Friday, December 31, 2010

a rainy winter day

i'm a passenger
on the rolling wheels of this day

the last one of this year

and i'm entirely content
to see the world
through these rainy windows

tonight the old calendar will be taken down
and a new one put in its place

i'm good with
the extraordinary gifts and blessings
as well as the challenges
that have come to my place in this world

i'm good with it all


Thursday, December 30, 2010

the bottom of the garden

winter at the bottom of the garden is a place of real fascination for me . . .

it's where the fairies hold their parties

when the bunnies coming running through
it's where they especially like to be
'cause there's always tasty veggies put out for them
and also 'cause it's a good place
and they know it

while you're down there
you can head out
and visit fuzzy friends

with funky homes
"hey, come onnnn in!"

and there are cozy places
to stop and paint or write or drink tea
or watch everything that happens
or just sleep and dream dreamy dreaming dreams

which is probably my most favourite thing of all

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

an icy grace

each day
the sun rises little by little
and stays
ever so slightly longer

the water
(passing through the earthly part of its cycle)
dances backwards and forwards
between its liquid and solid states

an icy grace

in the sudden setting of the sun
is a similarly sudden chill
a chill that catches the water drowsing
in its sunny somnambulance
and quickly slows it down

- yes quickly slows it down -

forming it into a soft-edged layered lattice
that holds even the tiniest light
the slightest hue
the gentlest colours
rendering for the briefest of moments
the purest

for anyone who happens to be drifting by

this post is dedicated to the astonishing tessa who (i discovered this morning) has flown away leaving a legacy of goodness and beauty and care and most especially real out thereness!
i knew i was in the right place when i saw her header on which is inscribed

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

out the back door

the city is barely awake
as i step out the back door
and watch as a solitary brown leaf
falls from a nearby poplar
drifts through the air
and tumbles across the snow

Monday, December 27, 2010


a burning question

to be a guide
rather than a mediator of experience?

how best
to share the simple privilege
of walking through this world of worlds

while gently
almost solicitously
to open the eyes
of their heart
then their spirit

and then their soul

to the knowledge
that is so abundant
and freely available
in the surface details
of their existence

my faltering tongue attempts in vain
in soothing murmurs to complain;
thy tongue some secret magic ties,
thy murmurs sink in broken sighs.

italicized words excerpted from sappho's poem of jealousy

Sunday, December 26, 2010

still sound

the temple bell stops
but I still hear the sound coming out of the flowers


the morning after christmas day - it's filled with endings and beginnings.
the workaday world has something of a gentle rumble about it.
toys and games are being tried for the first time.
magazines and books are opening and then just as suddenly closing.
there's a need to tidy and organize, to pull back together some of the loosened ends.

a quiet day here.
a visit with my mother and my aunt.
some time by the lake.

a moment releasing fallen poinsettia leaves in the snow.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

the heart of a tree

this day blossomed
like so many others before and afterwards -
thin, cold, and white
under a sky
so tender
so mild
even the birds whispered
in reverent deference
as they crossed it


how many birds
held their songs
in their throats
felt the beating
of their hearts in their breasts
as that sky
spread itself
across the earth

perhaps you can imagine
(possibly even feel
in the beating of your own heart)
how when one small bird sang
in a silent and sacred space such as this
the spell was not so much broken
as it was refined
to an almost crystalline essence


the bird sang a story
of a tree
that grew long ago
a tree
so tall
so ancient
so magnificent
that in all their experiencing
the birds had never
known such a tree
or anytime else

this was a tree
of such wisdom
and such grace
that one bird in particular
could not bear
to be separated from her

he loved her


and so it is
that this story-telling bird
flying alone
across the december sky
caught my attention
as he sang
the story of a bird
who had flown these very skies
so very long ago

a bird
who could not bear to be separated
from the tree to whom he had given his heart

and for those others who slowed

perhaps even stopped
to hear his songstory
this is what they learned


it seems that there had indeed once been a magnificent and ancient pine tree
a tree whose arms sheltered all manner of birds and animals
including one small bird who had been born in the tree
and had known the tree as a place of refuge for much of its life

after having lived for countless years
(for as you likely know tree years bear no relation to human years)
this tree had been taken down by a single man
whose axe had been brought forth from its place in a small shed
where it hung from a small leather strap.

its blade had flashed momentarily as the man had brought it into the light of that late summer's day.

it had slashed upwards
and then downwards
until a soft white v with a pale green heart
was exposed.

the man had been instructed to bring down the tree at the request of his wife
who among other extraordinary qualities,
possessed degrees of intuition that he found difficult to ignore or compromise.
it was his work to render the tree's body into useable portions in preparation for a winter that was
(as her intuitions had suggested)
so deep that few have forgotten its harsh and unremitting culling of man and animal alike.

