Friday August at its end, 2001
While I go off to get a treatment for my sore, stiff neck, with the hopes that it will make all my jobs easier, I leave you with something else to read. Debi Bender, the co-editor of the World Haiku Review sent the following message:
Thursday August 30, 2001
These pages are going to get a bit thin in the coming weeks. Already I am feeling the pinch of time as the month ends. With the Poet’s Profile to finish (wait until you see who I picked for this month’s honor!), Open Mic to do tomorrow, and an article on ghazals which has gotten completely out of control by growing into a much longer rant than I had originally intended to write. I either must tear it up and began again or write it out to the many-paged end. Today I feel as if I do not have the time for either alternative. Randy’s new online book is waiting for healing and long distance advice and just yesterday I said okay to Alexis for the book she wants done. Somehow summer is over and I am overwhelmed with the work that piles up in the absence of autumn leaves. I feel the slide of the sun to the south and that makes me feel lonely and abandoned with a tinge of panic.
All I can give you is last night’s dream:
I was just starting a new year in a new school. It was a small, very old college in a beautiful part of the country and I was to be a boarder there. My father, who was a film maker – a famous and very busy man, was concerned about my being new in a strange school. Thus he, with his crew in a van full of camera equipment, stopped by for a visit to see if I was happy and to make sure the school was the right place for me to be.
I was very happy to see my dad, a little shy because the other students knew he was famous, but proud of him and touched that he was taking time out of his busy schedule to look out for me. I liked my new school and was delighted with the beauty all around it. What I loved the most was the isolation of the place. Dad was vastly interested in seeing where I lived, the library and even the dining room where we met the rest of the crew.
There we learned that the van had broken some part and could not be driven farther until the piece was replaced. They had called in to order the part and it was being brought out by courier but due to the lateness of the day and the distance from the city, would not arrive until tomorrow. They asked me if there was someplace on the campus where they could stay overnight. I was very upset with the idea that they expected me to go to the headmaster and ask for lodgings for about twenty people. As I stood by my dad, swallowing in my fears, he showed that such tasks were nothing to fear, but needed immediate and direct action. Turning quickly he loped off to the headmaster’s office, put the situation before him so directly and with so much self assurance that I was shocked to see the stern old guy bowing and hustling to do get the rooms ready for habitation.
A group of students were rounded up and given the job of cleaning out the one room in the old building, the original building where the school had started. Because all the activities I took part in were in the ‘modern’ part, which was still very old and ivy-covered, I had never seen how lovely this part was. I, and my father, was happy to discover this additional part of the college. It was like charm added to function.
I knew my father would be eager to be off in the morning as soon as the van was fixed, so I was somewhat mystified why he remained so long in the headmaster’s office. When the two finally emerged, we all found out that dad had decided to shoot his next film here instead of the other place where they had been headed. The usually grumpy headmaster was beaming and giving dad complete control of doing whatever he wanted with the old building. I realized this would bring in welcomed money to the college and surely fame and the even more money that would bring. The old part of the college was proving to be an asset after all.
writing the name of one dead
stiff and crooked
the heart follows the hand
into the last forgiveness
Wednesday August 29, 2001
Because Werner had to go to Santa Rosa for his checkup (thankfully everything is fine!) I had no way to get to the ridge, to Brandywine Ranch, for my clay class. I could have arranged for someone to give me a lift, but I was actually looking forward to doing some of the clay work at home. I felt fairly certain that Kaye would let me take some clay home and it proved that this was no problem. Already Monday evening I got Werner to help me move the lawn mower, to put my old drawing table at the outer edge of the garage by the door. I covered the table with an old sheet of foamboard and then tacked cloth over it. As I laid out my tools they looked more like refugees from someone’s kitchen than professional clay tools. I wondered where my old tools had ended up. Was someone else using them? or had they rotted away in these twenty-five years?
One of my secret joys of life is building work places. I love planning where to put things, what to use and how to organize the spaces to the best advantage. Half of the energy that propels me into new ventures is the joy in building a nest for that work. Thus, instead of staying in the house to enjoy the quiet of being here alone, I was quickly out in the garage cleaning off a shelf, lining it with cardboard, covering stuff that did not need clay on it, and marveling at the sunny day sparkling all around me.
As I took a ball of clay into my hands I realized I was finally alone with the clay. At the class someone is always talking; or better said – chatting. Many people take the course more to get out of the house than to learn a new skill. Yet, even as I enjoyed meeting new people and seeing into new lives, I missed my real relation with the clay. As I sat there patting it in my hands, I could hear above the howling wind, another sound. It was if it was coming from such a far distance that I could barely hear it. Or maybe it was because I had not listened to it for such a long time that I had forgotten the language. You know how it is when you hear a language you know well you can piece together meaning from half-heard random words but if the language is the learned one, you need to hear it clearly to understand. I kept trying to listen, to understand, but it was if I had cotton in my ears. I rolled the ball in my hands trying to find a form in it. Finally I gave up and began to continue the work on the piece I had started on Monday in the class. I had a drawing to follow so there was not much experimentation. It was just the challenge of getting the clay to follow my instructions – which is always a slightly disappointing venture. For being such a malleable material, it is amazing how clay refuses to come out looking as good as the drawing. It is so easy to swing a line, to smooth a curve, to give character to a line with a pencil. Clay gets slick and smart-alacky; as if it has to prove it has a mind of its own at every bend. Oh yes, you can push it into any shape you think you want but when it gets there it shouts out the lack of will and expertise of the hand that made it. It takes a lot of confidence and inner knowing to fool the clay into being what you want it to be.
