Necessities

necessities s

How much is enough?  Too much can still feel impoverished—it’s not just money or things (we know that we know that we know that…and yet)

We need another warm body—kind, accepting—one that touches us not in anger, but with love.

We need air that does not scar our lungs, water that quenches without leaving toxic residue.  We need food grown with earth knowledge.  We need multitudes of species–unafraid, unshadowed by our destructive impulses.

We need shelter from harsh elements, windows and doors that open without fear.  We need roots, a place of refuge to call home, a circle of people who reciprocate with trust.  We need to both render and accept, exchanging gifts with mercy and grace.  We need to be needed, for our days to have a reason.

We need stories that ask questions, that challenge and celebrate and comfort us in times both joyful and dark.

We need to be able to provide help without diminishment, to acknowledge the mutual relationships of life.  We need to share what we have too much of with those who don’t have enough.

We need laughter and light, leadership without tyranny.  We need to know we belong.

empty
the future
of past expectations

enter
the depths
of the unimaginable

change–
the path
becomes a river

hands
held shimmering
by the sea

necessities close up s

Sarah’s earthweal challenge asked us to think about the balance between the individual and the community.  I think it’s hard to disentangle one from another, even for those who insist on their “individual” freedom.  The cliche is true: no man is an island.  Everything, all life, depends on relationships for survival.

among the purple heather

among the purple s

solitude
unwinding beneath
meandering
skies, layers
circling back on themselves, cross
currented by wind–

trees sweep leaves
into shapes–shivered,
spilled over
edges, cast
shadowed with spirits holding
earth connecting air

scattering
blossomed voices—bells
calling words
into breath,
into dances that whisper
sanctuary—“come”

For Sue Vincent’s photo prompt, above.

I recently came across a video that talked about asemic writing, and using it as a prompt for extracting poetry from your unintellible scribbles. I decided to use Sue’s photo as a guide for my asemic composition, first using fine point markers in colors that echoed the landscape.  I then freewrote what I thought my marks were trying to say.

among the purple ansemic s

After that I took watercolor pencils, dipped them in water, and wrote asemically again over the markers, blurring both.  I looked at what I had written in my initial response, extracted some of the ideas, and formed them into a shadorma chain to go with the final composition.

among the purple close up s

 

When I saw Sue’s photo, the first thing I thought of was the traditional Scottish song “Wild Mountain Thyme”.  Joan Baez did a famous version, but I think the one I remember most from my youth is by the Byrds.  It’s been covered and reinterpreted by artists as varied as Van Morrison, the Clancy Brothers, and Ed Sheeran.  I listened to a lot of them, but I really like this one by Kate Rusby.

among the purple ansemic close up s

wild iris

spirits wander collage

bending air, a bridge–
rampant hues filling the gap
between heaven and earth

iris ink and pencil comp

For Frank Tassone’s #haikai challenge #145, wild iris.  I had promised Jade I would look for some of my old iris drawings, but I also found this rainbow spirit that somehow resembles an iris–Iris is the Greek rainbow goddess, messenger and link between mortal and deity.

iris colored pencil comp

The drawings are from one of my many abandoned projects, taking a journal from 1989, and doing something similar (at that time in 2015) and comparing them.  1989 is on the left, 2015 is on the right.  If I could buy a bouquet, I would try it again right now, as both  were done from live flowers.  Maybe next year.

The Rectangular Table (Poem up at The Ekphrastic Review)

mary 1s

My poem, “The Rectangular Table” has been posted at The Ekphrastic Review today. The painting that inspired it, The Last Supper by Sister Plautilla Nelli, is below.

Picture

I have a little sketchbook that I take along to museums where I draw the faces and sometimes the hands of the Marys I see in paintings, but especially in sculpture.  Since the museums closed, I’ve been drawing from photos of art I find online.

mary 2s

Why do these images resonate with me?  Unlike representations of Jesus, they seem to reflect an actual human the artist knows and loves…a sister, wife, mother, daughter.  All those denied a place at the rectangular table.

My thanks once again to editor Lorette C. Luzajic for supporting my work and the interaction between the visual and written arts.

You can read my poem, along with other responses to the painting, here.

In Praise of Ecology

trees s

calling all the names–
circles of words and being
woven into life

branches comp s

I greet the oak, the way
its branches frame the sky–
morning and evening
preserving the winter light
holding as shadows
the imprints of birds.

Listen:  they begin
the day—robins and blue jays
emerging from the cacophony
of sparrows and starlings–
and here again—my constant
companion, Crow.

We name our streets
after the trees that once stood
there:  elm, walnut, pine, maple,
chestnut, cedar, oak.  I wonder at
the words, now only images,
memories of  a lost inheritance.

Once landmark and shelter,
the empty vertices wait–
listening for the bearers
of seeds to refill
the gaps that echo barren
now, seeking new songs.

trees close up s

For earthweal where Sherry asks us to write love songs to mother earth.

Still Can’t Breathe

can't breathe 2

lives
need opening
room to breathe

can't breathe 1s

silent no more, in
the streets, witnesses we are
citizens, we are

can't breathe 3

citizens, we ask
for truth, justice, a way: the
way that was promised

can't breathe 4

that was promised in
all those lofty words:  where is
the living of them?

can't breathe 5s

the living has become
the dying, dying, fathers
mothers daughters sons

we are

 

I looked back at my post from December 2016 and realized, like my repeated reblogs of earlier words and images after each new mass shooting, there is little new to add to these images and words.

