There’s something about solstices and equinoxes that turns my creative mind to nature. My talented husband Ron DeKett wandered with his camera down the steep path behind our house to Love Creek at the bottom of the ravine we call ours. He found beauty. (And below is a poem to accompany it). Happy Solstice!
This New Year’s Eve I second-guessed myself about writing to you. I immediately thought, “Why should I write something? Who cares what I think on New Year’s Eve or any time? Isn’t it egotistical to think I have something to say?”
But is this the plight of all creative people—writers, parents, painters, farmers, caregivers, musicians, business folk—all of us here together on this small planet? We are insignificant and our work is insignificant, but at the same time, we are important and our work is important. It’s one of the great paradoxes. We liken individuals to grains of sand on the shore, yet each of us is unique and together we can build magnificent beaches—resting places for the soul and peaceful spots for storms of emotion, even fear and doubt that batter our sands, and also love and joy and hope that burn in our hearts.
Did you see the full moon on Christmas night? My husband, Ron DeKett, and I saw it rising orange and magnificent over the pine trees at our daughter’s subdivision in southwestern Michigan when we were going out to our car after a day of feasting and present-opening. We knocked on their living room window to invite our daughter, Jennifer, and five-year-old grandson, Eli, to come out and see the moon. The next time a full moon graces Christmas night, Eli will be age twenty-five. It was splendid when I first noticed it, but became even more beautiful when Ron’s eyes fell upon it, and we shared it with our family, just as he is sharing this spectacular shot of a full moon gleaming upon Yellowstone on his trip there last October.
Creative pursuits are like that—splendid when we are going about them alone, and when we share them, they become all the more meaningful.
Trucker stalled on expressway being interviewed on NBC news during snowstorm: “You gotta take what the road gives you. Go slow, be patient, and you’ll make it through.”
I’m sure there’s a country-western song that says, “You gotta take what the road gives you,” and if there isn’t there oughta be.
Do you have couldas and shouldas you’d like to join me in burying? If you’re willing to share, please comment at the end of this blog.
At this stage in my writing life, I look back now and then and wonder at my choices. My love of poetry started in my Iowa childhood when I read Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses to my mother while she milked cows. In grad school, poetry saw me through tough personal times. Throughout a long journalism career, it gave me an outlet for my artistic freedom, denied by the rigors of objectivity and fairness. My task was to blast out inches to fill newspaper columns. “How many inches?” was a daily question I asked my editors. At times, I felt like an automaton.
When I went freelance for a time, my mother admonished me not to try to write fiction because I’d never make a living at it. Maybe I shoulda been an English teacher? Maybe I coulda been something better than I was?
Now in retirement, I remember a few things I did as a journalist that were useful, such as a series of stories in Michigan revealing contamination of local residents’ well water by a county-owned landfill. Public water lines were laid for those whose wells were polluted. The residents sent me flowers, which I had to give away, of course, but I remember how welcome they were.
Yes, maybe I coulda, maybe I shoulda, but I do know that I dida at least that one thing that was good, so I’m burying the couldas, the shouldas, and I’m happy for what the road gives me. Just today I received an email from a reader I don’t know who asked permission to use one of my poems from The Pantyhose Declarations in a Becoming Women of Wisdom group. She made my day! Here and now, the road gives me a sustaining community of writers and artists who help me believe every day my life is worthwhile.
You stand on Lake Placid’s shore
clear water revealing
fish just hanging out,
four ducks sailing into what was nothing like
a South Carolina August afternoon
because the sun kisses gentle
while breeze lays ripples on wet
like your fingers ruffling my hair at night
when we’re falling asleep;
swallowtails—yellow wings flirting with currents,
to a sound I am sure
Playing in or around
It is not forbidden
It is not illegal
You will not be punished
The sign is not my mother
Like overflowing water
Brown with silt
It is not my father
Beneath the white water
The sign is calm
The sign is quiet
Yes, I am the odd number,
It is I, the lonely worm,
Feeling trapped in a flock of birds
They fly through the trees,
Evil eyes staring at me.
Yes, I am the odd number,
Alone and rare as a black rose,
The Daisies that surround me,
Are full of color and light,
My darkness, a shadow of life.
Back in the day
The mills dammed the rivers,
Damning them to stone cages,
Funneling their freedom
Into bolts of cotton and linen and denim.
Now we free the rivers
From their rocky chains.
But are they happier?
Or do they miss
Their occupation, clothing the world,
Hiding its nakedness
Under the colors of the stars:
Red giant, blue dwarf, black hole?
I hear cackles from earlier generations
and echoes of past conversations
in the water’s thucks and bubbles.
The voices are wet branches against the sky.
I see images of vaguely familiar faces
and distant places in the foamy water
crashing over rocks and swirling
in the river’s spiral.
I want to wade in the shallow water
and revel in the current’s resistance,
but there is not enough time.
I watch a man toss his rod into brown water.
After three attempts, he catches a small fish.
I try to remember something unseen
and wonder how far the river flows.
I want to stay and play for a while,
but I must go.
That would be a fierce hydraulic
if you took it in a kayak.
I wouldn’t recommend it.
If you do, your judgment’s slack.
You will end up on a gurney
with a spine board on your back.
It will be a lonesome journey
to the rehab place and back.