When Monday’s bell kept getting uglier and uglier, I put it aside and started a second one. If I couldn’t get the little one to do what I wanted, maybe a bigger one would work. Well, this too was nonsense because if you cannot control a small piece of clay, a bigger one will dominate you even more and faster. As the afternoon progressed and my discontent with what I was doing increased I got tired very fast.
a face not in this world
the distance that the dead have gone
as absent as April
something ate and drank the words
high above the earth I heard a bird
Soon I found myself sitting down on the wobbly old camp stool with a second lump of clay in my hands. I was tired and turning it idly as I stared off into the distance of a sun-spangled sea. Without understanding what I was doing with the clay I began to mold it as it wanted. I had given up following the drawings and the desires for objects and was just letting my fingers fool with the now-warm and pliant clay. I was tired, the barrier of desiring was down, and I was finally able to listen to the clay. What I made has no value, no one would want one, and I have no idea what I would ever do with what I made, but therefore it was done. And I loved the results as they collected on the shady self.
as sleigh bells in summer
a wild blue sky abreast of wind
the maddest joy
that would greet an hour ago
lonesome for I know not what
Tuesday August 28, 2001
twigs we are held by
the bone that has no marrow
shadows on the grass
where wind comes like a bugle
it’s all thoughts joined in one heart
On Sunday night I went to the drumming circle, this time held at Roberta’s house above Anchor Bay. Along with eleven women, a magnificent stand of tall redwoods framed by her huge windows attended the meeting. Never before had I experienced the combined power of eleven women drumming as we banged and hammered ourselves into a one being around a candle. If anyone had been feeling lonely that day, this ended that misconception. For all of our differences, we were of a common sound after that introduction.
Much of the sharing around the circle is personal and private so I will leave it at that. But at the end, after drumming and journeying for various persons and concerns, we had time to just take a personal journey for ourselves. I had noticed that my ‘journey’ was often much shorter than those of the other persons. I would go meet my power animal, ask my question and it would respond. I would give my thanks and offer a gift and go back up through my jeweled cave and be gone back into reality. These women, as they described their journeys were able to have greatly enlarged experiences. So this was what I wanted out my personal journey: just to have an extended experience.
Two persons, accidentally one on each side of me, began to drum. The reverberations of the two very different sized drums formed waves on which the little canoe of consciousness floated off to my cave. I greeted OLeo and happily told him I had no problems but had just come to hang out with him. Now what could we do?
We walked over to a small pond with reeds growing around it. It looked like a safe place to swim and I thought that if this is what he wanted to do with our leisure, that was fine with me. So I jumped into the warm, silky water. To my surprise he stayed on shore and just stood there staring at me. "Aren’t you coming in?" I asked. He shook his shaggy head and started to walk around the pond to the right. I swam over to the new place where he was and to begin to walk out of the water. I felt a drag on my body as I stood up. When I looked down, my body was completely coated and covered with thick green pond scum. Ugh. How disgusting I thought at first, and yet I accepted the image and continued to walk out among the reeds.
Back on land, beside OLeo was a ladder standing upright. It was not a step ladder but the kind painters use to lean against a wall. Only there was no wall. The ladder was perfectly straight and balanced and pointed to the sky. Somehow I knew I would climb the ladder and I did. As I went up higher and higher, I felt a change in the green scum. It dried very rapidly turning to a powdery dust. By the time I was at the top it had ceased being green but was now clear and iridescent. At the top as I looked at my hands they were covered with rainbow sparkled glitter. Suddenly I felt very festive; as if I was costumed to go to a party.
As I looked around to check out my surroundings, I saw that I was on a large covered porch made of stones. The open side was arched and showed a beautiful view from a high mountain. As I looked out and down, I could see a tiny golden speck. That was OLeo. He had not come up the ladder with me. For a minute I was confused and felt abandoned and really did not want to be here without him. I had planned that whatever we did, we would do it together so we could work together on longer journeys. But obviously what was happening was what was supposed to be happening, so I busied myself with looking around to see where I was and to get instructions on what to do next. As I looked behind me I saw a big door and knew that going in that door would take me to the king.
I did not like the idea of going before a king, I had no desire to talk to any king and the idea of meeting a king on my journey was distasteful to me. So I just stood there. Slowly but surely I realized that if I was going to make this journey, I would have to meet the king no matter what my politics were. So I walked toward the door which opened with that little surprise I still get at the grocery store which seems to know I am coming. Inside was a huge room and at the far end, on a dais, was not only the king, but a queen was sitting by his side. As I walked toward them I wondered what I should say to them. ‘Hi, how you doing?’ seemed entirely too flippant and the closer I got the better I could see that they were very kindly and lovingly anticipating my approach. When I saw that he was clothed in blue and white and she was wearing greens and yellows, I wondered if they had something do with the planet. So I asked them if they were the ones who cared for the earth? Instead of speaking, they covered themselves with moving colors. Hers seemed to be flowers and his looked more like spots of rainbow. I took this to be a positive answer to my question.
Emboldened, I ask them if they were the ones in charge of caring for the earth. The colors got even brighter and were bouncing up in the air in the shape of laughter. Then words came through. "We are the over the earth and therefore someone else on earth actually does our work for us. They are the green people."
Before my eyes, as if being shown a demo video, I saw a patch of land with green covered figures standing at each corner like warrior guards.
"Why, then," I asked, "is someone not taking care of the precious things in the Iversen subdivision? Who is going to make sure the big, old pine tree there is not cut down, but is protected by keeping the trees around it? Who is going to make sure the creek and the swamp remain inviolate? I rather lost my manners in my excitement as the feelings I had had all week boiled up and over. I know a place that needs your protection right now! If someone doesn’t act soon, it will be too late! Who do you have in place to take care of that land?"
