Category Archives: autumn weather

Offerings to the Utter Brilliance of the Present Moment

As we were leaving, the sweet Vietnamese woman at Chu Minh Veggie Deli on Jackson and 12th bent down to stand face to face with our son in his rubber boots and his raincoat, and handed him a crispy vegan springroll wrapped in a napkin. “Because you are special,” she said,

and I felt my heart in my chest, standing by the window in the cramped deli as the birds took off in a mass from the telephone line outside and swirled into the grey sky, feathered bodies reflected in the puddles of rainwater laying on the pavement.  There was a sign on the wall behind a potted plant that said “We care more about compassion and protecting your physical and spiritual health than we do about making a profit” and it was as if they didn’t need to advertise it, they just needed to affirm it, somewhere, commit it to the visual world in case someone bothers to look closely,

which is how i feel about the tattoo on the back of my neck, which says

basic goodness

and is usually covered by my collar and my hair.

:like a declaration of compassion tucked behind the leaves of a potted plant,  like the reflection of birds swirling into a grey sky in a puddle of rainwater on the pavement, like the momentary connection between that woman and our small son


to the utter brilliance of the present moment






Filed under autumn weather, basic goodness, community, Dharma, facing east, Family, Food, gathering, gratitude, love, meditation, memory, migration, on writing, Ordinary, outside, Peace, poetry, stories, watching it all go by

Harvest Moon

for Brandy

Redgold sunflowers line the west border of the garden bed,
dozens of crimson crowns hanging heavy with seeds
every one a volunteer from last year
glowing in the slanting light
of early autumn afternoon

the firemen across the street are singing crude songs
while they wash their trucks for the umpteenth time this week
and the white sheet of the teepee in the garden
is flapping idly in the breeze

harvest a giant pan of tomatoes while the kid naps
tugging gently at their rounded bodies
to see if they are ready to give leave of the vine
cherokee purples, brandywines, sungolds and mortgage lifters
shape them into a heart for Brandy
and spend thirty minutes dicing them.
every time i lean on the knife
i mutter
screw cancer
and make myself smile
and each time the blade cleaves the flesh
it is a prayer
augmented by ten cloves of garlic
and a pile of basil.

freeze the bruschetta in bags
for some dark night in winter
when the sharpness of the garlic
and the ripeness of the tomatoes
and the spice of the basil
will, swirled together over bread,
remind us of what vitality is possible

in the meantime,
harvest moon tonight,
2nd night of luminescent fullness
make potato leek soup,
close times with the ones we love


Filed under autumn weather, basic goodness, cancer, Family, Food, Garden, gathering, love

never in all my days

The electrician who was working in the attic has left a legacy
of fine white plaster dust
on my desk

third revision of the 27th draft
of the book i have been rewriting for eight years

and also a 26 month old son,
who could also be considered 2 and a half
or roughly 780 days old

all of the pumpkins are ripe in the garden, bright orange, uniformly,
which is unusual
for mid-september

today we hucked rocks into the Pilchuk
there came drifting down the autumn sweet smell
of cottonwoods
and briefly
time was not linear

i am making dinner,
baked breaded vegan chicken breast (ha) from scratch,
garlic mashed potatoes and sauteed
zuke with cherokee purple tomatoes

leftover plum cobbler for dessert

the kid is shrieking at the dogs
and speaking in sentences
and considering the world with a furrowed brow
he already sees more than the rest of us put together.
he has begun to talk about the past
and he seems quite prepared
for a future that will be happening Now

you’re beautiful
to me
a chorus affirms in the background

i have never harvested so many ripe garden tomatoes
in all my days

Leave a comment

Filed under autumn weather, basic goodness, Family, Garden, History, meditation, memory, motherhood, Ordinary, outside

The Car that Brought You Here Still Runs, Most Days

The poet Richard Hugo, who grew up in this neighborhood when it was still filled with woods, once wrote:

The car that brought you here still runs.
The money you buy lunch with,
no matter where it’s mined, is silver
and the girl who serves your food
is slender and her red hair lights the wall

the lines are from the poem “degrees of grey in phillipsburg”
i sipped espresso earlier and wanted to write my own degrees of grey
the baby loaded canned food into a miniature stroller
and trucked around the house
i thought maybe i’d write after i got some Things done
paid bills, and laughed with the baby as he fed me raisins,
both of us laying on the kitchen floor
talking about birds,
each in our own language.
later i watched a raven alight on a power line in the wind,
then stubbed my toe on a can of tomato paste
scrubbed the diaper bucket
extricated a penny from someone’s tiny cheek
measured our unfinished windows for trim

that night while my husband fed the baby beans and rice
and the rain came down sideways
then paused to let a near full moon glow through wind driven clouds
I heaved opened the garage door
and laid out long pieces of smooth pine on sawhorses
Annie the dog laid by my feet, keeping a close eye on the outside
and i learned how to stain wood.
which turned out to be a much more mindful task than i’d expected
i made mistakes, noticed where i’d applied the stain too heavily
or where the shadow my body threw had fooled me into using too little
i think of my craftsman father while i work,
and Roger Lyons, who built things for his mother in this garage
when they were both old

these boards will become trim around the windows in our bedroom
which is drafty like a barn.
(on cold days we can see our breath before we get out of bed)
Once this piece of land had a barn,
with cows, chickens, pigs, and rabbits.
Annie Lyons raised 6 children in this two bedroom house
which she and her husband purchased at the height of the Great Depression
Maybe she went to church with Richard Hugo’s grandparents,
who raised him
and said little.
Maybe they shopped at the same neighborhood pharmacy
in a brick building that is, most recently, a Cambodian grocery.

i want to write about living in his old neighborhood
and being a waitress whose hair shimmers in the dark of a brewpub
moving in between close tables with a master’s degree
and a grace that she lacks outside of work.
She met ranchers with this kind of grace while doing graduate research in Nevada
men who could shear a sheep without nicking it once,
handling the hundred pound animals like armfuls of silk
who became all knees and scuffed boots in the kitchen.
she is a waitress who ten years ago kept the phone numbers men left
never intending to call a single one of them
just quietly flattered because she never thought anyone would find her beautiful
Now she knows the truth:
every waitress in the history of waitresses
has been loved for the duration of a meal
by lonely hearted diners
who coudln’t help but
“instantly feel a tender regard for her” as Abbey wrote.

