps are mysterious, unknown; the sky's expanse beyond our ken; and fire fascinates us and repels us at the same time. But the Earth is our home, where we live, work and play. Earth is the element we know intimately. So often we ignore her, engage in damaging practices, take her for granted. But at the end of the day, it is Earth to which we turn, where we seek solace and comfort. This Spring, go out and find her, hike in the hills, sit in the crook of a tree, relax in the yard and watch the squirrels play, smell the sweet blossoms in the garden, listen to the song of Spring and revel in Earth, our mother, our home.
Song to Spring
Hills are green Mockingbirds sing Crow on the wing It is Spring.
Sky is blue Clouds chased away Sun here to stay Spring anew.
Blue jays nest And mourning dove Hawk soars above And I rest.
Spring is here My heart is glad No longer sad You are near.
Hills are green I am free Free just to be It is Spring.
As Mother's Day nears I feel the tears, Wish you were here, Mother, dear.
I think how just like the Earth You gave us birth, Well-nourished and fed Our progress you led.
Raised us from seed, Met our every need, Helped us grow roots strong, Taught us right from wrong.
Gave us a stem to stand tall Get up from every fall, Helped us grow leaves to feed And helped us succeed.
Until now, fully grown. We lead lives of our own, Secure in the power Of our mother's love flower.
For the kids, in honor of Earth Day:
This is the Earth. This is the seed lying in the Earth. This is the sprout that grew from the seed that lay in the Earth. This is the stem that grew from the sprout that grew from the seed that lay in the Earth. These are the leaves that grew on the stem that grew from the sprout that grew from the seed that lay in the Earth. This is the water that goes into the leaf delivered by the stem that grew from the sprout that grew from the seed that lay in the Earth. This is the leaf that makes the food using the water that goes into the leaf delivered by the stem that grew from the sprout that grew from the seed that lay in the Earth. This is the bud that formed using the food made by the leaf that uses the water from the stem that grew from the sprout that grew from the seed that lay in the Earth. This is the flower that blooms from the bud that formed using the food made by the leaf that used the water from the stem that grew from the sprout that grew from the seed that lay in the Earth. This is the bee that visits the flower that blooms from the bud that formed using the food made by the leaf that used the water brought by the stem that grew from the sprout that grew from the seed that lay in the Earth. This is the pollen carried by the bee that visits the flower that blooms from the bud that formed using the food made by the leaf that used the water brought by the stem that grew from the sprout that grew from the seed that lay in the Earth. This is the seed formed from the pollen carried to the egg by the bee that visited the flower that bloomed from the bud that formed using the food made by the leaf that used the water brought by the stem that grew from the sprout that grew from the seed that lay in the Earth. This is the wind that blew the seed down To the Earth.
The Garden Song by David Mallett the epitome of a song for gardeners
Inch by inch, row by row, Gonna make this garden grow, All it takes is a rake and a hoe And a piece of fertile ground. Inch by inch, row by row, Someone bless these seeds I sow, Someone warm them from below 'Till the rain comes tumbling' down.
Pullin' weeds, pickin' stones, We are made of dreams and bones, Feel the need to grow my own, For the time is near at hand. Grain for grain, sun and rain, We are part of Nature's chain, Tune my body and my brain To the music of the land.
Plant your rows straight and long, Temper them with prayer and song, Mother Earth will make you strong If you give her love and care. An old crow watching hungrily From his perch in yonder tree. In my garden I'm as free As that feathered thief up there.
Life is a precious miracle, Live it fully. Love is a blessed bond, Nurture it warmly. Adversity is a challenge, Meet it boldly, Death is a final act, Accept it calmly.
Whence, whither, why? The mysteries of life! We'll never cease to ask And we'll never know.
When All Else Fails
Let your mind wade naked up a stream, Walk barefoot over fields and through forest, And skim unburdened over rivers and lakes, Dross you'll shed and be rejuvenated, And fractured life will be a whole again. Nature can mend and heal when all else fails!
A Paean to Life
All Life should be treasured! This I long did doubt. Years it took and growth Before my mind and heart Were sage enough to think so.
All life's an awesome miracle And every living thing Reflects that glow and wonder That's beyond all ken, That comes and goes arcanely.
