Archives for February 2014

The East Wind

I’ve been wanting to write about the last episode of “Sherlock,” called “His Last Vow,” which I just learned is a retitling of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “His Last Bow.” Here’s the east wind quote from the original story:

“There’s an east wind coming, Watson.”

“I think not, Holmes. It is very warm.”

“Good old Watson! You are the one fixed point in a changing age. There’s an east wind coming all the same, such as never blew on England yet. It will be cold and bitter, Watson, and a good many of us may wither before its blast. But it’s God’s own wind nonetheless, and a cleaner, better, stronger land will lie in the sunshine when the storm has cleared.”

In that story, the coming storm was World War I. In the ending of season 3, it’s (SPOILER!) the return of Moriarty.

When I heard the east wind quote on “Sherlock,” I immediately thought of George MacDonald’s book “At the Back of the North Wind”—a very odd but enchanting book published in non-serialized form in 1871. In it, the east wind is described this way by North Wind: “East Wind says—only one does not exactly know how much to believe of what she says, for she is very naughty sometimes.” So, the East Wind is not exactly a good girl. She sneaks out. She runs with scissors. She probably has really good stories.

Guess who else comes in on the east wind? Mary Poppins. A troublemaker if ever there was one!

It’s rare for us to get a true east wind where I live. It’s usually southeast or northeast. When we get an east wind, it’s blowing in from the coast, and I can feel it, even though I live between three and six hours from the Gulf of Mexico (depending on where you put in).

So, let’s just say an east wind is blowing. It’s not exactly nice, is it? If it’s from a god, it’s the slightly sociopathic version that brings war and criminals. It can’t exactly be trusted. Still, it might also bring Mary Poppins. One thing’s for sure—it never lasts. And afterward, you can go fly a kite.

23 February 2014

All week I’ve been watching my dogs sleep.

Both dogs are asleep on my bed right now. Polo is curled into a circle, like a snail shell. Clover is stretched out, taking up as much room as she possibly can.

This is how they always sleep—Polo, making herself small; Clover, making herself large. If they have to share a space, like the dog bed, then Clover will reluctantly curl up. But subtlety is not her way.

Clover stretches. Looks over her shoulder. Flips her tail in a circle. Adjusts her legs. Somehow she lengthens her nose. She actually looks longer than she did a minute ago. Polo sqwunches herself even tighter. She buries her nose beneath her tail, opens her eyes for a moment as if to ask, “Is it OK if I go to sleep now? You’re not going to get up again for more tea, are you?” With her black and white markings, she looks like a chocolate-vanilla doggie swirl.

Windhover poetry workshop

This poem came from a workshop I did at the Windhover festival earlier this month. The workshop was led by poet Benjamin Myers (who’s great!). The assignment was to make a poem from 1) a memory, 2) a fact he’d printed off Google, and 3) a description of this morning.

NEW MOON

When she sang lead and everyone said, “Your

daughter is so great!” I agreed.

Yes, she does light up a stage, doesn’t she? 

I sat in their thanks. Basked in her glow

as if I were King Charles II

who rubbed dust from pharoah mummies

to absorb their ancient greatness.

 

This morning when I walked the dogs in the dark

I couldn’t find the moon.

Too early for the sun, sure,

but the moon should’ve shown up.

 

The moon is great

as the sun is great as the pharoahs are great and great

was dusty King Charles.

 

Rest in peace, mummies.

King, wash your hands.

Sleep in sweet sun as long as you wish.

And moon. You’re still up there. Show yourself.

12 February 2014

My dogs have not been walked much this last week — only two days out of seven. That’s very rare. We’ve missed partly from wintry weather, partly from me being out of town.

What I’ve learned is that my dogs can basically sleep all day. I thought they had to be either puppies or old dogs to do that, but my girls are almost 5 years old. And all they want to do is curl up on the dog bed and cuddle close.

So, I was a mess yesterday because I had jury duty. It was the first time ever because every other time the kids were too young, and I was exempt. It was my day of reckoning.

I called the jury hotline and learned that the report time was delayed an hour and a half because of weather. That was really bad because it meant I would definitely miss my yoga class. Which, I don’t even know if Leigh had it with the weather, but she probably did.

So, I showed up about five minutes until 10 a.m. There was a policewoman on duty, and she told us they had just settled.

“Don’t think you wasted your day,” she said. “When they see those jurors walking up those stairs, they realize they have to fish or cut bait. And usually they cut bait.”

I guess they cut bait.

I could see men in suits, and since almost zero men in my county wear suits, I assumed they were the attorneys. There was also a young man in a suit. I assumed he was the defendant. He had longish, stylish hair. Probably 18-21 years old. And I was oh, so glad not to have to pass judgment on this case in any way because I have a son about that age. Dear God, No.

The policewoman said it makes all the difference just that we showed up. All the parties look at these nice men and women who are going to pass judgment on them, and they rethink their options. She thanked me for coming and wished me a nice day.

Super Bowl poem

(Yes, of course I know it was last week. I wrote it on Super Bowl Sunday!)

 

SUPER BOWL

 

After the awful

you still have to live through every holiday.

 

And you see that it is somehow better

this year. The teams are different.