I groaned as I listened to their answer: "You are the green warrior for one corner of that spot."
we pray to heaven
bloom is result to meet a flower
a first mute coming
it was my host; it was my guest
I staked the petals to gain an arc
After we all returned from our journeys, the group gave me names and phone numbers of persons who are already in the ‘business of saving earth’ so I can find out my next step. Though I had not wanted to have to make waves among my neighbors, nor cross the will and path of a person I know, a job was coming toward me. As soon as it is polite to call people I will be on the phone.
Monday August 27, 2001
Yesterday, August 26th was Grossmutti’s Death Day. Her baptized name was Irmingard Reidel and she was born in 1898, in Berlin. The youngest of her three sons was Werner, my husband. Thus, I met her in 1971, in Hamburg where I became the strange American thing that was staying in the house with her last living son. Though she was too much of a lady to reveal her opinions or truest feelings to me, I am sure she was confused and angry with this decision concerning his love life. Yet to me, even from the beginning, she was a source of calm and true compassion.
She accepted me for what I was (even when I had no idea of who I was myself) and remained a center of perfect concurrence. Over the years, as I grew to know her, she became the good mother to me – the job my birth mother could not or would not take on. I will never forget, nor cease to bless, the day she took me aside and asked me in a confidential tone if I had a personal bank account. I was startled that she, who though very loving to both of us, and never meddled in our relationship, would ask such a thing. Then she explained that she believed that a woman should always have a source of money outside of that of her husband. For this purpose, she was opening an account for me at her bank with the sum of one thousand Deutsche Marks. That was more money than I had ever had in my whole life up to that time! Yet today I weep with gratitude for her kindness.
We lived on the edge of Hamburg and her flat was in Wandsbek, a respectable satellite village closer to the center of the city. Kaffeestuden (coffee hour), at 3:00 was the time we always met at either her house or ours. From these meetings I learned all I ever understood about being a gracious hostess. If one could talk about teaching with love, that is how she instructed me. Never correcting me, even when my German was truly appalling or my American manners seemed ragged, her sure calm way of doing each small act with deliberation gave a grace to each moment.
In the manner of an elder, she followed the tried and true patterns of her life. To me, it did not seem she was in a rut, but simply following the methods she had found that worked best for her life. For some years she had had a canary. His cage sat on the trunk beside the table in the Kaffeestudenzimmer – the little windowed alcove that overlooked the backyard. When he died, she said she was too old for another one. When I saw how she missed him, and how often she spoke of him, I made sure she got a new one. I had so much fun with her new bird that she saw how much I missed having an animal companion and then she began to encourage me to get one for myself. So we did.
But we picked an Alexander dove, colored in grays, mauve and blue and extremely shy. She had come for coffee one day and when she saw how easily frightened the bird was, she instantly knew he was the wrong bird for me. At her urging, on the way to take her back home, she insisted we stop at a pet shop she knew. There she went, in her slow dignified way from cage to cage, stooping to murmur to each occupant. At one cage, a robin-sized bird with the most appalling color scheme, hopped to the bars closest to her face. Looking deeply into her eyes he began to hop up and down as if his skinny orange legs were composed of springs. One tiny claw gripped the cage in supplication as he continued to bounce. His squeaky voice cooed and whistled when she walked away. One could feel his desire for companionship like a mighty magnet. Again and again she returned to his cage and each time his joy was even more obvious. Thinking of ourselves as artists, we found his coloring horrendous. His face was covered with the brightest red feathers, his head covered with a cap of a glowing poisonous green, his back was coal black, his wings were a primary orange and his tail a chaotic mixture of more red and green. Obscene was the word that most easily came to mind, but his true breed was a Lorikeet. So it was Grossmutti who found and paid for my new bird who was truly a companion to me many years.
Every holiday she used to cultivate my tastes as well as my possessions. Many of the most beautiful things in my life came from her. She used well the empty days of her old age to think of the most appropriate gifts by concentrating on what each person truly needed. She never failed to surprise and delight me as she was always one step ahead of what I needed in my life.
We had wanted to celebrate her 80th birthday in a special way, so we consulted her about what she wanted. She wanted a trip to Amsterdam. And she out walked both of us in seeing the sights. Her delight in everything was a wonder and a joy. I never found the city as wondrous as it was that time we saw it with her.
When she was 81 she had some sort of a spell and no longer felt confident about living alone. It was a fairly easy decision to invite her to give up her flat and to move into our home. The four upstairs bedrooms were now empty since all the children had their own places. We worked out a schedule so I prepared her breakfast when we got up, and left it hot and ready for her when she wanted it. Then she came down for dinner (the big meal of the day) and for Abendbrot (evening bread) with us. I cannot imagine an easier person to live with. Even my German improved!
In the winter of 1980, when the Russians moved into Afghanistan, I as an American citizen yet, felt very insecure with the border to East Germany, lined with tanks, only twenty minutes away. And Grossmutti understood my concern. And she made me an offer. She would give me the money to buy a piece of land in America, so that if I had to leave the country quickly, I would have a place to go. The property would be in my name so it remained free of any international relations. And it was. And this is how we finally ended up in Mendocino county – due to her gift.
Grossmutti gave up her brave spirit held in both our arms at noon on this day in 1981. For days afterwards I thought I would die because she had died. It seemed that it would not be possible for me to live without such a vital part of my own self missing. It was as if I had to go where she had gone. Nine months later a beautiful, strong-willed great-granddaughter was born and her parents named her Valerie Reichhold.