That there are animals, Plants, bacteria, Life forms of every ilk, In endless variety, Cannot but awe and rapture!
That water, air and earth Teem with complex life, That life adapts, evolves And thereby stays alive, Cannot but awe and humble!
That humans can feel and think And replicate themselves, That birds can sing and fly, Elephants mate and mourn, Cannot but awe and puzzle!
That spiders spin silk webs To catch their wary fare, That chickens lay their eggs And eggs bring forth their chicks, Cannot but awe and amaze!
That flowers blush and smell And bless the earth with seeds, That acorns will be oaks And trees become a forest, Cannot but awe and silence!
We cannot but stand in awe Of life's many mysteries. Describe we can and do, Know we never will, But treasure life we can and should!
Pensive Pauses by JM
Life is no less a wondrous agony than it is an agonizing wonder.
But for its many suns, the universe would be one vast black hole.
We know there is an earth and wish there were a heaven.
Earth's our fact and heaven's our fancy.
Píccola weighs in:
When it is warm and sunny I like to go out the door In the garden to explore.
But when it is cloudy and cold, I stay in my nest to have a rest.
As always, comments welcome. Let us know if you'd like to be put on the mailing list. Once a month postings usually.
Richie above nest, cap. by SailMonkey, photo courtesy of GGAS osprey cam.
cap by Geonni Banner , photo courtesy of GGAS osprey nest cam
Winter Solstice in Point Richmond
Two osprey fly against the darkening sky, Fly down the setting Solstice sun. I sing of day and night and osprey flight: This shortest day of all is done.
Now comes the dark, the long, The longest night of all; But do not be afraid, I hear the osprey call.
Tomorrow will dawn bright, Early in rosy sky, And in the morning light, You’ll see the osprey fly.
Each day earlier still, Bird song will fill the air, Winter will have its fill And Spring be everywhere.
Osprey exist above, perched high Nest on tall poles, soar in the sky, Dive briefly into the Bay Just long enough to catch their prey. Their feet never touch the ground Where we mere humans abound, Their home is the infinite sky; We can only aspire to fly.
cap by Kat, photo courtesy of GGAS osprey cam
Above It All
The hills are green dabbed with mustard yellow And golden poppies washed by last night's rain; Large trucks roar by on the freeway below. And I would be the hawk with piercing call, In highest tree surveying its domain That soars on updraft, high above it all.
The Bay sparkles blue-green beneath the sun, Criss-crossed by white waves from the tugboat's wake; Below the people laugh, having their fun. And I would be the osprey that sits tall Above on its nest, watching the waves break, Then lifts off to fly high above it all.
I would fly as they do, with wilding call, No longer among, high above it all.
Wisdom is not inherited, Nor can it be bought, An accident it isn't, Nor can it be sought.
Wisdom is a distillate, A residue sublime, A godly rarity, That only comes with time.
But time alone is not the source, It's but the needed space, For human interaction, For broad and deep experience, For suffering, joy and grief, For anger, plaint, remorse, For hope, despair and faith, And for calm reflection.
Wisdom is the grade that follows This transformative sageness, A gift accorded to but a few!
So It Is
Nothing goes, Nothing goes, All just is.
Being is becoming, Becoming is being, That's how it is.
It's not absurd, Nor rational, It just is.
We may accept, We may reject, It changes nothing!
Think and Do
To ponder too much Is to do too little. To ponder too little Is to err too often. To balance the two Is the thing to do!
Thoughts to Ponder by JM
All goes as the water flows and the wind blows.
Happiness is a state of mind and not the state of one's purse.
Perspicacity and sagacity walk hand in hand.
Self-realization is life-fulfillment.
cap and editing by Geonni Banner, photo courtesy of GGAS osprey cam
I like to sit up high Where I can see the sky But I do not like to fly.
The Osprey (tune is The Ash Grove)
The osprey how graceful, magnificent and regal As he sits upon his nest, looking out over the Bay. His great talons outstretched, His keen golden eyes searching, He glides over the blue water, Searching for his fish prey.
And I would too be an osprey just like he, I would glide over the Bay to search for my own prey.
Alas, I have no wings to fly, no talons, no eagle eye, So I will just stay here, on Earth, with you dear.