 

Today’s game is outside in

the cold. “Cloudy/Windy” says the forecast. A chance

 

of rain

(which you welcome).

 

The first two quarters are all played

out. There is a score. It is

 

halftime.

Everything could change.

The White Lab and Mary Oliver

Because my husband was redoing the roof on the storage building this past weekend, he left the garage door open to haul stuff, and a white Lab wandered into our garage.

We tried to find her owner, assuming she hadn’t wandered too far. We let her wander into yards, hoping she’d wander home. We let her wander into the courtyard at the apartment complex, and though she seemed right at home there and played with the little dogs and little kids, that wasn’t her home either. Everyone we asked said they recognized her. No one knew where she was from. I knocked on two doors that I knew had light-colored Labs, but their dogs were accounted for. In short, I met lots of people yesterday—people from my own neighborhood.

Polo and Clover have been welcoming of the new dog. They all slept in the garage together on my daughter’s old mattress, covered with a purple sleeping bag. With the help of the little space heater that could, the garage was pretty toasty this morning.

I knew my daughter would want to keep the dog because she wants to keep every dog, but to my surprise, my husband seems to want to keep her, too. He’s never wanted a Lab, but he knows I’ve always wanted one. He likes that this dog is not a puppy, so she’s passed the destructive stage. He likes that she doesn’t bark. He likes that she’s been so friendly with other dogs and people. In fact, when a friend came by yesterday, she thought the Lab was our dog.

I can’t have a third dog. I’ve had three dogs before, and it was too much. Plus, I’m leaving town this week. I’m the one who does 90 percent of the dog duty in this house. I’ve seen this sort of enthusiasm fade before. I’m not judging the dog’s worthiness, just my own limitations.

The dog is too good to not have an owner. She can sit. She can stay. She likes to ride in the truck. She doesn’t bark.

Enough! I don’t want to like her.

I feel guilty because I’ve just read Mary Oliver’s latest collection of poems “Dog Songs,” and it appears that she has taken in many strays over the years. She lets in wandering dogs and lets them bring their friends, at least for some water. She despises leashes. She encourages dogs to break their ropes.

And while I’m very happy for Mary Oliver, she lives in Massachusetts, near the beach. I live in Texas, near sheep and goats and cattle and oh, so many white-tailed deer. Mary doesn’t have children; I do. Mary is a full-time poet; I just play with the stuff. She has a Pulitzer Prize; I have a job.

I am not Mary Oliver. If I were to keep this Lab, I would not turn into Mary Oliver.

So, if you have lost a mature white female Lab with an orange collar, a Lab with sad brown eyes and paws the size of pancakes, please come and claim her. Come quickly. My daughter has already named her Delilah.

 

P.S. We learned yesterday that her owners live two and a half blocks away. She’s back home now. She seemed just as happy to be there as to be here, just as happy with her own big yard as with our small one.

Mary Oliver, you taught me “why we should honor as well as love the dog of our own life and the dog down the street.” I didn’t know I could love them both. But I did use a leash to take our new friend home. 🙂

Poetry with Marilyn Yocum

Today I’m going to do what I did with Nancy Franson during Operation Poetry Dare with Tweetspeak Poetry. Every day, Nancy and I read a poem (from Every Day Poems) and shared our thoughts. After our dare concluded, I stopped doing this for a couple of months, then after the holidays, I’ve been doing it again, just in my journal.

Here’s one I did on Marilyn Yocum’s “The First Warm Rays.” (although I think her promotional title, “Thoughts While Sitting in Line at the Car Wash” is better).

First, I love poems about weather and how people react to it. It’s nice to know that even in snowy Ohio, where Marilyn lives, people have this bipolar reaction to weather depending on the time of year and how long it’s been since they’ve seen the sun: “just to feel the sun / behaving like itself again.”

After that lovely image, she veers to what the poem is really about: “Like the return of an estranged family member / or a friend you’ve had a falling out with.”

Now, I know part of Marilyn’s story. I can guess what might be behind this poem. But, I don’t want to say what I know, 1) because I believe in letting people tell their own stories, and 2) because I think the poem is good enough on its own. All of us have, if not an estranged family member, a friend we’ve had a falling out with. And the return of that relationship does feel like “the sun / behaving like itself again.”

Marilyn goes on to talk about absence and presence (which is what the poem is really about, whether it’s absence/presence in relationships or absence/presence of sunshine). So, what happens when there is a return? Well, it changes us. If it’s the sun, we all rush to wait in line at the car wash. If it’s a relationship, well, we do something about that, too, don’t we?

The third stanza begins, “And, / having gone so long without / we rush / arms wide / eager to embrace / and wash away what’s clung to us / in the interim.” I like how the short stanzas force you to slow down, to embrace every ray of that sunshine.

I also like how we get back to the car wash, where “what’s clung to us / in the interim” is washed away. I think of all the dust and dirt and mud that’s probably accumulated on these cars over weeks (months?) of snowy days and how good it feels to get them clean and see the true paint color again. The winter gunk is just an “interim,” but it doesn’t feel like it; it feels like winter will last for eternity. But unless you’re living inside “Game of Thrones,” it never does.

Marilyn will likely have a lot more winter before this is all over. But I think that every sunny day that’s above freezing, she should get in line and wash her car. And write another poem.