Our world, our country, our communities, are caught in a tape loop of unaddressed violence, injustice, unkept promises, fear, abandonment, poverty, chaos, greed, and despair. We need a lot more than thoughts, prayers, and tweets from our leaders to build a better world.

Memorial Day

paul sayre s

My mother’s cousin Paul was a pilot who was shot down and killed in WWII. She often spoke of him with admiration and affection.

When my mother died, she left boxes of unidentified family photos; my aunt helped a bit with identifications, but she was much younger than her siblings, and had not known the southern Ohio cousins very well.  In my mother’s address book, I found her second cousin Mona, Paul’s niece, who patiently looked through many photo scans I emailed her.

Finally I had a face to put to my mother’s words.

silence speaks your name–
through distant shadows of trees
crow answers, calling

fog 1s

This is a revision of a post from 2015.  However we are spending this day, let’s take a moment to remember those who served their country and sacrificed their lives so that we could enjoy our own.

For Frank Tassone’s #Haikai Challenge #140, Memorial Day.

The Language of Birds

am robin drawing s

There are robins.  Everywhere.  When I wake, early with the sun, I hear them over the street sounds of Broadway.  When I walk along the path of Riverside Park they stop in front of me, deliberately, waiting to look me in the eye before I’m allowed to continue on my way.  Even as I pass dozens all over the grasses on either side of the path, I hear others singing in the surrounding trees.

My daughter suspects a nest in a nearby window to her apartment—she sends a text with a recording—“day and night,” she says.

painted starling s

As she sits by her window working from home, she tells me she sees starlings on the window ledge across the street—“they leap off and let themselves fall a few feet before opening their wings”—we both wonder if this is normal.

I hear a whistle and turn to look—two starlings take off right in front of me and fly towards the river.  I see a fledgling by the park wall.  The only thing it moves as I approach cautiously is its head—with the bright yellow beak against the grey feathers, it too must be a starling—can it fly?—where are its parents?  I snap a photo and walk on.  When I pass the same spot, returning home, it is gone.

fledgling s

In the mornings the gulls swoop in groups, weaving patterns around the piece of moon that still sits ghostly in the blueing sky.  They cry like cats suspended in mid-air, echoing off the buildings into my window.

mockingbird open wings s

A mockingbird moves just ahead of me as I cross the bridge to the park.  It never stops singing, going through its repertoire while waiting for me to almost catch up as it hurries ahead again.  Another day, I am walking uptown instead of down, and a mockingbird lands on the iron fence just ahead of me.  It too is deliberate in meeting my gaze, making sure I stop, nod my head in greeting.  Further on a catbird does exactly the same thing.  A cardinal swoops down into the grass by a nearby tree, a flash of red that pauses with me before it returns to the top of the tree.  I hear more cardinals, blue jays and flickers. Sparrows chatter and cover the grass and path, the bushes and trees; pigeons share the stone walkway, and once, also, a morning dove.  Sometimes the pigeons visit my window ledge.

house sparrow drawing 1s

And crow.  Crow has been following me around for years.  Now he teases me, calling, in front, behind, from nowhere and everywhere.  Every once in awhile I am the winner in this game of hide and seek, but I know it’s only because he wants me to see him, to acknowledge his appearance as well as his voice.  A murder of crows appears ahead of me on one of my earliest walks, when I was still fearful of going out at all.

crow 2s

I’ve always walked, never having owned a car.  But it was with a purpose, to get from one placed to another.  Now I just walk.  And I have always been aware of birds while walking. But since the lockdown they seem to be multiplying by the day, boldly communicating—something, what?

neocolor cardinal s

Many of the world’s cultures see birds as mediators, messengers between the human and the divine.  I know what crow is telling me.  He knows I need reminding of it, too:  pay attention.  Get out of that inner conversation you keep having with yourself and look around, listen, be where you are.  Robins are symbols everywhere of new beginnings, transformation, tenacity, hope.  Birds show us the power of community, the power of voices, the symbiotic relationship between the earth and all living creatures.

These are the days of Covid-19 in the city of New York.  Humans are hiding; birds are out in force.

seagull 3s

In fairy tales, those who understand the language of birds have magical powers.

days
collapse expand
places of between

between
material spiritual
no time exists

wings
open to
carry us home

corvus s

I’ve been doing Draw-a-Bird Day on the 8th of the month for a few years now at MethodTwoMadness, accumulating most of these illustrations in the process.

For the earthweal challenge Vast Particulars.

Little Richard (1932-2020)

little richard young 1s

audiences
remixed up
moving as one

little richard old s

Trying to draw Little Richard as a young man made me realize just how beautiful he was beyond the exuberant music.  I couldn’t do justice to the fine bone structure of his face, the eyes that had so much to say.

As his obituary in the NY Times pointed out, one of the early criticisms of rock and roll was that it increased integration between people of different races.  Little Richard crossed many boundaries–racial, social, gendered–opening doors that had long been locked.

 Perhaps empathy plants its seeds in the music that rocks our souls.  Time to get up and dance!