Today is the birthday of Theodore Geisel, otherwise known as Dr. Seuss. He arguably did more for children's reading than any other author, teacher or researcher. Challenged by his editor to write a story using only 50 common words, he penned Green Eggs and Ham. Every year I taught Kindergarten, I issued my students a challenge. If they could read Green Eggs and Ham (Or Hop on Pop) by Dr. Seuss' birthday, they would get a copy of the book. And we would have a green eggs and ham meal. Every year, they met the challenge. And learned that they could now read real books. How exciting for a child! Today, I will read to students and I will donate children's books to my local café. I challenge you, dear readers, to do something similar, in the name of Dr. Seuss,to challenge our children to discover the joy of reading.
I can read Green Eggs and Ham!
I like to read it end to end; I like to read it with a friend.
A Poem for Parents to the beat of Green Eggs and Ham
Time for bed now, time to sleep, I do not want to hear a peep.
Brush your teeth and go to bed, Turn out the light, lay down your head.
You forgot to read to me! You have to read a good story.
Here’s your reader from your school, Ten minutes a day is the rule.
No, Daddy, you read to me! To read to me is your duty.
Well, okay, just one story, One little book, now let us see…
Here is How to Be a Good Sport: This book is easy and it’s short.
No, I want Green Eggs and Ham, The one about the boy named Sam.
I like that book so much, you see, It is my favorite story.
No, no, please, not that one! We’ve read it so much, now I’m done!
Yes, because I like it so, Now come on, try it, have a go.
You can read it fast or slow, I’ll like it either way, you know.
Read it with a funny voice, Or read it loud, it is your choice.
Read it to me now, I plead, Get out Green Eggs and start to read.
Listen to me now, my child, I’ll read about the things so wild,
Goodnight Moon, I’ll even read, That is a sacrifice, indeed.
Knufflebunny, Little Bear, Perhaps The Tortoise and the Hare.
No, Green Eggs and Ham is all I want, so do not stall.
No, I will not read that book, Now you must let me off the hook.
I will read it by myself, Just go and get if off the shelf.
Yes, now you can read, it’s true, I do not have to read to you.
Every night I’ll let you sit And read your own story a bit.
While I sit and watch TV And sip upon a nice iced tea.
No, you must sill read to me, I like to listen too, you see.
If Green Eggs is not your choice, Then I will find another voice.
To the library I’ll go To find a book you’ll love, I know.
Do you like to read by chance About the Captain Underpants?
We could read a Goosebumps book; They’re full of terror, gore and gook!
No, I don’t like any of those That you have just proposed.
I will tell you, child of mind, I’ll go to the attic to find
My box of books I loved back when I was a child of six to ten.
Full of books I liked the best, Of dragons and brave knights on a quest.
Of the spider who did spin A web so her pig friend could win.
Stone Fox who gave up the race So Will and his dog could win first place,
Children who lived all alone In a caboose they called home,
Robin Hood, who was so brave But also somewhat of a knave.
Now that’s a good idea, Dad. Find a book that makes us glad.
Choose one that we both enjoy, Maybe about a dog and a boy?
But now please turn out the light, I think I’ll forego the book tonight.
A Poem for Teachers in Empathy (though I think, I hope,that things have gotten better)
Twas the week before vacation The children thought with glee Of the coming week of fun, Of music, art, and poetry. The spelling test was done, the sight words learned, The theme for the week was done. So the children to the teacher turned And said, “Please, may we have some fun?”
“We’ve studied hard, we’ve paid attention, We’ve behaved and all done our best, No one has served detention. Isn’t it time we’ve earned a rest?”
Their teacher turned to them to say I know a way to work and play, To learn while you have fun, And still get all our work done.
This week we’ll read and sing about Spring And study animals on wing. We’ll make our own egg dyes And then observe our butterflies.
“The standards we will meet As we enjoy this little treat And you will learn every day Even as you play.”
But when the Hootin’ Nifflin of this got word He couldn’t believe what he had heard. “It isn’t right,” he said with a smirk, “To enjoy themselves while they work.”
“Why, tisn’t the American way to do thus; All work and no play is good for us. School should be tests and drill, I’ll stop this nonsense, I will!”
He sent an email to his minions true To tell them what to do. “Send the principals a decree That teachers must with fidelity
Follow the text line by line Every day starting at nine. And no matter what their students need, The manual they must heed.”