Sunday August 26, 2001
My dating on these entries became scrambled on the day I had written about Aunt Evelyn’s Death Day so that it seems August 13th has disappeared. My habit is to write up the day before the first thing in the morning as if the entry was done in the evening of that day. I guess I am too interested in reality to maintain that façade much longer. And since yesterday turned out to be filled with total commoness (cleaning, mail, and a football game on radio) but my dreamworld made up for a boring day in the night so I will put here my dream.
I was planning to go on a camping expedition with a small group of friends. I had great fun planning what to take, putting together my gear, packing and repacking things to make them all fit into my backpack. When we finally gathered at the meeting place to begin our trek I was shocked to find out we were expected to ride there on horses! I had never ridden a horse, never intended to ride one and was scared silly with the prospect of sitting on the back of one. For a long time I debated with myself whether to give up the trip because of this factor. But the other people, who were perfectly happy and even overjoyed to be riding, persuaded me that I could do this, I would be okay and that today was the best for me learn to enjoy horseback riding. They made sure I had the calmest and oldest horse as they reassured me that they would take care of me the whole way. They did put me in the middle of the line up so I had experienced riders before me and behind me but my mouth was dry with fear as I saw the ground so far from my feet. My panic rose as we passed a point when I felt I was totally committed to this trip and was unable anymore to back out. I talked to myself telling me that everyone in the world had to ride a horse for the first time, that I was sure that I was fairly safe here, and that I was capable of staying on this juggling place as long as I needed. I must have squeezed my eyes tightly closed because I saw nothing more until I heard the others cheering as we rode into the sweetest little mountain meadow.
This was their goal. My goal was to get off this animal, to see if I could still use my legs to get as far away from it as possible. I was so relieved that the guys seemed eager to give the females the job of making camp while they took the horses off somewhere else. There was a small and very rustic cabin situated by a small rocky creek. The place was surely heaven and now I knew why others had been so insistent that we come here. The mountain air was so crisp and cool, the trees going up both sides of the mountain were old and gorgeous – the place was perfect. I wanted to immediately go off exploring but I was so tired as I gave up my fright over riding the horse that I unrolled my sleeping bag out in the grass to take a nap while the rest went off to see the sights.
I was awakened by the roar of the sound of a motor as if a huge truck was passing by my head. In my disorientation I began to look around trying to locate the source of the sound. Finally looking upward, on the opposite slope of the mountain, between the trees I could see there was a dirt road and what I was hearing was a logging truck coming down the steep grade in low gear. I lay back in utter defeat. All my effort to get to this beautiful place, all those hours of panic on that horse, all my expectations of peace and quiet by traveling so far without a car and now a logging road was here first! As I laid there listening to the thundering noise of the truck fade into the distance, I was determined to simply enjoy the quiet moments between the trucks. So I shook off my sleeping bag and my sleepiness to begin making myself at home in the charming little cabin. As I unpacked my things a new noise came from the mountain. Going outside to investigate I discovered that now a posse of motorcycles were going up the mountain. I could not see how many there were, because of the many trees between us, but the shuddering roar seemed to me to last forever.
The only solution seemed to be to take off to find the others and to find a place that was farther from this road.
I have no memories of the rest of that afternoon or the evening. I only remember waking up the next morning in the dark because the others in our group were moving around. We had planned to hike to the summit to see the sunrise. Thinking of how wonderful this would be, and how eager I was to find some real quiet, I gladly joined the hike. And it was wonderful to walk through the forest on a small path led by a sliver of old moon light. No one spoke and there was only the muffled tramp of our feet on the duff of old pine needles. By the time we came out in the open at the top, the sky was quite bright and sunrise was eminent. I had thought the sky to be bright when we arrived, but when the sun finally arrived, the brightness was so incredible I perceived it as a noise! We were laughing and singing, making prayers and clapping our hands, yet our noise was so incredibly tiny, puny and insignificant. One by one, we all just became very quiet and sat on the rocks letting the sound of the sun fill us instead.
On our way back to our breakfast we were laughing about the one guy who had opted not to join us but to get a little more sleep. Someone got the idea that we should make masks of leaves and branches, sneak up on the cabin, go in, stand around his bed and then scream and dance around him. We had such fun designing our various masks from the things we found in the forest. One guy even found a deer skull with the antlers attached. We stuck pine twigs in our caps so they hung down over our faces and jutted upward into waving plumes. As we got closer to the cabin we could hardly contain our giggling as we looked at each other and our marvelous ingenuity. We were so pleased with ourselves and our disguises. Joy of joy, the guy was still asleep so we were able to form a silent circle around him without his knowing we were there. Then, upon a signal, we all began to scream and jump around as we leaned our masked faces over him. The poor guy leaped up with such fear and trembling it is a wonder he did not die on the spot! Suddenly I was sorry for our wonderful idea, but it was too late to rethink the ramifications of our act. I do not remember him forgiving us.
After breakfast we heard another noise coming from above the creek on the dirt road. Now the others were with me as we investigated this racket. I took courage to have them with me and felt that somehow together this could not be that bad. It was even worse than the logging truck. Someone was bulldozing the road above us. As the blade pushed the rocks and dirt over the edge of the road cut, an avalanche of mountain side came roaring down into the creek. We ran along our side of the creek as we desperately wanted to hold back the spill of the spoil but with only our bare hands we were helpless before the machine. We screamed at the man on the bulldozer, who we could easily see as the trees on the slope were knocked down and carried away to land in the once lovely streambed. But he either could not hear us or did not want to hear us as he continued his job of complete ruination of this spot of the world. The sound and the destruction continued in the front of our faces.