as the notch in the tree's body became more pronounced
the man stopped for a moment
for between the splintering strokes of his axe
he could hear a bird


and as he looked up to see the bird
a single pinecone fell to the ground
from the very tree whose life he was ending

the cone fell into the centre of a small patch of wildflowers
some of whom bent very slightly
the better to see the newcomer

the cone lay very still of course

the bird stopped its singing

the man stood with his axe at his side

all the forest was waiting

he heard the rustling of late summer leaves
felt a small breeze cross his face
as the wildflowers slowly returned to their upright position

then he wiped his brow
hoisted his axe
and swung it three more times
into the body of the tree

as the axe bit into the wood for the third time
the tree shuddered
almost imperceptably
but the man
who was sensitive to such things
moved backwards
and watched as the tree
with a soft groan
fell to the ground

in the instant
that the tree
was released
from its earthly constraints
the bird flew skywards


a tiny brown speck
against a watery blue sky

the man rendered the tree into smaller pieces
and dragged them one-by-one to his home
where his wife stood watching from the cabin door

when the last of the wood
had been taken away
the bird descended from its place in the sky
and landed
amongst the tiny patch of wildflowers
where the pinecone had fallen

it had settled in underneath some leaves
and was slowly but surely being
drawn into the earth

the bird
moved until it was sitting over the pinecone
so as to protect its tiny body
from squirrels and larger animals,
the first frosts
and eventually
the snow and the ice

in so doing
the bird gave away its connection to this place
and eventually
as is the way with all living things
its body also
returned to the earth

over time
as the pinecone
entered the earth
it opened its body
releasing a trembling finger of pale green
that drew sun and water and air
into itself

and as the little green finger thickened
and grew into a tall and loving tree
it wrapped itself around the bird
enveloping it

such that the tree and the bird
were as one
for the heart of the tree
and the heart of the bird

were one


this is a song
that the birds sing
to remind us
of the great and unconditional care
that exists in the world and between all things


since that time
the tree that grew from the pinecone
so carefully nurtured and loved by the little bird
has had many descendants

look carefully
for some carry inside their hearts
the image
of the bird

happy christmas from steven
and everyone at the golden fish world headquarters!

Friday, December 24, 2010

snow angel

somehow know
how to create
magic spaces
that echo backwards
through time

through the snow-covered arms, legs, and backs
of their parents and their parent's parents
through the hourglass and out the other side

some stop
and kneel at the edge
of the outer circle

they look deep into the angel
and see that her body
is formed of stars . . .
millions and millions
of tiny stars
into her form

snow angel courtesy of a little girl at my school

Thursday, December 23, 2010

a fairy tale

christmastime hovers in a space between worlds. the earthly world gets described by gifts and decorated trees, food, drink, and loving company. the fairy world gets described by the otherness of imagining, of worlds long passed and yet entirely present. ideas that dance in the flames of candles and fires.
wishes that glisten like tinsel and glass.
when the gentle season approaches, i find myself drawn irrevocably to the spaces in-between here and there:
the magical interstice of what is above and below.

on winter nights beside the nursery fire
we read the fairy tale, while glowing coals
builded its pictures.

there before our eyes
we saw the vaulted hall of traceried stone
uprear itself, the distant ceiling hung
with pendent stalactites like frozen vines;

the great hall and round table at winchester castle

and all along the walls at intervals,
curled upwards into pillars, roses climbed,
and ramped and were confined, and clustered leaves
divided where there peered a laughing face.
the foliage seemed to rustle in the wind,
a silent murmur, carved in still, gray stone.

high pointed windows pierced the southern wall
whence proud escutcheons flung prismatic fires
to stain the tessellated marble floor
with pools of red, and quivering green, and blue . . .

excerpted from "a fairy tale" by amy lowell

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

river snow

i'm really looking forward to the part of the holidays that begins this evening when i get to step away from my teaching and enjoy my family and friends. time to spend alone - perhaps and hopefully some time in the woods or even on my bicycle.

quiet time.

snow storm at hatakudari hasui kawase

a thousand hills,
but no birds in flight,
ten thousand paths,
with no people's tracks.

snow at mukajima hasui kawase

a lonely boat,
a straw-hatted old man,
fishing alone in the cold river snow.

all words liu zong-yuan

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

crow's gift

in august of 2008, on my birthday,
this story arrived as a gift from ali miracle holt.


the crows here are so smart. and lordly.
one crawwked at me from atop a sign this morning.
here is a story about one:

sitting on his back deck early one august morning, focused on his laptop,
steven suddenly felt someone watching him.
he looked up into the shining black eye of a crow, standing on the railing not two meters away.

the crow tilted his head, staring over his beak at steven.
clearly, the crow expected something of him.
'hello crow,' steven ventured.
in response the crow narrowed his eyes and pushed his head a bit closer,
which had the effect of elongating his whole body, pointing toward him.

steven dared not look away.
'what can i do for you?' he asked.
the crow walked sideways along the rail a bit, peering at him from this new angle,
and fluffed his wings out briefly and refolded them.

