Thoughts and meanderings from my corner of the state
I love Grant Snider's work (Incidental Comics). He brings lightness, a sense of joy to his observations on life. This recent comic of his brought to mind a poem I wrote some time ago.
I can get too angsty when I write, too caught up in whatever my latest worries and woes are. Or I can dredge up pieces of my past (now covered in river muck) I'd rather forget. In this poem, though, I found joy. I'm grateful to be reminded me of that glorious, perfect day with my husband.
Canoeing on Saturday
I want to wear this day
raindrop rings on pale olive water
circle upon circle
spreading, joining, fading
I want to wear
fuzzy, waddling gold-brown goslings
silver trout breaking the surface
yellow warbler--an egg yolk in flight
slicked umber otter swimming
within an oar's-length
"Three yards of this fabric, please."
The clerk grasps the bolt by its clouds
water splashes against her fingers
ducks scatter before her scissors
geese honk in the crisp paper bag
I spread the lake on a table in a sunny room
pin brown tissue pattern to shoreline
run shears down grassy sleeves
roll tracing wheel along the darts that slip
between willows and snags
match front side to front, set a ⅝" seam
I sew a sheath of rain
At the party, the hostess takes my hand
"That dress is beautiful" she says
"Oh this? I smile.
"I'll have it forever"
First published in Blood, Water, Wind, and Stone, Sastrugi Press, 2016
After the weekend's epic storm, I found myself the proud owner of a ski-in, ski-out property. In resort communities, people pay top dollar to walk out their front door and clip into skis. We achieved this for the cost of a modest two-bedroom house in a mid-sized town.
The official tally in Cheyenne was 30.8" of snow in a two-day blizzard. WYDOT had to stop plowing during the storm when snowplows were going off the roads in whiteout conditions and getting stuck. On some of the webcams, once the whiteouts cleared, you couldn't tell highway from land under all the snow. Volunteers ferried doctors and nurses to the hospital on snowmobiles.
My husband spent Saturday making sure our old snowblower would run, and Sunday carving paths through knee-high snow in the backyard so we could get to the garage and the gates. His first task was to circle around the house and dig out our front door so it would open.
I was on the computer at the dining room table with the blinds open, so I expected to see him. I waited and waited a bit more until it dawned on me that he had been out of sight a long, long time. I went out into the blizzard, wind still raging, looking for the man, envisioning him face down in the snow somewhere.
Unbeknownst to me, a broken shovel handle delayed him. After repairing it, he realized he'd put the handle on backwards. Undo and repeat the process.
About the time I'm postholing through drifts in the back like some desperate woman in a tragic pioneer tale, he's at the front porch, knocking on the door and wondering where I am. He'd locked it and failed to take his keys. Fortunately, I got the idea to come inside and look through the other windows and rescued him.
Despite our comedy of errors where we lost track of each other, our experience of the storm was mild. We were safe, we were warm. The power clicked off only for a second just once, barely long enough that we had to reset the stove and microwave clocks. I spent Sunday weirdly obsessed with the weather, writing blizzard haiku.
snow falling sideways
like migrating birds, flying
south for the winter
Yesterday, after my telework was done and my husband had managed to clear the walks, we took an evening and grabbed our gear. We skied up Dey Ave., stepping gingerly across the small stretch of bare pavement where 8th Ave. had been plowed and climbed the jumbled pile to find fresh snow.
We headed west for a quick view of the distant mountains, then ducked into Frontier Park. We heard, then saw a rotary plow -- a monstrous version of our snowblower -- heading north on I-25, spraying a rooster tail of snow high into the air. Usually they use these on the mountain passes in the spring, tall poles marking the invisible edges of the roads, but drifts were so deep they were using them on the main highways.
We tooled through the rodeo grounds to Old Trail Town, where during Cheyenne Frontier Days, the vendors set up shop in fake Old West storefronts along the walk. We refer to it as Fleece 'em Gulch. Until they built it, we could walk up there on concert nights, sit on the wooden fence and get a glimpse of the show for free.