Now the rest of our group was as bummed out about the place as I had been the day before, so we decided to clean up our messes and to leave early. Somehow I was given the job of cleaning the toilet. There I discovered that someone had plugged it up so it was filled with _________ - what toilets contain. I got a stick and began to stir the murky water (it was a flush toilet) searching for the problem. My stick snagged on something solid so I pulled it up. It seemed a piece of thin plastic. I supposed someone had thrown a disposable diaper down the toilet and all I had to do was to pull it out and the toilet would work again. So I began to pull on the piece of filthy plastic. The longer I pulled the bigger the piece of plastic seemed to be. It turned out that instead of a diaper, I was pulling up the end of one of those thin plastic tarpaulins like painters use. This was much too big to have been put down into the toilet. Was I pulling up some part of the septic system? I hated to admit defeat but this problem was bigger than my understanding of toilets. So I washed my hands of the job, called the others in, showed them the situation and thankfully left one of them who said he was an expert, figure out what to do.
As I packed up my things I heard the horses neighing as one guy rounded them up and brought them back to the cabin for our homeward trip. With that sound I knew there was no way I would spend most of this day sitting on a horse again. I quickly repacked my things into two bundles. One pack went on the horse and the other on my back. I had decided that I would walk the road out instead of going back the way I had come. Everyone else in the group was aghast at my plan. They tried to impress upon me how far out of the way I would be going if I walked in that direction. They pointed out that it was not that many hours to spend on the horse and my journey would be much, much longer. Also, the rest of the company was uncomfortable with my decision to break up the group by going home another way. Nothing they said interested me. I was determined not to get back up on that horse, here was a road, and I had two strong legs and beside a new adventure surely lay in this direction. A great weight lifted from my shoulders as my pack settled on my back and I started off toward the road alone.
Saturday August 25, 2001
After writing in here yesterday, I was still so upset over the cutting of so many trees that none of my work seemed important enough to do. Finally, after pacing around and around in the house, I got the idea of doing ceremony for the trees and suddenly I had all kinds of energy. In a whoosh I had my things together and then stopped and wondered where I was going. I did not feel comfortable going to the big pine on the land which is now in escrow because I know someone already considers that ground as belonging to them. Also I did not want the construction crew on the new house be able to observe me which they could do thanks to the huge tunnel the drillers had left. Then I realized that pile of cut trees on the neighbor’s lot was stacked right on our property line. By standing before this sad pile I could, within a line of sight, be in contact with the big pine.
So I began to drum. My drum was in new fine voice since I had revitalized it with the treatment suggested by Roberta. The skin was tight and the belly of the drum echoed, echoed, echoed within itself. It was marvelous. As I drummed I sent out prayers, messages and just plain old talking to the pile of the cut down tree and to the big pine. As my arm swung the tears rolled down my cheeks. I drummed until my tears dried and then drummed some more. It felt so good! All my pent up emotions – anger and helplessness poured into the bang, bang, bang, BOOM.
When my arm and shoulder began to ache, I switched hands. I had never drummed left-handed before but I loved the exercise of will over the inexperience of that side of my body. I drummed until my knees felt weak. So I knelt and drummed on. When my knees began to scream louder than the drum I stood up into a silence and continued prayers. When I was rested, I took up my flute to let it talk to the land, the cut-down trees and to the preservation of the big pine and all its relatives still living around it. As I laid the flute down, I pulled the drum to me as support and comfort and began to drum into the earth with all the love and thanksgiving that was still flowing within me. I began to wish I had brought out a second drumstick so I could make both sides of my being speak at once.
Then, in an instant, a great tiredness came over me. I was empty and clear. Within seconds I was able to close my session with speed and great joy. As I walked through our own trees, and their limbs brushed my shoulders, and I heard a car pulling off the road. Later when I looked out the window I saw the man who had cut down the trees had arrived.
on the other side
in the name of appetite or love
that translates the world
material objects spark existence
the gingerbread of a cottage
Along with the clearing I felt from this, I had found an email from Jim Wilson saying he was willing to accept co-authorship of the Book of Hours. Last October, when I had been at the Christ in the Desert Monastery in Abiquiu, New Mexico, I came home with the idea that I wanted to pray seven times a day, as the monks did. I had asked for, and received, a copy of the handmade book they use for Ordinary Time. For several months I struggled to keep this practice but so much of the prayers and of the Psalms were thoughts I simply could not bring myself to say. I saw myself ‘forgetting’ to stop for the various hours and realized that soon my good intentions would completely drift away. Then I remembered that several years ago, Jim Wilson, a former Abbot of the Zen Center of New York City, who now lives in Sonoma, had sent me his Book of Hours. The meditations were based on thanks giving, praise, honor and gratitude and were exactly what I wanted to express. I knew that book was somewhere in my stuff. I searched and searched and to this day do not know where that copy went. I have all of Jim’s other books (we used to write renga together – he was the founder of the original magazine, APA-Renga that later became Lynx). I wrote him a note asking if he still had copies of his Book of Hours. No, but he would make one for me. This time, instead of using a comb-binding he bought me a three-ring notebook and punched and put all the pages into this form.
Within a week of using his much simpler and much more relevant meditations I was again able to ‘stay on schedule’ (most of the time! I admit there were times I’d get involved in some task or so busy that I would work right through one of the calls). In addition, the use of the notebook suggested to me the idea of putting in sheets of those plastic sleeves. In these I would put the pictures of my family and friends, and even pets, so when I said the prayers, their images were before my eyes. I got really interested in finding pictures to illustrate all the seven periods of prayer and spent many evening composing each collage of images.