“And to make sure that they do,” he said, “I’ll send my minions ahead To observe in every classroom there That they all fun do forswear.”
The principals quaked in their shoes and grew cold And the teachers did as they were told. So the next week, instead of fun The students were told each and every one
To study some more and read once again The story of the short e hen. The teachers put away their holiday books (picture books) While their students gave them sad looks.
They had no time to sing, to paint, to bake Nor presents for their family to make. (or crazy contraptions to make) And the children did as they were told But inside their hearts grew cold,
And the last day they hung their head As they came to school with dread They didn’t even want to eat Their late afternoon holiday treat.
And when school was out, they said “Hurray!” “Now begins our holiday. “For a week we don’t have to read or write; Those things belong to school all right.”
Home is for play, school is for work, And reading and writing we will shirk For they are no fun for us anymore; School is such a bore!”
Far away in textbook land, The Hootin’ Nifflin said, “My plan “Has worked so well, you see.” And he smirked with glee.
“No more shall children want to learn, And so we now can turn Their heads wherever we will Just by giving them more drill.”
“And each and every day They will learn what we send their way And will do whatever we say. For that is the American way.”
Now is this, sad though it be The end of our Niflin story? Need it be so, must it be thus Or is it maybe up to us?
Will a teacher one day Stand up to say “I am the one who knows How a child learns and grows.”
“I am the one who knows best How to teach and what to test. How a child learns through play And how to vary each day.”
“How to make children want to learn So to books and learning they will turn Not only when we say But forever more as they go on their way?”
Will we teachers ever stand up and say It is we who will lead the way?
(Eagle is photoshopped into my photo of Vallejo hills)
Dedicated to the survivors of the Santa Rosa fires, who have shown remarkable resilience.
Two Faces of Fire
Fire is life-giver Created by Sun, A ball of fire.
Fire is comfort...
Candle's glow Light in the darkness Bringing hope.
Flame on hearth After hard day's work Cozy warmth.
Meat roasting Pleasant aromas Sharing meals.
Fire is power...
We harness For good and evil For our use
Fire is destruction...
Lightning strikes Red hot blazing fires Then ashes.
Fire is rebirth...
Green grass growing Long-buried seeds sprouting Retuning life.
The ancients knew We could not be trusted So they guarded the fire From us humans.
But Prometheus Stole the torch for his friends Coyote too, stole fire, Brought it to us.
Humans used it To stay warm on cold nights, To cook their food to eat, For controlled fires.
For gunpowder, Fireworks and dynamite, Combustible engines, Rockets....and bombs.
Fire was unleashed, Growing out of control, Used by humans for good And destruction.
Phoenix Rising For Chuck and Kati
Once there was a man who lived in the hills. The man loved the hills that were green in the winter and golden in the summer, He loved the dark green oaks that dotted the hills. But he was a scientist by profession and had to spend many hours in his office and lab, so he didn’t often get to walk in his beloved hills. Finally, the time came when the man could retire. Now every morning he took a walk in the hills. He looked up at the sky to watch the birds soaring. He looked down into the valley at the neatly laid-out vineyards. He looked into the branches of the oak tree to watch the baby squirrels play and the jays gather acorns. He listened to the high-pitched call of the hawk, the chittering of the squirrels, the soft murmur of traffic from the freeway below. He knelt down to look at the earth at his feet. He watched the sowbugs crawl, the snail creep, the towhee hop. And he saw the fallen wood from the oak trees. One day, the man picked up a fallen oak branch and he got an idea. He would carve something out of the branch. He put it on a shelf where he could look at it every day. And he took to carrying it with him each morning when he took his walk. “What are you doing with that stick?” his wife would ask. And he would answer, “Just wait and see.” The idea grew. And while it grew, the man built himself a little studio under a large oak tree by the house. Finally, the studio was finished and the man was ready to carve. Every morning after his walk he worked, carefully chipping away the wood and smoothing it until the shape emerged. When he had finished carving, he smoothed it and shined it, until it shone golden in the sunlight. It was a bowl. He took it to show his wife. “What a fine bowl,” she exclaimed. “You captured the colors and shape of the oak tree in it.” The man was pleased. “It is yours,” he told her. The next day, when the man took his walk, he found another oak branch. He took it home and put it in his studio to study. Soon, he had made another creation. This one was a large spoon to go with the bowl. Soon, he had a collection of wood carvings, which he began to sell. Some were bowls of madrone, others