'it's a fine day to be out flying,' continued steven.
'the sun is shining, the flowers are blooming.
i was just finding some good wake up music when you caught my attention.'

then the crow really got his attention with a loud crawwwwk and a piercing glare.
taken aback, suddenly steven 'heard' inside his head the odd-sounding but distinct
'i have come a long way to deliver this message.'
steven's eyes were wide.
the crow cocked his head and steven 'heard,'
'you are a good man.
a friend to animals and children.
we thank you.
know that the birds and wild creatures will watch over you, and those you love.'

almost dumbfounded, steven managed to get out,
'why, thank you! i feel honoured by this.'
the crow seemed to relax just a bit, encouraging steven to go on.
'can i do anything in return?'
'just keep being grateful, honouring all life, paying attention to what's around you.'

now the crow flapped his wings and steven sensed the end of his patience.
'thank you, thank you very much.
i will do my best to follow your advice.'
already the crow had turned around and was testing the breeze in preparation for flying off.
he looked back at steven one last time,
opened his beak to crawwwk once,
then flew off the railing and up into the clear sky,
heading west.

steven watched until the crow became a tiny black dot
then disappeared far above the roofs of the neighborhood.

* * * * * * * * *

ali's body flew away some time ago.
but her spirit remains
spread like a starry blanket across much of the known world.

Monday, December 20, 2010

each berry

each berry
like a christmas light

in its own pool
of crimson

Sunday, December 19, 2010

ice forms

on a cold cold day my forsythia
finds itself decorated
with the most fragile of winter jewellery

a small pendant

and a bony brooch

while closer to the ground
the ice man dances

an ancient ice fish blunders into me
and then passes by

Saturday, December 18, 2010

just so

just so -
the hands

just so -
the fingers

a woman
and outside
of her self

forming inside
and around
a sky filled
with the sun's
evening songs

falling against the air
with all her colours
and words
as the sky whispers
the day's end
in a voice edged with burnt umber
soft with violet
and creased
with lilac and gold

Friday, December 17, 2010

casting off

henry parker great marlowe on thames

let's pass through dawn's soft orange fingers
and lie in the shade of sleepy trees

let's cross the line of our intentions
and make a world within our dreams

Thursday, December 16, 2010

the back and forth

the back and forth
of the seasons
as they dance around the sky
is like
sort of
holding hands
for the first time

a tentative brush
a charge of expectancy
a moving away
and then a measured
drawing near again


in the garden

the crystal clear skin
of winter
overlays the russet memories
of autumn

it shows up
as the last
of the very tiny leaves
still singing
in crimson

and cadmium

that never opened

pink as lipstick
and frozen
in some sort of wordless hope

and as a leaf
in swimming pool ice

soon autumn
will slip across the sky
and out the backdoor
of this world

and winter
will settle into
a big creaky rocking chair
pull a huge soft down comforter cloud
up and over

and with a contented sigh
and frost-feathered whispers
she'll read
to all who will listen

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

still remember

close to its centre

the stream still moves

remembers summer

while in its little
slow places

the tiny meanders

the water
drifts off

to sleep

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


i pluck dead leaves
from houseplants

they know it's late autumn
and much like
their brothers and sisters
they long to be free

to return to the earth

so placing them outside
on the snow
i watch
as the wind

(almost as if it had been waiting for something to do)

turns the leaves
this way and that

and then
pulls them away

over the fence
and across the winter fields

Monday, December 13, 2010

gold and light

yesterday reya wrote a piece about light.
it's essential reading - it's about an essence - a simple and lovely truth regarding sunlight.

i wanted to write something when i read her words.

so this is for you reya - with gratitude!

in the spring
light reaches as much from the earth
as it falls from the sun
it strokes the air with pale green-gold fingers
and gentle

it knows itself
in the birth of grass and small plants

breathing in

breathing out

it calls itself

in the summer
light pours from the skies
generously spooned into the earth's heart
thick and gold
then blood-orange
it knows itself
in the act of love

breathing in

breathing out

it calls itself

when fall arrives
the sun becomes melancholy gold
filled with questions
and whispered promises
it knows itself
in the eyes of the solitary traveller

breathing in

breathing out

it calls itself

as winter approaches
the light becomes thin and pale
and so, more precious even than gold
drifting like the thinnest silk
through the silvered crystalline sky
it knows itself
in the water
that flows beneath the ice

breathing in

breathing out

it calls itself