As the weeks went by, as I became more familiar with the methods by which Jim had designed the hours, I saw that I sometimes felt I had other concerns. I began to type up ‘new’ pages combining his patterns with my goals. The notebook format made it easy to trade out his pages for mine. Over the year this process continued. My version of his book grew step by step according to my use of it.
A couple days ago the book I had requested from Marchiene Vroon Rienstra, Swallow’s Nest A Feminine Reading of the Psalms, arrived. I had tried to get the book through Amazon.com but it was listed as being out of print. I was in contact with Francis Fike, (his newest renga will be in the next issue of Lynx) and he had sent me several copies of Perspectives, the magazine in which he edits a poetry column. In these there was a couple articles by Marchiene Vroon Rienstra which had impressed me greatly and made me even more eager to see her book. Through Francis, I was able to convey my desire. But I heard nothing and accepted the silence. Then a package arrived. Mrs. Rienstra had sent the book herself. The shakiness of her handwriting made me worry for her age and energy but very grateful that she had given me of her day’s ration of doing to get the book off to the post office.
I had been expecting that her version of the Psalms would only change out the male references and replace them with the feminine. But I was surprised. She also had seen the need to reject the violence, the revenge, the retribution, the enemy-talk. And she, too, had simply written it out! If I had seen her work, I probably would not have done all I did in my rewriting of the Psalms. But I am thankful I did, because I feel the addition of the repeated concepts of love and compassion, to replace law and pay-back rounds out the Psalms so that they are not gutted but given a great heart. Anyhow, it was a great feeling that I was no longer alone with my ideas that the Psalms needed a philosophical redoing. I appreciated this printed companionship especially since, in the past week, with the Psalms of the New Testament up, I have been getting 6 – 10 virus infected emails. Some of them were from supposedly from a "Calvary Lutheran Church" in Minnesota! But I digress:
What further excited me about Marchiene Vroon Rienstra’s book, was how she presented the Psalms. Instead of leaving them in the order they are in the Old Testament, she had reordered them into sections built around three prayer times a day! In addition to the Psalms she had included prayers and songs by other persons for each devotional period. Like a light bulb coming on, I realized that what she had published was a cousin to what I was using in my daily worship. I had added to Jim’s Book of Hours meditations the Psalms interspersed where they seemed best to fit as I had completed them. I was deeply touched that she had made her whole presentation of the Psalms with the same idea to which I had come through my daily worship. From her example I felt that just offering the Psalms in the old order was not enough. Now I wanted to put online the Book of Hours with the order in which the Psalms are there. But then I remembered that the origin of ‘my’ Book of Hours was copyrighted by Jim! So I had written to him asking if he would accept co-authorship and let me give our work away by putting it on the web. And today he had agreed. And so I had begun this work.
this is how
its done in water that moves
shimmer of sun
a languor of grief burnishing
stories on half of my neck
Later Marilyn called from me from her cabin in Maine. As I was telling her about my grief over the trees she began to moan. I wondered what was happening to her. I had not expected this much sympathy from her. Then she tells me that two days before the owners of the land where her cabin is, had cut down trees all around the place. She had begged them not to do it, had argued and objected, but not owning the land, she was powerless. All she could do was to sit in her van holding her dog Tayra who was wild with a furry fury while the saws screamed and the trees fell around her. Her place was so diminished without these beings around. She had not been able to let the sadness of the act into herself yet as she resolutely still saw the trees as standing. I had not meant to infect her with my unhappiness, but it seemed that we were mutually grieving for the same things.
her entire world
from the dizzy edge of a basket
scything in a forest
for the sake of passion implied
finally unknowable loose ends
Friday August 24, 2001
My dream of preserving a spot of sacred green within this subdivision died aborning. All morning I searched the web for the group or process that would set the wheels of action into being to get the creek, big tree and swamp set aside as a preserve. I found groups in Chicago and San Francisco, but out here, where the last vestiges of a somewhat intact holiness, there was no help, laws or plans. My only hope then became to contact the one person in the community who I thought might be able and even interested in saving a small spot of earth from humanity’s cement footprints.
In the evening, as we talked on the phone, I could feel my idea was falling on deaf, disbelieving and disinterested ears and that I was talking to someone who was very uncomfortable with me and my passionate words. Within minutes of our good-bye, the phone rang again. This time I was in touch with the person who was trying to buy the lot with the pine tree. It turned out to be the best friend of the person I thought could help save the trees and was also an acquaintance of mine. As I listened to the reality of escrows and promises to pay, I could not believe how completely my plans and hopes were cut off. Oh yes, I got an oral assurance that the one big pine would not be cut, but from our conversation I gathered that the understanding that trees are social beings and need to have their community around them in order to flourish and even survive, was not being shared. My horror of the destruction the drillers had committed was not mutual nor acknowledged. This person is completely engaged in ‘having’ this land and no other will do. Evidently there is no sacred obligation to the earth as strong as the desire for a home; forgetting that the land is our first home. I wish I was a more cheerful ‘loser’ and that the muscles in the back of my neck would let go of my dream.
Ty writes that he is settling into his new job with AT&T and now has a place to live but that he needs another month before taking up his pen again for the Poet’s Profile. Realizing yesterday how rapidly the month is slithering away under my feet, I bent my mind to finding a poet whose work should be featured in September. While looking for a book of a possible person for the column, I found another book that gave me the greatest idea. The rest of the day I researched this plan and am now very excited about writing that up – a reason to cut this rant short here today. What will happen as I pour my frustration and disbelief in the power of goodness into biography? I tremble.