spoons of pine. But his favorite wood was always the oak. The man was happy in his retirement. He had a house he had built, a life companion, children and grandchildren to visit, and his beloved hobby. He spent many hours in his studio, planning and carving his creations. But one day, that all ended. He awakened in the night to the smell of fire. He and his wife grabbed what they could and fled the house. His studio was already in flames and he could do nothing to save it. For days, the fires burned and the couple did not know what was happening to their house and land. Finally, the flames subsided and they were able to visit their property. Nothing remained but ash. The man and his wife did not know what to do. “We are growing old,” she said. “It is too late to rebuild.” And the man agreed. After all, a house was just a house and they were grateful that they still had each other and their family. They would move and sell their land. The man and woman travelled a while, visiting their children and friends. Then they returned to their town and moved into a new home. It was just an abode, not like the home they had planned and built themselves and in which they had raised their family. But they were resilient and they remained upbeat as they started their new life. Still, the man could not forget his studio, which was no longer. He did not yet sell the land. And he took to walking in the hills, as barren as they now were. The grass, irrepressible, began to poke up its blades, then a brave flower grew and another and yet another. Soon the hills were green, dotted with golden poppies. The man drank this all in hungrily. Rebirth, he thought, unable to be destroyed by fire. Life would have its way. The man had avoided looking at the trees. He could not bear their scarred trunks, their lack of foliage. But the trees too, were resilient. They were scarred but not destroyed. One day, the man picked up a fallen oak branch that had burned. He looked at the blackened wood. Then he took out the carving knife he always carried and cut into the wood. Below the black bark, he found golden wood, streaked with black. How beautiful, the man thought. And he sat down on a stump right there and began to carve. He did not know what he was making, only that he needed to bring out that golden wood. When the sun grew high, the man pocketed his halfmade carving and returned home. But first, he stopped by the spot where his studio had stood. The large oak, although blackened, had withstood the fire. “I will rebuild my studio,” the man told himself. “I will rebuild my hobby. For that is my passion.” He returned home to his wife and told her his plan. The couple went to visit their son and the man was unable to return to his beloved hills for a while. But he took with him his carving tools and the piece of wood. He worked on it every morning. And gradually, a form emerged. It was a golden eagle, made from the golden wood of the oak, with fire-blackened streaks. An eagle born of the fire. Finally, one morning, it was finished. He took it to show his family, “That’s beautiful,” his wife exclaimed. “But where did you get that beautiful wood? Is it wood from around here?” “No,” he told her, “it is from our own oaks. Tempered by fire.” “It is beautiful, Dad,” his son said. “A golden eagle. Perfect. Just like Phoenix rising.” The man told his family his plan. And they supported him fully. His son came to visit with his family and he helped his father rebuild his studio. His grandchildren ran through the hills and brought him oak branches. And soon his studio was ready again. As the man walked in the hills, he saw the animals returning. He especially watched the birds, who flew above it all. The hawks, the turkey buzzards, the crows and ravens, the blue jays, and the occasional golden eagle. And this is what he began to carve, each bird a representation of phoenix rising. In time, the man had a large collection of these birds and showed them in town. He did not sell them as he had the bowls, but he did give many away, each time to someone who had suffered a loss of some kind. And his birds became prized, not only in his own hometown, but all over the country. The man was content once again. He had his bosom companion at his side, his growing family, a home, the hills that were one again green in winter and golden in summer- and his beloved studio, where he spent every morning in contented silence, carving beauty from fire-scarred wood.
Fire as Metaphor
A Sobering Thought
For many of us who've thought seriously and long Little's gone right in our world and much has gone wrong. Is this really fact or only surmise? Or is it because of the expectations we prize, Because of the too much that we expect And because of the too little we know?
Becoming and Unbecoming
Cultures have come and gone, They will continue to come and go, And ours is no exception, Not here to stay forever.
Cultures are spawned by religions, Religions are born of belief, Belief is the fruit of need, Of need for solace and promise.
Cultures flourish in belief, Belief wears thin in time, Suspicion then leads to doubt, Doubt to disbelief, Disbelief to destruction, The demise of a culture spent.