The wind had sculpted the snow into undulating drifts and whoop-de-doos -- a hoot to slide down. Pine trees lined the way. We skied along cornices and crossed over the construction zone where one of the facades had fallen during a windstorm, skis sliding over the hazard tape flush with the snow. The snow was wet, heavy and deep, and it supported our weight. I tried breaking trail here and there. Even with well-waxed skis it was exhausting, so I followed in his tracks.
We headed home, and I took a quick side trip to our alley to assess the trapped vehicle situation. The challenge in any deep snow is getting my car through the wee stretch of the alley between my garage door and the street. I rely on neighbors with better vehicles to pack it down. Not a soul had tried. The husband had cleared the concrete pad behind the doors, leaving a wall of snow somewhere between knee-height and thigh. That car is not getting out of that garage for a long, long time. When I go into the office Thursday, I'll be walking a mile and hoping more people than not have cleared their walks.
Years ago I went to a Unitarian Church where we would share blessings and concerns (or something along those lines) during the service. After a spring snow during a drought year, I shared how I felt blessed by the snow turning the grass green and giving me hope.
The next person up shared the sad news that someone died of a heart attack…shoveling snow. I have proof positive it's physically impossible to drop through the floor of the church. I decided that hiding under the pew would only make matters worse.
As a former ski bum with a garage full of gear, I make the best of the snow and enjoy it while I can. I also grasp it causes real hardship. Blizzards are dangerous creatures. I try never to forget that.
With that -- stay warm, stay well. May you have weathered the storm safely and maybe even found some joy and beauty in it.
A little over a week ago, I looked out my west window first thing in the morning and saw a near-full moon I knew I couldn't capture. I have neither the skills nor the gear to photograph the moon, although I've attempted it. Nearly every time I've been rewarded with a featureless white dot against a black background.
The moon is so much smaller than our minds see it. On a full moon night, extend your arm straight and hold up your pinkie. You can block out the entire disk with just that one finger.
I couldn't capture that moon in image, but I have words:
full moon looms, a pearl
low on twilight horizon
face cracked by branches
I might not have been able to make that moon a picture, but I knew someone who could. I texted the haiku to my artist brother, and he painted my moon on his wall and sent it to me to use with this post. I was amazed. It was perfect. It was my moon.
I've never felt as if I understood haiku, although I occasionally write one, or try to. I was taught oh-so-many years ago in grade school the 5-7-5 structure, and like all my classmates, I dutifully counted the syllables.
Even now when I know that syllable count isn't carved in stone, I find myself fearful to stray from it. At what point, I wonder, is it no longer haiku? And obviously, just getting the right number of syllables doesn't make it one.
I asked two good friends, both of whom write haiku often, for their advice. Beth Howard wrote, "For me, a poem that is much longer than 17 syllables or much shorter becomes a short poem or an experimental poem." Makes sense to me. She went on to say, "There is a LOT of discussion and disagreement on these questions within the haiku world. But, there is also a lot of freedom to use the form which works best for you…"
Art Elser sent me such a lengthy response it could be a blog post in its own right, then attached two articles from the blog he used to have. (The man has a wealth of knowledge, and he doesn't mind sharing it!) His rule for himself is he doesn't use more than 17 syllables, but beyond that it varies -- sometimes a 4-6-4, sometimes uneven, sometimes with the middle line the shortest. I'll share my favorite of the examples he sent, since we both love crows:
dozens of crows
crisscross late afternoon
Beyond lines and syllables, though, he wrote, "The most basic idea of writing a haiku is that it should represent a 'haiku moment,' some brief observation or feeling that the poet observes. It could be, for instance, the observation of the waves as the tide comes in or goes out. The observation of a child and its mother dancing in a coffee shop, exuding joy and love."
I follow the Daily Meditation Podcast, and the week I saw my moon, her challenge to listeners was to "look for the miracles in ordinary life." Maybe that's what a haiku moment is -- a miracle in ordinary life. Like a dance of crows or a perfect moon.