Thursday August 23, 2001
While I was not so calmly sitting at the computer yesterday writing of the destruction on the lot next to us, I could hear the drone and beep of bulldozers just above the next lot. On Tuesday when I had driven up to Kaye’s I had to detour around this place because the road was torn open. PG&E was laying the lines for power for the new monster house, Gustofson’s. All day the roar of machines was just outside the door as they gouged the earth from the road to the cul de sac across the top of the meadow.
Imagine, if you will, our meadows covered with carpets of now-golden grain that undulate in small rises and valleys. Interspersed on these meadows are solitary shore pines, but up on the highest hill, where a small creek runs about half of the year, the pines have gathered into a small woods consisting of about 6 – 7 acres. The pines are only about a foot in diameter and so thickly strewn that they form a thicket of trees with an undercover of wild raspberries, salal, and a few huckleberries around the edges. It was the perfect place for does to bear and rear their fawns. This year we only saw two does bring out their speckled babies to taste the grassy grains. Houses (how is it) continue to press, squish and rut out the woods.
To build Doris’s house a huge hole had to be cleared into the woods like a giant bite out of a cookie. The people who cleared her land (previous owners) were also believers in the scorched earth policy of building. They took a thickly wooded acre and cut down every tree on it except for a couple of alders along the creek at the road where their crime could be inspected. Then last winter, at the other side of the woods, Gustofsons started cutting out a square acre of trees for their 6,000 sq. ft. three-part giant living complex. They did leave a tiny fringe of pines along the property line facing us which thankfully softens the view of much of the plastic covered monstrosity. It is so tall it juts out above the trees like a dirty gray malignant mushroom threatening to explode. It is not even wooden, as a monument to the trees taken out, but is a plastic replacement and all that this implies.
Also on Tuesday we had the sound of a well being drilled on the cul de sac to the north of us. When we took our walk we saw they had found water and the well was already capped off on the corner lot. To our dismay, the rig was left on the road, meaning that a new well would be put down the next day.
So today, when we walked around the area we were surprised to see the red tower of the driller at the back side of Doris’s land. How did they get that truck there? Over her land? Was she having another well dug? August is the month when the wells in this area go dry and two other neighbors in the subdivision had already had their wells go out even earlier because this year we got only about 30% of our normal rainfall. In fact, this morning, with all the other construction traffic, we had seen Billy Hayes tanker truck bringing water in for Dick’s house (where Gustofson’s are living while their house is built). We were not surprised as it takes new-comers a while to learn to live on cups of water instead of gallons.
The real estate agents and the well-drilling company have a neat little deal going. There is a new law that land cannot be sold if there is no water available for it. And on many of the lots around us, the only reason they are still are undeveloped is because there simply is no water – the test holes come up dry. Just two weeks ago two other dry holes came up on the cul de sac. But the driller has a method that often works great for everyone. The seller wants to sell, the buyer wants to buy and the real estate agent wants his commission. So the well is drilled down to 230 – 250 feet at a place where we are only about 180 feet above sea level. If one cannot hit sea water below that water level, they have drilled at low tide. The driller can then say that he ‘hit water’, got a return of the minimum gallons, and had cause to case the well and charge for a job well done. Everyone is happy. Except the owner who gladly builds a house costing $300,000. + and finds out the water is undrinkable and will rot out the plumbing within ten years. No one admits to this – it is our dark Iversen Landing secret. Trapped by the money they have spent on their houses, unwilling to admit they have been bamboozled, the people buy water to drink, forget about having flowers and even the dog gets bottled water! Part of the charm of the area is that some lots have no water (except the sea water below) and others have good water if they are on the underground streams which lace the rills and hills. You can almost trace these water veins by the pattern of the build-out of the houses – one of which is ours. Though our water is very tasty we have very little. We tank it underground and are very careful all year round. Our whole subdivision breaths a big sigh of relief when the rains begin and everyone looks when the drilling rig comes into the neighborhood. So we were eager to know if Doris was having to put down another well, and if she did, what did it get?
As we walked the outer rim road we saw that the driller was just leaving. But what was he doing? He was driving through the woods! As soon as the huge rig lumbered off to Highway One, we walked back to the cul de sac to see what was going on. Shock of shocks! A huge hole had been punched into the tiny woods. The strip of trees that had somewhat shielded Doris’s view of the Gustofson monster had been ripped open. As we walked through the tunnel spiked with the butts of the freshly cut limbs, it was like being in the mouth of huge cry. Pine yellow teeth stabbed the still quivering air. We usually do not walk on the land which is still for sale figuring it belongs to someone, but we were drawn into the dim tunnel of screams. And there in the darkest part, to the east was the largest pine tree I have seen in this area. Gnarled and twisted with many branching limbs, one could see why the previous tree fellers, (in the 1870s it was Captain Iversen who owned these 6,000 acres) had spared this old grandfather/grandmother of the whole woods. What a magnificent tree! What an ancient being was living here! All these years I have been circling around this tree and never knew it was hidden in the center of my being. What a marvelous discovery! How eager I am to go back to talk to this tree, to get acquainted with this giant personality.
Now that this monument has been revealed to me, and in my distress of losing the other trees on the property next to me, I now have a point about which to gather support for saving this tree, the little creek that has watered it all its life and the adjoining wetland. I know nothing about these processes, but I see I have, yet something else to learn in my old age. Stay tuned for a new journey – into the scariest place of all – government bureaucracy!
a plant saint
making the world purer
a pine tree
preaching in the woods
I leave off sad thoughts
Wednesday August 22, 2001
It’s a good thing I am not God or even Mother Nature. If I were, there would thunderstorms, lightning strikes, tornadoes and erupting volcanoes right here outside my window today. It would be so easy to have hope in a god of retribution, a revenge capable of wanton destruction, annihilation and plain old anger. If I could believe in someone who was as powerful as is needed to weald the revenge in proportion to the crime. In a very few places, there is a human law against such acts, but once it is committed there is very little punishment except for a payment in money which has nothing to do with the enormity loss from the act. These deeds seem to call out for a need for a god of justice who is interested in handing out punishment and good old payback.