Cultural voids are chaotic, Painful and bewildering, Respite is sought anew, New belief is found, A new religion is born, Yet another culture is spawned.
These changes are never ending, For basic human needs Will seek and find their balm In ever-changing religions, In cultures that come and go, Mourn then rejoice.
Nothing is here to stay. Let go what has gone its allotted course, Let go what is tired and spent, Let go what can no longer live, Let go what is ready to go. But treasure the memory.
Epigrams by JM
To overvalue things is to undervalue humans.
A peace of mind is better than a piece of property.
Not to suffer some want in life is to be deprived.
Fire is both an agent of death and life.
Beauty is most commonly found in the uncommon.
Píccola opines: I like the warmth of the sun and human bodies, not fires.
Woman sits Alone on lake's edge. Mallard swims up, meets her gaze. She throws out brown rice Remembering.
Then stands up Holds out upturned hands “No more rice for you today” Duck quacks amiably Swims away.
Stiff legged heron Stands on the still lake, watching Waiting patiently
Looks down, ducks its head Brings up a large flopping fish On a Winter day.
Green sprouted through deep rich earth, Mothers everywhere gave birth. Peace was again at hand And the river ran.
Children played wild and carefree ‘Neath the leafed-out apple tree Heedless of the treaty ban. Still the river ran.
Drying leaves began to fall, Geese flew south with mournful call. Cold discord crept through the land. Yet the river ran.
Came wan winter ice and snow, Friend and brother were now foe. Clashing armies took their stand. But the river ran.
Then the darkest longest night, Pale moon but a ghostly white, By a heedful few a cry was heard,
A whispered voice, a hopeful word. Hope sprang forth from fountainhead Fresh air breathed life from the dead.
Rose bloomed in the snowy land And still the river ran.
Just for fun: Píccola opening presents on Christmas Day.
The Paradox of Reality
Everything comes and goes, Reality's in constant flux, Or as Heraclites Of ancient Greece opined: Being is becoming!
What is, is constantly in flux, And change is good or bad or both. Good change gives more than it takes, Bad change takes more than it gives. Change both good and bad does both. It always is a give and take, Such is the nature of all things.
All is ever changing, But nought is ever lost. We are what was and will be, A wondrous present moment, Changeless changing beings!
Droplets of Wisdom
We know time in timelessness and multiplicity in oneness.
There are big fish and small fish even in the smallest of ponds.
We are but pulsating specks in the big pond of life.
To laugh or weep, the choice is yours.
The present reflects the past and anticipates the future.
To remember is a precious mixture of joy and grief.
Photo courtesy of Osprey webcam Golden Gate Audubon Society.
Solstice Afternoon On the nest lone osprey Looks out over gray Bay Watching, waiting…Does he know The days will soon grow longer The sun will shine stronger And soon his loyal mate Northward will migrate?
Solstice Evening Lone shepherd on a hill Looks up into dark sky Watching, wondering…Does he know To a world weary and worn A child will soon be born First called a pariah Then a Messiah?
This and every year Solstice again draws near We look past city lights Watching, waiting, we now know The days will soon grow longer, The sun will shine stronger, The Earth turn without cease To one day know peace?
On this darkest night Shivering birds take flight, Flee the bitter cold E’er Winter takes hold.
In our Winter, we Too from darkness flee, Turn from ceaseless strife Seeking hope in life.
Yet soon the Earth will turn The days grow warm and long And with their joyful song The birds will then return.
So as the bleak year’s done May we with hope now greet, Go forth in peace to meet, The new with voices one.
May we wisdom and love, Goodwill and caring learn. And from our hatred turn To seek light from above.
But first, this darkest night Let us be still, let us pause, Listen to nobler cause, And then go forth renewed,. Emerging from our night To seek the New Year’s light.
In Wintertimes of old When Earth grew dark and cold The people went inside.
They sat by fireside, Lit the yule log bright To chase away the night.
And o’er the years they learned That Earth forever turned And snow to Spring would cede.
So we, in time of need, These times that are so rife, With discord, war and strife,
Must look within to find The good within mankind The peace for which we yearn,
Wait for the Universe to turn Witness again the birth Of Goodwill, Peace on Earth!