I want to write about the timeless poetry of the unrequited waitress crush
and the quiet satisfaction of knowing that someone is a little awed
every time you hoist a tray to your shoulder
and take the stairs
but first i need to wash every dish we own
the baby is wearing soft pajamas with nonslip feet
and stacking blocks while the dog watches with her head cocked.
i am listening to ambient unclassifiable music that claims to be
moody and dynamic instrumental indie rock
or something
ought to drink tea now
but my espresso percolator is calling darkly to me from the burner
stained by a thousand rounds over the heat
handle missing, angular spout pointing toward an empty mug.

the car that brought us here still runs
most days
although the return of the check engine light is as certain as the oncoming fall.

1 Comment

Filed under Assata and Annie, autumn weather, basic goodness, Family, motherhood, on writing, Ordinary, poetry, Poets, waitressing, watching it all go by


the 80-year old trees that ring our house are thrashing in the wind,
and a gold-grey stormlight is glowing on the last few tired, tenacious leaves
high school students walk down the street in their backpacks,
hooded sweatshirts cinched around their faces

I dash out into the wind and uproot a handful of leeks
the babe on my hip babbles into the gusts and gasps when it blows in his face
Going back in, I stop to
stare at the glow in the spaces between the trees

There’s something eerie about stormlight, something prescient and uncanny
Maybe I learned it from the Wizard of Oz,
or my mother’s stories of witnessing tornadoes,
while visiting her grandparents in the Midwest as a kid.

Lack of northwest tornadoes notwithstanding,
I’m conditioned to respond when the sky takes on these colors.

Get ready,
they say
its going to get worse before it gets better.

The wind strengthens as the night passes.
We eat potato leek soup and biscuits, and startle as the power flickers.
I leave the house to run an errand at eight,
and on my two-mile drive home,
I pass eight different aging campers, all parked streetside and providing homes.
My headlights catch a man’s face, sitting in his camper in the dark,
as the wind whips wet leaves off the curbs
and plasters them against his thin-walled home.

We loose the power at our house few hours later,
and we light candles and take stock of what we have to loose in the fridge.
Put the babe to bed by flickering candlight, and enjoy the cosiness,
as the wind howls against our house like a coastal storm.
We may not have much, but we’ve got walls around us,
and money to pay the power bill,
and so we enjoy storms for their novelty.

I am aware that winter storms are not novelties for those living in campers,
who were most likely once people with mortgages, or apartments at least.

they say the recession is over,
but none of my unemployed friends are finding work.

i think the campers are their own kind of stormlight.

take a breath, they seem to say,
its going to get worse before it gets better.


Filed under autumn weather, layoffs, recession, winter


(from a letter to Molls)

just left the baby on his blanket with the dogs to babysit and dashed outside with a trowel and a basket to dig up some potatoes for dinner.

Stood over the bed in this light misting rain, staring up into the greysky, listening to the birds.

Rooted around in the rich moist black garden dirt and unearthed a dzen  beautiful purple red potatoes, my first ever harvest of my very own potato crop.  Grew them and harvested them with my ma as a kid, but this is a new sort of satisfaction. I planted them when I was about 38 weeks pregnant and could barely bend over, and for weeks nothing happened.  Figured it was too late in the season to replant, and the boy had been born anyway, and I figured I’d just try again next year.  Then one or two sprouts showed themselves. Then a few weeks later, a few more sprouts.  Then a few weeks later, dozens.  I remembered something I’d heard years ago, about how potatoes harvested at different times will sprout on their own timetable when replanted.  Maybe folklore? maybe practical farm knowledge.  Dunno.  But I spent the summer watching the sprouts grow into 2-foot tall plants from the window in our breakfast nook,  entranced with the idea of potato memory.

And now, harvest.  Even when I could hear the boy hollering inside, I lingered to dig up a few more.  it was just so nice to be doing something nice by myself.

And then I dashed inside and scooped him up off his blanket with my dirty hands and kissed his little teary cheeks and knew that nice things by myself that took longer than harvesting a dozen potatoes could wait till he was a lil bigger. cuz he’s just so dear.

(and the next time i harvested potatoes, I brought him along.)


Filed under autumn weather, Food, Garden, love, memory, motherhood

all the things I am not doing

The babe has finally drifted off to sleep.

Usually this is the moment when I spring into action, racing around the house to tackle the things that were too difficult to do while holding him… preparing food, using the bathroom, swapping out the contents of the washer and dryer, making headway on writing projects, washing dishes, sweeping back the incessant tide of dog hair.

But I am still sitting here,

listening to the rain.

Watching a squirrel make its way across the branch of the maple tree outside the window, noticing that its leaves are finally starting to turn.

I am not planning dinner. I am not tackling projects. I am not meditating. I am not cleaning. I am not mothering.

For the moment, I’m just a human, Being.

and as he shifts, wakes, and wails,

I choose to view these moments as unwasted.


Filed under autumn weather, motherhood, Ordinary