So what has me so angry and upset? Yesterday the man who, a couple years ago, bought the empty lot to the east of us came to began building a house. Okay. I can understand wanting to live here because I love having my days on this blessed spot of earth. Okay. First he had to mow the meadow to see what he actually had and that I understood. What was not okay was the way he drove his tractor back and forth across our property as he made the turns. It was only Werner restraining me, reminding me that driving over our lawn was not hurting it, that getting upset would probably pop a blood vessel for me, or at least reduce me to quivering bundle of nerves for the rest of the day. I wished for a Rotweiller or Pitbull, but knew I could not live with myself nor love an animal that reduced a human to shreds. Yet I felt so defenseless with this big, dark man on an orange tractor as the air screamed around him. So I got in the car and drove off to my clay class four miles out of the fog and into the sunshine of the ridge.
In the evening, when I got home and looked across the back yard I had the feeling I had turned into the wrong drive way. Not only had the guy mowed the hay, he had cut down all the trees on his property! I could understand having to take out a few in order to have room for the house, the septic system, and the driveway but this guy sheared his property leaving only two trees along the road. Probably the only reason he left them is because they are growing in the county road easement. Not only did he cut down ‘his’ trees, he even went across the property line to the north of us and cut down a big pine tree that acted as property line marker for the next lot! I felt as if I was seeing the path of destruction of the chainsaw maniac. For the longest time I just stared at the wasteland of a meadow trying to comprehend what had happened.
As I let myself down into the reality of the place, I saw and felt all those trees, so full of life and giving and growing being sawed into with steel and a terrible noise. I know so well, living here, the cry of a crack a falling tree makes. The moan that escapes the piney branches as they whoosh through the air. I know the horror seeing that which was once upright and glorious as it accelerates its slant to the earth. And I can still feel the thud with which the earth accepts the fallen giant. Why? Why? Why? I cry. I cried and the bare stumps put forth their beads of resin. Don’t tell me trees don’t weep.
And don’t tell me that trees don’t want to live just as much as you or I do. Let me show you the tree along the road that blew over in last winter’s storm. Look how only one root has stuck yet in the ground, but look at the tips on the side of the tree with green branches. Look at how they bend upward, trying to reach back up for the sky where they once were at home. That tree proves that it wants to live, to be an upright tree even in its feeble effort to hold the very tips of its branches upright. If this tree, blown flat by the sea wind, wants so badly to live, how much more did all those trees in their full power and majesty want to live? All these years of those trees, from pine cone seed to green spots in the sky, desiring to be a part of the living on this earth and now, this man comes along and cuts them all down.
I have no recourse. He bought the fate of those trees when he bought that land. But does he own the land? No not really. But neither do I. I have no rights nor ability to make him obey my will. There were moments I wished I was the owner of the other property so I could sue the socks off this jock for cutting down ‘my’ tree, but I am not. And in our courts only money counts. Lives and the living have little worth. A tree is not worth a lawyer’s hour.
After all my work in rewriting the Psalms, deleting the prayers calling down the revenge of a god on those who believe differently, I was wishing I had left in a bit more of that damnation and hellfire in so I could call down a bit on my neighbor for his dastardly deed. How empowering it would be to believe that god would be on my side against the cutters down of trees! And yet, in my rational moments I know that this is not so.
This morning, after sleeping with my anger and sadness, I see that it is good that I do not give myself the power to punish this neighbor. And I do not even want to believe in a god or nature that acts in retribution. Actually the Divine Presence seems more interested in creating good where it can and accepting what cannot be changed. Though those trees cannot be replanted as they are and those that once stood beside me will be turned to smoke (the huge pile of a pyre is now laid) there was already in the morning skies, dark clouds over the sea. As I watched one cloud became brighter and brighter. Out of the brightness colors began to form. The glow became a section of rainbow as big as the cloud was thick. Then the section of rainbow began to slant and slip. Still cloud shaped, still the same size, the section of rainbow bent and slowly slid into the sea. All that was left was a brightness above the water and my memory.
in that springtime dress
the sheer delight of dimity
who called to the man who
touched me with fear and loathing?
In looking through my tanka tanks for poems that fit my feelings, I opened the file titled "Geography of A Raped Landscape" where most of the poems are which ended up in my book Geography Lens (on Bookrack R). As I read them over I realized why the cut-down of the trees touched me so deeply and why I feel such anger about their felling.
speaking up and out
pain full and exposed women
'rapists!' they shout
men with knives for arms
eyes that simply undress
If it is all the same thing, then why did the rainbow tilt and pour itself into the sea?
women who do
not care for their daughters
land that doesn't
protect the beauty of its life
from whom can we learn?
On Saturday, August 12, her neighbor noticed that she still had her door open as it began to get dark and went over to check on her. She had fallen. She was taken to the hospital where they found she had a broken hip and broken arm and cracked ribs. On Monday they operated on her and she died during the operation. I am sure that if she had had her way she would have died in her home, but they said she was barely aware of where she was in the hospital.
on the wane
the no-moon evening
and she's gone
I had been making flight plans even though her doctor said he did not give her much of a chance of surviving the operation. I was sorry not to have gotten to her before she died, but knowing her, I felt this is what she would have wanted.
the stone she gave me
in my palm